Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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Casey on the Mound (Game Recap: Cubs 9, Nationals 1)

Casey Coleman followed his game plan last night, and fortunately it worked just about as well as you could expect it to.

The 22-year old Coleman is not a K-machine, but he doesn't walk many batters either. Indeed, Casey showed solid control last night, keeping the ball down against Washington hitters, inducing 11 ground balls against eight flyballs and just one line drive. He's no ace, and doesn't exactly project to ever become one, but a career 3.73 ERA in 321.1 minor league innings at age 21 is nothing to sneeze at. I look forward to watching him in his next start.

The offense came through as well, collecting 15 hits against Nationals pitching. Xavier Nady, Blake DeWitt (each with three), Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Starlin Castro (with two) all had multiple hit nights. Aramis Ramirez walked twice, while Geo Soto walked three times (probably because he was hitting eighth).

Speaking of the offense, I thought Mike Quade did a pretty nice job filling out the line-up card. If DeWitt sticks with the team as a starter (and he should), he's a pretty solid leadoff candidate. The only person better suited would be Kosuke, but we all know he's on the trading block. Other than that, I guess some folks thought Soto should bat higher, seeing as how he leads the team in OPS. I guess I agree with that, which means I guess I'm saying the first baseman should bat eighth, be it Xavier Nady or Micah Hoffpauir -- actually, yeah, that pretty much makes sense.

Nice job by Andrew Cashner pounding the strike zone, getting five outs on 11 pitches (nine strikes). And Thomas Diamond got two strikeouts and a ground out in his inning of relief, also on 11 pitches. Coleman does appear to have higher upside as a starter, whereas Diamond doesn't seem to fit there. In fact, against the 11 batters he's faced as a reliever, Diamond has allowed one single, zero walks, and nabbed four strikeouts. Certainly a small sample size, but better than Justin Berg maybe.

Although that's not saying much, I guess.

Series Preview: August 23-25, Cubs at Nationals

After a tearful goodbye to Sweet Lou, and a game that caused even more tears, the Mike Quade Era will hit the ground running.  It appears that the beginning of the era itself speaks volumes about how the Cubs feel about certain others on their coaching staff.  In particular, it appears that the selection of Quade to serve as interim manager was a big "screw off" to Alan Trammell.  I don't know the reasons why he has already been eliminated, but at least he has taken the classy route and chosen to stay as the bench coach through the end of the season.

Outside of that, nothing is new.  Our middle relief is atrocious.  Starlin Castro is close to qualifying for the batting title, and we get to see if Colvin can regain his bearings at first base tonight.  On the Nationals front, uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg was placed on the DL today in what many assume will end his season with a strained flexor-tendon.

Now here are the matchups for the series:

Casey Coleman (0-1, 7.82) vs. Livan Hernandez (8-8, 3.06)

In a shocker to most, Livan is still making a living in the majors.  Even more surprising was the early season success he had for the Nats.  Despite cooling down from his hot start early on, Livan has put up a pretty respectable stat line.  In 21 career starts against the Cubs, Livan is 11-6 with a 3.84 over 140 2/3 innings.  He tends to have success against the Cubs as a whole, and this year should be no exception.

Coleman got his first shot at a rotation spot last week against the Padres.  Despite starting off with a grueling 37 pitch first inning, he settled down and got in somewhat of a groove but only lasted 4.1 innings.  The spot is his to lose right now, so it'd be nice to see a good audition from here on out.

Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97 ERA) vs. John Lannan (5-5, 5.13 ERA)

Lannan used to be the "ace" of the staff for the Nats.  While he's never really featured dominant stuff, he has a knack for getting groundball outs when he needs to, and sometimes that is good enough.  After struggling quite a bit this year, Lannan had a nice outing against the Braves last week where he picked up a win after going 5.1 innings.  He'll be very successful if the Cubs are over-eager and beat the ball into the ground

Z has been such an interesting study since coming back to the rotation.  While he is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, he has been a free-pass machine.  Going forward, I'd like to see a lot fewer walks.  If he keeps walking batters, its gonna get even uglier than I thought possible.

Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.56) vs. Marquis De Suck (0-6, 11.39 ERA)

Yay, we have a chance on this one.  True to form, Marquis has been flat out terrible this season.  His "best" outing of the season came this past start when he pitched his first five-inning game.  I'm sure everyone will welcome him home with open arms.

