Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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GameCast: April 19th - Cardinals vs. Cubs CANCELED

Update: This game has been canceled.  A very special Series Recap will be published either late tonight or early tomorrow.

GameCast
Todd Wellemeyer (1-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (2-0, 3.86 ERA)

Story-lines
The first meeting between the Cubs and Cardinals has been everything it was billed to be.  We've had one frustrating loss and two down-to-the-wire games decided late by big homeruns.  We've seen the failure of our starting pitchers and of their bullpen.  We've witnessed timely hits, cutting defensive plays, and so far the Cubs have two wins to show for it.

Today's game, then, is pretty important.  These teams are tied for first in the Central.  And who knows - a Chicago win today just might be the moment where they pull ahead and stay that way for the duration of the '09 season.  Unlikely, but not impossible.

Who's Hot
The Cubs offense ...
Soriano.  .292 on the season.  5 homeruns, 8 walks, .393 OBP and 1.039 OPS.
Fukudome.  9 of his 15 hits have been for extra bases (3 homers, 6 doubles).  He leads the team with 9 walks.  His AVG is .375; his OBP is .480; his OPS is 1.230.
Theriot.  .400 AVG, .468 OBP, 3 steals in 4 tries.
Ramirez.  .333 AVG.  3 homers, 11 RBI, one Clutchy McClutcherson moment.
Lee.  .381 AVG in his last 5 games, 0 double plays and counting.

Who's Not
... except for Soto, Fontenot, and Miles
Soto.  2 for 19.  On the bright side, he drew 3 walks yesterday and he doesn't appear to be pressing in order to compensate for his crappy bat skills.
Fontenot.  His .222 AVG is bad.  (Duh.)  His .364 OBP and .725 OPS, not too bad.  He'll straighten out.
Miles.  At least Mike's direct competition for second base isn't exactly setting the field on fire.  Mr. Aaron Miles is 2 for 15 with a .369 OPS.

Conclusions
As a team the Cubs are batting a mere .258, but their OBP is a spectacular 101 points higher.  There are other teams out there with better OBPs so far, but only 3 have actually drawn more walks. 

On the pitching front, it's been very hit and miss with the Cubs.  But Ted Lilly in his last outing was mostly miss for his opponents.  He probably won't throw another 1-hitter today, but I anticipate him having another good outing. 

And wouldn't it just be a perfect start to 2009 for the Cubs to take 3 of 4 at home from their rivals?

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cardinals 7, Cubs 4
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Cardinals 7
Game Recap: Cubs 7, Cardinals 5

Game Recap: Cubs 7, Cardinals 5; Clutchy McClutcherson strikes again

Win!Baseball is a game of inches.  A ball hit down the third base line ... if it drops just a few inches to the left ...

... a high blast, flying against the wind ... if it can just clear the wall in the outfield ...

... the ball is caught and a runner tags up.  If the outfielder can just gun it to the infielder in time ...

Well, you get the point.  It feels right now like the last two games have been won by inches.  A few bad breaks, a few terrible calls, a few runs not scored and the Cubs could easily be 5-6 right now instead of 7-4.  As a Cub fan living with perennial fear for my team, I can't help but worry about all these close calls.  As a baseball fan watching a good team win close games, I can't help but be thrilled by the outcomes.  It's a strange thing to be a Cub fan - I can't speak for you, but most of us are just a little crazy.

So what was the defining moment of tonight's game?  Was it ...

  • The bottom of the 3rd when, down 3-0, Kosuke Fukudome delivered again, this time an RBI double, keeping the Cubs offense alive in a game that could have fallen out of hand?
  • How about the bottom of the 5th when, down 4-2, Derrek Lee hit a 2-run double that tied the game for the Cubs?
  • Perhaps it was the 7th when, after Neal Cotts walked 2 men on 8 pitches, Carlos Marmol stepped in and ended the Cardinals threat briefly keeping the Cubs in front 5-4?
  • It probably was not the 8th inning when Marmol returned to pitch again (against my wishes, curse you Lou) and surrendered two doubles before hitting Khalil Greene.  Although Kevin Gregg stepping in and extinguishing the threat gives him back some of the closer cred that he lost in the first week of the season.
  • The top of the 10th when Alfonso Soriano made a good catch and gunned out Chris Duncan at second base?
  • The bottom of the 11th when Aramis Ramirez sent 'em all home with a walk off homerun.

