Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Reader Blog: Week ten awards: The fat lady has cleared her throat

Well, at least one of the Chicago baseball teams got back on track this weekend.

Wait, that doesn't provide me any solace--I hate the Sox! Leave it to the Cubs to get the struggling South siders rolling again. Mark Buehrle's been struggling, hasn't gone more than 5.1 in his last three starts? No problem! A.J. Pierzynski can't hit the broad side of a barn? Take a crack at the Cubs' staff! Gavin Floyd has the worst ERA in the majors? No worries--how does a no-hitter through 6.2 sound?

After a 3-4 week in which the Cubs sank to a season-low eight games under .500, they're 7.5 back of the Reds after getting a game back with yesterday's exciting win. The Sox are the same number back of the Twins and have Detroit to chase down as well, so it's safe to say Chicago baseball isn't as good as, say, Chicago hockey.

After Lou's tirade against Steve Stone, it looks like he may have finally glanced at the stat sheet. He said yesterday that Colvin "is going to play a lot more than he has been" even though the same suggestion from Stone elicited a tirade in which he said "What job has [Stone] had in baseball besides talking on television or radio? What has he done? ... I'm tired of these guys, I really am." 

But the fact is, though Colvin went 0-for-3 yesterday, all he's done the last 15 times Lou started him is go 19-for-48 (.396). And one of Lou's "five major league outfielders" is hitting .185 in June after hitting .253 in May. This slump was as predictable as the sunrise since it has happened all three years he's been a Cub. I'm talking, of course, about Kosuke Fukudome. Both Colvin and Fukudome are left-handed and, conveniently, one of them sucks and one of them is good along with being an important piece of the team's future. So apparently Lou is able to take suggestions, just not without yelling at the person first.

Although, I'll believe it when I see it since Lou also said on June 5 that Colvin would "be in the lineup most of the time," and he then sat four straight games June 9-12. Lou's change of heart back on the 5th, you'll recall, was after a reporter asked about Colvin's playing time and he snapped at him, too. Sigh.

Ryno of the Week: Obviously Ted Lilly, who would have been 2-0 were it not for Marmol's blown save in Milwaukee. He threw 16 innings and allowed just one run on five hits and one walk. He also struck out 11 and thrilled a wet crowd at Wrigley by taking a no-hitter into the ninth (more on that tomorrow). Ex-Cub Juan Pierre kept him out of the history books but it was still a fantastic week for Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.

Marlon Byrd gets a special mention after a ridiculous 13-for-26 week that included two home runs and five RBI. He's batting .333 on the season.

Honorable mentions: Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker

Goat of the Week: Though he doubled and scored the only run yesterday, Alfonso Soriano was still just 2-for-20 last week. He's in one of those funks where he's swinging at just about everything, and he's now batting .111 in June.

I have to say, it was almost as if James Russell was trying to win this fake award. In two appearances he went 1+ innings and allowed five earned runs on seven hits, good for a 45.00 ERA. He was summarily sent to Triple-A Iowa.

Dishonorable mentions: Derrek Lee, Kosuke Fukudome

Regarding the No-No (Game Recap: Cubs 1, White Sox 0)

After Armando Galarraga was robbed of his shot at a perfect game, many fans argued over whether or not Bud Selig should step in and overturn Jim Joyce's clearly incorrect call.

I had a conversation about that very subject with a very close friend of mine, a fellow baseball enthusiast who has studied the game since his early childhood. It didn't take long for us to realize that we agreed wholeheartedly on the matter: Selig should not overturn the call.

There's a reason perfect games and, to a lesser extent, no-hitters are such an epic accomplishment -- they're really hard to pull off. You've got to overcome every variable in the game, both those that are under your control, and those that are not.

Ted Lilly came within three outs of a no-hitter last night. Heck, Gavin Floyd was right there through six innings, too. But after Floyd faltered, Lilly managed to keep his bid going, all the way up until the top of the ninth inning.

