Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Pirates

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Game Recap: Cubs 3, Pirates 1 - Looks like they can win close ones after all


Cubs win
That was more like the Rich Harden we remember.

On a day in which the Chicago Cubs could've been hurdled by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the standing, Rich Harden stood up and delivered 7 strong innings, minus one blip in the 5th in which he loaded the bases and surrendered a run before escaping. Harden was then relieved by Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg, both of whom delivered hitless, walkeless, scoreless 8th and 9th innings for the Cubs. Apparently 1-2-3 innings are so rare with those guys that it bares mentioning in this recap.

Offensively the Cubs were able to collect 7 hits and draw 2 walks, with multi-hit days coming from Milton Bradley and Jake Fox. How about Fox, by the way? Two weeks ago he was a pinch hitter whose defensive skills were so terrible that the Cubs couldn't possibly think of him in a starting role. Except now he's holding down the fort at third (and whether his defensive skills are on par with Keith Moreland, Ron Cey, or a cardboard box he hasn't cost the Cubs any games over where) while batting .347.

Speaking of getting hits, Ryan Theriot knocked his 7th homerun of the year last night. Before this season Theriot had 7 career homeruns, so naturally he's on steroids. I wonder what Colin thinks about him these days?

The Cubs remain within striking distance of first place. It's probably wrong to expect a sweep, but a series win would be huge considering that the Cubs play their next two sets against two of the three teams ahead of them in the standings. It's not too late to go on a rampage. Another win today would be heee-yuuuuuge.

GameCast: June 29th at Pittsburgh

GameCastStory-lines
What a crazy day it's been.  It's probably never a good thing when a sports blog's biggest news is the strife on the blog -- rather than on the team the blog covers -- although I suppose I'd rather there be dissent here than on the Cubs. 

Still, we've learned today that we shouldn't care about whether or not rival fans are homophobic -- and the act of caring may make us homophobic to boot -- and that people are incredibly, unbelievably sensitive on both sides when it comes to voicing opinions that aren't necessarily popular (and opinions on either side could fall into that category, so don't assume I'm talking about one or the other). 

I have learned, meanwhile, that it is impossible to satisfy everybody -- and to try doing so leaves nobody at all feeling any kind of satisfaction.  So, I guess I'm going to go back to only trying to satisfy meself. 

Who's Hot
Not the Cubs.  Sorry, should I sugar-coat it?  Should I pretend that before the 2007 season I never wanted Jim Hendry fired for a laundry list of reasons, which he only was able to avoid by finally opening the check book and signing some top tier talent?  Should I pretend to have never felt that Hendry was forced to compensate for his complete and undeniable inability to grow talent by throwing oodles of money at players who are now under-performing en masse -- players he now has zero chance of moving even if he sees a way to improve his team?  Should I also pretend that I was alone in wanting the Cubs to have a change back before two winning -- but ultimately futile -- seasons were purchased?

That doesn't mean I have given up on the 2009 season, on the contrary I really haven't.  But I have given up on having expectations.  Maybe the Cubs will pull it together -- they should certainly be capable of doing so, but we all may agree that inertia is a bitch -- or maybe they won't.  I don't think this blog is doing a disservice by suggesting that the possibility that they won't is indeed a possibility.  And it's a possibility that's growing stronger each and every day.

In the past, this blog -- along with all the other cool blogs -- would have sneered at the Pollyellons of the world, forecasting sunshine on even a cloudy day, but it seems that even some of our own writers get very, very ANGRY when we say things like "this team isn't performing up to expectations" and "maybe somebody should be held accountable, like Lou Piniella or Jim Hendry."

This morning I wrote a big section about who's to blame.  Without blaming any one person, I did point out that everybody could be blamed.  From Milton Bradley and his fragile ego to Lou Piniella and his questionable management, from any hitter who's underperforming to any pitcher who's failed to get a big out, this mess does not fall on the shoulders of just one person.  But why is it too much to ask that maybe somebody man up and take some kind of responsibility for things?  Rather than get mad at me for asking that question, answer it instead.  I'd appreciate that.