I'll let you decide which moment was the most important.  The easy answer is the A-Ram homer.  The tougher one is that none of it would have happened if those players - Kosuke, Lee, Marmol, Gregg, Soriano, and the unmentioned Aaron Miles - hadn't delivered.

So, the Cubs won again.  They've now won 2 of 3 and have the chance tomorrow to send St. Louis out of Chicago as sad participants.  I predicted previously that Dempster would have a great game; man was I wrong.  He wasn't particularly terrible but his output definitely would have fallen under the meh-diocre banner.

Tomorrow his left-handed partner in crime will try to finish the job.  As I said before, baseball is a game of inches.  The Cubs easily could be down 3 games to 0 right now.  As exciting as these close wins have been, I'm a little tired of living with these retracted-from-fear testes and I hope they win tomorrow by a mile.  It'll be Lilly v. Wellemeyer.  It shouldn't be close.  ...I hope.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cardinals 7, Cubs 4
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Cardinals 7
GameCast: Cubs vs. Cardinals April 18th

GameCast: April 18th - Cardinals vs. Cubs Round 3

Game Day!Ryan Dempster (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (2-0, 1.13 ERA)
Story-lines

In the first game, the Cardinals wielded a strong pimp hand against the Cubs. 

In the second game, it looked to be more of the same before Alfonso Soriano selfishly  hulked up in the 8th inning and hit a decisive game-winning homerun. 

In the third game, Cubs ace Ryan Dempster will take on Kyle Lohse, who is just one of many pitchers to have mediocre careers before coming to St. Louis where he went 15-6 last year. 

In the past 3 seasons the Cubs have pwned Lohse.  In 7 starts he's 1-2 against the Cubs with a 5.16 ERA, although he's pitched very well at Wrigley Field.

One way or the other, one of these two teams will be playing for a split-at-best after today's game.  My money would be on the Cubs if I wasn't opposed to gambling due to political reasons.  Nevertheless...

Who's Hot
Alfonso Soriano - He struck out 3 times yesterday, and walked not once, but a game-winning homerun will keep anybody in the hot column.

Derrek Lee - Since starting the year 2 for 25, Lee has gone 7 for his last 15.  Again, small sample size.  But Derrek seems to be able to still get hits after all, and so far this year 0 double plays.

Aramis Ramirez - after going 3 for 4 yesterday, he's up to .364 on the season.

Who's Not
Milton Bradley - Don't Wake will miss the next 2 games thanks to a supsension.  He's still only got 1 hit on the '09 campaign, a homer, and his slow start may be a reason for the occasional offensive druthers of the Cubs.

One other thought about Milton and his suspension-inducing strikeout.  Rob is right.  If you're in Milton's position, after the very first blown call your job becomes Defender of the Strike Zone.  Swing at anything and everything close.  I'm sure there was something in Bradley's brain that was screaming "you know you're right, it was a ball, so screw him and stick to your guns!  Only swing at strikes!"  (It's the same kind of mentality that causes a person to drive for half an hour in the wrong direction while lost ... once you start headed down that road, it's awful hard to turn around.) 

But what Bradley should have done was protect the strike zone and foul off the balls that looked close until he got one that was an indesputible strike.  Just my two cents on it.

Mike Fontenot - A 1 for 4 game yesterday is great, but he's still only batting .229 on the season.  Wake Up, Fontenot!

