Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Pirates

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Gamecast: May 31st, 2010 - Cubs at Pirates

Randy Wells (3-3, 4.79 ERA) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (0-3, 5.11 ERA)

Overview

There are couple interesting story lines going today. First off, cue the celebration music......John Grabow goes on the DL with suckitis. Well, apparently it was a knee injury, but we all know the REAL reason. This should make the bullpen much better just addition by subtraction.

In his place, the Cubs call up prospect Andrew Cashner. I think it is a good move. It allows Cashner to get a little big league time before eventually becoming a starter maybe next year.

The other story line is Randy Wells trying to rebound from Friday's 16-pitch outing against the Cardinals. The Cubs have a lot of starting pitching options, so Wells can't afford to be bad for long.

Who's Hot

Cub pitchers not named Wells, Gorzelanny and Grabow - Really, the Cubs have pitched well, but these guys hurt the Cubs this past week. Even Bob Howry has shown signs of life.

Who's Not

Alfonso Soriano - Fonzi's just has two hits in his last 18 AB's. We knew it would happen, but usually the Cubs have somebody else step up. That just hasn't happened this year.

Conclusions

Like Kurt said, it's time for the Cubs to put up or shut up. Hopefully, Cashner is success and the cubs get rolling.

Series Preview: Pirates vs. Cubs, the bloodening continues

GameCast
Overview

If you are superstitious, then I'm to blame for the way the Cubs been mangled by the Pirates so far this year.  I wrote at the beginning of their first meet-up about how the Cubs owe so much to the Pirates for their winning ways in the past few seasons.  (And it's true -- the Cubs wouldn't have even remotely been a .500 team last year were it not for Pittsburgh taking it for our team)

Maybe the great karmic wheel noticed too, because Pittsburgh has PWN'd the Cubs all year long.  So far, in 6 games, the Cubs are 1-5 against the Pirates, and have been outscored 35-17.  35 to 17!  Chicago has its problems, sure, but they cannot possibly be that bad -- can they?  Let's take a look at the matchups.

Monday, May 31st - Randy Wells vs. Ross Ohlendorf
Randy Wells, Randy Wells.  He started the year looking like Greg Maddux.  Now he looks more like Jeremi Gonzalez, pre-electrocution.  Wells got smoked in his last start, lasting nary an inning against the Cardinals.  But cheer up, Cub fans - the last time Wells faced the Pirates, he lasted 2 innings and gave up 6 earned runs - that's like half as many runs in twice as many innings! 

Ross Ohlendorf, meanwhile, almost beat the Cubs in his last outing against them.  He went 6 innings and gave up 2 runs, which is - so far - the best he's done this year. 

Tuesday, June 1st - Ted Lilly vs. Jeff Karstens

Theodore Roosevelt Lilly is not trying very hard to get traded in this, the walk year of his contract.  Since coming back from surgery, he's posted a respectable 3.63 ERA, but he's also lost 4 decisions in 7 starts.  Ugh.  Either he's as bad as his record, or he's as good as his ERA -- guess we'll find out soon.

Jeff Karstens is 27, he's 1-1 this year, and he's 10-18 in his career.  He gives up lots of hits, a modest amount of walks, and if he manages to strike out more than a handful of Cubs then they're doing it wrong.  If ever there was a game in which Lilly should dominate and the Cubs should explode offensively, it's this one.

Wednesday, June 2nd - Carlos Zambrano vs. Zach Duke
Wait.  What?

Carlos Zambrano?  Scheduled to return to the rotation on Wednesday?  Really?!  Woo-hoo!

Not that he's got anything in the tank right now -- he's done nothing as a starter or a reliever to convince me that he's reliable.  But sweet fancy Krishna, it's about time he returned to where he belongs.  What a stupid experiment!

There was a time when Zach Duke was a promising young starter who owned the Cubs.  Six years later, he's a run-of-the mill guy with moments of brilliance who's still only 27.  It seemed back in the olden days that he was pretty much guaranteed a win against Chicago... it's not like that anymore, but the Cubs are 1 and freakin' 5 against these guys. 

Conclusions

The Pirates remain the doormat of the National League, but the Cubs are playing as though they intend to give them some competition for that title in 2010.  As Rob might point out, good teams beat teams like the Pirates.  The Cubs haven't even come close to beating the Pirates this year.  (Okay, fine, they won a game.  Big freakin' deal.) 

