Goatriders of the Apocalypse

NL Central Preview

I'm convinced that there is only one way the Cubs can win a World Series: repeated playoff appearances. This theory is backed by the ninety-something years before the '07 and '08 teams, during which time the Cubs never appeared in the playoffs more than once in a row.

Having said that, I feel very good about the Cubs' chances in the NL Central this year.

Look around this division. What do you see? In reverse order of their finishes in 2008:

Pittsburgh - Paul Maholm might win 10 games, but I don't see anyone else in their rotation that stands a chance of doing so. If you don't have starting pitching, you don't stand a chance over the course of a regular season in my book.

Cincinnati - The only other team in the division with a robust rotation that could get them to a bunch of wins in 2009. Harang's 2008 was atrocious, and I blame it all on Dusty Baker's using him in a relief appearance for no freaking reason. Of course, Dusty will be back in Cincy this year, and is just as likely to make a similarly stupid pitching move. But if Harang returns to form, Volquez and Cueto improve, and Arroyo provides some stability in the #4 spot, they have something there. They also have a closer with experience, something St Louis lacks. On offense, I guess they need a lot of help from Votto and Bruce, but Votto is damn good. Griffey and Dunn are gone, so the outfield defense adds by subtraction. I'm gonna take these guys as the Cubs' stiffest competition in 2009.

St. Louis - Carpenter is still hurt. Mark Mulder can't throw 85 (is he also gone?). That leaves Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse as their front-of-the-rotation starters, and Joel Piniero and Todd Wellemeyer in the back, with a Spring Training success story filling the rotation out. I see a lot of potential for quality starts, but who do they give the ball to after the 6th inning? Russ Springer is gone, and Jason Isringhausen is no longer Jason Isringhausen. It's a good team that will win a lot of games, but I just don't see how they prevent enough runs to win 90 of them.

Houston - Two good starters, two crappy ones. A couple solid relievers, a lot of crappy ones. A few great hitters, and a few crappy ones. There's some talent here, but not enough to win consistently. Oswalt looked bad at times last year, Wandy has never been good on the road, and then their third starter is Brandon Backe? Oy vey. Not too frightened. They'll suck for a long while, make their late push, and end up in the 85-win range.

Milwaukee - Ben Sheets is likely gone, as is CC Sabathia. Without those two, their rotation is really really weak. I expect the same type of results from Jeff Suppan that I do from Jason Marquis, and he's their 2nd starter. These guys could finish 5th in the division.

So that's everyone. The way I see it:

Cubs
Reds
Cardinals
Astros
Brewers
PiratesĀ 

That's a division where the Cubs should win a lot of games. 95 is very reasonable, and that has to be a playoff bound team. Right?

The brew crew is better than

The brew crew is better than that, at least better than the Astros. The Cardinals you never really know, but they usually stay competitive; Carpenter pretty much makes or breaks how things go for them. I think Izzy is a free agent; the closer for the cardinals is between Perez, Motte, a free agent/trade, and possibly Carpenter if he can't return as a starter. The Pirates have an awesome ballpark. But I can't argue how you ranked the teams at all.

The reds are good, but they're still very young and a few good moves away from being an actual threat. The reds' defense was bad and their pitching is inconsistent. Cueto and Volquez are phenomenal, and if Harang/Arroyo show up this year their staff could be nasty. Dickerson-Bruce-Taveras is a good young OF and they acquired a new catcher at the expense one of their many outfielders. I like the direction the team is heading, they have a good GM in place, and if they continue to add young players they should compete for the division very soon. They do however have the great equalizer managing the team which never helps a contending team's chances.

Braun, Hart and Fielder will

Braun, Hart and Fielder will score some runs for the Brewers. But who else beyond them? And who other than Gallardo will pitch? Their closer is David Riske...?

If I had to bet on the next non-Cub team to win the NL Central, I'd put my money on the Reds. Maybe the year after they fire Dusty... wouldn't that be funny?

Trevor Hoffman is closing

Trevor Hoffman is closing for the Brewers. You forgot to mention Mike Cameron, Rickie Weeks, JJ Hardy, Bill Hall, and Manny Parra is a good young pitcher in their rotation.

I definitely missed on the

I definitely missed on the Brewers.

You got me on Hoffman - but he may be completely ineffective this year. He's old.

Also JJ Hardy is very good. Cameron and Hall are solid, but Weeks is a .230 hitter.

Still, I can't get past the rotation. But I guess they are better than the Astros.

The Brewers have some good

The Brewers have some good young guys in their farm system too, with Alcides Escobar and Matt Gamel. Their pitching isn't stellar by any means but they have some middle of the road guys (Suppan, Bush, Capuano, McClung, Villanueva) that can eat innings. Facing the losses of CC and Sheets, its kind of like falling off a cliff, but Gallardo and Parra could be a good top two pitchers to feature. Plus they have Craig Counsell, you have to love watching that guy take his at bats, possibly the best batting stance of any player in the game.

