Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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Gamecast: May 10th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Marlins

Ted Lilly (1-2, 5.29 ERA) vs.
Nate Robertson (2-3, 4.85 ERA)

Overview

Wow, the Cubs are historically bad right now with the exception of one good game on Friday. They just went 1-5 against the Pirates and Reds. That is not good.

I will not be long today, because I have to meet the wife at her doctor's appointment. We are preparing to bring the newest Cub fan into the world in a few weeks. Hopefully, the Cubs will be better by the time Ben enters the world.

Ted Lilly goes today, and hopefully he starts to build a little trade value, because that is what the Cubs should be worried about now.

Who's Hot

Marlon Byrd - Man this is guy is good. He's the perfect player for most teams, but the Cubs haven't been able to support his fast start.

Who's Not

Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Xavier Nady - None of these guys are hitting much and it is no surprise to see the Cubs record reflecting that fact.

Conclusions

It's a long season, and things can turn around. This is important, because I don't want to seem totally negative. I like to see bright side, but it is really hard right now.

Reader Blog: Week five awards

Well, that's as bad as it gets. At least, I hope that's as bad as it gets. A 1-5 road trip against the Pirates and Reds in which the Cubs got outscored by 20 runs despite winning a game by seven. Looking at the current standings, the best team the Cubs have played all year is the Washington Nationals, who are 17-14 (same record as the Mets). And yet the Cubs are just 14-18 and have been outscored by their opponents overall. The ship is sailing in the wrong direction, to put it mildly, and Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez (hitting a combined .184) are at the helm.

Ryno of the Week: Perhaps I'm just caught up in his first-ever major league game fireworks, but then again, Starlin Castro did drive in six runs in one game while the Cubs scored 10 runs in the other five games on the road trip combined. Castro committed an error as well, but that's the kind of week it was--even the good players weren't that good.

Goat of the Week: It's nice to have options, I guess. I'll go with Randy Wells, who lasted just two horrific innings against the second-worst offense in the National League and raised his ERA from 3.45 to 4.86. It was not a good week for Cubs pitching in general, but Wells' game was over before it started.

Lou Piniella gets a special dishonorable mention for leaving Ryan Dempster in yesterday instead of going to Sean Marshall with Joey Votto coming up. Lou warmed Marshall up, Dempster got into a first-and-third situation, a power-hitting lefty came up, Lou went to the mound, and ... Marshall stayed in the bullpen. While Dempster served up a three-run bomb. Nice call, Lou.

Dishonorable mentions: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Justin Berg, John Grabow

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

Gamecast: May 9, 2010 - Cubs @ Reds

Ryan Dempster (2-2, 2.95) vs. Mike Leake (2-0, 2.94)

Overview
Well, the Cubs come into this Mothers Day contest trying to win the series.  Yes, the game last night was effing atrocious.  However, you don't get style points for your wins or losses, and with a win today the Cubs will get 2 of 3 @ Cincinnati and that's OK in my book.  Ryan Dempster takes the mound for the Cubs, and quite honestly, there's no one else I'd rather have on the mound trying to turn it around after a tough loss than Ryan.  He pitched pretty well last time out on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, but got the L because the Cubs couldn't score more than 2 runs.  He has allowed 2 dingers in each of his last 2 times out, so that's a bit troubling, especially given the bandbox where today's game is taking place.

This Mike Leake character made his big league debut against the Cubs the first week of the season (remember, he was the cat that skipped the minor leagues entirely).  That game he walked 7, and was generally pretty sketchy, but the Cubs only managed 1 run, and he survived his wildness.  His control has got quite a bit tighter since then, and he's only allowed 1 run in each of his last 2 starts.  The Cubs could use a major bounceback, however, I don't know if it's going to come today.  I feel a low scoring game today honestly.

Who's Hot
Soriano.  It pains me, but we have really needed him the past couple weeks.  And last night, he, the Byrdman, and Theriot (who's still hitting well at the top of the lineup) were the only Cubs with more than one hit.  Honestly if you told me that by this point in the season, that Byrd and Soriano would be raking..both hitting about .320, I'd have told you we'd be in real nice shape.  Oof.