But as the Cubs have made certain moves -- promoting guys like Castro, DLing losers like Grabow, reclaiming projects like Howry -- then they are coming closer and closer to resembling the team we'll probably see for the last three months-or-so of the season.  This is pretty much the time to start winning big.  If they can't manhandle the Pirates, they might as well cancel Christmas and close the kitchen.  'Nuff said.

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On testy fans, some truly God-forsaken fans, enormous BABIP and why it is time to fire Lou

Looks like it got a little fiesty around here this weekend.  That will happen when your favorite team looks hopeless.  Let me try to sum up this mediocre weekend with the mediocre weather in this sometimes mediocre blog:


- First of all, my sympathies for the fans of the Pirates.  I got the chance to speak with many of them last fall.  Rum Bunter Tom holds us Cub fans up as the picture of loyalty because we pack our park every day, and his own (wonderful) park is mostly empty. 


You're wrong, man.  Most of the people in our park are either families from Iowa on their yearly pilgrimage to the yard, or twenty-somethings from the neighborhood visiting the world's biggest beer garden.  There are some die-hard blue Kool-Aid sippers, and a few of us loyalists who are dying inside the past two seasons.  But your fans WANT to believe, they get hooked year after year with the ARams and the Jason Bays and the Nate McLouths and now the Andrew McCutcheons.  I literally feel terrible knowing that by this time next year, the stiff at first base (Jones) will be making huge bucks and McCutcheon will be playing center for the Red Sox or Rays.  If any fans in the entire world deserve to be disloyal, it's your own.  Don't be so hard on your fellow Pirate fans.


- Besides Castro, Marmol, Soto and Colvin, (who in my mind are totally untouchable), the only other Cubs that would have any trade value are Lilly, Wells, Theriot, and in the right situation, Zambrano.  Z would be a trade deadline move, and it would require United Nations-level negotiations from all parties in terms of clauses, money, roles, and return.  We really don't want that trade to happen.  Not because we love Z so much anymore, but unless his teammates absolutely despise him, which they don't appear to, even this washed-out abortion of a team does not need that kind of distraction.


I think Lilly is the man most likely on the move.  That wouldn't be my personal choice, because I think he hates losing, can't stomach it, and we need more of that around here.  But Wells is a bit too young and resembles a young Greg Maddux a bit too much for Hendry to deal.  Theriot doesn't really have anything specific that other teams really want.  He can hit in the National League, and that's pretty much it.


- Even though I have no candidates in mind to replace him, my pick to be traded for even a bag of balls would be Derrek Lee.  I fully expect his production to increase with the temperature, and to me that's the problem in a nutshell.  It got prickly around here about Lee, and the thing I find so frustrating about him is the fact that he is held in esteem by his teammates as the leader, the barometer that everyone else tries to emulate.


And if THIS is the guy that is the pulse, then we need a pacemaker.  A true stud hoss leader would not struggle in April and May every year.  A real big man would not have spent the last five years taking walks in key clutch situations, leaving the heavy lifting up to Ramirez.  And now, when it is obvious that there is something physically wrong with ARam, a real leader steps up in the time of need and performs.  And if he is going to second-guess his manager, he doesn't do it meekly, mealy-mouthy.  If he doesn't like his guy mixing the order up all the time, then gatdammit, say it like a man!  Don't give us that "well, it's his team" crap. 


- Look, what is most wrong about the 2010 Cubs right now is motivation.  People are taking plays off, or whole innings off.  What does Carlos Marmol's enormous BABIP tell you?  What it says to ME is that, when he steps out on the mound, the rest of the team is not getting to any balls that are hit.  Marmol is not giving up homers, so the balls that are hit are in play.  Now, either the rest of the team are a) letting up or b) all tensed up by the situation. 


Regardless, it is indicative of a totally unprofessional attitude that pervades this team.  The thing Ryne Sandberg always stressed, and the reason why a man with average talents went as far as he did, was because he played every play the same way, all out.  The mistakes he made were physical, and although he was as fiery as a Jello pudding pop, his example rubbed off on certain teammates, which made them somewhat better than they were physically required to be.


Now, I'm not bringing Ryno into the mix here because I want him to take over the Cubs.  I'm not sure he is a long term solution to anyone's managerial situation, because being single-mindedly focused is just one attribute.  The guy the Royals just canned was basically Ryne Sandberg without the Hall-of-Fame career.  But the one thing I do have to admit, grudgingly, is that although I personally declared the season dead last week, and have no reason to believe that this .420 team is going to turn it around...


