Goatriders of the Apocalypse

That Old Gag

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If Fukudome is underrated, then what is Ryan Theriot?

Apparently the guys who frequent Desipio -- and Desipio spin-off Hire Jim Essian -- are not particularly fond of being mentioned in other places.  A couple of days ago I did just that in this article, where I highlighted the debate on the value of Kosuke Fukudome which had been started on the Desipio forums.  

A loyal Goat Reader who wishes to remain anonymous EMailed me the following discussion:

Bort  "Pretty awesome of Kurt to take his bitchfest to GROTA."
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater  "Kurt is such a douche."
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater  "He seriously cried wee wee wee all the way home to his queercastke* of wrong at GROTA."

(*I think he meant "queercastle")

ChuckDickens  "F**king Kurt posts a rebuttal at GROTA?"
ChuckDickens  "Is that a canard to get me to read his site or something?"
SKO  "and then he name drops you and Pre like anyone there would know who the f**k that was"
T to E to C  "he posted the rebuttal at GROTA because he figured no one would read it if it was over there"

I'm not sure if T to E to C meant to say that GROTA has no readers, or I was expecting nobody from Desipio to notice.   Either way I posted the "rebuttal" because it's an interesting debate topic about the Cubs** in which a pack of idiots -- that would apparently include you, T to E to C -- took a ridiculous stance apparently for the simple reason that I took the opposite one.  The response to my post, ironically a major bitch fest by several individuals, is pretty damned funny.

(**GROTA, being predominately a content-hungry website that covers the Cubs seems like the ideal place to debate the merits of a player like Fukudome, incidentally)

RV  "Kurt just wanted to make sure there was absolutely zero doubt that he's an insufferable pudleak."
SKO  "i used to feel sorry for Kurt. i thought he was an awkward but well meaning guy that everyone mercilessly attacked."
SKO  "i see now that he's just a completely oblivious twit"
Mr. Tank  "There's nothing more interesting for the readers of you blog than a recap of an internet discussion you've had somewhere else"
T to E to C  "I used to read GROTA regularly like three years ago. Now I wonder what the hell was wrong with me back then."

Thanks for all the love, guys.  Again, stay classy with the sniveling hatefest directed toward me.  All I did was highlight a ridiculous stance ChuckD had on the value of Kosuke Fukudome on this, a Cubs blog.  All you did was rattle off insults highlighting what tremendous folks you are.  And while I'm sure that some Goat Readers have never heard of any of you, the Cubs blogging community isn't so big.  Surely some people here know "who the f**k that was" and have their own bad experiences with your crowd. 

Anyway, I bring the topic up again for two reasons -- first because it obviously annoyed the holy hell out of them, and second because the fallacy of their Fuku-love is hypocritically contrasted by their lukewarm feelings toward Ryan Theriot, the topic of this article.

Theriot, you may have heard, is an average-at-best shortstop with no base running skills and a terrible defensive ability.  

For example -- we learned last week that Fukudome's season, as determined by wRC, puts him in elite company (ignoring the 70-or-so players who have better wRC than him this season).  Theriot at this moment has a very similar wRC to Fukudome -- 65.3 to Kosuke's 67.7.  Since we've already established that some people mistakenly feel that Fooky's wRC is something special, then I'm sure these same jabrones have a similar appreciation for the year Theriot is having.  Except, they might argue, Theriot's defensive value detracts from his contributions compared with the stellar-gloved Fukudome.

But Fangraphs tells us something interesting -- according to the UZR stat, Theriot is a Top 10 defensive shortstop in all of baseball with an UZR/150 of 3.2.  For comparisson's sake, Fukudome is 11th amongst all center fielders, with an UZR/150 of -5.2***.  In the NL alone, Theriot is 5th best defensively, while Kosuke is 7th best.  

(***-5.2?!?  So much for being near Gold-Glove caliber)

Mix that in with Fangraphs' estimated value of Theriot compared with Fukudome -- $11.4 to $13.4, (with a WAR of 2.5 to 3.0).  In other words, while Fukudome has been slightly more valuable to the Cubs than Theriot (until you consider that Kosuke is making perhaps 24 times as much money, if not more), where's the Cajun Love from the Desipio crowd?

