I promise I tried to find a database of all game scores recorded by starting pitchers against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, but I came up empty. The reason I was looking for it should be obvious: there's a pretty good chance Ryan Dempster's performance yesterday was the worst of all starters facing the Pirates in 2010.
Demp went three innings, gave up seven hits and three walks, which translated to seven earned runs. In other words, most of the batters Dempster faced yesterday reached base (ten on base, nine outs). That's understandable for a reliever, but really bad news for a starter.
Ryan is actually having a pretty solid year regardless, with 182 innings pitched and a 3.71 ERA. He's posting the highest walk rate he ever has as a starter for the Cubs, but the K's are up slightly as well. When all's said and done, it looks like he'll be worth something near three wins above replacement, which is worth what, between $12 million and $15 million?
Koyie Hill went 3-for-4 yesterday, and hit his first home run of the year. But he still sucks. Maybe someday his OPS will approach .600. Not today, however.
Starlin Castro is still contending for the batting title, but Joey Votto is gonna be tough to overtake.
So much for that glimmering hope of optimism. After sweeping the Nats under new manager Mike Quade, I'll admit - I was a little intrigued by the Cubs again. Not in a "we're gonna go on some sick run and get back in it somehow", but in more of a "well maybe we'll be frisky down the stretch and be passable September viewing". After a weekend spent in the Queen City, I feel the needle has been jolted back in the other direction. Shaky pitching, shaky defense, not a ton of hitting in big spots. Most importantly, perhaps another month's worth of baseball without a ton to look forward to (non-Starlin Castro division). The Cubs are now back home against the team they can not beat, the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will be the last time the Cubs face the Buccos this year, whom they have a stellar 3-9 record against in 2010. Here's your series preview and the first post on Goatriders in over 2 days..guess everyone hates the Cubs.
Monday August 30th - Paul Maholm (7-12, 4.82) vs. Carlos Zambrano (5-6, 4.64) - Maholm, like a lot of the Pirates, is having a rough year, and his stats are all pretty much off what they've been throughout his career. He hasn't notched a victory since early August either, though perhaps that's not surprising with the struggles the Pirates themselves have been having. Big Z looked REALLY good against Washington, but then immediately flew out to Venezuela to deal with a family issue. I'm seriously hoping Carlos can build on that great start and string together some good outings as the season winds down. For his sanity, for Cubs fans' sanity, for his trade value, for everything.
Tuesday August 31st - Jeff Karstens (2-10, 4.98) vs. Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.42) - Karstens fits the mold of the majority of the Pirates starters the last couple of seasons: former highly touted prospect from another organization who scuffled and then ended up in Pittsburgh. The former prospect sheen Karstens had with the Yankees is now long gone, and he's had an uneven 2010. He'll go up against Dempster, who continues to be the consistent cog in the Cubs 2010 rotation. Being paid well, Dempster has delivered again in 2010. He only went 79 pitches in a win against Washinton last week, so he should be good to go deep into the game Tuesday if needed...and with Z going the night before, he might be.
Wednesday September 1st - James McDonald (2-3, 4.97) vs. Tom Gorzellany (7-8, 3.98) - James McDonald fits the same profile as Karstens. McDonald is now out of the Dodgers organization and into the Pirates one (what an upgrade!). He's shown flashes since he's become a regular starter, but just like about everyone pitching for Pittsburgh currently, he's been up and down from a performance perspective. Long term though, I like McDonald. Gorzo the Great will be opposing his former team here. He got rocked pretty good Friday night against the Reds and had a fairly shaky month of August overall. Here's hoping for a better finish for Tom.
Ted Lilly was his usual self last night: he challenged Pirates hitters, gave up a home run and a walk, struck out a handful, topped out at about 86 mph on the heater, and went seven innings. And this time, he even won the game. Bravo, Theodore.
Not that the Cub offense really did all that much to get him the W, of course. But Alfonso "Streaky McStreakerson" Soriano is back into "hot mode," and hit two homers last night, which turned out to be enough to get Lilly the favorable decision. Also, kudos to Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol for their shutdown innings in relief. Each of their ERAs remains just a touch above 2.00.
Also of note: as a team, the Cubs threw 93 of their 127 pitches for strikes last night, a 73% ratio.
As far as positive offensive performances beyond Soriano's, Koyie Hill went 2-for-3 with two doubles, and Starlin Castro went 1-for-1, doubling in his only at-bat (walked intentionally and brought in a run with a sac fly in his other plate appearances).
Cubs win! Yippee skippy. What's more (less?), they play again in two hours. Go Cubs!
Three points, plus a link:
1) Our offense sucks. Who knew?
2) Grabow back to the DL. Thank the Lord for that balky knee -- and maybe it is the knee that's been causing him to pitch poorly this season, but if you look at his numbers historically (specifically walks and hits allowed regardless of handedness of batters faced, plus lack of strikeouts), then you shouldn't be surprised to see him pitching this way even if he had a clean bill of health.
