Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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Final Week awards: Will Quade still be in the dugout in 2011?

It was another strong week for the Cubs as they finished the season by taking three of four in San Diego followed by two of three against the Astros in Houston. It was the pitching that carried them this week: they allowed just 12 runs in the seven games. The Cubs finished the season 24-13 under Quade, and the strong finish left them just one game shy of fourth place in the Central (so close!).

Did the team's sudden turnaround earn Quade the nod as 2011 Cubs manager? What about Sandberg as manager and Quade as his bench coach? With the season officially in the books, we've got lots of time to discuss Hendry's offseason plans and the future of the franchise. But for now, the final awards of 2010:

Ryno of the Week: Take a look at this line: 14.2 IP, o ER, 2 H, 25 K

That's Carlos Marmol's September. Oh, and he was 13/13 in saves during the month as well. Just to make sure you took that all in: He allowed two hits in September, struck out 25, did not allow a run, and converted 13 straight saves. That's not fair. It ain't right. National League hitters could sue on the grounds that Marmol's pitching is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. He was 4/4 in the season's final week and converted his last 17 straight to finish the season.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt

Goat of the Week: It was a bad year all around and a bad final week for Xavier Nady. He went 6-for-23 last week with seven strikeouts, and batted just .256 (.306 OBP) with six home runs and 33 RBI in 317 AB this season. 

Dishonorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome

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

Series Review - Cubs vs. Marlins

What the heck has happened?

The gutless, useless, overrated, overpaid, uninteresting Chicago Cubs have ... gotten good?  What The Fizz?

These guys are 8-1 on their road trip.  They are beating good teams badly, including a sweep of their recent opponents, the Florida Marlins.  Let's take a look at what happened.

Friday, September 17th - Cubs 2, Marlins 0 (Ryan Dempster; 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, for his 14th win of the season)
All the Cubs did was shut down the Marlins offense and provide just enough of their own to be effective.  Dempster looked great, and now appears almost a lock to be a 15-game-winner.  The bullpen looked alive, throwing 2 innings of 1 hit, 3 walk baseball. 

The offense looked tepid, but so what?  Soriano and Soto both had run-scoring doubles, and that was all she needed. 

Saturday, September 18th - Cubs 5, Marlins 3 (Casey Coleman; 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 3 ER, for his 2nd win of the season)
Coleman is really making a pitch to be in the rotation next year.  His stuff doesn't appear overpowering by any means, but he's effective and has pitched well for a month now.  And he was again supported by a strangely-reliable bullpen: the Cubs pen pitched 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 (Cashner struck out 3 all by himself!)

The Cubs offense had 7 hits from 6 different players, 8 walks, and demonstrated what a "team effort can do."  Blake DeWitt is looking good as a Cub.  Dare we say he may actually be a good choice for second base next year?

Sunday, September 19th - Cubs 13, Marlins 3 (Jeff Samardzija; 6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 ER for his 2nd win of the season)
I'd still be reluctant to trust the Shark with winning so much as a game of checkers, but his last two outings haven't been "awful."  This is clearly a make-or-break year for the guy -- he's about 8 months away from entering into the realm of "non-prospect" status.  If Samardzija has any hopes of an even somewhat memorable major league career, then the lightbulb needs to go on now.

Oh, and the Cubs bullpen?  3 more innings of work, 0 hits, 3 BB, 5 K's.  In other words, all told, the Cubs pen pitched 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, 7 BB, and struck out 13 this series, while allowing 0 runs to score.  We'll take it!

Offensively, yesterday's game was pretty great.  13 runs.  A homerun from the Cubs new starting catcher Wellington Castillo, who'll be filling in for the soon-to-be surgically repaired Geo Soto.  A 2 RBI game from Brad Snyder, who'll be filling in for Tyler Colvin, who was apparently mistaken for a vampire and got staked during yesterday's game.  Staked!!

So, just like that, the Cubs have given us a September to remember.  They've crushed the dreams of Cardinal fans everywhere, and they'd have to lose pretty much every game for the rest of the month to not go .500 or better in September.

