Bubble Boys

Let's take a look at what those guys on the NLDS roster bubble have done in the past 2 weeks, understanding that these short-term stats won't be the entire basis for decision-making, but will influence it.

Micah Hoffpauir-If you decided to take a Cubs sabbatical this week (you know, spend some time with the family you've been ignoring for 5 months, catch up with your Cyber-friends, play some Warcraft), you may have missed Hoff's 5 for 5 night last night, which included 2 HR's, a double, and 5 RBI's. He is 8 for 15 over the last two weeks, meaning he was still hitting .300 for the span before last night. While Lou is probably not starting Hoff in the playoffs, it will be hard to keep him off the roster.

Felix Pie-Pie is hitting a respectable .294 over the past two weeks, while striking out 5 times in 17 AB's. He has a double and a triple, and has scored 4 times. He also has a steal to his credit. He hasn't done anything to wow anyone, but he certainly hasn't hurt his chances of making the club.

Daryle Ward-Since my co-worker wants to tear apart my analysis, I thought I would include Ward on this list. He is 2 for 11 (.182) in the last two weeks, including 0 for 4 in a pinch. But he has coaxed two walks in pinch hit appearances, giving him a .300 plus OBP. I still think Lou goes with experience, but it's hard to keep a guy hitting .216 on the year while leaving Pie or Hoff off.

Casey McGehee-McGehee's on here just as a courtesy to see his numbers. 3 for 11 (.273), but an impressive 5 RBI's. If Lou needed a guy, McGehee would be valuable as a backup 3-sack/1-sack, but he seems to have too many bats.

Bob Howry-Howry seems to be a lock in the minds of management, but not so much in the minds of fans. He has pitched 4 and 2/3 innings over the past two weeks, not giving up an earned run. But he has allowed at least one base runner in all but one of those appearances.
Jason Marquis-Marquis made two starts over the past 14 days, allowing 7 runs over 12 innings (a 5.25 ERA). But the bigger number is the 23 baserunners allowed, giving him a WHIP of nearly 2. He's also thrown a wild pitch in each of his last two outings. Marquis may be on the taxi squad headed to Mesa, unless he shows something.

Jeff Samardzija-Lou made it a point of emphasis that he had been putting Jeff ND in in tight spots and later in the game. He's allowed 2 runs in his last 4 innings of work. He escaped Wednesday night's game with only one run, despite giving up two hits and two walks.

Chad Gaudin-Gaudin hasn't been sharp since returning from the D.L. He pitched last Sunday and walked 2 batters before getting out of the inning. Last night, he allowed an earned run.

Sean Marshall-After getting a spot start 2 and a half weeks ago, Marshall hasn't pitched much. He has made two appearances, not allowing an earned run. His last outing didn't go smoothly as he gave up 2 walks and a hit in an inning and a third.

Randy Wells-When Wells was first mentioned as getting a possible roster spot, he has 4 and 1/3 scoreless innings. He still has 4 and 1/3 scoreless innings. He may have thrown some good numbers, but Lou obviously hasn't seen enough to warrant his consideration.

Kevin Hart-Whether Lou was trying to see if Hart could show that great September 07 form again or whether he just wanted to give his roster guys some more rest, Hart has pitched the Cubs last two games. Unfortunately, it hasn't gone well. Wednesday night, he gave up 2 hits, but held the Mets scoreless. Last night, he lost the game. After giving up a leadoff hit to Reyes and walking Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran came through with a two out hit that broke the tie and ended the game.

Ryan Dempster to Start Game 1 & More Playoff Roster Contstruction

Ryan Freaking Dempster.

Ryan Dempster has been named the starter for Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS. Wow. Let's let this sink in, folks. Ryan Dempster. You know...Ryan DUmpster...Cubs closer that we all wanted to run out of town? What happened to this guy? Ryan Dempster-the dude running up mountains in Spring Training while we all severely doubted he'd even break camp with a spot in the rotation. Ryan Dempster...comedian.

