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.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1

Ok, who is spiking the kool-aid with HGH? No really, because this is the craziest thing since Ryan Theriot hit two home runs in one game. Anybody remember that one? I didn't, but thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for the information. Actually the entire offense was pretty good today with every regular getting a hit except Kosuke Fukudome, who ended up walking twice.

Theriot's blast in first inning was all that Ted Lilly would need. Lilly threw a brillant 8 innings, while striking 10 on the way to his third win of the year. Lilly's only mistake came in the fifth inning to Cody Ross, or he might have tossed a complete game.
The best thing about Ted's preformance was he didn't walk a hitter. Maybe it will rub off on a few more of the Cub pitchers.

The Cubs got all of their six runs off Marlin stater Anibal Sanchez, including another RBI by Mike Fontenot in the first inning that scored Fukudome to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

Taking inspiration from Dan Haren, Lilly came up with a huge 2-out, 2-run double in the third to give the Cubs a 5-run lead, which was more than enough. Derrek Lee added a home run in the fourth for good measure, and possibly a little ray of light that he isn't totally done.

Micah Hoffpauir continued to prove that he belongs on a MLB roster with two more hits and a walk. Of course the walk ended up as a caught stealing after Joey Gathright did his best Ronnie Cedeno impression by oversliding the bag.

More importantly, the Cubs were able to win for the second day in the row, and the Deadbirds finally lost to the Nats. The Cubs find themselves four back with one last game against the Marlins tomorrow. The Cubs have a great chance to take three out of four tomorrow if Carlos Zambrano can pitch well. At least he should be ready to hit after his third straight day pinch hitting.

Enjoy the rest of the night, and go Cubs.

Gamecast: May 2nd Marlins vs. Cubs

May 2 Game Day
Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 4.13 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (2-2, 3.80 ERA)

Story-Lines
After falling below .500 on Thursday, the Cubs came back yesterday, down 5-1 at one point, and defeated the Marlins 8-6 thanks to power-hitting Ryan Theriot. Was anybody really hoping for the Grand Slam there? At best, maybe a bases-clearing double or something, but “The Riot” got a hold of his one for the year and gave the Cubs a spark.

Today’s game pits Lilly, a two-time almost no-hitter, and Sanchez, a one-time no-no, together in a crucial game for the Cubs. With the Cardinal juggernaut steam rolling the Nationals, the Cubs really need to stockpile some wins to stay within 4-5 games.

Sanchez started the year by throwing five-innings of shutout baseball against the Mets, but they got too him for six runs in six innings on Monday.

Of course things aren’t going much better for Lilly, who couldn’t locate on Monday in Arizona. He was tagged for five runs in five innings of work, which included four walks. The Cubs have to find ways of walking people, or I have a feeling Lou Pinella might need to visit a specialist for some high blood pressure.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Theriot – I know he’s only hitting .267 in his last six games, but he had the biggest home run of the year yesterday. So, we’ll give him a little wiggle room to get heated up.

The two-hit wonders – Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Geovanny Soto and Mike Fontenot all had two hits yesterday.

Who’s Not
The Bullpen – The Cubs pen got a win and save yesterday, but they also walked five and gave up two hits. Granted, all of those free passes and hits only resulted in one run, courtesy of our “closer” Kevin Gregg.  On the flip side, David Patton and Neal Cotts both worked scoreless innings. I know it was a better result, but I would like to see some clean innings, before I'm ready to move them up to the hot list.

Conclusions
The Cubs really need to string a couple wins together. It is still too early to worry, but it would be nice to start playing better baseball. Lilly has been solid this year, and hopefully he can put Monday’s start behind him to lead the Cubs to first back-to-back wins since April 17-21.

Most of use won’t get a chance to see the game today, because of the blackout rules, unless you live in the Chicago area. For the rest of us, it will be MLB.TV or XM or constant updates on the web. I will be do my best to post a recap later today.

Image update
As you can see, I'm not as good at Photoshop as Kurt. So, I did the best I could and spray painted the numbers out of yesterday's graphic. Maybe I can get a few lessons this summer. Well, enjoy the game today and go Cubs.

Image update update from Kurt
Ironically soon after Chris posted this article I sent him the GameCast graphic for today.  I guess he didn't see it, so I've gone in and imputed the proper image.  As far as the Game Recaps go, once I get home from my trip I will do them up.

Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6

I’m not sure if anybody was going to write the recap, so I will jump in and give my views of today’s improbable victory.

