Astros Pitcher Slams Brian Wilson, Giants Closer’s Taco Bell Ads

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is one of the game’s most colorful personalities. You could be one of those people who believes baseball is boring, but I’m guessing you don’t think Wilson is boring. How could anyone think so?

Wilson’s quirkiness and star power landed him a gig as Taco Bell pitchman. It’s a funny commercial (watch it here after the jump)

Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris isn’t a fan of the ad, or what Wilson is doing in it though.

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The Chicago Cubs didn’t lose yesterday!!

cub-fans

Hey, everybody, the Cubs didn’t lose yesterday! That is right. They didn’t lose yesterday. Man, what a great feeling.

Yep, that is what this season has become. I am happy because they couldn’t lose. That is awful. But we move forward because that is what Cubs fans do.

And what is the treat we get for moving forward? The Cubs get to play three straight games against the only team that is actually worse than them! Woo-hoo. Bring on Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez. What a weekend at Wrigley it will be!

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Chicago Cubs WIN! And Rod Blagojevich is hoping to as well!

Good morning and happy Friday. I hope each and every one of you out there among the Cubs Faithful is having a wonderful start to the day. Or middle of the day. Or in two days, basically whenever you read this.

I have spent my fair share of time, as well as many others’ fair share of time, inside Wrigley Field, and there were only one or two times the weather made the experience more miserable than it did on Tuesday and Wednesday night. It was horrible. Call it committed or just plain stupid, either way, it was COLD.

So, with that out of the way, let’s start throwing out some random and obvious thoughts and see what sticks against the wall. So, here we go …

• Hey, I can’t see to well … was that just series victory? Really, the Cubs won a series?

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Houston Astros Foul Ball Couple to Get Web Redemption (Video)

astros

You’ve probably seen this video from last season, the infamous Houston Astros “foul ball” couple. Here’s a video from MSNBC after the jump. It shows a rather douchey ‘Stros fan saving himself in order to let his girlfriend get drilled by a line drive.

Yeah, this girl certainly knows how to pick ’em doesn’t she? So much for that “bad boy” thing this guy is trying to do- look at how dangerous he is. Anyways, Tosh.O on Comedy Central is going to give them a “Web Redemption” on next’s week show. Tuesday 9 CT.

For more on Tosh.O’s work, check out the “Never miss a WNBA Eastern Conference Finals Club”

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2010 MLB Mock Draft 2.0 (6-2-10)

Bryce Harper

With the 2010 MLB draft just five days away, it’s time for the second version of its mock up, complete with a few changes big and small.

By Jake McCormick [Read more…]

How Thin Can the Brewers Bench Get?

Joe Inglett

Does your bench not stretch? Can we use you if you catch? Is there anyone for innings when we need you for some winnings? Are we down to just the pitchers if we made some fielding switchers? Does your bench not stretch?

Bases loaded and one down in the tenth.  Joe Inglett (coming off his own ankle problem) and Craig Counsell have been used. Jody Gerut nursing a bruised heel is passed on. Backup catcher Jonathan Lucroy is being saved in case something happens to Kotteras.

So Ken Macha turns to Randy Wolf to pinch hit. Another K is born. Fortunately, Rickie Weeks wins the game with a walk-off walk in the tenth to give the Brewers their first series win at home since the Opening Homestand against Colorado. Does your bench not stretch?

Photos & Article By: Melissa S. Wollering [Read more…]

2010 MLB Mock Draft (Picks 17-32)

Grandal

While the first 16 picks mostly feature teams with much work to be done, the second half of the 2010 MLB draft is where the 2009 playoff organizations just add on to their success.

For picks 1-16 of the 2010 MLB mock draft, click here.

By Jake McCormick [Read more…]

2010 MLB Mock Draft (Picks 1-16)

Top prospect Bryce Harper

For pick-by-pick analysis of the 2010 MLB draft’s first round, click here.

With up to 50 rounds adding up to 1,600 picks, most of which either don’t sign or won’t be seen for three to four years, the MLB Draft doesn’t hold the same attention grabbing star power as its NFL and NBA counter parts.

But that doesn’t mean MLB Mock Drafts aren’t still fun to discuss and debate, especially with the draft only a few weeks away.

For picks 17-32 of the 2010 mock first round, click here.

