Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Pirates

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Oops! The Cubs suck. (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Pirates 4)

You know who's not a very good pitcher? Charlie Morton.

Maybe, going into last night's game, Charlie was saying to himself:

"Listen. You are garbage, self. But so is your team. So you know you're gonna be out there for at least five innings. Let's give these guys a bunch of crap to hit, not walk anybody, and hope they suck enough where they don't rally or anything. I'll give them all the singles they want, but no extra-base hits, and no walks."

And it worked!

The Cubs collected neither walk nor extra-base hit in this piece of crap game.

Awards for suckitude go to Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome for failing to get on base ever, and to everyone on the team for sucking generally.

In all honesty, the Cubs aren't this bad. But they're also really not that much better, either.

Let's have your predictions for number of games this team will win this season in the comments section, please.

Gamecast: May 5, 2010 - Cubs @ Pirates


Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-5, 12.57 ERA)

Overview

T'Lil makes his 3rd start tonight as the Cubs try to get back to their winning ways of late after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Buccos last night. Lilly's had one really good start and one fairly miseraable one. Often guys are up and down when they come back from shoulder surgery, so let's hope that tonight's more of the former. The Pirates' offense certainly isn't a formidable one, and I feel good about a nice outing for Bulldog #30 tonight. Opposing him is Charlie Morton who's been downright miserable this year. He's lost all 5 of his starts, and that 12+ ERA is just startling. Recent rumors have him pitching for his rotation spot tonight, so we'll see if that has any bearing on his productivity. His last start on April 30th was his best (least bad?) of the year, going 6 innings and allowing 6 runs (only 3 earned) on 6 hits. 6-6-6. Eek.

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot has a lucky 13-game hitting streak going on, during which his batting avg has risen from .222 to .357. He's certainly seeing the ball well. Alfonso Soriano has that fun little 4-game homer streak going on as well. Also hot is Milton Bradley. He's hot at his team, his manager, the home plate ump from last night, etc. Word is he walked out on his team mid-way thru the game last night. Classy, Milton...classy. I'd be lying if I said that I'm not rooting for that to end as poorly as possible and I don't care if that makes me a bad person.

Who's Not
Rami's batting average has fallen below .150. It's officially start time to become concerned. What to do about it? Drop him even further in the lineup? Also not hot are Pirates IF Ronny Cedeno (something like 4 for his last 40) and Jeff Clement (hitting far less than his weight). Oy. I'm glad I'm not a Pirates fan.

Get another winning streak going tonight and get back to .500.  Gotta get moving on these Cards, they're not showing signs of slowing.

-MW

You shouldn't lose to the Pirates. (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Pirates 3)

Game Recap
Check it out, I'm a poet:

Cubs lose. Offense sucks.
Demp gets another tough loss.
Against... the Pirates.

The two runs came on solo shots, one each from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. The three runs Dempster gave up also came in via homer -- a loner to Andy LaRoche and a two-run dinger to Ryan Church.

The Cubs struck out five times in tonight's game, and every time they did I got pretty pissed off. Of course, hitters will strike out, but tonight's Ks were almost all in big spots in the game. Pretty frustrating.

I'll rank them in order of impact, as defined (quite subjectively) by myself:

5) With two out and nobody on, Ryan Theriot strikes out in the top of the eighth.

It was late in the game, and the 2010 Theriot is supposed to be more like the 2008 one, who rarely struck out, instead of the 2009 guy who too often swung for the fences. But even if Theriot avoided the out here, it would have been tough to bring him home with two outs already in the inning.

4) With two on and two out in the top of the seventh, Xavier Nady swings and misses at an Evan Meek heater.

We had a great chance to score here, and Meek could not figure out how to throw his breaking ball for a strike. But Nady couldn't do anything with that knowledge, and the inning ended without the Cubs having scored any runs.

3) One at-bat prior to Nady's K (runners on 1st and 2nd), Alfonso Soriano struck out on a 3-2 Meek fastball -- after being ahead 3-0 at one point.

