Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Tom Gorzelanny

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Tommy Go-Go gone

ESPN's Bruce Levine is reporting that the Cubs have traded left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals.

The articles says the Cubs are receiving three prospects (two pitchers and an outfielder) in return. No word on whether any of them have a sweet Tumblr blog.

As Levine points out, this now leaves James Russell as the only lefty on the roster with the potential to be a starter. Happy Monday.

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.

Somewhere, a rotation of the ages is born. Elsewhere, envelopes containing x-rays pile up

The Phillies, who once had Cliff Lee, then moved him along elsewhere because they felt they could not afford him AND Roy Halladay, changed their minds and decided, yes, they COULD afford both of them.  So now, there they are, along with fairly recent World Series Ace Cole Hamels and longtime stud hoss Roy Oswalt.  Will it work?  Who knows, really?  It certainly seems as if it should.  Keep in mind, though, that just going back two years, Hamels, Lee, and Oswalt all had an mediocre-to-bad season.  Only the Doc is concrete cyanide every day, every way.

Now, watch, because the Baseball Gods never seem to let anything work out like this.  It would be typical if, this year, it was Halladay who somehow forgets how to pitch.  It is kind of like the White Sox this past year: they stacked up Peavy and Buehrle and Denks and Gavin Floyd and were supposed to pave over a weak AL Central, and it ends up that they needed to get Edwin Jackson simply to finish out the season.

What does any of this matter to us?  Because although red-hot all-male offseason action doesn't necessarily equate to wins and titles, it certainly does buy fan enthusiasm.  And, if for some reason you have only been a fan of the Cubs since, say, 2001 or 2002, you have been treated to a truly special time.  We won the division three times the past decade (more than our share!!) but even more, it was weee who led not only our division, but the entire NL in offseason noise! 

Cubs bring in World Series manager Dusty Baker!  Cubs sign Maddux; compile "Five Aces" rotation!  Cubs bring in Lou Piniella!  Cubs sign Soriano to record deal!  Cubs win Fukudome sweepstakes!    For a franchise accustomed to retreads and can't-miss prospects who consistently miss, the past several years have been like hanging out with a lottery winner on a bender. 

It's been a lot of fun, and easy to get excited about, and write about on a million Cubs blogs like this one.  Of course, keep in mind, in the end, we won nothing of any real significance, and in the end, the last big Hendry move turned out to be the worst.  On one hand there is reason to consider bringing in the man who led the majors in OPS the previous year.  On the other hand, you might want to stop and pause, to consider exactly WHY the man who led all humans in OPS in 2008 would be available to the highest bidder that same winter?

It was a particularly painful way to remember a rather simple truth: that money and offseason buzz alone does not win pennants.  It may help, but other things, like leadership, character, and perhaps a leadoff man that had some plate discipline, also need to be in place.

So here we are, at least I am, in below zero temperatures, rehashing the latest GROTA theme: we're all busy people these days, times have definitely changed, and there just isn't enough going on in Cub world for any of us to risk losing our jobs writing about it.  (And yes, Cub blogging played a part in my losing a job several years back, longtime readers may recall).  Thing is, though, it is one thing to ignore a few phone calls because my favorite sports team just went out and spent nearly 150 million dollars on a 40-40 guy.  It's another thing to endanger a livelihood debating over whether it was worth it to bring in a guy who hit .196 last year, as opposed to just letting Brad Snyder hold down first base until some of the big contracts come off the books.

Between the Super-Recession and our new jobs, new babies, and in my case, fulltime grad school at age 46 (?!?), the notion that we may bring in the corpse of Brandon Webb to replace Tom Gorzellany isn't going to generate enough buzz to compel us to fill this space with scintillating baseball expertise.

