Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Gamecast (August 22, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

Despite the muttering and anger that many of us have experienced in the last two years, I am happy we had Lou Piniella at the helm for the last 3+ years. He is calling it quits today. I, for one, am happy he was here and I think he is leaving at the perfect time. More on Lou's Cub legacy in the offseason.

Tomorrow begins the Mike Quade era, I guess. I am surprised that Alan Trammell isn't taking over as the manager. The apparent dissing of Trammell means it's unlikely he will be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. I believe this means Ryne Sandberg is very likely to be the man next year. I know other writers on this site have bemoned the possibility but I, for one, believe that Ryno is the only guy for the job. I welcome his ascension to the job of Cub's manager.

This is a gamecast and the time to discuss legacy is the offseason so here is today's matchup:

Today's Matchup: Mike Minor (12IP, 3.75ERA, 4.25 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (148IP, 4.44ERA, 3.97 xFIP)

The awesomeness of the Cubs' pitching in the first half has faded greatly in the second half and with it the team's chances have gone right down the toilet that they were lodged pretty deep within anyway. Ah well, anyway, Wells has been generally decent. I think a lot of what I wrote about Tom Gorzelanny yesterday applies to Wells. Wells should be back next year and isn't even close to getting expensive. He has been generally effective this year and has an upside as an above average #3 starter or passable #2. Given how little he's being paid, that's an important member of the team.

As for Minor, he's drawing comparisons to a young Barry Zito. I'm not completely convinced in his eventual greatness but I am impressed at how quick he rolled through the Braves' minor league system when he was supposed to be a signability pick. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch.

Who's Hot: His batting average has been dropping but Starlin Castro has drawn 3 walks this week. Who'd thunk? His batting average is down to .309 and he is up to 373 plate appearances so it's just a matter of time before he shows up on the top 10 list at ESPN in batting average. Personally, I think he is the key to the Cubs' future.

Who's Not: Hey, the Cubs won a game yesterday! Of course they did it despite the pitching of Andrew Cashner. I am very impressed with Cashner's stuff and I don't think the Cubs have anything to lose by just running him out there day after day. It is interesting to me that so far Cashner has gotten a pass that the Cubs didn't give the Shark. This is despite the fact that their numbers are very similar. I think this is a sign that the Cubs are higher on Cashner. If he can figure out how to pitch this offseason, the Cubs could have a rather awesome bullpen next year. This should be a project for Larry Rothschild (assuming he's coming back).

Conclusion: Even if the Cubs are out of it, it'd be nice if teams didn't look at them as a gimmee on the schedule. The Cubs need to win today to send Lou off on a happy note. They need to beat a rookier lefty for once. Let's go Cubs!

Gamecast (August 21, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

There are some great stories happening these year. The Cubs, as a team, aren't one of them. Sigh. Yesterday's lost must have sucked, I was already at work when it all went down. Ryan Dempster (who should absolutely, positively not be traded!) pitched great again; but Marmol had a rare bad outing and the Cubs ended up losing.

In next year's draft, the Cubs are currently looking at the fifth pick in the draft. I doubt they end up there but I do think it's going to be interesting whom the Cubs draft next year. They have an extremely high pick. I don't want to see the Cubs keep losing but if they do, there are multiple silver linings.

Today's Matchup: Tommy Hanson (148 IP, 3.41 ERA, 4.02 xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (112.1 IP, 3.85 ERA, 4.36 xFIP)

As if we needed more reason to trust xFIP, I present Tommy Hanson. Hanson has had a 4.03 xFIP in 2009 and has a 4.02 xFIP this year. For those who look at traditional stats, it may appear as though Hanson has regressed this year but his peripheral stats just don't agree. He is a solid pitcher who probably will see his K rate go up a tick in the future and see his ERA drop to the 3.00 level.

As for Gorz, his problem has been walks along with a K rate that has been moving in the wrong direction. It has resulted in a rising xFIP and poor performance in the second half. I consider Gorz to be a fair #3 starter and a good #4 starter. This is especially so because he costs next to nothing to the Cubs. Once he starts making real money, I think his time with the team may become shortened. I like him. There's something happy about his constantly red face but I have to admit he's not a difference maker.

Starlin Watch: Starlin now has 369 PA on the season and would need 381 PA to qualify for the batting title. He's getting there and should be able to qualify by the time we make it to September. His batting average has dipped of late, he's now hitting just .309 and for some reason, his WAR has suddenly dropped at Fangraphs. I happen to believe Starlin is a very good defender but for some reason, UZR suddenly disagrees.

Joey Votto is leading the NL in batting average at .320 so if Castro gets hot again, he could challenge that.

Who's Not: I don't think this is relevant anymore. The Cubs need to just play as hard as they can and see what happens.

I won't be able to watch the game today thanks to Fox but Go Cubs anyway!

