Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Rich Harden

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Harden to be scoped?

At this point I'd characterize it as an unconfirmed but likely rumor, but the word on the street is that Rich Harden is going to have his shoulder scoped in the immediate future.  I've been told it would be a minor procedure that shouldn't effect the Cubs decision to pick up the 7 million option on Harden.

We'll bring you all of the compelling Cubs news as we learn more about this situation.

UPDATE: Harden's option just got exercised - one year, $7 million. --CW

Where I am coming from...

I'm from Maine, Red Sox country.  But, until I went to college, I only got to see the Cubs because they played day games (thank you WGN) and no one else in my family liked baseball.  Therefore, I am the most hated type of fan -- the sports bigamist.  I am a Cubs fan first and a Red Sox fan second.

Let's just say that in 2003, I was in a very uncomfortable position.  I cannot begin to describe the pain I felt that year.  To this day, if I ever see Alex Gonzalez I will kick him in the nuts.  I don't even care if I get the right Alex Gonzalez, I just want to kick some nuts.

Currently, I live in DC where one Aaron Boone played this year.  I boooood him incessantly whenever his name was called.  Of course, I also boooood Christian Laetner when he played for the Wiz, but I digress....

This Cubs team needs to take on the attitude of the 2004 Red Sox, in that they approached the last four games of the ALCS as a series of one-game playoffs.  They did not go into Game 4 thinking, "We need to win four games!!!"  They went into that game thinking, "We need to win one game."

I think that this Cubs team, as well as last years', has been going into EVERY game of every postseason series thinking, "We need to win this series...NOW!!!"  Obviously, that is not possible, and that vein of thinking will ultimately lead to failure.

Part of the reason this team was so successful during the regular season was due to their ability to put the previous day's game behind them.  If they come out flat Saturday (defensively and/or offensively), then theirs is a problem with motivation and coaching.  If they come out hot and still are unable to capitalize, then the fates are conspiring against them and there is nothing can be done.

This does NOT mean I believe in curses -- like I said before, I am also a Red Sox fan -- I know of which I speak.  So can it.  Shit happens.

Were the Cubs the better team in 84?  Yes.  In '89?  Meh.  In '98?  No.  In '03?  Even.  In '07?  Statistically, yes -- by the math the D-bags should never have been that good.  This year?  Yes (hell, the Cardinals were better than the Dodgers).  Will the Cubs buck up and show it?  Remains to be seen.

Now, I'm not dumb enough to say, "The Cubs will win on Saturday!"  But, I will say that, despite Kuroda's insane K/BB ratio (nearly 3:1) over 183.1 innings pitched, the Cubs actually have the advantage.  They are the better team.  They won 97 games in the toughest division in the NL.

Rich Harden was a combined 10-2, with 34 earned runs over 148 innings pitched, for an ERA of 2.07.  In the NL, he went 5-1, with 14 earned runs over 71 innings pitched, for an ERA of 1.77.  Obviously, this guy is our Ace and unquestionably the man we want in this position.  Let's just hope that the defense can hold up behind him.

Science willing, the Cubs will get to game four.  If so, Ted Lilly's record was 17-9, as well as 10-4 on the road, with an ERA of 4.09 (3.77 away from Wrigley).  Not to mention his 2.875 strikeout to walk ratio, all gives me hope of returning the series to the Friendly Confines and Dempster showing why he won 14 games there.

Let me close with this: I know it sounds corny, and I know it sounds insanely stupid.  But, if the Cubs (and the fans) would just address the series as a bunch of one-game series instead of trying to win it all on every swing, all will be OK.  The pitchers are sound; overall, the defense is sound; the batting is usually sound.  Just go out there and do what we all know you can do.

Get on the Train

Why, might you ask?  Has berryhill lost it all?  Has he gone off the deep end?  Maybe... I don't think so...

I was there last night.  It wasn't pretty.  I was not happy.  Then again, how can you be when your infield defense collapses?  2-0 is a pretty big hole to come out of, but when asked why I am still on board with the team, I cannot help but reply with "why not."

