Goatriders of the Apocalypse

John Grabow

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Reader Blog: Fun With Statistics!

In light of a few numbers that were thrown around in the shoutbox recently, I decided to further investigate some statistics that may or may not be trends. Most of these things are probably unrelated, but some of them are very interesting to know. So without further adieu… Fun With Statistics!

We’ll start out with a couple of team-centric warm-ups

The Cubs are:

  • 8-12 in One-Run games
  • 9-7 in blowouts (5+ runs)
  • 3-24 when they score 3 runs or less (!)
  • 23-7 when they score 4 runs or more
  • 11-0 when they score 7 runs or more
  • 12-2 when they allow 2 runs or less
  • 14-29 when they allow 3 runs or more
  • 7-14 when they allow 3 or 4 runs (What!?)

Ok… So from that we can accurately say if we score 4 runs or more, we’ll probably win and if we allow 2 runs or less, we’ll probably win. Jeez, not too much margin for error there.

Alright, next let’s look at some situational statistics for the team

The Cubs are:

  • 26-1 when they start the 9th inning with the lead or tied (damn, alright, that’s actually pretty great)
  • 0-30 when they start the 9th inning behind (Holy. Shit.)

The Cubs have:

  • 8 comeback wins with the largest deficit overcome being 3 runs (sigh, remember that Rockies game in magical 2008?)
  • 14 blown leads (for comparison, we had only 22 in all of 2009.)
  • 2 walk-off wins
  • 0 walk-off losses (Hey! An improvement! We had 13 in 2009)

Wow. Alright. Those are some pretty polarizing numbers. Let’s move on.

Time to pick on some individual contributors (or, probably more than likely, “lack of” contributors)

The Cubs are:

  • 10-1 in games started by King Carlos Silva (this is my personal favorite and the one that spawned this post)
  • 16-30 in games started by anyone else
  • 11-12 in games where John Grabow pitches (I assumed worse)
  • 20-6 in games where Carlos Marmol pitches (Only 12 being Saves)
  • 7-3 in games where Aramis Ramirez does not play
  • 9-16 in games where Aramis Ramirez does play AND has a hit
  • 5-14 in games Derrek Lee goes hitless
  • 19-17 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 Hit
  • 12-5 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 RBI

Ya know, I could probably go on and on, but let’s sum up what we’ve learned here.

- The Cubs do not do well in close games
- They will, however, win most every game they score 4 or more runs
- Unfortunately, if they give up more than 2 runs, they will probably lose

- If we have the lead in the 9th, you can chalk that baby up in the W column.
- If we’re losing in the 9th, you might as well turn the game off.

- Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol have saved this team.
- John Grabow and Aramis Ramirez have killed this team.
- Derrek Lee may or may not be expendable.

Go Cubs.

Reader's Blog: Week seven awards: Still stressful, but in a good way (like Lost)

Gonna have to make this a short one after a long night of Lost. The Cubs had a 5-2 week, their best week of the year and their first winning week since Week Four when they were 4-3. The Rockies were a game over .500 entering their series with the Cubs, which means the Cubs played three above average teams and managed to sweep a series, split a series, and win another. The last four games were one-run affairs, and it was nice to see the Cubs on the positive side of a couple close decisions.

Ryno of the Week: If there's one thing I hate, it's being repetitive. But even though the one thing I hate is being repetitive, this week's winner is the same as last week's: Sean Marshall. The 6'7 lefty had two wins and two holds, and lowered his ERA from 2.46 to 2.01 in the process. In the month of May, he's 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA. I shudder to think where the Cubs would be without him this year.

I have to give special props to some great offensive performances as well: Starlin Castro had at least one hit in all seven games en route to an 11-for-29 week with five RBI and four runs. And in limited duty, Tyler Colvin went 6-for-11 with four runs and two RBI.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano

Goat of the Week: This is a tough one, but I'm going to go with John Grabow. He appeared in four games this week and was very consistent--he allowed at least one run in every outing. He also walked five guys in just 3.1 innings, and had a 10.80 ERA. He is completely and utterly useless.

