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How bad was the spanking the Dodgers administered to the Cubs over the weekend? So bad the Cubs couldn't score on Carlos Marmol.
"The Chicago Cubs appeared to take the weekend off in their series against the surging Los Angeles Dodgers," AP put it.
That's when you have to look at the manager - especially coming home from sweeping the Giants in San Francisco only to tank against the lowly Brewers. What the hell happened?
Junior Lake seemed to be the only guy trying, what with a two-homer game, a 4-for-5 game, and a catch in left field not seen in this part of town since Alfonso Soriano arrived with his fear of the ball and the wall.
And yes, I know it doesn't really matter at this point how many games the Cubs win this season, but if they're trying to lose games to get a higher draft pick, they're doing a poor job of that too - there are five teams ahead of them in that regard including the White Sox, for chrissake. And the White Sox are trying to win!
In other words, both Chicago teams are screwing up in reverse.
The Week in Review: All that good feeling from sweeping the Giants in San Francisco and unloading Alfonso Soriano on the Yankees dissipated when the team came home for four against the lowly Brewers - one of the few teams in the league worse than the Cubs - and lost three of four, including a doubleheader. To make matters worse, the Brewers were without Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez - the heart of their batting order. Then the red-hot Dodgers came in and swept a four-game series, leaving the Cubs at 49-62 just a week after they had managed to get within eight games of .500. The Cubs are now 23-33 at home, against a respectable 26-29 on the road. They are also 16-31 against the NL Central and 33-31 against everyone else, so the lesson is that the Cubs can't win division games at home for some reason not readily identifiable by basic science. To the bat computer!
Week in Preview: It's three in Philly and three in St. Louis. Whatever gains that are made will surely be squandered when the team comes home to face the Reds and Cardinals after that.
The Second Basemen Report: The Cub Factor would like to welcome Logan Watkins to The Second Basemen Report! Watkins was called up from Des Moines and got the call on Sunday to fill in for Darwin Barney when Luis Valbuena went on the DL with some sort of owie. (Shortstop Donnie Murphy was also brought up when Julio Borbon was designated for assignment - Baserunning 101 on five double-spaced pages - and got the call on Sunday to fill in for Starlin Castro.) Curiously, prized prospect Mike Olt, just acquired in the Matt Garza deal, didn't get the call, despite the fact that he's a third baseman, though he's been playing some first but now projects as a right-fielder. The real problem, though, is that Olt is stinking up the farm in Iowa, striking out 11 times in his first 33 at-bats. Oops! At least he isn't tweetfighting anyone's wife.
Barney actually got a few knocks last week, going 5-for-19 to raise his batting average three points to .216. Yay! His OBP is up to .264. He also left another nine men on base. He sucks.
In former second baseman news, it appears that Brent Lillibridge is done.
The Third Basemen Report: The Second Basemen Report is so Jim Hendry. The new Cubs regime collects third basemen.
Now that Cody Ransom has been exposed - 2-for-21 last week to lower his batting average to .199 - Dale Sveum is supposedly thinking about giving Junior Lake some starts at third, where he played some in the minors.
It seems pretty clear to The Cub Factor that Lake ought to be playing centerfield, and it's a typical Cubs mystery as to why this wasn't figured out a long time ago. He has the range, speed, arm and instincts for it - even more so than Starlin Castro, who has long been rumored to be ticketed to either there or third in the future. Lake is Castro-plus if he maintains some plate discipline; one thing Lake has shown so far is that if the ball is in the zone, he'll hit it. The important question down the line is what he does when he stops getting those pitches.
Meanwhile, the Cubs aren't planning on giving Javy Baez a look-see just yet and Josh Vitters is back on the DL (note also that Brett Jackson has been demoted to Double-A, which just goes to show you that not every touted prospect will make it to the bigs, much less perform at a high level, so let's stop with the 2015 lineup projections, mmkay?).
So far from being crowded at third base, as some pundits have proferred, the Cubs are currently screwed at the hot corner given that top draft pick Kris Bryant might also end up in right field. That leaves it up to the forgotten Christian Villanueva.
Wishing Upon A Starlin: Starlin Castro is flirting with Darwin Barney territory, having just gone 5-for-30 and leaving 15 men on base in the last eight games. He's hitting .245 with an OBP of .281.
As crazy as it sounds, he really should be getting a grooming for hitting leadoff, as we've said for a long time. He's got good speed and has shown in the past that he can be a singles machine. Why Dale hits him second, where he is the most ill-equipped out of any spot in the lineup, is a mystery. For a long time we thought it was so he would be forced to watch David DeJesus's every at-bat from the on-deck circle. But that's a pretty passive-aggressive strategy. Instead, DeJesus should be mentoring Starlin, a task that Soriano took up without results. (Meanwhile, DeJesus has taken Anthony Rizzo under his wing.)