The Pirates couldn't afford to allow a runner to get to third base with only one out in the inning, so Soriano had to know he had three strikes coming -- and that's exactly what happened. He took the 3-0 fastball (dead center at 93), fouled off the 3-1 (Meek came a bit inside -- it was a good pitch), and whiffed on the 3-2.

A productive out would have moved the speedy Marlon Byrd to 3rd base for Nady, putting more pressure on Meek against Nady, and of course a hit would have scored a run, and put another runner in scoring position for Nady. The K was painful there.

2) Mike Fontenot leads off the top of the ninth by swinging and missing at a letter-high fastball fastball from Octavio Dotel on a 3-2 count.

Simply taking a ball way out of the zone would have put the leadoff man on against a shaky closer with our three, four, and five hitters due up. In my mind, this game was over as soon as Font swung and missed here.

But I'm even more pissed about a strikeout that happened much earlier.

1) In the top of the fifth inning, with Marlon Byrd on 2nd, Aramis Ramirez, our cleanup hitter -- the artist formerly known as Clutchy McClutcherson -- struck out swinging on the fourth pitch of his at bat.

Foul tip. Called strike. Ball. Swinging strike.

A perfect demonstration of ineptitude.

Aramis Ramirez looks straight up terrible, folks. He's never slumped like this.

And the worst part is, it's not even bad luck really. It'd be one thing if his line shots were finding gloves, or if his hard hit grounders were all being hit right at people. But Aramis is just swinging and missing WAY TOO MUCH, and hitting weak crap every time else. He's hitting .149 on the season.

He looks terrible. And if it weren't for the first half of last year, this would be a perfect time to say, "I don't know what the Cubs will do this season if he continues to play this way." Because we all know what it felt like watching the Cubs without Aramis Ramirez last year.

On that note: Guess who will almost certainly be exercising his 2012 player option worth $14.6 million?

(Editor's Note: Feel free to check out an article I -- Kurt -- wrote for a Pirates blog known as Rum Bunter.  It's a pretty cool site)

Gamecast: May 4th, 2010 - Cubs at Pirates

Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Paul Malholm (1-2, 4.83 ERA)

Overview

Who thinks they know the Cubs? Well, it looks like we all do. They are either really good or really bad, which has led us to the .500 record thus far.

The Cubs travel to th Burgh for the first time this season while trying to get above .500. The Cubs had a chance last week, but ended up losing three straight to put that out of the question.

The Cardinals are already 5 games in front in the NL Central, but there is still tons of time left in the year. The Cubs still are looking for stability in the bullpen, but the Carloses have been pretty good.

Today, Xavier Nady will probably get the start against the lefy along with Jeff Baker. It would be nice to see Nady get going to go along with our other guys with the DH coming soon in interleague play.

The Cubs are stroking the ball at the plate up and down the lineup. So, lets get to the last seven days.

Who's Hot

Ryan Theriot - There is no way he keeps this up. He's hitting .423 in his last seven with five runs scored. He only has one walk during this time.

Alfonso Soriano - He gets like this a couple times year, and the only question how long does it last? He's hitting .420 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in his last five games played.

Kosuke Fukudome - He's played way better than I thought and now he's driving the ball. In his last six, he's walked six times and has a 1.298 OPS.

Who's Not

Tyler Colvin - He's not getting at bats and has one hit in his last nine at bats.

Aramis Ramirez - Hopefully the day off helped him the most. He's hitting .190 in his last five games.

Conclusions

The Cubs are an interesting team, but I would love to see a long winning streak continue through the Reds series this weekend.

Series Preview: Cubs at Pittsburgh

Series Preview
First, stop reading this article and check out the Series Preview written by Brandon on the Readers Blog section.  Chances are, it's better than mine will be. 

Okay -- are you back?  Let's roll.

Overview:
These days, Cub fans love the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They're NL Central speak for "easy pickings."  And, for as badly hit-and-miss as the Cubs have been, it's nothing compared to the Pirates. 

