Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Feast, famine, and the Cubs (Game Recaps: Cubs 12, Angels 13)

I owe you two recaps: one for a blowout loss, and one for a blowout win. Let's go with the revisionist's take on the weekend, and only highlight the Cubs that impressed.

- Carlos Zambrano. Seven innings, eight hits, just one walk, and seven strikeouts. Brilliant. This is what we want from our bull-like horse-pitcher.
(I guess that makes him a minotaur? Kurt, photoshop please?)

- Andrew Cashner, Carlos Marmol, and - yes - John Grabow each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Marmol struck out two of the four batters he faced.

- Derrek Lee went 2-for-7 over the two days, driving in four runs.

- Actually, Tyler Colvin was the only other Cub to drive in more than one run, with two RBIs on Sunday via pinch-hit single. (He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Saturday, but who's counting?)

- Ryan Theriot went 3-for-4 on Sunday, and 0-for-1 on Saturday.

- Others: Byrd, 3-for-10 on the weekend; Soriano, 2-for-5; Baker, 2-for-6; and Carlos Zambrano went 2-for-4.

The real lesson here: Jered Weaver would light up the NL, and Joe Saunders is not that good. And the Cubs are, somehow someway, still kinda sorta almost a team in contention except not really.

Also: think anyone wants to trade for Lilly or DLee as of right now?

Reader Blog: Week 11 awards: Hard to defend Cubs' defense

The Cubs have had plenty of problems on offense this season, and they've struggled at times on the mound. But last week, their most prominent deficiency was in the field. After committing a rather unreasonable 12 errors in six games, they have now committed the third-most in the majors. Errors last week:

Lee: 3 (committed six all of last season)

Baker: 3

Colvin: 2

Soto: 2

Castro: 1

Lilly: 1

The Cubs allowed four unearned runs in a 9-5 loss Tuesday, four more in a 7-6 loss Friday, and had they not given the Angels four more on Saturday, they would have ... well, lost 8-0. But still.

I was "lucky" enough to see Saturday's demolition in person, and I guess we can't be surprised that this feast or famine team followed up that drubbing with a 12-1 pounding of their own. Here's hoping the offense can remain locked in as the Cubs will face two Seattle starters with sub-three ERAs, including Cliff Lee, and then Felix Hernandez.

Ryno of the Week: Colvin continued to rake, going 6-for-15 with two home runs, six RBI and three runs scored. He's now hitting .339 at home. But how nice was it to see Carlos Zambrano put together a couple good starts, especially yesterday's? His line--7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 7 K--was his best of the season, and he added two hits and an RBI just for the heck of it.

Honorable mentions: Derrek Lee, Xavier Nady

Goat of the Week: Alfonso Soriano continues to look lost at the plate despite two hits yesterday, but being there live to see Ted Lilly get banged around leads me to give him this inglorious distinction. He needed 104 pitches to get through 5.1, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and three walks. He's been great this year, but Saturday just wasn't his day.

Gamecast (June 20, 2010) Angels @ Cubs

Happy Father's Day!!

Yesterday's game was the kind of loss that a team as bad as the one described by many on this blog would expect would happen all the time. It simply hasn't. The Cubs got trounced yesterday so no one was ever frustrated I guess. Cubs are now 8 games under and 8 games back in the Central. It's becoming hard but it's not totally impossible to imagine the Cubs coming back this year. As usual, they need to win today.

Today's Matchup: Joe Saunders (84.1IP, 4.70ERA, 5.44xFIP) vs Carlos Zambrano (47.2IP, 5.66ERA, 4.49xFIP)

Who's Hot: Well, that'd be the Angels. The Angels have scored 20 runs in the first two games of the series and the Cubs either can't get anyone out or they throw the ball into the camera well.

I wanted to also point out the awesome season that Geovany Soto is having and ask a question. Why Lou? I know Koyie Hill is marginally better defensively but Soto is clearly better offensively. Here is Soto's slash line this season: .272/.406/.450. That makes him one of the best offensive catchers in the NL. And the Cubs need offense. For some reason, Soto has had only 28 plate appearances in the month of June. Come on Lou, play this guy!

Who's Not: I'm a big fan of Starlin Castro and any player who can come up and do decently at the major league level at the age of 20 deserves our respect but he's now on a 3 game strikeout streak and quite frankly, I was hoping his contact rate would be much better than the 85% level it is this year. That's about Theriot's contact rate. I'm sure he'll get better and at this point, it is about the future with him, but I guess I was hoping for more than this.