3) As for Randy Wells sucking: lately, despite maintaining a good K/BB ratio, Wells has been giving up too many hits. So I liked last night's strategy of throwing more balls outside the zone; even if it led to a few more walks, at least it was something new. And in the end, the guy's line was pretty darn good: 6 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 1 ER (and yes, four walks).
Link) Last night, Cubs fans were introduced to Brian Schlitter -- well, unless of course the fan in question was already a regular GROTA reader, because if that were the case, they'd already know who the kid is! That's because Former GROTA Contributor Kyle (now with the Tribune, I do believe) interviewed Schlitter for a GROTA article not too long ago. It's worth another read now that Brian has pitched in Wrigley: http://www.goatriders.org/brian-schlitter-chicago-cubs-minor-league
The Pittsburgh Pirates are 8-1 versus the Chicago Cubs this year. They are 17-49 versus the rest of the league. It's been that kind of season for the Pirates, and of course the Cubs as the Buccos come into Wrigley Field for this weekday set. The Cubs are coming home after losing 2 of 3 a few miles to the south of Wrigley (Hey! I predicted that!), while the Pirates have been struggling as well, even moreso than the Cubs. They've got losing streaks of 12 and 6 sandwiched around 2 wins in their last 20 games. The only real reason for optimism in Pittsburgh is that their penny-pinching ownership finally gave the green light to call up blue-chip prospect Pedro Alvarez. Despite being more than ready, and despite incumbent 3B Andy LaRoche sucking out loud this year, Alvarez stayed in AAA Indianapolis until there was no chance he could head to arbitration a year early and get a bigger contract that he, you know, actually earned. He's off to a slow start, but that will change as long as everyone's patient with him.
Monday - Paul Maholm (4-6, 4.24) vs. Randy Wells (3-6, 5.21)
It's time to stop sugarcoating it, Randy Wells has flat out not been good for the majority of this year. I'm not sure if it's a sophomore slump, or if the league now has a good book on his assortment of non-overwhelming stuff, or exactly what - but the results have been brutal this year. His last start in Seattle was no exception as he could never get going, and gave up 10 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings. Maholm was even worse in his last start. He gave up 7 hits and 5 runs in just 1 inning - a career low. Besides that blip, however, Maholm has been their best starter this year. The Cubs should be plenty familiar with him, as he beat the Cubs twice in 11 days in early May.
Tuesday - Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.60) vs. Theodore Lilly (2-6, 3.28)
Karstens' picture would be in the baseball dictionary under the picture of "underwhelming back of the rotation righty" if such a dictionary actually existed. He's a former Yankees farmhand who's now 28, and really a "what you see is what you get" finished product. And what he is isn't all that exciting. Last time out he allowed 8 runs in 5 1/3 innings of work against Texas. Lilly gave the Cubs 6 solid innings last Thursday against the Mariners, but didnt figure in the decision as that game went 13 innings before the Cubs were able to eke one out. With the Cubs being dreadful, the rumor mill has started to grumble where Lilly is concerned, and there are reports circulating that the Mets might be interested in the Free Agent to-be.
Wednesday - Brad Lincoln (0-2, 6.00) vs. Tom Gorzellany (2-5, 3.41)
The matinee on Wednesday will be an interesting pitching matchup. Lincoln was drafted 4th overall in the 2006 MLB draft and promptly got hurt. He needed Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his entire 2007 season. He was drafted 3 spots before Clayton Kershaw, 6 spots in front of Tim Lincecum, and also in front of Tyler Colvin, the Cubs first round pick that season. He finally made his big league debut this year, and will be making his 5th MLB start against the Cubs. He's had 2 awful starts and 2 just "OK" ones thus far. Hard to say what he'll do on Wednesday - maybe he'll go ahead and throw a no-hitter. Gorzo will be making his first start since May 26th, filling in for the now "restricted" Carlos Zambrano. Honestly - I'd rather see Gorzo pitch than Z right now. I'm sick of Zambrano, I'm sick of his antics and I wish he'd just go the fuck away for a while. And this is coming from one of Z's biggest fans over the past 8 years.
So..if you're like me and still holding out some hope that the Cubs can get their shit together and make a little run - this series would be a nice spot to start. We owe these guys, and we need a sweep. As miserable as we've been (and we've been awful), we're still just 8 1/2 games out. We're not out of the race. Let's get the sweep.
Paul Maholm (4-6, 4.24 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (3-6, 5.21 ERA)
After a weekend marked with aggression in the dugout of the Cubs perhaps taking out some aggression out on the Pirates might be what the doctor ordered. The Pirates went 2-13 during interleague play and have dropped their last six. While the Pirates have owned the Cubs so far, it can't hurt to run into a team that has hit the skids even harder than your own.
Another storyline of interest is that the Cubs placed Big Z on the restricted list today. Much to the delight of Paul Sullivan, this situation will not be resolved with an immediate and quiet apology. According to Jim Hendry, Big Z will "not meet formally or travel with the team before the (All-Star) break." Moreover, he will begin treatment on Wednesday to deal with his "issue." The corresponding move will likely be a call-up of Jeff Stevens.
