Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Reds

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Series Recap: Cubs 1, Reds 2

We scored 9 (one, then three, then five), they scored 16 (seven, then two, then seven). We made three errors, they didn't make any. We had seven extra-base hits, they hit eleven (I think).

I would say the only pitcher that really stunk it up was Tom Gorzelanny. The Gorz allowed three home runs in his start: two to Jay Bruce (they're both left handed aren't they? what the hell?) and one to Chris Valakia (his first career bomb). For some reason, Cub lefties who look good everywhere else somehow end up sucking at the Great American Ballpark (Ted Lilly, Jon Lieber in 2008, etc).

Speaking of lefties, Sean Marshall's one inning of relief was not a good one. He allowed four hits, two runs (one earned), and took the loss in the rubber match on Sunday. He has struggled in the second half (albeit in a relative sense), with a 4.79 ERA compared to his 2.03 from the first half of the year. But that's mostly due to a change in BABIP -- .288 before the All-Star Break, .379 after. He's still getting a ton of strikeouts (26 in 20.2 innings) and not giving up many extra base hits (14 all year!).

I would say the only Cub hitter that merits mentioning would be the Fukster, Mr. Kosuke. On Saturday and Sunday, Fukudome went a combined 3-for-6 with two jacks. He's now hitting .274 on the year with an .835 OPS.

Anybody think we should keep him around for next year instead of trading him and eating half his salary for a 21 year old pitcher or two in exchange?

Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Overview:
A long time ago, the Chicago Cubs hired a multi-award winning manager who'd just come thisclose to getting his former baseball team a World Series ring.  Of course, we were all pretty stoked about that.  And nobody was too concerned with why a baseball team that just reached the World Series would let their Manager of the Year-award winning skipper walk away.

About a million years later - or maybe it just felt that way - Dusty Baker departed the Cubs a failure.  Our anger toward him was only tempered by one, glorious fact - he signed on to manage a division rival with a considerably impressive farm system.  In other words, that was one less team to worry about.

Although, I have to admit, I sure felt sorry for those guys.  It's not easy being a fan without a glimmer of hope for the future.  And as long as Dusty managed the Reds, hope was gonna be in short supply.

However, much like the 2003/2004 Cubs, some teams are just too damned talented to not compete, regardless of whatever managerial bunglings they may be forced to play through.  And that appears to be the case of the 2010 Reds. 

In a way, a Dusty Baker playoff bound team is worse than a Dusty Baker basement bound team, because now there's a chance that Baker will return in 2011.  Harsh, Reds fans.  Harsh.

Saturday, August 28th - Randy Wells (5-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (14-7, 3.82 ERA)

It feels as if Arroyo has been around forever.  I still remember when he was that constipated-looking Red Sox pitcher who contributed just enough grit to get them a World Series ring.  This year, though, he's made pitching look easy, as he's leading the Reds in wins and has notched the 100th of his career.

He faces Randy Wells, who just might be pitching his way off the Cubs rotation for next year.  Think I'm wrong?  Let's continue this discussion in April, 2011.

Sunday, August 29th - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.68 ERA) vs. Edison Volquez (3-2, 6.17 ERA)
Coleman, who is 23, is just another of the Cubs' "throw crap against the wall" strategy that's yet to find anything which sticks. Who knows - when the Cubs surprise us next season by competing for the Wild Card, it'll be guys like Coleman who make it happen.

He faces Victim 4 (or is it more like Victim 10) of the Dusty Baker School of Pitchernomics.  Three seasons ago, Volquez was 24, and he was a 17-win, 206 strikeout pitcher in Dusty's inaugural campaign.  Then, in 2009, Volquez caught Tommy John Disease (big shocker there). 

He's back now, having recuperated while also suspended due to using PEDs (newsflash: pretty much any pitcher who's ever had Tommy John surgery and come back in less than 12 months did it on PEDs).  I kind of wonder if his use of the growth (or whatever) wasn't done, in part, on the hopes that by the time he'd return, Dusty Baker*'d be long gone.

(Dusty's Indian name is Pitcher Destroyer)

Conclusions
Well, the Cubs already got their asses handed to them once this series.  The Reds are now 4 games ahead of the Cardinals.  Of course, there are a lot of Cub fans out there who are pulling for them, and I can understand why.  a) It keeps St. Louis out.  b) It keeps Dusty Baker employed. 

However, I find myself sort of hating the Reds.  Joey Votto is a dick.  Watching them collapse in the last month of the season just might be the kind of sports enjoyment I could get behind.

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Gamecast (August 8, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Yesterday's gamecast was thrown together very quickly while a five year old Princess (admittedly the most beautiful young lady on the planet, FWIW, and most sweet and, ok, I'm boring you now...) was breathing down my neck. I hope to spend a little more time today. The Cubs, as we all know, are playing poorly right now. They are losing the blowouts (except for one) and the close games, also. They are the double threat!

Today's Matchup: Travis Wood (44.2IP, 2.42ERA, 4.09xFIP) vs Thomas Diamond (6IP, 4.50ERA, 2.63xFIP)


Two severe fly ball rookie pitchers going today. Wood has a nice shiny ERA built on HR luck but he has a ground ball rate of less than 30%. To put that in perspective, that makes him a much bigger fly ball pitcher than Ted Lilly was. Diamond is a noted fly ball pitcher also. I, for one, am hoping Diamond can duplicate his strike out ways from his last start. If the wind is blowing out today, this could be a slugfest.