...the Chicago Cubs are still in the hunt.


It is obvious, though, that if we just leave things alone, as is, nothing is going to happen.  It is totally plausible that Ricketts and Hendry have seen the wild moves Lou Piniella has tried have not worked.  They may choose to do nothing, but I honestly believe they are not THAT lazy.  Maybe so.  Ken Rosenthal expresses what I have heard several times on the national level, that a change is needed, and it could be Ryno (which I say: ugh) or Trammel (Lou once won 116...Alan once LOST 119) or Bob Brenly, which actually kind of speaks to me. 


Me, personally, I'd like to see us trade Lee for a bullpen arm, put Z back in the rotation, put Dempster in the pen (because his last four outings have been worse than Z's last four outings as a starter, and Z has simply sucked in the pen) and see if that doesn't freshen things up a bit.  Who plays first?  Who cares...give Colvin a mitt.  Bring up Hoffpauir.  Play Nady there.  Bring back Chad Tracy.  The Great Jason Dubois is still in the organization.  Whomever, the Grand Master Plan HAS to include bringing in someone new at first base for 2011.  Let's see what else we have in the pipeline, before we overpay this winter for somebody external.


Either way, fact is: the rest of the division seems to be cooperating, making us seem not quite as bad as we really are.  Standing pat is a poor option.  We need more leadership, and more accountability throughout.  Ricketts family - make it happen!


We just need somebody to step up here...anybody.  To paraphrase Dean Wormer, Quiet, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life. 

Gamecast: May 16th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Pirates

Ted Lilly (1-3, 4.88 ERA) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00 ERA)

Overview

There really isn't much to say, but the Pirates own the Cubs. So far it's 0-5 this year for the Cubs. There really isn't much to say, other than to enjoy some time outside with the family or go to a movie.

It really looks like the Cubs will making more trades for the future, rather than for this year.

Enjoy the game today and hopefully the Cubs will turn things around real soon.

Guest Blog of a Pirates Fan

(Editor's Note: Tom Smith writes for Rum Bunter, a kick-ass Pirates blog.)

I am a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. It is hell.   We pray a lot as Pirates fans.   This is my prayer from  last night.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change such as starting second baseman Aki Iwamura slugging .057 this month.  The courage to change the things I can. .  And the wisdom to know the difference.  The difference between a professional first baseman and the Pirates current AAAA version, Jeff Clement, who is struggling so bad he hasn’t had an extra base hit in his last 33 tries.

Grant me the serenity to never forget all of the championships the Pirates have brought to Pittsburgh.  The courage to head into Chicago tomorrow cheering for a team that hasn’t scored in 19 innings.  The wisdom to know the difference between a baseball trip to a mecca and a trip to PNC Park.

Obviously, we love the Pirates, how else would you explain getting out of a perfectly working bed at 3:30 am.  I will also be waking my six year old son from his bed too.  Yeh, I drug him into this epic  pain as a Pirates fan.  They say it’s a common occurrence when you’re a fan of baseball.    We will  try to not awaken the lady of the house, my wife, Brody’s mom.  We will prepare ourselves to drive two hours to the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Why would we do this you ask?  We want to see the Pirates play of course.    A trip to PNC Park is tremendously painful.  I have always marveled at the dead men walking known as Pirates fans.  We are blessed with a rarity, a tremendous ball park experience.  Yeh, the stuff that's said when the team doesn't produce. .  Rarely, do we witness results like the early season series against your beloved Cubs.  It just doesn’t happen.  No, this trip is about observing the hallowed ground on which my favorite team will take on Chicago’s team.  Wrigley Field.

We want to witness, courage.  Witness loyalty.  It’s rare in Pittsburgh, a town now suffering from two sports hangovers.  The Penguins failed in their attempt at a Stanley Cup title defense.  The Steelers, well, that’s a whole different story.  Now the entire town has been forced to focus on the Pirates.  Some fans are more into the team than others, a large number have allowed baseball to become irrelevant, much like the team has become.

Chicago knows about being loyal.  Cubs fans seem to fill up Wrigley for as long as I can remember watching them on WGN.  Not so with the Bucs. I will never give up on the team although  some Pirates fans have put up the white flag. (Its blue in Chicago when you lose?  I'm still confused on that. )

Wrigley Field is something we understand is a phenomenal experience.  Unfortunately, the Pirates team that will be taking the field is pretty awful.  Again.  As an example, our corner outfielder named Lastings Milledge has a career slugging under .400.  Not painful enough yet?  Our starting second baseman Aki Iwamura is our highest paid player.  Aki is 1-for his last 34.

