The Great Carlos Zambrano was, as they say, "super awesome." He pitched eight innings tonight, allowing just one run, and gave the Cubs every opportunity to win tonight's game.
Unfortunately, the offense just wasn't there.
Well, let me clarify that statement--it was kinda there. The Cubs did collect five hits and two walks over the course of Wandy Rodriguez' seven innings. Unfortunately, the only guy that crossed home plate was Geovany Soto, and he got there himself by hitting the ball out of the park.
A game like this one begs a few questions. First, does it suck that Angel Guzman could hardly get an out in the ninth inning? Sure. But can you pin this one on him? I kinda think not. When your team scores one run in a nine-inning game, you can't really blame the pitchers.
Second: Are repeated occurrences of this sort of offensive drought avoidable? Not entirely, no. But Kurt has an idea that needs to be re-stated, reviewed, and then tattooed on to every Cub fan's forehead: HIT SORI LOWER!
Alfonso Soriano has been reeeeally bad lately. And he's also been getting the largest number of plate appearances in every game he's played in. He can't possibly hit any worse than he's been hitting lately; why not give the "middle-of-the-order" experiment another shot?
And finally: How awesome is Carlos Zambrano? The answer is, really, really awesome. As in, like, super awesome. It's just too bad that his stellar performance was wasted, although he has now lowered his ERA to 3.39.
The Cubs play the rubber game tonight.
Kurt, we've spent eight years with the guy who curses us all in Spanish.
He's stuck it up Lassie Edmond's giggy. He fed Bunny-Foo-Foo Barrett his teeth. He's told more than one ump that NO, he's not gone, THEY are the ones that should be gone. He's probably going to set the all-time record for homeruns by pitchers who did not change their name to "Babe" and gave up pitching. He won last night's game pretty much by himself, with his bat, arm, AND glove. He is easily the most entertaining Cub I have ever seen, and he is the guy that they based the "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercial campaign after.
And whether or not it is his fault or not, the Cubs did not progress past the NLCS in 2003, past the Central Division in 2004, 5 &6, and past the NLDS in 2007 and 8. He gets injured doing things like trying to catch line drives with his bare hands, and beating out drag bunts. He gets suspended on pretty much an annual basis for his disagreements with umpires, which does not do his manager any favors in terms of roster maintenance, not to mention his teammates, the next time they are held in judgment on a close pitch or tag.
I do not in any way shape or form want to get rid of Carlos Zambrano. He is a friggin' beast, and I have reminded you of that fact hundreds of times. Last night, he was again a friggin' beast. And if there was a guarantee that he would comport himself for the rest of his careet as he did last night, I would state publicly that Zambrano is a Staff Ace.
But he won't, and I can't, and if it is not possible for us to keep both him and a Jake Peavy/Roy Oswalt/Roy Halliday-esque figure, I will go with the latter, because you can count on them to NOT get suspended, get injured doing something stupid, or any of that other crap that makes Zambrano less valuable than he should be.
The story of the season -- for good or bad -- has become Carlos Zambrano. On the day in which he won his 100th game of his career the Moose declared his intentions to retire ... in four or five years.
It probably stems from a pretty frustrating two weeks for Carlos. He's been ejected, suspended, fined, disciplined, criticized, and his children apparently dumped his comic book collection into the bath water*. On the heels of all that he went out and had a no-hitter through the 5th inning plus he hit what turned out to be the game-deciding homerun.
(*may not be true)
I dunno. Maybe Cub fans want that stoic ace, that guy who just goes in there and does his job. Maybe they want him to expressionlessly deliver bland, cliche-riddled interviews. But not me. I like my players to have color**. I want that guy who wins a big game and in the press conference says all sorts of funny, nasty things about his now-defeated opponents. I want that guy who will charge a mound without hesitation if he knows he's getting thrown at. And, sure, I want that guy who's so deranged that he'll threaten to retire in five years -- but maybe it's four years, because he doesn't even know when his contract is up*** -- on the heels of collecting his 100th career win in dominating fashion.
(**not intended to refer to racial preferences in sports
***because he's just that cRaZee)
I'm probably alone in that. But think back. If you could have the boringest pitcher ever Steve Traschel with Zambrano's talent or Zambrano himself, who would you pick?
Me, I'd take the guy who curses at God in Spanish every single time.
or: Zambrano is a friggin' beast, but...
I do not believe this 2009 Cubs roster, as comprised, is going to win the Central Division, let alone a World series. Jim Hendry needs to obtain some different, more effective talent, and Lou Piniella either a) has to rein in the players he already has, because a few of them are out of control, or b) have Hendry get him some different players that he CAN control.