Anyway, I have always -- always* -- said that baseball is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately sport.  The mastermind who built your team's World Championship squad five years ago should not be guaranteed a job for life, especially if said team is lounging about in the basement on mom's computer.  I refuse to kiss Lou Piniella's ass from now until the day he gracefully retires because he gave me the first back-to-back division title Cub teams of my lifetime.  Getting mad at me for being consistent -- and you can go back and read through everything I have ever written, my philosophy of baseball has not suddenly changed -- is pointless and wrong. 

(*ALWAYS)

So here's what I'm going to do.  I am going to blog about the Cubs.  When they lose a tough game, just like Harry Caray in the booth, or like Steve Stone, I am not going to pull my punches about how upset I feel.  When they win big -- or even little -- I'm not going to rain on everybody's parade. 

I will try like hell to have fun while doing it.  If the season progresses and the Cubs continue to tank, you can bet your ass that the fun I have will be directed at them.  The balls-busting photoshops are on their way. 

But I will not give up on the 2009 season until my two previously-mentioned conditions are met.  For those with short memories, they are as follows: 10 games below .500, or 10 games out of a playoff spot.

If you have a problem with me busting balls or being truthful about the frustrating moments then this is the time to voice your displeasure.  Otherwise I can only assume that you're in it with us for the long haul.  Sound fair?

Conclusions
So, yeah.  That's tonight's GameCast.  Fun, wowee, I hope you enjoyed it my friends.

Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Series Preview
Matchups
Overview

The Pirates roll into town with a chance to leap-frog the Cubs and send the Cubs reeling into last place.  That's cool.

The Pirates, compared to the Cubs, are an offensive juggernaut.  They currently rank 7th in the league in runs (the Cubs are 13th), lead by Adam LaRoche, Freddie Sanchez, and Andrew McCutchen.  Those are pretty decent hitters, but do you know how many of the Pirates hitters have been better than their Cub counterpart?

All of them.  Seriously.  If you swapped any Pirate player for his positional equivalent on the Cubs, you would see an offensive improvement.  That may be the most remarkable statement I've ever written on this site.  The Pirates are that much better than the Cubs offensively.

Me: astounded.

So next time you think about the trouble the Cubs have had hitting the ball, just remember this: the Pirates are 100% better.

Niiiiiice.

The Matchups

Monday, June 29th - Rich Harden vs. Zach Duke
Harden has been a hard 'en to figure out (heh).  We all know that there are hardly any pitchers out there with better stuff then Harden when healthy and on, and yet Harden looks terrible.  Granted, he hasn't been on and we don't know if he's healthy, but...well, I don't have a conclusion to that sentence.  I just want him to do better. I was really excited to have a full season of Rich Harden and he's been yet another disappointment in 2009. 

Zach Duke is the Pirate's best pitcher and a likely all-star, so of course the scuffling Cubs get to face him.  Whee!  Historically, the Cubs have handled him pretty well, but historically the Cubs haven't tried this hard to break my heart.  Okay, that's a lie. But in the last two years, they haven't tried to break my heart at all.

Except in the playoffs.  What was my point again?

Tuesday, June 30th - Ted Lilly vs. Ross Ohlendorf
Other than in his last outing, Lilly have been quite good.  He has started to slow a bit recently, but overall he's still the Cubs' go-to guy and their likely all-star representative.  If anyone can stop the pain, it's Lilly.  Of course, generally "stopping the pain" means "killing the victim" after "a long night of torture" and is followed up with "sauteeing the victim's liver in olive oil and serving it up with a light chardonney".  However, if could also mean beating the Pirates.

Ross Ohlendorf?  I'm sorry, until you get a real name, I can't write about you.



Wednesday, July 1st - Randy Wells vs. Virgil Vasquez
Randy Wells has stopped his losing ways and has begun a nice little winning streak (yes, two games is a streak).  Aside from Lilly who gets the nod for a full season's worth of performance, Wells has been the Cubs' best pitcher.  With a combination of control and movement, Wells have kept hitters off balance and the Cubs in the game. 

Virgil?  Jeebus, where do the Pirates get these guys.  Virgil threw 6 innings of 2 run ball against the Royals in his only start.  Extrapolating from those numbers, I expect him to throw 14 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs and with 42 strikeouts.

Conclusion
The starting pitching is strong and the offense is weak.  Will the Pirates come in and sweep the Cubs and send them rocketing into last?  Only time will tell.

