Cubs Stat of the Week: Rich Harden is K-licious

As we’re waiting for Harden to take the mound against the Indians, I thought you might be interested in a little Rich Harden trivia. So let’s talk about Rich, the king of the K.

It would be nice to see Rich Harden stay healthy. It would be nice to see Rich Harden pitching in 8th or 9th inning of a game. It would be nice to see Rich Harden throw a 10-pitch inning. But given the stat of the week, you can understand why none of those things seem to happen very often.

As a Cub, Rich Harden averages 11.26 strikeouts per 9 innings.
If you’re wondering, he leads NL starters with at least 20 starts in that stretch. Also, if you’re wondering, in what amounts to almost a full season in Cubbie blue Harden has started just 21 games, averaging about 5 2/3 innings a start.
If only he were a bit more hittable, maybe Harden could go deeper into games. Chicks dig the strikeout, but I’m pretty sure Lou prefers healthy starters who last into the 7th.

Throw Out the Stats: Wood, DeRosa Brought Fun

Forget about any links to baseball-reference. Statistics really don’t help understand the loss we as fans have felt since Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood were sent packing unceremoniously, Wood via free agency, DeRosa via a trade, but both to the Cleveland Indians.

I have argued against the statistical impact of both players (DeRosa is an average hitter who, for all his versatility, can play only one position at a time; Kerry is a constant injury risk whose ERA can soar faster than you can say “persisting blister problem”). But the difference both players made struck me in the 8th inning of yesterday’s come-from-behind win over the Sox (right about the time Soto was blasting a spheroid into orbit over Scotty Pods and company).
Both guys were fun.
At the moment the Cubs tied the game against the Sox, I realized that I could live with a loss because I had my fun. Losing is one thing. Losing a heartbreaker is worse. But losing without scoring more than a run or two, day after day—that’s just brutal. I’ve arrived at the point at which, with runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, I cheer for a double play, just to see a Cub cross home plate.
But DeRosa and Wood, win or lose, provided lots of fun. The stats might not be overwhelming, but the memories of DeRosa’s clutch hits are myriad and precious. And Kerry Wood’s style, when he was on, is something I’ll tell my grandkids about. He could get lefthanders to swing at sliders that wound up hitting them in the knees. And I was among the 15,000+ who saw him K 2o Astros ($6 for a seat in the bleachers . . . don’t get me started).
Baseball games run about 3 hours. To make it through, you need to get excited a few times. I’ve yet to see a stat that can track the WOW factor, but DeRosa and Wood were among the Cub leaders in WOW. I’m glad they’re coming back to Wrigley this weekend. I just hope they leave a little bit of fun behind when they go.

June 17, 2009 question – Leakage

Sammy’s in a Jammy
The Voices in my head are debating
First of all, sorry for the trivia rain-out yesterday. So frustrating for all of us, I’m sure. Secondly, if you’re wondering how the so-called news of Sammy’s so-called positive drug test are affecting me, let me fill you in: I’m angry. I’m so tired of news stories that rest solely on the word of unnamed sources without the slightest shred of corroboration or investigation whatsoever. Citing an anonymous source doesn’t make you a journalist, it makes you a gossip, an email rumor generator, a snitch.

And while we’re on the topic of anonymous leaks, isn’t that what Sammy thought he was doing in the first place?

Today’s Question
Going Postal
How many cities share the 90210 ZIP code?

Monday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Bumblebee’s can sting, but not all of them. Females (the queen and the worker bumbles) have stingers, but the males are just good for birds & bees related activities. I was prepared to give credit to all who answered yes, but Karen M (the M stands for Make Way For The Trivia Queen) knew the answer in vivid detail and will share her trivia throne with no one. Way to know your buzz biz!

Cubs Sox a Love Hate Relationship

I feel about the Cubs-Sox series pretty much the way I feel about roller coasters. They’re exciting. They’re nerve wracking. They’re rarely boring. But by the end, I kind of want to throw up. It’s essentially the same feeling I get when the Cubs play the Cardinals, except there is so much less at stake . . . and so much more.