Good news (maybe?), though?  I have a month where I don't have to study, do homework, or try to sneak inconspicuously down hallways packed with kids less than half my age.  Even though I in my heart believe the Ricketts family have no inclination whatsoever to improve the team in 2011, I admit I was surprised they even considered signing Carlos Pena, even for a deferred one-year deal.  I had resigned myself to a year of Adam LaRoche, a completely useless piece of crap whose game I have always hated.  Why?  Precedents.  Because: even before they became Cubs, I hated Sammy Sosa (self-centered), Derrek Lee (balls of silly putty), Alfonso Soriano (Sosa-esque hollow stats), Jason Marquis (too walky), Jim Edmonds (really?  seriously?), and last but not least, Milton Bradley (how's your fambly, homes?).  So why not LaRoche?  Hey, Aaron Miles worked out so well for us.

So yeah, even though Pena will most likely make many of us long for the DPLee days, at least I don't have to watch the impossibly stiff LaRoche stand at the plate in pinstripes until say, mid-June, hitting below .050.  Yes, then somehow while nobody is looking, he then manages to hit about 21 quick homers and ends up with a batting line ju-u-u-st respectable enough that some other loser gives him a job the next year.

So, at least for that, alone, I thank Tom, Todd, Laura, and Pete.  Thank you, you wacky uber-Chads. 

We'll discuss Kerry Wood tomorrow.

Gamecast (September 24, 2010) Cardinals @ Cubs

Holy crap! Yep, here he is! The triumphant return of Sayers! Yeah, I know I haven't been around very much lately even though the Cubs are, shockingly, paying their best baseball on the season. And yeah, I was wrong about my earlier predictions, I can admit that. Still, I believe this Cubs team is better than they have seemed this year and I think they are at worst, a .500 team going forward.

Today they are playing an effectively meaningless game against the Cardinals who are now almost as out of the race as the Cubs are. Who'd thunk that would happen? The Reds are the class of the division, shockingly.

Today's Matchup: Adam Wainwright (224.1IP, 2.45ERA, 3.15xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (127.1IP, 3.90ERA,4.37xFIP)

Gorz should make an excellent #5 starter going forward for the Cubs. Being under cubs' control for, I think 4 more years beginning in 2011 is key to his value. He is who we thought he was (sorry, I'm in Bears mode right now!) and should continue to give the Cubs about 140-160 IP with an ERA about 4 for the next 4 years. That will be worth far more than the Cubs will pay for it and allow them to increase team payroll elsewhere. It's how you build a winning team. OTOH, Wainwright is going for 20 "wins" which is an almost meaningless stat but the key here is that he is awesome and a leading candidate to eventually hit the free agent market and possibly come to the Cubs. Today's game is meaningless but it would be nice to beat Wainwright.

Who's Hot: I have no idea. But Starlin Castro's batting average is currently batting .306. He is 20 years old. He is a shrtstop. Yeah.

Who's Not: Unfortunately Castro has only hit .240 with just one Xtra base hit (a double) in the month of September. I hope he picks it up a little. His BABIP this month is a putrid .273.

Conclusion: Go Cubs! Let's pass the Brewers and maybe even the Astros in the standings. There's still time!

Gamecast (August 21, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

There are some great stories happening these year. The Cubs, as a team, aren't one of them. Sigh. Yesterday's lost must have sucked, I was already at work when it all went down. Ryan Dempster (who should absolutely, positively not be traded!) pitched great again; but Marmol had a rare bad outing and the Cubs ended up losing.


In next year's draft, the Cubs are currently looking at the fifth pick in the draft. I doubt they end up there but I do think it's going to be interesting whom the Cubs draft next year. They have an extremely high pick. I don't want to see the Cubs keep losing but if they do, there are multiple silver linings.

Today's Matchup: Tommy Hanson (148 IP, 3.41 ERA, 4.02 xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (112.1 IP, 3.85 ERA, 4.36 xFIP)

As if we needed more reason to trust xFIP, I present Tommy Hanson. Hanson has had a 4.03 xFIP in 2009 and has a 4.02 xFIP this year. For those who look at traditional stats, it may appear as though Hanson has regressed this year but his peripheral stats just don't agree. He is a solid pitcher who probably will see his K rate go up a tick in the future and see his ERA drop to the 3.00 level.

As for Gorz, his problem has been walks along with a K rate that has been moving in the wrong direction. It has resulted in a rising xFIP and poor performance in the second half. I consider Gorz to be a fair #3 starter and a good #4 starter. This is especially so because he costs next to nothing to the Cubs. Once he starts making real money, I think his time with the team may become shortened. I like him. There's something happy about his constantly red face but I have to admit he's not a difference maker.