Who's Not
Everytime I write one of these, I mention Rami's name. So there's him. Apparently Jeff Baker lit his ass on fire, so he's not doing so well..(or should I have put him in the "Hot" column?). And of course Jeff Gray's not doing well either. (This is what I wrote Friday, and it still applies..and Jeff Gray's now in AAA). - Also apparently John Grabow has a knee issue and has been sent home for an MRI.  Can we just give him the same treatment that you give lame racehorses?  Just put him out to pasture to graze? 

So here we are.  It's Mothers Day, and our season is in trouble.  You can't fix it all in one day though.  All the Cubs can do today is win the one game, and then head home and try to right the ship.  I'm feeling a W, are you?  Go Cubs!  And Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

-MW

Game Recap: Cubs 14, Reds 7

I couldn't have scripted that any better. 

Most recaps and articles on the game last night involve some cool play on Starlin's name, like "A Star-lin in the Making" or "Castro Brings the Revolution" or "Hey, that Starlin Kid is Pretty Good."  However, I am not that creative at the moment and figured you loyal readers had already been inundated with aforemnetioned pun-filled headlines.

It's also the trendy thing to mention that most "can't miss" prospects, in fact, miss.  It seems the name du jour is Ben Grieve, who drove in 5 RBI in his first game, went on to a Rookie of the Year award, and then promptly faded into a career of obscurity, eventually hitting his final HR with the Cubs (118 in total, for those counting).  I could mention Corey Patterson, Hee Seop Choi, and countless others that were supposed to be the saviors of our organization. But that would just be far too cynical, even for a Cubs fan, after last night's performance.

The big takeaway point from last night is this: Starlin Castro has the ability to be an impact player.  Before his first at bat, everyone wanted to know whether he could adjust to the majors and if he'd be intimidated in the box.  What we learned last night is he wasn't too over-eager at the plate and could punish the mistakes of an opposing pitcher.  In the second inning, Castro saw one of the nastiest curves Homer Bailey could throw get called for a strike on the inside corner.  He then deposited the next pitch, a hanging curve, to the right field stands for a 3-run homer.  Three innings later, Castro hit a gapper to left field with the bases loaded for a triple to drive in three more runs.  At least in the small sample size we have so far, it's nice to see the "uses all fields" portion of the scouting report hold true.  Castro ended the night 2-for-5, HR, 6 RBI.

Lost in the hype of the Castro debut, Marlon Byrd added a home run of his own in the third inning, his sixth on the season.  Byrd just keeps on hitting and is off to a ridiculous start.  If he stays on the current pace, he's projected to have a career high 33 home runs by the end of the season.

Fontenot added added a pinch-hit grand slam in the 8th to cap the Cubs scoring. 

The pitching for the Cubs was less than impressive.  Silva only lasted five innings and gave up four runs on ten hits.  In a game where your team is up by 9 after five innings, most pitchers say it is hard to keep focus and stay as sharp as you are in a tight game.  I am hoping this was the case for Silva.  However, based on his track record, there are going to be nights where hits just happen to drop against Silva.  What matters is whether he is able to scatter those hits or whether they come all at once.

John Grabow continued his terrible excuse for pitching in the 9th inning and allowed the Reds to score 3 runs.  It is nice to see Lou trying to get Grabow some experience in non-pressure situations.  What isn't nice to see is Grabow hanging pitches constantly.  I'm no pitching coach, so I don't know what he is doing wrong, but I do know that it needs to stop.

My complaints aside, the Cubs offense woke up once again, our top prospect gave Cubs fans a taste of his potential with a historic performance, and most importantly the Cubs can add another one to the "W" column.

