Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Gamecast: August 10, 2010- Cubs at Giants

Ryan Dempster vs. Tim Lincecum

Baseball is one of those sports where when things are going great, its amazing.  However, when your team is doing everything wrong down to the basic fundamentals of the game, it can be one of the longest and painful things to watch.  In the past three years, the Cubs have exemplified this sort of fall from grace much to the chagrin of the fans.  I'd include the players in that latter statement, but as of lately, I'm not sure they really care.

What Lou really needs to do... or someone, I don't care who, needs to do is this.  I don't care that the season is basically done for the team.  Baseball is a really simple game that tends to get really complicated when you are losing.  To end the season, the Cubs need to stop letting their brains spill all over the field, get back to fundamentals, and just play the game.  Will we finish higher than fourth place?  It's doubtful.  However, it might lead to some watchable baseball, and that's something I can get on board with.

End of rant.  Go Cubs.  Drive Lincecum back to his bong in shame.

Z's New(?) Strategy (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Giants 4)

A few days ago I tweeted a quote I saw in an article about Carlos Zambrano's soon-to-be-triumphant return to the Cubs rotation:

"Like Larry Rothschild said, I have to throw the ball no matter what and don't try to locate it," said Z.

It's fairly obvious that Carlos meant what he said at that time, as the man walked seven batters in five innings last night. I guess his start actually ended up turning out OK, as he only allowed two earned runs during his start (although one of those came on a wild pitch). But that sure doesn't seem like a sustainable strategy going forward, right?

This one came down to a battle of bullpen depth, as the game stood tied at three runs a piece after nine innings of play -- and we all know how much depth the Cubs have in their bullpen (hint: < 0).

Indeed, after Alan Trammel burned through Justin Berg, James Russell, Andrew Cashner, and Sean Marshall in the first nine innings, we were treated last night to the debut of the Cubs' latest Iowa callup, Marcos Mateo. Mateo almost lost the game in the 10th, but was saved by a pair of good throws from Tyler Colvin and Mike Fontenot. Fortunately, Marcos was able to finish the job in the 11th, guaranteeing the Cubs a loss.

Now, our best hitter is on the DL, and our starting first baseman is an even worse hitter than Derrek Lee. But maybe Wellington Castillo can save the season? At any rate, he should replace Koyie Hill on the roster when Soto comes back.

Go Cubs!

Series Preview: Cubs at Giants (August 9-12)

The only thing colder than San Francisco in August is the play of a certain North Side Chicago baseball team.  The Cubs look to bring a little bit of a warm front through the Bay Area by re-inserting hot-head Carlos Zambrano back into the starting rotation for the opening game of the four-game series.  In a series likely dominated by Bob Brenly stories of his time on the Giants to take the minds of the fans off the product on the field, the Cubs at least have a chance to play a bit of the spoiler to a Giants team in need of a series win.

Monday, August 9, 2010- Carlos Zambrano (3-6, 5.61 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 3.20 ERA)

Welcome back Big Z.  In an attempt to build some value for the services of Carlos Zambrano in the offseason, the Cubs have brought the big righty back into the rotation to audition in Silva's absence.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that most scouts that saw Z pitch in his rehab starts said he looked like a middle-of-the-road starter at best and had mediocre stuff.  His time out of the pen since then has confirmed this. 

Madison Bumgarner is a top prospect of the Giants that seemed to have lost his way.  Initially a fireballer with upper-90s heat on his four-seamer, Bumgarner mysteriously lost the fire and struggled to break 90 at the end of last season.  Featuring a low-90s fastball with less develolped change and slider.  Despite some success at the major league level, it seems that the lefty lacks the bulldog confidence he once had when his velocity was up.  While he is highly deceptive to left-handed hitters, the same cannot be said against righties.  Right handed batters are hitting .282 against the young lefty, while lefties are hitting only .196.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010- Ryan Dempster (9-8, 3.76 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (11-5, 3.15 ERA)
Demp is coming off a win against the Brewers where he gave up three unearned runs over six innings.  It seems at this point in the season that Demp is the most consistent start the Cubs have right now and will tend to at least keep the team in the game.  Whether the offense shows up for their end of the bargain has been the challenge all season.