Escobar is a middle

Escobar is a middle infielder, I think his value lies mainly in his glove at SS. But Hardy's defense is also great, as is his bat. Not sure Escobar gets a lot of playing time in '09 barring an injury or trade.

Is Gamel an OF? Who's the Brewers' left fielder?

I know what inning eaters do. They lose games. Jason Marquis was an inning eater. Yeah, he got outs, but he also gave up a bunch of freaking runs. You don't win 90 games with 3 or 4 "inning eaters" in your rotation.

Gallardo will likely be very good. Parra, not so sure about.

I still don't think they're nearly as good as the Cubs. What was their 2nd half record last year in games started by anyone other than CC?

Gamel is 3B. Bill Hall

Gamel is 3B. Bill Hall could be in the hot seat there. Braun is in LF. Escobar hit .328 in AA in 131 games with 34 stolen bases. The solid glove you speak of made 20 errors last season. The Brewers weren't as good as the cubs in 2008 yet both teams were in the Playoffs.

Holy hell, I can't believe I

Holy hell, I can't believe I forgot Braun! Man, I need an Old Style.

Also, look around on the

Also, look around on the interweb for a few minutes for information about Escobar. His value lies in his major-league-level defense at SS.

You gotta know errors are one of the worst metrics in baseball.

His glove is better than

His glove is better than Hardy's at SS, my point was he can hit and steal bases. He's going to make his errors he's only 22 now, and his stats come from a full season at AA at the age of 21. I'm just saying if he's known for his glove I would gladly take a near .330's hitter that steals 30+ bases with it.

I call shenanigans. You

I call shenanigans. You said:

"The solid glove you speak of made 20 errors last season."

Which suggests that his glove isn't that good. Quit backtracking. You know some baseball, but you can't admit to being wrong. Grow a pair.

Also, the average (at AA, as you pointed out) comes with no power, while Hardy hits home runs.

C'mon, AJ, avoid the name

C'mon, AJ, avoid the name calling. I deleted the word in question.

K. At any rate I'm tired of

K. At any rate I'm tired of it.

What are you even trying to

What are you even trying to blow up about?

You bet you're the one that

You bet you're the one that picked them to finish 5th, thanks for that nugget. I'm not backtracking, because you read on some blog that someone thinks he has a good glove doesn't mean that translates to solid defense in the major leagues. The kid is 22, he'll need time to develop, as he hasn't played above AA. What exactly am I wrong about? My statement was he is a complete player, not just a good defender as you claim. 8 HR's and 34 SB's is pretty good production from a SS with a glove that you seem to be so infatuated with. Even if I'm wrong, I see little reason for you to be calling me an asshole. Hardy .283 with 24 HR & 2 SB versus Escobar at .328 with 8 HR & 34SB while each had a fielding percentage in the .970's.

You're right, I forgot about

You're right, I forgot about a few Brewer bats. But I'm still not at all sold on the rotation, as I explained in my response to your comment. So I'll put them in 4th instead of 5th. At any rate, while anything can happen in baseball, they're not a significant threat in my mind.

So I admitted I was off there. As for you, after sarcastically stating, "The solid glove of which you speak made 20 errors last season," you went on to say, "[Escobar]'s glove is better than Hardy's." On the one hand, you'd be right to say there isn't any DIRECT contradiction there. But the way I read it, it sounds like 1) you told me I was wrong for saying Escobar had a good glove, and then 2) suggested his glove was better than Hardy's, who currently plays shortstop for a team that starts a .230 hitter at 2B and thus arguably has room at the position.

As for the "random blog" that I read about Escobar on, I refer you to Keith Law's analysis of Escobar's ability. I can't come up with a good link because I'm not an ESPN Insider, but google "alcides escobar" + "keith law" for the low down from ESPN's scouting expert. I'll summarize it for you: he's good on defense, not at the plate.

You're frustrating because you're petty. You're not fun to debate with because you're never wrong. And I took it personally when you were less than genial in your back-and-forth with Kurt because I respect him and think he's running a good blog here. So that's why I took up your habit and commenced with the name-calling. But I guess that was wrong too. My bad.