With the Cards, each game is worth 2 in the standings (if the Cubs and Cardinals were to play today, a loss would send the Cubs 3 games behind St. Louis, a win would pull them within 1), so they all carry a ton of weight. But with the Sox, the competition is chiefly a battle for bragging rights, and there are a lot more Sox fans than Cards fans in my territory, so the bragging that goes on is real, prevalent, and annoying.
So here are a few of the pluses and minuses about enduring the Windy City matchups when I’m neither out of the country nor in a coma:
Love it
The intensity among the fans and the adrenaline in the players creates a playoff atmosphere.
Hate it
Have you watched the Cubs in the playoffs lately?
Love it
Ozzie and Lou are hilarious to watch and listen to, and uniting them in one building for three days makes for great TV and soundbites.
Hate it
Listening to people overreact to both of them, on the other hand, sucks rocks.
Love it
No matter how the season is going, this rivalry gives importance to at least 6 games at a time when either team might be irrelevant.
Hate it
Right now, these are two irrelevant teams.
Love it
The emotional high of seeing, say, an Aramis Ramirez walk-off homer is absolutely exquisite.
Hate it
My emotional high is on the DL.
Love it
After the World Series win in ’05, Sox fans turned into a bunch of placated softies. I attended the infamous A.J./Barrett game the next year, and the crowd at the Cell was as laid back as can be.
Hate it
After the World Series win in ’05, Cub fans effectively lost all bragging rights.
Love it
The series has been even, split down the middle, half Cub wins, half Cub losses.
Hate it
Those 33 losses really stunk. And I’ll never forget the 2001 Sox sweep at Wrigley in ’99 that effectively ended what had been a promising season. The Cubs never recovered . . . not sure I have either.
Love it
It’s one of those events that get people talking about baseball again, bringing national attention to both teams, and arousing interest in people who don’t usually care a lick about sports.
Hate it
At this point in my life, I just want a nice relaxing day at the park or in front of the TV or just driving easy breezy with the radio tuned to 720. Cubs + White Sox almost never = relaxing.
I’m not one of those who hates the Sox with a passion. I like quite a few Sox fans. The Cell is a nice place to go see a game. If we’re honest, both teams historically stink. I’m glad for the chance to watch some meaningful baseball, but will someone please wake me when things are meaningless again?
In the meantime, let me know what you think. Do you love or hate the Cubs/White Sox series?
UPDATE: With the recent disclosure from the NY Times about Sosa’s alleged 2003 positive steroid test (I’m not even going to honor that rag by linking to it), I have to say the pendulum has swung over to the Hate it side. These big moments provide the perfect occasions for pseudo-journalists to release bombshell stories with zero attribution of fact.

May 28, 2009 question – It’s Okay. Let Out the Anger.

Mt. Zambrano
And the Cubs’ Mt. Rushmore of Volcanic Personality
(also appears here)

All of you who had “Jake Fox’s Bat Cooling Off” in yesterday’s pool lost miserably. No, Lou didn’t have one of his sweet explosions, but big Z picked up the slack. Pretty much the whole world has now overreacted to Carlos Zambrano’s overreaction to the disputed out call in Wednesday’s victory over the Pirates (it’s just a big globe full of hypocrites, no?).

And now it’s time to reflect on the simmering stew of tempers now residing in Wrigleyville and just how tasty it really is. If you filter through the extreme snobbery of moderation sermons being preached all across the Chicago and sporting airwaves this morning, you might actually notice that everything about yesterday’s Mt. Zambrano eruption is hilarious.

There was Lou, unable to suppress the giggles during his post-game press conference.

There was Milton, also chuckling, and approving of the impressive nature of the explosion, adding, “It was on a Bradley level.”

And of course, there was Carlos himself, pointing, gesticulating, ump tossing, incidental bumping, ball hurling, Gatorade bashing, and pitching-coach endangering. Yes, he’ll be suspended. So what? The fresher he’ll be in September and October. His tirade didn’t hurt the Cubs. It helped humanity.

Maybe I should be sorry for enjoying a fit of childish rage, but I’m not at all. I love the fact that the Cubs now have three of the most volatile characters in baseball on their squad, ready to combust at any moment.

Cub baseball just became fun to watch again.

Today’s Question
Greek/Roman Mythology
Who is Zeus’s counterpart in Roman mythology?

Tuesday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Technically, the easternmost province in Canada is Newfoundland and Labrador, but we had no Lab lovers. So I’ll give credit to the Newfoundland-only crowd:

Steve J (the J stands for Just A Newfy)
Karen H (the H stands for Halifactually Correct)

Good job, eh?

Jake Fox’s Bat vs. Sweet Lou’s Temper

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly recalling Jake Fox and his uber-bat from AAA, where he’s hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of infinity with a google homers and 100% of his team’s RBI’s. (They also brought up SS Andres Blanco and LHP Jason Waddell.)