And the best part -- they've done it on the backs of young players who have a lot to prove.  That's great news for Cub fans.  If the team has any hope of competing next year, it'll have to be because those young guys have actually met some of their potential.  Players like Colvin, Coleman, and Castro will have to deliver, even as veterans like Dempster, Soriano, and Ramirez fade into mediocrity. 

Now, Rob has posted his thoughts.  Mike Quade for manager, 2011 and beyond.  I say, nah.  He's getting wins in garbage time, and that's cool, but as long as Hendry GMs, my vote still goes to Sandberg. 

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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

Don't let the Shark fool you. (Game Recap: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1)

There are only two reasonable conclusions that can be reached from Carrie Muskat's various analyses of Jeff Samardzija's start last night. Either she is disingenuous, and a liar, or she does not understand what it means to be good at baseball. "#Cubs Jeff Samardzija impresses with offspeed stuff to get 1st win as a ML starter," she tweeted last night.

Who exactly did he impress? Six hits, four walks, and only one strikeout in 5.2 innings pitched? Sorry, but no thank you, I'll pass on Samardzija once again.

Of course, the Cardinals' piece of crap offense is exactly the sort of team you could pull this sort of thing off against -- that is, a team built around three great hitters, one halfway decent one, and four godawful ones (one of which they actually traded for recently!!).

But yeah, don't be fooled by crap like this, again from Muskat, this time in her Cubs.com recap:

"No matter what happened Monday night in his first big league start of
the season, Jeff Samardzija will be considered for the Cubs' 2011
rotation. And the right-hander gave the Chicago front office something
to think about."

I pray to God that Jeff comes nowhere near the starting rotation for next year. Ideally, he can keep his ERA below three for the rest of the month with a few more starts, and he can be shipped off to Kansas City or Baltimore or something.

Amiright?

Series Preview: Cubs @ Cardinals (9/13/2010 - 9/15/2010)

The Cubs longest road trip of the season continues tonight as the Big Blue Train (credit: Dan Plesac) rolls into St. Louis. Despite scoring just 5 runs, the Cubs managed to get 2 out of 3 up in Brewers (including absolute gems by Demp and Big Z). They'll likely need to score more than 5 runs in the next 3 days against the Cardinals with the starting pitching we'll be trotting out there. With the Cubs playing for nothing - and the Cards still having faint playoff hopes, it would be VERY nice for this Cubs fan if we could absolutely bury the Redbirds this week. Enough of that though - let's get to the pitching matchups!

Monday 9/13 - Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 18.90) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 2.69)
Its Shark Week! Smardge is back up with the big club and he'll be making the start tonight in place of Carlos Silva, who's hurt again. At this point, I really dont think we should see Silva the rest of the year. The season's lost, and might as well let Smardge or Gorzo make the last 4 turns to see if either are guys you would want to pencil into the rotation for next year. The Cardinals trot out Garcia, who got hit around pretty good in his last start. Still, he's one of the favorites for NL Rookie of the Year (and what a stacked NL group of candidates there are..), and he's a guy the Cardinals are heavily relying on as they try to get back into the playoff race in the season's waning days.

Tuesday 9/14 - Randall T. Wells (6-13, 4.61) vs. Adam Wainwright (18-10, 2.61)
Despite the fact that he's had a shaky sophomore campaign, Wells is a guy who I think should be written into next year's rotation in pen. I like the way he pitches, and stats suggest he's been a bit unlucky. He could hold down the #4 spot admirably next year behind Dempster and Zambrano, and ahead of someone out of the Gorzo/Cashner/Samardzija/Silva group. Wainwright was considered a frontrunner for Cy Young about a month ago, but has scuffled some since. He could still finish strong and have a chance, as he did last year. Either way - this will be a 2nd straight night the Cards have a decided advantage on the pitching front.