I will defend myself against

I will defend myself against anyone that wants to come at me on this site. I did little yesterday to bring on 60-something posts in a thread that was created to take shots at me. I made a 1 sentence comment in the shoutbox that turned the world upside down. The comment I made was not out of line, nor was it proven to be incorrect. The back-and-forth that occurred with myself and Kurt was unfortunate, little was resolved, and it could have been avoided altogether. More importantly it happened yesterday, its in the past and I've moved on. I haven't spoke with Kurt today, so I cannot speak for him, but I'm not upset about what happened yesterday nor do I hold a grudge of any kind against him. If you choose to hold a personal grudge against me over words I had with another person, then that's your choice. In the ridiculous case of you and me going back and forth today, that was literally about nothing. You can hold any opinion of me that you like, the truth of the matter is that you know nothing about me.

I think most of our

I think most of our back-and-forth was actually baseball related. Personal issues aside, which I myself would prefer to consider resolved as well, it still seems as though I don't think the Brewers are as good as you do. And I made my case on the Escobar issue, specifically with respect to your comments, which I think have changed in the course of this discussion. But I'm actually not infatuated with him, contrary to your suggestion, so let's go back to a holistic discussion of the Brewers' place in the Central.

I've got them 4th, ahead of Houston. You?

That is completely

That is completely realistic. I see a lot of drift-wood getting tangled up with the teams that make up the middle of the pack in the NL Central. The Cubs should have little problem running away with 1st in the division while the Pirates are partying in the cellar. Cinci, StL, and the BrewCrew in my opinion could land in any order 2-4 on the final day of the season, as no team really jumps out ahead of the others and each team has more questions than answers at this point. The key is that I don't think there is any way the Wild Card comes out of the Central again this season, so 2nd doesn't matter much. But if I had to bet today on it I would probably line up the teams something like this:

Cubs
Cardinals
Reds
Brewers
Astros
Pirates

"I did little yesterday to

"I did little yesterday to bring on 60-something posts in a thread that was created to take shots at me."

Actually the thread was created to clarify an issue of debate - the rules behind a PTBNL trade. As for your behavior, I'll let YOUR words speak for themselves:

"I never said the list changes. But thanks for your wisdom and a non-needed correction all powerful Oz"

"Show me your evidence from Wikipedia Great and Powerful Oz, but be sure to only use the parts that help your argument."

"If you feel I was confrontational, then you're probably 100% correct, and I apologize."

"I call you the great and powerful Oz because thats what you act like, whether anyone else has said it or not."

"Thats all incredibly inspiring, I might climb a mountain now."

"I can send diplomas, passports, or fingerprints - you know any evidence you might need in the proceedings Your Honor."

"I will defend myself against anyone that wants to come at me on this site. I did little yesterday to bring on 60-something posts in a thread that was created to take shots at me."

I won't condone people calling you names, HC, but until you can debate with people without saturating your posts with sarcasm, you're probably going to find few people with the patience to not resort to name-calling.

Thats fine Kurt, but you in

Thats fine Kurt, but you in no way are innocent here. You think you have free reign to shit on anyone you want here, but that isn't going to happen with me. I posted one sentence. One sentence. And you blew up about it like you had to save the world like Superman the news reporter. What you forget to mention is that what I said wasn't off base, 60 posts later what I said still has yet to be proven to be untrue in any way. You should know what you're talking about before you're so quick to point out that someone is wrong. I shouldn't have to be told repeatedly that I'm wrong, I have no sources, I made it up, and the like because you don't agree with it. You're throwing out accusations that you can't substantiate.

If you don't want me on the site then ban me. I've done little to deserve it, but that is what this site seems to get off on. Better yet put a thread up and let all your readers vote on it. If I get voted off I will gladly leave this blogging site and not return. But someone like you would likely vote for other members much like posting comments in someone else's name, as I've seen the full spectrum of your awe-inspiring maturity the last couple of days. Do whatever you like, but its safe to say that you, AJ, and Jack Wilson's biggest fan are the only people I have had words with on this site in the month I've been here. I'm not going to change anytime soon for you either, so if you don't like me or my sarcasm then ban me or take a vote - I can guarantee you one thing, I won't be leaving anytime soon just because you guys are "busting my balls".

Yes, we know Harry. You're

Yes, we know Harry. You're special. You're different. You deserve to be treated differently. Nobody is allowed to disagree with you. Nobody is allowed to take something you said and write a post about it. People are not allowed to argue with you in any way, shape, or form. If they do you will simply call them names. We get it. Happy?

Thats not what its about.

Thats not what its about. You think you're high and mighty and anything you say goes. I don't hold that belief. Say whatever you like, but today I would feel pretty stupid if I were you. You freaked out made a big deal about a PTBNL, and in the end you couldn't prove anything. I'm always happy.

Yes, you're right Harry. I

Yes, you're right Harry. I think I'm so much better than you that I dared ask for sources when you said something I thought was wrong. And when it turns out that I WAS wrong, I'm so much better than you that I actually said "huh, looks like I'm wrong." How very arrogant of me.

