Sunday, April 11, 2004

Former Cubs Pitchers

Isn't it wonderful to see how well at least three former Cubs have been pitching as of late? (1) Shawn Estes pitched another 3 hit gem in the Rockies 4-2 win over the Dodgers. Estes, a non-roster invitee to Colorado in Spring Training, is now responsible for the only wins Colorado has posted to date and he is sporting 1.29 ERA over 14 innings pitched. Is Estes going to repeat his 19 win season from 1997 (or even the 15 wins he posted in 2000)? Doubtful, especially since Coors field isn't exactly the place for a pitcher to revive a career, but wouldn't that be just typical? I think he has the billy goat, the memory of the foul ball, and that cursed seat on the left field line at wrigley rooting for him though, which may be all he needs to lock up the NL Cy Young this year. The next two are a bit more painful - (2) When we traded Juan Cruz, I was ambivalent. So what that he allegedly had potential - from my perspective I was always nervous when he pitched for the Cubs. So imagaine our surprise when he comes in and pitches 3 scoreless innings in the Cubs 2-1 fifteen inning win over Atlanta! It may be unseemly, but let the ubiquitous second guessing of that deal begin right now, especially when the guy we traded him for can't seem to find the plate (more on this below). My only question is this - is Cruz excelling because he's pitching against an anemic Cubs offense (which can make even mediocre pitchers like Paul Wilson look like an ace) or is his unrealized potential suddenly becoming realized? Perhaps the answer will have to wait until he faces a more potent offense, like St. Louis. All you can do as a Cubs fan is shake your head, which brings us to: (3) Antonio Alfonseca played two games against us in this three game series and he actually registered the win against the Cubs on Saturday. In the first game the six fingered wonder pitches 2 scoreless innings of relief for the Braves, and then comes back in game 2 and pitches another scoreless inning (actually 2/3 of an inning), while chalking up his first win of the season! As he waddled out to the field both times, I remembered how horrified I used to be when he entered the game as a Cub, so I was expectantly waiting for the shelling to begin - a shelling that never materialized. I think it would have if any of the Cubs had demonstrated any sort of patience at the plate - If you give Alfonseca enough rope, he will hang himself every time - but the Cubs were swinging away without reserve.

Who will be the goat this year?

With Alfonseca gone, who will replace him as the object of Cub fans derision? Anything's possible, but my money is on Andy Pratt - the kid has major control problems and he can't find the plate to save his life. For the life of me I can't understand why Dusty brought in Pratt in the 5-2 loss on Saturday! He had a bullpen full of solid relievers - Hawkins, Mercker, Wuertz, and even Tightpants for goodness sakes! Why in the world - with 2 out in the bottom of the eighth and a one run lead - do you bring in the rookie with known control problems? Mitre should have won this game - and if you think about it - even if Mark Prior was pitching, this win would have been stripped out of his hands too. Frustrating to say the least. In this regard, Derek at the Cub Reporter has some good insights on the game 2 debacle - scroll down to "Game Notes 5:Opportunities Lost." Derek also makes the good point that the time to bring in Pratt was in Sunday's game after we had run up a considerable lead - not in a one run malox masher!

Wood strong & Cubs bats come alive!

What a pleasure the game today was! Woody pitched a phenomenal game (7 straight k's!) - he made it through seven innings (105 pitches) and is now sporting a 3.75 ERA. Patterson jacked a homer in the first inning (again) right after Pat Hughes remarked that the Cubs had been held scoreless in the first inning since Patterson's first inning jack against Cincinnati. The Golden Goose (my nickname for Michael Barrett) laid a 3 run golden egg for us in the eighth that sealed the deal. Walker was 2/4 today, as were Ramirez, Barrett, and Martinez (Alou was 2/5). Good stuff all around.

Up Next - Mad Dog vs. Benson in the Cubs home opener!