Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Brewers

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Beating a Dead Horse (because after last night what else is there to talk about)

With the return of Colin (can I call it a return?) comes the return of Mark DeRosa talk in Chicago.

As is was poined out in our Shout Box, the Brewers might be one of the teams interested in Mr. DeRosa's services. I'm not sure where Xblack_jeepX heard it from, but I first read this rumor on today's Sun-Times Web site in a Chris De Luca column.

In said column, De Luca stirs the shat pot (again) by suggesting that DeRosa would be the perfect replacement for the recently injured Rickie Weeks, who had his season ended with a wrist boo boo.

Well I say let the Brewers (or anyone else) have him.

Don't get me wrong, I like DeRosa and would welcome him back to Chicago with open arms assuming the Cubs wouldn't have to give up more than a few baseball bats for him (Hey, it's happened before), but I think we're starting to see why Mark was given a one-way ticket to Cleveland in the offseason.

While DeRosa has a respectable 25 RBI and 6 homers, the rest of his stat line is telling a different story (and I'm not talking about that .242 batting average). Currently DeRosa is hitting with a .312 OBP, .412 SLG and thus a .724 OPS. All of these numbers are below his personal average.

I think we can agree that his stats last season were inflated due to the level of talent and production around him in the high-powered Cubs offense, so maybe the fault isn't with DeRosa, but his crappy Cleveland teammates. Alas, this is not the case.

The Indians offense has been surprisingly strong. The are second in the AL in team OBP (.354), sixth in walks (161) and third in hits (375). They are putting men on base, and as such, DeRosa has responded with his 25 RBI. But his strongest statisical category is more complimentary to his teammates than himself. Being able to collect a large number of RBI is, in essence, based on luck. There needs to be people on base in order to drive them in. DeRosa has no control over the ability of teammates to reach base. So again, his RBI total in comparison to his weak offensive statistics everywhere else just shows you how good of a job the Indians are doing at giving him several opportunities to produce despite his repeated failures at the plate so far.

Outs and the ability to not make them is the most important thing in baseball...and DeRosa is making a lot of them.

Granted the season is still young and DeRosa could turn it around any day now, but I think we're starting to see that last season for D-Hero was an exception to the rule.

So I say let the Brewers have DeRosa. They have the fourth-ranked team OBP in the NL right now, so DeRosa on the Crew might actually help the Cubs.

NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 19)

What has two thumbs and thought yesterday was Sunday until around midnight and realized he had forgotten to put up his power rankings? This guy.

There was a bit of a Royal Rumble-like fight at the top of the standing throughout the week, which was entertaining. I don’t know if this division is the best in baseball, but it’s certainly the most competitive.

Here is this week’s Chicago Tribune power rankings for comparison: Brewers, Cubs, Cards, Reds, Pirates, Astros.

1. Milwaukee Tony La Russa Juice Makers (24-14) Previous ranking: 4

The Brewers lead the NL in homers but are 12th in batting average and 11th in hits. While I know that batting average isn’t a good indication of a team’s offensive success, I don’t think a team can succeed exclusively on the longball. If that were true, then the Rangers would have like eight championships in the last 10 years.

2. Chicago Cubs (21-15) Previous ranking: 2

Is anyone else starting to like what Angel Guzman is putting together? Gotta love a reliever that isn’t giving out many walks (only 6 in 19 innings). Nice to see Geo is getting his groove back, but how much longer before Lil’ Mikey and his .204 BA starts hearing the boobirds?

3. Cincinnatrually Self-Imploding Reds (20-17) Previous ranking: 3

Compared to the bottom half of the division, they had a decent week despite suffering their first 3-game losing streak of the season. To the surprise of doctors everywhere, the pitchers still has their arms attached to their bodies. As such, the team’s suckalicious offense is being carried by aforementioned arms. As we all know though, it’s only a matter of time with Dusty.

4. St. Louis Birds of Pray Pujols Doesn’t Get Hurt (21-17) Previous ranking: 1

How many injuries does it take to get to fall out of the division lead? Ah 1. Ah 2. Ah 3. CRUNCH. 3. The Cards were fine with Chris Carpenter hurt and survived with Rick Ankiel going down, but the injury to Ryan Ludwick seemed to push them over the edge. They will get healthy eventually, but for the meantime, let the big dogs eat.