I left school with the Cubs down 3-1 and Rich Harden still on the mound. Within the first five minutes of my drive, Harden proceeded to walk the bases loaded, walk in a run and hit a man to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead. Needless to say, there were a few choice words that left my lips, none of which was too supportive of our Cubs.

The Cubs had a chance for a big inning in the fourth inning, when Mike Fontenot singled to cut the lead to 5-2 with one out, but Carlos Zambrano couldn’t come up with a hit. Then, Alfonso Soriano hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Cubs finally broke through in the sixth inning when Hayden Penn entered the game. Things started well for Penn as he struck out Geovanny Soto. Penn most of been inhabited by somebody else, because he walked Aaron Miles, followed by a single by Mike Fontenot that moved Miles to third.

All during this inning Pat and Ron are giving one of the most uncomfortable interviews with Denise Richards, who kept her answers so short that Pat must been going crazy trying to fill dead air after she refused to elaborate on any story. Of course she could have been scared as Ron threw a fit after Micah Hoffpauir hit a shallow fly ball to left for the second out in the inning.

The most amazing thing happened after that. No, Denise didn’t rehash stories about taking blow off Charlie Sheen’s chest. Soriano coaxed a two-out walk, which is something he usually doesn’t do. Personally, I was hoping for a three-run blast to tie it, because light hitting Ryan Theriot. Or so I thought. The Scrappy Cajun, who had seven home runs before today, hit his first career grand slam to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead. He has matched his HR total from last season and it gave the Cubs a much-needed spark.

The Cubs seemed destined for another lost, but they were able to scratch another couple runs across the plate in the 8th, thanks to a Soto RBI single and Fontenot sacrifice fly.

Even in victory, things weren’t all good for the Cubs. Carlos Marmol had all kinds of trouble after walking the first two hitters he faced, but he was able to get out of it by striking out the side. In the 9th, Kevin Gregg couldn’t sit the Marlins down, but only gave a run.

On the bright side, Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Soto, and Fontenot all had two hits. Bradley was able to single once again. The Cubs need to start producing soon, and this looks like a step in the right direction.

This was a game the Cubs really needed to win, but for six innings it looked like the Cubs were headed to another loss before Theriot’s heroics. Hopefully the Cubs will be able to put together a winning streak with Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano pitching the next two days.

GameCast: May 1st Marlins vs. Cubs


GameCast
Taylor (0-1, 9.82) vs. Harden (2-1, 3.86 ERA)
Story-Lines
The Cubs descend into mediocrity and their fans descend into madness. I love you guys in a non-gay (or, if you are in fact female then in a non-threatening) way and I respect your right to panic. But deciding that this team doesn't have the keys to get 'er done just because they're 10-11 to begin the year with may be a logical route to take until you consider that more than half the team is not just underperforming below their career norms but are doing so dramatically.


Point is, even if every Cub regular only had "average" years - not career years, not exempliary years, but just avearge ones - then they'd still kick the crap out of the other teams in the NL Central. Seriously. They're stacked.

The problem is they haven't shown they can kick ass yet. Blame the slow starts, the nagging injuries, the poor roster management, and so-on if you want but it's just excuses. Pretty soon the excuses need to stop and the Cubs need to start talking with their bats again.


Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot had decent days yesterday. Theriot got on base via two hits, and Fontenot hit his 3rd homerun in 4 games.

Who's Not
Everybody else, it seems. Also: Aaron Heilman needs to take a day off, come in tomorrow, and efficiently own the Marlins after the beating they dealt him.

Conclusions

It's not what we expected at the beginning of the year, but baseball rarely is. The good news is the Cubs are facing a rookie pitcher who's so fresh that I couldn't find a photo of him and was forced to improvise. He got his ass kicked in his first start not too long ago, so maybe his fatty meatballs are exactly what the Cubs need to pound on in order to get into the groove.

Game Recap: Marlins 8, Cubs 2


Cubs lose
Flashbacks of October, 2003. The Cubs hold a tedious lead on the pesky Marlins. Then, things start to go awry. Very awry. One 6-run inning later and it was all over, with Aaron Heilman playing the Mark Prior role.

Now for the good news. Milton Bradley got another hit today while drawing a walk. It's his second homerun as a Cub and, for a guy with 4 hits in his first 34 at bats, Bradley has a surprisingly decent .333 OBP so far as well. Also among the offensive contributors - in fact, the only other guy to score a run - was Mike Fontenot, who hit his 4th homerun of the season and his 3rd in 4 games. His batting average remains a thugly .232, but his OPS is a respectable .787.

