Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Blogs

Reader's Blog: The Bullpen

It's no secret that the Cubs' bullpen is hurt. Their biggest need is for someone other than Marshall to step up in the 7-8th innings. Prefferably a right hander. So lets see if we can find some of the late inning right handers for Big Jim Hendry to target.

  • Jason Frasor's name has been floated around for a while. However, he's not going to be on the trading block until the Jays fall out of competition. Some of us are wary about Frasor's rather large numbers, especially the 4.74 ERA. This is, however, not as huge deal as it would seem in my opinion. After a dismal April to the tune of an 8.38 ERA, Frasor has buckled down in May to wonderful ERA just under one.
  • JJ Putz is currently laboring on the South Side of Chicago. He currently has an ERA just under four, which is nice, but one also has to keep in Mind that Putz pitches in an extremely hitter friendly park. A move to Wrigley could potentially drop his ERA a bit further.
  • I personally hate Bobby Jenks. But I think he could be a huge help to the bullpen on the North Side. Jenks sports an ERA of 4.20, but that is a bit misleading. They must be playing some awfully bad defense on the South Side, because Jenks BABIP is at an astronomical .460. Thus, expect Jenks to improve quite a bit, especially with a move out of The Cell
  • Chad Qualls, like Jenks, has been suffering from a case of Bad luck. A BABIP of .457 simply will not last in this game. Expect Qualls to return to his usual self. In fact, he could be even better if his K/9 rating continues to stay so high (10.34) in comparison to his career norms (8.43)
  • I had heard rumblings about other players such as the Padres' duo of Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, but unless the Friars start dropping games left and right, I wouldn't expect these two to be traded.

Reader's Blog: Week seven awards: Still stressful, but in a good way (like Lost)

Gonna have to make this a short one after a long night of Lost. The Cubs had a 5-2 week, their best week of the year and their first winning week since Week Four when they were 4-3. The Rockies were a game over .500 entering their series with the Cubs, which means the Cubs played three above average teams and managed to sweep a series, split a series, and win another. The last four games were one-run affairs, and it was nice to see the Cubs on the positive side of a couple close decisions.

Ryno of the Week: If there's one thing I hate, it's being repetitive. But even though the one thing I hate is being repetitive, this week's winner is the same as last week's: Sean Marshall. The 6'7 lefty had two wins and two holds, and lowered his ERA from 2.46 to 2.01 in the process. In the month of May, he's 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA. I shudder to think where the Cubs would be without him this year.

I have to give special props to some great offensive performances as well: Starlin Castro had at least one hit in all seven games en route to an 11-for-29 week with five RBI and four runs. And in limited duty, Tyler Colvin went 6-for-11 with four runs and two RBI.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano

Goat of the Week: This is a tough one, but I'm going to go with John Grabow. He appeared in four games this week and was very consistent--he allowed at least one run in every outing. He also walked five guys in just 3.1 innings, and had a 10.80 ERA. He is completely and utterly useless.

I'm giving Aramis Ramirez a pass this week only because one of his two hits directly resulted in the Cubs winning a game. But as my dad said, he's fast-approaching permanent Goat of the Week status; he was 2-for-18 with seven strikeouts. Here's a stat that will bring a tear to your eye even if none of those Lost montages did: Ramirez has struck out 40 times this year; in 2006 he played 157 games and struck out 63 times. WHAT IS GOING ON WITH HIM?

Dishonorable mentions: Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee

Bradon writes at Wait Til This Year, an awesome Cubs blog

Reader Blog: Howry reuniting with Cubs?

Reliever Bob Howry was recently released by the Diamondbacks, and word on the street is that the Cubs might reach out to him. Howry, of course, pitched for the Cubs from 2006-2008 before heading to the Giants in '09 and then Arizona this year. He was released after posting a 10.67 ERA in 14 appearances.

My immediate reaction upon hearing that the Cubs might sign Howry was two parts disgust and one part anger. A 36-year-old retread who couldn't even keep a job in the Diamondbacks' bullpen, which is the worst in the league by far? Jeez, Hendry, how desperate are you?

