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.

Gamecast: April 30th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Diamondbacks.

Randy Wells (2-0, 2.49 ERA) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 4.88 ERA)

Overview

Can we just go back to Tuesday and try again? The cubs were right off winning their fourth straight and every thing was looking up. Fast foward three days and the Cubs are now floundering once again.


Yesterday, the Cubs couldn't get going early and the bullpen once again took a beating after Ted Lilly got a beating of his own.

The Cubs offense was mainly late on a meaningless grandslam that makes Kosuke Fukedome's season look better. The Cubs really need to figure some things out, and why not against Lopez today.

The season is still early, but the Cubs really haven't improved much from the beginning of the season. These things will need to change if the want to compete or if they want to trade some guys to improve the farm club at the deadline.

Who's Hot
Kelly Johnson -
I remember hearing people say the Cubs should pick him up possibly, and it looks like those people were right. He had four hits yesterday and a HR.

Who's Not
Derrek Lee -
Lee's 0-for-4 dropped him to .192 on the season. It looks like it is another slow April for D-Lee.



Conlcusions

Randy Wells has looked good this year. Hopefully, he will continue to add to his legend and rack up wins for the Cubs.

Game Recap: Dbacks 13, Cubs 5

Game Recap
Different story, same result.  Ted Lilly decided today that the streak of good starts from Cubs starting pitching should end.  Combine that with an anemic Cubs offense and the end result is just as bad as you might expect.  Even more depressing, the loss guaranteed the Cubs will finish under .500 for the month.  And here I thought this was a "cupcake" month.

With the wind blowing hard out to left field today, it was clear even before the game that Lilly's tendency to induce fly balls could be trouble.  Throw in a few untimely walks and combine it with some very hittable stuff, and you have a recipe for disaster.  Lilly missed the strike zone a lot today, and when he was in it he was usually throwing belt-high stuff.  When you leave hittable stuff over the plate even Adam LaRoche, a terrible April hitter over his career, can make an exception to his career trends and join in on the hit parade.  The book was closed on Lilly after five innings and after he gave up six runs on seven hits.  It is interesting to note that this was the highest total of runs allowed by Cubs starter since Z's opening day start against the Braves.

The only thing that wasn't too shocking in today's game was the absence of a 3 and 4 hitter in the Cubs lineup.  The 3 and 4 spots went a combined 1 for 8 on the day with two strikeouts... and sadly that's one of the more productive days this season.  Theriot was the only Cubs player to get more than one hit on the day.  At least Fukudome continued his torrid start with an 8th inning grand slam off of Ian Kennedy.  On the month, Kosuke is batting .328 with 4 home runs and 15 RBI.  It would be great if Kosuke could maintain his April numbers throughout the whole season. 

To add insult to his prolonged slump, A-Ram added another error to his resume in what turned out to be a seven-run seventh inning.  The Cubs just played terrible baseball today on all fronts.  Nothing more can be said.  Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully the Cubs will take advantage.

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Overview
After a feeling of optimism in the last Series Preview, the Cubs have once again knocked my optimism down a rung by dropping a series to the Nationals.  The Cubs now welcome to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the Diamondbacks (10-11) and their ability to crush the dreams of Cub Nation (See: 2007).  The Dbacks have won their past two series (PHI, @COL) and look to keep that streak alive on the road, where they are 3-6 on the season so far.  Hopefully the Cubs will help continue the Dbacks road woes during the four-game series.

It may not hurt that since the Arizona State Legislature passed immigration reform for the state that the Diamondbacks have been under a lot of pressure. However illogical the protests may be, I hope it keeps the Dbacks off their game and helps the Cubs get back to .500.

How's it all going to play out?  Well, it's complicated...