I better pray again.  I’m doubting my faith.

A new brand of suck! (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 10)

Carlos Zambrano looked terrible today.

Someone mentioned on Twitter while Z was pitching, "He never looks good in his first inning, even when he starts." This is an absolutely true statement. Z's value is in his durability, his toughness, his ability to throw 120 pitches and grit it out when you need a starter to give you at least six innings.

Did I mention this bullpen experiment is a terrible idea?

Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen owned Cubs pitchers today. They both had five hits. Pretty crazy, huh? That makes me think: what is this team going to do against the league's premier offenses when we get around to facing them? It's gonna be ugly. I'm scared. I'm shaking right now.

I've asked it before and I'll asked it again: Why is Xavier Nady hitting cleanup? I. Do. Not. Understand. You know what I'd be doing if I were Lou? I'd have Jeff Baker in right field against lefties.

That's what I've got for now. Go Cubs!

Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs, May 14-16

Series Preview
Overview
Reversing the fortune of last year, the Pirates now own the Cubs.  At least when it was happening in Pittsburgh no one was there to witnesses it.  Now the series has moved to Wrigley Field.  The name of the game in Pittsburgh for the Cubs was no hitting and mediocre pitching.  If today is any evidence of how the series will go, it's just gonna be mediocrity all around for the Cubs.

Friday, May 14, 2010- Tom Gorzellany (1-4, 2.83) vs. Brian Burres (2-1, 3.91)
Well, this one has already played out.  Normally at this point I go on a rant about how the Cubs have screwed Gorz over by not giving him any run support.  However, Tommy didn't really help himself out today and gave up 5 earned runs in five innings.  Instead, I'll just talk about the guy that wrote the recap of the game on Cubs.com.  His name is Bradford Dolittle.  Seriously.  I can't make that up.  My day has been made.

Saturday, May 15, 2010- Ryan Dempster (2-3, 3.44) vs. Paul Maholm (2-3, 4.61)
As the "ace" of this Pittsburgh staff, Maholm is coming off of his worst start on the season so far.  On Sunday he only lasted 3.1 innings and gave up 4 ER, after making it through at least six innings in his previous four starts.  "Consistency" and "starting pitcher" usually aren't words used in the same sentence when talking about the Pirates, but Maholm is about as good as it gets for the ballclub.  Like most pitchers, Maholm goes as far as his control will take him.  Hopefully, his control will be all over the place as it was against the Cardinals earlier in the week.

Outside of his last start, Dempster has been a model of consistency.  He was in line for a quality start against the Reds in his last outing before allowing a Joey Votto 3-R HR in the seventh.  He finished the inning and ended up with seven strikeouts.  Last time Demp faced the Pirates he was screwed over by the Cubs offense (this is the horse, this is the beating).  Hopefully he can get back on the "quality start" train and the Cubs offensive woes will be forgotten.

Sunday, May 16, 2010- Theodore Lilly (1-3, 4.88) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00)
Ross "The Boss" Ohlendorf is a sinkerballer.  He also is really, really smart as whenever he's in a highlight all the sports anchors want to do is talk about how he went to Princeton.  In his senior thesis, he used sabermetrics to demonstrate the return a team got in the draft.  Overall, he's one of those "innings eater" types that for some reason have the Cubs number. 

Ted Lilly is a dangerous man.  However, the fear he puts into men while walking down the street has not translated to the pitching mound... yet.  Lilly had a fairly good outing last time out, sans an error by a certain franchise shortstop and a home run, and went seven innings.  He wasn't really striking anyone out as he only tallied one on the day, but built on his previous outing.  It would be nice to see Ted keep progressing and regain his form from last year.

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Gamecast: May 14th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Pirates

Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 2,83 ERA) vs. Brian Burress (2-1, 3.91 ERA)

Overview

The Cubs are 15-20 at the moment and still are just 5 games of back of the Cardinals. We have seen worse Cub teams in our history, but we have seen better teams as well.

This would normally be the moment where the Cubs would use a stretch a game against the Pirates to start a win streak. Well, that's all fine and good except the Cubs are coming off being swept last week by the Pirates.

Gorzelanny has been hurt by a lack of run support and that has really been the cause of his 1-4 record. He's struck out 36 in 35 innings of work.