Lincecum is a pitcher you might have heard about.  Most likely you've heard of him because of his offseason antics through TMZ or People Magazine.  Outside of that, most people around baseball only know about the diminutive righty because he won some award or something for being popular with sportswriters.  I expect he will fare decent against us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010- Tommy G (6-6, 3.51 ERA) vs. Barry Zito (8-6, 3.35 ERA)
Tommy put up his 9th quality start up in his last outing allowing only three earned runs over seven innings.  I still contend that the G-man was a great throw in on the otherwise terrible Grabow deal and the continued dividends he's given the club are proof.

Barry Zito is also a lefty that likes to surf, write music, and long walks on the beach.  While getting paid millions to be a waste of space in San Francisco, Zito magically realized how to pitch again and is doing so with quite a fair amount of success this season.  In his last outing he struck out 10 batters and only allowed 2 earned runs on four hits.  Since the All-Star break, Zito has a 2.02 ERA.

Thursday, August 12, 2010- Randy Wells (5-10, 4.37 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (9-9, 3.06 ERA)
Despite having a terrible start to the season, Wells has been pretty consistent as of late.  In seven of his past nine games he has given up three or fewer earned runs.  Despite a quality start against the Reds in his last outing, Wells was hung with another loss because the Cubs are terrible at supporting their starting pitchers. 

Cain is a pitcher that has more or less dominated the Cubs in his young career.  Every time he seems to toe the rubber, Cubs hitters look baffled.  Given the fact that most of the Cubs hitters would look baffled if I took the mound against them this year, this is not a good omen.  Cain has a 5-2 career mark against the Cubs while toting a 2.41 ERA in that span of eight starts.

In what should be a long series, the Cubs have a chance to play hard against a contending team and prove they aren't just mailing it in along with their lame duck manager.  It would be nice to see some life, if only to give me hope for the prospects of next year.  I've said it once, and I'll likely have it be my mantra for the rest of the year: Entertain me and prove to me that you deserve a spot on next years club.

Let Coast to Coast Tickets get you to those Chicago Cubs games on the road or at Wrigley Field!

I guess I owe you a recap. (Series Recap: Cubs 0, Reds 3)

The Cubs lost to the Reds three times this weekend. Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells both pitched well enough to win, while neither Thomas Diamond nor Casey Coleman were capable of such a feat.

Meanwhile, the offense didn't do very much of anything. At the same time, the defense was pretty busy -- at sucking!! Ohhhh!

Seriously I've waited this long to write this recap because there's nothing fun to write about. So can we just call this even now? Feel free to vent all you'd like in the comments. Hopefully the Cubs do something inspiring in San Francisco and we can have fun again sometime soon.

Gamecast (August 8, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Yesterday's gamecast was thrown together very quickly while a five year old Princess (admittedly the most beautiful young lady on the planet, FWIW, and most sweet and, ok, I'm boring you now...) was breathing down my neck. I hope to spend a little more time today. The Cubs, as we all know, are playing poorly right now. They are losing the blowouts (except for one) and the close games, also. They are the double threat!

Today's Matchup: Travis Wood (44.2IP, 2.42ERA, 4.09xFIP) vs Thomas Diamond (6IP, 4.50ERA, 2.63xFIP)

Two severe fly ball rookie pitchers going today. Wood has a nice shiny ERA built on HR luck but he has a ground ball rate of less than 30%. To put that in perspective, that makes him a much bigger fly ball pitcher than Ted Lilly was. Diamond is a noted fly ball pitcher also. I, for one, am hoping Diamond can duplicate his strike out ways from his last start. If the wind is blowing out today, this could be a slugfest.

Who's Hot: Today's Starlin watch. Castro is hitting .312 on the season. His current triple slash number is .312/.360/.449 which gives him a beautiful wOBA of .346. He does have a mildly inflated BABIP of .352 which should come down. I also think his K rate (currently 14.4%) will drop also. That .312 batting average is for real and the power is great for a slick fielding 20 year old shortstop. I also found his realization that he could have gotten Ramon Hernandez yesterday on that great play he made moving to his left to be quite promising. He's learning but I think it's possible that in about 30 years, there will be a statue dedicated to him somewhere around where the Cubs happen to be playing at that time.