Wednesday 9/15 - Big Z (8-6, 3.88) vs. Chris Carpenter (15-6, 3.09)
This would be the only matchup you might be able to argue the Cubs have an edge in...and thats only if you use the argument about how good Z's been over the past few weeks. His effort on Friday against the Brewers was unbelievable. That was vintage Z. Here's to hoping for more of that. Carp's one of those guys I dont like and don't have a ton to say about. The Cubs got to him last time we faced him, let's hope for more than that.

Say it with me.. SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!

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Week 23 awards: It's all about divisional play (and guys named Carlos)

The Cubs are 5-10 against Houston this season with three games remaining against them. As you might painfully recall, they are also 5-10 against the lowly Pirates. Divisional play has killed the Cubs all year--they're 28-42 against the Central, just two games better than those Pirates. The first-place Reds have dominated divisional foes, going 42-25 including a 12-4 mark against the Cubs.

Granted, the Cubs' real problem is that they suck against, you know, everyone, but you absolutely have to take care of business in your own division if you want to have a successful season. On the bright side, the Cubs are 9-6 against the Brewers.

Ryno of the Week: Carlos Zambrano, you are one confusing son of a bitch. Not only did he post another good start this week, he went 8.2 innings. My eternal quibble with Zambrano is his high pitch counts and short outings, so I was amazed to see him come one out from a complete game. But since he couldn't get that final out, Carlos Marmol mopped up for one of his three saves this week. He's saved nine straight without a blown save, is 30/35 overall on the season, and still has a ridiculous K/9 inning rate of 15.83. You think he might get a raise on his $2.125 million salary in arbitration this winter? The Cubs may want to consider inking him to a long-term deal, says the Bleacher Report.

Honorable mentions: Ryan Dempster, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney

Goat of the Week: He hadn't pitched in over a month, so this probably isn't real fair. But taking out the shortened start in which he had to leave due to injury, Carlos Silva has had four straight starts of five innings or less, and has allowed five runs or more in three of them. Five starts ago, his ERA was 2.96; now it's 4.22. In fairness, 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA is better than most of us would have predicted before the season.

Dishonorable mentions: Blake DeWitt, Alfonso Soriano

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers; last man standing

Overview
It would appear that real life* has gotten in the way of blogging for most of us Goat Writers this year.  Frankly, I'm still burned out from the many, many articles I wrote last year and I don't think I'll ever be a daily Cubs writer again.  (Unless you happen to represent a major newspaper, such as the Des Moines Herald, or the Flint Times; if you are, call me.**) 

(*Yarbage with Grad School and fatherhood, Rob with work and teaching, AJ with real life and wimmin, Pete with the back pain, Mike W with vacations and road trips, and me with other projects unrelated to baseball and work
**Don't actually call me)

Besides, as busy as we are with real life, the Cubs are busy with being, well, a pretty shitty baseball team.  But I'm okay with that -- as I've hit the age of 30, I've realized a few things.  You probably aren't going to like many of them, but here they are:

1. Teams will be good, teams will be bad, there's no point in stressing over when one or the other occurs, because -- believe it or not -- your life will not be better if the Cubs win a World Series, and your life will not be over if they don't. 
2. Your hair is going to turn grey, and fall out, possibly at approximately the same time.
3. This is a blog.  Why should we take it so seriously?  Back in the day, GROTA was a place to crack bad jokes, make terrible puns, and have lots of fun.  Then we Got Serious About Blogging, and consequently we Got Mad About Losing, and before you know it we Got Angry With Each Other.  It happens to anybody who invests so much time thinking and writing about sports, especially when they do it for free, but it's still pretty dumb all around. 

Blogging should be silly.  If you read a sports blog that isn't silly, that doesn't have fun, and that gets mad at the team they follow (and at the other blogs they disagree with) then, I have news for you.  You're reading the blog of some pompous, self-important douchebag who probably enjoys smelling his own farts.  You don't want to do that, now do you?  I know I don't.
4. If you're a man or a woman, your private bits are going to start sagging.  Sorry, just being honest.
5. See #3.  that's the important one.

