2009 MLB National League Central Notebook
It’s been 101 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (1908). The most knowledgeable baseball fans and the die-hard Cubs fans already knew that.
But the amosphere from just hanging out at Wrigley Field in the middle summer not really caring if the Cubs won or lost appears to have vanished.
Cub fans have developed an edge to them.
In fact, it may have been spurred on when manager Lou Piniella came aboard before the 2007 season. Piniella’s fiery personality shook things up to where accepting losing just wasn’t going to be tolerated anymore.
Cub fans want a winner, and they’re getting a little tired of an underachieving team or unimpressive team. Boos are raining down more predominantly at the ballpark these days.
You could sense that during the 2007 and 2008 playoffs. And it became magnified in the 2008 division series against Los Angeles. The Cubs had the best record in the National League and were swept.
Now, with a so-so 15-12 record and a team batting average and ERA running 11 th out of 16 teams, there’s some concern that the Cubs may not have enough to compete for the division.
It’s getting pretty unnerving about the beginning ace right-hander Roy Oswalt has had to his season.
The usually reliable Oswalt is winless (0-2) in his first seven starts and has even averaged six innings per start. Oswalt has also allowed 7 home runs and teams are hitting .275 against him. In his first eight seasons, the highest opposing batting average was .263 in 2006.
Oswalt makes his next start against Sunday against San Diego.
Go figure right-hander Bronson Arroyo. When Milwaukee scored nine runs against him in only one pitched inning, Arroyo became the only pitcher since 1900 to have two starts in a career where he surrendered nine runs and recorded three or fewer outs.
Arroyo also “accomplished” the feat back in June 2008 against Toronto. Then, the Blue Jays shelled him for 10 runs.
In fact, Arroyo has been very good and very bad. In his two losses, he has allowed 18 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. In his four wins, he has allowed 9 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Oddly enough, he has received a decision in all six of his starts.
The Pirate’s offense has sprung a leak. After getting off to a good start this season, the ballclub has regressed.
The .256 team batting average is in the second division of the National League, while the 17 home runs are the second fewest in the league. Only San Francisco has hit fewer with 14.
The bright spot has been infielder Freddy Sanchez who leads the team with a .321 batting average and has already hit three home runs. Sanchez has hit 34 in his first seven seasons.
First baseman Prince Fielder has been pretty consistent with his power, although it’s a little down this year with only five. However, Fielder has taken the approach of being more patient and making the opposing pitcher work. He’s always been pretty disciplined, but things are trending differently.
Through his first 29 games, Fielder has drawn 24 walks, which ranks third in the National League. If he keeps this kind of pace, he would finish with a career-best 134 passes. The most he has drawn has been 90 in 2007.
One of questions facing the Cardinals this season was who was going to get the game in the ninth inning.
Manager Tony LaRussa turned to 36-year-old right-hander Ryan Franklin to be his closer because he always liked the power pitcher’s repertoire.
Franklin has reawarded LaRussa’s instincts by converting all 9 of his save opportunities and posting a 0.00 ERA. Franklin, who had 17 career saves entering the season, has been efficient because he has allowed only four hits in his first 13 1/3 innings.
But he has some great setup help in Jason Motte and Chris Perez.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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