Check it out -
Pittsburgh has won 10 games.  8 of those 10 games have come in streak clusters -- 2 to start off the season, 3 in a row from April 16-18, and 3 more from April 27-29.  As is to be expected, the Pirates have outscored their opponents 56-34 in games they've won.

Pittsburgh has lost 15 games.  All but 1 loss came in streak clusters -- with a 7 game losing skid from April 20th to April 26th, and 3 more losses since Friday.  And while they would be, obviously, expected to be outscored by their opponents in these losses, it's more like they've been blown out.  Pirate opponents have outscored them 141-30 in their losses.  That's nearly 10 runs given up per game by Pirates pitchers in losses.  Pittsburgh has already had games in which they surrendered 10 runs (April 8, April 25), 15 runs (April 11), 17 runs (April 26), and 20 runs (April 22). 

Ouch.  Seriously, ouch.

But as ridiculous as those lines are, the Pirates are presently closer to the Cubs in the standings than the Cubs are to the Cardinals. 

On this blog, it's probably not too popular to stand up and proclaim your belief that the Cubs not only might reach the post season this year, but they probably will.  Well, looking purely at the standings, the Pirates would have an easier time overtaking the Cubs than the Cubs would overtaking the Cardinals.  Figure that one out.

The Match-Ups
Tuesday, May 4th - Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.83 ERA)

Dempster has so far been a pretty reliable starter, but it's extremely early.  Still, most years he has been considerably more effective at home than on the road (Sman would probably consider that to be a fatal defect). 

His opponent is lefty Paul Maholm, whose career ERA (4.35) is a lot better than his career record (39-46).  Then again, he's pitched for a team that's never won 70 games or more while he's been there, so a poor record is understandable.

Wednesday, May 5th - Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-5, 12.57 ERA)
Lilly is bound to improve upon his ERA, but so is Morton. I mean, Charlie Morton really isn't that bad, is he?  Maybe he's just the victim of circumstance?  Looking at his game log this year, it's hard to miss the fact that his "best" game was his last one, in which he "only" gave up 6 runs -- 3 earned -- in 6 innings pitched.

Still, he's probably due for a good game.

Thursday, May 6th - Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA) vs. Who the Hell Knows

The Pirates haven't announced their final starter yet, but Brandon suspects that it will be Brian Burres, who pitched well against the Dodgers last week.

Randy Wells, who couldn't buy a win to start his 2009 season, is off to an unbeaten start in 2010.  If the Cubs manage to pull up the nose on their tailspin (and it looks like they will), it will be due to the solid pitching of guys like Randy.

Conclusions

Yep, Brandon definitely said it better.

Here's one thought for you -- yes, the Cubs bullpen sux, no denying that, and yes, they are either Big Hit or Huge Miss, but I think Rob is wrong to suggest that the '10 team as we see them cannot get the job done.  Here's why:

Do you really think that, in September, the starting third baseman of the Chicago Cubs will be batting .155?  And do you really think the starting first baseman will be batting .221?

Granted, this was the same argument I made last year when Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto were leading the Suck Ass Charge, but I think it's still a fair argument to make.  While it's true that Alfonso Soriano will probably not be a .325 hitter all year long, and while we know that Fukudome will certainly not be a .342'er, improved hitting from Lee and Ramirez will go a long way toward making the Cubs offense a little more regular.

In other words, if you happen to have that unfortunate opinion that the Cubs just might be a thread to compete this year after all ... well, I'm right there with you.  These guys aren't done just yet.

Buy Chicago baseball tickets at Coast to Coast, your Chicago Cubs ticket source!

Series Preview: Cubs at Pirates

The Pirates got off to a 7-5 start but have gone a more Pirate-like 3-10 since. Their recent slide is not the result of bad luck--the fact is, they don't do much of anything well. They've scored just 86 runs this season (second-worst in the NL) while allowing more than twice that many (175, worst in the NL). This amazingly bad run differential puts them on pace to be outscored by nearly 600 runs this season. While that's really, really unlikely to happen, it's clear that Pittsburgh is really, really bad.