Ok, here goes:
- San Diego has Jake Peavy, who will only accept a trade to the Cubs (or Braves), and they want four top prospects for him.
- The Cubs could not trade for him thus far because they are "between owners" and Hendry and Crane Kenney do not believe they can add Peavy's salary to their existing salary structure.
- The White Sox think they can add money, though. They tried to get Peavy, dangling at least three prospects (Lance Broadway, Aaron Poreda, and Clayton Richard), and a 4th player was mentioned but never identified. The Padres agreed to the deal, but Peavy invoked his No-Trade protection.
- The White Sox still claim to need a top-line starter.
- The Cubs have a top-line starter by the name of Carlos Zambrano (aka El Toro aka The Lawnmower aka Big Z aka "I Hate Gatorade") who claims every spring that he has turned the corner, that he has matured, but he truly hasn't.
- Lou Piniella might have been able to handle Zambrano ten or fifteen years ago, but he cannot now. In fact, his inability to do so is officially a DETRIMENT to this ball club.
- The White Sox have a manager from Venezuela, where Zambrano is from, and if anyone on planet Earth is able to get the drop on Zambrano, mano-y-mano, loco-y-loco, it is Ozzie Guillen
- Besides, Z claims he grew up a White Sox fan.
Therefore, I officially advocate a three-way-trade, effective immediately:
- White Sox send San Diego their previous package, including Poreda, Broadway, and Richard
- Cubs send White Sox Zambrano
- Padres send Cubs Peavy
No, it doesn't solve our offensive woes, and it does not, stats-wise, strengthen our rotation as much as it would if we could get him while keeping Zambrano. But leadership-wise, Peavy is a Staff Ace, while Zambrano is too immature to be considered an Ace. Piniella will have a #1 starter that he can actually control. More focus on the Cubs team will be on Winning Games and less on Who is Injured or Who is Beating Up the Gatorade Machine and Making an Ass of Himself. Peavy will be so gatdamn happy to be out of San Diego that I can honestly see him making a Sutcliffe-esque run in the second half, which is at the present, the only chance we have of making postseason play this year.
If this doesn't make China Brown hate me, more than he already does, I don't know this business.
also: the Unofficial Goatrider Stance on Banning commenters
Thank you Big League Stew for what should be the Official Picture of Goatriders
Don't Wake Daddy said it was "up to Bradley standards". Sweet Lou remarked that he himself, number 41, "was the calmest person around" after Z's public display. Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster learned one of the basic tenets of Euchre, "Don't send a boy out to do a man's job!" Dempster merely tore off the front shield of the G Machine; Lilly merely got thrown out of a game. Points to both for their passion; but neither receive any points for panache.
Please don't misunderstand - I do not in the least way CONDONE Z's behavior yesterday. He will most certainly earn a lengthy in-school suspension; he will further muddy an already fluid roster situation; and his lack of participation in what I am guessing will be at least two starts will cost us at least one win. Piniella will have to press both Marshall and Wells in the starting roles, and probably will also have to bring someone else up from Des Moines for a spot start, all of which will over-burden a bullpen already containing the shit-tastic David Patton and the increasingly worthless Aaron Heilman. (thanks to Deadspin for the G abuse pic)
What's more, the play in question wasn't, in my opinion anyway, worth all the hysteria. I've seen at least 10 worse calls already this year. Nyjer Morgan is not many things, but he is quite speedy.
I think we were all hoping Senor Zambrano had matured and gotten past such churlish acts. In lieu of acquiring Certain Staff Ace Jake Peavy, we need Z to show some Positive Leadership, and I don't think THAT was how it was done.
It DID make it in the network nightly news, not to mention SportsCenter.
Now, on to banning:
Outside of malicious acts of spamming or frequent and willful inability to follow the brief, sketchy guidelines of behavior here on the Goat, we will never ban anyone merely for the act of voicing one's opinion. Squelching free speech is a douche-worthy act better left to pollyellons and other such Socialists.
That having been said, I came across a lot of flak when I dared make the statement that the Cute-n-cuddly Geo Soto has just been stabbin' us through the heart since he returned from the Beans-n-Rice Festival, a/k/a the World Baseball Classic. Some of it was somewhat reasoned, hey, if you want to hang the blame on his sporadic activity there, as the third catcher on a roster that barely calls for two. I merely point out that the sporadic activity did not seem to harm Yadier Molina, who also rode a lot of bench for Puerto Rico as the Formerly Swollen Pudge hogged the spotlight in a completely transparent MLB tryout. Not to mention the aforementioned Lilly, who literally gathered moss as less talented men than he got lit up for Our Team.