Thursday, April 29- Theodore Roosevelt Lilly (1-0, 0.00) vs. Ian "Not John F." Kennedy (0-1, 4.43)
Ian Kennedy was once the diamond of the New York Yankees minor league system, but like almost all prospects in that farm system, was traded away for a veteran.  In the case of Kennedy, he was part of the three-team trade that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson.  Kennedy only pitched once in 2009 because an anuerysm near his right shoulder put him under the knife.  Kennedy has a 4-seamer that clocks in around 90-92, a plus changeup, a tight curve, and spent the offseason working on a 2-seamer.  He has only allowed 2 earned runs over his last two appearances, and seems to be figuring things out.

His opponent is the Bullmoose.  Lilly came off the disabled list on Saturday in Milwaukee and threw six shutout innings.  Over the start he allowed only three hits.  Lilly only threw 78 pitches in the game but was pulled after his back tightened up.  Hopefully that was just a precaution and isn't an ongoing issue.  Lord knows our bullpen doesn't need anymore of a workload than it already has. 

Cubs win this one.  If I've learned anything in life, it's don't bet against Teddy.  More importantly, don't bet against Lilly if he's on the mound after the Cubs lose two games in a row.

Friday, April 30- Randy Wells (2-0, 2.49) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 4.88)
Lopez is a journeyman pitcher that always seems to have a resurgence just when you think he's done.  This year appeared to be one of those resurgance years as Lopez turned his minor league invite to the Dbacks camp into a spot in the starting rotation.  After putting up a good start his first time out (6 IP, 1 ER against PIT) he was hit hard in two of his next three starts.  That being said, Lopez is one of those guys that goes out and just eats innings, no matter what.  He is a four pitch pitcher that has a high 80s fastball that is complimented by a cutter, a slider and a change.  However, at this point in his career he gets by on guile more than anything.

Randy Wells is coming off of another solid start.  Against the Brewers on Sunday Wells allowed two runs in seven innings and didn't walk a batter.  There isn't a whole lot that hasn't been already said about this kid and I don't feel its appropriate to go on a rant about my mancrush for him in this space.  Wells looks to keep his strong start to the season going and shut down what has been a potent, at times, Dbacks lineup.

Despite the fact that guys like Lopez usually dominate a "good" Cubs lineup (not the punchless one we are trotting out right now), I'm leaning towards a Dbacks win... but for the sake of it, I'll say Cubs are 2-0 after Friday (Randy is just too good).

Saturday, May 1- Carlos Silva (2-0, 1.73) vs. Mystery Pitcher X (0-0, INF!!!)
Kris Benson was injured last night in his first start for the Dbacks, so the club is looking to call someone up to take his rotation spot.  Until that happens, the Dbacks rotation appears to be in a shuffle.  Sadly this means the Cubs might have to face Danny Haren on Saturday or Sunday.

Silva is coming off his "worst" outing of the season which was still a quality start.  Silva went 7 innings and allowed 3 ER against the Nationals.  It is only a small sample size of four starts, but Silva has done a damn fine job in the rotation.  I expect his numbers to eventually even out a bit, but deep down I'm hoping he's turned over a new leaf and doesn't regress completely to his career mean.  Regardless, Saturday is May Day, so bring your friend Carlos Silva a bouquet of flowers.  Yes, that just happened.

No prediction because I don't know who he's facing.

Sunday, May 2- Tommy Gorzelanny (0-3, 2.45) vs. Another Mystery Pitcher (0-0, ?)
Again, the pitcher here could very well be Haren or Edwin Jackson, but I'm not going to speculate any further until I see something more official on MLB.com in the "probables" section.

Tom Gorzelanny is the Randy Wells of 2010.  I don't know what he did and to whom, but the whole team refuses to give him run support any time he is on the mound.  The only way to make his losses any less painful than they are is if we could revive Harry Carey and at least listen to the man butcher Tom's name.  In Gorz's last outing he went seven innings and allowed only two runs.  A quality start from a Cubs pitcher?  Again?  I know, it's a shocker.  Hopefully the team can actually get him some run support and beat the current streak.