Which is nothing new, of course. The Cubs went 10-4 against them last year after going 14-4 the year before. Though the Cubs will be away from home, they really need to start the road trip off right by winning--if not sweeping--this series. Fortunately, using the transitive property, we can see that the Pirates have been outscored by an average of seven runs per game in their six contests with the Brewers this year, while the Cubs have outscored the Brewers by an average of four runs per game; therefore, the Cubs will outscore the Pirates by an average of 11 runs per game in this series. That's science.

Tuesday, May 4--Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78) vs. LH Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.83)

Dempster has been on fire lately, even if he did lose his last start. He beat the Pirates twice last year, but had a modest 4.66 ERA against them. While it's still early, Dempster's road split is actually better than his home split so far this season--he has a 1.32 ERA in two road starts, with three walks and 13 strikeouts.

Maholm's last two starts were almost identical: 7 IP, 4 ER in both. His one start against the Cubs last year was the reverse: 4 IP, 7 ER, though the Pirates won that game 10-8 (look who got the win). He struggles against righties, so Xavier Nady is likely to get a start here against his former team.

Wednesday, May 5--Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91) vs. Charlie "Holy crap look how bad my numbers are" Morton (0-5, 12.57)

These two matched up last September 30, with Morton throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout. In mid-August, however, Morton lasted just one inning against the Cubs and gave up 10 earned runs. Morton has been downright awful this season: he's allowed at least three earned runs in all five of his starts, given up seven long balls, and has allowed more than two hits and walks per inning pitched (2.17 WHIP). Go get 'im, boys.

It was probably unfair to assume that despite having just come off the DL, Lilly would stay in the groove he was in when he faced Milwaukee. He struggled with his control and gave up several long balls in his second start of the year last week against Arizona, giving him one great start and one terrible one on the season. Lilly was 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA against the Pirates last year. Andy LaRoche is the only current Pirate with a home run off Lilly, while Ryan Doumit is 5-for-15 in his career against him.

Thursday, May 6--Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45) vs. LH Brian "TBD" Burres (1-1, 6.00)

The Pirates have not yet announced Thursday's starter--someone needs to fill in for the injured Ross Ohlendorf. Burres did so admirably last week with 5.1 scoreless against the Dodgers, and seems a likely candidate for the series finale. Only Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady have faced him more than three times--Nady is 2-for-7 against him while Byrd's one hit off him was a home run. Recently recalled Brian Bass would seem to be the other potential starter for this game (9.00 ERA in 2 IP).

Wells had his worst start of the season on Friday, though he still got the win. He had success against the Pirates last year, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Andrew McCutchen is 3-for-5 against him.

Gameccast: October 1st vs. Pirates

Pat Maholm (8-9,4.44 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-3, 7.53 ERA) 
Story Lines

The official Wait until 2010 is underway, and I can't wait for it, because I'm sick of the 2009 bunch (except Derrek Lee). 

The Cubs looked terrible yesterday, but they get one more chance against the Pirates today. 

The Cubs are going to look at Jeff Samardzija one more time tonight. I would suspect he will get an extended look next spring, since the Cubs probably are not going to bring back Rich Harden. 

Who's Hot

Hopefully, the Cubs in 2010 

Who's Not

Kevin Gregg's rib - Looks like he's been pitching hurt for a little while.  

Conclusions

Enjoy the last couple games of 2009. I have a feeling the Cubs will make another run next year.

Game Recaps - Pirates 4, Cubs 0; Pirates 8, Cubs 2 -- Double Sweeper

Ouch.  I guess the Cubs decided that they were successful in achieving their winning season, and so they decided to take the day off.  Either that or Pittsburgh really, really doesn't want to lose 100 games this year.

Either way, the Cubs got their asses kicked by a combined score of 12-2, with the Cubs' only runs coming in Game 2 thanks to the bats of Ryan Theriot and Mike "Death Rattle" Fontenot.  Cubs pitchers Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano were both shellacked for 4 earned runs, and the Moose is now facing his first ever single-digit wins total since he became a starter way back in the days when most of our male readers -- or female, for that matter -- were not yet able to grow a beard. 