Now...Ryan Dempster, All Star. Ryan Dempster, the #1 starter on the #1 team in the National League. Pretty amazing. Congrats to Dempster. The guy worked his ass off for this and deserves every bit of it. Word is he'll probably be re-signing with the club after this year as a bit of a thank you to the organization for sticking with him. I truly hope that he does. It's guys like Dempster that make me proud to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

Moving on to some other notes:
  • With Dempster locked in as the #1 starter when the Cubs begin the playoffs against either the Mets (my vote in the poll-we own them), Dodgers, or Phillies, time to figure out how they'll line up at 2-4. We know that the other playoff starters will be Zambrano, Harden, and Lilly. Gordon Wittenmeyer has an article up today speculating on who might slot in where. A lot of this will depend on who the Cubs draw-but I'd personally be comfortable with either Z or Harden at 2, then throw Lilly to break up the righties, then throw whoever's left of Z or Harden. The big question here is-what would happen in Zambrano's crazy head if he were held to the 4th game before he started? For what it's worth, Harden looked good and healthy in going 6 IPs on 98 pitches. Z, on the other hand, needs to chill out. Looking at this "problem," you know what jumps out? The Cubs pitching staff is frigging really, really good.
  • Also in Wittenmeyer's article is a look at the remaining playoff spot battles. Per GDub, the Cubs aren't likely to take my advice and drop DWard in favor of keeping BOTH Micah Hoffpauir and Felix Pie. Personally, I belive they're both way more valuable than Ward. All Ward has is "experience." Big shit. Hoffpauir went 5-5 last night with 2 bombs. In 62 ABs with the Cubs this year, dude's OPS is over 1.000 and he's hitting .387. In 97 ABs Ward is hitting a really lousy .216, carrying a terrible OPS of about .700, and has 1 more HR than Hoffpauir put up last night. Ward's contract is up. He's not likely to be back with the club next year. What do we owe this guy? Nothing. Hoffpauir and Ward are the SAME player...except Hoffpauir is actually good at baseball. Wittenmeyer surmises that Hoffpauir's performance last night may have sewed up the final bench spot and thinks that Pie will continue his season of frustration watching the playoffs on TV.
  • Wittenmeyer says the last bullpen spot will be down to 2 of 3 of Bob Howry, Chad Gaudin, and Jeff Samardzija. I'm not sure I'd want to have to make this decision myself. I could see it breaking in any combo. I'll raise my suggestion again though-drop Marquis like a bad habit and let them all on. For what it's worth, Gaudin says he's 100% healthy.
  • Bruce Miles weighs in with his opinions and knowledge on the playoff roster makeup. Per Miles, Lou has stated he'll be keeping everyone on the playoff roster that has been on the team all year. So Miles is going with both Ward and Marquis. (C'mon Lou...do the right thing here. Drop these guys). He had Pie over Hoffpauir for the final bench spot due to his speed and ability to play CF, but that was before Hoffpauir's 11th hour ploy last night to grab the final bench spot (can this knock Ward out...please?). Miles thinks Samardzija is a lock now that he's "found it" again. I do too for the reasons I previously stated about the Cubs belief in Jeff ND as a big game guy. He has the final spot coming down to Gaudin and Howry, with Gaudin getting the nod. Miles goes so far as to say he'd be surprised to see Howry make the roster.
  • I'm not too worried, but here's something to keep an eye on. Both Mark DeRosa (strained calf) and Ronny Cedeno (strained shoulder) are going to miss some time. Hopefully this is more of DeRosa needing rest and the Cubs trying to cover for not starting their regulars as the Brewers battle for the playoffs and less of a real injury. Cedeno...who cares.

Cubs Monobrow Video

A funny(ish) video that hit TD World Headquarters from the MLB Player's Association. Kinda dumb, but the Lil Mikey scene saves it.

Thanks for the hookup. Keep 'em comin' dear readers.

Vote Hoffpauir / Gaudin '08

Solid, comprehensive rundown of the Cubs playoff roster choices Lionel. I'd add a few things (this started as a comment but I couldn't shut up, so here's my own post on the subject)...

One, I'd personally prefer to see Hoffpauir than Ward make the roster. I know where you're coming from with Ward, and I think you may be right, but I'm hoping Lou won't go Dusty Baker on us here with his "Yeah, he's 50 and terrible...but he has the experience!" To me, the best roster on the hitter side would be as you outlined, but having Pie and Hoffpauir, instead of Pie and Ward.