And that's when the rain started to really come down. Kudos to MLB and ESPN for skipping that commercial break between the eighth and ninth innings. And kudos to the umpires for keeping the teams on the field.

If only God could have gotten in on the act, too.

Would Lilly's pitch selection against Juan Pierre have changed had the heavens not threatened to pull the plug on his no-hit bid? Almost certainly, yes. But that's what makes the no-hitter so special.

Bravo to you, Ted, for giving it your best shot. It was really fun to watch.

Reader Blog: Why is Theriot leading off?

Generally speaking, I don't blame Lou for the debacle that this season has turned into. When your two best hitters have combined for -.8 WAR midway through June, there isn't much you as a manager can do to improve the situation. That said, I have a nit to pick with the skipper. Why is frat boy favorite Ryan Theriot still leading off? By almost every measure available, Theriot is having an awful season at the plate. His sub par .326 on base percentage and complete lack of power have left Theriot with a weighted on-base percentage (wOBA) of .300. By contrast, hated ex-leadoff man Alfonso Soriano has a respectable .346 on base percentage and his wOBA is a robust .386.

Other regulars/semi regulars who would serve as better leadoff men than Theriot: Derrek Lee (.314 wOBA), Marlon Byrd (.403 wOBA), Geovany Soto (.387 wOBA), Tyler Colvin (.411 wOBA), Kosuke Fukudome (.360 wOBA), Mike Fontenot (.342 wOBA).You get the point. Theriot's empty batting average and gutty scrappitude have kept him at the top of the Cubs lineup for far too long. Piniella would immediately make this team better if he moved Theriot into the 7 or 8 slot in the lineup and gave those extra at bats to one of the better hitters on this team.

(For a detailed description of wOBA and why it's one of the best measures of total offensive contributions, click here: http://saberlibrary.com/offense/woba/.)

Gamecast (June 13, 2010) White Sox @ Cubs

Well, we're here. Not even I can say the Cubs have any kind of a shot anymore. I mean, I wouldn't say they are completely out of it but they are on the precipise. 8 games under .500 and 8.5 games out. Even if they aren't quite that bad, that is their record and that is where they are as they get ready to try to avoid the sweep of the Chicago White Sox today. I think the things we need to watch for are for the future and not for today. I enjoy baseball so I will continue to enjoy this season but it's fairly obvious this group of Cubs players are pretty much at an end.

Who's Hot: Rumours of potential trades and looking forward to 2011 and beyond. Marlon Byrd has hit .536 in the last week and is starting to look like a potential all star. It's surprising but the Cubs seem to have up to 3 all stars on this team. Byrd is second in the NL in batting average and I keep wondering when his crappy walk rate is going to hurt the Cubs. It hasn't yet.

Who's Not: Kosuke Fukudome is down to a slash line of .276/.370/.453 for the season and has pretty much stopped hitting since the calender turned to May. I think he needs to turn into a quasi part time player and we need to get Colvin up to 5 to 6 starts a week at Fuku expense. Fukudome isn't a bad player. He isn't even a bad regular but the Cubs can't afford to keep sitting Colvin and playing Fuku every day.

Conclusion: Ted Lilly is pitching today and his number of starts for the Cubs is likely to be lessoning. As you see him pitch, realize his time in a Cub uniform is coming to an end and remember how awesome he has been for us the last four years. Let's win this game on ESPN, enjoy the off day and get ready for Jake Fox and the A's.

The Tyler Colvin Thread

Salaries, ages, and potential upside notwithstanding, Tyler Colvin has earned a starting spot in right field against right-handed pitching this season.

This will be the third year in a row that Kosuke Fukudome will be forced to acknowledge his monthly splits if he ever decides to read anything written about his performance so far this season. Allow me to provide those numbers (avg/obp/slg, obvs):

April: .344/.443/.641
May: .253/.348/.367
June (albeit thru 27 ABs): .185/.241/.259

And Colvin's performance:

April: .289/.365/.600
May: .333/.367/.667
June: .304/.360/.522

Of course, I know about .0001% as much as Lou Piniella when it comes to baseball. But Kosuke sure seems to be a known quantity, doesn't he? At least Tyler might have more power.

