Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cubs/Reds report, or Ugly Baseball

Monday's and Tuesday's games in the Cubs/Reds series at Wrigley were not for the baseball purist. Yes, there may have been plenty of homers over these two games, but the pitching and defense in both contests were atrocious, particularly in Tuesday's game. I'm not sure what disgusted me more over these two games--that Dusty Baker ordered a sacrifice bunt with a MAN ON SECOND AND NONE OUT (Neifi Perez saved Baker from his own blunder by popping up the bunt attempt), or that the Reds are actually paying Eric "HR" Milton $8 million a year. When a team catches Carlos Zambrano on an off night like he was on Tuesday, all you ask of your starter is not to give up four homers and eight runs. Sadly, Milton couldn't even do that on a cold night at Wrigley. I can't imagine how horrible he'll be at Great American Ballpark in August, which should be like a launching pad. Many Reds fans were encouraged by Milton's signing--after all, increasing the payroll is a sign of more winning to come, right? Not if the $24 million you spend comes attached to an arm with a 1.47 career HR/9 and a 4.76 ERA.

Quick-hit observations from the games:

-Carlos Zambrano managed to throw 104 pitches...in 4 2/3 innings. I'd be very surprised to see him last through the whole year if he can't increase his efficiency.

-Ken Griffey Jr. played like a...erm...31-year-old? He stroked some beautiful hits over the two games, including two of the most aesthetically pleasing doubles I've ever seen, and he made an amazing tumbling catch on Tuesday, made more amazing by the fact that he didn't hurt himself during the slide.

-Derrek Lee has got to be hitting as well as anyone in baseball right now. If the Cubs can somehow scrap together a Wild Card spot, he will have to merit MVP consideration. He's already the most complete first baseman in the bigs thanks to his glove and his speed on the basepaths; if he can elevate his offense to around .400 OBP and .600 SLG, I'd take him over Pujols and Helton as the best. Such numbers would be a bit of a stretch given his past performance, but increasing walks and decreasing strikeouts almost always leads to power surges, because the more a batter gets ahead in the count, the more good pitches he will see.

-A general observation: bullpens around the majors stink. I mean, they really stink. I noticed that when Keith Foulke blew it on Tuesday against the Orioles, his fastball was around 85 MPH. Danny Graves, who's given up a run in 8 of 9 outings for the Reds, topped out at 87 MPH. Armando Benitez's velocity is way down out in San Francisco. I could go on, but I promised these would be brief (oops).

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