Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCasts

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GameCast: June 22nd at Atlanta; a rainy make-up date

GameCastRyan Dempster (5-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Javier Vazquez (4-6, 3.41 ERA)
Story-Lines

It would be entirely ironic -- and frustrating -- for today's make-up date to get rained out, but Goat Reader SuckMyDitka reports that rain is very much a possibility tonight.

Still, the Cubs are taking an odd course to continue their winning streak.  They've had to fly from Chicago to Atlanta for one night, and after the game they will have to fly to Detroit for their next three game series. 

Taking the mound of the Cubs is on-again, off-again ace Ryan Dempster, better known as the unluckiest pitcher this side of Randy Wells.  Honestly, Dempster's numbers really aren't that bad.  He's on pace to throw 217 innings, allowing 192 hits, 87 walks, and striking out 179.  That's a WHIP of 1.29.  Last year in 206 innings Dempster's WHIP was 1.21.  Better, sure, but does anybody really think that 0.08 is the difference between 17 wins compared to 10, or an ERA of 2.96 compared to 3.92? 

Therefore I submit to you the belief that Ryan Dempster is better than his current record.  It's very much so possible that he'll end the year with extremely good numbers -- in fact, if the Cubs surprise the nay-sayers and reach the playoffs, count on Dempster to end the year with close to 15 wins.  If Chicago plays the way they aught to, Dempster will reap the benefits in the second half.

Who's Hot
Lee, Soto, Fukudome, Bradley -- all four players have put up very good numbers in the past week.  Maybe it's no coincidence, then, that the Cubs are on a winning streak.  The four of them have combined to bat .338 with 6 homers and 12 RBI in the past week.

Who's Not
Mike Fontenot -- okay, we get it.  Never play Mike Fontenot against lefties, at least not this year.

Conclusions

If this game gets played, I am looking for the Questionable Quartet Plus Fuku to continue their roll while Ryan Dempster benefits from their rub and picks up win number five.  I think it's entirely likely that the Cubs will win tonight.  Don't ask me about tomorrow, though, after they hop on a plane and fly north to Detroit where they'll take on the first place Tigers.

GameCast: June 21st, Cubs v. Indians - Momentum Edition

GameCastJeremy Sowers (1-4, 5.14 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (0-3, 2.55 ERA)
For those of you who missed yesterday's GameCast -- or even noticed that it never got published -- blame me.  I forgot it was such an early game and I had to leave early to do some important, pre-wedding, oh-s-word-we-haven't-bought-rings-yet-and-the-wedding-is-next-weekend stuff.  Anyway...

Story-Lines
The Cubs -- who have performed dramatically below our expectations this season -- have won three games in a row, all in their last at bat, often in unexpected and unlikely ways.  Consequently, while they are only 2 games over .500 they're also only 2.5 games out of first (and share a tie for the lead in the loss column). 

Earlier this week, bloggers* started calling for the termination of Cubs' skipper Lou Piniella.   Maybe it should've been done sooner based on the completely unrelated results.

(*Well, at least one blogger did)

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - Oh, how I remember the attitude of Cub fans dating back to last October.  Lee was washed up.  The Cubs should've traded him -- despite his no-trade clause -- and let Hoffpauir start.  And do you remember how he started out in '09?  Fuel to the Hate 6-4-3-Lee Fire.  And yet, here he is, carrying the Cubs on his wide shoulders.  In the month of May he batted .313 with 4 homers, 9 RBI, and a .955 OPS.  Since June started, he's turned it up a notch and is batting .375 with 6 homers, 16 RBI, and a 1.155 OPS.  Not bad for a guy past his prime.

Milton Bradley - In the past week, Milton is batting .333 with an OBP of .391.  Hey, maybe the Cubs should bat him 2nd?  Just a thought.

Geovany Soto - 5 for his last 14, batting .357 with an OPS of 1.256.  Not bad.

Kosuke Fukudome - 4 his last 13, batting .308 after a long, long slump.

Who's Not
Mikey Fontenot - Even I think he's done as a starter.  At the very least the Cubs need to evaluate his splits and keep him on the bench full time vs. lefties.  Against righties this year he's batting a still-bad-but-good-enough .253 with an OBP of .350 and OPS .768.  If only the Cubs had somebody who hit well against lefties that could play third base...