As much as the media was filled with instant nostalgia about what a great clubhouse guy Soriano was, does anybody believe he was instructing Starlin on how to play the game right? And so the young shortstop's development must now be questioned. Let's not forget that Castro hit .307 with a .341 OBP in 2011 and that fell to .283/.323 last year. We seem to be witnessing a trend, not an aberration. Please, let the teaching begin or lose this kid forever.
P.S.: Good thing Soriano isn't around to mentor Lake, who is already a better outfielder than ol' creaky knees.
The Legend of Dioner Navarro: The Cub Factor continues to love Dioner Navarro and his legendary feats. Watch him here take umbrage at the way Hanley Ramirez laid a bat at his feet:
On Dioner! On Blitzen!
Oh, and also, Dioner went 3-for-4 and 2-for-4 on each side of an 0-for-4, which is a win.
He's now hitting .291/.365/.503.
Meanwhile, Welington Castillo, whom Dale Sveum deemed "almost elite" earlier this year, is hitting .270/.330/.367. That's not horrible, but it's not great either and we don't see any sort of spectacular defense making up the difference.
And by the way, there does not appear to be another viable catching prospect in the system.
Mad Merch: Retro "We're Working On It" t-shirts, which have never really gone out of style and never will.
Laughable Headline of the Week: Cubs Will Not Tolerate Bad Baseball.
In what universe?
Alternate: Starting when?
Deserted Cubs: Tony Campana has raised his batting average 11 points to .292 and his OBP 22 points to .364 in the last week for the Reno Aces. It's only a matter of time before he's back in the big leagues.
Erstwhile Cub Randall Delgado has his ERA down to 3.17, which we're happy to report is a helluva lot better than Ryan Dumpster's 4.54.
Bullpen Bullshit: Kevin Gregg is still with us but he could still end up with the Tigers in a set-up role before August is out, no? Then Pedro Strop would have us all to himself.
Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: Shares of Joe Girardi continue to climb as he somehow keeps the battered Yankees in contention for a wild-card and handles questions about A-Rod with class. Too bad Jim Hendry never bought stock in Girardi, preferring Lou Piniella instead. Hendry is definitely a PC, not a Mac.
Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow is now at 6:30 p.m. due to a lousy homestand that killed his buzz. But just like his Uncle Lou, Dale knows that there's always a price to pay for a late night out, and that price is best paid without whining about it like cousin Dusty.
Shark Tank: It's not so much that Jeff Samardzija has control issues, it's that he hasn't learned yet that the best pitchers want hitters to make contact with the ball. Let your defense do the work for you, even if they are wearing Cubs uniforms! For example, in his start against the Dodgers on Saturday, he made 112 pitches in six innings, while his opponent Chris Capuano made 88 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. Yes, this is a broken record every week, but consider: Samardzija struck out nine batters; Capuano five. And Samardzija walked five batters; Capuano one. That says to us that Samardzija likes to run up his strikeout totals but isn't very efficient while doing so - and it's selfish to boot. Samardzija's starts typically end up burning out the bullpen; in this case, three other Cubs had to come in and pitch an inning each. (Capuano also induced four double-plays to Samardzija's two - and Samardzija committed his third error of the season).
To be sure, Samardzija pitched seven innings of shutout ball against the Brewers earlier in the week, striking out seven and walking two. He also threw 109 pitches. (Only Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw have thrown more pitches this season among National Leaguers, and their WHIPs are considerably better than the Shark's, in part because they're staying in games longer.)
The best part about Samardzija this week was how he answered a contract question about whether he wanted to remain a Cub. "I want to win," he said. That's what we like to hear; too many players have felt too comfortable here over the years, one of the major components to Kubs Kulture.
(You can see, by the way, how the media took a little kernel of a thought and blew it up into a totally disproportionate headline.)
Jumbotron Preview: Five-thousand-seven-hundred square-feet of Tom Ricketts counting his money.
Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til
next year 2015 2016 2017.
Over/Under: Amount the price of beer will go up next year: +/- $1.
Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that Jim Deshaies is a smart baseball guy but not much fun, while Len Kasper is a smart baseball guy but too hokey for his own good. All in all, Cubs broadcasts are just boring now. In fact, the Ricketts' seem to be siphoning all the fun out of the Cubs.
The Cub Factor: Unlike
Alfonso Soriano Starlin Castro, you can catch 'em all!
The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.
The Cub Factor welcomes your comments.