Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Carlos Silva

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All hail King Silva! (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 1)

Book it: Carlos Silva is 8-0 to start the 2010 season.

And while plenty of stathead baseball types think the win is an overrated stat, it seems as though Silva has truly been earning each and every one this season. No exception today, as Carlos pitched seven innings, gave up four hits and just one walk, and struck out five.

His ERA for the season sits at 2.93, an incredible number for him.

At what point does a competitor call Jim Hendry about Silva's availability? I'd still trade him if it were me: the 2010 club simply isn't any good, and the $10+ million he's owed in 2011 could be used to nab a premier first baseman in 2012 (coughprincefieldercough).

On offense, the MVPTG ("of Today's Game", that is) award goes to Ryan Theriot, who stole third, smacked a leadoff double to go with a single, and also walked twice, scoring four times on the day. Bravo, kid; make yourself look good for the trade deadline.

Two other Cubs had multiple hits today, so kudos to Marlon Byrd and Geo Soto. But they get their gold stars taken right back away for some poor base running early in the game. Idiots.

Starlin Castro went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .272 on the season. It's pretty much 100% likely that he'll end up with an average below .250 rather than above it, right?

Cubs win, scoring a good chunk of runs against a terrible pitcher as presented by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hey, there's a first time for everything!

Week eight awards: Meh

The Cubs kept their momentum by taking two of three against LA, but their mojo ran out at the hands of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Two one-run duds were sandwiched around yet another win by Carlos Silva, and the week ended with the Cubs in pretty much the same position they were in when the week started. That's been the team's tendency at home this season; their four homestands have looked like this:

3-3

4-3

4-4

3-3

They just can't seem to put together any type of streak at home, mostly because they can't score runs consistently. This was a bit of a strange week in that despite scoring just 16 runs in six games, the Cubs won three times by shutting out their opponents in each win. While Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot heated up a bit, most of the hitters were ice cold. Averages from last week:

Byrd: .238

Fukudome: .222

Castro: .217

Soto: .214

Theriot: .160

Soriano: .111

It's hard for a team to get hot when two-thirds of the order is batting like ... well, like Aramis Ramirez. Perhaps it's time to see more of Tyler Colvin? Please? And perhaps it's well-past time to move Ramirez down in the order? Might I suggest 10th?

Ryno of the Week: Ted Lilly looked great and deserved a win when he helped the Cubs beat the Dodgers 1-0, but Carlos Silva edges him out because of this stellar in a very important game against the Cardinals: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K. His performance ultimately prevented a sweep, and Silva became the first Cubs starter to begin a season 7-0 since Ken Holtzman went 9-0 in 1967.

Honorable mentions: Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot

Goat of the Week: The choices for this "award" on the offensive side were detailed above. John Grabow also threw his name in the hat by allowing five earned runs in two appearances, and then he was placed on the DL with what I believe is being called a "strained ability to pitch effectively in the major leagues." But overall, I have to go with Ryan Theriot who reached base in just 19 percent of his plate appearances and has a .313 OBP for the season. One could say his job is to "set the table," but instead, he's been getting up halfway through dinner and angrily knocking all the plates and glasses off the table.

Open Forum (Game Recaps: Cubs 1, Cards 1)

So we've split the first two games. Randy Wells looked awful (and bullpen-bound?) in his start, and Carlos Silva struck out 11 in seven innings (not bullpen-bound) in his.

Whether the Cubs win or lose this series, it'll feel a heckuva lot more important that it actually is. But screw sensibility; let's win on Sunday and ride the momentum all the way to the freakin' pennant! 

How 'bout y'all readers contribute to this here combined recap? What are your favorite moments from the past two games?

Grabow and Howry... the new nasty boys?(Game Recap: Cubs 5, Rangers 4)

Nice and important win. Cubs take a 4 run lead in the first inning on a few dinks and then a Soriano blast and they hold it thru a less than stellar Carlos Silva and some shaky middle relief. This is the first time the Cubs have pitched both John Grabow and Bob Howry in the same game and they still managed to win!

Soriano made a nice, slightly awkward, diving catch but also saved a run when the Rangers attempted a comeback in the seventh on a double by Ian Kinsler, holding Elvus Andrus, who runs like the wind, at third base. That kept the score 5-4 and some great pitching by Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, they managed to keep it that way.