Rich Harden will toe the rubber tomorrow.  He has been far and wide one of the best pitchers in the game this year.  Moreover, he has the head to buckle down and get it done.  And he wants to play for blood, Johnny Ringo.  Harden has been on the wrong side of a comeback from a 2-0 deficit.  Now he wants to make it right.

If "Rally" Rich Harden can work his magic, we have Lilly for the next game, who has been the best pitchers on our team in his past outings.  I'd love to see him flirt with a no hitter again.

Right now, this team really has nothing to lose that it already hasn't.  That can be a dangerous thing.  This team can stop the bleeding and rally.  Right when we seem to be limping and wearing down, we tend to step up and bring the heat.  Why not now.

Untitled, because what good is a title?

Why did I get out of bed?

Why did I read the coverage?

Why must Rich Harden go and say those things wherein he takes on the responsibility for Game 3 and says we can do it? Why get my hopes up Rich? Why do I let you? Rich wants to show up Derek Lowe for an insult a few years ago, bless his sexy Canadian butt.

Is it too much to ask for just ONE win. Just don't lay there passively and go down without a fight? SHOW ME YOU ARE MEN not...whatever disgusting pathetic crap you were last night.

Yeah. I'll be at Irish Oak with a bunch of other girls on Saturday night. I'll have my Harden jersey on. If he delivers, good god, I will throw myself down at his feet and declare him my master.

Just one win. Do it for honor's sake.

And for crying out loud WHERE THE *(%$&^%$&#)!! IS REED JOHNSON? He would at least DIVE FOR CRAP.

P.S. Also, I feel I must state for the record that 97 wins or not, I would feel like this is a failure of a season without at least showing up to the WS. NO excuses, people. NONE. We have every piece of the puzzle. NO excuses. Dude, Michael Jordan and the crew were right back in the 90s: it don't mean a thing without the ring. NO EXCUSES. Everyone knew what the expectations were.

Many many good things happened yesterday

Kevin and Kurt got this new format off the ground.  The Shout Box, as it stands right now, is kind of like a Mercedes hood ornament on a Ford Escort, but the plan is, when we increase our readership tenfold, the Box will be that place where you Microwave Generation youngsters can get yer immediate gratification.  You have a buddy Cub fan next door, next state, or in Singapore, and yer sitting at work and can't IM to the outside world?  Hey, come on here, and get yer rocks off in the Box.  Heh.

I cannot stress enough how major it is for Kurt to be featured on ESPN's "Outside The Lines".  If you think about it, there's what, seven, eight hundred Cubs blogs out there (or so it seems) and one from ours got singled out for this honor, and I feel perfectly fine with just typing out the word honor without having to quotate it.  For whatever reason, Kurt's feelings struck a genuine chord with Wayne Drehs, and maybe that's what our calling card here has become.  If you are a Kool-Aid drinking, rose-tinted shades wearing, clap-clap-clapping Cubbie fan, then you go to BCB.  If you are neurotic beyond belief about whether Soriano should be batting fifth and whether Theriot's range numbers are on par with the leading NL shortstops, maybe you'd be happier at NSBB.  If you want to laugh out loud, feel free to hit Desipio - hell, I do, early and often.

Perhaps it is true, that even after my cynical bleatings about what else could possibly go wrong, Kurt's baroque photoshops, and Jason's stabs at 1940's style mystery paperback writing, that THIS is the place to put your fingers on the pulse of what Cubs fans are feeling.  At least I'm feeling conceited enough today to make this statement.

Why?  Because I'm feeling pretty gatdam good about things right now.  Harden dealt last night, people.  I have no problem with those of us who have grown totally distrustful of the Cubs' braintrust and training staff, particularly when it comes to pitcher injury news.  Harden said he was ok, and apparently, he is.

Also: Wood held a one-run lead, forcing the Great Pujols (as he is referred to constantly in the "Three Nights In August" book I just finished) to pop out weakly to end affairs.  I want my closer feeling indestructable and bulletproof in the Fall, and last night could be a start, my friends.