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Braves

Note: this was actually published yesterday on time, but for some reason it didn't appear in the appropriate spot on the page...

I'm not sure what's worse -- the fact that the Cubs are now on pace to lose 96 games, or the reality that there are several crappier teams out there.  I mean, as bad as 72 losses are, the Mariners have 73, Diamond-Backs have 75, the Orioles have 79, and the Pirates are rocking 81 L's.  What's the point of sucking if your team can't even squander a #1, 2, or 3 draft pick the following June?

Of course, we now have Doom and Gloomers saying ridiculous things like, "this is worse than '06, because we don't have an '07 to look forward to," as if any of them were predicting '07 after '06, or know something we don't. 

The reality is, we have no idea about what's going to happen in 2011.  And Rob, before you chime in to join the D&G cult proclaiming '11 to be a lost cause, man up and admit you never saw 1989, 1998, 2001, 2003, or 2007 coming.  Those were all years that the Cubs competed, hot on the heels of mediocre seasons.  In this free agency-saturated market, even for a overspent team like the Cubs, anything's possible.

Well, not "anything."  Beating the Braves -- probably not so possible.  Maybe not impossible either, but definitely "not bloody likely."  Let's take a gander.

Friday, August 20th - Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 3.92 ERA)
Dempster, whose nickname should be "Trade Bait" (altho' I kept typoing it as "Traid Bate") is the best pitcher on the Cubs.  On a good team, he might be a 20 game winner.  In six fewer starts, he's already won as many games as last year, walked as many batters, and given up as many homeruns.  I guess that's a weird mix.  Regardless, he's made it work for himself.

Jurrjens, meanwhile, has a ridiculous name and is injury-prone enough to be a Cub.  Maybe Atlanta and Chicago will orchestrate a swap.

Saturday, August 21st - Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 3.85 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.47 ERA)
Where have you gone, Ted Lilly, Cub nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Not that Gorzo is so bad a pitcher.  But he's exactly the kind of Kevin Foster-like guy you'd expect on a team bound to lose 90+ games.  He's probably got six starts to go -- so he just might win 10, but on this team, he's just as likely to lose 10 games.

I've got nothing to say about Tommy Hanson, though, except that he is 23, won 11 games as a rookie last year, and he may be gassed out as he's already thrown more innings this season than perhaps ever in his career.  (I just made that up, but it's probably close to the truth.)

Sunday, August 22nd - Randy Wells (5-11, 4.44 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (1-0, 3.75 ERA)
Well well well.  Looks like Minor made the Majors.  Haw!  I bet I'm the first person to think of THAT clever joke!  /sarcasm

Wells did a decent job in his last outing.  The only problem -- he pitches for the Cubs, where offense is about as rare as authentic super models. 

Shoutulation (y'know, like speculation?) is that the Cubs could lose 100 games.  I doubt that.  Losing 100 is a pretty tough thing to do -- maybe even harder than winning 100.  Don't believe me?  Think of all the crappy, awful, horrible, heart-breaking Cub teams you've experienced in your life time. 

None of them lost 100 games.  And many of them were worse than this band of jabrones.

Sponsored by Coast to Coast Tickets, where you can find tickets to Cubs baseball games as well as White Sox tickets and more!

Game Recap: Cubs 3, Braves 2 -- Finally, the Cubs wi-wha'? 3 run 9th? SHI-

Just when you thought it was safe to wear your Cubs jersey...

The Cubs combined yesterday for 10 hits, including doubles from Fukudome and Aramis, who also hit a homer.  But despite that, and regardless of Ryan Dempster's 8 innings of pitching dominance -- where he held the Braves to 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs -- Carlos Marmol managed to come in and squander the lead for his 5th blown save.

In fact, he posted quite an interesting line.  1 IP, 1 hit, 3 SO, 3 BB, 3 ER.  Fantastic.  Thus, just like that, the Cubs managed to double the hits of their opponents and still lose by 2 runs.

That's just so ...  Cub.  Especially in this, the year of epic losses. 

That is all.  More after today's game.

Gamecast (August 20, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

Derrek Lee, Bobby Cox, Braves, Ryan Dempster.... Blah.....

Starlin Castro is hitting .312 now which is little back of the league lead. He's not quite qualified for the batting title. That's the only thing I care about right now except some of the other Cubs who are my fantasy team. Just in case you're wondering, that'd be the following players:

Marlon Byrd
Ryan Dempster
Starlin Castro
Aramis Ramirez
Carlos Zambrano

Believe it or not, I'm in first place. What a country! Go Dempster, pitch a no hitter!

Game & Series Recap: Padres 5, Cubs 3 -- the wrong side of a sweep

As promised.

Tom Ricketts should know that his grace period ends the day he officially retains Jim Hendry.