(although the answer is yes)

Go Cubs.

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Game & Series Recap: Cubs 5 (2), Pirates 2 (1)

Cubs win
In the early months of the 2009 baseball season, a crack baseball team was sentenced to numerous ejections by the MLB disciplinary committee for infractions they didn't commit.  These men promptly escaped from their maximum suspension sentences to the Chicago underground.  Today, still wanted by baseball's authorities, they survive as athletes for hire.  If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ... the C-Team. 

The C-Team
These Cubs.  If you're not a fan of them to begin with they seem awfully hard to love.  When Milton Bradley isn't "bumping" umpires and complaining about a conspiracy against him, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano are all trying like hell to get themselves ejected and suspended.  Today was Zambrano's turn.

After arguing angrily with an umpire in the 7th inning, the Moose was ejected for "bumping" the ump -- who, based on the footage I saw, stepped into Carlos.  Upset by the obvious ruse to get him tossed, Carlos promptly did the only sensible thing: he ejected the umpire, returned to the dugout, and beat the holy hell out of a gatorade cooler.

Apart from the likelihood that Mr. Z is looking at probably a 7 to 10 game suspension, I have to admit ... that was pretty freaking cool.  Sorry, I know, he needs to start acting like an adult and all, but c'mon.  Can you blame him?

I respectfully direct you to early June, 2007.  An angry Carlos Zambrano pummels his teammate and catcher.  The team's manager has a legendary fit with an umpire and gets ejected.  And that was when a team 9 games under .500 started to roll.  Carlos must be sick of waiting on Lou Piniella because after his amazing flip-out the Cubs -- who had been offensively inadequate -- scored 3 runs in the 8th and won the game and the series against the Pirates.

Speaking of the offense, maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that Reed Johnson is perhaps stepping up and filling the leadership role the Cubs have lacked the past few years.  He apparently told Milton Bradley the other day that M.B. doesn't have to shut down his at bat just because the umpire blows a call -- resulting in a resurgent Don't Wake Daddy (who went 1 for 3 today with a walk and a triple) -- and he hit a clutch go-ahead homer after Zambrano's ejection.

The Cubs also saw 3 more hits from Ryan Theriot and they were greeted by Jake Fox who hit a pinch hit, run-scoring double.  Fox is going to be interesting.  He can't play defense but he can hit the ball a mile.

All told, it was a harder win than it looked and a more interesting and entertaining game than we could have expected.  The Cubs head tomorrow into a match-up against the Dodgers who have been hot as hell despite missing their star slugger.

And am I concerned about Zambrano's meltdown?  Nope.  I've been to this party before.  The last time it happened, it was Lou doing the flip-out.  I misread the situation, thought he'd lost the team and the season was over and immediately found myself proven wrong.  So no worries here with Carlos ... even if he misses a little bit of time and grows a mo-hawk.

Current Record: 23-22
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4 games out
Best Possible Record: 140-22
Worst Possible Record: 23-139
Record needed to win 110: 87-30
On Pace For: 83-79

Gamecast: May 27 vs. Pirates

GameCastZach Duke (5-4, 2.77 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (3-2, 4.64 ERA)


Story-Lines
The Cubs won a game yesterday. Can you believe it? I will repeat it for effect: the Cubs won a game yesterday! It's about time. I'm not one to go all doom and gloom, but a eight-game losing streak will get on anybody's nerves, including the most faithful of Cub fans.

Today, the Cubs go for their first series win in ages (ok, I know it is only a couple weeks, but still). They will send Carlos Zambrano to the mound against notorious Cub killer Zach Duke.

This is another in a string of lefties the Cub will face in the next couple days. Do you know what that means? Reed Johnson better get some extra BP.

Believe it or not, the Cubs are only four games back heading into today's matchup. Of course they can't gain any group with the Cardinals and Brewers playing each other.

In good news, the offense has shown signs of life. After being shutout for what seems like two solid weeks, the Cubs have scored 14 runs in the last two games (too bad it only meant one victory).

UPDATE: As I was writing this, the Cubs made three moves to improve the ball club. It looks like Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts are headin to AAA, while Aaron Miles is going on the DL. Jason Waddell takes the lone lefty spot on the roster, while Jake Fox is called up. I would think that Fox would get a start today against the lefty. Also, the Cubs called up Andres Blanco, who was playing SS in AAA. We will see how many of these guys get a start.