Conclusions
I like the Cubs' chances today.  Dempster seems to enjoy pitching at Wrigley, Lohse flinches like a battered spouse any time the Cubs roll into town, and the Cubs offense is starting to click.

Quick Links

Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cardinals 7, Cubs 4
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Cardinals 7

GameCast: Cardinals vs. Cubs THE REVENGE!!!

Game Day
Carlos Zambrano (1-0 3.00 ERA) vs. Pb&J Walters (-)
Story-lines
The hate between Cardinal and Cub fans is real.  For those of us who live on the periphery of Cubs baseball, it doesn't seem so bad.  I admit that I have to resist the temptation to taunt anybody I see wearing a Cardinals hat when I'm oot and aboot* in Toronto, but I don't feel any particularly strong feelings toward the birds or their fans for the most part.

(*note: we don't really talk like that.  We also don't live in igloos, our bacon looks like your bacon, and yes, we have socialized health care.  Suck it, America)

But I have to admit - I feel a little more anxious whenever the Cubs play the Cardinals.  For whatever reason, I don't want the Cubs to lose to them.  I don't want to be embarrassed.  So, yesterday's opening shot across the Cubs-Cardinals bow was an unfortunate one. 

Today, though, the Cubs face a rookie pitcher making his major league debut in a hostile ballpark.  There will be REVENGE! 

Who's hot
Alfonso Soriano - Another hit and 2 walks yesterday gives the Fonz a .308 AVG and .400 OBP start to the '09 season.  I still believe that the Fonz is a prolific slow starter and I'm expecting a 1 for 20 drought sometime before May.  Still, he's doing well -- for now.
Kosuke Fukudome - Last year, Fooky began the season like a monk on fire.  Okay, so that analogy doesn't exactly make sense, but think about it.  He starts out flaming, running around, waving his arms, and gradually stops moving and the fire burns out.  That was Fukudome.  Maybe we shouldn't get too excited too soon, but Kosuke has already hit 3 homers and is batting .375 on the season. 

Remember when, after an 0-fer on opening day, fans were calling for Kosuke to be deported?  He's given a big Fuku to those fans. 
Ryan Theriot - He is now batting .387 on the season.  I love how well the Fonz is playing, but doesn't Theriot make way, way more sense at leadoff? 

Who's not
Mike Fontenot - Uh oh.  If Dusty Baker was running this team, with Miles on the bench and Fontenot written into the lineup, his erasin' pencil would be looking real good right now.  Fontenot is batting .226 on the season after an 0 for 4 outing yesterday.  Who is your DeRo ...er, hero ... now?
Geo Soto - Sore shoulder, check.  1 hit to start the season.  Check.  .071 AVG so far.  Check.  Panic and fear - ehh, half-check. 

Conclusions
Just a friendly reminder, written with ardor and care. 

DO NOT FOLLOW SMALL SAMPLE SIZES!!!

Right now, somewhere in baseball there's a guy with a .400 AVG and 3 homeruns who will be demoted to the minors by July.  There's another guy in baseball right now who's batting .150 who'll be a finalist for the MVP award.  That's just the way it goes. 

Brash decisions about the roster is a move better suited for a Baker.  Yes, we're turning Baker into an insulting nickname, and probably our first photoshop of the season.  So don't Be a Baker - be patient with this team.  Much as you would certainly not buy into Fukumania based on his great start, don't sell your Geo stock just because he looks more confused right now than a straight man in a tranny bar. 

But I suppose I could be wrong about that.  I hope I'm not, though.

Game Recap: Cardinals 7, Cubs 4, ugly loss

Ugly loss
They won't all be this crappy.  Promise.

The Cardinals tagged Sean Marshall for 4 earned runs in his first start of the season, but he wasn't responsible for the loss as Kosuke Fukudome tied the game for the Cubs in the bottom of the 5th with a 3-run homer.  Unfortunately the Cubs offense petered out and the Cubs bullpen got plowed over, and St. Louis dealt Chicago their 2nd straight loss in the series opener at Wrigley.