For the updated MLB mock draft 2.0, click here.

By Jake McCormick [Read more…]

When Will the Houston Astros Selling Shoe Drop?

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Humor me for a hot stove moment. The Milwaukee Brewers have a ton of offensive issues. When the pitching is adequate (a rarity some weeks, yes) the bats don’t back it up. When the offense is on fire, the pitching might be as murky as the Menomonee River near the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

So if the Houston Astros start putting up the first signs advertising a summer garage sale in your neighborhood, is Milwaukee right to wheel and deal for a trade?  Would someone like Roy Oswalt make a significant difference or not? Should we look to our farm system instead? Is it too early for me to be asking any of these questions? [Read more…]

Despite Ten Wins, Kevin Slowey Still Not an Ace

slowey

By Shaymus McLaughlin

There are only two pitchers with ten wins in the major leagues. Unsurprisingly, one is Roy Halladay, the all-star caliber Blue Jays pitcher whose 2.53 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and 1.04 WHIP are all within close proximity to the league leader in those categories. It makes perfect sense that he has accumulated ten wins already this season.

The other one actually shocked me. As I was catching up on the Twins game against the Astros last Friday, I noticed an odd piece of information: Kevin Slowey had just become the baseball’s second ten-game winner.

Um, what?

Slowey is a good pitcher, without a doubt, but really? 10 wins? I’ve watched him pitch a number of times this year, and although I’m never disappointed in what I see, I’m rarely in awe like I am when watching his ten-win counterpart Halladay pitch. I had no idea he was actually pitching that well.

After the game, plenty of credit was given to Slowey on the internet and nightly sports recap shows for having hit the win mark so quickly. And rightfully so. 10 wins and only 2 losses in a measly 14 starts is very good. But how the heck did he do it? Slowey has never been seen as the potential ace of the Twins’ young staff. That moniker has been given to Francisco Liriano pre-injury and Scott Baker after his stellar conclusion to last year, but people have never talked about Slowey as a great pitcher until now. And frankly, despite his 10 wins, calling Kevin Slowey a great pitcher at this point seems premature. Just look at the numbers.

His statistics are respectable, but outside of the abnormally high win total, they look simply decent. Currently, he sports a 4.04 ERA, which doesn’t even match the likes of Randy Wolf (3.29), Aaron Harang (3.66) or Matt “We seriously got this guy for Delmon Young” Garza (3.83). It’s solid, but it’s not even good enough to crack the 25 best starting pitchers.

This guy has a better ERA than Kevin Slowey

His 1.37 WHIP places him on the same level as his ERA: It’s not embarrassing, but not elite by any means. Once again he’s outside the top-25. He’s a stunning 8-0 at home, compared to 2-2 on the road, but it’s not because he’s pitching any better. His ERA at home (4.07) is actually 8 points higher than on the road (3.99). Slowey’s numbers against lefties (37.1 IP, 36 K, 12 BB, 1.82 WHIP and a .348 BAA) are below-average at best, but he manages to balance it with his solid pitching against righties (47.1 IP, 31 K, 2 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .260 BAA).

So how has he managed to scrape together a league-leading 10 wins?

It’s simple. He’s gotten lucky.

To start, he’s had to pitch on the road only five times this season. As evidenced above, location doesn’t seem to affect the way he pitches, but it does change the way the offense performs. The offense bats only .264 on the road and scores an average of 4.09 runs per game. If we discount the anomaly that was the 20-run outburst at Chicago, their run production drops to 3.58 runs per game. At home, the offense spikes significantly. The team hits at a .280 clip and provides an average of 5.38 runs. Since Slowey has been able to pitch at home in nine of his starts, he’s generally received better offensive production than his staff counterparts.

Consequently, the run support for Slowey has been much better than it has for any of the other starters. The offense generates an average of 5.5 runs per game when Slowey starts the ball game. Conversely, Nick Blackburn, whose 3.09 ERA leads the Twins, is given only an average of 4.23 runs per game (discounting the fluke 20-1 White Sox win once again), and has only won 6 games as a result. Perkins (5.22 runs/game), Baker (5.0 r/g) and Liriano (a shockingly low 3.64 r/g) also receive less run support from the Twins’ offense than Slowey does.

