Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Randy Wells

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Why didn't I blast on Wells last year like I did Soto in 2009?

To be honest, I don't know.

I guess it was because, in my opinion, the Cubs were the best team in baseball during the 2008 regular season, so when they crapped the bed the next year, there was the reigning Rookie of the Year, all fat and satisfied.  By the next year, we are all just numb, I guess, so when Wells showed up all fat and satisfied, it just didn't sting as much.  There were few expectations on my part.

Yes, Randy Wells admitted to Paul Sullivan that he got too caught up in himself and stopped caring about his craft.  If you click the link and read the article, it sounds like Greg Maddux got ahold of him and shook him up and down until the brain hit the brainpan.  Wells is not the old Kerry Wood, or Zambrano, or Marmol.  He does not have 'stuff', and he must concentrate on every pitch he throws if he wants to succeed.  It sounds like either he didn't realize that, or simply thought better of it.

My question is: wasn't Maddux around the whole year?  Why didn't somebody get ahold of this pixystick sooner, bench him, send him to the pen, send him to Iowa, send him to Pittsburgh?  Why was he allowed to live in la-la-land the whole season, pissing away at least 16 games (the ones he was credited for losing, and perhaps a few others besides)?  Where the hell was his manager and pitching coach??

Oh.  Well.  We know the answer to the last question.  The pitching coach was plotting his exit strategy to New York, and the manager was looking for more pudding.

How can we blame Hendry for this one?  Hendry fills the uniforms, but it is up to the on-field personnel to do their jobs, once they put the uniform on.  Should a GM be able to judge a player's mental make-up prior to committing to him?  I think so.  You may disagree, you may say a GM need only to judge based on results. 

Let's hope Wells is taking this lesson to heart, and that he does bounce back and become the solid staff contributor.  It just pisses me off that we wasted at least one entire year of our lives last year, pinning our hopes on a bunch of guys who were not being led, not managed, not coached, and in (at the very least) in Randy Wells' case, were more concerned with themselves than the game.

You owe us, chief.

Pitching will tell the tale for the Cubs in 2011

The only "impact" hitter the Cubs possess, past, present, or future, is Alfonso Soriano, and his category is, of course, "past".  So, even if he has his current "typical" .800 OPS year, and even if every other member of the offense has an above-average statistical year, the Cubs will still finish in the middle of the pack offensively in the NL.   Considering the salaries being paid, that's not OK, but otherwise, that would be acceptable if we had solid pitching and defense to back that up.

AJ pointed out the other day that, except for third base, the defense isn't going to lose us any games.  The past year or so, an effort was made to replace Soriano in left during late innings.  It might be time to, instead, consider doing that for Ramirez.  It was different when ARam was our most consistent late-inning run producer.  It was also different in his younger days when he was characterized as 'lazy'.  At this point in his life, he may honestly just be this slow.  It is the manager's job to address this situation, and hopefully Quade has these types of late-inning defensive thoughts.

Which leaves the pitching, and well, damn.  I consider myself to know more about hitting than pitching, but I don't think we are very well equipped going forward. 

I think we have Dempster, a #2 starter.  If we are to go with his last 10 starts last year, Zambrano is a nice #3 starter (the slot he held during the "glory" years mid-decade), but there's a catch, and it isn't just that he makes Ace Money.  Personally, I love to watch the man play, but if we are talking about winning, we need consistency and excellence that can be relied on.  You cannot rely on this Toro.  If your lawnmower crapped out as often as Z does, you'd push him to the curb. 

I thought Hendry was going to do just that last month.  The right whispers were there.  Nothing has happened on that front.  Maybe, though, now that Cliff Lee is now with Philly, the Yankees will need to do something big, because that is what they do.  Maybe we'll hear some new rumors soon. (UPDATED)

What else do we have?  One more year of Silva the Hutt, who reverted to his true blobular self in the 2nd half.  There's mediocre lefty Gorzellany, who is being shopped.  There's noted nightlife lover Randy Wells, who early this year I compared to Greg Maddux because he doesn't have a 'big arm', but seems to know how to pitch when all is right.  Wells can be part of a staff if he prioritizes.  To me, he is worth more in a trade than on our staff.

There has been word lately of efforts to get Matt Garza from the Rays.  This would be more exciting if there was, like, any chance in hell it could happen.  The question came up - why would the Rays make this deal?  If it could make their team better!  If somehow the Rays and Jim Hendry could hammer out a good old-fashioned "value" trade, where we sent them something of roughly equal value to what we would receive.