Conclusion: Today is Father's Day and I love baseball. I get to watch as much as I want today and to be honest, I'm only going to be mildly tuning into this game. I do think that the key to Zambrano today is going to be his walks. He's striking people out this year and I think if he can keep his walks below 2 in this game, he will win. Saunders, OTOH, is probably a month or so away from pitching himself out of the Angels' rotation. The Cubs need to help him along today. He simply isn't fooling anyone. Hopefully the Cubs don't get embarrassed by this guy.

Gamecast (June 19, 2010) Angels @ Cubs

Well everyone. We're not 10 games out yet. I'm just saying. As I write this, the Cubs are already down 4-0. Yesterday's loss against the Angels was another one of the 1 run variety. The Cubs are now 10-16 in 1 run games.Hopefully the Cubs can come back today and try to win this blasted game!

Today's Matchup: Jered Weaver (87.2IP, 3.29ERA, 3.49xFIP) vs Ted Lilly (68.1IP, 2.90ERA, 4.79xFIP)

Who's Hot? Derrek Lee and Tyler Colvin had a pretty good game yesterday. Lee is about to start moving back towards his normal .360 wOBA type numbers. Colvin continues to dumfound me. If Lee is due to move up, I think Colvin is due to regress. I wanted to point this out:

Colvin 2010 (major leagues): .315/.372/.639
Colvin 2009 (Double A): .300/.334/.524

He should be a decent player. Instead he's Albert Pujols lite. I expect that to end fairly soon, especially since Lou has decided he's now a regular.

Who's Not? I was just beginning to think that Jeff Baker was enough better than Aramis Ramirez that he could be at least a part time thirdbaseman even when Rammy got back. And then he goes out and basically gives the Angels a big inning that kept the Cubs comeback from resulting in a win yesterday. Jeez.

Conclusion: Once again, I point out, the Cubs are not quite out of it. They are drawing to the proverbial two outer (to use a poker term that probably is missed by many here) but they aren't quite out of it. Recently I saw the draft order for next year and saw that the Cubs were in the top 10 at number 9 currently! For the most part, they have been better than that in the last decade or so. I don't think they will pick that high but if they continue to get as sick unlucky as they have been. The bright side is we'll see a high draft pick. So watch the game today. Root for a win. Be philisophical if they lose.

Today's lesson for you kids - be nicer to us older Cub fans

I understand many of us who come here frequently have been fans for less than ten years, because you're young.  That's how it is.  You are fans of a team with a Playoff past, and three division titles in the past seven years.  A team that, in your perspective, has been as competitive as the Cardinals and Astros, and way better than the Pirates and Reds.  The Cubs have ALWAYS been a good team, as far as you're concerned.

This year, things aren't working out so well so far.  Yes, our bullpen gacked up some games early on, then Lee and Ramirez stopped hitting, and before your knew it, pretty much everyone except Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin stopped hitting.  Now we look up, it is mid-June, and we are seven games below .500.  But you preach patience, because after all, for the entire history of your following the Cubs, they have been a good team, outside of those couple of years after Dusty Baker died but for some reason nobody saw fit to replace him with somebody else. 

Your Chicago Cubs could make up an 8-game deficit in a couple of weeks, so you aren't worried. 

The Derrek Lee you know will start hitting, now that it is hot.  The Alfonso Soriano you know will snap into one of his patented streaks any minute now and carry us for 10 days or so.  The Aramis Ramirez you know is just...too...good of a player to continue as he has.  The Carlos Zambrano you know has been tinkered and dicked with this year, and once he gets back into the groove, is going to dominate the second half of the year.

You know this because all these guys have done it before, and since we live in a common law nation, we believe in these precedents, that history is an indicator of future performance.  You have faith that all this will happen.

Yes, but I too have precedents.  I have told you what i have seen already: i see several guys who are making 8-figure salaries who are not earning their keep.  i understand that we all have finite lifetimes, as well as finite careers, and based on some consistently poor analysis, we have several guys in key positions who are simultaneously hitting the wall.

Between Soriano (yes, still streaky, but not as strong and flexible at 34 as he was at 27), Zambrano (a power pitcher with diminished power from 8 years of high pitch counts), Lee (older and never truly 'clutch'), Ramirez (either injured, ill or off of the juice), Silva (apparently his deal with Satan was short-term), Fukudome (merely good enough to thrive while the rest of the league rounds into shape in the early spring, but not good enough to keep up the rest of the year), Dempster and Lilly (who were never more than second and third starters)?