After my Fukudome article, AJ posted one regarding his opinion that the Cubs' CF is the MVP of the team.  I won't contest that, first because part of Fukudome's value is the fact that he's not easily replaced, and second because on this under-performing team it makes perfect sense that such an average player would be one of the best in the lineup.  But if we're going to make our judgment on the Cubs players based purely on an analytical, statistical outlook, then Theriot should not be overlooked.  Like a lot of people out there I would support his move to second base, but he's apparently been a pretty decent shortstop this year despite what biased public sentiment might be.  

As for the Desipio guys, I like many of them and respect their opinions.  It's a little unfortunate that some of them have to be so hostile toward people they dislike -- and they certainly present themselves in an extremely unpleasant manner the majority of the time -- but hey, they're the funniest guys on the internet.  Just ask them.

Anyway, I've never said GROTA is the best Cubs blog on the net -- I can easily think of a bunch that are funnier, and more analytical, and more compelling.  And if you'd like to see for yourself some of the personal blogs of the guys who think I am an "insufferable pudleak" living in my "queercastke of wrong at GROTA" then feel free to follow these links:

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater -- Wrigleyville23, named apparently after his love of the Chicago neighborhood with the highest quantity of puke per square mile and his love of Ryne Sandberg.  DKN only contributes sparringly to this blog.
Slaky - Slak's Index, a blog that is apparently about Slaky's music tastes, because that's what the internet needed -- another music blog by some guy nobody cares about
Eli - Eli Gieryna, the internet's least-prolific blogger, which sort of resembles a bot-created phish site
SKO - Start Kyle Orton ... considering that SKO hasn't apparently invested any money in his blog, it's probably not too late to create a Jay Cutler worship site for which he can migrate his compelling rhetoric, kind of like how HJE used to be FLP.
ChuckDickens - Pseubermetrics, which I have absolutely nothing bad to say about.  It's a clever and well-done site.

Bort/Jon, who apparently whined a lot because I didn't include a link to his blogs, runs Hitler Getting Punched, contributes on Thunder Matt's Saloon, and also The Slog.  Since I like the first two and know nothing of the latter I won't bother to come up with any pointless insults.  Sorry for hurting your feelings by leaving you out, Jon. ***END UPDATE***

I'm sure you that you'll enjoy some of those, although I also have a feeling that the guys who own them would rather lose a testicle than take on GROTA readers, who they surely feel are inferior to themselves. 

Hank Aaron to come out of retirement -- Cub fans ecstatic at the possibilities

GEORGIA - Homer king Hank Aaron has recently announced his plans to come out of retirement and retake his crown as all-time major league leader in homeruns.  The Braves have already responded to his press conference by saying that they do not have a roster spot to accommodate the legend, making his services available to any other team in the league.

Aaron stated this morning that he has been working out rigorously for the past six weeks and, thanks to his trainer, a rigorous work-out regimine, and the regular consumption of panta seaweed, he has been able to put on 20 pounds of muscle in that time frame.

"I just think it's important that I be the homerun king," Aaron said.  "In my day we did it legitimately and that's what I want to do now -- legitimately reclaim the crown."  Aaron later declined a drug test stating, "Why would a 75 year old man risk his health by using steroids?"

Cub fans everywhere are naturally ecstatic by the possibilities of Aaron joining the team.  Citing the poor performance this year by Milton Bradley and Aaron's long career of success at hitting homeruns and batting cleanup, some fans feel as if it is a serendipitous moment that Aaron be made available.

"It's like with Glavine and Pedro," said Dough Bagge, a prominent Cubs blogger.  "These guys have Cy Youngs -- multiple! -- and Aaron is a former MVP who has clearly demonstrated that he can hit the long-ball.  It doesn't matter that he's old and years passed his greatest successes, he's available so why not?"

Bagge went on to elaborate: "I love it when washed-up veterans come to the Cubs!  That's what we need more of, in this year of mediocrity!"

Aaron has declined to comment regarding his interest in playing for the Cubs.