More good news: Sean Marshall gave what is easily his best performance of the season. He threw 7 innings, surrendered 6 hits, 1 earned run, walked 2 and struck out 6. His ERA is now 3.32 on the year -- not bad for a guy who's supposed to be the team's 5th starter.

The bad news is the Cubs offense was again held to a mere 3 hits. Apparently of all the Cub players to fail to get a hit - Soriano, Fukudome, Three Finger, Aaron Miles, and Derrek Lee, fans are only worried about D.Lee's 0-fer performance. Apparently when a guy misses several games due to a sore neck, if he returns and fails to get a hit then it's a sign that he's lost the ability to play at the major league level.

So let's break it down for a second and look at this team. At the moment, the regular offense looks like this:

Geo Soto - 5 for his first 46, .109 AVG. Anybody really think Soto is a .109 hitter all year long? Or even a .200 hitter? Is anybody certain he'll finish the year with an AVG below .250, or even .275? Just checking.

Derrek Lee - 14 for his first 74, .189 AVG. Lee is my favorite example of fan idiocy. In 2004 on the first of May Derrek was batting .233, incidentally. But if we can outline his season so far, it looks like this: Began the year 2 for 25 (.008). Went 12 for his next 42 (.286). Hurt his neck, didn't play for 2 games. While still possibly not at 100%, has gone 0 for 7. Nevertheless, with a .189 AVG fans are basically saying that Lee - who has a complete no-trade clause and is earning 13.5 million this year - is going to get traded.

But imagine for a moment that your apparent hopes are right. The Cubs decide to trade Lee. My questions for you are the following: 1. Why would Lee accept a trade anywhere if he's happy playing for the Cubs? 2. Why would the Cubs try to deal Lee when he's batting below .200, meaning that he has absolutely 0 value to anybody else in the league? 3. Speaking of "anybody else in the league," why the hell would they trade for a guy making 13.5 million a year who YOU like to point out is on the dramatic decline? Who is this magical Idiot GM who WANTS a guy making that much money playing that poorly?

Just asking, but back in reality even if Lee is on the decline he is a much better than .189 hitter. I'm not expecting him to wake up and bat .300 this year with 20+ homeruns, but based on his age and his trends it's probably safe to say that he'll give the Cubs better than .280, better than 15 homeruns, and more than 60-70 walks on the year. Those are entirely acceptable numbers ... for a #6 hitter. Lou needs to move him there NOW.

Mike Fontenot - 16 for 69, .232 AVG but with 4 homeruns already. Fans have been lamenting for the versatile Mark DeRosa, although I'm not sure how his versatility makes him that much more desireable when he's batting .236 and has only 1 more homerun than Fontenot this year. Here's the funny thing - the Cubs actually have a ton of players in their system who are exceedingly versatile. It's not an issue that they need a DeRo to fill 5 different roster spots. The issue is that they're not using them. So instead you've got Fontenot poorly filling in for Ramirez when he's hurt and Aaron Miles - the most versatile player on the bench - starting at second base. Dumb move by Piniella. Anyway, I fully believe that Fontenot will continue to put up as-good-or-better numbers than DeRosa over the course of '09. So far they're pretty much on par with each other. But I ask you the same question I asked for Lee and Soto - is Fontenot really a .232 hitter? Or will he begin playing better?

Milton Bradley - 4 for 34, .118 AVG, 2 homeruns. Same question. Is Milton Bradley a .118 hitter? Is he a .200 hitter? Is he a .250 hitter? Unless he lost an arm and isn't telling anybody, his numbers are much better than they appear.

So look at that. 4 Cubs starters who are presently 223 at bats into the '09 season with a meager 39 hits between them. They're batting .175 with 7 homeruns. This is half of the Cubs offense right now. Batting .175. HALF THE CUBS OFFENSE. No fricking KIDDING they're going to be playing like a .500 team when HALF THE OFFENSE is batting .175!!!!


Therefore unless you REALLY believe that these four Cubs are coming by their terrible numbers honestly; in other words, if you believe they can't possibly - or even probably - do better than they're doing right now, then I can understand why you think this is a 4th place team that is not pennant bound. But I also think that if you really believe that their current level of performance is indicative of how they'll play once the offense actually gets consistent, then I quit you. If this team is still playing around .500 once the offense actually starts coming anywhere close to meeting it's potential, then - AND ONLY THEN - that is when they are screwed and buried.