Offensively, no Cub hitter managed to get hits in both games, while Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge went 4 for 8 between both games.  The Cubs play one more against Pittsburgh, tomorrow, before wrapping it up against the Diamondbacks this weekend. 

So, back to Carlos.  I'm sure that the Big Moose is less than pleased with his performance this year -- in fact, he threatened retirement recently (for the second time this season) if he should happen to have as crappy a 2010.  I appreciate this competitive fire in him.  If Carlos is an ace -- and I will acknowledge after this crappy year that he's a poor man's ace at best -- then more important than his comradery, more important than his maturity, and even more important than the health of his arm is his desire to win and his ability to amalgamate that desire with his God-given talent. 

This desire -- something we've seen this year reflected in his frustration -- will hopefully lead him to condition himself better and to work harder at preparation before each start.  And, hopefully, to also remember his game-plan and mechanics even in the face of shitty defense and below-average offensive support.

I could be wrong about all that.  I fully admit it's less a theory and more a hope, but Zambrano's "I'll retire" rhetoric sure as shit beats Manny's "who cares if we win the World Series, there's always next year" line from a few years ago.

Gamecast: September 30th vs. Pirates

Game 1: Charlie Morton (4-9, 5.01 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (12-8, 3.02 ERA)


Game 2: Jeff Karstens (3-5, 5.45 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (9-6, 3.69 ERA)

Story Lines

Little did I know that Kevin Gregg has been shut down for the year. Wow, that is some exciting news for a team that clinched another winning season. For as bad as the Cubs seemed this year, they will probably end up with 85-87 wins. They actually would probalby win every game if they played the Pirates all the time.

Today, Ted Lilly tries to lower his ERA under 3, and Carlos Zambrano attempts to pick up his 10 win. IT looks like the Cubs will continue to shut down players this year. I find it unlikely that Aramis Ramirez gets many starts as he will need to rehab his shoulder for 2010. It will also be interesting to see how some of the other younger players react to the playing. Is Tyler Colvin the answer? I doubt it, but Jim Hendry's job will be on the line in 2010, so the Cubs should be active in the offseason.



Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Can we get another year of Red-Hot Lee? He picked up two more RBI yesterday, and now has 111 on the season. Too bad it goes for nothing.

Sam Fuld - Fuld had three hits yesterday to raise his average to .302. Not bad for his longest stint with the Cubs.

Who's Not

The Cubs Playoff Hopes - The Cubs were officially elminated from the playoffs yesterday after the Rockies beat the Brewers. Well, I guess Next Year is the Year.

Conclusions

I haven't seen a game in about a week thanks to my moving, and dealing with floods in Georgia. I all I know is that I will be at Opening Day in 2010 in Atlanta. Who's with me? 

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 0

Ryan Dempster pitched a complete game shut-out last night against Pittsburgh, earning his 11th win of the season and putting him within reach of becoming the only Cubs pitcher in 2009 to throw in 200 innings.  Clownsevelt will likely have 1 more start against Arizona, and barring disaster should reach the milestone.

Taking a closer look at all the Cubs starters, we find a bunch of very talented pitchers with very good numbers ... if this was the end of July.  Just about everybody has thrown in 26 or 27 games, everybody has won about 10 games per, and everybody's ERA is in the 3.00-4.00 range with Harden topping out at 4.09.

Were it not for the numerous injuries, the bad luck, and the shoddy offensive performances, then this would be a very fun pitching staff to watch in October.  Still, the Cubs managed to win their 82nd game last night, meaning that they've achieved a first-in-my-lifetime accomplishment -- three consecutive winning seasons.  (Hurrah?)

Offensively, the Cubs capitalized on three Pirate errors, resulting in 6 runs off of 8 hits and 7 walks.  Derrek Lee drove in 2 more -- putting him at 111 on the season -- but Sam Fuld went 3 for 4 as he vies for a spot on next year's team as a backup.

Anyway, the Cubs play the Pirates today in a double header.  It should be a good time, had by all, although the GameCast will be very, very late (as in, probably not until after the first game has been played) unless Yarbage is available.

Go Cubs!

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