5. Sh*tsburgh Pirates (17-21) Previous ranking: 6

I feel that there is always one crappy team that somehow does better against one good team than any other opponent. For the Pirates, that team is the Cardinals. And for that, I move you out of the cellar...Plus I hate the Astros.

6. Houston Nickname That Sounded Cool In 1965 But Is Stupid Today  (17-19) Previous ranking: 5

Why is closer Jose Valverde on the DL? While the official report says a strained right calf, the real reason is because I punched him in the face so hard that he can no longer yell crazy things in Spanish when strikes people out. No one on this team is safe from me.

NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 12)

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but as per usual, my time has been at such high demand and those daily transatlantic flights have really been taking it out of me. I’ll try to update this every Monday as the Cubs tend to have most Mondays off throughout the season and it seems to be the unofficial start of the new week.

Since everyone with an Internet connection likes to do “power” rankings (whatever that means), I figure we can do them too. While most experts like to rank all 30 teams, I have neither the time nor the care for anyone outside of the NL Central. Hell, I barely care about any outside of the Cubs, so the other five losers in the division should feel lucky I’ve even mentioning their name. Especially you Houston...good lord do I hate everything about how you choose to be (more on that later).

Also, for fun’s sake, we’ll compare my rankings to those of the Tribune’s Phil Rogers. Here’s how he ordered the division this week: Cards, Cubs, Brewers, Red, Pirates, Assblows. Let’s get started.

1. St. Louis Birds on Artificially Manufactured Wooden Sticks (20-12)

Gotta respect what the Cards have been able to do here early in the season. Clearly they have the best hitter in all of baseball (a title you probably don’t want to have these days) and their bullpen has been surprisingly good. Although the Cards have cooled off over their last 10 games (going 5-5), they have a favorable schedule coming up. STL is 12-5 at home (only the Dodgers and Red Sox are better in their own parks) and 17 of their next 26 games are at Buschhhhhhhhhhhhh.

2. Chicago Cubs (17-14)

So the blue and red flag might fly below three others tonight in the NLC standings, but that really doesn’t mean dick when you’re only 2.5 games out of first place. While some of us might be a little...distraught...over the current incarnation of the Cubbies, I’m cautiously optimistic if not encouraged. The team has been relatively spoiled the last two years as most of the big names have avoided injuries, but now it is all starting to pile on at once. A cause for concern? Hell yes, but look where the Cubs are. Two and half out with a team made up of guys who were getting PT in Iowa this time last year. If Lou can get the right chemistry in the bullpen and/or the Cubs can get their big names back and swinging, the rest of the division might want to invest in a pair of Oops I Crapped My Pants.

3. Cincinasty Reds (18-14)

I absolutely refuse to give Dusty Baker any sort of credit for this team’s decent start, so let’s not even think it's possible that Baker has somehow worked his magic on a club that will most likely falter in about a month. Sure, they just finished an impressive series against the Cardinals, but this team confuses me dearly. First of all, they are 7-9 at home and  11-5 on the road (best road record in the majors). Do you really think they will be able to win like this all season? Oh, and try to figure out this logic. The Harangutan has a 2.93 ERA and a 3-3 record while Bronson Arroyo is 5-2 with a 7.02 ERA. Argh, DUSTY!!!!!!!!!

4. Chicago’s Northern-Most Suburb Brewers (18-14)

What did I learn from the latest series between the Cubs and Crew? I learned that Ryan Braun is really dangerous but also a little school boy biatch (Oh no poor Ryan, did the scary Canadian with the goatee throw the ball to close to you? Let me taste your tears). I learned that even though the Brewers were at full strength for that series, they really aren’t that much better than half a Cubs team. I learned that as long as the Brewers trot that bullpen out there on a daily basis, they will never win this division. And I learned that my George Foreman Grill does not cook my chicken evenly (I didn’t learn that from the series, but I was making some dinner during one of the games and needless to say I was disappointed).