I think that Pie will definitely be on the roster, though. A guy with his defense and his speed is incredibly valuable in the playoffs. (See Roberts, Dave; BoSox, '04 ALCS). Without Pie, who can we turn to when we absolutely need to swipe a bag in a clutch situation? Cedeno? Fukudome? No thanks. Problem is, though, while he's fast, Pie hasn't proven to be a very good baserunner-in 7 minor league seasons only 117 SBs to 70 CS, a very low 63% sucess rate, and only 2 SBs for the Cubs this year.

On the pitching side, I'm mostly with ya. Howry is in-he's a big time RP, supposedly. Lou has soured on him and won't throw him in a big spot, but he's in. Marshall is in-Lou seems to both like and trust him, and his handedness punches his October ticket anyway. I think Samardzija is a lock, though, for this one reason: the Cubs think this guy shines brighter the bigger the stage. His numbers early in the year didn't necessitate a move up the organizational ladder, but they moved him up anyway. And kept doing so. And at each level increase, his numbers would improve. Kid's a rook. His first playoffs. In Chicago, not far from where he grew up. Pitching for the Chicago Cubs. 100 year drought, etc. Stage won't get much bigger. I think Hendry, Lou, and Rothschild will put him on the roster, run him out in a big spot, and see how he responds to the mounds of pressure. If he does well, he'll continue to get big situation IPs. If not, he may not be kept around the next round. But...on the final spot, I think Gaudin has a big argument to be made for a spot over Marquis. I could see either being the choice, but the team hates Marquis. They don't want to throw him. IF (IF!) Gaudin can prove he's healthy enough between now and the beginning of postseason, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the nod. The only way they use Marquis is as a starter. They only need him as a starter if there's an injury. If there is an injury to one of the SPs, I think they use Marshall to spot start or throw someone on short rest during the first series and then add Marquis for the 2nd (I think you can add someone in a subsequent series if there's an injury).

Cubs make Roster Move

While most of the focus is on the playoff roster, the Cubs quietly made a move that effects their 40 man roster, claiming Brad Snyder off waivers from the Indians and DFA'ing Adam Harben. Snyder is a 26 year old left-hand hitting OF who spent the season at Buffalo, the AAA affiliate of the Indians. While playing left and center, he hit .246 with 13 HR's and 7 stolen bases, but he also struck out 123 times in 411 AB's. He was the 18th overall pick in the 2003 draft and at the time was ranked as the 3rd best 5 tool talent in the draft. In 2006, he was the Indians 3rd best prospect according to Baseball America (ahead of guys like Fausto Carmona and Ryan Garko). In '07, he dropped to 8th. And while he was no longer in the Indians top ten this past year, he was still considered the best athlete in the organization and the best outfielder, both defensively and based on arm strength.
So why would the Cubs make this move? Looking at their 40 man roster, as well as their OF prospects, it's easy to see why. In terms of OF's, the 40 man consists of Soriano, Edmonds, Pie, Johnson, Fukudome, and Sam Fuld. Tyler Colvin is the only real prospect in the Cubs system that is an OF and worthy of a spot on the 40 man roster. If Johnson and Edmonds are gone after this year, the Cubs only have 4 OF's. Granted, who knows what will happen in terms of FA's and trades, but adding Snyder gives the Cubs some more depth.
Conversly, the fact that Adam Harben was DFA'd isn't a major surprise. Harben was acquired by the Cubs in the trade for Phil Nevin in late 2006. He underwent Tommy John surgery later that fall and was out all of last year. The Cubs added him to the 40 man roster last November to protect him, but a 3-6 record with a 5.37 ERA didn't really need to be protected. If he goes unclaimed in the next ten days, he will be outrighted (if the Cubs so choose) to the minors and be off the 40 man roster.

The Playoff Roster

As Lou reviews his options for the post-season roster, so will we. One thing to remember here is that playoff teams don't usually carry the same number of pitchers on their playoff rosters, because the off-days allow relievers to rest.