I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to explain how much better your ideas for the team are than everyone else's.

The Cubs have lost a couple (Game Recaps, etc)

Not even Carlos Silva could stop the Cubs' most recent slide.

He certainly tried his best, and pitched well enough to win for most teams: seven innings, six strikeouts, and just two runs allowed. Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol each contributed a scoreless inning of relief to the Cubs' pitching effort, as well.

But Mark Buehrle and the White Sox were better. And now, in two games, the Cubs have lost a 10-5 shootout and a 2-1 pitcher's duel.

Strange that the Cubs were only able to score one run in their more recent loss when the leadoff man went 3-for-5 and their cleanup hitter was 3-for-4 -- except, not really strange at all, because this is the Cubs we're talking about.

Speaking of which: this is what Rob and I are talking about when we don't buy your optimistic analyses, Sayers. Of course, I encourage you to continue carrying the banner for us all, and I appreciate your enthusiasm, I truly do. But with Derrek Lee going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, Alfonso Soriano posting the same line, and Chad Tracy striking out in both of his at-bats, where do you see the unlucky break for the Cubs? It's one thing to aggregate stats and say the 10% should really be a 40%, but I see nothing on the field of play to suggest the Cubs are suffering from just some bad breaks.

And now the Cubs are eight games back from .500. We're about to be enter "Root for one player" mode, where instead of getting pissed off every other day about another stoopid loss, you pick your favorite guy and track his stats independently.

Game on ESPN tonight. Can we prevent the sweep?

Gamecast (June 12, 2010) White Sox @ Cubs

This is a Fox game and thus I will not see it. Maybe that is for the best after yesterday's debacle.

The season's slipping away and once again, Carlos Silva is called upon to keep us barely relevant. So here goes:

Who's Hot: Carlos Silva is 8-0. I don't believe single season records tell us much so let's look at some other things. Silva has a 2.93 ERA which is 16th in the NL. He has a 3.80 xFIP which is tied for 12th in the NL. He has a K/BB ratio of 3.92 which is 3rd in the NL. He is behind only Roy Halladay with 1.6 BB/9. He is pitching great and is likely to make the All Star team.

Who's Not: The Cubs have been putrid on offense this month. Starlin Castro has "led" the way with a .161 batting average with only 1 extra base hit (a double) and 2 unintentional walks for the month. I think the kid needs a couple of days off.

Conclusion: Cubs stink. Carlos Silva doesn't. I expect to win this game. Which probably means we won't.

Series Preview: Cubs vs White Sox

Series Preview
Here it is. The Crosstown classic. Yippee. Personally, I haven't always harbored the anti-White Sox feelings that so many have here so this is basically just another series for me.

Game 1: Randy Wells vs Jake Peavy

Wells needs to get back on track but he's been generally very good this year so I am not worried. Peavy has been seriously inconsistent and usually on the bad side. He, of course, was rumoured to be coming to our side of town for several decades (I mean months) before last year. Let's hope Wells can keep the White Sox in check and the Cubs bats can come to life against their "almost" pitcher.

Game 2: Carlos Silva vs Mark Buehrle

The Silva train continues! Even before Silva's resurgence, Buerhrle's inability to strike hitters out would have made this an interesting game. Buerhle's ERA since his perfect game last year is in the high 5's. I wonder if this wouldn't be a good day to try Colvin vs a lefty.

Game 3: Gavin Floyd vs Ted Lilly

Floyd has a very ugly ERA. Lilly is pitching (IMO) to get the Cubs a couple of decent prospects. Floyd is really much better than his ERA shows and has a huge BABIP that is out of whack. His peripherals suggest that he is almost the same pitcher he has been since going over to the White Sox. Often when pitchers like that finally "figure it out", it's against the Cubs. Sigh...