And, there's more: they don't have to fly into the path of Hurricane Ike after all.  Damn, that's a bad-ass name for a storm, Ike.  Reminds us all of Ike Turner bitch-slappin' Tina all over the apartment back in the "Proud Mary" days.  Ike was a bad, dirty man, and I have a feeling that Ike is also gonna be a filthy storm with high heat, neck-snapping curves and sliders that make grown men curse they mamas for giving them birth.  I think this is going to make Katrina seem like a spring sprinkle, and I am glad the Cubs don't have to get in the middle of it.  Plus...more rest for Z!  Ain't that a good thing?

The Cubs took a series from the Satanic Fowl, in the 'Loo, on the road, they gained a game on the Brewers, and Ben Sheets is acting like the bitch he is.  Whoever pays the arm & leg for him next year is waaay stupid.  Sheets will be the consolation prize to them that pitch for CC Sabathia, and lose.  Sabathia can carry a team.  Sheets can't carry his own backpack, for fear that he'll strain a muscle in his back or something. 

The Magic Number is now less than the date on the calendar.  If we make the postseason, that will be the first time we made it two years in a row since....YEP.  1908.  Hey, I know I'm waving an unwrapped Twinkie in Karma's face, but man, we're not losing tonight, and we're not losing tomorrow, and let's have a TIGHT weekend!!!  GO CUBS!

The hard(en) figures

They probably didn't need him to win, but the Cubs landed big when they acquired Rich Harden from the Athletics right before the All Star Break.  Since Harden's trade to Chicago on July 8th, the Cubs have gone 23-14, a .621 winning percentage.  Harden, meanwhile, has pitched in 8 games.  His record is 4-1, his ERA is 1.47.  He's struck out 10 or more 5 times, he's given up 2 hits or less 5 times.   The Cubs as a team are 6-2 in Harden's starts.

In other words, Rich Harden has been an outstanding addition to the team, not that you've needed me to tell you that.  The Cubs have probably the best starting rotation in the game this year, their bullpen is better than it looks statistically, and they are offensively solid in every position.   I know I keep saying it, but only because it's not every year that I can. 

Numbers are fun...when used for speculation

Obviously I'm not a genius with numbers like some of the other Goatriders, but I do like using them to predict the future and make outrageous claims. It's good fun for all.

So before I take off for a wedding this weekend, I just wanted to mention two quick things using the power of numbers and other stuff that hurts my head...

Thing #1

I'm not sure if Colin has ever mentioned this specific website before (he usually has a fleet of links in his posts, so by now I generally accept anything he writes as pure knowledge and fact), but I found this interesting place called coolstandings.com.

At this site, they use current statistics, career numbers/trends and transactions to constantly predict how a team will finish the season. On a daily basis, the expected records of every team in MLB changes as do the chances of each team making the playoffs.

Right now, of all the teams in Major League Baseball, the Cubs have an 83.9% chance of making it to the postseason (best in the league). Coolstandings calculates the Cubs have a 64.2% chance of winning the NL Central and a 19.6% chance of taking the wildcard. Not bad.

And while the Cubs have the best chance of making it to the playoffs based on these numbers, can you guess which team has the best overall chance of winning their division? You guessed it, the White Sox. According to this site, they have a 72.9% chance of winning the AL Central.

Interesting stuff.

Thing #2

I have yet to weigh in on Rich Harden despite the explosion of content in the universe about the recent trade.

So now you're going to sit down and listen to everything I have to say about it! Yeah, that's right. And you're going to like it...Wait! Don't leave. Don't close your browser. I was just kidding. You can read it if you want. I'd like if you did sir.

Anyway, there has been a lot of talk about the "I" word and Harden's dipping velocity, but I want to talk about his line this weekend against San Francisco.

In his first start with the Cubs, Rich has the advantage of facing a team he has already dominated this year in the Giants. Back on June 14 at San Francisco, Harden threw 6 innings of solid baseball in which he gave up 0 runs on 1 hit with 9 strikeouts.