Starlin Watch: Starlin now has 369 PA on the season and would need 381 PA to qualify for the batting title. He's getting there and should be able to qualify by the time we make it to September. His batting average has dipped of late, he's now hitting just .309 and for some reason, his WAR has suddenly dropped at Fangraphs. I happen to believe Starlin is a very good defender but for some reason, UZR suddenly disagrees.

Joey Votto is leading the NL in batting average at .320 so if Castro gets hot again, he could challenge that.

Who's Not: I don't think this is relevant anymore. The Cubs need to just play as hard as they can and see what happens.

I won't be able to watch the game today thanks to Fox but Go Cubs anyway!

Top Ten Lessons Learned in 2010

Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is not going so strong, lately.  But, GOOD LORD?  Can you blame us?

Even the most optimistic, blue sky Cub fans could not possibly enjoy what they are seeing on a daily basis?  Losers of 13 of the last 16?  As it happens, Hendry and Piniella are pretty much doing what I asked them to do earlier this week - treat the rest of this year as if it is Spring Training 2011.  It began when Derrek Lee and Lou himself removed themselves from the proceedings - neither of them are going to Mesa next spring.  We have brought up the freshest produce from the farm.

But, once again, it goes sour, because pretty much everyone we brought up has sucked so far.  It would have been nice to see Micah the Hoff hit a few quick welcome-back dongs, or a Marcos Mateo pitch lights-out.  It is early in our extended Spring Training, but it doesn't appear that any of our recent call-ups are going to help us anytime soon.  So, as was the case going into this season, it appears that most of the heavy lifting in 2011 will be done by the men currently on the roster, a roster, once again, that is last in the majors in one-run losses.

So what have we learned thus far in 2010?

10) Alfonso Soriano may not be the most overpriced sixth hitter in major league history - but then again, he might just be. 

As a longtime student of the intangible and the psychological, I understand why Hendry signed #12 back in 2007.  The interim owner gave him permission to spend whatever it took, and Alf was the premier free agent that winter.  Jim was convinced that the Cubs would win a World Series that year or next, and figured if we had, that people wouldn't care that the club would then owe Soriano $18 million a year for all perpetuity.  It was a crap shoot, and the first two years, Jim shot eights, but then last year, the dice came up seven, and now we're stuck with a number six hitter with degenerative legs, a miserable glove, and absolutely no knowledge of situational baseball.  For the next three years.

9) Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva are the yin and yang of miserable free agent pitching judgement

A few years back, officials at two separate organizations took a look at two big, strong, tough Venezuelan guys named Carlos and decided that yes, these guys were Quality, they would eat innings, win games, and lead men.  It would be the wisest thing to sign them to long term contracts worth nearly 8 figures, because everyone knows the work ethic of South Americans is second to none.

Ahem.  So it was inevitable that a few years later, los dos Carloses would both be Cubs, serving as twin anchors, keeping us firmly tethered to the bottom, representing the main sunk costs to the most miserable team contract picture in MLB history.

The difference is: Silva the Hutt is a follower, and Z is a leader.  There is no way to reign in #38 with the Cubs, none.  He appears to respect nobody but himself, which is the very reason why it is going to be so painful when he inevitably moves on to the Yankees a couple of years from now and starts winning games again (hey, Kerry Wood?  How YOU doin'?)  #52, on the other hand, is a follower, and I honestly feel that in the right situation, with the right guidance from the right pitching coach and staff, that Silva could be poked, prodded, and coaxed in a useful direction.  However...

Cool 2010 is the death knell of the Larry Rothschild Era

Several of my knowledgeable friends, like the boys over at HJE have called for the head of Rothschild for years now.  I personally was torn.  For every Wood and Prior who caved in, a Dempster or Marmol seemed to rise up.  Maybe, I have always thought, Rothschild wasn't part of the problem.