None of these guys are tradeable.  You really can't release them.  You can't send them to the minors, except for rehabs.  You say that's a good thing because these are my heroes.  What do I see?  There's the prohibitively expensive core of your team who is on steep decline.  This is what I see.  Now, you wonder, how can I think that?  Why so negative?  These things never happen like this?

Oh, no?  How about after 1989, when we counted on the core of Dawson, Sutcliffe, Bielecki, Walton, Vance Law, Dunston, and yeah, Sandberg?  Or after 1984, when we counted on continued brilliance from Cey, Matthews, Durham, Bowa, Jody Davis?  Not to mention the ENTIRE five man rotation who spent some time on the DL the next year (all five at ONCE for one 8-day stretch), and none of them ever approached their former level of efficiency as starters again. (Of course, one of them gave up the booze and became the greatest closer ever, for Tony LaRussa).

How about the entire 1969 Cubs team, all of which were (effectively) out of baseball by 1974?  They all grew old, at once!  Then, the period between 1969 and 1984, when we brought in one former all-star after another (Joe Pepitone, Rick Monday, Bobby Murcer, Dave Kingman, Bobby Bonds) only to sit and watch them fizzle out, one after the other.  From 1973 to 1984, they NEVER finished above .500.  In 1977, they were 30 games OVER .500 at one point, and they gave it ALL back at the end.  Every single year, there was legitimate hope in the spring, and every single fall, more losses than wins. 

So, if the question was: "When have you ever seen several guys just lose it, ALL at once?  It isn't possible?", your answer is, oh, yes, it can, and it has, here, in Chicago, several times.  This is the precedent I know.  And when I look at the so-called Core of the 2007-2008 teams, this is what I see. 

The people who are the fans of this team prior to this decade have seen the 2010 version of this movie before, and it has never ended well.  Not once.  Could it have a happy ending, this time?  I.....suppose anything's possible.  Please, though, forgive me if I seem skeptical.

Tylver Colvin is cool (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Angels 7)

World Cup is on, so I recommend you watch that. Also, the Cubs played last night, but they lost, so I wouldn't think about it too much.

In a nutshell: Carlos Silva gave up three runs over six innings, and came out after throwing just 70 pitches, forcing Bob Howry to come on in relief, who was bad enough already (allowed a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick), but had his appearance made worse by two Jeff Baker errors (third time a Cub has committed two errors in one inning), and while the Cubs tried to fight back (three-run bomb from Tyler Colvin in the ninth), it wasn't enough.

So that sucks. But anyways, go Cubs.

Gamecast (June 18, 2010) Angels @ Cubs

Believe it or not, the Cubs aren't quite out of it and could use a victory today and hopefully another series win this weekend. I realize how hard that is to comprehend as bad as this team has played this year. I may be alone on this here but I see this team is more mediocre than bad and even though I doubt they are going anywhere this year, I think they have a run or two in them, call me the eternal optimist I guess.

Today's Matchup: Carlos Silva (74.2IP, 2.89ERA, 3.86xFIP) vs Scott Kazmir (66.2IP, 5.27ERA, 5.30xFIP)

Who's Hot: Silva has allowed 3 ER over his last 21 IP. In those 3 games, he has a K/BB rate of 22/3. Who knew this was what we were getting when we dealt Milton Bradley?!? I'd still trade him but OMG, he's been spectacular.

Who's Not: Derek Lee has a triple slash line of .205/.327/.364 in June. Ouch. It's still probably too soon to put a fork in him but the time to implement A.J.'s Colvin starting fulltime at first base is coming soon.

Conclusion: The Cubs have a 2 game winning streak. The 8 out of 10 or 12 out of 15 or so streak has to come soon or they will be giving up the season. I still think they have something like that in them. They need to win today. That much is obvious.

Series Preview: Angels vs. Cubs

Series Preview

The incredibly exciting interleague baseball season continues today, as the California Angels of Los Anaheimgeles head to Wrigley to take on the Cubs.  The Angels are 5 games over .500; the Cubs are 6 games under.  The Angels are a team built on years of superior general managerialship, the Cubs aren't. 

But what they do have in common is this: the Angels have scored 12 fewer runs than they've allowed, while the Cubs have scored 13 fewer runs than theyv'e allowed.  This doesn't make Chicago good, it just means that Anahengelesim (Calosiforniangeleheim?) probably shouldn't be a winning team right now.