Tenatively, I predict the Cubs win (more out of pity for Tom, than anything).

Conclusion
It would be nice to see the Cubs at .500 after this series by going 3-1.  I mean, eventually the Cubs have to win a series against someone other than the Brewers, right?  Why not now?

Shop for discount sports tickets -- including White Sox tickets online -- at Coast to Coast Tickets!

Gamecast: April 29, 2010 - Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

GameCastTed Lilly (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (0-1, 4.43 ERA)

Overview
Ted Lilly tries to break a 2-game losing streak for the Cubs this afternoon at Wrigley Field. On Saturday, in his first start of the season, T'Lil looked very strong, tossing 78 pitches over 6 scoreless innings. He'll try to duplicate that feat this afternoon. The visiting Snakes will send Ian Kennedy to the mound. This will be his first ever appearance against the Cubs, having come over from the Yankees during last offseason's Granderson/Scherzer/Edwin Jackson/Austin Jackson three-team deal. So far this season, he has just 1 quality start in 4, that being last time out..a nice 8-inning start versus the Phillies. His start before that was 5 scoreless innings against the Padres, and while that's nice, it doesnt count as an official QS by MLB's standards. Kennedy is finesse/flyball type righty, so if the wind's blowing out, the Cubs have a chance to throw up quite a few runs.

Who's Hot
Me - My frustration is getting at an exceedingly high level after yesterday's "effort" with runners in scoring position. Several innings in a row we had runners in scoring position with 0 or 1 outs, and we couldnt get them in. That can't continue to happen. We just lost 2 of 3 at home to the Nationals, after losing 2 of 3 at home to the Astros the home series prior. I dont know if the Cubs are a "good" team or not yet, but "good" teams have to win home series.

Who's Not
The mendoza twins of Lee and Ramirez. Their non-hitting routines are getting old. Lee's average has plummeted to .203, and Ramirez is stagnating at .155. I'm not advocating sweeping changes, and I'm hoping you're not either, but they need to pick it up. They're a large reason why we lost 2 of 3 to the Nats.

Finally, you might have heard that Bruce Levine wrote an article about Starlin Castro yesterday. Paraphrasing, I believe it said something to the tune of: "The Cubs might be calling Castro up soon, there are front office types evaluating when a potential call-up might occur, no one knows when it will happen, but it could happen soon." So basically, Levine said nothing. Which is par for the course for him.

Keep the faith.
-MW

Game Recap: Nationals 3, Cubs 2

Recap
If only a starting pitcher could buy runs like a contestant on Wheel of Fortune buys vowels.  I'm pretty sure Ryan Dempster and most of the Cubs starting staff would be in favor of the idea.  The Cubs offense once again fell short against the Nationals, this time for Dempster, in a game the team should have won.  Moreover, it marred the dream that Dempster could go 30-0 on the season and win the Cy Young.  Ok... maybe only Len Kasper's dream based on the booth discussion today.  Even more disappointing, the Cubs once again continued the franchise trend of losing to a young pitcher that I've never heard about.

To cut to the chase, the Cubs dropped the opening series of the homestand because of the lackluster offense.  The team scored a total of 7 runs over those three games.  Despite the resurgence of Soto and Soriano, the SWP-ness of Theriot, and the hustle and clutch hitting of Marlon Byrd, the offense seems to be dead.  The impotence of the offense really can be traced to two culprits: Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.  On the season, Lee and A-Ram have combined to go 29-163, .178 AVG, .331 SLG percentage, with a 42:22 K:BB.  Not exactly acceptable statistics.  To a degree, I have hope for Lee as it appears that in most of his recent at bats he is hitting it hard, but just at people.  On the other hand, Ramirez looks lost at the plate in such a manner that can only be described as Soriano circa 2009.  A-Ram swings at bad pitches, mis-hits mistakes, and looks completely off balance every time he swings.  I know he was dubbed as a savior in the offseason, but if Rudy Jaramillo wants to earn his paycheck, he needs to figure out what is going on with A-Ram... and soon.