Who's Hot- This isn't so much a "who" but a "what" and that is the term "dead-ass." This phrase seems quite popular among Cubs fans and the national media alike. I expect Bob Brenly to quickly trademark the phrase like one Pat Riley and have a lucrative cashflow from merchandise bearing the phrase.
Who's Not- Outside of the obvious, being the Cubs and Pirates, the trade market has been conspicuously quiet. I would have expected to hear more names being thrown around at this time, particularly of those wearing Cubs Blue. I guess we will just have to wait.
The Cubs need a win. In fact, they could use multiple wins. I know many have given up on this team, but it would be nice to see the Cubs string a few together and at least extend the losing streak of the Pirates. Strange things can happen in late June and July, but the team has to put forth effort to make that happen. Whether that can happen is still an unanswered question at the moment.
Book it: Carlos Silva is 8-0 to start the 2010 season.
And while plenty of stathead baseball types think the win is an overrated stat, it seems as though Silva has truly been earning each and every one this season. No exception today, as Carlos pitched seven innings, gave up four hits and just one walk, and struck out five.
His ERA for the season sits at 2.93, an incredible number for him.
At what point does a competitor call Jim Hendry about Silva's availability? I'd still trade him if it were me: the 2010 club simply isn't any good, and the $10+ million he's owed in 2011 could be used to nab a premier first baseman in 2012 (coughprincefieldercough).
On offense, the MVPTG ("of Today's Game", that is) award goes to Ryan Theriot, who stole third, smacked a leadoff double to go with a single, and also walked twice, scoring four times on the day. Bravo, kid; make yourself look good for the trade deadline.
Two other Cubs had multiple hits today, so kudos to Marlon Byrd and Geo Soto. But they get their gold stars taken right back away for some poor base running early in the game. Idiots.
Starlin Castro went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .272 on the season. It's pretty much 100% likely that he'll end up with an average below .250 rather than above it, right?
Cubs win, scoring a good chunk of runs against a terrible pitcher as presented by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hey, there's a first time for everything!
Carlos Silva (7-0, 3.12) vs. Dana Eveland (3-4, 6.45)
The Cubs head back to Pittsburgh to see if they can at least salvage a game in this "series" that was extended because of a rainout. Although it doesn't have as much draw as the "Z Returns" headline this game originally had, today the Cubs will feature a pitcher that has to be considered "ace-like" for the staff so far in terms of his results. Silva's success this season is demonstrated by his record, and he hopes to keep it up today.
The only other real headline for this game is just how much the Pirates have owned the Cubs this year. This is a very big swing from last year, and hopefully one the Cubs can rectify with a win today.
Theriot will once again be in the leadoff spot with Baker at 3B and Xavier Nady patrolling Right Field. Maybe Theriot gets a walk again. Who knows... I'm dreaming big.
Still on hold until I see some sort of sustained success from a Cubs player. This will likely be active tomorrow. I need to just start finding exciting news about Cubs players that is worthwhile putting here.
Can the Cubs shake the Pirates hold on domination over them? We will see. Most importantly, what do you want to see this lineup do today?
Synopsis: Lilly pitched well for seven innings, gave up a two-run bomb to a kid in the eighth (first career homer for Neil Walker) after walking a guy on four pitches, and the Cubs couldn't score aside from Nady's own two-run jack, so we lost.
And as Eddie pointed out, how 'bout that bench last night? Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, and Marlon Byrd were all out of the starting line-up yesterday. Wild.
I suppose the team could conceivably trade any of those guys, huh? Although at this point you're probably not going to be "selling high" on any of them. But yeah, I'll take whatever can be gotten for Lee, Byrd, Theriot, and even Ramirez at this point (I like Soto, call me crazy). And obviously Lilly is available at this point as well. Or Silva, if someone would rather have him.
Yeah, Byrd's on the block at this point, right?
Jeff Karstens (1-1, 4.78) vs. Ted Lilly (1-4, 3.63)
In what is a season-long struggle with mediocrity, the Cubs continue to be owned by the Pirates. The good news is, the big storyline for the Cubs is the Ted Lilly revival tour. He's coming off his best start of the year and looks to build on, or at least match his success... and maybe get "W" this time. Being the unstoppable force of nature he is, I think Lilly does just that.
The other storyline is that it's June, which seems to be the make or break month for most teams. In 2007, the Cubs saw a surge that eventually led to a division title. The Cubs look to repeat this success and make the division a bit more competitive while the Reds and Cards keep each other in check.
Um... Ted Lilly. Dude went seven strong and only allowed 3 hits in his last start. Even had a few strikeouts, which was reassuring.
See: the bench for today's game. Theriot ignores that OBP and walks exist. Lee and Ramirez are nowhere near 3 and 4 hitters right now. Soto could use a pick me up.
We should win this game. Start June off on the right foot with a strong effort from Teddy Roosevelt, and get some big contributions from role players that get a start tonight.