Conclusion
Well, the new era starts tonight.  Maybe Quade will light a fire under their asses like Showalter did in Baltimore... and we can fend off those Pirates for last place.

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Week 20 awards: Cubs find new ways to lose games ... and a manager

A 1-0 loss to former Cubs' prospect Jon Garland. A blown save courtesy of three walks by Carlos Marmol. A rare implosion by Sean Marshall. A 16-5 loss to the Braves that mirrored their Opening Day defeat. 

Nope, no form of losing is off-limits for the Cubs these days. Thank God for the God-awful Pirates, for that giant piece of baseball feces out in Steel City is the only thing keeping the Cubs from crashing to the bottom of the NL Central. It's becoming as difficult to keep track of the revolving door of a roster as it is the mounting loss total--a 100-loss season remains unlikely but within the realm of possibility.

And the Cubs managed to lose their skipper as well. Lou Piniella's mother is ailing, but he is only able to skip town to care for her because his team's season has been dead for months. Surprisingly, Mike Quade will take over beginning tonight against Washington. I can't fathom that he would have any chance of keeping the post into 2011, but hopefully some new blood can at least inject some life into this flailing franchise.

Ryno of the Week: Though it's sad to say, Aramis Ramirez's .244 batting average marks his high point for the season. He also now leads the team in home runs with 20 after an 11-for-28 week with two home runs and seven RBI. He had at least two RBI in each game of the series against the Braves.

Honorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome

Goat of the Week: When hard-throwing Andrew Cashner was called up in late May, I surmised that he probably wasn't ready to be a successful major league pitcher. Unfortunately, it looks like I was right. In four appearances this week, Cashner allowed six earned runs in just 3.1 innings. He ERA sits at 6.69. He's got decent stuff and certainly I hope he can contribute in 2011, but he's a little too raw to get the job done in the 7th or 8th inning at the age of 23.

Dishonorable mention: Koyie Hill

To read more from this blogger visit Wait 'til this Year

Game Recaps: Cubs 5, Braves 4; Braves 16, Cubs 5; So Long, Sweet Lou

Note: This is gonna be a bit of a doosey.  If you want to get past the bad news (the Game Recaps) and get to the more interesting stuff, I won't hold it against you.

Cubs 5, Braves 4

Thus proving that not even the Cubs can lose every game, Chicago held on -- despite 3 late inning Atlanta runs -- to win yesterday's affair by a score of 5-4.

Props go to Tom Gorzelanny (yes, I just started a sentence with the word "props," proving that my heart isn't in this) who went 7 strong innings, striking out 9 batters and walking only 2 in order to get his 7th win of the year.

Poops go to Andrew Cashner, who surrendered 3 runs in a third of an inning.  Hmm, Props and Poops.  This could become a regular segment here.  I actually kinda like it..

Offensively, Aramis Ramirez continues to try like hell to get his batting average up to .250 on the year (after all, what else does he have left?).  A-Ram went 3 for 4 all singles, while driving in 2 of the Cubs runs. 

All told, Chicago managed 10 hits and 4 walks, reminding us of what a good offense looks like. 

Braves 16, Cubs 5
Props:Starlin Castro, Marlin Byrd, and Aramis Ramirez -- the heart of the Cubs lineup went 10 for 14 on the day, with Castro hitting 2 doubles, and Ramirez hitting his 19th homerun on the season.

Poops: Pretty much every other Cubs hitter, since they all combined to go 3 for 25 on the day.  I'm looking at you, Barney&Baker, you 0 for 8 douches who struck out 5 times.  Good job, guys!

Oh, and Poops -- heh, I keep saying "poops" -- to Randy Wells, who gave up 7 runs (5 earned) on the day.  No wonder you canceled your Facebook account! 

Also, Justin Berg continued the bullpen tradition of allowing many, many runs in few opportunities.  5 earned in 1.1 innings of work.  Fan-freakin'-tastic!

On Lou Piniella
First of all, Rob is not alone in his views on Lou.  I'm sure a lot of Cub fans blame Lou's old age, or his incontinence (heh, I said "incontinence") on the mediocre showing of the last two seasons.

And I'm sure that every time Rob or people like him pass even a portion of the blame onto Lou, Jim Hendry feels grateful.