But we all know that they're a better team than their current record. So for gawd's sake relax already!

Quick Links
Series Preview - Marlins at Cubs
GameCast: April 30th Marlins vs. Cubs

GameCast: April 30th - Cubs vs. Marlins

Game Cast
Chris Volstad (2-0, 2.70 ERA) v. Sean Marshall (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
First, an announcement
Tomorrow morning at roughly 6:30AM central, I will be appearing for a segment on Miller&Deace In the Morning on 1460 KXNO radio.  But if you don't want to get up early and listen to me shake out the cobwebs live on the air then you can tune into it later in the day on their podcast page (I think Jon said it would be up and available by noonish).  I have a pretty clear idea on the things I plan to talk about and I can promise you I'll be doing my best to entertain.  So tune in!

Story-lines
It turns out that you make the most fantastic focaccia bread in the world.  It's a long-standing, handed-down family recipe that your father made you swear to guard with your life.  Then one day the prestigeous cook of a five-star restaurant tastes your amazing bread and offers you on the spot a job to work in his kitchen.  But 3 hours into your first shift your bread isn't cooking right.  The dough is too tough.  It isn't rising properly.  It turns out that your glorious bread - which tastes like heaven when you have time to prepare it - turns into doughy shiz when you have to churn it out regularly.  You know why? 

Because you lack consistency, my friend.  Just like these Cubs.

Right now we can come up with these tremendous reasons - no, let's call them excuses - for why the Cubs are tanking.  Players are hurting.  The team lacks balance.  The #3 hitter hasn't found his stroke.  The replacement right fielder looks like a lawn gnome out there.  The newly-rich 17-game-winning ace is pitching like crap.

But these are all just excuses.  Good teams find ways to win no matter what their day-to-day situation.  I still believe the Cubs are a good team.  They have time to turn into a consistent winner in 2009.  But when?  When will it happen?

Note to the Cubs: make it happen starting tonight.

Who's Hot
The Cubs just got shut out.  The only one who's "hot" is the poor bastard who lit himself on fire yesterday rather than face another season of crushed hopes and broken dreams.

Who's Not
The Cubs just got shut out.  Until further notice, the entire team has been dumped onto the NOT HOT list.  I don't know if that list actually exists - although if it did Roseanne Barr would be holding down the fort - but it should and the Cubs belong there.

Conclusions
I'm feeling emotional!  I'm feeling angry!  I'm just some schmuck who writes about them mostly for free on the internet!  Imagine how Lou feels!

But you know what?  While I'm sure he's other-than-happy right now, we've yet to see a story about a big blow up.  This could be from one of two reasons.  A) Lou's too old to get fired up anymore and maybe it's time to put him out to pasture.  2) Even Lou is not worried yet. 

And if the most tempramental, angriest manager of our era isn't red faced and yelling yet, then what the hell are we doing getting so worried so soon?  Just a thought.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Marlins at Cubs

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs Florida Marlins

Florida @ Cubs
Matchups
Overview

Wow, that was not a pretty series.  I'd say it was reminiscent of...every series the Cubs have ever played at Chase Field.  Jeebus.  What a disaster.  And a 10-0 loss is just a delightful way to cap the series. 

The Cubs now have three series losses in a row and three superstar (well, "superstar" might be stretching it a bit) losses in Lee, Aramis, and Uncle Milton.  While Milton and Lee might have returned in spirit, their performance remains at large.  Aramis, sadly, still remains and owwie-haver and may end up on the DL.  On the plus side, that will allow the Cubs to carry their first mobster on the roster since Steve Buechele: Bobby Scales. 

Yeah, things are sort of hovering between travesty and tragedy for the Cubs right now, but I believe they'll get better.  I mean, they kind of have to.  Just remember: Soto and Bradley won't continue to hit .100, Lee (probably) won't continue to hit .220, and Aramis will play again.  The only thing I'm a bit unclear on is whether Cotts will ever get another out.

That's a bit more of a tricky one.  Now onto the matchups.

Thursday, April 30th - Sean Marshall vs. Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad: He's young, he's good...he's terrifying!  Volstad has decent control and is about unhittable, so runs are going to be pretty tough to come by.  He's also coming off of an excellent outing against the Phillies.  So...yeah, nothing much more to say here.