The offense was not without opportunities.  In the fifth inning, the bases were loaded with only one out for Marlon Byrd.  Marlon failed to get the ball out of the infield and the inning ended when Fontenot grounded out.  In the seventh, the first two batters reached base only to have A-Ram step into the box and ground into a double play.  Finally, in the eighth, Byrd led off the inning with a double but never advanced any further than second base.  No sac bunt, no grounder to the right side, no deep fly for a tag.  He was stranded where he started the inning.  For this last part, I have no words (that are at least printable).

Despite all these failed opportunities, I was surprised to learn that the Cubs are second in the NL in runs scored with two outs and runners in scoring position.  Moreover, they are fifth in batting average with RISP and two outs.  I'm not sure if those stats should give me hope or cause me to spiral into an even deeper level of disappointment.

Oh, and on a brighter note: Marlon Byrd is a magician.

The Diamondbacks roll into town for a four game series starting Thursday.  They've been pretty hot and cold so far this season, and mainly the latter on the road (3-6).  Hopefully they got out all of their frustration in the 12-11 victory against the Rockies and their bats are lulled into a deep sleep for at least 3 out of the 4 games.

Reader Blog: It's like a broken record. It's like a broken record.

A strong start. Painfully bad situational hitting. A close-but-no-cigar loss.

That recap describes a relatively large number of the Cubs' 12 losses this season, but Wednesday's really hurt. A series loss to the Nationals. A 4-5 record at home despite having hosted the Brewers, Astros and Nationals. The momentum of a recent four-game winning streak gone along with Ryan Dempster's formerly flawless record.

And the Cubs had their chances:

    * Fifth inning: Bases loaded, one out. No runs.
    * Seventh inning: First and second, nobody out. No runs.
    * Eighth inning: Runner at second, nobody out. No runs.

Like Gorzelanny on Tuesday, Dempster took a loss that he probably didn't deserve. Granted, he allowed two home runs and three runs in all, which will lose you a game every now and then. But he went eight innings, the third straight start he's gone at least seven. He's pitched six innings or more in all five starts this season--his 33.2 total innings rank second in the National League (behind, of course, Roy Halladay).

By the way--remember how the Cubs tried to sign Matt Capps in the offseason? I wish they had. He recorded his 10th save on Wednesday, best in the majors. The 26-year-old has a 0.68 ERA.

The Cubs have still won only two series on the year, both against the Brewers. The 10-11 Diamondbacks come into town for an extended four-game series starting Thursday, and three out of four would look mighty nice as it would get the Cubs back to .500.

Read more from Brandon at his blog Wait til This Year

Gamecast: April 28th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Nationals

GameCastRyan Dempster (2-0, 2.60 ERA) vs. Luis Atilano (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Overview
I missed last night's game because I was busy defending my thesis. So, you can blame me for the loss, because I was not there to offer my support. You know what? I will take the loss just to be done with that stupid paper. Now, I can focus on the Cubs again for at least seven weeks, which is about how much time I have until Baby Yarbage enters the world. Then, all bets are off.

As for the Cubs, Dempster takes the mound once again. He's been good so far, so hopefully that continues.

The Nats trot some guy out there that I've never heard of or know anything about. It would be nice to finally light one of these guys to claim a victory.

Who's Hot
Livan Hernandez -
Seriously, what is up with this guy? My bets on a deal with the deal at the crossroads. He will dominate this year, get traded to the Yankess in July and win a World Series MVP, before disappearing off the face of the earth.

Who's Not
John Grabow
- His ERA is now topping 7 runs a game. Nice job, John!

Conclusions

There is no reason the Cubs can't win today. It would put the Cubs back at .500 before a four-game series with the Diamondbacks.

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.