When you consider that the Cubs have at times left the bases loaded three times in a game without capitalizing, the fact that they scored 4 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks is pretty impressive.  Fukudome is now more than 33% on his way toward Our Rob's projected final homerun figure and maybe Lou had the right idea by batting Fuku in the three-hole when Aramis was resting.

Other Cubs to record offensive contributions ... well, the list is limited.  Geovany Soto went 0 for 4, with his average dropping to .071 on the season, yet shockingly nobody is calling for him to be replaced by Micah Hoffpauir - or Three Finger Hill for that matter.

Aramis recorded 2 hits and a walk, but the lineup behind him went 1 for 14 on the day leaving him with his proverbial thumb up his rhetorical ass.  Oh, and like a good leadoff guy, Soriano walked twice and scored 2 of the Cubs' runs.  Not bad.

Also, Milton Bradley displayed some of that fierce passion that gets him into so much trouble.  He was ejected in the 6th for arguing balls and strikes.  As Our Rob notes, Bradley was right for being pissed and the Cubs were boned by that call.  Hell, Rob must mean business about Bradley being screwed over because he actually modified the url to reflect that fact.  Any post in which Rob actually uses the html feature means he's serious.

Pitching-wise, while Marshall won't be penning a book for pitchers any time soon about how to dominate major league hitting, he did go 5 innings, left the game with the lead, and was just meh-diocre enough to warrant continued use in the rotation.  Besides, like any hitter in the lineup, he deserves a couple of months before Lou's head explodes and he gets delegated to the bullpen or worse.

The problem - as Rob might point out - is that the bullpen turned into a revolving door of offensive enablers.  Just when you thought the Cardinals had quit scoring runs for good, a Cubs reliever would come along flashing run-scoring opportunities and the Deadbird hitter would fall off the wagon and go ball-knocking.  ("Ball-knocking" is the current slang for "ribbie-scoring," which is the old-time slang for "run scoring," which is the act of injecting offense into your baseball-playing veins.) 

Between Heilman, Patton, Cotts, Guzman, and Vicaino, over the span of 4 innings the Cubs allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs to score.  That would be enough for them to collectively earn a loss.

Tomorrow should be a decent chance for REVENGE!  The Cardinals are turning to the young PJ Walters, an incredibly talented Cardinals prospect who has yet to meet his potential.  I figure that even if he is Kerry Wood reborn, it's hard to forget that, 5 games before he masterfully struck out 20 Astros, Wood was bouncing curveballs across home plate (and into the hind legs of the batters!) against the Expos. 

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cardinals at Cubs
GameCast: April 16th

GameCast: April 16th Cardinals vs. Cubs

Game Day
Adam Wainwright (1-0, 1.74 ERA) vs. Sean Marshall (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Story-lines
Ah, the Cubs and the Cardinals.  Chicago hates St. Louis for being responsible for single-handedly keeping the mullet in style.  St. Louis hates Chicago for those sticklerish rules about wearing shoes in restaurants and not smoking cigarettes while pregnant. 

But more importantly, the Cubs and Cardinals are tremendously followed by people who live in two kick-ass, hard-working cities who can only agree on one thing: the Yankees are overrated.  They will spend the 2009 season chasing one another, and even though on paper the Cubs have a ridiculously superior ballclub, there are a multitude of Cub fans who won't stop working about LaRussa's pesky bunch until that dreaded phrase "mathematically eliminated" comes into play.

I suppose that that's the way it should be.

Who's hot?
Dare I say it?  Derrek Lee had a 3 for 4 game yesterday including his first homerun of the season.  But before you hop onto the Lee bandwagon, Micah Hoffpauir is batting like .500, dood!  That guy should be starting!

Reed Johnson is making the most of his recent opportunity to start.  He's batting .385 in 13 at bats.

