Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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

A new brand of suck! (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 10)

Carlos Zambrano looked terrible today.

Someone mentioned on Twitter while Z was pitching, "He never looks good in his first inning, even when he starts." This is an absolutely true statement. Z's value is in his durability, his toughness, his ability to throw 120 pitches and grit it out when you need a starter to give you at least six innings.

Did I mention this bullpen experiment is a terrible idea?

Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen owned Cubs pitchers today. They both had five hits. Pretty crazy, huh? That makes me think: what is this team going to do against the league's premier offenses when we get around to facing them? It's gonna be ugly. I'm scared. I'm shaking right now.

I've asked it before and I'll asked it again: Why is Xavier Nady hitting cleanup? I. Do. Not. Understand. You know what I'd be doing if I were Lou? I'd have Jeff Baker in right field against lefties.

That's what I've got for now. Go Cubs!

Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs, May 14-16

Series Preview
Overview
Reversing the fortune of last year, the Pirates now own the Cubs.  At least when it was happening in Pittsburgh no one was there to witnesses it.  Now the series has moved to Wrigley Field.  The name of the game in Pittsburgh for the Cubs was no hitting and mediocre pitching.  If today is any evidence of how the series will go, it's just gonna be mediocrity all around for the Cubs.

Friday, May 14, 2010- Tom Gorzellany (1-4, 2.83) vs. Brian Burres (2-1, 3.91)
Well, this one has already played out.  Normally at this point I go on a rant about how the Cubs have screwed Gorz over by not giving him any run support.  However, Tommy didn't really help himself out today and gave up 5 earned runs in five innings.  Instead, I'll just talk about the guy that wrote the recap of the game on Cubs.com.  His name is Bradford Dolittle.  Seriously.  I can't make that up.  My day has been made.

Saturday, May 15, 2010- Ryan Dempster (2-3, 3.44) vs. Paul Maholm (2-3, 4.61)
As the "ace" of this Pittsburgh staff, Maholm is coming off of his worst start on the season so far.  On Sunday he only lasted 3.1 innings and gave up 4 ER, after making it through at least six innings in his previous four starts.  "Consistency" and "starting pitcher" usually aren't words used in the same sentence when talking about the Pirates, but Maholm is about as good as it gets for the ballclub.  Like most pitchers, Maholm goes as far as his control will take him.  Hopefully, his control will be all over the place as it was against the Cardinals earlier in the week.

Outside of his last start, Dempster has been a model of consistency.  He was in line for a quality start against the Reds in his last outing before allowing a Joey Votto 3-R HR in the seventh.  He finished the inning and ended up with seven strikeouts.  Last time Demp faced the Pirates he was screwed over by the Cubs offense (this is the horse, this is the beating).  Hopefully he can get back on the "quality start" train and the Cubs offensive woes will be forgotten.

Sunday, May 16, 2010- Theodore Lilly (1-3, 4.88) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00)
Ross "The Boss" Ohlendorf is a sinkerballer.  He also is really, really smart as whenever he's in a highlight all the sports anchors want to do is talk about how he went to Princeton.  In his senior thesis, he used sabermetrics to demonstrate the return a team got in the draft.  Overall, he's one of those "innings eater" types that for some reason have the Cubs number. 

Ted Lilly is a dangerous man.  However, the fear he puts into men while walking down the street has not translated to the pitching mound... yet.  Lilly had a fairly good outing last time out, sans an error by a certain franchise shortstop and a home run, and went seven innings.  He wasn't really striking anyone out as he only tallied one on the day, but built on his previous outing.  It would be nice to see Ted keep progressing and regain his form from last year.

Sponsor Coast to Coast has Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field tickets on sale now, as well as Home Run Derby tickets!

Gamecast: May 14th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Pirates

Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 2,83 ERA) vs. Brian Burress (2-1, 3.91 ERA)

Overview

The Cubs are 15-20 at the moment and still are just 5 games of back of the Cardinals. We have seen worse Cub teams in our history, but we have seen better teams as well.

This would normally be the moment where the Cubs would use a stretch a game against the Pirates to start a win streak. Well, that's all fine and good except the Cubs are coming off being swept last week by the Pirates.