P.S. Go back through the Shout Box archives. When that person posted an apology as you - I know, how ridiculous, you would never apologize - I was nowhere to be seen. You know why? I wasn't at a computer. Sorry kid, it wasn't me

I don't care who did it. My

I don't care who did it. My point is you accuse me of having no sources and being inaccurate when you have little proof I'm wrong. Your ethics shouldn't have a time limit on them, where if I don't provide evidence fast enough for you that gives you the go-ahead to go off about it in the fashion you did. Make the post next time without the intent of saying how wrong I was and maybe without mentioning my name every other sentence. That wasn't necessary and it was without a doubt confrontational, and it got the wheels rolling for what ensued the rest of the day. I admittedly made comments i shouldn't have to you and I apologize for that. What happened yesterday didn't need to ever even get started, but as a result of it going as far as it did I have your buddies coming at me today much the same way. I come out looking like the bad guy, when the comment I made wasn't even wrong in the first place.

I never said that JJ Hardy

I never said that JJ Hardy is a good defender because he is not. He is an offensive SS, that drives in runs and hits home runs. Therefore Escobar's defense can easily be better than Hardy's but that doesn't mean that he's gold glove-caliber. I was talking to you just fine about the Brewers and Michael Wuertz in a couple of different posts for a while today, then out of nowhere you blow up literally about nothing. Re-read everything that was said back and forth, I guarantee that you'll find nothing to warrant you lashing out at me in the manner that you did.

Hardy was the best defensive

Hardy was the best defensive NL shortstop according to fangraphs, which I happen to respect.

Predictions

I have to agree. The Brewers don't have much of a rotation to go along with there good offense, so I don't see them as the threat that they have been over the last two years. I see them ending around the .500 mark and the same goes for the Cards and Astros. The Pirates will be lucky to win 70 games and the Cincy is probably two years from competing. I see them as a reverse of the Brewers. They have a solid rotation if healthy, but only have 2-3 truly impact bats. We will see though. No matter what, barring injuries to just about every player on the Cubs, they should win the division by at least 10 games and finish with about 95-100 wins. The NL Central is the weakest it has been in quite a while so this is feasible. The NL East is the division that could go to anyone.

In response to HC

To prevent the thin replies from effing up the HTML...

Welcome to the real world. Here, when you have no sources, you're wrong until you find them. Fact was that I had multiple sources that backed up what I thought was accurate and I found them with about 10 seconds of looking. I just asked you to show me yours and you acted as if I slapped you in the face, or lorded my intelligence over you or something. If I told you tomorrow that there was a secret salary cap that the public doesn't know about, you'd either want sources or you'd be an incredibly gullible person.

If you want to blame me for how YOU overreacted, that's your prerogative. You still dramatically overstepped the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. I'm sorry if you don't like people telling you that, but that was the case.

I will say again - for the last time - that I appreciate how you contribute to this website. But my appreciation is wearing thin. If you can't cope with people disagreeing with you - sometimes strongly, sometimes wrongly, as was with me yesterday - then I'd rather you not contribute at all. But if you are up for debate, or being told that you're wrong, or that you're silly, or whatever, then let it slide off your back, and let's move on. The World Championship season is about to start. We should be sharing in our excitement over that rather than arguing and getting unbelievably petty over very minor squabbles.

and another thing...

If you went back through the archives of this blog, you probably wouldn't have to go far to find posts made by various Goat Riders that were created specifically in contradiction to the opinion of ANOTHER Goat Rider. I think that if you were running this blog, you would delete and ban somebody for doing that.

That's sort of the point of a forum like this... disagreement and "calling out" each other is a part of the territory. You're probably not the first to take it too seriously when it happens, but your reaction is perhaps the worst.

Ok

This is all I can say. What happened, has happened. For what its worth to you, Kurt, the personal things I said were out of line and I apologize for the entire situation that was you and me going back and forth about a PTBNL yesterday. I'm done with it. In all honesty, I don't know the first thing about this blog, let alone anything about running one or starting one, and I've had little involvement with any other blogs outside of my experiences here. I'll be the first to admit that I'm new here and I have little understanding of the culture within this circle, but there have been times that I've come under attack here and I'm simply not the type of person to lay down and take it - which is definitely part of the problem. Looking back I realize now that my actions have likely resembled a little kid running around and screaming in a church, and for that I also apologize. Nobody in their right mind should get that fired up about a player to be named later involved in a trade yet to even happen, but I do because that's just me I guess. Baseball is what I know, and I enjoy being able to contribute anything I can to the site, only positive contributions in the future though.

144 wins this season!

Ignoring the argument above about who is the bigger jerk, I just wanted to note that based on the spring training runs scored vs. against so far, the Cubs should go 144-18 next season. Of course, this just goes to show you can't base any prognostications on four spring training games.

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