You want to stick up for our reigning Rookie of the Year? Once again, I implore you to Live in the Now, or alternatively, feel free to go out to a Baseball Reference to look up previous ROYs and consider their contribution in their second year and beyond. Being a ROY many times points to likely future success, but it is not guaranteed. Todd Hollandsworth was a ROY, for God's sake. Wasn't Ben Grieve? If anything, once you become a ROY, you have to worked harder, not less hard.
The point I want to make today, is simply, LEARN TO effin READ!! I never said I hated Soto, and I never said we needed to trade him, or release him, or give his spot to Three-Finger Hill or Beef Wellington on a permanent basis. What I HAVE said is, as more than a casual observer of both the Chicago Cubs and of Human Nature, that he is not working as hard, he has taken his role for granted, and he needs a serious attitude adjustment, now, if not sooner. As the catcher and a middle-of-the-order hitter, he occupies an oversized role in Our Future Success. He is not merely 1/25th or even 1/9th of this team - I would say closer to 1/4. In this day of age, a superior catcher gives his team a clear competitive advantage! I anoited him the Cubs MVP last year, over Clutchy and Mark DeRosa d/b/a the Second Coming!!
But this year, his league-worst OPS+ and GIDP, along with his 22% stolen-base prevention, is a major reason (nay, the biggest reason) why this team with the 3rd highest payroll in the major leagues is one game over .500. As I stated yesterday, this is a simple fact, and honestly, if you disagree with the previous sentence, then not only are you not watching the same ball games I am, you also cannot read and comprehend English.
And if you are a kool-aid drinking, non-reading, deluded sheep-bleating Cubbie Fan who simply CAN'T STAND IT when someone criticizes one of their heroes, well, we aren't gonna ban you, because that just starts a bad precedent. I would, though, ask (just this once, nicely), if it is you (and if your handle starts with the name of a large Asian country, yes, you are amongst them), if you do not want to read criticism of the Chicago Cubs, then go away. This little reststop is not for the likes of you.
For I will keep calling spades spades, I will call Geo Soto a listless, fat prima donna with a sense of entitlement, and I will swarm over him and anyone else that DARES to drag us down to yet another year of defeat and humiliation. And if you don't like it, then scoot out of here and go wack your willy over regression charts over at THT, or suckle at the milky blue teat over at BCB. And leave ME the f**k alone.
In the early months of the 2009 baseball season, a crack baseball team was sentenced to numerous ejections by the MLB disciplinary committee for infractions they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from their maximum suspension sentences to the Chicago underground. Today, still wanted by baseball's authorities, they survive as athletes for hire. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ... the C-Team.
These Cubs. If you're not a fan of them to begin with they seem awfully hard to love. When Milton Bradley isn't "bumping" umpires and complaining about a conspiracy against him, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano are all trying like hell to get themselves ejected and suspended. Today was Zambrano's turn.
After arguing angrily with an umpire in the 7th inning, the Moose was ejected for "bumping" the ump -- who, based on the footage I saw, stepped into Carlos. Upset by the obvious ruse to get him tossed, Carlos promptly did the only sensible thing: he ejected the umpire, returned to the dugout, and beat the holy hell out of a gatorade cooler.
Apart from the likelihood that Mr. Z is looking at probably a 7 to 10 game suspension, I have to admit ... that was pretty freaking cool. Sorry, I know, he needs to start acting like an adult and all, but c'mon. Can you blame him?
I respectfully direct you to early June, 2007. An angry Carlos Zambrano pummels his teammate and catcher. The team's manager has a legendary fit with an umpire and gets ejected. And that was when a team 9 games under .500 started to roll. Carlos must be sick of waiting on Lou Piniella because after his amazing flip-out the Cubs -- who had been offensively inadequate -- scored 3 runs in the 8th and won the game and the series against the Pirates.
Speaking of the offense, maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that Reed Johnson is perhaps stepping up and filling the leadership role the Cubs have lacked the past few years. He apparently told Milton Bradley the other day that M.B. doesn't have to shut down his at bat just because the umpire blows a call -- resulting in a resurgent Don't Wake Daddy (who went 1 for 3 today with a walk and a triple) -- and he hit a clutch go-ahead homer after Zambrano's ejection.
The Cubs also saw 3 more hits from Ryan Theriot and they were greeted by Jake Fox who hit a pinch hit, run-scoring double. Fox is going to be interesting. He can't play defense but he can hit the ball a mile.