Look.  Honest to God.  A good manager's greatest virtue is the fact that he will rarely cost a team games through stupid decisions.  But these guys don't win games.  The most genius managers of all time, be they Joe Torre, or Tommy Lasorda, or Casey Stengel, or whomever ... these guys weren't geniuses because they "knew how to win."  They were genius managers because, on the contrary, they knew how to not lose.  (Or, hell, they just happened to be the beneficiaries of talented GMs who constantly re-stocked their teams with ever-ready players.  Unlike Lou Piniella, who got stuck with Jim Hendry.)

In reality, the Motivational "Win One for the Gipper/Every Time We Win A Piece of Clothing Comes Off" Speech doesn't exist.  It's FICTION.  If anybody here honestly believes that Lou Piniella could've fixed the 2010 Cubs by throwing a fit on the field, or giving a motivational speech, or forcing them to take more practice, or ANYTHING, then you are a victim of FICTION. 

There was nothing wrong with Lou Piniella in 2009 or 2010.  There was something terribly wrong with the team he was stuck with.  That's the truth of the situation -- Lou was carrying the burden of a 150 million albatross, and it doesn't matter where you bat Kosuke Fukudome, there's no getting around having crappy, expensive players and a poorly managed, crappy farm system.  There was nothing that Lou Piniella could have done.

So, now he's gone.  Again, it's not a big deal.  The next guy -- whoever he is -- will do no better.  He could do worse, however, because it is possible for managers to lose ballgames.

I'll be honest and admit I was wrong about Lou, and I'll miss him.  Originally, I thought he was going to be a wasted pick.  I thought he would continue to express the same shoddy managerial mentality that'd gotten us into the mess of 2005/2006; that he was going to be another Old School Manager like Dusty Baker.  I didn't know he was going to be a calm, resourceful skipper whose flaws -- while not minor -- were no worse than any other manager.  (Because they all have flaws.  Really.)

Of course, I'll also be honest and say that I've been calling for Lou to be fired since the middle of last year.  But I've also been calling for Jim Hendry to be fired.  And the reason for that is a simple one -- Lou was never going to hang around for long enough to lead the next competitive version of the Cubs into the playoffs, and Jim is never going to be the guy who builds that team.  By axing them both, it would be possible for the Cubs to begin a new, hopefully better rebuilding movement.

But we all know that Jim Hendry is still around, and probably will remain for another year or two.  So instead of a rebuilding movement, we get just another movement.  That's bad news for Lou, though, since he already apparently has incontinence. 

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Braves

Note: this was actually published yesterday on time, but for some reason it didn't appear in the appropriate spot on the page...

Overview:
I'm not sure what's worse -- the fact that the Cubs are now on pace to lose 96 games, or the reality that there are several crappier teams out there.  I mean, as bad as 72 losses are, the Mariners have 73, Diamond-Backs have 75, the Orioles have 79, and the Pirates are rocking 81 L's.  What's the point of sucking if your team can't even squander a #1, 2, or 3 draft pick the following June?

Of course, we now have Doom and Gloomers saying ridiculous things like, "this is worse than '06, because we don't have an '07 to look forward to," as if any of them were predicting '07 after '06, or know something we don't. 

The reality is, we have no idea about what's going to happen in 2011.  And Rob, before you chime in to join the D&G cult proclaiming '11 to be a lost cause, man up and admit you never saw 1989, 1998, 2001, 2003, or 2007 coming.  Those were all years that the Cubs competed, hot on the heels of mediocre seasons.  In this free agency-saturated market, even for a overspent team like the Cubs, anything's possible.

Well, not "anything."  Beating the Braves -- probably not so possible.  Maybe not impossible either, but definitely "not bloody likely."  Let's take a gander.

Friday, August 20th - Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 3.92 ERA)
Dempster, whose nickname should be "Trade Bait" (altho' I kept typoing it as "Traid Bate") is the best pitcher on the Cubs.  On a good team, he might be a 20 game winner.  In six fewer starts, he's already won as many games as last year, walked as many batters, and given up as many homeruns.  I guess that's a weird mix.  Regardless, he's made it work for himself.

Jurrjens, meanwhile, has a ridiculous name and is injury-prone enough to be a Cub.  Maybe Atlanta and Chicago will orchestrate a swap.