Who's Not: I've been pointing out all year how unlucky the Cubs have been and they have been unlucky but they have also been bad. Unlucky+Bad=5th place (gulp!) in the NL Central. Still, after yesterday's loss, they have now played 39 one run games, most in the NL, and have lost 26 of them. Now, I know it's hard to believe this because we've been watching them lose these games all year but a team's record in one run games is usually more luck than skill related. Most teams hover around .500 in one run games.

Both the Reds and the Cardinals are .500 in one run games. The Pirates are 16-17. The Astros are 10-12. The Brewers have the best record in the NL in one run games at 18-11. If the Cubs were .500 (or a game under because they have played an odd number of them) in one run games, they would have six more wins than they do. Their record would be 53-57. Now that's not great and I'm not suggesting that the Cubs would be in contention but there would be less concern and worry in the land of the Cub than there is today.

Conclusion: A win would be nice boys! When that fourth run scored yesterday I removed myself from the TV room and went into the laundry room to pound the wall for awhile. I know it's a small thing but it was at that moment that the frustration finally bubbled over for me. I am still focused on baseball with a left eye still on the Cubs but it's getting harder to watch them. There are good things happening on this team and I hope they can prevent the Reds from sweeping them today but I have to admit, it's becoming torturous to watch. Enjoy the game today and remember, baseball is supposed to be fun so win or lose, I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Sunday!

Gamecast (August 7, 2010) Reds@Cubs

Oops,sorry for the lateness of this post. The Cubs suck donkey balls. We all know this. I hope they can beat the Reds today and tomorrow because I will always root for them, no matter what. Cubs are an amazing 13-25 in one run games but, of course, they are also getting killed pretty often (See Milwaukee) so their pythag now matches their crappy record. I look at the talent on this team up and down and I am dumbfounded. I don't get it. Ah well.

Today's Matchup: Edinson Volquez (17IP, 6.35 ERA, 4.80 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (129IP, 4.40ERA, 3.81 xFIP)

Wells is coming off of a bad outing. He has been very good this year, much better than either his won/loss record (which is completely meaningless) and ERA. Volquez is still trying to work things out after missing half the season recovering from ligament replacement surgery (and serving a suspension for PED's). He has struggled big time with his control this year and the Reds are on the verge of replacing him in the rotation as they find themselves in a pennant race.

Who's Hot: Boy aren't those Bears looking good down in Bourbannais! Johnny Knox looks like a shoe in to be the starting WR! Oh, this is a Cubs blog. Yeah, Cubs suck. No one's "Hot" per se. Having said that, I am going to turn this into the "Starlin" watch. Right now, Starlin is hitting .313 in 309 plate appearances. Castro would be 7th in the NL in hitting if he qualified for the batting title. He needs 338 PA's to qualify. He should crack the top 10 in hitting in a couple of weeks.Not that I think batting average is a good stat or anything. I just find it fun.

Who's Not: Cubs 15 games below .500 now and it doesn't look likely that they are ever getting back. They stink and I think it's becoming more and more possible that Jim Hendry will end up losing his job at the end of the year. Heads have to roll. Heads other than just Piniella. There is no good reason why the Cubs should be this bad. Was there a chance they weren't going to contend this year? Perhaps. But give me a freakin' break.

Conclusion: Yeah, Yeah. Go Cubs. Sorry I'm late. It's 1-1 right now. Cubs are leaving runners on base all over the place Ho Hum.

It's the start of Spring Training 2011

Mike thinks it is maybe getting too far of ourselves to start bringing up people like Jeff the Shark for evaluation.  I do not.  It is time, and in fact, here is my radical thought of the day:

13 pitchers.