Who's Hot
Kosuke Fukudome - Say what you want from the man from Japan, but he continues to look good. He hit his fifth home run yesterday that gave the Cubs a lead they wouldn't lose. He's also the only Cub regular that is active and hitting over .300.

Mike Fontenot - This may be a little early, but Theriot's double play partner had two more hits last night. That gives him five hits in three games. He might get the day off with the Cubs facing a lefty again today.

The Cubs Pen - They were perfect last night. They didn't allow a run during the rain delay and kept Marshall's 6-1 lead in tact. Also, the Cubs get Carlos Marmol back today after his wife gave birth. So, that's a plus.

Who's Not

Ryan Freel, Aaron Miles and any other player that's not Mark DeRosa - Freel went 0-for-3 last night and saw his average slide to .125. Miles is killing it with a .204 average.

Conclusions

The Cubs really, really need to win. It's going to be tough since Carlos is still working his way back from his injury, while the Pirates toss Duke. I think the Cubs win in a close one, hopefully with a home run from new Cub Jake Fox.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 1, Losing Streak Over

Cubs win
Lou Piniella finally figured out how to overcome his bullpen troubles: pray for rain.

One thing for sure - based on the last two games, the Cubs offense has finally revitalized a little.  In a rain-soaked (and shortened) game, the Cubs scored 6 in 5 innings.  Every Cubs regular got on base at least once except Ryan Freel, while the Questionable Quartet -- or at least, the half that played -- were key contributors to the offense.

Milton Bradley was 0 for 1 with 2 walks and a run scored and Mike Fontenot went 2 for 3, raising his AVG back up to .219 (hey, we'll take it).

Also, Kosuke Fukudome continues to be on pace to out-slug his '07 self, after hitting his 5th homerun of the year in the 1st. 

Sean Marshall, meanwhile, continues to prove that he was a good choice to start.  He got a cheap Complete Game (although I suspect they won't "count" it as such in his stats), dropped his ERA to 3.70, and struck out 6.

The Cubs play in the rubber game today -- something we haven't been able to look forward to in a long, long time.

Game Recap: Pirates 10,Cubs 8; ouch

Game Recap
Good news, everybody!  In a single day of play the Cubs were able to accumulate 1/3rd of the hits they'd had over the span of 6 games and they were also able to nearly double their offensive output.

Bad news, they still lost by 2 runs.  Let's look at the negatives first:

Ryan Dempster
If you'd listen to some of our more negative readers, then you'd learn

  • that Dempster is a suspected growth-injector (how else do you explain his great 2008 and his poor 2009?)
  • that the Cubs should have let the Braves sign him and take the draft pick (because in Chicago they shouldn't reward good play with contracts, but if they'd let him go then Henry would have been painted as somebody who doesn't try and fans would have lamented the loss of a clubhouse leader)
  • that he sucks and is done for.

Cubs fans.  Guh.  Nevertheless, he sure did have a bad outing last night. 

Neal Cotts
Lou Pineilla, you do not need a lefty in your bullpen if that lefty is Neal Cotts.  He's got a 7.36 ERA.  He's finished.  Let him go.

Aaron Heilman
He's looking a lot like last year's Heilman, rather than the Heilman of years before.  After another rough outing yesterday his ERA is now 5.49 and he is on the Can't Be Trusted list.

All told it was a complete failure of the pitching staff -- who had previously been doing well in these trying times.  But at least the Cubs offense let us know they're alive.  The positives:

Ryan Theriot
After a huge, HUGE slump, Theriot busted out with a 3 for 5 (all 3 hits doubles) game. 

Milton Bradley
While slowly descending into insanity, Bradley went 2 for 5 with a homer and double raising his AVG to a Neifi-esque .198!

Geovany Soto
Soto also collected 2 hits, raising his AVG to a plump .214.

All told, the Cubs walked 7 times on top of their 10 hits and they scored a lot of runs.  But who really knows ... I suppose it's possible that they are indeed going to bat .160 as a team for the rest of the season and lose pretty much every single game.

Or -- hear me out -- or, just maybe this is a very bad bump on a very long road.  But as I've said... it makes sense to worry.  There are some problems that need to be fixed.  But to give up?  Now?  Seriously?