The problem is, to my knowledge, the last time Hendry was involved in a true "value" trade was the big Nomar deal in 2004.  All of Hendry's trades since have either been: desperation dumps of Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley; favors to players like Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux; or the occasional fire-sale swap with the Pirates.  I doubt Hendry has the ability or the stones to make a straight value-for-value trade, where he gives up, say, Wells and/or Gorzellany, along with top prospects, or something that involves one of our young players with experience, like Colvin or Castro.  At least, I don't trust him to do it right.

I fail to see what is so special about Casey Coleman.  I have never seen why the Shark was worth the money he has been paid, although I grasp the concept it had to do with the eventuality that he might have opted to play football instead, it doesn't justify why it was given to HIM.  It is a hope of mine, though, that the new pitching coach has a rapport with him that Rothschild never had.

In the best of situations, we need two of the afore-mentioned starters to step up.  However, we are going to need three, because we don't have a staff Ace.  Therefore everyone steps up a rung.  And, if sometime between now and spring training, Zambrano opens up his ugly mouth and says something unforgivable, which COULD happen at any given moment that he is awake, then Hendry will be forced into another of his patented 'addition by subtraction' dumps, and all we'll have is Dempster and dumpster.

Bullpen?  Thank God for Sean Marshall.  This is about the time of year, typically, when the "Marshall is a good soldier, he deserves a chance to start" refrain is sung.  This year, though, nobody dares.  He has to stay in the pen.  Otherwise, we rely on surgi-zombies Grabow, Caridad, and Guzman, along with Andrew Cashner and Rafael Dolis, two guys with huge arms and absolutely no idea about how to pitch. 

Then of course we have our closer, the Harry Potter of the majors.  Carlos Marmol set records last year for both percentage of pitches swung at and missed as well as strikeouts per nine innings.  Honestly, I thought the 1977-79 Bruce Sutter was the most unhittable force of all time - Marmol crushed his stats, simply crushed them.  Thing is, though, both Sutter and Marmol pitched for fifth place teams.  I have always maintained that the secret of his success is how hard he concentrates on his task.  Can he keep up that level of concentration to close games that matter?  Nobody knows, do we?

So that brings us to the point where we go get some pitching help.  I will come back soon with some possible candidates, but one of them is not Kerry Lee Wood.  Now, I love me some Wood.  Great guy, historical guy, diabolical stuff, cute, perky wife.  Great in the community, loves the Cubs and Chicago.  But he also represents something we need to get away from: unrequited Cub Hope. 

The Ricketts need to pull a 180 in terms of historic direction.  I am afraid Wood represents the way things used to be done here: work hard, not smart.  When at first you don't succeed, throw harder; tear yourself apart, go on the DL.  Suffer the crush of over 100 years of Cubs karma; resign yourself to your fate.  I feel that happened to Wood, as it happened to Grace, Sandberg, Banks, Williams, and on and on. 

If the Cubs are ever going to win it all, it will need to be with new blood.  Could it be Castro?  Soto?  Marmol?  The Korean kids in Peoria?  I dunno, but it won't be with Kerry Wood, God bless him and his 20 Ks and his Game 7 loss and his tattered shoulder and the burden of 102 years on top of him.  We need to find some help elsewhere.

Week 25 awards: Things we learned

  • Mike Quade did not make a deal with the devil. For the first time in his five weeks as manager, the Cubs were under .500 for the week. At least when the Cardinals finally managed to take a series from the Cubs, they were too far out for it to matter.

  • Randy Wells has something to build on for next year: he's 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA in his last five starts. Walks have been a major issue for him this season, but he's had just one in his last two games.

  • The Zambrano Situation will be a very interesting one this offseason. He still hasn't lost since rejoining the rotation, making it either very tempting for Hendry to keep him around, or increasingly tempting for another GM to try to trade for him.

  • "Carlos Marmol, you are ridiculous!" With three strikeouts against the Cardinals on Saturday, he set a Cubs record for strikeouts by a reliever, breaking Bruce Sutter's 1977 record of 129. But that's not the interesting part: Sutter threw 107 innings that year; Marmol's thrown just 73. In a related story, Marmol is going to get PAID this offseason.