Marshall has pitched a bit better than his 4.50 ERA would indicate and about as well as I'd expect him to, given his Sean Marshalliness.   If I had to hang a realistic ERA on his level of pitching thus far, he'd be at least a 4.30 pitcher.  And I really mean that.

Friday, May 1st - Rich Harden vs. Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor - Pride of the Fightin' Fish and possessor of a 9+ ERA (note: match-up image may not be accurate).  For someone who's marketed himself on his control, he certainly seems to lack that at the Majors.  If the Cubs are in a walkin' mood, Graham should provide.

Rich Harden, A.K.A Mr. Sexytime, continues to be the mirror image of the Three True Outcomes.  When you come to the plate against him, you'd better homer because, if you don't, you're going to strike out (well, or walk.  I'm trying to stick with the positive).  I see Harden enjoying slicing and dicing a young Marlins lineup.

Saturday, May 2nd - Ted Lilly vs. Anibal Sanchez

Hannibal vs. Anibal!  What poetry!  Who cracks first and feasts on the brains of the middle infielders?  Watch and see!


Sunday, May 3rd - Carlos Zambrano vs. Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco, a.k.a., The One that Got Away, is struggling a bit after a nice year last year.  His control's been fine and he's keeping the ball in the yerd, but the hits keep on a-comin'.  Unless he's just feeding fastballs down the middle, I see the WHIP coming down...just hopefully not against the Cubs.

Zambano was good in his last start despite a shaky start in which is fastball went every which way but over the plate.  He settled down after the first and put up seven strong innings, something he's been able to do in about half his starts.  When does he break out with a truly excellent game?  I think today.  Yep, that's what I think.

That's my thought.  The thought in my head.

My head-thought.

Conclusions

Something inside me says "Split Series", but that might just be my spleen and the last time I listened to my spleen I ended up in Denmark with no socks.  So take that for what it's worth. 

Go Cubs.

Note from Kurt
You know how we're supposed to feel about the Cardinals?  White trash rednecks with an overrated sense of importance who follow the only "clean" super slugger left in baseball.  Or the White Sox - crack smoking idiots who would spend their victory parade shouting down the Cubs.

Well, I don't feel that way about the Cards or the White Sox.  I do feel that way about the Marlins, though.  I hate them.  I have not recovered from the '03 debacle.  I will never entirely recover from it.  I blame the pesky fish and I hope the Cubs pummel them each and every game.

Of course, they usually don't.  The Marlins tend to beat the Cubs.  Which is another reason why I hate them.  Just sayin'.

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as
Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.

History Repeating

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This season is going to be a lot more like 2007 than 2008.

Now does that mean it’s time to panic? Does it mean we should bum rush the stores and steal as many perishables (mostly vodka) as we can in preparation of a disappointing season? Does it mean we should start calling for Koyie Hill to be a full-time starter? Does it mean we should write idiotic articles grading the season 20 games deep into the season? Does it mean Nick V should post nonsensical symbols in the shout box out of utter frustration?

No, but it’s going to be a test in patience.

We got spoiled last season. The ’08 Cubbies pretty much rolled through the division and remained relatively healthy throughout. Ah yes, those were the days. A simpler time really. When men were men and when Jason Marquis had a $21 million contract.

But this season is going to be a struggle. Think back to 2007. The frustrating start...the nagging injuries...the excessive amount of Jason Kendall. It’s was quite terrifying. But the Cubs did win the division, right?

No one said 2009 was going to be easy (Oh wait, EVERYONE said 2009 was going to be easy), but this team is going to have to play its way out of this early season slump.

There is no doubt in my mind the Cubs will still win the division, perhaps even with ease, but it isn’t going to be a stroll in the park. At 10-10, the Cubs are one legitimate win streak away from being at the top of the NLC with the Cardinals. So things really aren’t that bad Phil Rogers.

But there are some 2007 issues that need to be fixed again in 2009...

Lazy attitude

When Alfonso Soriano calls out his own team for lacking energy and a sense of desire then you know something is effed up. I love Sori’s leadership in the early part of the season (and he is backing it up on the field), but it looks like we have an answer to the kind of effect all the preseason hype would have on the players. It has made them complacent. Lou, please go murder an umpire or take a shat on second base after a bad call to get this team fired up.