5. Houston AssTrolls (14-17)

I could analyze Houston’s most recent performances...or I could list all the reasons what I hate them: I hate how Miguel Tejada has to clap his hands furiously after he does anything that is remotely decent. I hate how Hunter Pence looks like he running around with suitcases in his hands. I hate how the Astros thought it was a good idea to have Russ Ortiz, LaTroy Hawkins and Mike Hampton on their team all at the same time. I hate how they have not one, but two players on their team named Geoff (Blum and Geary). Most of all, I hate how Lance Berkman looks like Tony Stewart and both are considered “elite athletes.”

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (12-19)

I haven’t had the chance to take a good look at the ‘Rates this
season since they have yet to play the Cubs, but losing your last 9
games cannot be good for business (at least that’s what I’ve
been told). Maybe the Pirates decided they were playing too good and
decided to go into a slump so they could attack under the cover of
mediocracy? The last thing Pittsburgh wants to do is gain any sort of
attention so opponents start taking them seriously, right? Well played
Pirates. Well played indeed.

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 4 (1), Brewers 2 (2) - "break out the blue kool-aid"

Cubs 4, Brewers 2
There are Cub fans out there who want you to know that if you haven't given up on the team as of today - May 10th, 2009, with 132 games remaining on the season - then you're swilling the blue kool-aid.  (heimiedog, I'm not saying that that's your take on it, I'm just borrowing from your venacular)

But back here in reality, where there are 132 games remaining and it's only the 10th of May, a Chicago Cubs team with two key players on the DL and with 4 more key players struggling to heat up their bats are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first place.  They've won 7 of their last 10 and exit their most recent road trip with a 3-2 record.

Anybody who wants to quit on a team that's 2.5 games out of first place in the early part of May can leave.  Here's the door

But let's be fair.  This team has problems that they need to work on which can thankfully be fixed.  I'd say that the offensive woes, for example - which are a bit overrated anyway* - will fix themselves for the most part when the Cub regulars get healthy.  It's easy to jump to conclusions but so far most of the key guys who have been tanking have been playing with sore necks, shoulders, and groins.

(*since the start of May, the Cubs have scored 52 runs ... that's an average of 5.2 runs per game which probably won't be much off their pace anyway once this ugly spot is behind them)

The bullpen woes - which were very clearly exploited this series, especially yesterday - will require a little more help.  Chad Fox is done for as he has hurt his elbow again.  Neal Cotts and Dave Patton need to go.  There are thankfully players in the system who might be able to step in and replace them admirably - including a couple of the talented young arms acquired for Mark DeRosa - and the Cubs need to turn to them immediately.  Meanwhile Jim Hendry needs to consider pursuing another setup guy at first opportunity.

Offensively, the Cubs had just enough today to get the positive result.  Soriano selfishly hit his 10th homerun of the season, Kosuke Fukudome collected 2 hits (including a triple), and Bobby Scales! went 2 for 3 - he's gotten at least one hit in every game he's played in so far. 

The result is that the Cubs are now returning to Wrigley having gone - as previously mentioned - 3-2 on a difficult road trip including 3 games against a team that's been on fire.  (Raise the white flags, they only went 3-2!)

They now have a day off tomorrow before they begin a 6 game homestand against the Padres and Astros.  Neither San Diego nor Houston are world beaters and I'd expect the Cubs to continue to win in the face of controversy and injuries.

But since I've taken the time to note their winning road trip and their .700 winning perecentage in May, then I must be swilling the blue kool-aid.  Sorry about that everybody.

Current Record: A white-flag-raising 17-14
Position in the NL Central: A loserish 3rd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: An impossibly unlikely 148-14
Worst Possible Record: A much likelier 17-145
Record needed to win 110: A won't-happen 93-38
On Pace For: A swill-the-kool-aid-if-you-think-it's-gonna-happen 89-73

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Brewers 12, Cubs 6
GameCast: May 10th - Cubs vs. Brewers

GameCast: May 10th - Cubs vs. Brewers

Gamecast
Sean Marshall (0-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (2-2, 5.68 ERA)

Story-lines

There is no doubt that the Cubs look really bad right now.  Their ace is on the DL for having pulled a hamstring.  Their star slugger dislocated his shoulder diving for a ball.  Their newly-extended ace is dealing with a combination of bad luck and bad stuff.  Their free agent right fielder is under-performing - as is a slew of other guys on the team.  And 50% of their bullpen flat-out sucks.

