Cubs

Role reversal: Pirates double up Dempster, Cubs

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Role reversal: Pirates double up Dempster, Cubs

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
11:52 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

For Mike Quade, the biggest difference hes found managing in the majors has been the volume of information. Quade was the Oakland As first-base coach while the best-selling book Moneyball was being reported, so he understands the value of statistics.

But at the Triple-A level you never get these sample sizes or numbers for specific situations. The game is too transient there. Now Quade can analyze Alfonso Sorianos performance across 40 at-bats against a particular pitcher.

The Cubs manager is no longer working off handwritten notes either. But computer printouts dont give easy answers for this.

The Cubs had their most reliable starter (Ryan Dempster) on the mound Tuesday night against the worst team in baseball (Pittsburgh Pirates). They fell behind by nine runs and lost 14-7 in front of 31,369 fans, though the Wrigley Field crowd seemed smaller than that.

Six days earlier, Dempster had no-hitter type stuff until Quade pulled him after 79 pitches in the eighth inning of a scoreless game. It was a bold move that paid off for the rookie manager when the pinch-hitter scored the go-ahead run and the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals.

Until Tuesday night, Dempster had been so good in August 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA that you wondered if something was wrong. Seventy pitches got him through three innings and he gave up seven runs. It marked his shortest start since June 27, 2008 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Physically, hes fine, Quade said. He just gets furious with himself.

The Pirates (44-88) havent had a winning season since 1992. Their internal financial documents were recently leaked to the website Deadspin for the whole world to see. It has become a place for players like Aramis Ramirez to go for awhile before getting rich somewhere else.

Tuesdays edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wondered: Is this their worst team ever? Yet the Pirates are now 10-4 against the Cubs this year.

I got no explanation why, Ramirez said. Weve played well against them before. This year for some reason we just havent been winning.

During this line of questioning, Lou Piniella would invariably point out that the Cubs (56-77) have had trouble winning against all types of teams this season. It is why theyve never been above .500 in 2010 and will be playing in front of empty seats throughout September.

The jobs still the same coming to work, Dempster said. It doesnt say in your contract: Ill try as hard as I can as long as were in it.

Dempster is one of the few people in the clubhouse who knows what hell be doing next year, probably pitching on Opening Day. For everyone else, there will be auditions, from Quade to the pitching staff to the September call-ups, most likely six or seven players once Iowa completes its season.

I look back when I first came up, I was a young guy who (definitely knew he) didnt belong in the big leagues, Dempster said. Were in this together. Whoever else is here a day from now, or a week from now or two weeks from now whenever it is (will) get a great experience that you cant get anywhere else.

For the fifth-place Cubs, the good news is that by late Wednesday afternoon they should be done with the Pirates this season. Consider it another weird data point in an unpredictable season.

Weve talked so much about starting pitching and Demps going to pitch well, Quade said. You dont play games on paper. And the last thing in the world I expected was to be making a change for Demp in the third inning. But thats the nature of the beast.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: