Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Friday Tidbits
2007-07-06 09:35
by Phil Bencomo

You'd think I'd be disappointed about Carlos Zambrano not being voted to the All-Star game (although, because so many players opt out each year, I suppose he still has a shot), but honestly, I'm much happier with a nice long rest for the big man's heavily-used arm. Historically, he's been better (3.44 ERA vs. 3.28 ERA) after the All-Star break, but a little rest for a 26-year-old with over 1000 career innings certainly isn't going to cause any harm.

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I wish I could tell you that all is well in Cubdom, with the squad over .500 and riding a hot streak.

But I'd be lying.

Take Rich Hill, for example. It's been nearly a month since he last won a ballgame, and in three of his last four outings the lanky lefty has surrendered five or more runs. Whatever the reason, be it the longball or small strike zones, he hasn't done much good as of late.

The point being: This team is far from perfect, and it's unreasonable to expect the Cubs to keep winning 11 of 13.

Not that that simple fact takes anything away from what the Cubs have managed to do, pulling themselves into contention and within 4.5 games of Milwaukee. And perhaps, in light of an inevitable slowdown, we should bask in the present good times all the more; eat, drink and be merry while there is still something to be merry about, so to speak.

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Before you call me overly pessimistic, consider this: While the Cubs will eventually slow down, the team's rather soft July schedule means that they probably won't shift down more than a single gear. Consecutive series against Pittsburgh, Houston and San Fransisco should have the Cubs licking their lips. The only July opponents with records over .500 are Arizona and Philadelphia.

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The Sun-Times' Greg Couch, who has never struck me as an especially good columnist, has a pretty bizarre column today, in which he asks the Sox' Jim Thome and the Cubs' Derrek Lee whether they watch the ball hit the bat.

Conventional baseball wisdom says yes, but the players said no – which, frankly, I find hard to believe. For baseball players, watching the bat hit the ball is something that has become so quick, natural and automatic that I doubt the players really realize they're doing it. Like tying shoelaces or buttoning shirts or pants, it just gets done mindlessly.

Photographic evidence would seem to support my claim. Hitting a speeding baseball is a difficult task even if you are watching the ball; add in breaking balls to contend with, and watching the ball becomes mandatory.

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It's still far to early in the summer to be doing any serious scoreboard watching, but it sure is nice to see Milwaukee lose. Unless St. Louis has a miracle run stored up somewhere in its brittle, mediocre bones, Milwaukee stands alone as the Cubs' only obstacle on the road to the Central title, so a Brewer loss is always a welcome sight.

2007-07-06 09:44:51
1.   Ali Nagib
The Cubs have basically played the first half as the team we thought they'd be: slightly above .500, on pace for 85-88 wins, which will be enough to keep them in the Central race as long as Milwaukee doesn't play .600 ball in the second half. They were never going to be the best, or even second or third best, team in the league, but as the Cardinals proved last year, all that matters is getting the to postseason (and having a functioning pitching staff, which the Cubs actually have...not a great one, but 4 starters that can go out and keep you in the ballgame more than half the time and a bullpen with a few live arms).
2007-07-06 11:26:29
2.   Tom
That article about seeing the ball was awesome. If only he would have asked Rickey Henderson!

But, on the debate, I am taking Lee and Thome's side on this one.

The decision to swing (obviously) happens way before the ball hits the bat, which means they are swinging to a location more than an actual object.

Now, I'm not saying that if you put a helmet cam on them, you wouldn't be able to see the ball. I'm guessing they're locked into hitting their location with bat, more than anything else. And, I think the bat/ball interaction happens so quickly that it's hard to make sense of.

I was just hitting some balls (poorly) on the fourth, and that jibes with how I remember it.

2007-07-08 17:51:31
3.   Todd S
It doesn't seem like Hill is getting the downward movement on his curveball lately. I'm hoping the ASB gives his arm a rest and he comes back strong. Not sure how realistic that is, but here's to hoping!

Also, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, I really like watching Marmol pitch. His stuff is filthy and often makes batters look silly. In a recent game, he was making right-handed batters buckle their knees only to have the slider drop over the OUTside corner. Pretty.

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