In other words, the Cubs look lost.  Since we all know that good teams never look as bad as the Cubs have looked in recent days, it's safe to say that the season is over.  But here at GROTA we will soldier on, documenting the failed 2009 season with anger.

Who's Hot
Actually the entire offense looks decent right now.  Usually when the Cubs score 6 they will win.  This wasn't the case last night as Lou apparently decided to turn to every suspect arm in his bullpen, one after the next. 

Who's Not
The Questionable Quartet continues to look sluggish, rather than sluggerish.  Neal Cotts, Dave Patton, and Chad Fox belong on another team, like maybe the Cardinals or Brewers. 

Conclusions
Sean Marshall is due for a win and has been pitching better than we might expect from a 5th starter.  (Which is good since Ryan Dempster is pitching quite a bit like a 5th starter this year.)  Jeff Suppan is somebody who the Cubs have had success off of in the past.

Maybe they'll get swept, maybe they won't, but it's a moot point as the Cubs are clearly finished for the season.  Oh well, wait 'til next year!

Game Recap: Brewers 12, Cubs 6 - the Quitting Continues

booooooo!
I truly love it when Cub fans quit on their team during every rough patch.  Rather than beat around the bush, I will directly ask the question that needs to be asked:

What the hell is the matter with you people?

There has never been a team in the history of the game that didn't look like fumbling idiots at least once in a while during a long season.  Even the 1906 Cubs - winners of 116 games - had a 2 and 4 stretch early in the season, went 1-4 between May 19th and May 24th and went 2-4 between July 19th and July 24th.  And they won 116 games!!!  They won more games than any other team in the history of baseball and over the collected span of close to a month of baseball they played like dirt.  And if you don't have the stomach to watch a team lose games badly then go follow inter-murals, brother.  You'll never experience joy from a baseball season because you're too high strung.

So, let's take a look at today's reason for why people are quitting the team. 

Ryan Dempster.  17 game winner.  Multi-millionaire.  Bad luck pitcher who can't string together wins.  Dempster pitched into the 7th today, which is good, he struck out 9, which is better, but he gave up 7 hits and 3 walks which is bad.  Consequently he walked away with the loss.  But the real story is the bullpen.

Here's the funny thing.  I don't think the Cubs pen is actually all that bad.  The problem is that they've got two or three guys who really don't belong there and aren't even the best choices to be there to begin with.  Those three guys - Neal Cotts, Dave Patton, and Chad Fox, three guys who certainly will not be on the team by the time July rolls around - combined to surrender 6 earned runs.  Had that not happened, then the Cubs would actually have had enough offense to possibly win the game.

I mean, really, the Cubs offense was there last night.  They scored 6 runs off of 12 hits, including a 5 for 12 night from the 3 members of the Q4 who played.  Every regular but Theriot collected at least one hit, and every regular but Soriano and Scales got on base at least twice.  The offense was there.  The bullpen was not.

So, here's the deal.  If you think that pitchers like Chad Fox, Neal Cotts, and Dave Patton will still be around blowing leads into June and July, then you're right.  The Cubs are doomed. 

If you think that starters Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, and Derrek Lee will combine to bat below .200 all year long, then you're right.  The Cubs won't reach the playoffs.

But since the Cubs won't be using relievers who suck all year long, and since the Q4 are in fact much better than their numbers convey, then I think we can agree that quitting on the Cubs is a pretty stupid take to have.

I've said this before and I'll say it now.  If the players quit as easily as some of you do, then you would be outraged.  You would be furious.  I'm sad to see that some of you don't hold yourselves to the same standard that you'd hold the people actually playing the games.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2
GameCast: May 9th - Cubs vs. Brewers

GameCast: May 9th Cubs vs. Brewers

GameCast
Ryan Dempster (2-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Yovani Gollardo (3-1, 3.02 ERA)
Story-lines
Last season, I often complained that I wanted a "perfect" season, sort of like the superlative season I described a few weeks ago.  I wanted a year without stress.  While '08 was stressful at times, looking back on it the Cubs really blew the NL Central out of the water and didn't have too much trouble getting to the playoffs. 

Where they were promptly swept and eliminated.