Who's not?
Geovany Soto has something in common with Aaron Miles.  They've both started the '09 campaign by batting 1 for their first 10. 

Have you seen Kevin Gregg's wife?  I'm just saying.

(Note: I have neither seen Gregg's wife nor do I know if he's actually married)

Go get 'em, boys.  And watch out - when Cardinals fans are angry they fill empty packs of cigarettes with rocks and chuck them onto the field.

Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

Cards vs. CubsCards vs. Cubs

So yeah, as it turns out, I missed all of both games in the Cubs v. Rockies series.  That's okay, I don't like kissing my sister anyway*.  As far as I can tell, all you need to know from last series is that Harden is the Adam Dunn of pitcher (strikeouts, walks, or big hits.  Nothing in between) and Ted Lilly is the finest throwing serial killer this side of Ted Bundy (0.37 ERA in the penal league).  But I already knew that, so there's no reason to watch the games (or, alternatively, SCREW HAVING A JOB).

But before we get to the matchups, I will say this:

  • Damn Pirates.  I never did trust Nate McClouth.
  • This is the most important series of the year.  If the Cubs are swept by the Cardinals, they'll be four games out in the standings.  No team has ever come back from a four game deficit with less than nine months left to play in the season**.
  • And how about those Cardinals?  Who knew you could fatten your record by playing the Astros and Pirates at home.  Oh wait. 
  • Carpenter is headed to the DL.  I did not see that coming.  HOLY CRAP!  WHAT'S THAT THING RISING OUT OF THE EAST?!?  Oh wait, it's just the sun.  When did that thing start rising in the east?

* in actuality, I don't even have a sister.  And in actuality, it sounds HOT

** May not actually be true

Match-ups

Thursday April 16th
Adam Wainwright vs. Sean Marshall

I'll tell ya, that Adam Wainwright has always given the Cubs the business.  I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's the Braden Looper/Todd Wellemeyer effect.  We just can't handle the converted relievers (much like Koyie Hill can't digest the converted rice).  Wainwright's been gold this year, so I expect that the Cubs will have their work cut out for them.

Sean Marshall is...well, he's well rested.  Other than a couple of very brief appearances, he's been spending most of the season watching reruns of Friends (that Joey!) while off days conspired to keep him off the hill.  I see good things in the future for Marshall and he had an exceptional spring, but I certainly worry about rust (you know, rust never sleeps.  That FREAKS ME OUT).  There's a very good chance that Marshall will be wild and ends up out early.  This will be a tough win for the Cubs.

Friday April 17th
Kyle Lohse vs. Carlos Zambrano

Lohse is another pitcher off to a quick start but, unlike Wainwright, hasn't had the recent success to back it up.  Lohse, in his career, has been decent but unspectacular, toiling in relative obscurity for the Twins and Reds.  In fact, last year was his first good season in, well, in ever.  Dave Duncan effect?

Carlos is anything but obscure.  Carlos is off to a pretty solid start, with a great first outing and a decent second, but I'm sure he's thrilled to be back at Wrigley.  Besides, Carlos is back with his good buddy Geo.  Good things are going to happen.  Good chance for the Cubbies.

Good.

Saturday, April 18th
Todd Wellemeyer vs. Ryan Dempster

Hey look, Todd Wellemeyer!  I was just talking about him!  Wellemeyer was pretty good last year and I'm happy for him (being a former Cub and all), but he's off to a bit slower start this year.  It's posible he's realized that he's Todd Wellemeyer.  It's also possible that he just needs to face the Cubs.  Someone just told me three paragraphs ago that the Cubs have issues with converted relievers.  And rice.

Dempster!  That crazy Canadian!  He's...well, he's almost off to the exact same start as Todd Wellemeyer.  How's that make you feel Ryan?  Proud?  I hope you're proud of ourself.  Maybe this game, you can try throwing strikes.

Someone sound the even matchup alarm!  We've got a barn burner!