But lately?  Outside of Dempster, Marmol, Marshall, the first three months of Silva and the occasional Gorzellany outing, Cubs pitching 2010 has been beyond dreadful.  Walks, mistakes, walks, mistakes.  A conveyor belt of arms have made their way back and forth between here and Des Moines. 

Here's my problem with Rothschild - these guys pitch well in Iowa, come here, get blasted, go back to Iowa, pitch well, come back, get blasted.  And it isn't just a function of the quality of the hitters.  It is the command that they seem to lose here.  Is it the pressure?  Shouldn't be any pressure, throwing for a fifth-place team.  And if it is, whose job is it to help these guys acclimate?  As I see it, he is taking good arms and turning them bad once they get here.

When the new manager arrives, he should be allowed to pick his own pitching coach.

7) Marmol is a major league closer

Speaking of Marmol, he hasn't had a lot of opportunities in 2010.  Yes, the team has the worst one-run record in baseball, but curiously enough, it isn't really the closer's fault.  Most of the games have gone the way yesterday's game went - we fall far behind, and either come back to within a run and fall short, or tie it up only to let one of our "middle" guys, usually Cashner, go blow it. 

The few saves Marmol has blown, his defense helped blow.  Which, speaking of:

6) Our defense utterly sucks

Our catcher is "offensive-minded", a euphemism for a guy who isn't Yadier Molina.  Our third baseman is getting old, frail, and losing what little utility he ever had.  Our shortstop is better than the man he replaced, yes, but is young and may or may not be a major league shortstop.  Our second basemen define 'suck', We got DeWitt because we thought he is better than Theriot, of course, the Dodgers think just the opposite.  Uh oh.  Our fancy hood ornament, DLee has had his worst fielding year.  Soriano has had an Epic Fail year in left.  Our slick fielding right fielder can't hit enough to play, and the guy who can hit in RF should be playing left field. 

5) Marlon Byrd is a nice player

Byrd does everything pretty well.  He is not and will never be an impact major league ballplayer, and his CF play is very average at best.  He is the beneficiary of the "Robbie Gould Syndrome", in which he is surrounded by badness, so his relative competence shines brighter in comparison.  He is a fourth outfielder on a championship team, and although he actually tries to provide the leadership this team so woefully lacks, he really doesn't have the oomph in his game to back it up.

Starlin Castro gets one of his 4 hits4) Starlin Castro is a major league hitter

The storybooks are full of great men who started off as middle
infielders who committed a ton of errors in the field, and were
converted to other positions so their teams would not lose their bat. 
Mickey Mantle comes immediately to mind, and Alf Soriano is a recent,
close-to-home example.  With Hak-Ju Lee in the low minors, there are
discussions that Lee will eventually be the SS, and Castro will play
2nd.  Or maybe 3rd, since the 24 year old DeWitt is on board, except
that DeWitt has 'utility guy' written all over him, and don't 3rd
basemen usually hit with more power?

It is easy to forget that Castro was born in 1990, and that he will gain
most of his strength in the next seven years.  He will never have
A-Roid power, but maybe Jeter power.  The most pleasant development of
2010 has been that, for once, we can believe the hype.  Starlin Castro
seems to be for real.

3) Here comes Adam Dunn

A couple of years ago, when it was late in the free-agent season
(this was the year we signed Milton Bradley early, remember) and Adam
Dunn still did not have a team.  The only substantial offer for a man
who had averaged 40 homers a year the previous five years was from the
godforesaken Nats, and human nature being what it is, there rose an
effort to find out what, if anything, was wrong with Dunn.

Rumors arose that Dunn did not like playing baseball much, that much of
the conversations that would arise when opposing players would stand on
first base next to the Big Donkey revolved around offseason hunting. 
Growing up, Dunn was a football player first, and teams perhaps
questioned his character when formulating contract offers for a
one-dimensional guy.

So, he has played nearly every day in Washington, has continued to hit
his 40 homers a year, and has weathered two trade deadlines.  You know
what?  The man would rather play football and shoot pheasants.  But he still hits and we are going to sign a first baseman this winter.