Looking back even further than that, the 2003 Cubs were - up until the playoffs - probably the most exciting team of our lifetimes.  They delivered big games, tremendous performances, prodigious offense, exciting pitching, unlikely heroes, it was all there.  And they also gave us one of the most exciting Septembers ever, where they went on a torrid run in order to capture the NL Central crown before storming into the playoffs.

In other words, it was not easy for the '03 Cubs.  They overcame deficits and didn't definitively become a playoff team until the last month of the season. 

This year we have an immensely talented Cubs team that is already showing us the signs that they could be very good but they're being impeded by obstacle after obstacle.  Their ace is down, their star slugger is down, their offense is slumping ... and it's only May.

Rather than look at it like this is something for us to be nervous about, maybe we need to see these problems as the kind of things that winning teams often need to overcome in order to be cohesive and confident come playoff time.  Maybe in October the Cubs can look back to now and realize that if they can overcome these problems then maybe winning 3 games in a short series won't be so tough.

Just a thought.

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot - batting .308 in his last 26 at bats with 2 homers and 17 RBI
Three Finger Hill - In his last 7 games he's batting .348 with 4 RBI
Aaron Miles - .300 AVG in his last 20 at bats with an OBP of .391

Who's Not
Milton Bradley - 5 for his last 26 with 1 HR and 2 RBI
Fukudome - The sump is on!  He's batting .143 in his last 7 games

Conclusions
Dempster needs to turn it up tonight.  He's had some bad luck which I believe he can improve on, but the Cubs are facing the ace of the Brewers staff and Ryan really needs to start earning his new, big contract.

I'm outta here.  Recap tomorrow.

Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2, Rammy out

Cubs lose
The Good News

Randy Wells delivered 5 innings of scoreless baseball in his debut start.  He managed to shake off 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 trailer-park skanks in the process (did I mention how much he looks like Kevin Federline?).  Regrettably for him, the Cubs bullpen will not be mentioned under "The Good News" heading.

In a pinch hit appearance, Bobby Scales! collected his second ever major league hit - a triple.  Considering all the hub-bub with the Rammy shoulder injury, the performance made by Scales today and in the near future might have a pretty big impact on the Cubs.

Milton Bradley went 1 for 4, raising his AVG to .150.  (Pretty bad that a 1 for 4 day raises your batting average.)  But the 1 was his 3rd homer as a Cub.

The Bad News
Angel Guzman and Aaron Heilman pitched 3 innings of relief and surrendered 3 earned runs in the process.  I'm not too upset with Angel, who also struck out 4 and made one mistake, but Aaron Heilman walked Hart, advanced him to second with a wild pitch, and made it a moot point by surrendering a homer to Ryan Braun.  Not a good night for Heilman.

The Ugly News

Aramis Ramirez, as you are already aware, dislocated his shoulder and may miss 4 to 6 weeks.  I will remind you that last season the 97-win Cubs lost one of their best hitters for more than a month due to a broken hand and they still won 97 games.  Just saying.

A-Ram's injury comes hot on the heels of the acquisition of Ryan Freel from Baltimore.  Freel, as Rob eloquently noted, is really a guy you want on your team ... if you live in the year 2005.  (In case you don't get it, that's a clever way of saying that he has lost some of his shine.)  They amazingly acquired Freel for Joey Gathright, which makes no sense since Mr. G. was probably a week away from getting cut.

Freel is a guy who plays a lot of positions - he's logged more than 100 appearances (many of them starts) at second base, third base, center field, right field, and he's appeared in left field 75 times.  When the 33-year-old is performing well, he's a patient-but-not-spectacular hitter who can steal a lot of bases.  But with a career OPS of .731, he's the kind of guy who, like Theriot, bats leadoff or bats eighth and belongs nowhere in between.

With Ramirez missing a big chunk of time, this leaves the Cubs roster in a continued state of flux.  Bobby Scales(!) was probably going to get demoted once Freel joined the team, but with Gathright gone and Ramirez hurt, Scales* will probably remain on the big league roster.

(*!)

This leaves the Cubs still with their precious 7 man bullpen, and Wells pitched solidly enough to not only continue starting until Zambrano returns, but to be the first candidate to replace the inept Chad Fox at that point.  Although, obviously, Wells will still have time to look like crap.