With this move, Cub fans are rewarded with three big items off their wish list while shattering one fairy tale:
  • Jake Fox has a chance to prove he’s not just a AAA legend.
  • Aaron Miles will take a break from sullying the Cub lineup card, as he’s being placed on the 15-day DL with a bad swing and a partially strained statistical projection.
  • Neal Cotts is being sent down to the minors where he is rumored to be trade bait for a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast and a Bob Walk rookie card.
  • Bobby Scales, the exciting spark plug and fan favorite substitute teacher, has been sent down to AAA as well. It’s sad to see him go, but his recent bout with the flu probably saddled him with more sick days than he could afford.
Seeing Miles and Cotts out of action will cause much jubilant relief among Cubbie faithful, but it’s the Jake Fox call-up that really has fans buzzing, especially given their recent offensive woes. But all of Fox’s minor-league exploits amount to little more than Jack Squat—he has to show his stuff on the major-league level. And it seems slightly doubtful that he’ll see everyday playing time unless he shows he can play 3B.
Remember those stories of how SF Giants 3B Matt Williams used to practice fielding grounders with a ping pong paddle instead of a glove? The word on Jake Fox is that he looks like he’s doing that, only not as successfully. We’ll see how fast he cools off.
And speaking of cooling off, Cubs manager Lou Piniella is staying surprisingly cool during this offensive economic downturn, and it’s sending some Cub fans’ frustration over the boiling point. Lou says blowing up with a hell-fire hissy fit doesn’t really work in firing up a team (Lord knows, he’s done the research). He says now is the time for him to be calm and reassuring, but many fans are still begging for a classic Lou tirade. 
So here’s the big question I’m hoping you can answer. Which will happen first: Jake Fox’s bat cooling off like an iceberg, or Lou Piniella’s temper erupting like a volcano?

May 26, 2009 question – Forgetial Day

Memorial Day to Forget
For the Cubs anyway
Maybe the true meaning of Memorial Day has nothing to do with baseball, but they’re both very American institutions, so it’s hard to separate my feelings, especially when the two intersect. So regardless of how enjoyable most of the day was, I just can’t set aside my disdain for the way the day ended: with miserable Cubs baseball.

The big problems had nothing to do with the play on the field and the eight-game losing streak the Cubbies plopped upon the Wrigley grass. The real shocks were A) the fact that on Memorial Day, the Cubs played at night, presumably to keep their national broadcast from interfering with the evil MLB network’s 2 day-game telecasts; B) the Cubs wearing . . . prepare to gasp . . . red hats.

I know, right? The Reds wear red hats. The Cardinals wear red hats. Sophia Loren has been known to wear a giant red hat, but that doesn’ t excuse everybody in baseball being forced to don the crimson caps of doom.

The forces of good must unite to ensure this never happens again.

Today’s Question
What is the easternmost province in Canada?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Chowder comes from the French chaudière, a kettle or pot . . . B. Even though they knew, these people are far from being chowder heads: Steve J (the J stands for Jambalaya), Steve T (the T stands for Tomato Basil), Micaela, and Elena. Y’all are souper duper geniuses.

May 22, 2009 question – Shameless Plugs

Other Stuff
While we’re on the subject of unimportant things . . .
As part of my continual thirst for glory this laid-back Friday, I just wanted to take a brief moment to promote myself highlight some other content you might find of interest online (if you’ve visited these before, deal with it, post glowing comments under a pseudonym, consider yourself blessed, I apologize):

Musical Ripoffs: a look at songs that rip-off plagiarize steal seem inspired by other songs. The latest one kinda shocked me, even though the newer song is all but unknown.

v34: Why I hate LOL and you should, too. And there will be a Lost update soon, I promise.

AndCounting: It will be at least 101 #@&! years between #&*$@*^$#@ championships, and Tony LaRussa is the Devil. (Did I forget to strike that? Hmm. Whoops.)

Today’s Question
Food and Words (how awesome is that?)
From what does the thick soup chowder derive its name?
A) The name of the chef who, according to folklore, concocted the original New England clam version
B) The pot or kettle in which it is cooked
C) The traditional base of salt pork
D) The traditional inclusion of seafood

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Billy Idol. A man who needs no introduction (by definition that’s something you should say after you say the person’s name) and the answer to yesterday’s question. If today’s question were, “Who knew?” the answer would be Kyle. The both of you rock.