Saturday, August 21st - Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 3.85 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.47 ERA)
Where have you gone, Ted Lilly, Cub nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Not that Gorzo is so bad a pitcher.  But he's exactly the kind of Kevin Foster-like guy you'd expect on a team bound to lose 90+ games.  He's probably got six starts to go -- so he just might win 10, but on this team, he's just as likely to lose 10 games.

I've got nothing to say about Tommy Hanson, though, except that he is 23, won 11 games as a rookie last year, and he may be gassed out as he's already thrown more innings this season than perhaps ever in his career.  (I just made that up, but it's probably close to the truth.)

Sunday, August 22nd - Randy Wells (5-11, 4.44 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (1-0, 3.75 ERA)
Well well well.  Looks like Minor made the Majors.  Haw!  I bet I'm the first person to think of THAT clever joke!  /sarcasm

Wells did a decent job in his last outing.  The only problem -- he pitches for the Cubs, where offense is about as rare as authentic super models. 

Conclusions
Shoutulation (y'know, like speculation?) is that the Cubs could lose 100 games.  I doubt that.  Losing 100 is a pretty tough thing to do -- maybe even harder than winning 100.  Don't believe me?  Think of all the crappy, awful, horrible, heart-breaking Cub teams you've experienced in your life time. 

None of them lost 100 games.  And many of them were worse than this band of jabrones.

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Game Recap: Cubs 3, Braves 2 -- Finally, the Cubs wi-wha'? 3 run 9th? SHI-

Just when you thought it was safe to wear your Cubs jersey...

The Cubs combined yesterday for 10 hits, including doubles from Fukudome and Aramis, who also hit a homer.  But despite that, and regardless of Ryan Dempster's 8 innings of pitching dominance -- where he held the Braves to 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs -- Carlos Marmol managed to come in and squander the lead for his 5th blown save.

In fact, he posted quite an interesting line.  1 IP, 1 hit, 3 SO, 3 BB, 3 ER.  Fantastic.  Thus, just like that, the Cubs managed to double the hits of their opponents and still lose by 2 runs.

That's just so ...  Cub.  Especially in this, the year of epic losses. 

That is all.  More after today's game.

Game & Series Recap: Padres 5, Cubs 3 -- the wrong side of a sweep

As promised.

Tom Ricketts should know that his grace period ends the day he officially retains Jim Hendry.

I realize that I'm not a baseball genius.  Never claimed to be one, I'm just a fan with a pulpit.  (And even that isn't so big a deal, anybody can have a blog with a silly name.)  But I guarantee you that, if you gave me the Baltimore Orioles and a 150 million budget for 2011, I could turn them into an incredibly competitive team.  I wouldn't need to revise my front office, I could hire a the World Cup Octopus to be my manager, I wouldn't need a single prospect to actually develop into a talented major leaguer ... I'd just need a modestly strong free agent market to throw my money at.

That's basically what Jim Hendry did to save his ass before the start of the 2007 season.  At the time, we all knew that today was coming.  Sooner or later, his expensive players would bust -- you can't sign guys on the wrong side of 30 to multi year deals without expecting it to happen.  We knew that Soriano would become an albatross, that Fukudome was probably going to be a disappointment, that no starting pitcher in the history of baseball has ever signed a contract as big as Zambrano's and stayed healthy/successful for the duration, and then some. 

We knew all that, and yet here we are, furious at a mediocre-at-best 2010 season, watching the Cubs get swept at home in a four game series (something that probably almost never happens) to the Padres.

Blame the shoddy bullpen for this one.  Sean Marshall managed to go a third of an inning, squandering the lead Carlos gave him.  He surrendered 4 earned runs off of 4 hits and a walk, and that was all she wrote.  The Cubs, who collected 7 hits and 3 runs, could have kept their offense home for the day.  (They pretty much did, anyway.) 

The old Carlos would've met Marshall in the tunnel and beaten the crap out of him.  Somehow, that's no worse than what actually happened.

Anyway, this crappy series has ended and now the Cubs face another playoff caliber team -- the Braves.  Derrek Lee returns to Wrigley Field, yadda yadda.  I'll have the Series Preview up in a few minutes.

Game Recap: Padres 5, Cubs 1 -- Waily, waily!

Just when you thought I forgot...

So, where to start.  The good: uh, I'll get back to this one.

The bad: Casey Coleman, 4.1 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 3 earned runs.

The ugly: Team LOB - 8; with 18 total scoring opportunities undelivered upon.  This.  Is.  CHICAGO!