Series Previews sponsored by MLB playoff ticket broker CTC Tickets, where you can find discount Chicago Cubs baseball tickets 

Friday Update (June 11, 2010)

It's time for Rob's favorite post! The Friday update. This is where I try to figure out how good the Cubs really are (or aren't) relative to their actual record. Let me try to point out what this post is about.

Teams have won/loss records. Sometimes those won/loss records are perfectly indicative of how the team has really performed on the field. Sometimes, a team is better than their won/loss record (and should win more games). Sometimes they are worse (and should lose some games). This also affects the number of runs a team scores.

Usually the problem is hitting better or worse with runners in scoring position. All stastical analysis shows this is not a "skill" per se. A good hitter is a good hitter and a bad hitter is a bad hitter. A good hitter will, ultimately, hit better than a bad hitter with runners in scoring position. However, for long swaths of time, a bad hitter (or a bad team) could just get more timely hits (or prevent more timely hits on the pitching/defense side) which will result in a team scoring or preventing a run total different than their actual skill level. There are other things that influence this also. Next week, if I can, I'll deal with the pythagorean theory of looking at a team's record so that my buddy Rob can learn to speak greek as well as Limey English </sarc>

So without further ado. Here is where the Cubs stand:

Currently the Cubs are 27-33. That is 6 gmaes under .500 and 7.5 games out of first place. This means, without looking at any other statistic, they are probably not going to make the playoffs but also aren't quite "out of it". I believe the magic number for "out of it" is 10. 10 games back. 10 games under .500. If that's what's happening, they would be out of the race.

They are averaging 4.3 runs per game scored and 4.4 runs per game allowed. That leads to a pythagorean record of 29-31.

On offense, they have scored 255 runs which would make them 12th in the NL in runs scored. They have a pretty crappy offense but they should have scored closer to 269 runs. That's a 14 run difference. That accounts for about 3 wins. We'll give them 2 to be less generous. This is a league average offense that has been unlucky. Because they are mediocre to begin with, the lack of luck makes them look like a train wreck. The 2 extra wins on offense puts them at 31-29.

On Pitching and Defense they have allowed pretty much what should be expected. They are currently tied for third in the NL in xFIP (an advanced metric that looks at pitching independent of fielding and luck) but they are actually 9th in the league in runs allowed. I'm not giving them a pass on this because the defense does actually stink at the team's ERA is now lower than their xFIP. That having been said, there's no logical reason why the Cardinals should have 27 fewer runs allowed than the Cubs. Still, that is the case. I think the Cubs will eventually move off of 9th in the NL in this category but I can't back that up too much now so I won't try.

So the Cubs are basically a 31-29 team with a current record of 27-33. If they actually play 31-29 baseball the rest of the way, they will end up with a record at the end of the season of 80-82. I think it'll be a smidge better than that. But right now, that's where they are at.

If there are five stages of Grief, how many stages are there for the 2010 Cubs

Maybe it is spillover from the Blackhawks, or maybe its just that we are pretty deep in the calendar.  But it appears that whatever little civility left in this year's version of the Cubs has died, and the cracks in the psychic foundation are now becoming more noticeable.

We have heard all year from the beat reporters, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, that the Cubs clubhouse is a good clubhouse, that this bunch likes playing together, likes being together, want to pull for one another.  Why would they say it if it weren't true, and if it is true, then no matter how poorly we played the first 10 weeks of this season, perhaps there is hope that a good bunch of guys looking out for one another may still yet pull it together?

I mean, there is absolutely NO logical reason why they should be able to just turn things around, but then again, there are few reasons why every member of this team, save the new guys, Byrd, Marmol and Silva, have utterly underproduced so far this year.  Every single one.  So if two "absolutely NO"s cancel one another out, and if it is true that there is team unity, and since we're less than 7 games behind the Evil Satanic Red Fowl, there may as well be hope.  I mean, provided someone out of the 25 steps up and leads this dispirited rabble.