But then I remembered: Hendry is very desperate. As he should be. Cubs relievers sport a 4.95 ERA, and Sean Marshall, James Russell and Carlos Marmol are the only relievers I feel good about (perhaps because they're the only relievers with ERAs under six). The Cubs can sign Howry for about $280,000, otherwise known as "nothing" in the baseball world. It's a low risk, potentially high reward move. If Howry makes two or three appearances and sucks ... well, that's probably what Esmailin Caridad or John Grabow would have done anyway. And if he pitches well ... then Jeff Gray or Jeff Stevens can head back to the minors where they belong.

I don't expect much from Howry if the Cubs do in fact sign him. But recall that Jim Edmonds was hitting .178 with one home run and six RBI when he was cut by the Padres in 2008. With the Cubs, he put up a .343 OBP and 20 homers.

No one knows for sure what kind of numbers Howry could put up with the Cubs. But we do know that he'll play for next-to-nothing and that we don't have a whole lot of reliable options in our bullpen at the moment. Go ahead, Jim, take a shot.

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

Reader Blog: The Tyler Colvin Effect


Tyler Colvin has played in 34 of the Cubs' 41 games and has started just 12 of those. But here's the more interesting number: 19. Colvin has played in 19 games that the Cubs have won. Of course, the Cubs have won 19 games total, which means ... Colvin has played in every Cubs victory this year.

Here are the scores of the games in which he did not appear at all:

Lost to ATL 3-2
Lost to NYM 4-0
Lost to PIT 3-2
Lost to PIT 4-2
Lost to CIN 14-2
Lost to FLA 4-2
Lost to FLA 3-2

Now I'm not suggesting that the Cubs are guaranteed to lose if Colvin doesn't play, but it does seem worth noting that the team is 19-15 when he steps on the field and 0-7 when he doesn't. That's as good an argument as any that he should get more playing time.

As I mentioned, he's had 12 starts through 41 games. When Piniella announced that the 24-year-old would make the team out of spring training, he stated the importance of finding him 2-3 starts per week. We're halfway through week seven, which means he's not even averaging two starts per week.

The problem, of course, is sort of a good one: Fukudome, Byrd and Soriano are all hitting at least .313 (Colvin is hitting .295), so it's been tough to get him into the lineup. But if we look at OPS, it's a little easier to argue that Colvin should be playing more:

Soriano------.985
Fukudome- .946
Colvin------- .936
Byrd ---------.936

Among major league rookies, only Jason Heyward has more home runs than Colvin and only Heyward and the Tigers' Brennan Boesch have a higher OPS.

I grant that Colvin probably can't sustain these numbers--he's never had an OPS over .850 even in the minors. But he's playing well right now and deserves the 2-3 starts per week Lou promised back in March.

It's a strange time to write this post; after all, Lou did in fact start Colvin two of the last three games. But that was on the heels of six straight non-starts despite the fact that he hit a go-ahead home run the game before that. Those two starts also came just after Lou snapped at a reporter for asking whether Colvin should get more playing time. The answer, Lou, is yes.

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

Reader Blog: Can we call it a comeback?

It's hard to fathom that Carlos Silva has been a productive member of the Cubs' pitching staff through the first quarter of the season. When the Cubs acquired him in December in exchange for Milton Bradley, he had two positives going for him: he was a warm body, and the move saved the Cubs about $6 million.

Jeff Baker at the Seattle Times opined:

    This is a huge deal for the Mariners. It's a no-brainer.

From Larry Stone at the same paper:

    I understand why the Mariners are making this move -- Silva has absolutely no role on the team any more after two disastrous seasons and little hope for a turnaround. He went 4-15, 6.46 in 2008, and was 1-3, 8.60 in eight games in '09, spending most of the year on the disabled list. Bradley, at least, is healthy and can be very productive when he's focused and happy.

The blog Jorge Says No! added:

    It has come to this. The Cubs were forced to take on one of the worst contracts in baseball just to get Milton Bradley off their hands. On one hand they should be celebrating that Milton is gone and they got some savings in return, but Carlos Silva has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the past two years.