I realize that I'm not a baseball genius.  Never claimed to be one, I'm just a fan with a pulpit.  (And even that isn't so big a deal, anybody can have a blog with a silly name.)  But I guarantee you that, if you gave me the Baltimore Orioles and a 150 million budget for 2011, I could turn them into an incredibly competitive team.  I wouldn't need to revise my front office, I could hire a the World Cup Octopus to be my manager, I wouldn't need a single prospect to actually develop into a talented major leaguer ... I'd just need a modestly strong free agent market to throw my money at.

That's basically what Jim Hendry did to save his ass before the start of the 2007 season.  At the time, we all knew that today was coming.  Sooner or later, his expensive players would bust -- you can't sign guys on the wrong side of 30 to multi year deals without expecting it to happen.  We knew that Soriano would become an albatross, that Fukudome was probably going to be a disappointment, that no starting pitcher in the history of baseball has ever signed a contract as big as Zambrano's and stayed healthy/successful for the duration, and then some. 

We knew all that, and yet here we are, furious at a mediocre-at-best 2010 season, watching the Cubs get swept at home in a four game series (something that probably almost never happens) to the Padres.

Blame the shoddy bullpen for this one.  Sean Marshall managed to go a third of an inning, squandering the lead Carlos gave him.  He surrendered 4 earned runs off of 4 hits and a walk, and that was all she wrote.  The Cubs, who collected 7 hits and 3 runs, could have kept their offense home for the day.  (They pretty much did, anyway.) 

The old Carlos would've met Marshall in the tunnel and beaten the crap out of him.  Somehow, that's no worse than what actually happened.

Anyway, this crappy series has ended and now the Cubs face another playoff caliber team -- the Braves.  Derrek Lee returns to Wrigley Field, yadda yadda.  I'll have the Series Preview up in a few minutes.

This belongs in the Shout Box

But, I can do what I want.

What in the FUCK is X Nady doing out at first base???

Playing Colvin there is a better idea.  Playing Ramirez there is a better idea.  Playing freakin Soriano there is a better idea!  Playing dopesmoker Soto there is a better idea than wasting the reps and at bats on a never-was has been with two elbow surgeries who hasn't hit dick, never was an impact major leaguer, and if Jim Hendry has even a shred of ability as a General Manager, should flip him in a trade with an AL team this winter.

This is de facto evidence that Piniella stopped giving a fuck.  I remember when he was a good manager and a smart man, not a fat sloppy drunk who gives reacharounds to his coaches while the game goes on.

Oh, yeah.  Put goddamn Three Finger Hill out of his misery, too.  He could not suck more if his name was Gabor Bako.

AJ says:

I can only see one reason for playing Nady at first, and it's the same reason Kosuke has been leading off a lot lately: giving other teams a chance to scout, coaxing them into taking these guys off our hands rather than paying them the minimum after we release them.

Then again, if no one's yet bitten, why should we expect anyone to come around now?

As for Koyie Hill -- and Jeff Baker too, I think -- there's no reason to keep them on the field and prevent younger players from getting major league experience. Cut Hill and get Wellington Castillo some starts, and call up Marquez Smith or Bryan LaHair or someone instead of putting in Jeff Baker.

If we're gonna lose 30 of our next 40, let's at least do it in style.

Game Recap: Padres 5, Cubs 1 -- Waily, waily!

Just when you thought I forgot...

So, where to start.  The good: uh, I'll get back to this one.

The bad: Casey Coleman, 4.1 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 3 earned runs.

The ugly: Team LOB - 8; with 18 total scoring opportunities undelivered upon.  This.  Is.  CHICAGO!

Not much else to say about this game -- the Cubs gave us nothing to be excited about.  Apologies, then, for he length of this short and depressing game recap -- the one after today's game will be MUCH longer (by maybe as many as five whole words!).

2011 Spring Training - week 2

I have had several discussions thus far about whether 2010 is more hopeless than 2006, or 2002, or 1999, or several other perceived low-water marks in recent Cubs history.  Ivy Chat Chuck, for example, thinks 2006 was worse than now.  I do recall the Last Days of Dusty to be damn bleak.  But Sam Zell bought the Tribune and handed Hendry a loaded checkbook, and there should have been a World Series, except Hendry bought the wrong players and, in retrospect, the wrong manager for the job.

Of course, in August of 2006, we knew of none of this.  Now?  I don't practice santeria, I got no crystal ball, but I do know Ricketts is not going to give any loaded checkbooks to anyone this winter, so forget about the fantasy that we are going to find the World's Best GM who will bring in the World's Best Players to get us over the World's Biggest Slump.