With the win and losses by both the Cardinals and the Reds, the Cubs have parlayed a surprising 3-2 road trip into a 4.5 game deficit in the central. Day off tomorrow. Let's relish all the big close game wins for the Cubs and get ready for a tough Dodgers series on Tuesday.

Half-assed rotation plan du jour

Since the greatness that is The Cubs Management Think Tank can't think of anything better, allow me to hit you with some knowledge: the foolproof, sure-to-work Cubs Rotation Attack Plan for Starters (CRAPS).

Note: This idea is nowhere close to original.

Let's call Andrew Cashner ready-to-go as a big league starter. And we know Sean Marshall has started previously as well. So if we add those two guys, plus Everyone Loves Carlos Zambrano, to our current rotation, we have eight dudes that can go multiple innings.

Next, let's group those eight into two four-man camps: hosses and non-hosses. Hosses are guys who can definitely throw 100+ quality pitches a game. Demp and Z are locks for this group, and in my humble opinion Wells and Lilly are the next best candidates. By default, that puts Silva, Gorz, Marsh, and Cash in our non-hoss group.

Finally, the pairings:

Dempster - Marshall
Lilly - Silva
Wells - Gorzelanny
Zambrano - Cashner

The first three pairings match righties with lefties, while the last one gives Cashner the hossiest of hosses on which to rely for his appearances.

I think you can see where I'm going with this: every fourth day, we start with a hoss, cut him off in the 85-90 pitch range, and then hand over the next two to four innings to our non-hoss. Out in the 'pen, you of course have Marmol, and then either two or three other guys to serve basically as ROOGYs and LOOGYs for the transition from one starter to the other.

This would work, right?

Who should be removed from the rotation for Zambrano?

Carlos Silva
7% (2 votes)
Tom Gorzelanny
30% (9 votes)
Ryan Dempster
3% (1 vote)
Ted Lilly
3% (1 vote)
Randy Wells
13% (4 votes)
Pray for injury?
10% (3 votes)
Leave Z in bullpen
33% (10 votes)
Total votes: 30

Reader Blog: Can we call it a comeback?

It's hard to fathom that Carlos Silva has been a productive member of the Cubs' pitching staff through the first quarter of the season. When the Cubs acquired him in December in exchange for Milton Bradley, he had two positives going for him: he was a warm body, and the move saved the Cubs about $6 million.

Jeff Baker at the Seattle Times opined:

    This is a huge deal for the Mariners. It's a no-brainer.

From Larry Stone at the same paper:

    I understand why the Mariners are making this move -- Silva has absolutely no role on the team any more after two disastrous seasons and little hope for a turnaround. He went 4-15, 6.46 in 2008, and was 1-3, 8.60 in eight games in '09, spending most of the year on the disabled list. Bradley, at least, is healthy and can be very productive when he's focused and happy.

The blog Jorge Says No! added:

    It has come to this. The Cubs were forced to take on one of the worst contracts in baseball just to get Milton Bradley off their hands. On one hand they should be celebrating that Milton is gone and they got some savings in return, but Carlos Silva has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the past two years.

I'm not trying to hammer these writers. Rather, their thoughts are representative of what pretty much every baseball fan thought about the trade. The Cubs had an albatross on their hands, were admittedly desperate, and agreed to take on a different albatross in exchange for their own. As Stone said, the man had an ERA over six the last two years--how else were we supposed to view the trade?

My friend Brian Brennan, always looking for a way to snag an extra six-pack, tried to take advantage of my friend Trevor Sierra's eternal optimism by betting him that Silva wouldn't even make the Cubs' Opening Day roster. Who could blame him? Silva was basically throwing batting practice the last two seasons--there's no spot on the 25-man roster for the batting practice guy.

But of course he did make the team, and now he's 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA. The Cubs are 7-1 in his starts. What in the world is going on here? Should we feel confident that he's back to his old form, or is this just a mirage, much like the thousands of people Milton Bradley sees yelling at him when he goes to bed at night? Let's take a quick look at his history.