And just
our luck, watch us sign the guy and watch him age faster than the Nazi
mope in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".  In my gut, I see us going after
Adrian Gonzalez his off season, and ending up with Adam Dunn.  Because
Dunn has always been one of "Hendry's Guys", like the Marquis Du Suck
and Kosuke Fukudome, and we always seem to end up with Hendry's guys.

2) Since nobody seems to know what is going on, Hendry is staying, I guess

The inmates run the asylum at Wrigley Field.  As bad as the Cubs have performed, and for as much pressure that the General Manager of a team such as ours ought to be under, compounded by the fact that he has a known history of heart trouble, Jim Hendry looks pretty damn healthy.

Is he taking his statins and his red krill oil?  Maybe, but hey, why shouldn't he look healthy?  He has the greatest job in the world.  Where else in American business can you mess up, again and again, and nobody calls you on it?  Wall Street?  Well, yeah, but those guys always have the specter of the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission, not the high-falutin college football conference) breathing down their necks.  Lots of those guys jump off bridges, lock themselves in their garages with their Bentleys running, but not Jim Hendry.  His boss is a failed corporate attorney who doesn't know spit from shinola, who in turn works for a owner who is more concerned with piss troughs and gaudy neon signs than a winning ballclub.

There is only one man on earth who gets to play fantasy baseball for real, and lose all the time, and not get called on the carpet for it.  Until there is some accountability established in the Cubs' organization, what you see this year is what you will continue to get in the future.

1) 2011 is going to look a lot like 2010.

Soriano will play for the Cubs next year.  Ramirez will play for the Cubs next year.  Fukudome will sit on the bench and take the Cubs' money next year.  Byrd and Colvin and Castro and DeWitt and Soto will play for the Cubs next year.  Jim Hendry has no ability and no gumption to make a blockbuster trade involving young major league talent for impact major leaguers in return.  Could you see him somehow packaging Castro and Colvin in a trade for, say, Albert Pujols?  Maybe not Pujols, because a Cubs-Cardinals trade will NEVER happen, but something of that magnitude?  How about for Miggy Cabrera or Joe Mauer?  Young stars for a superstar?  Never happen.

As for the pitching, good lord.  While the positional outlook seems stale yet static, the pitching outlook is totally fluid, and utterly without direction.  We have a #2 starter, maybe a #4, a closer and a utility guy, a LOOGY who isn't really a LOOGY with a torn knee ligament, and about 20 other guys who have walked a lot of batters and given up a lot of late-game home runs.  You can't fix that.  The only thing you can do is throw a ton of money at it, and HOPE the guys you sign don't get injured or fat-and-sassy. 

And Ricketts is NOT going to spend a lot of money in the offseasons.  So forget about the Ol' Free Agent Injection.

Fans of the Chicago National League Ballclub have survived the past 102 years on one glorious element: hope.  Yep, the same hope that got our president elected, the same hope that is being frittered away by this same president each day.  Hope is perishable.

I ate whole platterfuls of Cubs hope as a kid, and into my early adulthood.  I confess to have spent good money on the all-you-can-eat hope buffet as recently as fall of 2008.  Nowadays, there is very little fresh hope in the steamer, most of it is discolored and spoiled, like the bananas Soriano and the Fukudome skirt steak.

Our third base prospect, Josh Vitters, is rehabbing.  The next great Korean hope is still years away.  Andrew Cashner was supposed to be the next big thing, but I can't figure out what that thing is supposed to be, unless he is supposed to be a Matt Karchner impersonator.  That's something he does quite well.

But hey, Castro went 4-for-5 yesterday.  Rookie of the Year, gotta be?  Right?

Iowa Cubs lose. (Game Recap: Cubs 4, Giants 5)

Cub starter Tom Gorzelanny sucked at the outset of last night's game: single, walk, single, RBI ground out, single, K, single, fly out. That gave the Giants an early 3-0 lead, and while the Cubs came close to surmounting it, in the end the task proved impossible, with Justin Berg allowing a game-winning solo shot in the eighth (I guess Cashner/Marshall/Marmol were unavailable?).