Not much else to say about this game -- the Cubs gave us nothing to be excited about.  Apologies, then, for he length of this short and depressing game recap -- the one after today's game will be MUCH longer (by maybe as many as five whole words!).

Game Recap: Padres 1, Cubs 0 -- Lee to be traded?

Zzzz.  Cubs, Padres.  Zzzzz shutout.  Zzzznother loss.  Zz--wha'?  Derrek Lee might get traded?!

That's the rumor this morning, anyway.  It's sort of a nice deflection from the dead-to-the-ears-up ball team we are currently stuck following.  The Cubs last last night after allowing only 1 run, in the 1st off of a ground-out.  They then succeeded to hold the Padres to only 3 hits all night, even as the Cubs failed to score any runs themselves.

Therefore, I have to give props to Randy Wells.  Granted, he's a 5-11 pitcher this year now (ugly!), but he pitched 7 innings, struck out 6, walked 3, and lowered his ERA to 4.44.  Hopefully he'll have a better record next year, if he's a Cub.

Anyway, back to Derrek -- earlier this season he said he'd refuse to okay a trade to the Angels, but it makes sense that the Cubs would've gotten his approval before negotiating with the Braves.  With Atlanta losing Chipper Jones for the year, Lee makes sense to be a "McStiff Eats Ass" solution for them.

It'd be a cool idea.  Anything's better than keeping Lee at this point.  I doubt the Cubs would get any really good prospects, but who knows?

Rob puts in his two cents:

The latest word about the possible deal:

Those of you who get giddy about draft day and lust over single A prospects are having a confusing day.   We wouldn't likely receive any compensation at all at the end of the year from Lee, but here's a chance to get the proverbial bukkit-o-spit. 

Me, myself?  I would have traded him this past winter, when his value would never be higher.  We might have gotten some bullpen relief for him if he'd okayed the Angels trade.  Now, we'll get a class A guy that most likely we will never see.

For all his gaudy stats in 2005 and 2009, Derrek Lee did precious little, in my opinion, to help us.  FanGraphs recently revealed he was the least clutch starter in the majors in 2010, and even in his best years, when the cane got high, he was more willing to take a base on balls and hand the machete over to Ramirez.

I suppose I should be glad that I get six less weeks of DPLee than I was counting on.  Ok, yes, I am glad.  Of course, if that means I have to look at six weeks of X Nady and Micah the Hoff, what the hell's the difference?

It is time to find out if either Colvin or Ramirez can play first.  If not, then as I said last week, look for us to spend the winter debating whether or not to sign Big Donkey Dunn.  But if either of them can, then maybe we can use the money Dunn would want, and use it on some pitching.

But, of course!  Ricketts owns the team now.  He will use the salary savings to put a Smirnoff Ice Bar-n-Grill near the left field gate.  Drinking, chicks, revenues and drinking is all that overgrown Chad thinks about.  Fuckin' dick....

Game Recap: Padres 9, Cubs 5 -- Resigned to Medocrity

Hey -- remember that guy, Kevin Correia?  Remember how I said that he'd be the Cubs best hope of victory, because he's a middling starter at best?

Six innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, 0 runs.  Ouch.

Meanwhile, Tom Gorzelanny -- one of the more reliable pitchers on the Cubs -- reliably surrendered 9 hits and 3 walks in 6.1 innings of work while allowing 5 earned runs, with most of the damage coming in the 7th.

And that's when things got interesting.

In the bottom of the 7th, trailing 5-0, the Cubs offense, er, "exploded" for 2 runs thanks to a Fukudome double.  Padres 5, Cubs 2.  Could a comeback be of order?

Nope.  The Padres scored two more runs in the top of the 8th, extending their lead to 7-2.  But wait!  The Cubs weren't done!

In the bottom of the 8th, Soriano doubled and DeWitt homered, giving the Cubs another 3 runs and 5 runs on the day.  Could a comeback be of order?

I sound like a broken record, but nope.  The Padres scored 2 more runs in the 9th, as they succeeded in making the Cubs bullpen their bitches in the late innings.  Final score 9-5.  Not so shocking.

If you are reading vitriol in my post, look again -- it's hard to get angry about a 90+ loss team losing to a team that's possibly headed to the post season.  At this point, I feel more resigned to mediocrity than anything else.

But hey, kids!  More baseball tonight!  Woo-hoo!

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