Woe is Cub: A Fair and Balanced Look at Cub Fan Mentality

Sometimes I get in a little bit of trouble for not being the friendliest person when dealing with certain kinds of situations.  For example, if Carlos gets chased from the 1st inning of his next start and somebody says "he's done this year," then whoever says that will not be my friend for at least a few minutes. 

In other words, I'm not internet-friendly.  On the internet you're supposed to make broad proclamations.  You're expected to say alienating things without being called on it.  Actually I'll defer to this particular website (baby's first internet) to explain in detail what the internet is meant to be all about.

Anyway, if I acted irritated toward you or somebody like you in the last few days then I apologize.  GROTA is part journal/part forum and as a so-called moderator it's not my job to mock somebody who believes that Joey Gathright deserves a chance to bat cleanup.  But I will say this...

The self-defeatest, Woe is Cub attitude has to go.  It wasn't directly the goal of this blog to change peoples' attitudes about Woe is Cub, but think about it for a second.  We're the Goat Riders of the bleedin' Apocalypse!  We created this blog within weeks of the second consecutive gut-wrenching, heart-breaking season finale.  When Cub fans were at their lowest we appeared to say THE CUBS ARE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES! 

Granted, this is our 5th season of saying that.  But looking back on the past 4 years of Cubs baseball, can you really argue that things are getting worse?  Or are the Cubs becoming a perenial contender in the NL Central with a solid structure of discipline and talent?  I'm not saying that we had anything to do with it, but we did believe it could happen.

Lou Piniella calls it Cubbie Swagger.  But on the other side of the fence I've seen a lot of Cubbie Downer from the fans who are some of the most pessemistic people I have ever seen.  We are the Debbie Downer of the baseball world.  Regular fans could be singing the virtues of the Cubs, and some of us would be talking about the inevitable extinction of polar bears. 

But I get it.  I understand why.  I just don't agree with it. 

I believe that the failings - and successes, for that matter - of past seasons means nothing to the current one.

I believe that a player starting the year 1 for 30 is not indicative of how many hits he'll have after 300 - or even 60 - at at bats on the season.

I believe that on any given night, the best pitcher on any team can crap the bed, and that the worst pitcher can get huge outs.  I believe that the success - or failure - of the pitcher in that situation does not directly effect his next outing.

I believe that any team which wins 100 games will compile streaks of games in which they look like they could lose 100 games.  Likewise I believe that the worst teams in baseball will look amazing every once in a while.

I believe, then, that a 9-8 start, while disappointing, gives absolutely no indication of the team's final record.  I believe that, as built, the Cubs are capable of being an offensive force to reckon with.  I believe it's actually somewhat amazing that they've won 9 games considering that half of their starting 8 began the year ice cold.  And I believe it's ludicrous to expect - or even worry - that all of those players will put up subpar numbers in 2009.

As we've pointed out, the Cubs are a fantastic team on paper.  As we've also noted, there does however happen to be a reason why they actually play the games.  So for sure the Cubs aren't guaranteed anything.  But regardless of mixed early results, I think they'll be kicking ass very soon.

Anyway, I'll make you a deal.  If you choose not to actively taunt the dynamite monkey (that's me), I will choose not to actively disagree loudly and regularly whenever you have a minor flip-out over the direction of the Cubs season.  But please remember where you are.  This blog was created because we believe the Cubs are not cursed, or doomed, to forever play in obscurity.  So please don't act surprised when we're not the first ones to give up on the 2009 season.

But if that day comes, when it happens, you better believe the Cubs are screwed.

Game Recap: Cardinals 8, Cubs 2, our season is clearly over

Cubs lose ... again
In case you missed it, this wouldn't be happening if Mark DeRosa was here.

Or if Jim Hendry knew how to build a team.

Or if Lee, Bradley, and Fontenot didn't suck so much.

Apparently if Mark DeRosa was on the Cubs and if Hendry had gotten real players instead of schmucks like Milton Bradley, then they would never lose 4 games in a row, they would never have team-wide offensive droughts, and in fact they would never give us cause for concern as they blasted their way toward a World Series Championship.

