Role reversal: Pirates double up Dempster, Cubs

248193.jpg

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.

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

WASHINGTON – Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has perspective after sitting through the darkest days of the rebuild, the sign-and-flip cycles and moments like “Men Playing Against Boys,” the way ex-manager Dale Sveum once sized up the team during a 2012 series against the Washington Nationals.

Bosio trusted future “World’s Greatest Leader” Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of a growing front office would deliver talent during the 101-loss season that led to the Kris Bryant No. 2 overall draft pick and the Ryan Dempster/Kyle Hendricks buzzer-beater deal at the trade deadline.   

So while Bosio is a hardened realist who understands the banged-up Cubs haven’t played up to their potential, he also knows these are first-division problems. 

“If Theo and Jed can find a way to make our team better, you can bet they’re going to do it,” Bosio said. “But at the same time, they’re not going to sacrifice our future. They know that the team (here has) a lot of holdovers from the World Series club. There’s a lot of holdovers from the team that went to the National League (Championship Series in 2015). We’ve been through that. And when it comes crunch time, we produce.”

With that in mind, a look at where things stand five weeks out from the July 31 trade deadline as the defending champs begin a potential playoff preview on Monday at Nationals Park:

• If Max Scherzer flirts with another no-hitter or a 20-strikeout game on Tuesday, the questions will start all over again about adding a hitter. Javier Baez even let this slip over the weekend after a win over the Miami Marlins: “Pretty much not having a leadoff guy right now is kind of tough.” But shipping Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa is not necessarily the start of an offensive overhaul.

“Our focus is going to be on pitching,” Hoyer said. “I would never say never to something like that, because I don’t know what’s going to present itself as we get closer to the deadline. I will say this: When it comes to our offense, I really do see it as these are our guys. We’re as deep with position players as any team in baseball. These guys have performed exceptionally well. Most of these guys have won 200 games over the last two years.

“We believe in them for a reason. We don’t have rings on our fingers without all these guys.”

• With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey on the verge of becoming free agents, the Cubs feel like they should start working on their winter plans this summer and begin remodeling the rotation. The 38-37 record makes you wonder how ultra-aggressive the front office will be to win a bidding war for a frontline starter, but the Cubs are only 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, a first-place team for now that was supposed to be rebuilding this year.   

But the Cleveland Indians got to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 with Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt making nine playoff starts combined, because they had Corey Kluber and a dynamic bullpen.

The primary focus will have to be on the rotation, but adding another high-leverage reliever to work in front of lights-out closer Wade Davis would shorten games and help preserve Carl Edwards Jr. (170 pounds) and Koji Uehara (42 years old).   

“At some point, you’re going to assess your own team,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes strengthening a strength can work. You see teams that sometimes have a good offense – and add another good hitter – and all of a sudden we’re going to beat you in a different way.”

• Without making this summer’s blockbuster deal for a closer – the way the Cubs landed Aroldis Chapman – Washington risks wasting Bryce Harper’s second-to-last season before free agency and another year of Scherzer’s $210 million megadeal.

Six different Nationals have saved games for a 45-30 team and the bullpen ranks near the bottom of the majors with a 4.88 ERA. Can’t blame that on Dusty Baker, who has notched more than 1,800 wins as a manager and guided four different franchises to the playoffs.

But it won’t be easy to find a quick fix for the Washington bullpen or Cubs rotation. The American League opened for business on Monday with only three of its 15 teams more than three games under .500, and one being the White Sox, who are (obviously) not seen as a realistic trade partner for the Cubs.

“The American League is incredibly jumbled up,” Hoyer said. “That’s why a lot of deals don’t happen this time of year, because people are still sorting it out. The next five weeks of baseball will determine a lot of that. Some of those teams that are in the race now will fall back.

“There’s a lack of teams right now that have a true sense of sellers. I think there are a lot of teams right now that are close enough that they’re not going to admit it that they’re going to be sellers. That five weeks will determine a lot about who ends up on which side of the fence.”

Preview: Cubs-Nationals Monday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Nationals Monday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Monday’s starting pitching matchup: Eddie Butler (3-2, 4.19 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (7-1, 2.96 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.