Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Preview: Cubs at Dodgers

Hot on the heels of a road trip sweep, the Cubs head to Los Angeles to do battle with their '08 playoff rivals in the final four game set before the All Star Break.

Since Cubbie Cynicism is frowned upon (nobody wants to date Debbie Downer, right?), let's look at the recent positives of the team.

  • They've had three straight wins, in which the Cubs' offense averaged nearly 8 runs a game. 
  • Aramis Ramirez is doing his best Frampton impression, having come alive to the tune of 3 homeruns and 7 RBI in his last 5 games.
  • annnnd that's about it.  Damn.

Now, I know that some criticism has continued to be levied, here and abroad, at Geovany Soto.  My question is -- why?  There is only one catcher in all of baseball with a better OPS -- Miguel Olivo, who's having a career year.

Soto, meanwhile, is on pace for nearly 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 90 walks.  Not bad.  More impressive, though, is the fact that only 49% of ESPN Fantasy team owners have him.  Sounds like a reasonable grab, folks.

Anwyay, on with the Preview.

Thursday, July 8th - Randy Wells (4-6 4.67 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-4 3.02 ERA)

Sayers wants you to know -- Randy Wells is not a one-year wonder.  But while Wells may someday have another good season, his 2010 looks pretty wasted.  So much for the mentorship of Greg Maddux.

Actually, come to think of it, I can't name a single pitcher who was mentored by Maddux and went on to have a ton of success.  Jason Marquis?  Sucks.  Sean Marshall?  Bullpen journeyman.  Randy Wells?  Lookin' awful.  With all due respect to my Goat Riding compatriot, I haven't seen anything from Wells at this point that I didn't see from Jeremi Gonzalez, Kevin Foster, and other one (or two)-year wonders. 

His opponent is 22 years old, has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and is on pace for 15 wins and a 3.02 ERA.  And unlike Randy Wells, he is certifiably not a one year wonder -- he pitched 171 innings in 2009, striking out 185 and winning only 8 while posting a 2.79 ERA.  Oh -- did I mention he's a lefty? 

Friday, July 9th - Ted Lilly (3-7 3.76 ERA) vs. Chad Billingsley (6-4 4.06 ERA)

Ted Lilly's long career is an improbable -- and fascinating -- one.  He was drafted in the 23rd round by the Dodgers, but he never pitched a game for them, instead getting his break in Montreal in 1999.  He was then dealt to the New York Yankees, where he pitched for two and a half seasons, before being traded to Oakland where he had his first somewhat successful season -- going 12-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 2003.

Lilly's journey then continued onward to Toronto, where he pitched decently for 3 seasons before getting into a fist fight with his manager in 2006, resulting in his free agent jaunt to Chicago.  This year aside, his time at Wrigley has been pretty freaking awesome.

So, it'll be somewhat sad when Lilly leaves, whether it's at the end of the season or in a few weeks.  Regardless of what happens, though, I hope the Cubs do not pursue to resign him.  Lilly's just a bit too old, and the Cubs desperately need to get as young as they can, as fast as they can.

Speaking of young pitchers, Lilly faces Chad Billingsley tomorrow.  For some reason, it feels as though Billingsley has been around forever, but he's only 25.  He's another of LA's young, high strike-out pitchers, having SO'd nearly 1 batter an inning since 2007. 

Saturday, July 10th - Tom Gorzelanny (3-5 3.31 ERA) vs. John Ely (4-6 4.07 ERA)

Tom Gorzelanny -- or Sloth, as we like to call him -- is better than his 3-5 record conveys.  He struggled a little in his second game back to the rotation, although he beat Arizona. 

He faces another of LA's young arms -- John Ely, a 24-year-old rookie, is "struggling" with a 4-6 record and a 4.07 ERA in his junior effort.  While I don't know that Ely will ever be better than a #3 or #4-type pitcher, I'm impressed by LA's ridiculous abundance of young talent.

Sunday, July 11th - Carlos Silva (9-2 2.96 ERA) vs. Vincent Padilla (3-2 4.72 ERA)

Carlos Silva is wasting the best year of his career in Chicago.  I can only hope that the Cubs manage to deal him for some  younger talent in the next few weeks, or otherwise his great year is pretty well wasted.  Consider this -- he's presently on pace to win more games than he did in 2007-2009 combined.  Crazy.

He faces one of the few pitchers on the Dodgers who is old enough to grow facial hair -- 32 year old Vince Padilla, who's 3-2 record and 4.72 ERA leave him as the most vulnerable Dodger, making Sunday's game the most likely Cubs victory. 

Conclusions
The Cubs are the inverse of the Dodgers -- LA is 46-38; Chicago is 38-47.  As a realist, I'm not exactly expecting the Cubs to dominate while on the road -- or at home, for that matter -- and so I would expect the Cubs to be lucky with a series split. 

As for the other issues, particularly pertaining to how it may be "early" to feel so cynical, allow me to justify this blog's position on things.

We all know that Lou Piniella is a goner, and so is Jim Hendry.  Most of us liked Lou quite a bit, but it's been clear for about a full year now that the Cubs wouldn't win the World Series on his watch.  Same thing with Hendry -- he did a few things well, but those things failed to make up for his numerous faults. 

So when we blog about the season being over -- well, that's just reality -- and our frustration at the lack of movement going on in the clubhouse, it's only because we know from ample experience just how hard it will be for the Cubs to get back on track with the next crew of managers.

It is key, then, that Jim Hendry successfully unload the overpriced veterans who won't be able to help the team anyway three years from now, when they might be competitive again.

It's also important that the next GM and manager both be competent winners, guys who have that extra little drive to get things accomplished on and off the field. 

So, we're all a little worried about Tom Ricketts screwing it up.  What if he hires another Jim Hendry-type who's so bad at assessing talent that he'd vote for the fat chick at an America's Next Top Model competition?  What if the next bumbling GM hires a manager who makes Dusty Baker look like a genius savant? 

If the next group of managers are as incompetent as the last dozen or so groups of managers -- and really, it's all been downhill since Dallas Green was chased out of town -- then, as Cub fans, we're looking at another 3 to 5 years of mediocrity before Ricketts rolls the dice again with potentially another batch of bumbling idiots.

So ... we're probably more nervous than we are cynical.  We've been to this dance before, and odds are, we'll be there agian ... sooner than we'd like.

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