Still, the Cubs are 6-8 since the start of June, and this is the part where I really, really man up.

Every year, with every slow start -- and lord knows we see a lot of them, even in the playoff seasons -- I say the same thing: have patience, let's see where they are in two months, don't panic.

Well, folks, it's been two months.  The Cubs are 6 games under .500, Derrek Lee left his talent back in 2009*, Aramis Ramirez has left us yearning for the Vance Law years, and through only some fault of his own Carlos Zambrano is a 2-5 pitcher.  In other words, two months after a slow start with problematic players and troubled fundamentals, the curtain has been pulled back and the Cubs are now revealed to be ... a really, really shitty ballteam.  We're talking 78 wins at best. 

(*.228 AVG, D-Lee?  Really?)

The worst part about it, though, is that some guys have been insanely good.  And there's nothing more disgusting than having unexpected players put up amazing, career years, only for them to be wasted.  Marlon Byrd is batting .328 with 9 homers and a .902 OPS.  Even Lil' Mike Fontenot is batting .293 right now.  Carlos Silva is 8-1 with a .289 ERA.  Carlos Marmol could turn his back to the plate and fire his pitches from between his legs like an NFL center, and he'd still be striking out an assload of players. 

So why, then, why must these great performances be wasted on a team that won't win 80 games?  As much as it hurts me to say this, the clear choice here is that some, if not many of these talents need to be dealt this and next month.  It's time to start looking ahead toward the Next Great Purge.  So, Cub fans, say farewell to Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot, Kosuke Fukudome, the rest while you still can.  Some of these guys will make it to October, but most will be watching the leaves turn colors in a new city.

But I digress.  Onward with the preview!

Friday, June 18 - Carlos Silva (8-1, 2.89 ERA) vs. Scott Kazmir (6-5, 5.27 ERA)
Carlos Silva is on pace to win more games in 2010 than he won from 2007-2009 combined.  Can you imagine what these Cubs would be like if he wasn't pitching for them?  Holy hell!  At the moment, he looks like he's going to toss around 190 innings, walking 34 -- 34!!  that's Maddux territory! -- and striking out 130.  Keep in mind that he has never, ever struck out more than 89 in a season. 

Not to mention he's from the same hometown as me -- Bolivar.  Granted, mine was a Bolivar located in the US.  Still, he and I clearly have a lot in common -- from our wide girths to our obsession with impeccable control, not to mention our shared inability to strike out major league hitters ... yep, Carlos reminds me of me.

Scott Kazmir is a former Ray with recurring arm problems and ungodly talent.  Sounds like he should've been a Cub.  Kaz has only ever thrown 200 innings once in his career, and he has struggled in '10 with pretty much everything -- control, movement, his addiction to viagara, you name it.  Although the Cubs tend to melt like a 12-year-old girl at a Jonas Bros. concert whenever they face a new lefty, they should have a shot.

Saturday, June 19th - Ted Lilly (2-5, 2.90 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (6-3, 3.29 ERA)
Have you seen a picture of Jered Weaver?  No?  Check it out -- the guy's a douchebag.  I don't know if it's his mullet, or the hint of a soulpatch that he wears on his chin, or that "who farted, y'all" expression on his face, but Weaver puts the "douche" in "douchebag."  And yet ... he's 27 years old, has a career 3.67 ERA, won 16 games last year, and is on pace to strike out more than 200 players this season.  The concensus, then, is this: the Cubs need more douchebags like Jered Weaver on their team.

His opponent is the Iceman, Ted Lilly, known also as "the best free agent singing the Cubs have ever had."  When Lilly's not at Celebrity Impersonation Conventions in his Ghost Busters costume, he stays busy by kicking some serious baseball ass.  Yes, I write this despite the fact that he's 2-5 and will be lucky to pitch 5 more games in a Cubs uniform.  But fresh off his failed no-hit bid, if any unlucky Cub can defeat the steaming pile of douchocity that is Jered Weaver, it's Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.

Sunday, June 20th - Carlos Zambrano (2-5, 5.66 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders, 5-7, 4.70 ERA
I wonder if there's an unwritten rule somewhere about how the most talented Cub pitchers must fly too close to the sun at some point in their career.  Zambrano is just the last example of that -- after Kerry Wood 20K'd his arm into oblivion, and Mark Prior made the National League his bitch for a season (right up until his arm said, "oh no no, it is you who are the bitch!"), should we have been surprised by the Big Moose's catastrophic downturn following his no-hitter?