Sunday, April 19th
Matthew Lesko vs. Ted Lilly

Want to get your moneyback from the government?  The crazies at the post office yesterday certainly wanted me to.  Well, just Ask Lesko!

I'd write something about Lilly, but he's currently enjoying his dinner and I have to help Koyie Hill find his fingers.  I know they're around here somewhere...


Conclusion
In conclusion, ESPN disagrees with each and every one of these predicted matchups.  However, our graphic is better, so screw ESPN.

Note from Kurt
I was up until effin' 1AM working on these graphics!  Damn ESPN for not updating their supposed schedule until this morning!  The issue was that, until last night, they still had Carpenter listed as the Sunday starter -- hence the ??? graphic and the Lesko joke.

Sidebar - I didn't know Lesko's name, so I googled something like "crazy question mark guy" and his wikipedia entry was the first hit.  Seriously.  End sidebar.

Anyway, I'm probably not going to go back and re-do the graphic.  Screw ESPN.  If they wait until the last minute to update their projections, then everybody has to pay the price of having inaccurate information!


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The Cubs will win 110 in 2009 - and the World Series, to boot

It's that time of year again.  Last year - as you may recall - we predicted that the Cubs would win 120 games.  Mostly we did that for the humor.  This year, though, we've all grown up a bit and have come to the conclusion that it's better to be realistic than ridiculous.  And so, with no fanfare or surprise, Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is unveiling the new model of the Carlos Zambran-0-Meter; and this one goes to 110.

Carlos Win Meter!You may be asking.  Why 110?  Are we nuts?  Wouldn't it be enough to hope for 95?  Look, as crazy as it may sound we actually have logic behind choosing such a big number.  Consider the following facts.

  • 97 wins.  That's what the Cubs had last year to the surprise of pretty much everybody - even the people who expected them to win the division.  They easily won the NL Central despite the Brewers acquisition of the single most dominating starting pitcher in baseball last year (sorry, Cy Young winners, Sabathia was better).  And what's the difference between 2008 and 2009?  Simple - Sabathia is gone.  So is Sheets.

    Meanwhile, as we can see visibly how the Brewers have gotten worse, we can also see how the Cubs have gotten better.  Milton Bradley is a Cub and he brings with him monstrous production.  Mark DeRosa is gone and while it's a scary thing to some fans, Mike Fontenot brings a better balance to the Cubs lineup and can produce just as well.  Not to mention there's the addition through subtraction.  Jason Marquis and the butt-clenching terror that his pitching causes us is long gone.  Bob Howry and his tendency to serve 7th inning batting practice to the opposition is a thing of the past. 

    In other words, the Cubs are actually a better team, at least on paper.  Look closely at the other teams in the NL Central.  Can you honestly say that any of them are better than they were last year?  Really?  If the Cubs were good enough to win 97 last year, and to enter the playoffs with a 7 game lead over the second place team, then they're good for way, way more than that in 2009.  Book it.  Done.

  • The Dusty Purge is Complete.  Go check the box score from yesterday's game.  The Cubs drew 9 walks en route to their defeat of the Rockies.  The game before that, they walked 10 times.  That's 19 walks in 2 frickin' games!  Dusty Baker is spinning in his grave and he's not even dead! 

    Do you know how amazing it is that the Cubs are a patient team with solid fundamentals?  It only took a few years, but they are now a team more resembling the Yankees than the Barnum&Bailey's.  Imagine the 2004 Cubs and all their potential had they been directed by Lou Piniella and his staff of qualified coaches.  It's insanely depressing because they would have won the friggin' World Series FIVE YEARS AGO!!! 

    I ask you, how can the Cubs not win 110?  How can they not blast their way through the World Series?  They're practically a team of destiny!

  • Three Times is the Charm.  Okay, fantastic.  I've convinced you the Cubs can actually win 110.  (What, you're not convinced?  Just work with me here, okay?)  History has shown that while there are teams out there that remain hard luck losers no matter how well they play, the odds are in the favor of the Cubs.  I'd even dare say they are in overwhelming favor of them. 