These are the things a couple of our readers have informed us about this weekend.
For the record, last year's World Championship team began the year with an 8-8 record and were only 15-13 after the first month of baseball.  They spent a long period of the month of May struggling to win more games than they lost.  From June 14th until June 29th, they went 3-11, including 6 straight losses.  They had 4 game losing streaks in July and August, and they started play after the All Star Break with a win, and then immediately lost 5 of their next 6. 

My point is that some Cub fans appear to suffer from the ability to look ahead, or put current goings-ons in context.  I keep pointing this stuff out, but maybe they don't believe me?  But let's try it again.

Derrek Lee is batting .293 since April 13th.  I know, DB is one of the peeps who doesn't trust DLee or expect him to perform, but it really is not surprising that he started slow.  Point of fact, way back at the beginning of the year I outlined 4 examples of past Cubs who began the year struggling and turned things up a notch later on.

Point of fact - as of this date, does anybody really believe that the numbers mean anything?  As of today, Kevin Youkilis is batting .444.  Does that mean the frozen noggin of Ted Williams should start sweating?  Carlos Pena is on pace to hit 72 homeruns.  Should Barry Bonds be concerned?  Does anybody really think it's likely that Aramis Ramirez or Kosuke Fukudome will finish the year batting at - or better than - their current averages (.358 and .345)?

If the answer is "no," then how in the hell can you see a full 50% of our team's lineup struggle and expect them to play that badly all year long?  Right now, Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot, Geovany Soto, and Milton Bradley are a combined 31 for 175 - and 25 of those hits come from Lee and Font.  That's a .177 AVG from half the starting lineup.  No kidding that they'd be struggling right now!  I'm shocked to see them struggle to win games with half their lineup sucking ass!  I would've thought that the Cubs were so solidly built that they could overcome a slump that's effecting half the fricking team!  Damn yous Jim Hendry for not building a better roster!  Damn yous!

Anyway, the problem is that everybody wants the Superlative Season.  The only problem is that back here in reality it does not happen.  Even the best teams struggle.  It's a fact of life. 

So, yes, the Cubs are struggling right now.  The offense grinding and groaning and not in the fun way.  The pitching staff is looking worse by the day, what with injuries to the team's best setup guy, and the release of a pitcher with a 0.00 ERA (and an attitude), and the flailings of the fringe players who cracked the squad out of Spring Training.  Yes.  Things are ugly.

But what is worse to me is the continued Woe is Cub attitude that so many people are prone to display at the first sign of the team's struggles.  It's just ridiculous.  I mean, yes, this is all very frustrating from the fan's standpoint and we should be frustrated.  But anybody who starts talking about "the moves not made" or how "the players brought in are failures" after 16 freaking games is putting the cart way, waaay before the horses.

Frustration is fine.  Surrender is French.  Don't be a Surrender Monkey!

Quick Links

Series Preview: Cubs at St. Louis
Game Recap: Cardinals 4, Cubs 3, rising tide of panic
GameCast: Cubs at Cardinals April 25th 

The Cubs will win 110 in 2009 - and the World Series, to boot

It's that time of year again.  Last year - as you may recall - we predicted that the Cubs would win 120 games.  Mostly we did that for the humor.  This year, though, we've all grown up a bit and have come to the conclusion that it's better to be realistic than ridiculous.  And so, with no fanfare or surprise, Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is unveiling the new model of the Carlos Zambran-0-Meter; and this one goes to 110.

Carlos Win Meter!You may be asking.  Why 110?  Are we nuts?  Wouldn't it be enough to hope for 95?  Look, as crazy as it may sound we actually have logic behind choosing such a big number.  Consider the following facts.

  • 97 wins.  That's what the Cubs had last year to the surprise of pretty much everybody - even the people who expected them to win the division.  They easily won the NL Central despite the Brewers acquisition of the single most dominating starting pitcher in baseball last year (sorry, Cy Young winners, Sabathia was better).  And what's the difference between 2008 and 2009?  Simple - Sabathia is gone.  So is Sheets.

