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Get your Brew on!

Friday, April 8, 2005

The Cubs start their home schedule tomorrow against the Brewers. So, to get prepared and know what to expect, I had a friendly chat with Jeff of Brew Crew Ball, the excellent Brewers blog on the Sportsblog network.

Cubdom: Well, I saw you guys destroyed the bucs in two games so far. What keyed your offense?

Brew Crew Ball: Heck if I know! Actually, contributions from everybody. Hardy came through with a clutch hit opening day; Cirillo and Branyan are both making like Mike Schmidt...the way the games have been going, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Sheets or Davis go 2 for 3, and you know what great hitters those guys are.

Cubdom: I seem to remember Sheets hitting well against the Cubs.

BCB: Really? Last year he cracked .100 for what I believe was the first time.

Cubdom: I checked out Ben Sheets batting record against the Cubs (using Baseball Musings Day by Day Database)... not too good. He is 0 for 30 with 2 walks. Thats a .000/.062/.000 (Avg/OBP/SLG) line.

BCB: That's probably better than Doug Davis's line :-).

Cubdom: Doug Davis is 1 for 13 so a .077/.077/.077 line against the Cubs. He is .033/.043/.033 lifetime. That is 3 for 91. You miss the DH?

Who all is starting for you this series?

BCB: Looks like it will be Capuano, Sheets, and Santos. Sheets going again because of the off days.

And for the Cubs we'll be seeing?

Cubdom: Wood, in his first start of the season. He's been hurt and hasn't faced major league hitters in about 10 days. Then we'll probably see Zambrano and Maddux.

BCB: What do you predict for [Wood's] first outing?

Cubdom: I think Wood will pitch well but use too many pitches. He's always had a problem with pitch count, so he'll be lucky to go six. He'll probably give up about three runs, strike out eight and walk four.

Zambrano will be looking to go deeper in the game, and so will try to get the Brewers to put balls into play [as opposed to trying to strikeout batters]. Maddux [has been] pretty bad in April, so we'll see what we get.

BCB: I really like Maddux, so I'll be conflicted in that game. I guess I'll root for your bullpen to melt down.

Cubdom: What does your bullpen look like? I know you traded Kolb to Atlanta.

BCB: Yep, Kolb is gone. And Vizcaino, who has been an on-again-off-again reliable set-up guy, was traded to the White Sox in the Carlos Lee trade.

That leaves Mike Adams as the presumptive closer, but he was quite shaky in spring training, and hardly has a proven track record--he's only been in the bigs since last June or so, though he was pretty reliable as a set-up man last year.

I've been saying that whatever the bullpen looks like now, it isn't going to look that way in a few months. Derrick Turnbow may get a look as closer, as might Ricky Bottalico, as he has the history, and thus super-closer-mojo.

The rest of the 'pen is a mix of interesting guys who might be able to step up: Wes Obermueller, who will be the 2005 edition of Brooks Kieschnick; Matt Wise, a handy swing man and a much better pitcher than most people realize; Tommy Phelps, our LOOGY [Lefty One Out GuY], who inexplicably pitched in both of the first two games, including a 1/3 inning appearance yesterday, and Jorge de la Rosa, another lefty who's probably only on the roster because he's out of options.

And there are a handful of guys in AAA who have some potential and we'll probably see in Milwaukee at some point. The Milwaukee pen is filled with guys who could break out.

Cubdom: How is Carlos Lee working out for you? Did he have a good spring? He has a lengthy record of doing severe damage against the Cubs.

Lookin' good so far! Solid spring, couple of good games so far. I think many Brewers fans think it's Lee's presence in the middle of the lineup that has spurred the rest of our guys to the pair of blowouts.

Cubdom: Do you remember the game in 1998 when Brant Brown dropped the flyball that cost the Cubs a game in late September?

BCB: I don't. I wasn't actively following the Brewers in the late 90s. What makes you think of it?

Cubdom: Just wondering. That was one of the most traumatic games of my life (and probably many other Cubs fans) I was interested to see if Brewers fans even remembered the game.

We were in a late season push to win the wild-card. We were up by one in a game that had see-sawed. There were men on second and third and who ever was closing, probably Rod Beck, induced a pop fly [with two outs in the ninth] which Brant Brown dropped and the guys on second and third scored and the game was over like that.

BCB: And you won the wild card anyway...

Cubdom: Yeah, but it took 163 games... and we had to be bailed out by Neifi Perez... and now we're saddled with him on our bench.