All told, it was a harder win than it looked and a more interesting and entertaining game than we could have expected. The Cubs head tomorrow into a match-up against the Dodgers who have been hot as hell despite missing their star slugger.
And am I concerned about Zambrano's meltdown? Nope. I've been to this party before. The last time it happened, it was Lou doing the flip-out. I misread the situation, thought he'd lost the team and the season was over and immediately found myself proven wrong. So no worries here with Carlos ... even if he misses a little bit of time and grows a mo-hawk.
Current Record: 23-22
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4 games out
Best Possible Record: 140-22
Worst Possible Record: 23-139
Record needed to win 110: 87-30
On Pace For: 83-79
Y'all can thank Guest for this update--dude's got a point. Even without Kurt, the show must go on!
Having said that, let's take a look at some of the numbers behind a most improbable start from a young Cubs pitcher.
As was discussed in the Recap after it happened, Randy Wells has had an incredible start to his career with the Cubs. After his start against the Astros on Saturday, Wells has thrown 15.1 scoreless innings to begin his time with Chicago.
I bet at least one of you might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, wait! Stop! Jinx alert! Ahh! AHHHH!!!" To that I say, I guess you're right. Maybe if no one writes about this streak ever, then it'll be kept intact all season.
Unfortunately, I kinda really doubt that. So let's talk about it. What has Randy done to keep opponents from scoring?
As you can see from his Fangraphs page, Wells has done a lot of things right. He's thrown first-pitch-strikes to almost two out of every three batters he's faced (exactly 63.3%, compared to a 57.6% league average). He's also been able to force hitters to hit a lot of ground balls; 63.3% of balls in play have been ground outs for Randy. While I don't have a league average for you on that value, you may want to look at Derek Lowe, a sinkerballer, for comparison. Over the course of his career, Lowe has a ground ball rate of about 64%.
All these ground balls have translated to success for Randy. He's been getting double plays, and limiting opposing hitters to singles. In fact, as I also noted in his previous Recap, Wells has allowed just one extra base hit thus far this season, a double to the menacing Jason Kendall.
While throwing strikes and getting ground balls are useful skills, they're not gonna get Randy a 0.00 ERA for the entire 2009 season. On the other hand, when Big Z returns from his DL stint, perhaps we'll have another useful right-hander available to Lou, either in the bullpen or the rotation.
Or maybe... he's trade bait?
I didn't see any of today's game as I watched the Astros beat the Braves in Atlanta. By the way, the Braves might have the worst lineup in the majors right now if you were wondering.
As for the Cubs, Derrek Lee's grandslam in the fifth inning was enough to send the Cubs to a 6-4 victory. Apparently, Carlos Zambrano strained his hamstring beating out an infield single in the fifth inning that caused him to leave the game. I couldn't find anything on Zabrano's injury, so we will just have to wait and see.
During the top of the sixth, I remember looking at the Brave's scoreboard in right and seeing the Marlins with the bases loaded. I wondered what Zambrano was doing, but it makes a little more sense now. Angel Guzman did manage to get out of the jam by only allowing one run.
Carlos Marmol had another adventure in the 8th inning. He gave up a lead-off home run to John Baker, followed by a walk to Hanley Ramirez. He was able to get out of it. Then, Kevin Gregg picked up the save to the Cubs a 3-1 series victory.
Mike Fontenot hit his fifth home run, but Milton Bradley went 0-for-4 to push his average down to .116.
The Cubs picked up a half-game on the Cardinals, who were rained out. It was good to see the Cubs string a few wins together, and hopefully Ryan Dempster can put together a qaulity start against the Giants tomorrow.
The Big Moose also came extremely close to hitting for the cycle - he was just a triple short, and had he gotten an at bat in the 7th inning you just know that he would've stretched his legs to get it. I suppose this is the type of game where you'll often hear "Zambrano didn't have his best stuff but he delivered a solid performance nonetheless." They'll be saying that because through 7 innings of work he only struck out 3. The thing is, I don't believe that really demonstrates how good or mediocre his "stuff" was, because when Carlos struggles - even when he can contain the damage - he gives up lots of walks and, last night he only walked 2. The offense, on the other hand, was apparently looking to make up for lost time. Every Cub regular got a hit - including Milton Bradley, who in fact did make his return. 6 of the 9 starters also managed to drive in runs. But if you're wondering what was the biggest reason for this breakout, I have one suggested reason: patience at the plate. On top of their 15 team hits, the Cubs drew 6 walks - 3 from Fukudome - and they took advantage of big opportunities. Alfonso Soriano had a rare runners-on situation and he capitalized with a 3-run homer, his second in as many days. Speaking of "second in as many days," Fontenot hit another homerun too. Don't look now but his batting AVG is rising. Three Finger Hill started in place of GeoINO Soto and delivered a 3 for 5 performance, raising his AVG to .370 on the year. I still think Soto should spend some time on the DL or something, and Hill appears capable of filling in for a while. Oh, and lastly, Angel Guzman pitched 2 innings of shutout relief lowering his season ERA to 4.35. Maybe I was a little abrupt about him needing to be cut and I for one am willing to let him pitch for a while longer to see if he can get steady and consistent. The Cubs play for the series win tonight. So far their offense has been excessive-hit or complete-miss and they have not been able to consistently produce numbers night after night. Maybe it's high time for a change about that.