  • Bob Brenly will not be the next Cubs manager. I don't think he would have been a terrible option, but on the bright side, I do hope to at least get another year of he and Len in the booth (he said he would be open to other team's managerial positions).

Ryno of the Week: This might be our first back-to-back winner of the year: Randy Wells. He shut out the Giants over 7.2 innings for his eighth win of the year and has looked like last year's Randy Wells for the past month or so.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Casey Coleman

Goat of the Week: "Anything you can do, I can do worse." Gorzelanny allowed seven runs in just 3.1 innings? Pffft, I can do way worse than that, says Ryan Dempster. Nine earned runs in just 1.2, raising his ERA 0.37 this late in the season. He's 14-11 and will likely have one more shot to get his 15th win.

Dishonorable mentions: Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Koyie Hill

Week 24 awards: Suddenly, Cubs are road warriors

The Cubs are now 17-7 under Mike Quade, but here's the number I'm more impressed with: 12-3. That's the Cubs' record on the road under their new manager; they were 27-38 on the road under Piniella. They struggled away from home last season as well, and it's nice to finally see some consistency when it comes to the home/road split.

It was the Cubs' first perfect week of the season, one that included their longest winning streak of the year (six) and their first three-game sweep in St. Louis since 1988. They beat Garcia, Wainwright and Carpenter to accomplish the latter feat, which is amazing given that those three had never lost back-to-back-to-back starts this season, and the only other time two of them lost in back-to-back games was against Milwaukee last month.

The Cubs are guaranteed to have a winning record against the Cardinals for the year, which is actually nothing new: they've taken the season series with their rivals five of the last six years (55-39 overall).

I don't think Quade deserves all the credit for the September turnaround, but he certainly does deserve praise for a job well done. It's nice to see the youngsters--and the few veterans on the team--putting forth effort and showing that they'll have at least a modicum of talent to work with when the calendar turns to 2011.

Ryno of the Week: Choices, choices. Over the course of the week, the Cubs outscored their opponents 39-12 and every starter got at least one win. We even had a Shark sighting as Jeff Samardzija made his first two starts of the year and is suddenly 2-1 on the season. But Randy Wells posted one of the team's best starts of the year in his return home (he's from Belleville, near St. Louis): 8 IP, just five hits and one earned run, and no walks, the first time he's avoided any free passes since August 2.

Honorable mentions: Casey Coleman, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Xavier Nady, Geovany Soto

Goat of the Week: I hate to be mad at anyone during a six-game winning streak, but Blake DeWitt was 3-for-17 this week and is now batting .234 as a Cub.

Dishonorable mention: Marlon Byrd

Gamecast (August 22, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Dang! (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Brewers 18)

We suck!

Carlos Lee'd (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Astros 8)

At some point I'm going to look up the phrase, "Starting pitcher kept team in game, offense failed to capitalize on opportunities, secondary bullpen pitchers put game out of reach," in different languages, because that's really probably the only way I can continue to give you a varied product when it comes to game recaps.

Randy Wells allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings yesterday, but two of those came in the sixth on a Carlos Lee home run that was thiiiiis close to going foul. Lee would also homer off Bob Howry later in the game, giving him four ribs on two homers for the day.

The Cubs had a chance to take the lead early, loading the bases with no outs in the first, and with Castro and Colvin getting on in front of Aramis Ramirez with no outs in the third. They had a chance in the fifth too, when Theriot and Castro both singled. Unfortunately, their inability to capitalize was their downfall yesterday.

Of course, that's what you get for playing Fukudome, Nady, and Baker instead of Byrd, Lee, and Soriano.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game, where I'll be on full-fledged CastroWatch: if Castro goes 1-for-4 and Byrd goes 0-for-4, Starlin will take over the team lead in batting average.

And hey, has anybody been traded yet?

Gamecast (July 17, 2010) Phillies @ Cubs

(Sorry for the lateness of this gamecast, work requirements got in the way on this very warm Saturday morning in Southern California)

The win yesterday was very nice and it's good that the Cubs have ensured at least a split against the two time defending NL champions. It's obvious that the Cubs are playing better but it's important that we, as Cub fans, keep this all in perspective. Yesterday was a one run game and with the Cubs on top, luck played every bit as much of factor in this game as did skill.

Still, it's nice to win and I hope it continues. We play the Phillies again today and I hope the Cubs can win the series today instead of having to do it against Roy Halladay tomorrow. Cole Hamels is good but Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball.

