Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Good Evening, Dr. Jekyll. Care To Stay Through October?
2005-07-19 13:55
by Derek Smart

Like a SuperBall thrown in a cobblestone room, nobody knows what direction the Cubs will go in next, but one thing I do know - I sure like that last rock they bounced off. Let's hope the next rebound doesn't pelt us all in the head.

  • Another nice outing for Jerome Williams, made only a little less nice by the long home run off the bat of the last man he faced, Rich Aurilia. Previous to that three-run seventh, he'd only coughed up one run on four hits and a walk, and I'll take that combination no matter who's on the hill.

    If there's a dubious honor to be had from last night's performance, though, it's that Williams was the starting pitcher during only the second of six games this season the Cubs have held the Reds under six runs - the other being Mark Prior's second start of the year, a 7-1 victory on April 19th. Guess who's starting tonight.

  • It looks like the new pre-game throwing routine for Glendon Rusch is helping. After giving up runs in each of his first five appearances after being moved to the bullpen, Rusch has held down the fort in his last two games, giving up only one hit in the process while striking out two over 2.1 innings.

    Last night was particularly good, as he got three of the four men he faced to hit into ground outs, and weakly at that. Glendon finally looks sharp again after struggling, not just in his relief appearances, but in the three starts he had previous to the acquisition of Jerome Williams.

    Rusch is one of those fellas who has a relatively small margin for error, relying in great part on his ability to spot his fastball low and on the outer black. Kudos to him for realizing that something needed to change in order for him to be successful in relief, and here's to hoping he can keep it up, as the Cubs badly need the Good Glendon around to help construct the bridge between the starters and Ryan Dempster.

  • Remember how the Cubs walked seventeen times during their three games in Florida? That's gone by the wayside, as we all knew it would, and the team has only taken 11 free passes in the five games since the All-Star break. So, what's been fueling this recent scoring surge?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you that harshest of offensive mistresses: batting average. The Cubs are hitting .362 since the break, and slugging an impressive .622 - and that includes the shutout at the hands of Zach Duke. That said, the club hasn't been facing the finer pitchers of the National League lately, but then they weren't exactly up against it during much of their losing streak, either.

    In other words, don't expect this type of pummeling to carry over to the Cardinals series when the occasional Major League hurler will take the bump, but still, take heart in the fact that, at least during the first few games after the break, the Cubs are smoking the gents who are ripe to be lit.

  • You're likely already aware of this, but indulge me as I point out this ridiculously fun milestone that's about to occur: Derrek Lee is two home runs away from his career high of 32. In the middle of July.

    Let me put this to you another way: assuming that Lee achieves this feat by the end of the week, he will have matched his career high in home runs - a high he set while playing in 161 of his team's games - in a mere 97 contests. No, wait - if he does it this week he'll have matched his career high by his team's 97th game - he's missed four.

    One last twist to the data: if The Saviour manages to hit two homers in the next five games, he will have matched his career high in dingers with a little more than 40% of the season left.

    That, my friends, is taking it to the next level.

It's The Franchise against Luke Hudson tonight, a spectacular mismatch on paper, and exactly the kind of game that makes me nervous. Oh, who am I kidding, they all make me nervous. Such is the life of a dangerously obsessed Cub fan.

2005-07-19 15:25:18
1.   Baby Maddux
I was wondering about the lack of walks last night, too, so I decided to do a little looking. Here's the number of pitches that the Cubs have seen in the last 12 games, along with pitches/inning:

7/18 CIN 162 18.0 (9 innings) W
7/17 PIT 140 17.5 (8 innings) W
7/16 PIT 126 14.0 (9 innings) L
7/15 PIT 132 16.5 (8 innings) W
7/14 PIT 148 16.4 (8 innings) W
7/10 FLA 193 21.4 (9 innings) W
7/09 FLA 166 18.4 (9 innings) W
7/08 FLA 151 16.8 (9 innings) W
7/07 ATL 100 11.1 (9 innings) L
7/07 ATL 116 12.9 (9 innings) L
7/05 ATL 111 12.3 (9 innings) L
7/04 ATL 122 13.6 (9 innings) L

Avg pitches/inning in 7 wins: 18.2
Avg pitches/inning in 5 loss: 12.8
Avg pitches/inning in 4 wins: 17.6 (after ASB)
Avg pitches/inning in 3 wins: 18.9 (before ASB)

I know it's an exceedingly small sample size, and tough to really draw any conclusions, but I'd have to say that they're still seeing a lot more pitches in their wins rather than their losses. (I'm curious as to what the numbers for the whole year would show.) So they're still being more patient, even without the walks.

2005-07-19 23:37:58
2.   Sandus
While Baby Maddux raises an interesting point, I wonder if the results might be skewed a bit. If a team is getting more hits and bringing more batters to the plate, isn't it natural for the pitches per inning to be higher? More accurate might be pitches per plate appearance during the wins and losses, though I fear that that might end up being a meaningless statistic.
2005-07-20 01:12:00
3.   Will Carroll
Rusch's mechanics have changed significantly as well. I didn't recognize him on the mound last night. He looked like Mitch Williams. Well, not THAT bad.
2005-07-20 04:37:12
4.   Baby Maddux
Sandus - I thought about that, but didn't have the time to crank through those numbers. I may yet do it, but I need to find a better way than just reading through the box scores for every game.
2005-07-20 07:26:14
5.   Derek Smart
Baby Maddux,

Last year, when I was at my old old digs, I was actually tracking the Cubs' pitches per plate appearance per game, and comparing the daily rate and season-to-date rate to the league average. I stopped after about two months because of the following factors:

1) While you could make a case that, over the long haul, teams that saw more pitches generally scored more runs, it certainly didn't correlate from game to game, and any cumulative effect was too hard to pin down.

Game by game, you could see a team that saw over 4 PPA and would get shut out, while seeing a team in the low 3s clubbing the ball, because a pitcher who was striking out a lot of guys would necessarily throw more pitches per hitter, and a fella tossing up meatballs just gets rocked early on. There's simply too much noise in there to give it any meaning.

2) There's no good electronic source for this stuff, so I was entering the total pitches and total batters faced for every National League game every morning. Needless to say, it got brutal, so I stopped. Especially since it wasn't really helpful information.

2005-07-20 08:24:17
6.   Baby Maddux

That's what I was afraid of - you'd probably have to do it for quite a few games to get rid of the noise.

It certainly seems to me that they've been seeing more pitches lately - at least when playing well. For example, last night in the 3rd, Hariston made an out on the 2nd pitch and Walker on the third, but then Lee saw 6 when he doubled, Burnitz walked, and Ramirez got a hitter's count (2-1) before he homered. It just really felt that inning like Lee's patience set the table for what Burnitz and Ramirez did, but that's just anecdotal.

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