    After all, statistically speaking, the more something has the chance to occur, the more likely it is that it will occur.  If a team plays a sport for, say, 100 years, and there are only between 20 and 30 teams playing that sport, then the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of everybody winning at least once.  And more to the point, if a team reaches the playoffs consistently - and we all agree that actually winning in the playoffs is a total crapshoot - then the odds are in favor of them winning in the playoffs!  It's a mathematical pseudo-certainty!   

  • Jim Hendry's Got the Horses.  Imagine that it's June.  The Cubs are playing well, but so are the Cardinals who've just acquired, oh, I dunno, Roy Halladay from the Jays for about half their minor league system.  Jim Hendry will retaliate.  Jim Hendry will improve the team if it means an improved likelihood of winning.

    Maybe that improvement will be Jake Peavy.  Maybe it'll be somebody else.  Either way, the Cubs aren't afraid to get better -- and odds are, they will.

I say to you again.  The Cubs will win, and win big in 2009.  If they aren't the favorites to win the NLCS then there isn't a favorite to win the NLCS.  They are a team with the experience, the balance, and the drive to go all the way. And so I say to you, without a shred of reluctance or doubt ... this is the year.  Enjoy it if you're a Cub fan, and despair if you're not.  This is the year.  Yes They Can.

Yes they can!
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Series Preview: Rockies vs. Cubs

Rockies v. Cubsmatchups
Let me see if I've got this straight.  The Cubs are opening their season at Wrigley Field against the Rockies in the midst of a torrential downpour.  Unfortunately, the Cubs don't have an open date to make up the game with Colorado, so they're playing in the rain.

Except the Cubs aren't scheduled to play tomorrow.  Go figure.

Anyway, let's take a quick look at this series:

Game One
Ted Lilly vs. Ubaldo Jiminez
In his first game of the season, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly intermixed an effective outing with a bout of batting practice.  The result is that he either looked very good or he looked behind him in order to watch the ball sail out of the park.  He served 4 homeruns in his first game of the year, and he is surely hoping to make up for it with a solid performance today.

His opponent, Ubaldo Jiminez is one tough S.O.B.  You can tell becuase he's survived life with the name Ubaldo.  He's also entering his second full sason as a Rockies starter - last year he threw just under 200 innings and went 12-12 with an ERA of 3.99.  That's just about as good as it gets in Colorado.  However he did throw 7 innings of shutout ball in his first game of the season, so he looks like he means business.

Game Two
Rich Harden vs. Jason Marquis
Only in baseball can one pitcher give up 4 homeruns in a single game and walk away with a 9.00 ERA and the win, while another pitcher can strike out 10 in 6 innings of work and walk away with a no-decision.  Chances are, Harden will not make every start this season.  But it's comforting to know that he's still an ass kicker when he makes them at all. 

His opponent is the legendary ex Cub named Jason Marquis, whose nickname while pitching for the North Side was de Suck.  He won his first game as a Rockie last week, but he still sucks.  If baseball is fair, then this game will be a no-brainer.

Conclusions
Crap, I dunno.  Either the Cubs win or they lose.  Or they split.  but having won 4 of their first 6 while on the road, we can only hope that the team's success will continue now that they're home. 

But one bit of sour news - although Geovany Soto pinch hit last night, he's still not in the starting lineup today.  That means the Cubs are down two starters, although Koyie Hill and Reed Johnson both appear extremely capable of picking up the slack when necessary.

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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Cubs at Brewersmatch-upsOverview
The last time the Cubs (2-1) took on the Brewers (1-2), Milwaukee took 2 of 3 and slid barely into the playoffs.  Since then, the Brew Crew have lost both aces and the Cubs have gotten stronger through the addition of Milton Bradley and the subtraction of Jason Marquis.  But it's not exactly a sure-thing that the Cubs win the whole she-bang; that's why they actually play the games.  Maybe the Brewers will keep up with them all year long, or maybe they'll evaporate like I expect them to.  Either way, today is the first of many meetings between these teams, and they should all be exciting games to watch.  Here's how they break down...