Not Worthy of Comment (because they're on the Team)

Geovany Soto
Derrek Lee
Mark DeRosa
Ryan Theriot
Aramis Ramirez
Alfonso Soriano
Reed Johnson
Jim Edmonds

Carlos Zambrano
Ryan Dempster
Rich Harden
Ted Lilly
Carlos Marmol
Kerry Wood

On the Team, but Worthy of a little discussion

Henry Blanco-Lou can rely on Hank White to be able to play at a moment's notice, which will be a big plus in the playoffs. Koyie Hill got PT last night, but that's just because there was no point in potentially injuring both of the Cubs playoff catchers.

Mike Fontenot-Lil' Mikey gives Lou a left-handed bat, whether coming off the bench or maybe as a starting 2-sack against a rightie with DeRo in the OF. He's only hitting .219 in the pinch, but has some pop in his bat that seems to arrive in big moments.

Ronny Cedeno-Cedeno gives Lou some flexibility, being able to play 2B and SS, and is the emergency 3B. He gives Lou a little speed (4 SB's), but is only 4 for 21 as a pinch hitter this year.
Kosuke Fukudome-There was some thought a few weeks ago that Fuku wouldn't make the playoff roster, thanks in large part to a .219 batting average after the All-Star break. But the Cubs best defensive RF will be on the team, because of his defense and his speed. The playoffs usually favor the team's with better pitching and defense, so it will be crucial for Fuku to log some PT.

Daryle Ward-Ward's main role on this team is as a pinch hitter. Unfortunately, he's hitting .157 in that role this year. Despite that, he's a left-handed bat off the bench who has two pinch hit HR's. Ward also provides some post-season experience that is largely missing among the Cubs reserves, as he gets ready for his 4th post-season.

Neal Cotts-Does anyone else find it weird that Cotts went from a AAA afterthought to the Cubs primary left-handed specialist? After a great July, Cotts has cooled in August and September, but with few other options, Cotts will make the team. The one ray of hope is that Cotts pitches better at night (3.29 ERA), so hopefully that will mean good things for him.

Fighting for the Last Positional Spot?

Lou has said that he is leaning toward carrying only 11 pitchers, instead of 12, opening the door for a September Call-up position player to make the team.

Micah Hoffpauir-It's easy to understand why Lou would want Hoff on the team; the guy can mash. He would give Lou another left-handed option off the bench. But Hoffpauir has only hit .182 as a pinch hitter and is only hitting .176 since he was recalled in September. He also provides little to the team defensively, so his role would essentially be the same as Ward.

Felix Pie-People who read this blog religiously (and I'm sure there are thousands of you) will know that I am one of the few fans who hasn't soured on Pie. I think that he'll still be a great player. But I will reign in my thoughts, because this is only about whether he'll play in October. Pie brings speed and defense to the table. The opposite of Hoffpauir, Pie is actually hitting .357 since returning to the club in September.

Analysis-I was not convinced Lou would grab another bat, until I looked at his bullpen options. Now I think he will, and I think it's Pie. While no one off the bench will have the thunder potential of Hoffpauir, Ward and Fontenot have some left-handed power. Pie has the pure speed that is so useful when every run is important and can be a defensive replacement.

Fighting to Join the Pen

If I've counted correctly, there are 4-5 spots available in the 'pen, depending on whether Lou picks another bench player.

Bob Howry-You'd rather go with experience when it comes playoff time, but Howry's performance has made it difficult. He has an ugly 8.31 ERA in 6 appearances in September and a 6.85 ERA overall since the All Star Break. Unlike Cotts, Howry is much worse at night (7.34 ERA).

Jason Marquis-If Marquis doesn't make the team, the talk will be about how it's his third straight season not making the post-season roster. But Marquis has pitched slightly better than last year and more importantly, has pitched a lot better in the second half. Marquis adds value in that if the game goes into extras, he can come in "off the bench," as we all saw his hitting prowess last night. He can also pinch-run if needed.

Jeff Samardzija-Samardzija did a lot to get the team to where it is. He didn't allow a run in the month of August over 13 appearances. But he's given up 4 earned runs in 6 and 2/3 innings in September and you have to wonder if he's starting to run out of steam after throwing nearly 140 innings in his second year of professional baseball. Lou said he was impressed with his two scoreless innings he threw on Sunday.