Gorzelanny has been hurt by a lack of run support and that has really been the cause of his 1-4 record. He's struck out 36 in 35 innings of work.

Burres dominated the Cubs on May 6th, so hopefully the Cubs are better this time around.

Who's Hot

Alfonso Soriano - He's good when he's hot and Soriano is on fire. He has seven hits in his last five games with a .950 OPS.

Starlin Castro - He's hitting .364 so far and looks to be pretty comfortable at the plate.

Who's Not

Tyler Colvin - The Cubs really need to find him at bats or let him play everyday down in Iowa. He's got one hit in his last five at bats, of course it was a home run.

Conclusions

The Cubs are bound to run off a stretch of good baseball. I vote it starts today with the Pirates and the Cubs roll to a nice winning streak.

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?

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Marlins 3 (HOLY ****! A WIN!)

Raise your hand if you thought Silva would start the season 4-0 for the Cubs.  Outside of those of you who are habitual liars, I don't think any of us saw this coming.  So far, Silva has had a (mostly) strong start to the tune of a 3.40 ERA and a nice 26:9 K:BB ratio.  As a "pitch-to-contact" pitcher, he's going to have rough days, but luckily today was one of the good ones to snap a four-game skid.

Silva turned in a quality start by going 6.1 innings and allowing only two earned runs on seven hits.  Even better, the Cubs offense showed us that good things can happen when your team can score 4 or more runs in a game.  The four-run benchmark seems to be an arbitrary guideline, but more often than not a team that scores four or more runs puts a W up. 

I am going to have to give Marlon Byrd the offensive star award for his go-ahead double in the 5th that drove in Fukudome and eventually led to the Castro run after a wild pitch by Volstad one batter later.  Castro, Byrd and Lee all had two hits in the game and Soriano went 1-for-3 with (another!) walk.  I don't know how much Lou plans on trotting out the same configuration, but I really liked seeing Fukudome leading off against a righty with Castro as the 2 hitter.  Hypothetically, with the 3 and 4 hitters actually hitting, Castro should be seeing some good pitches to hit in that spot if he stays there.

The bullpen was just good enough today as Marmol came in during the eighth for a four-out save.  He was shaky in the ninth, giving up a run, but kept his composure and got out with the save after striking out Hanley Ramirez with runners on first and second.

It feels like it's been far too long since the Cubs have put one in the "W" column.  Today felt nice.  Even with the drama of Aramis "I dont need a hitting coach" Ramirez, this offense is just too good to be held impotent.  I expect a good series this weekend when Pittsburgh comes to town.

Gamecast: May 12th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Marlins

Carlos Silva (3-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (3-2, 4.12 ERA)

Overview

Today's form of the Gamecast will be in madlibs form, because of time and lack of quality material to talk about.

Once again the Cubs were 1.______________ to come up with the big hit. Randy Wells was 2.___________ by the long ball.

Today the Cubs will 3.______________ on the final game of the series. The hitters are taking 4._____________ batting practice to help 5._____________ runs.

The pitchers will 6.____________ the Marlins from scoring runs. The defense will 7._______________ 8.__________ and 9._______________ defense.

Who's Hot

10._____________ - is showing promise or at least is not as 11.______________ as Aramis Ramirez.

Who's Not

12._________________ is 13. _____________ so bad it might be time to 14.___________________.

Conclusions

15.______________________________ (Give a phrase here).

Post your answers in the comments and we will try and post the best one at some point.

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!

Gamecast: May 11th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Marlins

Randy Wells (3-1, 4.86 ERA) vs.
Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 4.08 ERA)

Overview

Three errors and a HR, not to mention a fourth loss in a row. This is getting ugly for all of us. I think a few things are coming from this losing streak.

1. Jim Hendry could very well be on his way out of town.

2. Lou Pinella is probably going to retire and enjoy a life on TV.

3. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly's time as Cubs are coming to a close

4. The Cubs should get younger.

5. 2011 might be very interesting.

6. 2010 might get really ugly.

Who's Hot

Teams playing the Cubs - Need a winning streak? Well, playing the Cubs can help.

Who's Not

Starlin Castro's Defense - Ehh, I didn't see the errors last night, but it read very ugly.