Anyway, I know that the natural reaction of any Cub fan is to immediately panic when something like this happens, but as I noted back in Spring Training the Cubs were built with depth this year.  I'm not exactly challenging them to prove me right, but they could probably actually handle a few more injuries to their regulars before we should start getting nervous.  But one thing this does mean is that there should now be slightly more pressure on the shoulders of Soto, Lee, and Bradley to start producing.  If they can do that, then they'll be fine.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
GameCast: May 8th Cubs at Brewers

GameCast: May 8th - Cubs at Milwaukee

GameCast
Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00) vs. Dave Bush (1-0, 4.36 ERA)

Story-Lines
This one is coming at you early because I'm going straight from work to dinner to Star Trek to bed. 

The Cubs and the Brewers are the modern day Tiffany and Debbie Gibson - their rivalry burns like hellfire.  And in the end one will lose her fanbase to the other, who in turn will become anorexic, addicted to meth, and will pose naked in Playboy 10 years after anybody cares.

Wait, they both lost their fanbases?  ...

Anyway, since I've posted this early and you've got time on your hands, let me recommend to you a couple of pieces written by Goat Friend and ESPN writer Wayne Drehs, who interviewed me last year and was directly responsible for my rocket toward stardom.  These days he's writing for ESPN Chicago* and blogging there so often that it makes me dizzy.  I mean, how can he possibly blog that often?

(*ESPN Chicago?  That sounds like a perfect fit for GROTA!  Damn you for not calling me, ESPN!  You know I always answer you on the FIRST RING!!)

What would you give for the Cubs to win it all?  - well, that one is self explanatory and since I'm a good sport I will probably answer Wayne's question with a retort column.  Right after I write that piece about Marmol and Gregg sometime next year.  Nevertheless, Wayne also Emailed me a What would you give up ESPN poll (or a ballot, if you will).  I don't want to influence your vote, but if you tick off on the "pay $$$$" options I will quit you.  It's not that I wouldn't surrender money in the name of Cub, it's just that if we tell them how much they might take us up on it.

Anyway, moving onto the GameCast...

Who's Hot
On a team that collected 14 hits in their last game, it would be easier to make a list of who's not.  But in particular, Alfonso Soriano selfishly hit 2 more homeruns while looking spectacular in the field, Aramis Ramirez collected 3 hits, and by gawd Micah Hoffpauir got 2 more hits raising his average to .312.

Who's Not
Mike Fontenot, Geovany Soto, and Milton Bradley remain on the bubble.  Soto and Bradley both had hits yesterday while Fontenot collected none but drove in 2 RBI. 

Conclusions
This may be the first series with implications, and since tomorrow's game will be tough to win (even if Dempster looks good) then today's contest against Dave Bush is practically essential.  If the Cubs can crack his nut as they have in the past - and especially if the Questionable Quartet can really start pounding the ball - then it shouldn't be too hard.

Then again, with a rookie pitcher on the mound for the Cubs, it could be a run-fest.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers

Series Preview: Cubs at Milwaukee

Cubs at Brewers
Match-ups
Overview

Who remembers where we were a week ago?  Our beloved Cubs were 10-11 - practically in the basement - and people were panicking.  "This isn't a winning team!" people lamented.  "As built they can't possibly reach the playoffs!" they decried.  "I believe that Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Geovany Soto will bat .175 all season long!" they blathered.

A week later, the Cubs have won 6 of their last 7, the Questionable Quartet have very slowly been picking up the pieces, and the 16-12 Cubs are 2.5 games out of first place.  Then again, they won their games against the bottom-dwelling Astros and the Florida Marlins - the latter of whom are in the process of redefining the term "downward trend."  The Brewers represent a different kind of challenge.  We must ask ourselves some of the following essential questions:

Without Carlos Zambrano, do the Cubs have the fortitude to scale Prince Fielder's Cheeseburger Mountain - at the top of which is the legendary White Castle?
Will Kosuke Fukudome don a sausage costume - as did his forefather Hideo Nomo - and win one of the legendary races?

Will it be possible for the Cubs to finally figure out the mysterious northpaw Jeff Suppan?  (Wait, you mean they hammered him harder than Thor earlier this season?)