I'm giving Aramis Ramirez a pass this week only because one of his two hits directly resulted in the Cubs winning a game. But as my dad said, he's fast-approaching permanent Goat of the Week status; he was 2-for-18 with seven strikeouts. Here's a stat that will bring a tear to your eye even if none of those Lost montages did: Ramirez has struck out 40 times this year; in 2006 he played 157 games and struck out 63 times. WHAT IS GOING ON WITH HIM?

Dishonorable mentions: Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee

Bradon writes at Wait Til This Year, an awesome Cubs blog

Game Recap: Nationals 3, Cubs 1

Game Recap
So much for a five game winning streak.  Given the run support the Cubs have given Gorzo, after the Nats put up two in the top of the first inning, the book should have been closed on the game. 

In what is becoming a familiar story, another Cubs starter had a quality start.  Gorzo went seven strong innings while allowing only two runs on five hits.  Despite the quality start, Gorzo dropped to 0-3 on the season.  It seems like the Randy Wells Award for No Run Support has been passed on to Tommy.  In four starts this season, Gorzo has only given up 6 earned runs total over 22 IP (a 2.45 ERA) and hasn't allowed more than 2 runs in any of his starts.  Over those four starts, he has gotten a total of 9 runs in support.  Granted, the bullpen has had a bit of say in his losses as well.  Welcome to Chicago, Tommy.

Speaking of the bullpen, Gorz's trade-mate John Grabow entered the game in the 8th and gave the Wrigley faithful a taste of just how much fans will come to regret the gaudy contract he signed this offseason.  Grabow came into the 8th and immediately had a throwing error trying to get Nyjer Morgan out on what would have been a bang bang play.  Morgan then stole second and scored on an Ian Desmond RBI single.  I pray for the day where Grabow has a clean inning.

Despite the lack of offense tonight, Soriano and Soto continued on the path to redemption by getting hits tonight.  Once again, notably lacking from the world of productive hitting were offensive centerpieces Derrek Lee and A-Ram.  Lee seems to be hitting the ball solidly as of late and this was evidenced tonight by the hard line drive he hit to left field that Willingham just barely caught on the run.  Ramirez, on the other hand, just seems lost.  In the 8th, A-Ram stepped up to the plate with men on second and third and two out and didn't come through in the clutch once again.  Perhaps this is a bit of a harsh expectation, but Ramirez has been very successful in those situations in the past.  This year it just seems that he isn't executing in those situations.  All in all, the Cubs went 0-8 with men in scoring position and stranded eight men on base.

I don't know what it is, but Livan always seems to have the Cubs number.  Plus, he has just been in a zone so far this year.  Regardless, I expect the team to rebound tomorrow and get the series win with Dempster toeing the rubber.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Brewers 8 -- Scratching and clawing

Game RecapI listened to this game on the radio today, which was actually pretty fun. I like Ron and Pat. And really, who doesn't?

I forget the inning, and I forget who it was that said it, but at some point in the game one of our esteemed radio hosts pointed out that when these two teams meet, they often compete in a way that feels like they're scratching and clawing at each other.

I felt that was an apt description. Check the box score: one run top one, one run bottom one; one run top four, two runs bottom four; one run top six, one run bottom six; and so on and so forth. The game had the back-and-forth of a quality boxing match.

For the Cubs, Scratcher and Clawer Number One from today's game was Carlos Zambrano. He didn't have his best stuff, walking a batter in each of the first three innings, as well as giving up a double and a homer over the same stretch. And usually, walks plus extra base hits equals early exit.

But Z fought back, eventually throwing 123 pitches (!) over the course of five stressful innings. And when he finally reached the dugout, instead of assaulting the Gatorade, he drank it, presumably to ward off some cramps he may have been feeling (and who knows how early in the game they started).

(Indeed, Kurt has previously posed a question that goes something like: if I told you a Cub was continuing to pitch after having been stabbed in the shoulder with a knife, which Cub do you think that would be? Despite his occasional display of a lack of maturity, the young man is our toughest player.)