GameCast: May 25th - Pirates vs. Cubs

GameCastStory-lines
We have on one hand the worst team in the NL Central with a long history of losing, a sick fan base, and no promise of a better 2009.  We have on the other hand the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Wait, what?

Start that over. 

If ever there was a team the hapless Pirates could sweep, it would be not the 2009 Cubs, but the May 17th-May 24* 2009 Cubs.  The Cubs of the past week have been bad.  Real bad.  They've been turn your hair grey and make you kiss a guy bad.  But unless this is 1904, the Cubs offense is bound to average more than 1.5 runs a game.  Things are going to get better.

(*date could change)

Who's Hot
Let's just skip this section for now.  Nobody on the offense is hot.  With apologies to Reed Johnson -- who hit a dinger yesterday -- it takes more than one hit in a game to be "hot" and the Cubs offense is about as cold as your wife would be if she discovered that you just bought your favorite car without consulting her. 

However, the Cubs rotation has been pretty damned good.  In the past 7 days, as a team their ERA has been below 4.  You would think that a sub-4 team ERA would warrant at least a .500 record rather than 7 straight losses, but... well ... no.

Who's Not
In particular, Aaron Heilman has been getting his ass kicked as of late - he's allowed 3 runs in his last 2 innings of work and he was at least partly responsible for Ted Lilly's recent bad performance.  (Not in the sense that he kicked Lilly in the back of the head before the 5th inning or anything, but rather in the sense that Lilly exited disgracefully with runners on and Heilman failed to keep them from scoring.)


The Cubs offense
, by the way, is batting -- as a team, mind you -- .160 in the last 7 days.  Subtract the prodigeous contributions of Derrek Tiberius Lee and that's a .137 team AVG.  Speaking of Lee, 125 at bats into 2009 and he is still DP free.  Just wanted to remind you.

Conclusions
Jason said it best earlier.  Best bring your brooms to Wrigley Field, biatches.  There's gonna be some sweepin' to do in a coupla days!  SWEEEEEEE...

Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Series Preview
match-ups
Overview

While this has been the least enjoyable team to watch since Jacque Jones patrolled center, the world is hardly ending (which I know because the seas haven't turned to blood, the four horsemen - er, goat riders - of the apocalypse aren't around, and Bobby Scales doesn't wear the number of the beast). 

Nope, this is just a rough patch.  This week has been an interesting (heh, "interesting") combination of bad luck and bad performance.  Over the last week, the Cubs posted a BABIP of .211 after putting up a BABIP of .280 for the whole season.  A .280 BABIP is kind of unlucky, but .211 is insane.  That's simply not a sustainable over any kind of length of time.  Things have to get better. 

If you're interested in reading about season long bad luck, take a look at the luck of the questionable quartet.  Bradley, Fontenot, Soto, and Lee have posted BABIP* of .203, .221, .253, and .274.  The career numbers for these players are .320, .314, .326, and .322 (hat tip to ACB for bringing this to my attention).  That's...insane.  While I could accept that Fontenot's and Soto's career numbers are not representative of their true talent levels, Bradley and Lee are well established.  And maybe Lee's in decline, but what about Bradley? 

(* BABIP - Batting average on balls in play.  This number should trend towards career norms, all things being equal)

Nope.  This is all just a bunch of really, really bad luck. It's what's called a team-wide slump.  Have you felt like all the Cub players are hitting the ball right at people?  That no line drive will fall and sharp ground balls up the middle deflect off the pitcher RIGHT TO THE SECOND BASEMAN?  Well, the evidence is in the numbers.  You aren't crazy, the Cubs' luck is.

Want some more bad luck?  Soriano has a BABIP of .276 but a career mark of .308.  Ryan Theriot?  He has a .285 BABIP with a career BABIP of .314.  IT'S INSANE!  Nobody's hitting up to their career marks!  GAH!

Now, this isn't entirely bad luck, as I mentioned.  It is also bad performance.  With the exception of Soto, each of these players is hitting fewer line drives than usual.  In the case of Lee and Fontenot, they're hitting about half as many line drives as usual.  As one might guess, this can make it harder to hit for average.  But still, nothing here indicates that Fontenot and Bradley should have BABIP's below .230.