Injuries

You can’t really stop a player from being injured, but you can take precautions. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if guys like Aaron Miles or Reed Johnson were hurting, but when five of your top players (Lee, Rami, Milton, Marmol, Geo) are all having health issues, then maybe it’s just safer to put them on the DL and move on. I’d much rather see this team struggle now so they can be at full strength for the rest of the year.

Lineup inconsistency

Remember how much we all complained in 2007 about Lou’s inability to find a stable, day-to-day lineup? There was a concern the same thing would happen in 2008 (I believe we even had an over/under for the number of different lineups Lou would feature in our preseason prediction article), but it wasn’t that big of an issue last season. In the early part of 2009, it has returned. Granted, many of the changes have been injury-related, but the move to put Soriano in the three spot and the talk of bumping Bradley down to No. 6 was out of frustration. Stick to your guns Lou. Let the lineup develop. This team was built to be balanced, right?

On April 30, 2007, the Cubs were 10-14. Today they are 10-10. We’ve seen this story before and we know how it is going to end: With the Cubs at the top of the division. I’ll concede that this squad probably isn’t as good as last season, however that does not mean they can’t make it to the playoffs.

Now that I think about it, I guess we don’t want this season to end up like 2007 or 2008. They didn’t exactly produce the results we were hoping for.

Series & Game Recap: Diamondbacks 10, Cubs 0


D-Backs 10, Cubs 0

There's a downside to having a Cubs blog that actively covers the Cubs. That downside is this - if we are writing Series Previews, GameCasts, and Game Recaps to every game - and so far it's usually been me with a sprinkle of Jason and a dash of Yarbage doing all that - then we're essentially committing around 1,000 words daily to the team. If they suck, that means we're writing 3 pages a day about a team that sucks. If I instead chose to dedicate my life to writing 3 pages of fiction every day for the duration of the baseball season, then I would roughly have a Stephen King-sized book written by the time October rolls around.

So maybe I have something invested in the Cubs not being a bad team, which would explain why I stubbornly have been ignoring the signs.

Yesterday's theme was basically: the Cubs need to get consistent! Yesterday's game exemplified that theme - a day after blowing the D-Backs out of the water with an offensive barrage, the Cubs promptly got shut down and gave up 10 runs. But much as the Yankees were recently slammed by the Indians - who scored better than 20 runs against New York - whether the Cubs lost by 1 run yesterday or 10, it still only counts as one loss in the standings.

In my mind, here are the relevant issues with the consistency problems.

1. Poor ability to adapt. Most teams are built to handle a number of scenarios. It's not uncommon in a National League game to see Team A call on a lefty reliever, only for Team B to respond with a righty hitter, only for Team A to respond with a righty pitcher and so-on. But on a team that has a recent history now of carrying an extra pitcher, the team's adaptability is excessively poor - especially if some of your regulars are hurt, or slumping, and the majority of your backup hitters only know how to play outfield. I blame Jim Hendry for his continued obsessive-compulsive desire to load up on one position each winter and Lou Piniella for chosing those players to fill out the 25-man roster at the start of the season.

2. Poor performance. Yesterday's keen example was Ryan Dempster. As a paragon of patience, a warrior of waiting, a courier of caution, an example of etcetera., of all the players on the Cubs Dempster has me the most worried. Generally a player who has a ridiculous career year like his in '08, who then gets a huge contract extension for 4 years ... well, these guys aren't necessarily always going to pay off. Last year Dempster had the tremendous ability to get himself into and out of numerous situations via walks, ground-outs, and so-on. This year his walks have been hurting him and he's been lit up more than a cigarette lighter at a Metallica concert. On the surface 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings of work don't appear to be the worst numbers in the world, but 5 earned runs in those 6 innings? Do I need to say how NOT GOOD that is?

Last night, Carlos Marmol also joined the ranks of inconsistent performance. In his first game back from the leg injury he gave up 4 earned runs and managed to get only 1 out. My Caustic Cubdar (kind of like gaydar, but not about my keen ability to identify homosexuals) leads me to think that his leg is affecting his delivery which is affecting his performance which is affecting the suicidal tendencies of high-strung Cub fans. A crazy thought I'd like to implant in the mind of Lou Piniella: Caution Is Not Bad. Exclamation point! Your best reliever sprains his knee? Disabled list! Your injury-prone right fielder has a sore groin? Disabled list! Your third baseman hurts his leg? Disabled list!!!!

(Note: The Cubs are actually thinking about doing that with Rammy, placing him on the DL. I wonder who they'd call up to replace him ... maybe Jake Fox?)