Most importantly, Slowey seems to be immune to the disease known as TBS (Twins’ Bullpen Syndrome), in which leads hemorrhage away and once-healthy games turn into rotting, losses. Slowey has only two no-decisions this year, and only one in which he left the game with a lead, only to watch the Twins’ bullpen blow the game (an 8-6 loss to Toronto). In every other game, the bullpen has managed to uphold the lead that Slowey exited with. Compare this to Blackburn, who has seen six games in which he exited with a lead or tie, only to be let down by those same relief pitchers.

Even Twins bat boys are not safe from TBS

This is not meant to discredit Kevin Slowey. He’s pitched some wonderful games for the Twins this season, and clearly has the ability to be an effective starting pitcher for years to come. He just isn’t quite the ten-win ace that Roy Halladay is.

At least yet.

Cubbies are Consistently Inconsistent

cubslogo

By Paul Schmidt

Nothing like an easy week or so of baseball to just get you relaxed.

The Cubs have always given their fans something of a workout, pumping them waaaayyyy up, then bringing them waaaayyyy down.  I feel as though, personally, that they may actually make my head explode.

Somehow, in their last 10 games, the Cubs are 6-4.  It seems ridiculous to see this in print, given how I feel about the end of their long home stand against the Dodgers and the beginning of their nine game road trip against the Braves, Reds and Astros.  In fact, I had to look that record up.  I assumed it would be somewhere around 3-7 or 2-8.

My own personal experience certainly shows in that, having been at Wrigley for both of the losses in the Dodgers’ series.  On Thursday night I saw an absolutely lackluster performance from the offense until the ninth inning, which ended with consecutive (awful looking) strikeouts by career minor leaguers Bobby Scales and Jake Fox.  Then on Sunday, on Illini Day, after schmoozing with Bruce Weber, Wayne McClain, and some short blonde guy apparently associated with the University, the Dodgers scored five runs off Cubs starter Sean Marshall before we could get to our seats in the nosebleed section.

4 of the last 6 have now gone to extras for the Cubs, which means if you’re reading this and you have some juice left in your arm, you might actually get a call from Jim Hendry to see if you want to throw in the bullpen this week.  Especially if you’re a lefty.

Another career minor leaguer, Randy Wells, continued to throw well during that stretch, throwing seven innings of two run ball in the Thursday night Dodgers loss, and then throwing almost seven innings of no-hit baseball against

Your 2009 NL Rookie of the Year?  Without winning a single game?

Your 2009 NL Rookie of the Year? Without winning a single game?

the Braves the following Tuesday.  He ended up giving up just one run, and handing the ball over to the bullpen with a 5-1 lead.  And then not factoring into the decision.

In fact, that game will forever be the game that I refer to as, “The game that caused me to consult a cardiac specialist the next day.”  I can’t, on advice of said doctor, go into what happened at the end of regulation innings and then in the bottom of the 12th (the mere mention of that inning makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up), but suffice it to say it involved Aaron Heilman pitching to Larry Jones, also known as Chipper…in extras, with the winning run in scoring position…with first base open…when ol’ Larry has hit 6-of-12 in his career against Heilman, including three doubles and two home runs.

If you can’t figure out what happened in that game, well, then you really mustn’t be a Cubs fan…

At any rate, that was the game that also caused me to realize how remarkably consistent the Cubs have been this season.  Usually this would be a good thing, but then, is anything ever really that good with the Cubs?

The fact is, they’ve been consistently inconsistent. From a game to game basis, I, personally, have no idea what to expect from this team.  I can’t believe that I’m the only one in that respect – I currently think that Lou Piniella throws darts at photos on the wall to determine who is going to play where on a daily basis.  If he’s not, it couldn’t honestly be any worse or yield any more unpredictable results than whatever method he is using.

Here’s the thing though: A Major League Baseball team can’t survive playing the way they are. You have to have consistency in some way, even if it’s just in the lineup that gets thrown out there every day.  In 2007 and 2008, that wasn’t a problem.  Injuries, for the most part, stayed away or were minor, so they could put their best foot forward most days.

The defense was solid on a daily basis.

There was always someone that was hot on offense, a bat that carried the team while others struggled.

Now re-read those previous three paragraphs. Do any of those three things sound like this years’ edition of the Chicago Cubs?