Carlos Marmol - in his last 4 appearances he's surrendered 3 hits in 3.2 innings, while walking 5.  Time for Larry to earn his pay -- fix what's wrong with this guy already!

Conclusions
Randy Wells is so overdue for a win that it's kind of ridiculous.  The problem has long-been an inability to drudge up offensive support mixed with the failures of the bullpen to keep a lead.  Well, minus Marmol, the bullpen has been outstanding the last week or so and the offense appears to fnally be clicking.  This could be the day.

Gamecast: June 19th vs. Indians

This will have to be extremely short. I got dragged into a meeting at work which lasted twice as long as I was hoping it would resulting in the writing and posting of this GameCast after the game has actually started. But I won't cheat ... I'm not looking at the boxscore til it's written.

Story-Lines
One team began the year in the basement. The other has gradually fallen toward it. The Cubs have done nothing to really demonstrate the possibility that they are, y'know, good. But I think they'll start turning things around if only they were able to assemble their puzzle pieces in a semi-coherent manner.

Louddites are mad at this blog currently because some unfunny dork suggested the Cubs might be better off without him. Still, it's been a few days since the idea was first put forth and, despite regular pleas for logical reasons, the only thing Louddites have been able to retort with is "Piniella isn't responsible for his entire team being in an offensive slump." Hey, to take a page from our counter-programming friends, prove that. If one guy is in a slump, it's bad luck. If two are in a slump together, it's a coincidence. But if more than half the team is in a slump all at once? That's something somebody needs to be accountable for. But wait, they fired Gerald Perry! Problem solved, then.

Who's Hot
Eh, we'll look at this more a little later. It's hard to argue that anybody is, though.

Who's Not

See statement above. The entire team is underperforming in a miserable way.

Conclusions

I think yesterday's game against the White Sox was an awakening moment. So here's my predictions for today's game: the Cubs will regularly get hits but will have to pick and scratch for runs. Mark DeRosa will hit a double or perhaps a homer. Between them, the Cubs and Indians will combine to score 9 runs but I am not predicting a winner just now. And ... as of one hour into the game...

It's delayed.

Damn.

Gamecast: June 18th vs. White Sox

Cubs v. SoxGavin Floyd (4-5, 4.94 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.39 ERA)

Story Lines

There has been a lot of debate here the last couple days, and we're all just a little cranky. It's no surprise since the Cubs are just about as bad as can be.

The Cubs try to get back to .500 today against the Sox. Even in these tough times the season is not lost. Granted it would be nice to see some improvement.

I won't be catching many games this weekend due to my trip to San Diego. Hopefully, the Cubs will be in better shape when I return from Ballparks 21 (Pecto) and 22 (Angels) this weekend.

Who's Hot

Milton Bradley - There wasn't a lot to brag about yesterday, but "Don't Wake Daddy" had two hits to bring his average North of .230 again.

Who's Not

Jim Hendry - Come on Jim and do something. We can't just sit around and wait for Aramis to get back and save the day.

Conclusions

The Cubs are in serious trouble, but hope is not lost. Maybe we'll get lucky and Carlos will throw a gem and hit two home runs.

Gamecast: June 17th vs. White Sox

GameCast
Jon Danks (4-5, 4.81 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.39 ERA)

Story Lines

The minute we get away from the steriods saga it comes back just in time to ruin baseball once again. At this point who cares who used and who didn't? Baseball let it happen, they're cracking down now, and it is time to move on.

Anyway, there is a game today and every day until the All-Star Break, I believe. This is also the first meeting of the year against the Cross-town rivals, so that's something I guess.

In other news, it's raining in Chicago. I doubt the game starts on time, and I'm not sure there won't be a second rain delay at some point.

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Lee's hitting .391 in his last six games and sporting a 13-game hitting streak. Of course he's only got two extra base hits during that time.

Geovany Soto - In his last six games, Soto is 7-for-20 with 1 HR and two doubles. It's still not great, but it's a lot better.