A few days ago one pessemist asked, what happens if all the underperformers never perform in '09? Well, if that happens it would be historic. I'm hardly a probability expert, but mathematically speaking if something is possible it will happen given enough time and space. Since space and time are both essentially infinite, then that means that anything that could happen will happen eventually. But I'm not sold on 2009 being the year where half the Cubs lineup mysteriously gives up the ghost at the same time.

In other words, things will get better. Maybe they'll sort themselves out, or maybe they will require active puzzle-placement by Hendry and Piniella, but a little bit of tinkering to get the "sorting" portion started would not be a bad thing in my opinion.

Tonight the Cubs take on the Fish. Jason says he'll do the Series Preview, but the graphics might be a little late since I've got to go try on tuxedos.

Current Record: 10-10
Position in the NL Central: 5th place, 4 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 152-10
Worst Possible Record: 10-152
Record needed to win 110: 100-42
On Pace For: 81-81

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 11, D-Backs 3

GameCast: Cubs at Arizona for the series win!

Cubs at Arizona
Story-lines
Or: Statistics as I Understand Them

I'm hardly a genius and I am especially not mathematically inclined. But here's what I understand about statistical probability in reference to the Cubs:

Two games ago, the Cubs scored 2 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their inability to score runs was not an indication that they would be unable to score runs the following night as evidenced by their 11-run barrage of Arizona.

Last night the Cubs scored 11 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their ability to score runs is not an indication that they will be able to score runs this afternoon.

Based however on the composition of the Cubs lineup, using the large sample size of their individual offensive performances of not just last season but the past several, it's fair to conclude that they will likely score a large number of runs on average over the course of the 2009 season. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that they are capable - if not likely - to score a large number of runs today.

Actually that's more philosophical theory with a hint of statistical evidence, rather than statistical theory. Regardless, I'm not wrong. The Cubs are neither likely to score only 2 runs or to score 11 today but they are likely to score a lot. But what I really wanted to take from my little adventure into probability discussion is this key fact - and yes, it is a fact - small sample sizes are irrelevant in predicting future performances. The only relevant samples we can take are from the large ones, and from June of 2007 until now the Cubs have been a run-scoring, game-winning force of nature. So I say again that all this panic and concern over small sample sizes (unfortunately occuring under the microscope of the start of the season) is probably a case of jumping the gun.


Take last night's offensive outpouring. Clearly the Cubs are like the kid forced to participate in sports even though he really wants to dance. They're just itching to bust out, dying to show off their steps, and a team as bad as we're afraid they are wouldn't be very likely to flat-out pummel another team in the way the Cubs did yesterday. The Cubs are playing for consistency more than anything else. A win today would be a good step in the right direction, and what's more it would be a step the team is entirely capable of taking as they have a good pitcher on the mound.

And that is my understanding of how statistics prove the Cubs should be a good team.

Who's Hot
Everybody had hits yesterday, but the biggest and the best came from Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot (and Carlos Zambrano, but he's unlikely to hit today). Both players have now hit homers in consecutive games. At one point last night Lil' Babe Ruth got his batting average up to .250 before watching it drop back down, but everybody's favorite lil' shawty now has a .351 OBP and .780 OPS and is - at least briefly - on pace to hit 26 doubles, 26 homers, and to draw 85 walks. And just for the record, the guy he replaced is batting .235 for Cleveland with an OPS of .720, although he's actually on pace to hit more homeruns - at least for now.

By the way, Kosuke Fukudome drew 3 walks yesterday and at this time has an OBP of .482. I'd categorize him as the team's biggest mystery. Will he flounder like last year when pitchers get a second look at him? Or has he finally figured out major league hitting. If it's the latter then the Cubs have the potential for an even better offensive season than what we'd expected ... even while Geo Soto and Milton Bradley hit like little leaguers.

Who's Not
Geo Soto is sitting down for a few games while Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are still not at 100%. Not to mention that Milton Bradley will have to do a lot more than get his second hit as a Cub before he escapes the "who's not" section of this article.

Conclusions
I'd love to see the Cubs build on yesterday's performance with another solid smack-down of the D-Backs. Then again, while statistics dictate that the Cubs could and should do well today, there's no reason to expect it. After all, this team has been very much hit and miss. But a road series victory following the harsh road series defeat at the hands of St. Louis would be incredibly nice and, hopefully, evidence that this season is faaaaar from over.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 11, D-Backs 3

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award