Anyway, the season is long since over, but like a loveless marriage it just keeps on going, at least until the children turn 18.  There is some good news, however: some of these guys look like they might be good next season.  I'm talking, of course, about Carlos Zambrano. 

I always knew this about myself, but you could be a murderer of children, and I'd root for you on the baseball field if you won games for the Cubs.  (That might be a minor exaggeration, btw.)  Carlos is totally mental, but ever since he returned to the starting rotation, he's been the Zambrano of old.  The dude is 5-0 with an ERA of 1.60 in his last 7 starts.  It's hard to be upset about something like that.  Since the Cubs are stuck with Carlos, here's to hoping he builds upon this in 2011.  As for the rest...

Saturday, September 11 - Ryan Dempster (12-10, 3.76 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (11-10, 4.68 ERA)
Back when the Cubs were good, I really enjoyed it when they faced the Brewers.  Even the Milwaukee team with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets tended to have 2 to 4 pitchers who were absolute crap in their rotations at all times.  Wolf is kind of one of those guys, but the 2010 Cubs are just bad enough to lose to him.

Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, is trying hard to turn this into a crappy season.  It's a shame, really, because when he signed his ridiculous 4 year deal, I felt that he'd likely have 2, maybe 3 good seasons, and while his '09 and '10 haven't been horrid, he's wasted them on some pretty bad Cub teams.  Oh well.

Sunday, September 12 - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.81 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (11-7, 3.80 ERA)
In his last 3 starts, Coleman's gone 1-0 with a 4.42 ERA.  That's actually not bad, when you consider that, up until that point, his ERA on the season was 7.82.  Remember -- he's 23, he's got some potential, and he's experiencing his growing pains while pitching for a Cubs team that's going nowhere slow.  So cut the kid some slack.

Gallardo is 24, immensely talented, and he's got an outside chance of his second consecutive 200 strikeout season.  He's also got a history of injury problems.  So how come he's not a Cub?

Conclusions

The Cubs haven't been so bad a team since the start of the month.  Therefore, I predict ... VICTORY!!! 

Now go get 'em!

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros

Overview
I remember back in April when I used to look condescendingly at the Astros.  Man, they were a bad team.  Thank God the Cubs were better put-together than them...

These days, I find myself looking at Houston with a longing I cannot describe on a family-friendly site.  (Of course, part of it has to do with their tacos...)

Amazingly, the Astros actually have a chance of finishing the year with a .500-or-better record.  On the path to their gloriocrity?  The Chicago Cubs, whose poor play is dejecting, horrifying, and other things that end in "ing," but is still better than the Pirates.

On with the Preview...

Monday, September 6th - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.76 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (11-12, 3.71 ERA)
Casey Coleman.  23 years old, and in his first 25 innings as a major leaguer, he's surrendered 27 hits and 10 walks, while notching 11 strikeouts.  I believe I may have mentioned in the past -- with guys like Coleman in mind -- that if the Cubs shock us by reaching the playoffs in 2011, it will in part be on the arms of young pitchers like Coleman.  Maybe he'll work out, maybe not, but he's 24-13 in his last two years in the minors, with a career minor league ERA of 3.73.  His stuff's not dynamic, but he's a potential good'un.

Wandy Rodriguez is a middle-of-the-road starter with a career WHIP of 1.36, a career ERA of 4.22, and 62 career wins to 64 losses.  He's a great #3 or #4 pitcher, which means he's got a decent shot of beating the crappy Cubs offense today.

Tuesday, September 7th - Carlos Silva (10-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Nelson Figueroa (4-2, 2.83 ERA)
Hey!  Carlos Silva's on his way back.  He last pitched on August 1st, lasting 0.1 innings before slothing his way off the mound onto the disabled list.  Maybe he'll be rejuvenated and effective again -- he sure as hell can't be much worse than he was in July, when he went 2-2 with a 6.86 ERA.