Today's Matchup: Cole Hamels (112IP, 3.78ERA, 3.86xFIP) vs Randy Wells (105.1IP, 4.61ERA, 3.71xFIP)

Hamels is a good pitcher and he's someone the Cubs should target once he hits free agency but Randy Wells has been the Cubs best pitcher according to xFIP this year. This is true even though some of his results (media based things like won/loss record and ERA) haven't been great. He has a 7.09/2.39 K/BB ratio and a 45% ground ball rate. As usual, the key for Wells is getting out of the first inning. If he does get out of the first inning, I think we can expect a very nice, long good day out of him.

Who's Hot: Aramis Ramirez has heated up just as the Cubs' offense has and now has a .220/.278/.411 triple slash line for the season. At one point, I was hopeful that he would finish the season at .230 or higher, now, I'm hoping for .260. I just hope the Cubs' brass remembers his first half this year, he'll be getting $16 Million in 2011 and the Cubs will probably need a 3B in 2012, Ramirez is an option but I don't see the Cubs giving him more than $10 Million to do that job (and a 1 year contract at that).

Who's Not: it's time for Derrek Lee to follow the Ramirez example and start popping the ball. Lee's month of July? .244/.320/.356. Imagine how well the Cubs would be doing if he got hot!!!!!

Conclusion: I still maintain that it's too late for the Cubs to make a playoff run but I hope they can get back to .500 this season. Winning today is important because of the task ahead of them tomorrow, facing Halladay. Wells is at least as good a pitcher as Hamels so let's hope the Cubs do it.

Game Recap July 3: Randy Wells is not a one year wonder

With apologies to my fellow goat rider Kurt, who is a great writer and a fantastic Cubs' fan, Randy Wells proved him wrong today and all of those people who have said, incorrectly, that Wells is having a worse year this year than last year. The results have been bad. I mean, coming into today's game, he had an ERA over 4.90 but the truth is, he has done his job better this year than he did last year and probably should have an ERA that is around 1.5 lower than where it is. He was great today against the best hitting team in the NL this year (though like Wells, I think there is a bit of a mirage there also but the Reds are pretty good). He took a no hitter into the 7th and ended up pulled in the 8th for Carlos Marmol.

Marmol is falling off of his historic K pace unfortunately and could use the time off during the all star break. Of course, he won't get it, he will deservedly be selected for the All Star game but he could use the time off. Oh yeah, what about the offense? They were great today but the timing was off. The final was 3-1 Cubs but the Cubs kept cranking out baserunners like Kate Goselin cranking out reality shows only to see them die over and over on the bases.

Finally, Geo came through with a bases loaded double in the 6th. Soto continues to be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball as well as being one of (if not the) most productive hitter on the Cubs. I hope his hit today will result in more playing time.

Anyway, I leave with the following information:

Randy Wells 2009: 5.66K/9 2.50BB/9 76% LOB .294 BABIP
Randy Wells 2010: 7.05K/9 2.58BB/9 67% LOB .354 BABIP

There is no reason to think he won't produce an ERA of around 3.50 or so the second half barring an injury or a sudden collapse in his K rate. Young pitchers with that strikeout to walk rate are NOT to be giving up on by a good organization.

Surprise! Pirates win! (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Pirates 2)

Three points, plus a link:

1) Our offense sucks. Who knew?

2) Grabow back to the DL. Thank the Lord for that balky knee -- and maybe it is the knee that's been causing him to pitch poorly this season, but if you look at his numbers historically (specifically walks and hits allowed regardless of handedness of batters faced, plus lack of strikeouts), then you shouldn't be surprised to see him pitching this way even if he had a clean bill of health.

3) As for Randy Wells sucking: lately, despite maintaining a good K/BB ratio, Wells has been giving up too many hits. So I liked last night's strategy of throwing more balls outside the zone; even if it led to a few more walks, at least it was something new. And in the end, the guy's line was pretty darn good: 6 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 1 ER (and yes, four walks).

Link) Last night, Cubs fans were introduced to Brian Schlitter -- well, unless of course the fan in question was already a regular GROTA reader, because if that were the case, they'd already know who the kid is! That's because Former GROTA Contributor Kyle (now with the Tribune, I do believe) interviewed Schlitter for a GROTA article not too long ago. It's worth another read now that Brian has pitched in Wrigley: http://www.goatriders.org/brian-schlitter-chicago-cubs-minor-league

Go Cubs!

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award