Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Series Preview

While this has been the least enjoyable team to watch since Jacque Jones patrolled center, the world is hardly ending (which I know because the seas haven't turned to blood, the four horsemen - er, goat riders - of the apocalypse aren't around, and Bobby Scales doesn't wear the number of the beast). 

Nope, this is just a rough patch.  This week has been an interesting (heh, "interesting") combination of bad luck and bad performance.  Over the last week, the Cubs posted a BABIP of .211 after putting up a BABIP of .280 for the whole season.  A .280 BABIP is kind of unlucky, but .211 is insane.  That's simply not a sustainable over any kind of length of time.  Things have to get better. 

If you're interested in reading about season long bad luck, take a look at the luck of the questionable quartet.  Bradley, Fontenot, Soto, and Lee have posted BABIP* of .203, .221, .253, and .274.  The career numbers for these players are .320, .314, .326, and .322 (hat tip to ACB for bringing this to my attention).  That's...insane.  While I could accept that Fontenot's and Soto's career numbers are not representative of their true talent levels, Bradley and Lee are well established.  And maybe Lee's in decline, but what about Bradley? 

(* BABIP - Batting average on balls in play.  This number should trend towards career norms, all things being equal)

Nope.  This is all just a bunch of really, really bad luck. It's what's called a team-wide slump.  Have you felt like all the Cub players are hitting the ball right at people?  That no line drive will fall and sharp ground balls up the middle deflect off the pitcher RIGHT TO THE SECOND BASEMAN?  Well, the evidence is in the numbers.  You aren't crazy, the Cubs' luck is.

Want some more bad luck?  Soriano has a BABIP of .276 but a career mark of .308.  Ryan Theriot?  He has a .285 BABIP with a career BABIP of .314.  IT'S INSANE!  Nobody's hitting up to their career marks!  GAH!

Now, this isn't entirely bad luck, as I mentioned.  It is also bad performance.  With the exception of Soto, each of these players is hitting fewer line drives than usual.  In the case of Lee and Fontenot, they're hitting about half as many line drives as usual.  As one might guess, this can make it harder to hit for average.  But still, nothing here indicates that Fontenot and Bradley should have BABIP's below .230.

Okay, enough of the luck business.  Let's look at how hilariously bad the Cubs have been over the last week.  How about these numbers:

  • Team line: .161/.211/.214
  • And OPS+ of 19.  Yes, 19.
  • Exactly 6 extra base hits.


The point of all this is that things have to get better.  While I suppose it is possible to have bad luck for an entire season, but it seems a bit unlikely.  And would you like to know the best way to turn around bad luck?

Do you want to know?

Face the Pirates!  Yay!

The Match-Ups
May 25th - Ryan Dempster vs. Paul Maholm
In his last outing, Dempster foolishly thought that 7 innings of 2 run baseball would be good enough for a win.  Silly Ryan!  Don't you know that you're on the team of destiny.  And by destiny, I mean something along the lines of "destined for anal fissures" (so...not "greatness").  Ever since the calendar turned to May, Dempster has been excellent, posing an ERA south of 4 while eating up innings.  The trend for Dempster has been consistently upwards, so I see good things on the horizon.

Maholm has always managed to beat the Cubs, despite not really pitching all that well against them.  I'm actually pretty happy to see Maholm going up against the Cubs, giving them a shot at a lefty.  I see good things coming out of this game.

May 26th - Sean Marshall vs. Ian Snell
Marshall was good in his last outing but, because of the absurdity of the Cubs offense, had to come out of the game despite pitching well.  Marshall's been awesome all season and, being a lefty, has a chance to neutralize the Pirates best hitter, Nate McClouth.

Snell's been pretty crappy all year.  He was also crappy in 2008.  He will be crappy in this start.  He will lose. 

May 27th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Zach Duke
This is the match-up of the series, with ace going against ace.  Zambrano showed good stuff in his last outing, but bad control.  Having a start under his belt, I see much better things for his today.  Plus, you know, he's facing the Pirates.

Duke has been a beast all season, after three years of him trying to rediscover his rookie year magic.  He has very good stuff and it seems that he just needed to learn to control it.  Still, he's another lefty, so I seem the Cubs - having recently broken out of their slump - beating him mercilessly.


The Cubs are going to sweep.  Sweep sweep sweep.  Sweep.




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