Who's Not

Kosuke Fukudome - Looks like Fukudomes good start to 2009 is about through. It's crazy how he can look so good for time and totally suck the rest. Wait, I guess it isn't that crazy considering he's a Cub. He's 2-for-22 in last six games. Ouch!

Alfonso Soriano - What are we going to do with Sori? We've all seen the crazy slumps and crazy hot streaks, but nothing has last this long. He's an automatic out right now, whos 3-for-his-last-25. No wonder we're .500.

Note from Kurt: At the risk of alienating Kevin, I'm just taking Chris's post from yesterday and moving it up to today

Gamecast: June 14th vs. Twins

Scott Baker (4-6, 5.59 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (7-4, 3.00 ERA)

Story Lines

I feel like I'm watching Major League, and I'm ready for a Harry Doyle blow up:

This blog is brought to you by....Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it.

Anyway, the Cubs are sending staff ace Ted Lilly to the mound with a four-game losing streak on the line, and the season on the brink. We need a win, bad. I mean real bad.

Also, the Gerald Perry watch officially starts today. If Jim and Lou aren't going to do anything until Aramis Ramirez gets back, we might as well bring in a new hitting coach. Sometimes a team just needs a change, and it seems like Gerald is the most likely to go.

Who's Hot

The Twins - They are kicking the crap out of us.

Who's Not

The Cubs and the Brewers - thanks goodness the Brewers have sucked just as bad during this long losing streak.

Conclusions

I'm not one who usually loses hope, but it would be nice to see a little sign of life from the offense. Trotting out Aaron Miles and company is just not cutting it. We might as well try something different. How about we let Carlos Zambrano start or something? I'm just kidding, but I hope you get the point.

Gamecast: June 13th vs. Twins

Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 5.23 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (4-2, 4.74 ERA)
Story Lines

I'm keeping this one short and sweet today, since I'm writing this at midnight.

First off, Rich Harden comes back from his vacation. Oh wait, his first of many DL trips this season. Pitching hasn't been the Cubs problem this season, but maybe Rich coming back will turn things around.

Next, Milton Bradley did himself no favors yesterday after his wonderful play. I didn't see it, but it sounded bad on the radio.

Who's Hot

Nobody really - Until the start winning nobody's going into the hot column.

Who's Not

The Cubs - They really suck right now, and are 3.5 games back after the Brewers win last night.

Conclusions

Sorry for the quick post, but I've got a paper to write for Grad School. Not to mention, I need to spend a few minutes with my wife at some point. I will have a longer look at things tomorrow. Until then, Go Cubs!

Gamecast: June 12th vs. Twins, Get Randy a Win

Kevin Slowey (8-2, 4.21 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (0-2, 1.86 ERA)

Story Lines

Randy Wells has been great, but he has nothing to show for it except his first ML hit. Hopefully the Cubs will get him his first win today.

The Cubs are coming off a 4-4 road trip, which could have easily been a 8-0, 7-1, 6-2, or 5-3. So, we're in games, but not putting teams away. The Cubs are facing the Twins in Wrigley for the first time in 8 years, which was the last time I've made the trip to Chicago (I know that's sad, but I've seen them on the road many times).

The Cubs need to get hot, their still in 4th place, but only 2.5 games back.

Who's Hot

The Cub starters - I don't know if I've ever seen a finer stretch of starting. They are on fire right now.

Derrek Lee - Lee's HR yesterday sent the game into extras, but it wasn't enough. He's quietly coming around, which is something I guess.

Who's Not

The entire lineup - I really wanted quote Major League here, but I won't, since this is a site children might read.

Sweet Lou - I'm sorry, but at some point Lou has to do something to fire the guys up. It needs to find a way to get team to score runs, and what he's doing now isn't working.

Conclusions

The Cubs need to start winning. It could be worse, but it could be a lot better.