Gamecast: May 7, 2010 - Cubs @ Reds

GameCastCarlos Silva (2-0, 2.90 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (0-1, 6.04)

Overview
Last time I did the Gamecast, I noted that the Cubs had the decided advantage in the pitching matchup, and we lost...as Charlie Morton had the best game of his season. So..this time I'm not going to disparage Mr. Bailey, only noting that he's got 4 ND in 5, and that he had the best start of his season last time out against STL. We'll see what we get with Silva, who struggled some last Saturday against the Snakes (in a game we came back and won - I was there...good times). However there have been some reports of Silva having a sore hand. Hopefully he's ready to give us at least 6 good innings tonight.

Also for tonight, you might have heard..the Cubs have promoted Starlin Castro. Since everyone has an opinion on this, I'll editorialize some more, and give you mine... I think this is the right move at the right time. I don't care that Castro is only 20, I don't care that he only has 250 plate appearances in AA, and I especially don't care that he's skipping AAA since fewer and fewer elite prospects are spending serious time there these days. Its becoming more and more than AAA is for players on the way down and guys that couldnt quite hack it in the bigs...guys like Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, Bryan LaHair, etc. This team needs a shot in the arm, and hopefully Castro can do that. I don't think that this situation is anything like what's happened in the past with other highly touted prospects in Patterson and Pie. Castro has a LOT better plate discipline and control of his bat. Give him time Cubs fans - I assure you it will be worth the wait.

Who's Hot
Starlin Castro baby! - He was 9 for his last 17 in AA, finishing his tenure there with a .376 average. And now he's here, upgrading the defense and 2 positions. I'm excited, can you tell?

Who's Not
Everytime I write one of these, I mention Rami's name. So there's him. Apparently Jeff Baker lit his ass on fire, so he's not doing so well..(or should I have put him in the "Hot" column?). And of course Jeff Gray's not doing well either.

Big night tonight. Everyone tune in, and if the way this season's gone is any indication, we'll follow up those 3 Pirate losses with 3 wins in Cincy.

-MW

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Cincinatti Reds

Series Preview
Overview:
The Cubs hit a rough skid (well, they didn't really hit anything) in Pittsburgh and are looking to right the ship against the Reds at Great American Ballpark.  In an attempt to provide a spark to what has been a lackluster offense, the Cubs called up uber prospect Starlin Castro to take his rightful place at shortstop.  Accordingly, the Cubs demoted the Ginger One, Chad Tracy, to AAA.  Castro had a .376/.421/.569 line in AA Tennessee and had 4 SB (5 CS) on the year.

In short, this move seems pretty desperate.  At this day, May 7, the Cubs are 3 games under .500 at 13-16.  It feels worse because the team just got swept by the Pirates at PNC.  The team is looking for a "kick start" to get them out of the slump.  This really isn't the first time the Cubs have made this play.  You only have to look back to 2007 when the Cubs were in a very similar situation: a middling team that lacked drive and inspiration.  In June of that year, the Cubs made a drastic move and traded what most of us thought was the franchise catcher in an attempt to bring on some chemistry and light a fire under everyone.

Similarly, in 2007 lots of fans were ready to write the team off by the end of May.  The team was seven games under .500 and weren't playing up to the talent level most fans expected of them.  Eventually, the team got hot in the Dog Days of Summer and went on to win the division.

Ladies and Gents, so far the season hasn't gone the way we'd all hoped, but the situation isn't dire.  There's a lot of ball to play, and hopefully this move can work as the spark the front office believes it could be.

Now, onto the matchups.

Friday, May 7: Carlos Silva (2-0, 2.90) vs. Homer Bailey (0-1, 6.04)
Bailey and the Cubs are familiar with each other as they met in the first Cubs/Reds series of the season.  In that game, Bailey went five innings and struck out five while giving up 3 earned runs.  Perhaps fitting to his name, Homer is a flyball pitcher that relies on a plus fastball and a very nice 12-to-6 curve.  When he is able to keep the ball down in the zone, he can be at times unhittable.  However, he has struggled with consistency and frequently leaves his curveball and mediocre changeup up in the zone, which can lead to some long home run balls.  The best way to get to Bailey is to wait him out and not fall behind in a count so he can utilize his curve.