Opposing starter Jeff Suppan was also pulled after five innings, with the game tied at four, making this one a battle of the bullpens -- a battle that we would eventually lose, once Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow worked their magic on the scoreboard.

Let me throw a hypothetical situation out there for you: suppose our entire pitching staff, from top to bottom, from Peoria to Chicago, were healthy. Which twelve dudes would you want on the major league team?

There are several locks: Z, Demp, Lilly, and Wells in the rotation, and Marshall and Marmol in the 'pen. Beyond that, give me Tom Gorzelanny in the fifth spot, Carlos Silva in long relief (I don't see this guy throwing much more than 90 pitches in a game ever), Berg and Russell specializing against guys with the same handedness as they have, and Gray and Caridad doing their best to fend off Cashner from taking a spot on the roster.

Maybe that's an obvious discussion, but I hope you realize the consequences of it: Jim Hendry absolutely wasted $8 million on Aaron Mi -- I mean, John Grabow this offseason.

And a few thoughts on the offense today: kudos to Geovany Soto for getting on base three times, kudos to Tyler Colvin for coming up with two hits and scoring twice, and major kudos to Marlon Byrd for knocking the cover off the ball in the third inning. And how about Alfonso Soriano actually drawing a walk in one pinch hitting at-bat? Crazy, man.

Regardless, the series is won. Yippee skippe. Bring on the hapless Astros, who thankfully managed to win a game today. Lord knows a team like that can't possibly manage to win two in a row.

Game Recap: Cubs 1, Reds 3 -- The blame game

Game Recap
Plenty of mistakes in this one. Let's see if we can identify all of them, starting chronologically from the start of the game.

In the top of the first, the first three Cub hitters reached base, giving our so-called "RBI guys" a golden opportunity to stake the team to an early lead.

Mistakes #1 and #2 - Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd each fail to plate the runner from third with less than two outs.

I'm not expecting a grand slam every time we load the bases. Heck, I understand that even the best hitters fail to get a hit 60% of the time. But when you're as talented a hitter as Aramis Ramirez, facing a rookie pitcher in Mike Leake, you've got to find a way to get the ball to the outfield and score your leadoff man from first. The exact same notion applies for Marlon Byrd, as well -- woulda loved a base hit, but failing to generate a productive out is unprofessional, and inexcusable.

We'll talk more later about the collective failings of the middle-of-the-order guys eventually, but for now let's fast forward to the bottom of the seventh, with the Cubs leading 1-0 and Tom Gorzelanny having just allowed a couple of base runners.

Mistake #3 - Alfonso Soriano fails to catch a fly ball to left field with runners on first and second.

What makes the error worse is that I know a guy who could've made that play, so if Soriano's gonna strikeout twice a game and fail to register a hit anyway, why not put Colvin in left after the sixth inning of every close game? Maybe we'll see that happen soon. Fortunately, after Miguel Cairo got lucky and knocked in one run, this happened:

Mistake #4 - Dusty Baker decides to put in Jay Bruce to pinch hit against lefty Sean Marshall.

Okay, not a Cub mistake. But had to be noted. In Dusty we trusty!!!!!

Marshall would take advantage, striking Bruce out. He'd then strike out the right-handed Drew Stubbs, making an EXTREMELY STRONG CASE for his being named the primary set-up man in the Cub bullpen.

To the bottom of the eighth we go. After allowing a couple of singles,

Mistake #5 - John Grabow issues a four pitch walk to Scott Rolen.

A walk would be one thing (admittedly still the type of thing you would call "bad"). But you don't even have one good strike in you to throw to a .235-hitting old guy? Furthermore, there are good balls and there are bad balls (that's what she said), and nothing John Grabow threw was anywhere close to the plate. As a result, Grabow himself made an EXTREMELY STRONG CASE for being removed from high leverage situations.

This next one is debatable, but I'm gonna go ahead and give it its own bold-faced numerical entry:

Mistake #6 - With the bases loaded and one out, Lou Piniella brings in the young Esmailin Caridad to try to get two outs.