Let's take a closer look at the match-ups...

Friday, May 8th - Randy Wells vs. Dave Bush
Since he's a rookie, you might not know a lot about Randy Wells.  This is from his bio page: When he's not on the mound, Randy Wells spends his time participating in an amateur dance troupe.  He has also finished in the Top 3 in more than 20 Kevin Federline look-alike contests.  He briefly pitched in Toronto last year before coming to Chicago for a guy in a monkey suit.  So far in Iowa this year, Wells is 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA.  Hey, who knows, if he does half-decently then maybe he'll be the eventual bullpen solution the Cubs are so anxious to find?

Dave Bush is the quintessential 4th starter.  On a good year he'll win you 12 games, get his ERA into the low 4's, and be absolutely unreliable in big game situations.  In his first game against the Cubs this year he threw 6.1 innings of work, allowing 3 earned runs.  This is a step up from his typical production against Milwaukee's biggest rival as from 2006-2008 Bush is 1-7 against Chicago with an ERA of 4.84.  Hey, if the Cubs are lucky enough to face off against him 3 more times this year they might be able to get that record to 1 and 10!  It would be an amazement of ineptitude!

Saturday, May 9th - Ryan Dempster vs. Yovani Gollardo
Ryan Dempster - The Good: 32 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched.  The Bad: 1.35 WHIP, thanks to the 34 hits and 16 walks he's allowed this year (note: a 1.35 WHIP isn't really that bad).  The Ugly: 20 earned runs for an ERA of 4.86.  At this point, Dempster's run-to-hit ratio is .540, and his run-to-hit+walk ratio is .400.  Last year when he won 17 games and posted an ERA of 2.96, it was .390 and .340. 

At this point the amount of hits+walks he's on pace to surrender (190 and 89 respectively) isn't really that much worse from 2008 (174 and 76).  I suppose it makes sense that Dempster is bound to have a higher ERA but so far his biggest problem is that he's issued walks and given up hits at really inopportune times.  We can probably call it the statistical equivalent of "unlucky" while hoping for things to balance out a bit.  If he finishes the year having surrendered 190 hits and 89 walks in 207 innings at last year's run-to-hit ratio, then his ERA would be 3.22.  (And based on the run-to-hit+walk ratio, it would be 4.12 - still a lot lower than 4.86).

Yovani Gollardo is Mexican for "we hope he's this year's Sabathia, gringo."  So far the 23-year-old is 3-1 with a 3.02 ERA and is on pace for 218 strikeouts in 229 innings of work.  Considering that he's 23, he's bound to come down a bit.  Then again, he's thrown 176 career innings now and has a record of 12-6 and an ERA of 3.27.  Gollardo is the real - albiet probably unable to pass a phsyical - deal.

Sunday, May 10th - Sean Marshall vs. Jeff Suppan 
Marshall has been "hard luck" so far.  His numbers haven't been bad - and were actually inflated in his last start by a terrible Samardzija relief outing - but he's just not been lucky enough to get a win.  Considering the book I wrote on Dempster, this is all you get.  NO BLOG FOR YOU!!!

Jeff Suppan.  A 34-year-old crafty right-handed starter who's been in the league since 1995.  As a Cardinal he won 16 games back-to-back, as a Brewer he's a borderline gas can who the Cubs probably can't get enough of.  In his first outing against Chicago this year, Suppan went 3.2 innings, surrendered 5 earned runs, and wept tears of remorse into his calloused hands after the Cubs chased him in the 4th.  Over the previous 3 years, Suppan is 3-3 with an ERA of 4.24.  In other words he's "adequate" against the Cubs, but not stellar. 

Conclusions
As hot as the Cubs have been playing of late, the Brewers have been on their on little run.  Since starting the year 4-9, Milwaukee is 12-4, and they sit barely behind the Cubs in the standings.  In other words, unlike the series against the flopping Marlins and the crash-and-burned Astros this series will actually be a challenge to the Cubs.  While Wells is a mystery, Dempster has been unlucky and Marshall is due.  Not to mention the Brewers rotation is not exactly likely to lead the league in shutouts this year.  At the very least this will be a high scoring series that will leave Ron Santo groaning.  At the most it could be another step in the right direction for the Cubs.

 

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