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Walk On By

The most damning indictment of Dusty Baker and the entire coaching staff, particularly Larry Rothschild, are the walks.

It's much worse from walks allowed than from walks not taken, but the way the Cubs have done both has gone a long way toward generating the 62-91 record with which they awaken this morning.

The Cubs lost to the Phillies 6-2 last night. Cubs pitchers walked seven; the first two of those scored, and that was just about all the Phillies needed. What's bad about the walks isn't JUST that it "clogs up the bases", in the familiar words of someone we all want gone from Chicago in ten days, but that it forces your pitchers to throw so many more pitches than the opposition, thus going far deeper into your bullpen, overtaxing the relief pitchers, leading to more walks and runs scored.

Last night was a perfect example. Les Walrond, who has absolutely no business in a major league uniform, much less starting a game, issued five walks in throwing just a little over three innings, and thus threw seventy-six pitches to get nine outs. This is ridiculous. All told, six Cub pitchers combined for one hundred and seventy-four pitches -- in one LESS inning than Philly starter Brett Myers threw 119 pitches. Oh, and Jae-Kuk Ryu, who has earned at least one more start in this misbegotten season, probably lost that chance when he threw forty relief pitches last night.

Why is it that all of us can see this and a highly-paid major league manager and pitching coach can't?

Just in case Cubs management is reading this and they won't believe me, perhaps they will believe Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan:

With another five innings of work, the relief corps has pitched 529 1/3 innings. The most innings pitched by Cubs relievers since they began keeping records of relief pitching in 1957 was 532 in 1983, a 91-loss season.
Point proven. The Cubs have also walked 642 batters, which is FAR more than any other team. The Royals are second in this "negative" category, with 596, and for comparison's sake, the Twins, who lead the majors in fewest batters walked, have issued only 329 free passes, HALF the number Cub pitchers have. This goes a long way toward explaining why the Twins have allowed 641 runs (second-fewest in baseball) and the Cubs have allowed 789.

More than that, the Cubs have allowed seventy-four unearned runs, fourth-most in baseball (the Angels, 80, the Indians, 78 and the Pirates, 75, are higher), which shows you in part how bad the Cubs' defense has been this year. Oh, but wait, not according to Dusty Baker, who, when asked about Jacque Jones' season, said:

"Jacque took heat even before he really got on the field," manager Dusty Baker said, referring to criticism of Jones' three-year contract. "Jacque has had a good year, and Jacque knows he can get better. I talked to [him on Tuesday] and he said, 'Man, I gave away over 100 at-bats.' He wants to cut down on the strikeouts (112). He has played an outstanding right field. Right field in Wrigley Field is about as tough as it gets."
(emphasis added)

"An outstanding right field"!?!?!?!?! This leads me to ask, "What games has HE been watching?" Jones has been a poor outfielder. Sure, he can run balls down reasonably well, but his arm is just about the worst I've ever seen out there. Either he throws the ball into the turf ten feet in front of him, or airmails (hey, you kids out there, you DO remember "airmail", right?) it ten feet over the head of its intended target. I note Dusty didn't even mention all the baserunning errors Jones made.

In that same article, Baker said of Ronny Cedeno, referring specifically to the error Cedeno made that probably cost the Cubs Tuesday's game:

"That was a critical tough error," Baker said. "We've seen some vast improvement with his throwing. Earlier in the year, he was having trouble with throwing errors. He has a lot of errors, but he doesn't have a lot of errors the last month or so. That's what you have to see. ? The main thing is we want to keep seeing improvement."
"Improvement"!?!?!?!?!?! "Doesn't have a lot of errors in the last month or so"!?!?!?!?!?!?! Again, what games is he watching?

As many of you know, I used to like and respect Dusty Baker. But he has clearly gone off the deep end here. It's one thing to back up your players. It's another thing to deny things that everyone else can see in plain sight.

OK, I'm done for today. Thankfully, I didn't even see last night's game, as I attended an open house for Mark's school. It was much more fun to sit in sixth-grade classrooms than to watch the Cubs self-destruct again.