Yes, Grabow had given some indication that he had lost control of the strike zone in the previous at-bat. But I'd still consider him to have a better handle on throwing strikes than the kid who just got up from the bench in the 'pen. I say, Grabow created the mess, why not give him a chance to get out of it? And with Jeff Samardzija warming up in the 'pen at the time, it wasn't like Lou was expecting to come out of the inning with a tie anyway.

As it happened, Caridad walked a run in, and then allowed a sacrifice fly, giving the Reds their second and third runs on the day. The rest was history.

Any lessons learned? I suppose so.

First,I'd advocate to have Soriano pulled after the sixth inning of any low-scoring, close game. Let him swing away early on, but if the pitchers are on Soriano is a sure out anyway (this just in: the Fonz swings at misses at low-and-away breaking pitches that are outside the zone).

Second: I realize we're only six games in, but I can already tell you who I want pitching in the eighth inning when the Cubs have a lead of three or fewer runs. Hint: his name starts with S and rhymes with Sean. Maybe he's at a disadvantage against righties, but I can tell you that as of today, Caridad and Grabow aren't ready to set Marmol up.

(Furthermore, I'm convinced that Grabow never will be. I'm sure he'll be able to get plenty of outs in low-leverage situations this season, but when he needs a strikeout late in the game I just don't know what pitch he has in his repertoire that he can throw to get it.)

And finally, for the final lesson of the weekend, let's give credit where it's due. The Cubs' starting pitching has been pretty darn solid so far, including today's K-tastic outing from Tom Gorzelanny. Seven strikeouts, two walks, four hits -- control like that is going to keep runs off the board, as it did today, with zero earned runs allowed by Gorzo.

It's impossible to justify ignoring Z's opening day masterpiece, but suppose you could do so, just for fun, and you'd have five real good performances from five different starters. So that's nice.

The Cubs head home with a 2-4 record to host the Milwaukee Brewers. Let's hope the fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters (hitting .130, .105, and .143 respectively) get going, and that Marshall gets a chance to set Marmol up in our next close game.

Go Cubs!

Series Preview: Cubs at Reds

Goat Riders
The Cubs leave Atlanta and head to Cincinnasty with a 1-2 record. Things could be worse, and they most certainly could be better.

The team lost on Opening Day, in a game where Carlos Zambrano decided to stop pitching and start throwing fastball after fastball. Presumably, the idea was to generate a bunch of contact early in counts, and hope batted balls turned into outs instead of towering home runs to right field.

We all know how that went.

Carlos will have a chance to bring his ERA down from 54.00 on Saturday, in Game 2 of this upcoming series with the Reds. In fact, if he manages to allow one or fewer runs in 7.2 or more innings pitched, it'll come all the way down to below 9.00. For what that's worth.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Game 1: Carlos Silva vs. Homer Bailey

I thought all along that Silva would be stashed in the 'pen as a long reliever, and that Gorzo and Marshall would take over starting duties until Mr. L-to-the-Illy came back. But here we are on the fourth game of the 2010 season, with Silva the Hutt slated to start.

Whether he wins or loses, Silva will probably give up several hits -- maybe six or seven in six innings pitched. He won't strike many batters out, and the difference between winning and losing may come down to how many walks he gives up. We want singles and ground ball outs, not walks and fly balls. A lot like Randy Wells, actually.

Also, Alfonso Soriano has three hits in as many at-bats against Homer Bailey. Just saying.

I bet the final score is 6-4. One team will win and the other will not win.

Game 2: Carlos Zambrano vs. Aaron Harang

So like I was saying, Big Z gets a chance to redeem himself on Saturday, as he faces Aaron Harang for the billionth time in his career.

I'll predict Carlos gives up four in six, Harang gives up three in seven, and that Jeff Samardzija puts this one out of reach for the Cubs, allowing two or three runs himself in an inning of relief.

