Strotty's Blog

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What Was Lou Piniella Thinking Last Night?

Last night, the Chicago Cubs fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field for their eighth straight loss.  Ryan Dempster, Chicago’s starting pitcher was roughed up for six runs in just four innings of work.  In the bottom half of the inning, Bobby Scales pinch-hit for Dempster and flew out to right field.

That’s where things got interesting.

Relief pitcher Jose Ascanio came in to pitch the top of the fifth inning where he was due up fourth in the next inning. Ascanio had a rough inning, giving up three straight one out-hits before getting out of the jam.

Lou Piniella probably should have done more managing than arguing last night.

Lou Piniella probably should have done more managing than arguing last night.

In the bottom of the fifth, with the Cubs up one, Micah Hoffpauir walked to lead off the inning.  Piniella then had Ryan Freel, batting in the seven spot, sacrifice Hoffpauir over to second for the out.

What that says is Piniella had confidence in Aaron Miles and all 204 points of batting average to get the job done and drive in a run.  He was batting a survivable .263 against lefties but is just 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position this year.  Five pitches later, Miles was heading back to the bench with a big “K” next to his name in the scorebook.

Next up, relief pitcher Jose Ascanio. Wait, what?  During the game, there was a rumor that starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano was supposed to bat but for whatever reason did not.  Seriously?

With healthy players Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukudome on the bench, Ascanio walked up to the plate for the second at-bat of his career.  Two pitches later, Jack Wilson had a can of corn in his shopping basket and the inning was over.

But that’s not the worst part.  Coming out to pitch the top of the sixth was lefty Neal Cotts.  So let’s get this straight.  Jose Ascanio was allowed to bat with the a man on second but not the pitch the next inning.

The ONLY reason a manager with a brain would ever let a relief pitcher even hold a bat would be if they were scheduled to pitch the next inning.  I agree, Ascanio should not have pitched the sixth inning.  Cotts was the right man with four of the next five batters in the Pirates’ lineup being lefties.  Guess what?  Don’t let him hit then!

The fact that Tom Gorzelanny, a lefty, was in the game did not matter either.  Fukudome and Fontenot are both left-handed hitters but I would guess they are both better hitters than Ascanio.

Cotts wound up giving up three runs  in the top half of the inning to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead heading into the Cubs’ half of the sixth.

Fast forward to the bottom of the seventh inning with the score now 10-7 Pittsburgh.  The Cubs struck for a run after a two out-RBI single by Ryan Freel and, after an Aaron Miles hit, the pitcher’s spot was up again.

Pinch-hitting for the Cubs, pitcher Carlos Zambrano. Huh?  Let’s stop for a moment and break down Carlos Zambrano as a hitter.  He is a career .239 hitter with 17 home runs.

He also has 184 whiffs in 553 career plate appearances.  What that means is Big Z strikes out once every three times he steps to the plate.  He also has just six walks in those plate appearances, meaning there was a 92:1 chance that Zambrano would load the bases for leadoff man Alfonso Soriano.

Most of the times Zambrano comes to the plate, he is a starting pitcher batting ninth in a tough lineup.  He is going to pretty much get straight fastballs because no pitcher wants to walk the pitcher to get to the leadoff spot.  This was a situation with two men on and two men out in a two-run ballgame.  A little different, don’t you think?

In reality, Carlos Zambrano is no more than a below average pinch-hitter.

In reality, Carlos Zambrano is no more than a below average pinch-hitter.

Once again, Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukudome were still on the bench waiting to be used.  Hell, Koyie Hill could have been used if they wanted to roll the dice on that.

Zambrano struck out to end the seventh and the Cubs went on to lose the game two innings later.  When he comes into the game, Zambrano gets the crowd going and is fun to watch.

But when it comes to getting tallies in the win column, Lou Piniella made a couple of flat-out dumb moves last night that may have cost his team their first win in eight tries.


May 26, 2009 - Posted by | Baseball, Chicago Cubs, MLB | ,


  1. Manager with a brain? Are you telling me Lou doesn’t have a brain? My man, I am a die-hard white-sox fan, but Mr. Piniella and his Cubs have won your division two years in a row. How about the fact that Mike Fontenot can’t buy a hit lately, and that Lou wanted to potentially save Fukudome as a defensive sub for the 8th or the 9th. The game was a slugfest and he had faith in the bats of the top of his order. Obviously it didn’t work out. You can’t blame Lou for the Cubs woes, you can only blame the pitching last night for the loss. Say what you will about him using the 9 spot, he was just trying to give his guys something.

    Comment by soxfn35th | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the read and comment.

    No, I am not saying Lou does not have a brain but this is what I am saying.

    “Mike Fontenot can’t buy a hit lately”

    Well, Jose Ascanio hasn’t been able to buy a hit in his two career at-bats that he has had. There is no excuse for him batting.

    “Lou wanted to potentially save Fukudome as a defensive sub for the 8th or 9th”

    I’m sorry but when you have lost your last seven games, you don’t save your best hitter this year as a defensive sub for the last two innings of a game. It was the bottom of the 7th in a two-run ball game, and your every-day three hitter is on the bench. Why wouldn’t you use him???

    I haven’t blamed anything this year on Piniella as that award would go to Jim Hendry. Last night, Neal Cotts was responsible for the loss but Piniella hardly helped the cause by his substitutions.

    Comment by strotty | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hey Mark,

    I see what the poster is saying. At the game last night, I felt Lou could have made better decisions using the nine spot, but I fully agree that pitching was the recipe for disaster in this one. They are just not clicking at all, and I don’t blame Lou at all. Last night, I can def see how you would blame him, but I think this season, thus far, is Hendry’s fault. Last night, how good would DeRosa have looked as opposed to Freel or Miles? I don’t think they will be making the playoffs. I think they need more pitching and Aramis back quick. Who knows. Hendry has surprised me before. If they get the pitching(which is a big IF) I think the Central is close. Milton Bradley had some good looks last night, and I hope he comes around. They have A LOT of money tied up, and they need to get better quickly if they want to win. Bad combo to have.


    Comment by WarriorSportsReport | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. And Fukudome requested rest.

    Comment by WarriorSportsReport | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  5. “And Fukudome required rest.”

    So you are telling me that he is that big a prima donna that he can not take an at-bat in the most crucial part of the game? Don’t think so. And also,he lets Zambrano bat after he just came back from a DL stint that occurred RUNNING THE BASES. Not buying that one.

    Comment by strotty | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  6. Well when you get your first managerial job, let me know bud.

    They should get another good starter to move Marshall to the bullpen where he would be more affective

    Comment by WarriorSportsReport | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  7. I don’t need comments like that but I feel I am allowed to question a manager when he makes decisions like he did last night. Thanks.

    Comment by strotty | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  8. in a losing rut like the cubs were in you try to switch up as much as possible to see if something fits. yes some of lou’s moves can be questioned, im going to side with mr. wickey here and say that the season falls more on hendry then lou. with the current injury of ramirez, who might be out longer than we thought, a player like derosa would fit perfectly. he was a fan favorite, and although his stock hit its peak last year, the cubs should have kept him for his versatility. and to the zambrano being a below-average pinch hitter, he’s a 2 time silver slugger (2006,08). the boy can hit.

    Comment by matthews4mvp | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  9. OK, well the article has nothing to do with Lou Piniella’s decisions on the year, but rather what he did in the game yesterday so why don’t we keep the discussion to that. Jim Hendry was mentioned a whopping zero times in it as well….and the Silver Slugger is given out to the best hitter at a certain position. So fail on the “tallest midget” argument for Zambrano.

    Comment by strotty | May 26, 2009 | Reply

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