Game One
Rich Harden (no record) vs. Braden Looper (no record)
Rich Harden, also known as Mark Prior 2.0, may or may not be healthy with an emphasis on the "may not" part of what I just said.  I don't think anybody - even his own mother - is expecting him to make 30 starts in 2009.  He's pretty much the unanimous pick of the GROTA crew to get hurt first and stay hurt longest.  And we're already sweating bullets over his less-than-dominating Spring Training.  But imagine, if you will, the possibility that he stays healthy and remains effective.  A guy with an ERA of 2.67 since 2005 is the Cubs 4th pitcher in the rotation.  That's kind of insane.

Braden Looper, meanwhile, is a closer-turned starter who's seen a respectable amount of success.  The only problem is that he's either replacing CC Sabathia in the rotation or Ben Sheets.  Either way he loses.  Against the Cubs he has a career 2.63 ERA, and a surprising 3-6 record.  (In case you weren't sure, that would be the definition of hard-luck loser.) 

Game Two
Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Dave Bush (0-0, 18.00 ERA)

Ah, Carlos.  I have to admit I feel stress watching the Big Moose pitch.  For me it all started during the '04 season.  It seemed that any time I'd tune in to watch Mark Prior or Kerry Wood take the mound, they'd mysteriously exit the games early due to some new round of elbow/shoulder pussonitis.    After his bouts with soreness last year, Carlos has assimilated into that role for me.  You can probably understand how relieving it was that he had a good opening day, even though he got into too much trouble and probably walked too many players.  But he won!  That's all that counts!

The only problem about Dave Bush is that I can't believe ESPN is right in projecting him as the Game 2 starter.  After all, he was already called on once this season to pitch in relief, where he was solidly rocked to the tune of 3 earned runs.  But I'm just the messenger and I'm way too lazy to look up that kind of information elsewhere.  So if I'm wrong, blame our friends at ESPN.

Game Three
Ryan Dempster (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Ryan Dempster.  The 50 million dollar question mark.  Put yourself in his clown-shoes for a second.  You're a hard-working mediocre closer who gets the chance to start and then BOOM! you win 17 games and are offered the contract of a lifetime.  What do you do with the money?  Do you buy the biggest house, biggest boat, and biggest car you can find?  Do you feed the starving children in Africa with their gas-bloated bellies and stick-thin limbs?  Perhaps sex slaves and drug binges?  Maybe he should produce his own rap video and release it.  That would be an awesome way to spend his f**k-you money.

Jeff Suppan, who is apparently the #2 pitcher on the Brewers, (or maybe #3 if Yovani Gallardo is half-decent) went 10-10 last year with an ERA of 4.96, and after a single start this year his ERA is 13.50.  Chances are he will improve on that ERA.  Hopefully it won't be by much.  Even if Dempster isn't as effective as he was in 2008, he should still be a better pitcher on Sunday than Jeff Suppan.  Just sayin'. 

Summary
The Brewers are partly the reason I think the Cubs could win 100.  Last year Milwaukee managed to win better than 90 games, mostly thanks to the arms of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, both of whom are long gone.  But despite their still-impressive offense, the Brewers as-assembled will struggle to be much better than a .500 team.  Their pitching just isn't there.

The Cubs, meanwhile, just took 2 of 3 from Houston and will look to gain early momentum in the NL Central.  But it could go one of two ways... it could be a high scoring series for both teams, or if the Cubs pitching lives up to their end of the bargain it could be amazingly lop-sided.  But one thing I would be shocked to see is a series of Brewer blow-out wins in which their pitchers shut down the Cubs offense.  So blame me if that happens since I said it's not bloody likely.

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