Burres dominated the Cubs on May 6th, so hopefully the Cubs are better this time around.

Who's Hot

Alfonso Soriano - He's good when he's hot and Soriano is on fire. He has seven hits in his last five games with a .950 OPS.

Starlin Castro - He's hitting .364 so far and looks to be pretty comfortable at the plate.

Who's Not

Tyler Colvin - The Cubs really need to find him at bats or let him play everyday down in Iowa. He's got one hit in his last five at bats, of course it was a home run.

Conclusions

The Cubs are bound to run off a stretch of good baseball. I vote it starts today with the Pirates and the Cubs roll to a nice winning streak.

Take it away, Lou! (Game Recap: Cubs few, Pirates a bunch)

Today's recap is brought to you by Lou Piniella and Randy Wells, courtesy of quotes lifted from Carrie Muskat's latest article.

---

"It wasn't a good series and today wasn't a very good game -- three errors," Piniella said. "We didn't pitch good today, we didn't hit good and we certainly didn't play good defense."

"It's hard to win when you don't score many runs," said Piniella.

Piniella said he'll have a little talk with the players prior to Friday's game in Cincinnati.

"I'll say something tomorrow," Piniella said. "What am I going to say? You should be able to look in the mirror pretty easy after something like this." "I would think, out of the 28 games we've played, our starting pitchers have given us a chance to win in 20 of them, maybe a couple more," Piniella said. "That's a pretty nice percentage. I can't remember too many games that have gotten away from us early."

---

"It's terrible," Wells said. "Unacceptable. Everything I've ever preached about why I'm successful, what I do to be successful, I totally got away from.

"I came in too cocky, too confident," he said. "Warming up in the bullpen, I don't think I missed a pitch. I'm laughing, joking around with [catcher Geovany Soto] before the game. I went out there and was all out of whack and let it get out of hand.

"When we needed a win the most to stop the bleeding, I got lackadaisical, wasn't on top of my game.

He didn't even take a breath in his monologue.

"That's pretty much all that happened," Wells said. "I can't throw strikes with the fastball, can't get ahead of hitters. You're flipping [bad] sliders in there, and not throwing strikes with your best pitch, which is your changeup, and that's the kind of stuff that happens. It's time to get back to work and have a reality check and realize what my job is here and what my main focus is, and that's to win ballgames.

"All that other [nonsense], [being] 3-0 and pitching for the Chicago Cubs doesn't mean [anything]," he said. "I'm here to win ballgames. As far as I'm concerned, after tonight, I'm no better than anybody. It's time to get back to work and have a good side."

---

Kudos to Carrie for some excellent quote-getting. Her full recap is available at the Cubs' website. 

Kurt:
We feel your pain, Cub fans, because it is also our pain. 

I know that, justifiably, Rob has emotionally quit on this team.  I can't say that I blame him.  I also can't say I've yet to be emotionally invested at all. 

But.  Are the Cubs "done?"  Can Jim Hendry start breaking the team apart, selling them for scrap, and building for next year?  Or for that matter -- can they just fire his ass already?

The answer is probably "no."  It pains me to write this, but I believe the Cubs are good enough to play .500 ball for most of the year.  They might even rattle off some serious winning streaks every once in a while.  Some days, they're going to blow out teams by 10 runs.  Other days, they're going to get shut out worse than a geek on prom night. 

But remember what I said at the beginning of this series ... the Cubs were closer in record to the Pirates than they were to the Cardinals.  Now, the Pirates are closer to the Cardinals than the Cubs are.  St. Louis is bound to run away with it (damn you Poo-holes!) but the rest of the Central may be a season-long cluster-bomb. 

So, as the Battle for Second Place begins, we must ask: can the Cubs win?

Gamecast: May 6th, 2010 - Cubs at Pirates

Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA) vs. Brian Murres (1-1, 6.00 ERA)

Overview

I watched my DVR last night instead of the Cubs, and I'm glad I did. The Cubs are tough team to watch, because you never know which team will show up.

Hopefully, they have enough to pride to take at least one game in the series.

Randy Wells continues to pitch well, and he remains a bright spot on this otherwise lackluster team.

Who's Hot

Octavio Dotel - Dotel couldn't help give up a runs before the Cubs came to town. Now, he's nailed two down two saves in a row.

Who's Not

Aramis Ramirez - It's hard to see him like this, because he looks lost and slow at the plate.

Conclusions

The Cubs are rough and so are the chances in 2010.

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