Chad Gaudin-Gaudin would be a useful middle reliever, but is just coming back from a sore back. He seems to be well-liked by Lou, who wanted him to get as many innings as possible this week. His position may come down to whether he is healthy and can log some quality innings.

Sean Marshall-The best reason to bring Marshall into the fold is his handedness. He is the only viable candidate other than Cotts to come out of the Cubs 'pen as a leftie. Marshall has been solid as a reliever with an ERA of 2.81. He also brings the ability to pitch in long-relief, if one of the right handed starters gets roughed up early. He'll be on display tonight in a spot start.

Randy Wells-Wells wouldn't be on the list, except his numbers are too good to ignore. He has pitched 4 and 1/3 over 3 appearances and has yet to allow a hit. He's walked a batter in two of his three outings, but other than that, no one has reached base. Lou has used him in 3 of the Cubs last 6 games. Wells could be this year's Kevin Hart.

Analysis-I think Lou goes with 4 (after taking Pie); Marquis, Howry, Marshall, and Samardzija. Marquis has had a better end of the year than he did the last two years, and Lou loves his athleticism that goes beyond his pitching ability. Howry will get the call because he has the experience; there are a number of youngsters who will need to a calming presence in the 'pen. Howry may not see much action, however. Despite Samardzija's recent struggles, he is the third best reliever on the team. Lou and Larry will carefully monitor him to make sure he isn't weating down. Marshall's relief numbers jumped out at me, plus he has the ability to pitch long relief and gives Lou another option in the 'pen. Gaudin's long layoff will make it difficult to call on him and while Wells has had a nice short run, he hasn't shown enough to warrant a post-season roster spot.

Pack Your Bags (no chance of playing in October)

Angel Guzman-Guzman has only pitched 4 times since coming off the 60 day D.L. as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery. He has a 9.53 ERA. He is getting some decent experience with the club, but the Cubs are more concerned with him coming back healthy next year.

Michael Wuertz-Wuertz found his way into Lou's doghouse in early July and has yet to recover. His 6.23 ERA this month isn't helping him. He's an odd case, as he only allowed a total of 4 earned runs in 20 appearances in May and June, but has fallen apart since then. With a significant number of other options, Wuertz isn't likely to get the call.

Kevin Hart-Hart has only pitched 3 times since being recalled, so I don't think Lou is going to magically decide he's one of the best 25. Hart was always the last man in the pen for Lou when he was with the Cubs before the rosters expanded, and it doesn't seem like much has changed. Hart has walked 17 batters in 23 and 1/3 innings with the Big Club.

Casey McGehee-McGehee was a long shot to get called up, and he has no shot of making the post-season roster. He's only had 9 big league AB's.

Chicago Cubs Possible Playoff Matchups

The Chicago Cubs have clinched for the second year in a row however who they will face in the first round is still unclear. Some of the possibilities and issues are:

Diamondbacks - need to win the West and Brewers get the Wild Card.
Concerns - Arizona swept the Cubbies last year and they have Webb, Haren and Johnson.
Positives - Their batters are all or nothing with the Cubs pitching staff shutting them down this year.
Series 08 - Cubs lead 4-2

Dodgers - need to win the West and Brewers get the Wild Card.
Concerns - No NL team has been hotter than the Dodgers, who have gone 16-4 since Aug. 30.
Positives - Closer situation for Dodgers still up in the air.
Series 08 - Cubs lead 5-2

Phillies - need to take the Wild Card spot.
Concerns - Cubs dont have a dominant left to face Howard or Utley in the late innings. Brad Lidge!
Positives - Cubs pitchers fit Citizens Bank Park.
Series 08 - Phillies lead 4-3

Mets - need to take the Wild Card spot.
Concerns - Their 1 and 2 starters...Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey.
Positives - Mets are missing closer Wagner and has major bullen problems...They love to choke!
Series 08 - Cubs lead 2-0 (all games played in NY)

They Did It

The 2008 Chicago Cubs are the National League Central Divisions champions. For the first time since 1907 and 1908 seasons, the Cubs will be heading back to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Congrats guys. Keep your eyes on the prize.