While Silva was just plain awful with Seattle, he was offered a four-year, $48 million contract for a reason. From 2004 through 2007 with the Twins, he won at least nine games each year, had three seasons in which his ERA was 4.21 or lower, and amassed at least 180 innings all four years. (Not exactly a reason to dole out nearly $50 mil, but solid nonetheless.)

But even when he had success in Minnesota, lefties did significantly more damage against him than righties. In all four seasons, his WHIP and HR/9 were much higher against lefties. But when he went to Seattle, lefties really banged him around:

2008 vs LH: .348/.381/.555, 2.19 BB/9, 4.37 K/9, 44.5% GB%, 14.6% HR/FB%, .355 BABIP
2009 vs LH: .380/.436/.718, 3.94 BB/9, 2.25 K/9, 48.5% GB%, 21.1% HR/FB%, .359 BABIP

(hat tip: Dave Cameron, FanGraphs)

But so far this year, it's been a much different story:

2010 vs LH: .212/.264/.273, 2.45 BB/9, 5.89 K/9, 43.4% GB%, 0.49 HR/FB%, .247 BABIP

His WHIP against lefties is significantly lower than that against righties, and five of the six home runs he's allowed this season were to right-handed hitters. That FanGraphs article points out that Silva has altered his pitch selection to southpaws: he's using his changeup 40 percent of the time against lefties and 29 percent of the time overall, compared to 15 percent last year. Going away from his sinker has increased his fly ball rate, but to this point it hasn't hurt him. When the weather turns warm and the wind starts blowing out, this strategy could backfire.

Perhaps Silva is more comfortable throwing his changeup because he changed his position on the rubber prior to the season. From an emotional standpoint, it also seems entirely possible that he's been positively affected by his mother's presence here in the U.S. (see?)

Now, if Silva was going to have a misleadingly strong month, it would be April. He's 17-7 in that month in his career, easily the best record of any month. He also hasn't pitched in the NL since 2003, which means hitters don't have a good scouting report on him yet. There's also no question that his performance has regressed here in May. Probably the worst comparison to be found is the one originally posted as a comment by SMan:

Carlos Silva in first 6 starts of 2010:
3-0, 6 GS, 36 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 7 BB, 24 K

Carlos Silva first 6 starts of 2008:
3-0, 6 GS, 42 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 9 BB, 18 K

Carlos Silva in 2008 after those 6 starts:
1-15, 22 GS, 111 IP, 7.84 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, 23 BB, 51 K

All in all, it seems likely that Silva will continue to regress at least a little: he's never finished a season as a starter with an ERA as low as 3.35; his K/9 is the highest he's ever had; and his BAbip (average on balls in play) is also the lowest he's ever had (.283), though it's not so low as to be impossible for him to maintain.

On the other hand, he seems to have made some key adjustments that could enable him to perform much closer to the levels he was accustomed to in Minnesota as opposed to the struggles he encountered in Seattle. Few if any thought he'd be in the Cubs' rotation in mid-May, but perhaps the Cubs have found a fifth starter for the next two years.

What's with this whole winning thing? (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Rockies 2)

Who says the Cubs don't draft well?

OK, so maybe they don't. But last night's starting lineup featured four Cub products -- Theriot, Colvin, Soto and Castro -- and every reliever that appeared last night has been through our minor league system, including Caridad, Russell, Marshall, and that one guy who will soon become a long reliever so he can become a starting pitcher but until then will be the backup closer.

Major kudos to James Russell, who according to Fangraphs' leverage index was the ballsiest player of the night last night. And I'd agree with that. He came on with the tying run at first -- which later got to second on a bloody-nose-inducing steal courtesy of Miguel Olivo. Bleeding aside, the run didn't score, and our late inning guys had a lead to hold.

Three hits for Tyler Colvin, who is now back to hitting .300. In 15 May at-bats, he's got a .908 OPS (boosted by his home run that I believe was hit in Cincinnati). And guess which Japanese prospect blocker has an OPS below .800 so far this month? Hint: It's Kosuke, who has a .759 over 48 at-bats.

Derrek Lee struck out three times. I suppose he did hit that double late in the game, but I was pretty pissed off in the first inning when the Cubs had runners on first and third and no outs and neither he nor Ramirez could bring one of the damn things home.

And Carlos Silva wins again. Five-and-oh for the season. Gee whiz. He was cruising early, and I wonder how much longer he would have gone if not for the mistake to Helton.