Conclusions

Better times will come and I'm sure the Cubs will play some ok ball at some point this year.

The Question Game (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Marlins 4)

Cubs lose again. Lame!

Lilly was decent (three earned runs allowed in seven innings), the offense was not (two runs scored, both knocked in by The Team Carrier (see below)), and Starlin Castro had a really rough night in the field (three errors -- egads).

Let me ask you something(s):

  • Do you understand that ALFONSO SORIANO has been CARRYING this team? 3-for-4, two RBIs, a runner gunned down at home -- he's only hitting .340 with seven home runs now.
  • Why did Xavier Nady hit fourth tonight? Seriously, why?
  • Why did Derrek Lee hit third tonight? I guess he's hit before, but the guy is not having a good year. And yes, it's likely he'll turn it around, but maybe we could hit him lower until then?
  • Do you feel like booing Starlin Castro? I know I don't. Yes, it was a rough night for the kid, but let's give the kid a chance to settle down.
  • Did any of Lou's actions tonight change your opinion about his ability to manage? Do you feel Lilly was managed appropriately (yes, hindsight is 20/20!)? Did you like his line-up? Does he take any blame for the double steal that was completed against his team?

Answers to any and/or all questions posed are welcomed in the comments section.

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Florida Marlins

Series Preview
Overview:

This will have to be short -- I'm going to quite possibly lose my internet connection for a day or two, starting tonight.

The Cubs, who are presently 14-18, are hosting the 14-17 Marlins.  It's pretty much a moot point as to whether or not Chicago can pull together a successful run -- win or lose, they are still a mediocre team.

The Marlins, meanwhile, are one of the few teams I really dislike.  I will always have a pretty bad taste in my mouth over '03.  Here's how the series looks like it might play out...

Monday, May 10th, 2010 - Ted Lilly (1-2, 5.29 ERA) vs. Nate Robertson (2-3, 4.85 ERA)
If things continue as they are, this is Ted Lilly's swan song as a Cub.  He's nearing the end of a contract that, despite his performance, is unlikely to be extended.  Therefore, how he pitches in the next 30-45 days will probably have a pretty big impact on what the Cubs get in return for him.  Here's to hoping for some ass kicking, like the days of old.

Nate Robertson, meanwhile, has nearly 20 more losses than he does wins, having spent most of his career in Detroit.  The Cubs can make it 20 even tonight.  Go get 'em, boys.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 - Randy Wells (3-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 4.08 ERA)

Wells is coming off his biggest ass-whippin' of the season.  He blames having become a little too cocky for his own good.  If that's true, then a focused, buckled-down Wells should kick some serious Marlin ass tomorrow night.

Ricky Nolasco, though, is about the best pitcher Florida has.  It won't be easy for Wells, even though Nolasco has only modest success this year -- a 4.08 ERA despite a 1.13 WHIP.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 - Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 2.83 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (3-2, 4.12 ERA)
If Gorzo gets his ass handed to him, it might be the final necessary blow to get Zambrano back in the rotation.  Then again, Tom has been pretty hard-luck as of late and, based on his numbers, is probably a more deserving candidate to stay in the rotation than a luckier pitcher like Carlos Silva.  Regardless, this game will be a big one for him.

Chris Volstad is 23 years old, went 9-13 last season, and looks to be on pace to do a lot better this year.  But it's early, he's young, and the Cubs just might crush him.

Conclusions

Lordy, I hope the Cubs sweep.  Realistically, Chicago has been just about totally hit and miss this year, and they are overdue to do some hitting. 

One other note -- as I mentioned, I probably won't be around for a day or two while we switch internet providers.  Consequently, I would like to jump the gun and welcome Allen (known in the Reader Blogs as Sayers40) to the fold.  As our new gaggle of writers falters and falls off (we've already lost Phil after only 3 posts), I've offered Allen the chance to step in and contribute as a Goat Rider.  Here's to hoping he lasts longer, and does as good a job as he's done as a Goat Reader.

(Of course, he hasn't actually accepted my invite to join the team yet ... so, uh, I may be jumping the gun a bit...)

Buy Chicago sports tickets to games on the road and at Wrigley Field at Coast to Coast Tickets!

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award