While the expectations from the fans will be high and the scrutiny from the media will be harsh, I expect Rich to have similar numbers against the Giants on Saturday. Here is my predicted line...

5 IP, 1 ER, 3H, 6 K/1 BB...0 "I" words

I really can not see Lou letting Rich go more than 5 innings (expect to see some bullpen action the second Harden goes over 80 pitches and he gets into any kind of trouble), but he should be able to dominate in those five innings.

Realistically, if he allows 3 or less runs in about 5 innings then I think the Cubs have a solid chance of winning the game...and that is always the most important thing. 

Harden: The content gift that keeps on giving

Goat Friend Paul Sullivan writes that, were you to imagine a scientist-type holding a smoking glass container with prongs, then that would be an accurate description of how the Cubs will handle Dick Harden. 

He notes, The Cubs plan on doing everything possible to keep Harden healthy, short of keeping him in a protective bubble. They will give him an extra day between starts, and could even skip a start on occasion. 

Additionally, Sullivan says, He will throw a bullpen session for Rothschild on Thursday and will start Saturday against San Francisco after Jason Marquis goes Friday.

Manager Lou Piniella said Harden would start the fourth game of the second-half in Arizona on July 21, which would give him eight days off if he makes his Cubs debut on Saturday.

If he doesn't pitch this weekend, he will have a two-week break between starts.

Kind of goes back to what we've been discussing, and, to some extent, discounting.

No commentary necessary from me, except to say that as long as Harden is healthy in October, I don't much care what happens between now and then.  

Rich Harden, The Morning After

I promise at some point I’ll write about something that isn’t Rich Harden. (Maybe I could follow up with a Ryan Theriot post later today?)

Baseball consultant Mitchel Lichtman:

Ironically, adding Harden, a great pitcher, barely increases their chances of getting into the post-season, as they were almost a lock before. Of course, he greatly increases their chances of winning IN the post-season - if he lasts that long, which might be 50-50 at best.)

BTW, losing Harden only decreases OAK chances of making the post by 4% and that is not including any possible value from Patterson, Murton, and Gallagher, over and above what they have now.

AccuScore comes up with similar numbers.

Dave Cameron:

Harden is obviously the better pitcher, but we have to account for the difference in durability as well, so let’s add Harden’s theoretical replacement into the equation. The A’s are one of the best organizations in baseball at finding spare parts to put up solid performances in their rotation (their defense and home park don’t hurt), so let’s assume that Amalgamation Of Harden Replacements will make up the 80 inning difference by posting a 5.50 FIP, a tick or two above league wide replacement level.

That brings the combined totals for Harden + Harden Replacements to 180 innings with a 4.25 FIP, compared to the 180 innings we were projecting from Gallagher at a 5.00 FIP. That’s a difference of three-fourths of a run per nine innings, which while significant, adds up to a grand total of about 15 runs over the course of an entire season.

Fifteen runs, or roughly 1.5 wins - that’s the entirety of downgrading from Rich Harden to Sean Gallagher, based on the assumptions I made above. If you don’t like the numbers I used, feel free to plug in your own, but unless you’re very bullish on Harden’s health, you’re going to come to the conclusion that the swap will cost the A’s at most two or three wins between now and the end of 2009, when Harden’s contract expires.

We did get Gaudin as well, which Dave doesn’t take into account.

The Phillies shied away from dealing for Harden due to health issues. I think the Cubs were the one team that really matched up well for Harden; they wanted a top-shelf pitcher but don’t have the need to ride him like a horse to the playoffs – other buyers like the Phills and Brewers are looking more for a horse they can ride down the stretch.

The New York press has noticed fly-over country long enough to make the Prior-Wood reference.

Cubs teammates react to the Harden deal.