This isn't the first time this year Gorgonzola has struggled in the first inning. In fact, Tom has posted a 6.88 ERA in his 17 first innings pitched this season. His second innings are a little better -- he has a 4.50 ERA in those. And once he makes it to the third inning, he's solid, with ERAs of 2.00, 1.59, 3.24, and 3.75 in each of the next frames.

And before you go off on small sample sizes, check out Tom's career ERAs in each of the first six innings of a game:

  1. 6.29
  2. 4.48
  3. 4.01
  4. 3.43
  5. 4.73
  6. 3.77

I guess there's some selection bias here; obviously, if Tom doesn't have his good stuff in the first, he likely won't make it to the sixth. And teams will usually put their best hitters at the top of the order, so you face the best to start the game. But check out the ERAs by inning for Jon Garland, a decent pitcher whose name I just yanked out of my butt (ew, gross):

  1. 4.11
  2. 3.49
  3. 5.06
  4. 3.87
  5. 5.25
  6. 4.67

So maybe Tom needs to focus on getting off to a good start to become a better pitcher. He seems to have a better handle on batters his second and third times through the order as opposed to his first. And his ERA as a reliever -- 5.40 ERA in 23.1 IP, with 14 BB -- seems to support that, too. But what do I know?

Other quickfire notes on last night's game: Tyler Colvin hit his 18th home run, and Starlin Castro went 2-for-4.

Double doozie (Game Recaps: Cubs 7, Rockies 23)

If nothing else, the Cubs have continued to provide their fans with some variety over the past two days: after getting walloped on Friday night, they managed to keep it close late in the game on Saturday, only to lose yet again.

I'd like to tell you about the bright spots for the Cubs, but there really weren't any. Derrek Lee hit a three-run homer yesterday, so that's good, but it's his only hit so far in seven at-bats.

The only Cubs to have registered hits in both games were Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin. Colvin tripled on Friday night, and singled last night. He also walked once. Four bases in seven at-bats plus three trips to first in eight plate appearances is representative of a .946 OPS, which is to say that he's been behaving nicely lately. Both of the Byrd's hits were singles, so that's good for a .500 OPS. I suppose those are your three star Cub hitters for the last two games. Joy!

The best pitching appearance of the last two games goes to James Russell. Three strikeouts in two innings, one hit, no walks, no runs... yeah, fine. For the season, Russell has shown pretty excellent control, with 25 strikeouts against just four walks in 31 innings pitched this year. No wonder the Diamondbacks were interested. Going forward he'll have to learn how to limit the long ball (nine allowed this year), which may involve walking a few more batters. But he seems to have the command needed to pitch well into the future.

All in all, a pair of games to forget. From a karmic standpoint, you might say the Cubs and Rockies are even, given their role in one of the most memorable games of 2008.

Now, I'm going to write something about the Cubs' handling of the trade deadline.

Gamecast (July 31, 2010) Cubs @ Rockies

Yesterday's whooping at the hands of the Rocks is a thing of the past. Now all I wonder about is the future. Lilly is gone, the season is effectively over. The Cubs are only playing for pride now. They have a new second baseman (who is not in the lineup tonight, presumably he isn't with the Cubs yet), and a new #5 starter. DeWitt is a .350 OBP guy so I wonder if he wouldn't make a decent leadoff hitter. Heres my lineup, it's actually shocking to me how strong this lineup could be if everything went right:

1-DeWitt-2B
2-Castro-SS
3-Soto-C
4-Soriano-LF
5-Colvin-RF
6-Byrd-CF
7-Aramis-3B
8-Lee-1B

whatya think? Not bad, eh? Theriot was clearly the weak link in the lineup. I just think this lineup could be pretty good for the rest of the year. And with Derrek Lee hitting 8th, Rob will be ecstatic!

Today's Matchup: Tom Gorzelanny (86.2IP, 3.22ERA, 4.17xFIP) vs Jason Hammel (110IP, 4.34ERA, 3.72xFIP)

Hammel wins today's peripherals matchup as Gorzelanny has been way too wild this year. You can't walk too many people in Coors Field, even after the advent of the humidor. Furthermore, the Cubs could use a nice long performance from their starter and Gorz just isn't the guy who can do that. This is going to be a tough game to win.