Gamecast: June 11th at Astros, Live Blog

Ryan Dempster (4-3, 4.12 ERA) vs. Russ Ortiz (3-2, 3.96 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs caught a break today when Roy Oswalt was moved to Saturday thanks to an injury. They caught another break when the Astros decided to push Mike Hampton back. Then, in a nice twist of fate, the Astros decided to throw Russ Ortiz this afternoon. Now don't hold your breath, because they've changed their minds about 1,000 times already. So, Russ may or may not start, but if he does......I see good things in the Cubs future. Ortiz was moved to the bullpen and hasn't started in about month.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. Well, the Cubs have gotten plenty of that lately, but the after a 7-run Tuesday, they only could scratch across 1-run last night. The good news is that Brewers lost, so they didn't lose any ground on first place, but the Reds and Cards both won leaving the Cubs in fourth place in the NL Central.

I went around the Cubs news outlets today, and didn't find anything really interesting. Milton Bradley still sucks, and according to Lou has a flaw in his swing. Really? The near .200 average didn't clue someone in on that weeks ago. I said it last night in the shoutbox, and I'll say it again. Milton needs to take 2-weeks, head to Iowa and work things out. In the meantime, we can play Micah Hoffpauir or call up Jake Fox to platoon with him.

Today the Cubs turn to Ryan Dempster, who has been pitching much better of late. He lost last time out thanks to Mike Fontenot's defense at third base. I can't wait for Aramis Ramirez to get back. Hee is just something different about playing third, and even with his flaws, Ramirez is just solid.

Who's Hot

Geovanny Soto - Soto clubbed this third HR yesterday, which accounted for the only run.

Cubs Starters - They continue to turn in some gems. Come on offense, please give them a little help.

Who's Not

Alfonso Soriano - Come on Lou....His average is down to .237. He's never been in this kind of slump since coming over to the Cubs.

Milton Bradley - See above. Even if he got a hit last night, it was a really weak hit. I was all for signing "Don't Wake Daddy" or whatever we're calling him, but even Kosuke was better than this at points in the season.

Conclusions

Cubs should win, and we better win. With a win, it would give the Cubs a 5-3 road trip. I'll take that after the rough start to the road this season.

Also, A.J. and I will be live blogging the game today with those who can't catch it on TV, and want more commentary than provided by the various media outlets.

Gamecast: June 10th at Astros

Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.72 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (5-5, 2.97 ERA)

Story Lines

Well, how about that? The Cubs found a way last night to beat a pretty bad pitcher into submission and not have to worry about the bullpen. It was nice for a change to go to bed and not have to worry about the outcome.

In an added benefit, the Cubs gained ground on both the Brewers and Cardinals to pull within 2.5 games.

Tonight the Cubs go against a lefty that has given them trouble. Wandy Rodriguez pitched six innings of 1-run ball way back on April 7 to give the Astros a victory. Wandy was quietly putting together a nice season, but has been roughed up in his last two outings.

The Cubs counter with Carlos Zambrano, who pitched very well coming off this suspension. With 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, he lowered his ERA by about half a run last time out. Hopefully, he will follow that up with another strong outing against the woeful Astros.

In other news, Bruce Miles says the Cubs will send Jake Fox down to make room for Aaron Miles today. let me tell you, that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. My guess, and Miles agrees, is that Fox will make his way back when the Cubs play in AL parks. He'll probably split time with Micah Hoffpauir, depending on who pitches.

I'm about to run into class, so lets keep this short.

Who's Hot

Mike Fontentot - Mike went 4-for-5 last night with a HR and two runs scored. In the process, he raised his average to .249. We're getting there folks, and we just need Aramis Ramirez to get back, so we can stop playing Aaron Miles and the like.

Kosuke Fukudome - I love it when a plan comes together. I called out Fukudome last night, and he promptly responded with two hits, two RBI, and two walks. Now if that can work with Milton.

Geovanny Soto - I know it was just three singles, but he has to start somewhere.

Ted Lilly - The ace of the staff hands down right now. Randy Wells might have the great ERA, but Lilly's been doing it all year.

Who's Not

Milton Bradley - Milton went 1-for-7 last night. Oh wait....0-for-6, since the bat he broke doesn't county. He lowered his average to average to .208, and doesn't look close to breaking out of the slump.

Conclusions

Cubs win in a close one tonight thanks to a Carlos Zambrano hit. The Cubs have 3 of 5, and are improving. I really think we are on the brink of a big winning streak.

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