Silva is coming off the worst start of his Cubs career.  Speaking of keeping the ball down, Carlos left his sinker in the middle of the zone in his last start and allowed Arizona's lineup to take advantage of the gale force wind blowing out to the tune of 3 HR.  Silva's start was supposed to be pushed back because of a barking right wrist, but the trainer reports came back and he seems to be feeling well enough to toe the rubber tonight.  Which Silva will show up will be the main thing to watch for.

Saturday, May 8: Tom Gorzelanny (1-3, 2.48) vs. Aaron Harang (1-4, 6.68)
I know this point has been brought up countless times, but ever since Dusty made Harang run out in an extra innings game on minimal rest a few seasons ago, Harang really hasn't been right.  Regardless, he still always seems to have the Cubs' number.  In his last start against the Cubs, Harang went seven innings and only allowed three earned runs while striking out seven.  His most recent start was a quality start against the Cardinals, but he took the loss in a duel against Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals.  He's going to try hard to get ahead in the count by being aggresive with his fastball and then use his junker stuff to get hitters to chase out of the zone.  Sadly, this is a pretty good plan of success against an aggressive Cubs team.

Gorz got his first win of the season in his last outing against the Dbacks and set a career high 10 strikeouts in the game.  Posting three quality starts in his last five starts, Gorz has been a great asset to the Cubs pitching staff.  Another note of interest is that Gorz and Maddux constantly text/call each other to break down each start Gorz makes and how he can improve upon it.  Hopefully Maddux gave Tommy some good advice this time around and he continues to build upon his strong start.

Sunday, May 9: Ryan Dempster (2-2, 2.95) vs. Mike Leake (2-0, 2.94)
Leake has turned in four quality starts in his last five outings.  He turned in a decent performance the first time around against the Cubs where he only gave up one run in 6.2 innings.  The big knock on him was the seven walks he gave up in that game as well.  After giving up five walks in his start after facing the Cubs, Leake has limited his walks in his last 3 starts (2 being the max number).  Leake really doesn't have dominant stuff, but has above average command of all of his pitches.  He will go as far as his control lets him.

Dempster was the latest casualty of no run support in Pittsburgh in his last outing.  Clownsevelt went seven innings and allowed only 3 ER, two of those runs coming by way of the homerun ball.  The Cubs stranded 11 men on base in his last start, so hopefully that trend can change in the fortuitous hitters paradise that is Great American Ballpark.

Conclusion
The Cubs should take 2/3 in this series.  I expect the team to wake up from it's haze with the moves made today and show some signs of life and rededication.  If they turn in another performance like in Pittsburgh, then this team may have a longer and harder road to recovery than I imagined.

Check trustworthy Cubs ticket broker Coast to Coast Tickets for World Baseball Classic tickets and more!

Reader Blog: Cubs call up Starlin Castro

So says ESPN.

This is a somewhat strange move, given that the Cubs could have potentially saved a truckload of money by waiting just a few weeks to bring him up. And with Theriot playing so well (leading the league in hits), it's also an odd time to move him to second base.

It sounds like Chad Tracy will be moved to the minors to make room for Castro on the roster.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this yet, but the positive view is that it's pretty exciting to finally have the Cubs' hottest prospect joining the big club. After a miserable set against the Pirates, it's clear the Cubs could use a boost. While it's unfair to expect phenomenal production from Kid Castro, perhaps he can inject some life into the team.

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

Take it away, Lou! (Game Recap: Cubs few, Pirates a bunch)

Today's recap is brought to you by Lou Piniella and Randy Wells, courtesy of quotes lifted from Carrie Muskat's latest article.

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"It wasn't a good series and today wasn't a very good game -- three errors," Piniella said. "We didn't pitch good today, we didn't hit good and we certainly didn't play good defense."

"It's hard to win when you don't score many runs," said Piniella.

Piniella said he'll have a little talk with the players prior to Friday's game in Cincinnati.