In my defense, Rafael Betancourt's first inning of work was fine. Betancourt, of course, was the guy I was pimping earlier this week as a trade target for the Cubs; he does have a good fastball, and he did strikeout Theriot. Also, try telling me the Cubs don't need a right-handed power reliever after Caridad's performance last night. He should be thanking God for the size of James Russell's testicles.

Actually, yeah, I'm gonna leave it right there. Go Cubs.

One trade makes sense for the Cubs.

In terms of how the 2010 roster is built, I'd say the Cubs have a surplus of one thing, and are at the same time missing one prominent piece of the puzzle.

We have too many starting pitchers. Case in point: Z is in the 'pen. We've got a guy in Iowa doing everything he can to earn his way into the rotation (Andrew Cashner), and our mop-up/LOOGY/set-up man has starting experience as well (Sean Marshall). So we're, what, eight deep?

And normally that's all well and good, except the Cubs are lacking a right-handed power reliever (how 'bout a big WHOOPS for trading away Mike Wuertz for next to nothing?).

So first, you gotta ask: which starters could be moved?

I mean, theoretically we could trade anyone without a no-trade clause. But I don't think there are many teams out there that want to take on an extra $30 million in guaranteed dollars. So that eliminates Dempster (owed $12.5m this year, $13.5m next year, and has a player option which you can assume he'll take for $14m in 2012), and of course, Carlos Zambrano (owed nearly $18m for each of '10, '11 and '12).

If the Cubs' window is indeed closing on this group of veterans (and I think we all agree that it appears to be doing so), then it would be stupid of the team to trade a younger pitcher for an older reliever just so they could feel marginally better about this year. So it's probably not in the team's best interest to trade Wells or Gorzelanny.

That leaves two candidates for the Cubs' trading block, effective immediately:

1) Ted Lilly - owed $12 million for 2010, FA in 2011
2) Carlos Silva - owed $8 million in 2010, $6 million in 2011, and a $2 million buyout in 2012

Given their recent performances, I think it's difficult to say which contract is more valuable. I suppose y'all can argue about that in the comments.

Now that we've got guys we're willing to move, we need to identify a reasonable target. Given the performance from their starting rotation so far this year, and the fact that they have a pretty decent team aside from the back of their rotation, I think the Colorado Rockies are a good trade target.

Furthermore, and most importantly for the Cubs, the Rockies have a surplus of decent, hard-throwing, right-handed relief pitching. Even if we assume they want to hold on to their closer, Huston Street, they've got two well-paid righties in the 'pen beyond him:

1) Rafael Betancourt - owed $3.775 million in each of '10 and '11
2) Manny Corpas - owed $2.75m and $3.5m in '10 and '11 respectively

How about Carlos Silva, Jeff Gray, and $5 million, for Rafael Betancourt?

Reader Blog: Fun with statistics

    * Starlin Castro had six RBI after three major league at-bats. The man he essentially replaced in the lineup, Mike Fontenot, had 71 at-bats before Castro's call-up. In those 71 at-bats, he had ... six RBI. Fontenot nearly doubled his season's RBI total in his 72nd at-bat of the season with a pinch-hit grand slam.
    * Aramis Ramirez has the same number of strikeouts (31) as hits and runs combined (20 + 11 = 31). Ramirez also has a lower batting average (.159) than Ryan Dempster and a lower OBP than Carlos Silva who, prior to this year, had not played in the National League since 2003.
    * Speaking of Silva, he has four quality starts this season; he had one all of last season (granted, he was injured for a significant portion of it). Silva has three wins on the season; he had five the last two seasons combined.
    * Ryan Theriot had back-to-back games with two stolen bases on April 12 and April 14. He has stolen only two other bases this season.
    * Marlon Byrd has 23 RBI this season. The man he essentially replaced, Milton Bradley, notched his 23rd RBI on July 25 of last year.
    * Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have combined for fewer hits than Tigers rookie Austin Jackson.
    * Of the four Cubs starters with the most starts, Gorzelanny and Dempster have the best ERAs (2.83 and 3.44, respectively) but the fewest wins (1 and 2). Silva and Wells (3.50 and 4.57) have three wins each.

Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year!  Check him out over there!

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