I'm not trying to hammer these writers. Rather, their thoughts are representative of what pretty much every baseball fan thought about the trade. The Cubs had an albatross on their hands, were admittedly desperate, and agreed to take on a different albatross in exchange for their own. As Stone said, the man had an ERA over six the last two years--how else were we supposed to view the trade?

My friend Brian Brennan, always looking for a way to snag an extra six-pack, tried to take advantage of my friend Trevor Sierra's eternal optimism by betting him that Silva wouldn't even make the Cubs' Opening Day roster. Who could blame him? Silva was basically throwing batting practice the last two seasons--there's no spot on the 25-man roster for the batting practice guy.

But of course he did make the team, and now he's 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA. The Cubs are 7-1 in his starts. What in the world is going on here? Should we feel confident that he's back to his old form, or is this just a mirage, much like the thousands of people Milton Bradley sees yelling at him when he goes to bed at night? Let's take a quick look at his history.

While Silva was just plain awful with Seattle, he was offered a four-year, $48 million contract for a reason. From 2004 through 2007 with the Twins, he won at least nine games each year, had three seasons in which his ERA was 4.21 or lower, and amassed at least 180 innings all four years. (Not exactly a reason to dole out nearly $50 mil, but solid nonetheless.)

But even when he had success in Minnesota, lefties did significantly more damage against him than righties. In all four seasons, his WHIP and HR/9 were much higher against lefties. But when he went to Seattle, lefties really banged him around:

2008 vs LH: .348/.381/.555, 2.19 BB/9, 4.37 K/9, 44.5% GB%, 14.6% HR/FB%, .355 BABIP
2009 vs LH: .380/.436/.718, 3.94 BB/9, 2.25 K/9, 48.5% GB%, 21.1% HR/FB%, .359 BABIP

(hat tip: Dave Cameron, FanGraphs)

But so far this year, it's been a much different story:

2010 vs LH: .212/.264/.273, 2.45 BB/9, 5.89 K/9, 43.4% GB%, 0.49 HR/FB%, .247 BABIP

His WHIP against lefties is significantly lower than that against righties, and five of the six home runs he's allowed this season were to right-handed hitters. That FanGraphs article points out that Silva has altered his pitch selection to southpaws: he's using his changeup 40 percent of the time against lefties and 29 percent of the time overall, compared to 15 percent last year. Going away from his sinker has increased his fly ball rate, but to this point it hasn't hurt him. When the weather turns warm and the wind starts blowing out, this strategy could backfire.

Perhaps Silva is more comfortable throwing his changeup because he changed his position on the rubber prior to the season. From an emotional standpoint, it also seems entirely possible that he's been positively affected by his mother's presence here in the U.S. (see?)

Now, if Silva was going to have a misleadingly strong month, it would be April. He's 17-7 in that month in his career, easily the best record of any month. He also hasn't pitched in the NL since 2003, which means hitters don't have a good scouting report on him yet. There's also no question that his performance has regressed here in May. Probably the worst comparison to be found is the one originally posted as a comment by SMan:

Carlos Silva in first 6 starts of 2010:
3-0, 6 GS, 36 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 7 BB, 24 K

Carlos Silva first 6 starts of 2008:
3-0, 6 GS, 42 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 9 BB, 18 K

Carlos Silva in 2008 after those 6 starts:
1-15, 22 GS, 111 IP, 7.84 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, 23 BB, 51 K

All in all, it seems likely that Silva will continue to regress at least a little: he's never finished a season as a starter with an ERA as low as 3.35; his K/9 is the highest he's ever had; and his BAbip (average on balls in play) is also the lowest he's ever had (.283), though it's not so low as to be impossible for him to maintain.

On the other hand, he seems to have made some key adjustments that could enable him to perform much closer to the levels he was accustomed to in Minnesota as opposed to the struggles he encountered in Seattle. Few if any thought he'd be in the Cubs' rotation in mid-May, but perhaps the Cubs have found a fifth starter for the next two years.

Reader Blog: Week six awards: "Why are they doing this to us?"

Despite a win to finish out the week (which I was able to witness in person), the Cubs lost two more series in the last seven days. They've won three series this year and lost nine. It's like people always say: just win one of out of every three and you'll be in good shape at the end of the season. No wait, that doesn't sound right.