Here are some things we do know: all through his tenure, Hendry has drafted pitchers, early and often.  Going into this season, some of these draft picks were highly regarded by the national scouts, in fact, several of these guys were regarded as close-to-ready.  The first half of this year, our minor league teams did very well, anchored by our decent pitching on every rung of the ladder. Many made all-star teams.  Many of these guys (12, in fact) have had a chance to pitch for the Cubs this summer.

And every last one of them sucked.

Hendry's response has been typical and predictable: except for the straight Theriot-for-DeWitt trade, all his moves have been to bring in more pitching.  And, well, there have been several discussions here and elsewhere over the years that trying to fix bullpens by spending money on experienced relievers is risky, a 50-50 proposition at best, so there is a certain wisdom to stockpile an army of arms, and even if a small percentage of them work out ok, it will be sufficient.  If you have twenty guys in the minors who are callup candidates and only 20% of them work out, well, that's the four guys that aren't named Marmol, Marshall or Grabow that will pitch in Wrigley in 2011.

Do I agree with that philosophy, personally?  Not in the least.  The Chicago Cubs, for as money as they wring out of us, the fanbase, should never, ever have to consider salary as a limitation.  Do I think we should be the highest paying team in the NL?  Damn right!  Just wish we'd spent that money more wisely...But, I will admit we've spent money on relievers over the years (Grabow, Howry, Remlinger come immediately to mind) without much luck, so I am not going to barbecue Hendry for his scheme. 

What I will ask him to consider, though, is to truly do the due diligence and find out why EVERY LAST ONE of the guys we've called up this year have failed.  They pitched well in Iowa, Tennessee, and they come up here and forget how to throw strikes.  Why is that?  Assuming the manager has little to do with how a guy pitches, can we look at the pitching coach and the bullpen coach this winter?  Obviously, these guys are either not executing a plan, or they have no plan to begin with. 

If the Cubs are going with the young arms option, which is their prerogative, then it is absolutely vital that the Cubs pitching coach be able to communicate with young pitchers, impart a plan of action for them, and adjust the plan accordingly.  Larry Rothschild and Lester Strode have failed to do this in 2010.  They need to go, and someone smarter needs to replace them.

Fire the damn bullpen catchers, too.  Obviously, they ain't catching right, either.

Game Recap: Padres 1, Cubs 0 -- Lee to be traded?

Zzzz.  Cubs, Padres.  Zzzzz shutout.  Zzzznother loss.  Zz--wha'?  Derrek Lee might get traded?!

That's the rumor this morning, anyway.  It's sort of a nice deflection from the dead-to-the-ears-up ball team we are currently stuck following.  The Cubs last last night after allowing only 1 run, in the 1st off of a ground-out.  They then succeeded to hold the Padres to only 3 hits all night, even as the Cubs failed to score any runs themselves.

Therefore, I have to give props to Randy Wells.  Granted, he's a 5-11 pitcher this year now (ugly!), but he pitched 7 innings, struck out 6, walked 3, and lowered his ERA to 4.44.  Hopefully he'll have a better record next year, if he's a Cub.

Anyway, back to Derrek -- earlier this season he said he'd refuse to okay a trade to the Angels, but it makes sense that the Cubs would've gotten his approval before negotiating with the Braves.  With Atlanta losing Chipper Jones for the year, Lee makes sense to be a "McStiff Eats Ass" solution for them.

It'd be a cool idea.  Anything's better than keeping Lee at this point.  I doubt the Cubs would get any really good prospects, but who knows?

Rob puts in his two cents:

The latest word about the possible deal:

Those of you who get giddy about draft day and lust over single A prospects are having a confusing day.   We wouldn't likely receive any compensation at all at the end of the year from Lee, but here's a chance to get the proverbial bukkit-o-spit. 

Me, myself?  I would have traded him this past winter, when his value would never be higher.  We might have gotten some bullpen relief for him if he'd okayed the Angels trade.  Now, we'll get a class A guy that most likely we will never see.

For all his gaudy stats in 2005 and 2009, Derrek Lee did precious little, in my opinion, to help us.  FanGraphs recently revealed he was the least clutch starter in the majors in 2010, and even in his best years, when the cane got high, he was more willing to take a base on balls and hand the machete over to Ramirez.

I suppose I should be glad that I get six less weeks of DPLee than I was counting on.  Ok, yes, I am glad.  Of course, if that means I have to look at six weeks of X Nady and Micah the Hoff, what the hell's the difference?

It is time to find out if either Colvin or Ramirez can play first.  If not, then as I said last week, look for us to spend the winter debating whether or not to sign Big Donkey Dunn.  But if either of them can, then maybe we can use the money Dunn would want, and use it on some pitching.

But, of course!  Ricketts owns the team now.  He will use the salary savings to put a Smirnoff Ice Bar-n-Grill near the left field gate.  Drinking, chicks, revenues and drinking is all that overgrown Chad thinks about.  Fuckin' dick....

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award