They really don’t.  Injuries are mounting, on offense and on the pitching staff (though it seems like the rotation is finally getting healthy with Rich Harden set to throw this coming weekend). The defense has been shoddy at best (with the Cubs posting a record that is something like 2-5,302 when they commit an error this season), and the offense has disappeared for long stretches of games, with only Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot showing consistent signs of life.

It’s been maddening, and difficult to watch.  And yet, every time I say I’m going to take a break for a few games, I sit down and turn it to WGN or Comcast Sports Net come game time.

The face of a waffler.

The face of a waffler.

I’m as consistently inconsistent with my convictions as the Cubs have been playing baseball this year.

Funnily enough, those might be the only two things you can count on.

NL Central Predictions

By: David K.

17 of the 21 “experts” on ESPN.com predicted the Cubs to take home the NL Central for a third straight year.  The other four “experts” think the Cardinals will dethrone the Lovable Losers.  I say “experts” because one writer actually picked the Reds to represent the National League in the World Series.  Really, Enrique Rojas?  Anyway, here are my “expert” predictions on how the NL Central will play out this year.

1. Chicago Cubs
I am not convinced the Cubs are going to run away with this division like everyone seems to think.  Chicago led the National League in runs last season and the much needed addition of Milton Bradley’s left handed bat in the middle of the line-up should help them maintain their offensive output   What concerns me is the starting pitching.  Most talking heads are predicting a down year from Carlos Zambrano.  Can Rich Harden stay healthy?  Will Ryan Dempster be able to re-create his career year from last season?  Is Sean Marshall truly the answer as the number five starter?  Maybe it is just the cynical Cub fan coming out of me, but there are concerns with this team.  And let’s be honest; after being swept out of the Playoffs in the first round the past two post-seasons, just winning the Central will not be enough this year.

2. St. Louis Cardinals
Injuries really plagued the Cards last season, especially on the mound.  If their rotation can stay healthy and rookie closer Jason Motte can successfully fill that role, St. Louis should keep the division close.  The Redbirds will start the year with a pair of rookies in their line-up, LF Colby Rasmus and 3B David Freese (until Troy Glaus returns from the DL), but the rest of the order knows how to produce.  It is very unlikely that the NL Wild Card team will come out of the Central, so winning the division will be essential for any team wanting to see October.

3. Houston Astros
The ‘Stros have pop in the middle of their order with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Miguel Tejada returning.  The continued growth of young outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn should only add to the line-up.  Ivan Rodriguez, who signed a one-year deal with Houston, could be the x-factor.  If Pudge can be productive at the bottom of the order, this team may surprise some people.  Pitching will likely be the downfall in Houston.  You know Roy Oswalt will be solid and Wandy Rodriguez should continue to develop, but the health of Mike Hampton and production of veterans Brian Moehler and Russ Ortiz are certainly question marks.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers waited 25 years to make the post-season; one year later, they are trotting out Jeff Suppan as their opening day starter.  Can any team really feel good about their starting rotation when Sup’ is taking the bump on Opening Day?  With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets both gone, Yovani Gallardo will likely be the true ace of this staff, but he only has 24 career starts.  40-year old Trevor Hoffman was brought in during the off-season to solidify the bullpen, but he starts the ’09 campaign on the 15-day disabled list, leaving a major hole to be filled early in the year.  Offensively, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun will put up major power numbers, but the Crew need Bill Hall, Mike Cameron, and Rickie Weeks to get on base (which was not a strength last season as they all hit below .245.)  Sorry Brewer backers, do not expect to re-live the magic of 2008.

5. Cincinnati Reds
Dusty Baker’s team is certainly an up-and-coming group, but is probably a year or two away from competing for the top spot in the division.  Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez are young, live arms in the rotation and should build off solid 2008 seasons.  A lot of people are excited about youngsters Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in the middle of the order, and deservingly so.  But outside of Bruce, Votto, Brandon Phillips, and maybe Edwin Encarnacion, there really is not a lot of pop in the line-up.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Before I looked up the Pirates roster, I could only name three guys.  Seriously, try it.  It should be another typical season of cellar dwelling for the Bucs.  Their starting rotation is pretty much a mess and the position players are a bunch of over-achievers.  I hear their new stadium is really nice though…