Reader Blog: Tom Gorzelanny wondering what a guy's gotta do to get some runs over here

The Cubs have yet to win a game started by Tom Gorzelanny, but he deserves very little of the blame for this unfortunate trend--the Cubs have scored two, three, one and one run(s), respectively, in those games while Gorzelanny has posted a 2.45 ERA.

Though Gorzo allowed two runs last night almost before the pregame show was complete, he settled down after the first and notched a (everybody together now) quality start. He came just one out away from a QS his last time out (and would have had one were it not for an error by Mike Fontenot), and was knocked out, literally, of his previous start after three innings. Those two starts represent the only games in the last 12 in which the Cubs starter did not post a quality start. In fact, don't look now, but the Cubs have the sixth-best ERA in the National League. And yes, that includes the bullpen!

But Livan Hernandez, whose season has started as inexplicably well as Carlos Silva's, shut down the Cubs with his 85 mph fastballs and grab bag of random pitches that have no business working in the major leagues. The end result was one measly unearned run for the Cubs, giving Gorzelanny another loss and bringing the Cubs' record to 0-4 when he has taken the mound.

Hernandez lulled the Cubs offense to sleep even though they should have been energized by the opportunity to climb over .500. It was the fourth time this season the Cubs have had a chance to get their heads above water, but now they'll look to Ryan Dempster on Wednesday as they attempt to even their record at 11-11.

Though Aramis Ramirez was just 1-for-4 with a single, I think he's about to break out of it. He had a line drive single on Sunday as well as a hard line out to center. On Monday, he smoked a double in the first inning and later hit what would have been a home run on most days. And along with his single last night, he drove a ball to the warning track in center. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think Ramirez is almost there.

Read more from Brandon at his blog Wait til This Year

Gamecast: April 27, 2010 - Cubs vs. Nationals

GameCastLivan Hernandez (2-1, 0.75) vs. Tom Gorzellany (0-2, 2.40)

Overview
Take a look at those names and those stats.  Holy shit.  When I think Livan Hernandez, I think fat guy, and an ERA over 5.  I'm sorry, but that's what I think of.  In his three starts, he's been dominant, not allowing a run in two of them, and only allowing 2 ER in 8 innings against Colorado last time out, an outing during which he actually took an L.  Sucks.  Offense didn't support him.  Its a small sample size for sure, and Livan's not turning into a husky Cuban Sandy Koufax.  He's bound to fall apart eventually.  His BABIP this year is .155.  That's not holding up.  Let's say we help him regress to the mean tonight.

Another strong candidate for regression to the mean is the Cubs' starter tonight, Tom Gorzellany.  The 0-2 record isn't pretty, but he's been the benefactor of some shoddy run support.  Last time out he allowed 4 runs (though only 2 were earned) in 5 innings of work.  Gorzo strikes me as a 5 and fly sort of guy, which makes you wonder why the Cubs are sticking with him in the rotation instead of a guy who, I don't know, is a lot better than him?  Sigh.  Anyways, look out.  I feel a lot of runs being scored tonight.

Who's Hot
Pudge Rodriguez is hitting .411 for the Nats.  He was a late scratch for back tightness last night.  Not sure if he's in the lineup tonight.  Ryan Zimmerman has been off to a hot start for the Nats as well, he's now missed 5 straight with hamstring issues.  My fantasy team sure wishes he'd get healthy.  He might play tomorrow, but last I heard, he's out for tonight as well.  On the Cubs side of the ledger, Ryan Theriot and Marlon Byrd are hitting the ball well..but I bet you already knew that!

Who's Not
For the Cubs, D-Lee's really struggling.  His average has fallen all the way to .214.  He needs a big night to get him going.  Aramis is not hot...that's not new news.  And for once, I can say the Cubs bullpen doesn't belong here.  In the past 4 games, the pen has given up 1 run (Z on Saturday) in 9 1/3 innings.  Keep it up fellas!

A win tonight would be 5 in a row and put us over .500 for the first time this decade.  Keep the faith!
-MW

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award