"I'll say something tomorrow," Piniella said. "What am I going to say? You should be able to look in the mirror pretty easy after something like this." "I would think, out of the 28 games we've played, our starting pitchers have given us a chance to win in 20 of them, maybe a couple more," Piniella said. "That's a pretty nice percentage. I can't remember too many games that have gotten away from us early."

---

"It's terrible," Wells said. "Unacceptable. Everything I've ever preached about why I'm successful, what I do to be successful, I totally got away from.

"I came in too cocky, too confident," he said. "Warming up in the bullpen, I don't think I missed a pitch. I'm laughing, joking around with [catcher Geovany Soto] before the game. I went out there and was all out of whack and let it get out of hand.

"When we needed a win the most to stop the bleeding, I got lackadaisical, wasn't on top of my game.

He didn't even take a breath in his monologue.

"That's pretty much all that happened," Wells said. "I can't throw strikes with the fastball, can't get ahead of hitters. You're flipping [bad] sliders in there, and not throwing strikes with your best pitch, which is your changeup, and that's the kind of stuff that happens. It's time to get back to work and have a reality check and realize what my job is here and what my main focus is, and that's to win ballgames.

"All that other [nonsense], [being] 3-0 and pitching for the Chicago Cubs doesn't mean [anything]," he said. "I'm here to win ballgames. As far as I'm concerned, after tonight, I'm no better than anybody. It's time to get back to work and have a good side."

---

Kudos to Carrie for some excellent quote-getting. Her full recap is available at the Cubs' website. 

Kurt:
We feel your pain, Cub fans, because it is also our pain. 

I know that, justifiably, Rob has emotionally quit on this team.  I can't say that I blame him.  I also can't say I've yet to be emotionally invested at all. 

But.  Are the Cubs "done?"  Can Jim Hendry start breaking the team apart, selling them for scrap, and building for next year?  Or for that matter -- can they just fire his ass already?

The answer is probably "no."  It pains me to write this, but I believe the Cubs are good enough to play .500 ball for most of the year.  They might even rattle off some serious winning streaks every once in a while.  Some days, they're going to blow out teams by 10 runs.  Other days, they're going to get shut out worse than a geek on prom night. 

But remember what I said at the beginning of this series ... the Cubs were closer in record to the Pirates than they were to the Cardinals.  Now, the Pirates are closer to the Cardinals than the Cubs are.  St. Louis is bound to run away with it (damn you Poo-holes!) but the rest of the Central may be a season-long cluster-bomb. 

So, as the Battle for Second Place begins, we must ask: can the Cubs win?

Gamecast: May 6th, 2010 - Cubs at Pirates

Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA) vs. Brian Murres (1-1, 6.00 ERA)

Overview

I watched my DVR last night instead of the Cubs, and I'm glad I did. The Cubs are tough team to watch, because you never know which team will show up.

Hopefully, they have enough to pride to take at least one game in the series.

Randy Wells continues to pitch well, and he remains a bright spot on this otherwise lackluster team.

Who's Hot

Octavio Dotel - Dotel couldn't help give up a runs before the Cubs came to town. Now, he's nailed two down two saves in a row.

Who's Not

Aramis Ramirez - It's hard to see him like this, because he looks lost and slow at the plate.

Conclusions

The Cubs are rough and so are the chances in 2010.

Oops! The Cubs suck. (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Pirates 4)

You know who's not a very good pitcher? Charlie Morton.

Maybe, going into last night's game, Charlie was saying to himself:

"Listen. You are garbage, self. But so is your team. So you know you're gonna be out there for at least five innings. Let's give these guys a bunch of crap to hit, not walk anybody, and hope they suck enough where they don't rally or anything. I'll give them all the singles they want, but no extra-base hits, and no walks."

And it worked!

The Cubs collected neither walk nor extra-base hit in this piece of crap game.

Awards for suckitude go to Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome for failing to get on base ever, and to everyone on the team for sucking generally.

In all honesty, the Cubs aren't this bad. But they're also really not that much better, either.

Let's have your predictions for number of games this team will win this season in the comments section, please.

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