The Big Moose also came extremely close to hitting for the cycle - he was just a triple short, and had he gotten an at bat in the 7th inning you just know that he would've stretched his legs to get it. I suppose this is the type of game where you'll often hear "Zambrano didn't have his best stuff but he delivered a solid performance nonetheless." They'll be saying that because through 7 innings of work he only struck out 3. The thing is, I don't believe that really demonstrates how good or mediocre his "stuff" was, because when Carlos struggles - even when he can contain the damage - he gives up lots of walks and, last night he only walked 2.
The offense, on the other hand, was apparently looking to make up for lost time. Every Cub regular got a hit - including Milton Bradley, who in fact did make his return. 6 of the 9 starters also managed to drive in runs. But if you're wondering what was the biggest reason for this breakout, I have one suggested reason: patience at the plate. On top of their 15 team hits, the Cubs drew 6 walks - 3 from Fukudome - and they took advantage of big opportunities. Alfonso Soriano had a rare runners-on situation and he capitalized with a 3-run homer, his second in as many days. Speaking of "second in as many days," Fontenot hit another homerun too. Don't look now but his batting AVG is rising.
Three Finger Hill started in place of GeoINO Soto and delivered a 3 for 5 performance, raising his AVG to .370 on the year. I still think Soto should spend some time on the DL or something, and Hill appears capable of filling in for a while. Oh, and lastly, Angel Guzman pitched 2 innings of shutout relief lowering his season ERA to 4.35. Maybe I was a little abrupt about him needing to be cut and I for one am willing to let him pitch for a while longer to see if he can get steady and consistent.
The Cubs play for the series win tonight. So far their offense has been excessive-hit or complete-miss and they have not been able to consistently produce numbers night after night. Maybe it's high time for a change about that.
The Cubs won't be starting the year 0-14.
Tonight's game is a series of stories that can actually be told from the perspective of two types. The first type is the following - and was inspired by the newly improved GROTA Shout Box.
Did you see how Derrek Lee went 0 for 4? Micah Hoffpauir went 1 for 1 with an RBI. Just sayin'.
Did you see how Kosuke Fukudome went 0 for 4? Time for him to take over Kosh's job as the head of the grounds crew.
Imagine what would have happened if Carlos had gone 4 innings walking 6, striking out 3, and surrendering 5. These guys would already be standing on the ledge getting ready to give up on the 2009 season. At least Cub fans are consistent.
The good news is that while a couple of the Cub regulars shockingly failed to get a hit - I know, we expected them all to start the year batting 1.000 - the game started with a splendid leadoff homerun by Alfonso Soriano. The offensive shower continued in the second inning when Aramis also cleared the bleachers with a blast.
In fact, the Cubs were far from overpowering tonight, but they consistently caused trouble for Astros ace Roy Oswalt and they seemed to make the game feel like it was far less close than it actually was. Even when Carlos Marmol walked Lance Berkman and faced a Carlos Lee who also served as the potential tying run (I believe the Cubs should walk Carlos Lee every freakin' time he steps up to the plate, by the way) it didn't seem too stressful. And while Kevin Gregg gave up an earned run in the 9th he notched his first save in as many attempts.
But maybe the best story of tonight was Carlos Zambrano. He threw 97 through 6. He walked 3. He seemed to get into minor bouts of trouble all night - including allowing the leadoff man to get on base in the first 3 innings of the game. But while he petered out by the 7th, leaving with 2 on and 0 outs, Carlos hardly looked like the Big Moose of old who had trouble getting through even the 5th inning of opening day games. Maybe it's an indication of things to come.
Anyway, if the Astros were going to win a game this series, it was this fist one. The Cubs pitching gets stronger while the Astros rotation thins and weakens. It's a glorious start to the 2009 season and I'm happy to say ... Cubs win!