I love the guy.  You know it, I know it, even he knows it.  But at this point, I'm on the cusp of hitting a terminal level on the Frustration Saturation Scale.  Unless Carlos shocks us all and has the best three months of his career -- or even three above average months -- I think I'll be a little too sad and frustrated to want to see him in a Cubs uniform anymore.  It'll just remind me of yet another disappointment.

But, hey -- if Carlos is going to pummel anybody, it's Joe Saunders.  He's the Jan Brady of the Angels staff, a guy of midling talent who can't get it together.  Dude's got 37 walks and 38 strikeouts, for Chrissakes! 

At this point, I think I would rather get caught in a riot at the G20 than watch a Cubs game in person this year.  They are painful.  But if ever they were going to beat a team with a winning record at home, it would be this team, the Angels.  Los Canaheiliforniam have a puff-pastry record, they're tapping two of their worst starters, and the Cubs -- *snicker * -- are more than due. 

So, c'mon, win already!

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All About Kosuke (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Athletics 2)

The Cubs won their series against the Athletics last night behind the bat of Kosuke Fukudome who, after having to wait until the eighth inning for an at-bat, eventually both scored the tying run and later drove in the winning run.

Randy Wells pitched seven pretty decent innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk, while also collecting six strikeouts. And fortunately, it only took him 128 pitches to do so.

(Grumblegrumble... EVERY DAY this team feels more and more like it's being managed by Dusty Baker instead of Lou Piniella... grumblegrumble)

Andrew Cashner was the first guy out of the 'pen to relieve Wells, and he did well in his first inning of work. But a leadoff single advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a groundout, forcing Lou to bring in the Strikeout Machine That Is Carlos Marmol to prevent the Athletics from scoring the go-ahead run.

The plan worked, albeit without anyone striking out against Marmol, and the Cubs had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, which they did, as Geo Soto walked, Castro bunted him over, Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot walked to load the bases, and then Kosuke singled to drive in Soto.

Heads up to the Athletics: you deserve to lose any game in which you walk both Koyie Hill AND Ryan Theriot while the game is tied.

And for today's Young Cub Update: Starlin Castro has a four-game hitting streak going on.

Good times, go Cubs!

Fact: The Cubs can score runs. (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Athletics 2)

Six runs, holy crap. Who knew they could do that?

Derrek Lee got the night going with an early solo shot. His OPS for the season is just over .700 at this point, and his batting average is still pretty low at .230, so hopefully this is the first of many subsequent multi-hit outings from him that include some power.

Several other Cubs reached base multiple times last night, including: Xavier Nady (2-for-3, R), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-2, BB, R, 2 RBI), and Geovany Soto (doubled and walked). Starlin Castro reached three times, with a single and two walks.

Castro drove in two runs last night, giving him 16 RBI for the season. That ties him with Soto and The Great Ryan Theriot, the only position player in last night's game who failed to reach base.

Tyler Colvin doubled in his lone at-bat, raising his OPS to .987. And on the pitching side, Ryan Dempster was solid, yielding two runs over 6.2 innings and getting the win. He collected seven strikeouts, but also gave up eight hits.

With the box score-driven narration out of the way, I'll issue my verdict on a couple of last night's more notable plays before asking for your opinions in the comments section:

1) Geo Soto sent home on Castro's 2nd inning single.

I liked the call here. It ended up being a close play, and if their left fielder hadn't made a perfect throw, it'd have been another run. If Soto holds at third, you have the pitcher coming up with one out -- as in, probably won't bring him home -- followed by Ryan Theriot, who we all know sucks. So yeah, give me the close play over counting on Riot to drive a run in with two outs.

2) Alfonso Soriano bunts Nady and Lee to 2nd and 3rd with no outs.

I'm having trouble deciding whether I like this play or not, but I do know at least one thing, which is that I don't like it as much as the fans at Wrigley appeared to last night. Soriano got a standing ovation for this play, and he should get some credit for being creative, but the guy is one of our best hitters. I don't necessarily hate the decision, but I think I'd rather see him swing away there.

3) Alfonso Soriano makes the third out at third base, attempting to stretch out a double.

This is silly. Soriano would likely have scored from second on a single, since there were two outs in the inning and he would have been running on contact. But the guy did knock in the 5th and 6th runs with this play, so it's hard to complain.

Alright, everyone else: Thoughts on the game?

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