Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: July 3rd vs. Brewers

GameCastJeff Suppan (5-6, 4.86 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-3, 3.69 ERA)
Story-lines

Yesterday's game was pretty effin' cool.  In a game of offensive bounty (a particularly rare occurrence with the Cubs this year) Derrek Lee reminded us of why we once loved him, back before he got his wrist broken by a guy who might weigh 140 pounds soaking wet and before Lee had the bad luck of grounding into a ton of double plays*.  The decisive victory was nice.  But today's story, at least in my opinion, is Carlos Zambrano.

(*Now, if Rob had made either claim, we'd have people commenting about how Raffy Furcal actually weighs 187 pounds, and how 27 double plays is surely a lot but it would be difficult to assign a physical weight to a statistic.  Then again, in case you hadn't noticed, people are douchebags)

In the past week-or-so, we've had articles written by other douchebags about how Carlos should be waived, or released, or traded.  Why?  Because he's apparently to blame for his meager 4 wins in 13 starts or something, I'm not really sure.

Looking a little closer, we see that Carlos presently has a 3.69 ERA - his best since 2006.  He's striking out 7.16 batters per 9 innings - his best since '07 and damn near a full strikeout better than last year's.  His K/BB is the best it's been since 2005.  None of which is to say that he's pitching like an "ace."

Maybe it's because of his attitude.  Carlos, as you may know, is batshit insane.  When he's not pitching well, he curses loudly at the ball in Spanish.  When he's tossing a no-hitter, he curses loudly at the ball in Spanish.  When he hits homeruns, he curses loudly in Spanish as he rounds the bases.  When he strikes out... well, you get it.  The point is, he's immature.  He doesn't have the Maddux-like poise that we are seeking (ignoring the Maddux rampage in the dugout when he was in his second tenure with the Cubs, anyway).  He throws things.  He ejects umpires.  In the words of some douchebag Cub bloggers, he's a punk. 

I submit that he is none of those things.  Is he immature?  By what standards would we assess that?  Think about yourself and the most frustrating moment you experienced in, say, the past two years.  Did you throw things?  Did you curse loudly at yourself or at others?  Did you pull a Wayne Brady and have to choke a bitch?  Are you immature?  The difference is that you didn't have your meltdown on a national stage, but whether you are 20, or 40, or 80, chances are you've had at least one freak out in the past year that you're ashamed of.  It's called being human and caring about whatever situation you find yourself in -- even if you're wrong for the tantrum you've tempered.

Anyway, let's agree that Carlos will not win 20.  Not this year, probably never, but so long as he remains capable -- if not likely -- of holding opponents to 3 runs or less in a playoff start, then he's my favorite Game One starter.  Of all the other pitchers on the Cubs roster, I trust none more than him.  So, yeah, maybe releasing Zambrano, or trading him, or waiving him... maybe those are all really, really stupid ideas.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee -- As somebody said in the ShoutBox, Lee had a good week last night.  He smacked 2 homers, drove in 7 RBI, and is probably the most legitimate All Star caliber player the Cubs have this year. 

Geovany Soto -- Admit it.  When I speculated about a month ago that Soto was on the cusp of having a decent season, you were doubtful.  When I suggested that he could finish the year with a .260+ batting average and 15 or more homeruns, you wanted to challenge me to a fistfight due to my blatant, reality-disregarding optimism.   

Well, based on his recent performance, Geovany is now on pace to hit 19 homeruns.  He batted .278 in May, but with only 1 homer, 10 RBI, and a .731 OPS.  In June he batted .257 but with 6 homeruns, 12 RBI, and a .916 OPS.  There's no doubt that he won't finish the season as impressively as he did in 2008, but at this point he appears likely to not be a sophomore bust.  And if he can keep hitting like he did in June but with perhaps a bit of a better AVG, then the Cubs offense just might be good to go in July and beyond.

Jake Fox -- Between him and Randy Wells, Jake Fox has been one reason Cub fans can look forward to not just how 2009 might turn out, but toward 2010 and beyond.  Probably Fox is not as good as he's looked in Iowa and Chicago, but ever since Lou started playing him he has responded with hitting the ball.  For the moment, Fox is on pace to have 284 at bats, 24 doubles, 14 homers, and 57 RBI while batting .317.  Sooner or later he will probably return to earth, or he'll lose opportunities to play -- unless the Cubs can figure out a way to wedge him in there.

Ryan Theriot -- Theriot is batting .348 in the past week with 7 singles and 1 homerun accounting for all his hits. 

Who's Not
Bradley, Fukudome, Soriano -- Combined, they've spent the past week going 14 for 63, a .222 AVG, with 1 homer and 4 RBI between them.  The only way these players should be batting consecutively in the lineup is if they're 6 through 8th.  Just saying.

Conclusions
With Jeff Suppan taking the ball for the Brewers and Carlos Zambrano on the mound for the Cubs, in a home game with a handful of hot hitters, the Cubs should absolutely flat-out dominate this game.  Of course, by now we know that "should" rarely translates into "did."  Still, I have to like the Cubs chances.  They've already beaten the best pitcher the Brewers were throwing at them this series while their own rotation should get stronger throughout the weekend. 

So I'll just put it like this, then...

Is anybody besides me excited for this afternoon's game?

Today's Game

Well, I WAS really pumped for today's game until I saw Soriano's name in the leadoff spot. Maybe Fuld isn't a long term solution, but he's had two fantastic games and this anemic offense put up NINE runs last night. Doesn't that count for anything? Even the two outs Fuld made last night were hit hard, one of them onto the warning track. He saw about as many pitches in his first AB as Soriano saw today in his 0/5 "spark" to the lineup as they took ten innings to finally put up a second run. "Look" Lou, we know you can't keep Soriano out of the lineup. We realize he's not going to sit the bench when he's making $16M per year. Yes, we agree that he is streaky, and that he needs to play, and he needs to start hitting. But why does he HAVE to bat leadoff? He's said he's willing to move down in the lineup if you feel it will be better for the team. So instead of giving him two lousy games batting lower in the lineup and deeming it a failed experiment, how about making it permanent? How about letting Soriano know it isn't going to be negotiable or subject to change? How about putting Fuld in CF and playing Bradley or Fukudome in RF, and leaving Fuld, Theriot, and Lee at the top of the lineup? When Ramirez comes back on Monday, how about batting him 4th in front of Soriano, with Bradley/Fukudome 6th, and Soto and Fontonet 7th and 8th? Stop being a stubborn Dusty, and get someone who will work the count and get on base for the big bats in the lineup. Let Soriano try to find his stroke and get hot in the middle of the lineup, where his HR's will score more than one run if/when he finally does heat it up.

Change to Line Up

Per Lou meeting with the press after the game today there are going to be line up changes tomorrow. When asked if that meant Soriano was being moved down in the line up he did not say no. Rumour has it that Soriano will be batting sixth. We shall see.

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