Even though I would like to win, and not embarrass ourselves, the Cubs have to get in the mindset that Spring Training 2011 has started now.  Guys are battling for jobs. We need to see as much as we can of the guys currently on our 40 man roster.  Thing is, though, even though it was the pitching that held us somewhat afloat the first four months of the season, it is the staff that has the most questions, and also the most people on hand who may end up providing the answers.

We do not have that many positional prospects.  And, even if we did, for better or worse, the only starting position open for next year is at first base, and unless Micah Hoffpauir finds himself a new pharmacist, we will have to sign or trade for our 2011 first sacker.  If Font, Nady, Three-Finger Hill and the Fooker were somehow convinced to run off and join a cult, effective immediately, that would be fine with me,  Then we could see if we have some possible 2011 bench strength already in the organization.  I don't see why they can't just release Nady, Hill, and Font, and somehow convince the Fooker that he is losing face by continuing to struggle in the major leagues.  Then perhaps he will go back home.

The pitching, on the other hand, should be our highest priority.  Dempster, Marshall and Marmol are set for next year.  Everyone else should be battling for a job.  Wells and Gorzellany have to reassure us that they are capable of consistency for a full season.  Thomas Diamond and, yes, Jeff Samardzija should be taking turns starting.  And, I suppose, Los Dos Carloses need to start some games in a last-ditch feeble attempt to show they have some shred of trade value. 

Yes, the Ricketts family better plan on inviting Silva and Zambrano over, and eating some spicy Venezuelan contracts for Thanksgiving.

Of course, we are also going to need to similarly audition everyone from Grabow and Russell to Berg, Atkins, Cashner, Coleman, Gaub, Gray, Schlitter, Stevens.  Is Esmailin Caridad alive?  How about Angel Guzman?  Nah, on second thought, don't bother digging up his old bones.  We have no idea whatsoever whether any of these guys are any good.  At the beginning of this season, we all thought that Berg and Caridad were strike-throwers, Grabow would be a stablizing stopping force, and we were also counting on Guzman to be our 8th inning guy.

Now?  Now, as far as we currently know, every last one of these guys suck, are hurt, or both.

I do not believe we can wait until September, when the rosters expand, to see all these guys,  The process should start now.  We don't really need two crappy bench outfielders and two crappy bench infielders.  Trade or release either Nady or Font, today, and let's get 13 pitchers up here, and see who we have on the mound.  Who gives a rip if Lou has no bench flexibility anymore - he's just collecting the checks they cut him. 

It's Spring Training without the cactii, HoHoKams or the golf.

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Dusty Baker's Reds (Aug 6-8, 2010)

This is just another set of 3 games in a season that's lost pretty much all meaning. I'm convinced Lou has thrown in the towel, and most of the veterans are just playing out the string. The only thing this season has left for me value-wise, is the development of our young players. Colvin, Castro, Cashner, Diamond, even young veterans like Soto, Wells, Marmol, Gorzellany, and DeWitt. They need to play as often as possible, and it wouldnt hurt to take a look at some other guys in AAA. I'm thinking Jay Jackson, John Gaub, Wellington Castillo (backup C next year?), and yes, even Jeff Samardzija. His contract is running out, and with him out of options next year, we won't be able to send him back to AAA without him clearing waivers, which he won't. I'd like to see him again before too long. However, that's getting a little far ahead of ourselves. Here are the matchups for the upcoming series against the first place Cincinnati Reds.

Friday: Bronson Arroyo (11-6, 4.01) vs. Tom Gorzellany (6-5, 3.48)
Gorzo the Magnificent made his last start on Saturday against the Rockies, and didnt pitch well (shocking, no one pitched well in Coors last weekend, except Silva - he only allowed 2 hits). He allowed 11 baserunners in 6 1/3, as well as 5 ER in a game the Cubs ultimately lost 6-5. Despite that, he's been pretty solid for the Cubs as a starter this year, keeping the club in most games, despite his penchant for wildness, as he's walked 46 batters in 93 innings, far too many. Arroyo is doing his smoke and mirrors act again this year for Dusty Baker's Reds, only this year, he's getting wins out of the deal since the team behind him is winning games. He's hittable, he's beatable, and I like the Cubs chances this afternoon.