BCB: That's almost as bad as waking up in 2005 and finding Jeff Cirillo back on your team!

(Well, okay, it's worse.)

Cubdom: What do you think of the new owner, Attanasio? Are you happy to see Bud/The Selig Family Trust gone, or what?

BCB: Everything looks good so far. [It] Resulted in an immediate payroll boost, which allowed the Carlos Lee trade to happen, and may make possible a long-term extension for Sheets. Whether or not you like those deals, it's great to have ownership that's committed to getting the Brewers out of small-market purgatory [down the road]. I've heard him interviewed a couple of times, and he seems genuinely interested--his wife has turned into the most rabid Brewers fan in the few months since the deal went down.

We may never have a payroll like you guys do, but we have a shot to be more competitive, especially when the current wave of prospects start to contribute.

Speaking of payroll, how do you feel about the Ramirez extension?

Cubdom: I personally am thrilled.

There has been some discussion though that the Ramirez deal leaves the Cubs holding the bag as far as risk is concerned. Ramirez can walk away after two years, but the Cubs have to guarantee four. Plus, there is a vesting option that depends on games played, and not performance levels.

Provided Ramirez continues to perform as well as he has, it'll be a great deal. We have him inked for at least two more years, so I like it.

BCB: Have the results of the opening series in Arizona worried you at all about the 2005 season?

Cubdom: A bit. You're pitching staff has allowed only four runs in the two games you've played. Our staff wasn't able to keep the D-Backs to less than five in any of those games.

The offense was incredibly inconsistent last year, and has looked so again in Arizona. But, I think it will be better this year. I also think the Cubs would have been better served to get out of Arizona for their first few games. I wonder if the proximity to Mesa had them feeling like the games were spring training games.

What is your opinion on Ned Yost?

BCB: Seems like he's done a good job of motivating the team, and the Yost/Maddux team has done wonders with some retread pitchers, like Davis and Victor Santos.

Yost came to Milwaukee from the Atlanta coaching staff, and apparently he still talks with Bobby Cox very frequently. There are a lot of similarities there. I'll be more confident in Yost as soon as he makes a decision to ditch either Helms or Cirillo.

Carrying three third baseman, none of whom have much value anywhere else on the diamond, and two of whom will probably be way below-average offensively, is a massive waste of a roster spot. Especially when you could see that decision as the one that caused Kieschnick's release.

Cubdom: Brooks was released? I missed that.

BCB: Yes, before the Crew broke camp. He signed a minor-league deal with Houston that was announced today and will report to AA Corpus Christi.

How do you feel about Dusty?

Cubdom: Oh goodness don't ask me that. I don't know. I think he is a bad in game manager. I just don't understand his decisions. But the fact is the man wins... and he wins a lot. So, I'm not looking to have him fired. I just bellyache a lot.

BCB: Do you think the way the Sosa situation shook out will be better for the Cubs in the long run?

Cubdom: The Sosa situation was badly mishandled by the club. They should not have publicized his early leave from the clubhouse. They destroyed his value and then had to trade him.

I mean we traded a first ballot hall of famer who will hit 40+ HRs next season for a utility player and two minor leaguers who will probably never make the show... and we payed about $18 million too. That is the definitition of a bad trade.

How big is the Milwaukee payroll this year?

BCB: It's up around $45 million, up about $10 mil from last year. Could increase a bit more, as any Sheets extension would probably replace the current deal, meaning he'd make $9-10 mil this year instead of the $6 he got in the one-year deal.

Carlos Lee accounts for almost all of the increase (Podsednik wasn't making much) and Damian Miller makes up the rest.

BCB: What's your prediction for the weekend series?

Cubdom: Cubs win 2 - the Wood and Zambrano starts.

BCB: I've got the Brewers down for a sweep. The bats are on fire, and while I'm sure the Cubs will do fine this year, all of these tired and half-injured starters will begin the season slowly.

Well, that was pretty much our chat. I've edited it to remove my lengthy discussion of our bullpen, and a few other things. Jeff's post is a much truer version of the discussion than mine, so I encourage you to head over to Brew Crew Ball and read the complete transcript if you are interested.

Also, in the comments, let me know if you like this kind of post or not? I'm thinking about doing numerous chats like this before various series this year, but if you don't like 'em I'll stick to rambling about ticket prices, attendance figures, and the cost of beer at various ballparks :-).

Posted by Byron at April 8, 2005 12:34 AM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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