The Cubs needed two nail-biter 4-3 victories to keep from getting swept in back-to-back series and to stave off an to 0-6 record against the Pirates this year, a team they lost to eight times the last two years combined. The 2-4 week leaves them six games under .500 with three teams ahead of them in the division. At the top of the heap is a team that wears red but not the one you'd expect: Dusty Baker's Reds. Incidentally, the Cubs have scored just three fewer runs than the Reds and have a better ERA. Either the Reds are over-performing, the Cubs are under-performing, or both.

Here's the other good news: though it may have felt like 50, the Cubs were outscored by only five runs in the last two series. They lost two one-run games and also a two-run decision as they failed to turn the corner offensively. While it's good they're not getting blown out, their tendency to lose pretty much every close game they play is immensely frustrating and the reason for the title of today's post. Why, Cubs? Why must you torture us?

They still have two more games at Wrigley to try to get momentum on their side before hitting the road again.

Ryno of the Week: Tom Gorzelanny went 1-for-2 at the plate, and he was pretty much the Cubs' offensive star. Okay, okay, Soriano did go 8-for-22 with five RBI, which ain't bad. But Sean Marshall gets the nod this week after he earned a hold and a win, playing an instrumental role in both of the Cubs' wins. The man quietly goes about his business every year--he has a 2.45 ERA and a miniscule 0.87 WHIP, which would be the lowest in the league if he had logged enough innings to qualify.

Honorable mention: Carlos Silva

Goat of the Week: Though I feel badly for him after he got plunked on the elbow and had to miss Sunday's game, Ryan Theriot was just 3-for-17 last week with no walks. He also had a chance to tie Saturday's game in the ninth inning, needing only a fly ball to do so. Instead, he struck out.

Dishonorable mention: Carlos Zambrano

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

Reader Blog: Fun with statistics

    * Starlin Castro had six RBI after three major league at-bats. The man he essentially replaced in the lineup, Mike Fontenot, had 71 at-bats before Castro's call-up. In those 71 at-bats, he had ... six RBI. Fontenot nearly doubled his season's RBI total in his 72nd at-bat of the season with a pinch-hit grand slam.
    * Aramis Ramirez has the same number of strikeouts (31) as hits and runs combined (20 + 11 = 31). Ramirez also has a lower batting average (.159) than Ryan Dempster and a lower OBP than Carlos Silva who, prior to this year, had not played in the National League since 2003.
    * Speaking of Silva, he has four quality starts this season; he had one all of last season (granted, he was injured for a significant portion of it). Silva has three wins on the season; he had five the last two seasons combined.
    * Ryan Theriot had back-to-back games with two stolen bases on April 12 and April 14. He has stolen only two other bases this season.
    * Marlon Byrd has 23 RBI this season. The man he essentially replaced, Milton Bradley, notched his 23rd RBI on July 25 of last year.
    * Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have combined for fewer hits than Tigers rookie Austin Jackson.
    * Of the four Cubs starters with the most starts, Gorzelanny and Dempster have the best ERAs (2.83 and 3.44, respectively) but the fewest wins (1 and 2). Silva and Wells (3.50 and 4.57) have three wins each.

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

Reader Blog: Week five awards

Well, that's as bad as it gets. At least, I hope that's as bad as it gets. A 1-5 road trip against the Pirates and Reds in which the Cubs got outscored by 20 runs despite winning a game by seven. Looking at the current standings, the best team the Cubs have played all year is the Washington Nationals, who are 17-14 (same record as the Mets). And yet the Cubs are just 14-18 and have been outscored by their opponents overall. The ship is sailing in the wrong direction, to put it mildly, and Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez (hitting a combined .184) are at the helm.

Ryno of the Week: Perhaps I'm just caught up in his first-ever major league game fireworks, but then again, Starlin Castro did drive in six runs in one game while the Cubs scored 10 runs in the other five games on the road trip combined. Castro committed an error as well, but that's the kind of week it was--even the good players weren't that good.

Goat of the Week: It's nice to have options, I guess. I'll go with Randy Wells, who lasted just two horrific innings against the second-worst offense in the National League and raised his ERA from 3.45 to 4.86. It was not a good week for Cubs pitching in general, but Wells' game was over before it started.