Game 3: Tom Gorzelanny vs. Mike Leake

Again, I find myself saying, "As long as he doesn't walk a bunch of batters he'll be fine." No doi, AJ. But it's really true of Gorzo, also. He's not gonna rack up strikeouts, and he has OK stuff. His problems always seem to happen when he walks five or six batters in the midst of a five or six inning start.

I'm gonna guess he walks three, and gives up several runs -- but that it won't matter, because the Cubs are facing a rookie right-hander, a class of pitcher that always seems to confound them. They might not score more than two runs against Leake.

For pessimism's sake, I'll suppose the Reds win the first game, giving the Cubs a second consecutive series loss and a 2-4 record by the time they get home.

I'll be especially pissed if Theriot strikes out four more times or Grabow issues three more walks, but I'll probably be able to forget absolutely everything bad about this series if Tyler Colvin stays hot and does some cool stuff.

I love Tyler Colvin. There, I said it.

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Who does John Grabow remind you of?

When it comes to baseball, people always love playing the "Guess Who These Stats Belong To?" game, so let's play. I submit to you the following set of statistics, each representing a unique relief pitcher:

Player A: 72.0 IP, 4.00 ERA, 7.63 K/9, 4.25 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, .297 BABIP
Player B: 70.2 IP, 5.35 ERA, 7.51 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, 1.66 HR/9, .354 BABIP
Player C: 68.2 IP, 4.72 ERA, 9.31 K/9, 3.93 BB/9, 1.70 HR/9, .277 BABIP

If you're reading the body of this article, you probably glanced at the title first, so you know one of these three lines belongs to John Grabow (hopefully you ignored the tags, for later on). Actually, Grabow hasn't yet posted that line; instead, it's a projected 2010 total generated by Bill James (man, I'm not very good at this whole "suspense" thing, huh?). Take it for what it's worth, which to me is a decent starting point for a comparison to other pitchers.

I was inspired to do this comparison with some other notable former Cubs (oh look, a hint for B and C!) by Grabow's craptastic performance in his first two appearances so far this year. Yes, it's 1.1 innings, but already I'm reminded of painful memories from seasons past.

In just two short appearances, Grabow has evoked the worst skills of the last two most goat-like Cub relievers. By serving up a game-losing home run to Chipper Jones, I'm reminded of Bob Howry's 2008 campaign (Player B), and by walking the only batter he faced in Brian McCann I'm reminded of Kevin Gregg's 2009 season (Player C).

But look at those lines again. Howry threw fewer pitches outside the zone, sure, and Gregg strikes more batters out. But it's not the Ks or the BBs, or really even the BABIP that should stand out to you.

Over the course of their careers, all three pitchers have given up about one home run per nine innings pitched. But in the years we remember for Howry and Gregg, that rate skyrocketed.

It's likely that Grabow will suck in 2010. He walks too many batters and doesn't strike enough of them out (worse BB/9 rate than Gregg, same K/9 rate as Howry). But for him to officially take over as Goat Reliever, it'll come down to the number of home runs he allows -- which, at this rate, admittedly, could be pretty high. Hooray!

Mike's Musings - 4-9-2010

Lets get this party started!  The Cubs won a game!  Win 2 more, and as Lou Brown said, “It’ll be called a winning streak.  It has happened before.”  I generally try to be positive, but there’s a lot of things that concern me after 27 innings of the 2010 season.  Here are a couple of the ones that stick out.

*Bullpen – First and foremost in my mind.  Grabow’s predictably being a pain in the a.  I was not a fan of the Cubs resigning him, what with his walk rate going from 3.26 BB/9 in 2007, to 4.38 in 2008, to 4.98 in 2009, as was wonderfully mentioned at this site yesterday.  This esclating number, friends, is called a bad trend.  Instead of waiting out a market where there were more relievers than guaranteed jobs available, the Cubs decided to strike early and give Grabow 7.5M guaranteed over 2 years.  We’re paying him $4.8M next year guys.  Yes, I said WE, since WE buy the tickets that are now the highest priced on average in Major League Baseball.  But I digress.  Grabow’s going to give me ulcers all year.  And though he got the job done last night, I have a feeling we’re gonna be on a Randy Myers-like ride with Carlos Marmol this year.  He’s gonna drive you crazy with his high-wire act.  Be ready for it.  As I said in the pre-season roundtable, I don’t think he gets 30 saves, because I believe he’ll pitch himself out of the role.  Who’s going to be closing at the end of the year?  It won’t be Suckmardzija, but maybe….