ESPN’s Keith Law (because if there’s anything GROTA’s been missing the past day, it’s reactions from ESPN writers) has some nice things to say:

When he's 100 percent, Rich Harden is an ace, a potential No. 1 starter with dominant stuff who can miss bats. Only A.J. Burnett can match Harden's stuff among pitchers we believe are available in trades, and Harden carries neither Burnett's baggage nor his horribly team-unfriendly player option.

By getting Harden, the Cubs added to a strength; their rotation already led the National League in ERA. They can push Sean Marshall back to the bullpen, which is probably his best role, or roll the dice on Marshall's recent success as a starter and bump Jason Marquis, their worst starter and someone unlikely to improve anytime soon, to the bullpen.

Of course, Harden has thrown more than 130 big league innings just once in his career, and has already thrown more major league innings in 2008 than he did in the past two seasons combined. He's an extremely high risk, and you could argue that Oakland was already playing with house money, having received 13 more starts from Harden than they had any reason to expect.

Chad Gaudin is an outstanding second player -- hate to call him a "throw-in" here -- for the Cubs, as a short reliever who could be dominant in that role in the NL. His fastball/slider combo has produced over 300 innings of above-average pitching since Toronto discarded him after a grand total of two big league starts, and his career-long vulnerability against left-handed batters has vanished this year, in large part because of his improved control.

How about know Cardinals fan Dayn Perry?

But there's another concern: Parting with Gallagher means that Jason Marquis must hold down the fifth starter's job. It's almost a historical imperative that Marquis will collapse in the second half. For his career, Marquis' ERA before the break is an acceptable 4.29; after the break, however, that figure rises to 4.97. At present, the Cubs' other options for the five hole include Rich Hill, whose control problems have forced him all the way down to rookie ball, and the newly acquired Gaudin, who's much more effective when deployed as a reliever. So if Harden goes down and Marquis struggles in the second half (neither is particularly unlikely), then the Cubs suddenly have serious issues in the rotation. In other words, the loss of Gallagher is not to be discounted.

Hi, Dayn, I’d like to introduce you to “being wrong.” Starters the Cubs could use to replace Jason Marquis right the hell now:

  • Sean Marshall
  • Chad Gaudin
  • Jon Lieber
  • Kevin Hart

And those are just the guys on the 40-man roster. We have others in AAA if need-be. Please, please get rid of Jason Marquis, Cubs.

And now, MY $0.02 about Dick Harden

What does XM know about mid-season pitching acquisitions, anyway?

Even though Hendry, et al. are adamant about this trade is not a knee-jerk to the Sabathia deal, I did the math and I am willing to bet that Gallagher was not part of the deal until yesterday.  Billy Beane was lusting after him, for good reason.  Gallagher has guts, he does not give up when he doesn't have his best stuff (paging: the Marquis de Suck) and we are going to hate losing him.

I am very happy for Murton, as he is finally going to get the chance he deserves.  I wish him quite well in his endeavors, and we are going to hate the numbers he puts up in the next few years.

Lil' Strut can kiss my butt, and Donaldson is already a self-inflated headcase with a keen sense of his own worth.  I mean, they play Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar" when he comes to the plate already?  I guess he's big in Boise.  Don't be scared of losing him; this is NOT Dontrelle Willis here.

I am glad the trade went down this way.  If for some reason we completed our trade first, and then the Brewers countered with theirs, that would give them the clear psychological edge.  Some may say that the trade was reactive, but Hendry is correct when he says that you just don't pick up the phone, call Billy Frickin' Beane and ask "Hey, the Brewers just got CC.  What can you do for us?"

Some are also questioning Harden's health, that his last two starts were only for 5 innings apiece, that his most recent start against the Sux was one of his worst this year, and that Beane doesn't just give up on good players for no reason - he must be damaged goods.  Mmm hmm, yep, Dan Haren looks real shitty.  Beane's trading record has been excellent, but even he gives up value sometimes. 

All in all, I think Uncle Lou said it best when he noted that he is "...glad that Jim is so competitive.  The Brewers got a ace lefthander, and he went out and got a good righthander."  This is just what we needed.

Any takers on the Cardinals getting A. J. Burnett later on today? 

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