Okay, enough of the luck business.  Let's look at how hilariously bad the Cubs have been over the last week.  How about these numbers:

  • Team line: .161/.211/.214
  • And OPS+ of 19.  Yes, 19.
  • Exactly 6 extra base hits.

Hilarious.

The point of all this is that things have to get better.  While I suppose it is possible to have bad luck for an entire season, but it seems a bit unlikely.  And would you like to know the best way to turn around bad luck?

Do you want to know?

Face the Pirates!  Yay!

The Match-Ups
May 25th - Ryan Dempster vs. Paul Maholm
In his last outing, Dempster foolishly thought that 7 innings of 2 run baseball would be good enough for a win.  Silly Ryan!  Don't you know that you're on the team of destiny.  And by destiny, I mean something along the lines of "destined for anal fissures" (so...not "greatness").  Ever since the calendar turned to May, Dempster has been excellent, posing an ERA south of 4 while eating up innings.  The trend for Dempster has been consistently upwards, so I see good things on the horizon.

Maholm has always managed to beat the Cubs, despite not really pitching all that well against them.  I'm actually pretty happy to see Maholm going up against the Cubs, giving them a shot at a lefty.  I see good things coming out of this game.

May 26th - Sean Marshall vs. Ian Snell
Marshall was good in his last outing but, because of the absurdity of the Cubs offense, had to come out of the game despite pitching well.  Marshall's been awesome all season and, being a lefty, has a chance to neutralize the Pirates best hitter, Nate McClouth.

Snell's been pretty crappy all year.  He was also crappy in 2008.  He will be crappy in this start.  He will lose. 


May 27th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Zach Duke
This is the match-up of the series, with ace going against ace.  Zambrano showed good stuff in his last outing, but bad control.  Having a start under his belt, I see much better things for his today.  Plus, you know, he's facing the Pirates.

Duke has been a beast all season, after three years of him trying to rediscover his rookie year magic.  He has very good stuff and it seems that he just needed to learn to control it.  Still, he's another lefty, so I seem the Cubs - having recently broken out of their slump - beating him mercilessly.

Conclusions

The Cubs are going to sweep.  Sweep sweep sweep.  Sweep.

SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE


(*breath*)

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!

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NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 25)

Although I almost dug my heart out with an old wooden spoon yesterday in the wake of loss #7, I'm partially relieved that the rest of the division had a somewhat "meh"-ish week as well. In the last 10 games, no team in the NLC has a record better than 6-4 (Brew, Cards, Bucs). Yay for synchronized mediocrity.

Tribune power rankings: Brewers, Cards, Cubs, Pirates, Reds, Astros

1. St. Louis Morans (26-18) Previous ranking: 4

The Cards can thank the Cubs for giving them the confidence they needed to start playing like the best friggin pitching staff in Tony La Russa's time as their manager. Your welcome St. Louis. (PS - As I write this, Carpenter is pitching a no-no against the Brewers. I hate everything.)

2. Milwaukee Makers Of Why I Hate Myself On Sunday Mornings (26-18) Previous ranking: 1

Being swept by the Twins has cooled them off a bit and brought them back to the pack, but they are still scary at the plate and have a solid team OBP (.345). Did I mention that they currently have no hits against the Cardinals and Yovani Gallardo is also pitching a no hitter? Double jinx bitches.

3. Cincinnati Ready For The DL (23-20) Previous ranking: 3

And down goes Edison Volquez. The unraveling begins. On a side note, Homer Bailey will be taking Volquez's spot in the rotation. Is there a worse name for a pitcher than Homer?

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

The one constant during this slump has been the lineup, which aside from the occasional sub has remained relatively the same. This may sound crazy, but perhaps it's time to move D-Lee back to the No. 3 spot. That formula has worked for the last two years. Just saying.

5. Somalia Pirates...too soon? (20-24) Previous ranking: 5

If the Pirates go into Wrigley and win two of three (or get the sweep) then I will officially start to worry. But come on. Their pitching staff ranks last in the NL in strikeouts, so the Cubs should at least be able to put the ball in play and stretch out those legs.

6. Houston Colt .45's (18-24) Previous ranking: 6

This is a much better team name, right? Why do we let stupid people run baseball teams?

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