He faces Nelson Figueroa, a 36-year-old journeyman with a very interesting career.  Nelson has been pitching in the major leagues ever since 2000, but he's never started more than 13 games (in 2001) and he's never made more than 30 appearances (back in 2002).  None of this changes these two facts: apart from 2005-2007, when he was in the Mexican/Chinese baseball leagues, he's pitched at least 28.1 innings every year, and his career ERA is actually a respectable 4.30. 

In other words, he's the epitome of a journeyman, and if he ever pitched for the Cubs he'd probably be a fan favorite -- it's easy to root for the underdog. 

Wednesday, September 8th - Randy Wells (6-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (10-7, 3.02 ERA)

Randy Wells continues to struggle, and he squares off against, probably, the toughest Astros pitcher on Wednesday.

Anyone want to bet that Wells is out of the big leagues within 3 years?

Conclusions

Both teams are playing for pride, but Houston has a clear objective -- if they sweep the Cubs, then they'll only be 5 games under .500.  The Cubs, meanwhile, continue to audition Mike Quade in the managerial role.  Dude's 8-4 so far.  I think, though, that it's inevitable that Sandberg gets the gig.

Or, at least, that's what I'm hoping for at this point, for reasons previously mentioned.

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Week 22 awards: Sure these teams are bad, but better to beat them than lose to them!

Well this is sort of fun, no? I mean sure, the emphasis is on "sort of" since there's a pretty low ceiling on the enjoyment one can glean from a fifth-place team with an interim manager and some guy named Scott Maine in the bullpen. But fun nonetheless.

A second straight 4-2 week resulted in some rather pleasant press conferences for Mike Quade who suddenly has the Cubs looking like they care. The team is scoring runs, two different pitchers (Diamond and Russell) earned their first major league victories, and Carlos Marmol climbed into sixth place on the NL saves leaderboard.

By the way, for those who said the Cubs shouldn't bring in Sandberg mid-season because it's a toxic environment, because it would be unfair to him, etc., etc., do you still think that now? Do you think Quade is sick and tired of managing this unmanageable group of players? For those who want Sandberg at the helm next season, it would be pretty cool if he were 8-4 as manager right now, wouldn't it? He'd have a few press conferences under his belt, he'd be gaining a sense of the team's strengths and weaknesses, and he would have had a month or two to hone his major league management style. Do you think Buck Showalter wishes the Orioles would have waited until the offseason to hire him, given that the Orioles are 19-13 under him after beating the Rays yesterday? But I digress.

On a separate note, the Cardinals are tanking and that brings me joy.

Ryno of the Week: This is probably the toughest one I've had all year. In the one corner we have Starlin Castro who went 11-for-25 with eight runs scored and two RBI, and sits in third in the NL batting race. He also became the first Cubs rookie in 66 years with six straight multi-hit games. In the other corner we have Carlos Zambrano, our resident riddle wrapped in an enigma. He went 2-0 this week with a 1.46 ERA, six walks and 15 strikeouts. He made history of his own, passing Kerry Wood for third on the Cubs' all-time strikeout list. He's 4-0 since returning from the restricted list and has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his six starts. Since Big Z was still plagued by control issues and only pitched 12.1 innings over his two starts, whereas Castro did just about everything right (except for moving forward to accept a throw on a steal attempt, allowing Carlos Beltran to get in safely behind him), I'm going to go with the rook. Man, can this kid hit.

Judd Sirott made an interesting point during Saturday's post-game show, suggesting that Zambrano's numbers as a starter this season are not too shabby. Unless, that is, you look at them as if Big Z were an ace (and of course he's being paid like one, which is the problem). It reminded me of a post I wrote last year in which I explained that Big Z simply isn't an ace and never has been. What Judd said is true: Zambano isn't a bad pitcher, but he's definitely not an ace.

Honorable mentions: Koyie Hill, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano

Goat of the Week: From the Department of Baseball Makes No Sense, Ryan Dempster got absolutely pasted twice this week after going 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his previous five starts. He failed to go five innings in either start this week. He still has a small chance of reaching the 15-win mark for the third time in his career.

Dishonorable mention: Blake DeWitt

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