Who's Hot: He shouldn't be hitting leadoff but Colvin continues to produce an ISO of .285 with a .553 SLG. That easily leads the Cubs and he's already hit 16 HR in just 260 PA. Colvin has a 7 game hit streak and has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 including 4 Jimmy Jacks during that stretch.

Who's Not: Andrew Cashner is suddenly suffering through one of the worst stretches of any relief pitcher anywhere. He has given up 12 earned runs and 3 HR in the last 2 games over just 1.1 innings. Ouch!

Conclusion: Let the the Blake DeWitt era commence. Well, whenever he actually plays. In the meantime, it's the Mike Fontenot era, sort of. Anyway. Go Cubs!

Gamecast (July 24, 2010) Cardinals @ Cubs

This was from the gamecast comments from yesterday:

" I'm sure we annoy you Cubs fans plenty, but I believe it has to do with the fact that we (Cardinals) have had such great success over the years, and especially in the last decade, whereas you Cubs have had huge disappointments even in your best recent years, and of course the whole 102-year drought thing. Those two very different histories make us Cards fans sound smug and obnoxious when we think we are only teasing you guys; and conversely even your actual angry talk doesn't bother us much because your team hasn't been able to back up your talk. It's like the little brother that hates the big brother's teasing, whereas nothing the little guy says even phases big brother.


I suppose my pointing this out sounds smug and obnoxious to most of you, but I actually don't mean it to. It would be a LOT more fun if the Cubs were in the position of the Reds this year. Even though I generally pull for whoever is playing the Cubs, I simultaneously dream of the possibility of the Cards and Cubs playing for the pennant some year. THAT would be putting all the chips in the pot, eh?


As I post this, the Cubs are beating the Cards 5-zip in the opener, so my smugness is currently in check..."

Here's the deal, Token, I don't give a flying f&ck about the Cubs' 102 year "failure" as you guys like to throw in our face daily. That "history" has zero to do with this team and this organization. The Cubs may be playing somewhat poorly right now but this isn't your father's Cub organization. This team has zero connection to, for instance, the 1978 team that was the first team I followed as a young bright eyed eight year old. The truth is, going forward, the Cubs are going to be winning more championships than your Cardinals. Why? Because the Cubs can spend money you guys can't and at the moment, we also have a better farm system. This has more to do with reality than some stupid curse that only people like you like to perpetuate. Very few Cub fans actually believe in the "curse" or like to talk to about 100+ years of losing. That just has nothing to do with us today or our team. You may as well be teasing our team for playing in a stadium with vines on the walls. That is why I am annoyed by you guys. It's tired. We've heard it. We don't enjoy the losing. Your opinion of both the current Cubs organization and Cubs fans is just wrong. Find a new way to "tease" us.
 
Today's Matchup: Blake Hawskworth (59.1IP, 4.85ERA, 4.41xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (80.2IP, 3.12ERA, 4.02xFIP)

Whew, after that rant, let's preview this game. It's already going but I will pretend it hasn't started yet. Gorz has been very good since coming back into the rotation. The key to his game is not to walk more than a batter or so every three innings and keep blowing people away. Hawksworth is nothing more than a mediocre middle reliever. Mediocre middle relievers rarely become decent starting pitchers. Dave Duncan, after Suppan yesterday, and Hawksworth today, doesn't look like such a miracle worker.

Who's Hot: Alfonso Soriano hasn't had too many of his patented hot streaks this year but so far, he's producing at a .380 wOBA, which would be a career high, and he's stayed healthy. Like Soto, he probably should be moved up in the order but it's kind of amazing to me how much better the Cubs' offense would be had Ramirez and Lee just had normal seasons this year.

Who's Not: Coming into today the Cardinals offense has gone two straight games without scoring a run. That's the first time in 15 years that has happened. That that occured after an eight game winning streak is beyond unlikely. I doubt this continues but it would be nice if Gorz could put another big zero on the board today.

Conclusion: A win would be nice. I ranted above and mostly about the Cubs but I wanted to point something out. In the last 3 years, the Cubs have won 2 division titles, the Cardinals have won 1. Just saying.....

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