Cubs

Fantasy Baseball: NL Central Velocity Check

Fantasy Baseball: NL Central Velocity Check

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Posted: 9:44 a.m.

By Hamilton Bolduc
CSNChicago.com Contributor

The division features some top, former American League arms that will look to take advantage of the NL tailwind.

Cubs

Starter Matt Garza (93.3): Garza is one of a few arms looking to get the NL bump in stats. No one has ever questioned Garzas stuff, but its been his consistency that needs to improve. In the NL Central, hell feast on the weaker teams like the Pirates, Astros, Padres and Nationals. Expect his K9 to get back to his 2009 total (150 in 189 innings) while he eclipses the 200-inning mark for a third season.

Reliever Carlos Marmol (94.1): Marmol had a breakout season as the Cubs closer and was rewarded with a three-year extension last month. In terms of velocity, his fastball was at its best while he still relied on his slider to rack up a phenomenal 15.99 K9. Lets just say we can expect more where that came from.

Reds

Starter Edinson Volquez (93.6): 2008 is long gone, but there are signs he could be on the rebound. While he struggled as a .500 pitcher with an inflated 4-plus ERA, Volquez posted his career-best K9 with 9.62.

Reliever Aroldis Chapman (99.6): Chapman exploded on the scene at the end of 2010 and figures to be one of the toughest relievers for years to come. Dont be shocked if he unseats Francisco Cordero as closer by the All-Star Break.

Astros

Starter Bud Norris (93.6): The Baby Stros are going to need major contributions from Norris. Unfortunately hes been a little too erratic to count on. Norris could become a waiver wire steal if he can better capitalize on his impressive K9.

Reliever Brandon Lyon (91.6): Lyon is far from a sure thing at the closer position given this average (at best) velocity.

Brewers

Starter Zach Greinke (93.5): Greinke wont be taking the hill until the end of April for his new team. It will be a shock if he didnt take advantage of the NL on his way to one his best seasons, perhaps on par with his Cy Young 2009.
Reliever John Axford (94.9): Axford will be one of baseballs top closers and figures to get plenty of opportunities with one of baseballs best rotations providing additional wins.

Pirates
Starter James McDonald (92.4): McDonald is a possible waiver wire pickup to help bridge when one of your top arms ends up on the disabled list, but nothing more.

Reliever Joel Hanrahan (96.0): Perhaps the best pitcher on the team. Hanrahan will make the most of his closing opportunities, but he wont have many. He's also had a rough spring, which may keep his draft-day price lower than it should be.

Cards
Starter Chris Carpenter (91.4): Carpenter has been elite when healthy. But he's at an age when the injuries start to pile up. It's already taken a toll on his once-better velocity.

Reliever Mitchell Boggs (96.1): Boggs will be one of the Cardinals top arms out of the pen, but he figures to be third in line at best to close out games. The value will be low here unless things make a drastic change for the worse. Monitor his progress, but grab Ryan Franklin or Jason Motte before you consider Boggs.

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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