Saturday: Edinson Volquez (2-1, 6.35) vs. Randall T Wells (5-9, 4.40)
The up and down season for Wells took another sharp down on Monday night as he was the starting pitcher for the 26 hit debacle against the Brewers. He gave up 10 of those hits in just over 4 innings. He'll be looking to bounce back on Saturday - which is an early 12:05 start. I love those games. Early afternoon baseball as I wake up from my brown-bottle induced malaise is the best. Volquez has taken a sharp fall since he was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in early 2008 after joining the Reds in the Josh Hamilton trade. He wasn't as good in the second half of '08 or in the first few months of '09, and then he had to have Tommy John surgery. Then he was suspended for violating the drug policy, which he got to serve while he was rehabbing. Now that he's back, he's been hit hard. He did get his 2nd win of the season last time out, despite being all over the strike zone, walking 5.

Sunday: Travis Wood (2-1, 2.42) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-1, 4.50)
Couple of rookies highlight the finale of the series. Wood's been very good for the Reds, and was dowright dominant in a start against the Cubbies in early July. He's held up pretty good since then, as his sparkling 2.42 ERA shows. Diamond will be making his 2nd start. He had a perplexing first start. His fastball wasn't overwhelming, but his changeup looked good and he had his breaking pitch moving as well. But he fell behind too many hitters and gave up some unneccesary hits to the 8 and 9 hitters, as well as walking too many. But he K'd 10, which was impressive. I'm intrigued by him.

Go Cubs!

Don't miss Cubs playoff tickets - bookmark  baseball ticket broker Coast to Coast Tickets.

All-Time Leaderboard: 20-year-old Shortstops, ranked by OPS+

On July 21, R.J. Anderson wrote an article for Fangraphs that ranked 20-year-old shortstops by OPS+ (OPS+ = OPS / league average OPS, i.e., 120 is 20% above lg avg).

At that point, Starlin Castro had yet to eclipse league average OPS. As of the 21st, The SDC had registered a .774, good for a 95 OPS+. That got him onto the leaderboard, but not exactly at the top.

In the 12 games since then, however, Castro has gone 21-for-51, with five doubles, a triple, and a homer, good for a 1.042 OPS. He now has an .823 OPS for the season.

Thus, for your viewing pleasure, an updated OPS+ leaderboard:

Alex Rodriguez (1996), 160
Arky Vaughan (1932), 113
Starlin Castro (right 'effin now), 112
Jim Fregosi (1962), 109
Jose Reyes (2003), 102
Travis Jackson (1924), 102
Whitey Witt (1916), 100
Garry Templeton (1976), 91

Also courtesy of Fangraphs, here's a link to a graph showing the career outputs of A-Rod, Reyes, Fregosi and Templeton in terms of WAR.

Finally, a quote from R.J.:

"Castro is in good company. Rodriguez is bound to join Vaughan and Jackson in the Hall of Fame, and Fregosi as well as Templeton appeared in numerous All-Star games. Truthfully, there are worse careers to mimic than Witt’s too. Sure, he was out of the league shortly after turning 31, but he appeared in more than 1,130 games and had a career OPS+ of 97."

As they say: Nice.

I am about to say something positive....

...wait for it....wait...

I like Blake DeWitt better than Ryan Theriot.  Even before he put on the uniform for the first time.

I don't think I am going to see DeWitt get picked off 10 times a year, minimum.  I don't think he is going to piss away the one talent he does have, like Theriot and his ability to go to right.  If he would just do that every at bat, he might be a useful player in this league.  The fact that he doesn't made him frustrating to root for, and I am glad he is gone.

I just wish they coulda sent his LSU buddy packing, also.  I'd like to see what we else we have on the farm, a Darwin Barney perhaps.

However, I still don't see anybody forcing any kind of accountability on anyone associated with the Cubs, with the exception of Zambrano's Anger Management, and until there is, I don't have anything constructive to say here.

I applaud, laud, and thank God for the guys who have HAD the gumption to keep coming out here and writing.  Combat pay, guys. 

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award