*Andrew Cashner – Easily my favorite Cubs prospect, Cashner made his debut for AA Tennessee last night.  He struck out the first 7 hitters he faced last night, and had 10 through the first 4 innings.  Think about that for a second.  10K’s, 4 innings.  Wow.  Cashner ran into trouble in the 5th, walking a couple and allowing a 3-run homer, but I’m not concerned about that.  Why?  Because Andrew Cashner is a reliever.  The Cubs continue to trot him out there as a starter, because hey, starters are typically worth more than relievers.  I just wish they’d end this experiment with Cash starting games.  Put him in the pen pronto, send him to Iowa, watch the magnificent results, and let’s get him to Chicago as soon as possible.  There’s no way he’s not amongst our 7 best relievers right now.  This situation reminds me some of Daniel Bard of the Red Sox.  Both were first round pick out of a prestigious college program (Bard – 1st round out of UNC in ’06, Cashner – 1st round out of TCU in ’08).  Bard struggled mightily with his control in the minors, was moved to a relief duties, and his career took off.  Now he’s throwing 98 MPH for the Sox in the 8th inning.  Cashner’s velocity in college was in the 96-98 MPH range when he was in a relief role, there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t get back there.  Please put him back there.  Our pen could use the help.

Let’s try not to get to upset about the offense yet.   Granted, the Cubs haven’t scored many runs outside of the long ball, but it’s only 3 games.  Also, let’s try not to annoint Tyler Colvin as the 2nd coming.  Yes, that HR he hit last night was awesome.  But pace yourselves Cubs fans.  I’m as big of a Colvin fan as anyone, but it’s only 3 games in.  Finally, who was that sexy beast that predicted 25 homers for Marlon Byrd in the “biggest surprise” question during the preseason roundtable?  Only 23 away.  Cincy’s up next – we’ve played well there of late.  Let’s get 2 of 3 there and come home for what should be a gorgeous Opening Day Monday against the Brew Crew.

-MW<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Reader Blog: Piling on John Grabow

I wasn't here to express this at the time but I thought the signing of John Grabow to a 2 year contact for around 3 million per year was a complete waste of resources. You never give a multi-year contract of this amount to a mediocre middle reliever.

The problem with Grabow is that Hendry apparently didn't believe he was mediocre. This is because of Hendry's reliance on ERA as a main indicator. Here are Grabow's ERA's the last 4 years:


Looks like Grabow magically got better. But did he?

There are only 3 things a pitcher can do to keep runs off the board. He can strike out hitters, he can keep his walks low, or he can keep the ball in the ballpark.

Judging by those stats above, Grabow must have gotten better in one of those skills.

Was it strikeouts?

K rate last four years:


Nope. Grabow has missed fewer bats over time not more. He must have developed better control:

BB rate last four years:


Wow, he has become more wild, not less. This is amazing, he's striking out fewer batters without seeing his walk rate drop and still his ERA goes down?? How could that be. Oh, right what about the HR?

HR rate last four years:


Oh, so the HR rate DID go down in 2009. How'd that happen? Luck. It is almost a fact that all pitchers will allow around 10% of their flyballs for HR's. Grabow is not very much of a ground ball pitcher so he allows his share of flyballs but allowed just 5 HR of 87 flyballs in 2009.

On top of this, hitters only hit .279 on batted balls in play and only .251 in 2008, btw. He is not going to allow 2 run HR in the 8th every time out but really what we are looking at is the right handed version of Aaron Heilman. I hope I am wrong about Grabow but when you have a limited budget, you don't spend it on mediocrities who got lucky the last two years.

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