Lou Piniella gets a special dishonorable mention for leaving Ryan Dempster in yesterday instead of going to Sean Marshall with Joey Votto coming up. Lou warmed Marshall up, Dempster got into a first-and-third situation, a power-hitting lefty came up, Lou went to the mound, and ... Marshall stayed in the bullpen. While Dempster served up a three-run bomb. Nice call, Lou.

Dishonorable mentions: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Justin Berg, John Grabow

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

Why I'm optimstic about the future

Reading the comments on this blog and other places, it's obvious that many Cub fans live and die in the here and now. That's fine. It's a fan's peroragative and I sometimes find myself running on the same emotional roller coaster.


Having said that, let's look at what the future entails. I think we owe Jim Hendry a debt of gratitude for nixing the old Cubs don't spend money storyline. He spent like a drunken sailor. For the most part, he did ok. He brought together a team which won back to back division titles for the first time in our history and have put together their first stretch of 3+ years in a row of over .500 baseball in over 35 years.


But it's clear that he's at the end of his rope and givin the huge number of drastic moves made by this team, I'd be willing to bet that his ouster is coming and soon.


I say this not to jump around and talk about how happy I am but rather to point out some very pertinent facts:


Fact 1) The Cubs finally have a decent farm system. For the first time in near a decade, it's fair to say that there are at least 4 legitimate major league regulars or starting pitchers sitting in the Cubs' system (even with Castro in the majors). These players are going to come up and make an impact on the team and help keep the team payroll at a manageable level


Fact 2) Between now and the start of 2012, 5 of the 8 $10 Million per year salaries are going to come off the book. The list includes the Good, Bad and Ugly of Cub salaries (Ramirez, Lee, Fukudome, Lilly, Silva). That's about $50-55 Million (when you factor in raises given to some of those who stay) that the Cubs will be able to play with.


Fact 3) The Rickets family appears desirous to keep spending that money. This is obvious when one considers the gymnastics employed to keep that Toyota sign.


Fact 4) Someone other than Jim Hendry will be making those decisions. With Hendry's replacement and a new field manager, the Cubs are likely to have a totally new management team begining in this off season.


Fact 5) No other team in the NL Central has the resources that the Cubs do. The closest team are the Cardinals but they have less of a revenue flow as far as I can tell and they will have over $50 Million of salary committed to two players very soon.


Fact 6) The Players that are prospects in the system currently play the positions that are the hardest and most expensive to find. The Cubs are loaded in the middle infield and have a solid center field and thirdbase prospect. Very few of the team's prospects are all hit/no glove first basemen who will have to DH when they are 30.


Fact 7) If the Cubs are smart, they will have four extra high round picks in the 2011 amateur draft. And just remember, someone other than Jim Hendry will be making those picks.


I know that 2010 has been rough and will continue to be and I suspect that 2011 will not be much better but beginning in 2012 and stretching thru about 2017, the Cubs have a chance to be one of the best teams in baseball every single year.


The odds suggest that they will win a World Series during that stretch, maybe even two.


It's coming Goat Rider Nation. Be patient.

Reader Blog: Fire Jim Hendry

I've come around to the belief that the Cubs will be better off letting Hendry go now and letting Randy Bush be the GM on an interim basis.

Kurt was right. The next several months are critical to the Cubs' future success. When I say critical, I mean CRITICAL. The Cubs have a fairly high draft pick coming up in June and have two trading chips they could use in Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly. We need someone who believes (even if it's not true) that's he's responsible for turning this team into the dynasty that it should become. Hendry has to know that his time is up.

If Hendry stays, I hope he does NOT trade Lee or Lilly and I hope he does nothing or very little in the trade market at all even to help "fix" some of the Cubs' problems. We aren't going anywhere this year but the future is very bright. It probably won't come until 2012 but everything the Cubs do over the next 20 months or so needs to be with the intention of building a ball busting team that will run roughshod over the NL Central and hopefully the NL and baseball as a whole from 2012-2017 at the very least.

The 2010's are going to be the decade of the Cubs, Jim Hendry will have very little to do with this. It is time for us to begin building THAT team.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award