    Meanwhile, as we can see visibly how the Brewers have gotten worse, we can also see how the Cubs have gotten better.  Milton Bradley is a Cub and he brings with him monstrous production.  Mark DeRosa is gone and while it's a scary thing to some fans, Mike Fontenot brings a better balance to the Cubs lineup and can produce just as well.  Not to mention there's the addition through subtraction.  Jason Marquis and the butt-clenching terror that his pitching causes us is long gone.  Bob Howry and his tendency to serve 7th inning batting practice to the opposition is a thing of the past. 

    In other words, the Cubs are actually a better team, at least on paper.  Look closely at the other teams in the NL Central.  Can you honestly say that any of them are better than they were last year?  Really?  If the Cubs were good enough to win 97 last year, and to enter the playoffs with a 7 game lead over the second place team, then they're good for way, way more than that in 2009.  Book it.  Done.

  • The Dusty Purge is Complete.  Go check the box score from yesterday's game.  The Cubs drew 9 walks en route to their defeat of the Rockies.  The game before that, they walked 10 times.  That's 19 walks in 2 frickin' games!  Dusty Baker is spinning in his grave and he's not even dead! 

    Do you know how amazing it is that the Cubs are a patient team with solid fundamentals?  It only took a few years, but they are now a team more resembling the Yankees than the Barnum&Bailey's.  Imagine the 2004 Cubs and all their potential had they been directed by Lou Piniella and his staff of qualified coaches.  It's insanely depressing because they would have won the friggin' World Series FIVE YEARS AGO!!! 

    I ask you, how can the Cubs not win 110?  How can they not blast their way through the World Series?  They're practically a team of destiny!

  • Three Times is the Charm.  Okay, fantastic.  I've convinced you the Cubs can actually win 110.  (What, you're not convinced?  Just work with me here, okay?)  History has shown that while there are teams out there that remain hard luck losers no matter how well they play, the odds are in the favor of the Cubs.  I'd even dare say they are in overwhelming favor of them. 

    After all, statistically speaking, the more something has the chance to occur, the more likely it is that it will occur.  If a team plays a sport for, say, 100 years, and there are only between 20 and 30 teams playing that sport, then the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of everybody winning at least once.  And more to the point, if a team reaches the playoffs consistently - and we all agree that actually winning in the playoffs is a total crapshoot - then the odds are in favor of them winning in the playoffs!  It's a mathematical pseudo-certainty!   

  • Jim Hendry's Got the Horses.  Imagine that it's June.  The Cubs are playing well, but so are the Cardinals who've just acquired, oh, I dunno, Roy Halladay from the Jays for about half their minor league system.  Jim Hendry will retaliate.  Jim Hendry will improve the team if it means an improved likelihood of winning.

    Maybe that improvement will be Jake Peavy.  Maybe it'll be somebody else.  Either way, the Cubs aren't afraid to get better -- and odds are, they will.

I say to you again.  The Cubs will win, and win big in 2009.  If they aren't the favorites to win the NLCS then there isn't a favorite to win the NLCS.  They are a team with the experience, the balance, and the drive to go all the way. And so I say to you, without a shred of reluctance or doubt ... this is the year.  Enjoy it if you're a Cub fan, and despair if you're not.  This is the year.  Yes They Can.

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The Cut Kevin Gregg thread

Or: The Relax Guy(s) Thread

You may have heard that Kevin Gregg blew a save last night.  You may also be aware that Lou Piniella manages a bullpen the way a clown would juggle chainsaws.  But what's clear after the first 4 games of the season is that Cub fans remain just as over-reactionary as ever.  Some fun quotes from yesterday's fiasco:

That Ending was a joke.  Im not impressed with Gregg and am less impressed now.
letsgotheriot: I really don't know if I'll be comfortable with Gregg

At least lgt isn't giving up on Gregg, he's just voicing the same concern we all feel whenever a Cub tanks.  But I just have to ask ... can we please withold judgment for a while?  Please?

Carlos Zambrano had a great opening day.  Does that mean he'll have a fantastic '09?  No.

Rich Harden went 6 strong and struck out 10.  Does that mean he's healthy enough to pitch reliably?  No!