Couple of things popped up yesterday, though, that frankly, I totally believe and utterly quenches any small flames of hope you might have for this year.

Don't know how many of you read Bleed Cubbie Blue yesterday?  One of Al's longtime guys posted that contrary to the assertions of Sully and Miles, the Cubs clubhouse is not a good one, that there isn't any sort of cohesion, and in fact Z and Ramirez have kind of withdrawn from the rest of the team, and nobody is really missing them much.  Wellll, then that led to a whole huge controversy about whether this was the smoking gun that leads to the firing of manager Lou, and Bruce Miles actually got on there to assert that the manager has nothing to do with the clubhouse, etc, then there was the questioning of Grown Ass Men, and last I heard, it degenerated to a discussion about whether the iTouch 4 was better than the Droid.

(To hell with you kids and your non-existent attention spans.  Don't you know that big men with big dreams and long attention spans built this gatdam country?  Get your mangy ass off my lawn...)

Bruce may be right in some respects.  It is not a MLB manager's job to conduct mediated sessions to nurture team building.  Baseball is not like the other three big team sports in this country, there is the concept of a player having a role and living up to certain responsibilities in their role, but individual effort counts for more in baseball.  In other sports, you need an assist from your teammates to score, or to shut the other team out.  In baseball, you can hit homers, or strike out a bunch of batters.

Miles noted that Lou sits in his office, making out lineups, studying notes, and does not come out to chitchat with his players.  He notes his is typical manager behavior, and thus he is not responsible for team unity, even if Z and Ramirez are sitting in the corner pouting.  Fair enough.

The point is, however, that both players have struggled this year, and none of their teammates have stepped up to publicly support them.  Teammates HAVE stepped up in the past to support Lee, Soriano, and Dempster, for example, when they had their struggles.  Silence is telling in this matter.

There have been other recent assertions in the press and elsewhere, about Randy Wells's "preparation", an euphenism for "nightlife".  He may have Maddux-esque control when he is on, but obviously does not have Maddux's mental strength.  Lou himself seemed to have quite the red ass last week about The Riot, when he benched him for his lack of plate discipline.  Although the Riot does deserve it, I found it peculiar that Ryan was singled out on a team where nobody AT ALL hit in May.  The Riot, as worthless as he was, was no worse in May than, say, Fukudome?  Why was he singled out?

Most recently, after yesterday's comical 10th inning in Milwaukee, one of the Cubs finally stepped up and criticized his teammates for not thinking, for being nonchalant, for not appreciating the effort it takes to win.  YAY? 

I mean, I myself have been clamoring for someone to speak out since the 2008 NLDS, and finally someone has?  Too bad it's the good mitt, no hitt three-fingered wonder himself, back-up catcher Koyie Hill.  Should I take what I can get?  I don't know.  I'm not sure I would accept it from a lifetime .218 hitter.  Hill can say what he wants, and what he says is 100% accurate.  I just do not believe it will have much impact, as it would if it were coming from someone who was actually, you know, good?

The only hope any of us have for this year is for all 25 highly paid, lowly motivated slacker-ass mopes to look in the mirror and recommit themselves to putting in the effort and fullfilling the responsibilities that got them where they are in the first place.  Is that gonna happen?  Why should it?  In this culture, we take our cues from above, and what's up there?  

Just some old, tired guy, who may or may not be charged with motivating his 25 grown-assed millionaires to earn their keep, but he might want to try shaving once in a while, walking faster than a teetering wobble, and acting like he gave a rat's ass.

UPDATE: just as I was finishing this up, Lou decides Steve Stone is his whipping boy.  Well, well...as we all know, that's definitely one Stage of Cubness, to take your misplaced anger out on Steve Stone.  Two years passed between the time that the Dustbag ran Stone out of the booth and the time he himself left town.

I hope it doesn't take Lou two whole years to leave. 

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