Derrek Lee has struggled to get into a groove.  Does that mean he should be benched for Micah Hoffpauir?  Hell no!

Lou Piniella has played bullpen roulette during every close game of this early season.  Does that mean he can't manage a bullpen?  ...well...

Anyway, the point is that we are way, way too anxious for results.  Even I - who predicted last week that Gregg will eventually lose the gig to Marmol - think that it's way too early.  In a long season, the best closer will blow close games.  The best hitter will have long, painful slumps.  The best manager will make WTF! decisions. 

Perhaps it's just inflated a little because it's the beginning of the season and we're putting everybody under an intense microscope.  But I say again.  Relax, guy(s).

That old gag, part 2

Well Kurt sense your in love with DLee lets see what he does over the next 20 games and then we can decide where he should be

I really need to create a "that old gag" tag.  Anyway...

This talk about 20 games got me thinking. Let's say that over the next 20 games, Derrek Lee has 80 at bats and goes 10 for 80. That's a .125 AVG - and guess what? Where he'd be is STILL in the starting lineup as the starting first baseman! You know why? He's making 8 figures a year with an absolute no-trade clause playing for a winning franchise in a city he likes -- and he has a track record of success. Whether he go 20 for 80 or 5 for 80, Derrek Lee will be in the starting lineup all year long. But speaking of 20 games, let's take a look at a couple of lines...

Player 1: 60 AB, 16 H, 8 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .267 AVG, .302 OBP, .702 OPS
Player 2: 80 AB, 16 H, 3 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .188 AVG, .239 OBP, .568 OPS
Player 3: 70 AB, 16 H, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .229 AVG, .325 OBP, .739 OPS
Player 4: 75 AB, 15 H, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .200 AVG, .228 OBP, .535 OPS

Not exactly the numbers of champions, eh? These guys had between 60 and 80 at bats, none of them managed better than 16 hits, none displayed -- based on the numbers, anyway -- the ability to hit at the Major League level. If only there had been a Micah Hoffpauir to step in and replace them all.

Problem is, all of those guys started the seasons with those lines and do you know how they finished up? Player 1 wound up batting .299 with 33 HR, 70 RBI, and a .897 OPS. That was Alfonso Soriano, 2007 edition.

Player 2 finished the year with a .280 AVG, 29 HR, 75 RBI, and an OPS of .876. Again, that was Alfonso Soriano, 2008 edition.

Player 3 ended the year with a .278 AVG, 31 HR, 92 RBI, and an OPS of .860. That was the 2004 line of Derrek Lee.

The only guy to not have an epic year is Player 4, but we can't really hold it against Ryne Sandberg. It was his rookie season after all. He still managed a .271 AVG, 7 HR, 54 RBI, and 32 steals. But it's nice to know that mdonnellyacn1 would have cut the string on Ryno after 20 games, thus preventing Cub fans from enjoying the career of the finest second baseman to ever wear a Cubs uniform.

The moral of the story is actually two or threefold. First, Cub fans are fickle. Secondly, passing down arbitrary edicts about how a player has to look productive after X days is ridiculous and counter-productive. A baseball season is six months in length. Over the span of six months, there will always be periods of time in which a Ted Williams plays like a Neifi Perez, and vice versa. Third, we have become conditioned to be reactionary. We can't let something develop - we need resolution and we need it now! Kosuke Fukudome went 0 for 4! He very well might be a total bust, but nobody - no expert, no pundit, no brilliant baseball mind - knows how well he'll do after one 0 for 4 performance. (However I can predict this ... he will have many more 0 for 4 performances this year. Book it. Done.) I guarantee you that the first time the Cubs have a 5 game losing streak, there will be idiots out there wailing doom and gloom, calling it a lost season, giving up on the team.

It's all thoughtless reaction. I guess the only satisfaction I can take is that no matter how poorly Lee starts the season - and before 2005 he was a notorious slow-starter - he will still be starting all year long. And whether he bats .300 and cranks 25+ homeruns, or he bats .265 and hits a meager 15, the Cubs will still be good, even if the overthinkers disagree.

Update to say... That Old Gag tag created

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