Who's Hot: Today's Starlin watch. Castro is hitting .312 on the season. His current triple slash number is .312/.360/.449 which gives him a beautiful wOBA of .346. He does have a mildly inflated BABIP of .352 which should come down. I also think his K rate (currently 14.4%) will drop also. That .312 batting average is for real and the power is great for a slick fielding 20 year old shortstop. I also found his realization that he could have gotten Ramon Hernandez yesterday on that great play he made moving to his left to be quite promising. He's learning but I think it's possible that in about 30 years, there will be a statue dedicated to him somewhere around where the Cubs happen to be playing at that time.

Who's Not: I've been pointing out all year how unlucky the Cubs have been and they have been unlucky but they have also been bad. Unlucky+Bad=5th place (gulp!) in the NL Central. Still, after yesterday's loss, they have now played 39 one run games, most in the NL, and have lost 26 of them. Now, I know it's hard to believe this because we've been watching them lose these games all year but a team's record in one run games is usually more luck than skill related. Most teams hover around .500 in one run games.


Both the Reds and the Cardinals are .500 in one run games. The Pirates are 16-17. The Astros are 10-12. The Brewers have the best record in the NL in one run games at 18-11. If the Cubs were .500 (or a game under because they have played an odd number of them) in one run games, they would have six more wins than they do. Their record would be 53-57. Now that's not great and I'm not suggesting that the Cubs would be in contention but there would be less concern and worry in the land of the Cub than there is today.

Conclusion: A win would be nice boys! When that fourth run scored yesterday I removed myself from the TV room and went into the laundry room to pound the wall for awhile. I know it's a small thing but it was at that moment that the frustration finally bubbled over for me. I am still focused on baseball with a left eye still on the Cubs but it's getting harder to watch them. There are good things happening on this team and I hope they can prevent the Reds from sweeping them today but I have to admit, it's becoming torturous to watch. Enjoy the game today and remember, baseball is supposed to be fun so win or lose, I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Sunday!

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Dusty Baker's Reds (Aug 6-8, 2010)

Overview
This is just another set of 3 games in a season that's lost pretty much all meaning. I'm convinced Lou has thrown in the towel, and most of the veterans are just playing out the string. The only thing this season has left for me value-wise, is the development of our young players. Colvin, Castro, Cashner, Diamond, even young veterans like Soto, Wells, Marmol, Gorzellany, and DeWitt. They need to play as often as possible, and it wouldnt hurt to take a look at some other guys in AAA. I'm thinking Jay Jackson, John Gaub, Wellington Castillo (backup C next year?), and yes, even Jeff Samardzija. His contract is running out, and with him out of options next year, we won't be able to send him back to AAA without him clearing waivers, which he won't. I'd like to see him again before too long. However, that's getting a little far ahead of ourselves. Here are the matchups for the upcoming series against the first place Cincinnati Reds.

Friday: Bronson Arroyo (11-6, 4.01) vs. Tom Gorzellany (6-5, 3.48)
Gorzo the Magnificent made his last start on Saturday against the Rockies, and didnt pitch well (shocking, no one pitched well in Coors last weekend, except Silva - he only allowed 2 hits). He allowed 11 baserunners in 6 1/3, as well as 5 ER in a game the Cubs ultimately lost 6-5. Despite that, he's been pretty solid for the Cubs as a starter this year, keeping the club in most games, despite his penchant for wildness, as he's walked 46 batters in 93 innings, far too many. Arroyo is doing his smoke and mirrors act again this year for Dusty Baker's Reds, only this year, he's getting wins out of the deal since the team behind him is winning games. He's hittable, he's beatable, and I like the Cubs chances this afternoon.

Saturday: Edinson Volquez (2-1, 6.35) vs. Randall T Wells (5-9, 4.40)
The up and down season for Wells took another sharp down on Monday night as he was the starting pitcher for the 26 hit debacle against the Brewers. He gave up 10 of those hits in just over 4 innings. He'll be looking to bounce back on Saturday - which is an early 12:05 start. I love those games. Early afternoon baseball as I wake up from my brown-bottle induced malaise is the best. Volquez has taken a sharp fall since he was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in early 2008 after joining the Reds in the Josh Hamilton trade. He wasn't as good in the second half of '08 or in the first few months of '09, and then he had to have Tommy John surgery. Then he was suspended for violating the drug policy, which he got to serve while he was rehabbing. Now that he's back, he's been hit hard. He did get his 2nd win of the season last time out, despite being all over the strike zone, walking 5.

Sunday: Travis Wood (2-1, 2.42) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-1, 4.50)
Couple of rookies highlight the finale of the series. Wood's been very good for the Reds, and was dowright dominant in a start against the Cubbies in early July. He's held up pretty good since then, as his sparkling 2.42 ERA shows. Diamond will be making his 2nd start. He had a perplexing first start. His fastball wasn't overwhelming, but his changeup looked good and he had his breaking pitch moving as well. But he fell behind too many hitters and gave up some unneccesary hits to the 8 and 9 hitters, as well as walking too many. But he K'd 10, which was impressive. I'm intrigued by him.

Go Cubs!

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Gamecast (July 2, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Happy Independence Day Everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's July 4th and the Cubs have a game today. We live in the greatest country on the planet Earth so let's not get too down (well, Kurt lives in Canada, but let's not hold that against him! Smiling I wanted to mention one other thing from yesterday's game. During the game there was a play where Randy Wells laid down a bunt and didn't run hard to first and it resulted in a near wild throw that should have ended up with Wells on first base.

Now, Bob Brenly lost his mind. He screamed at Wells for not booking down the line but realistically, I am happy he didn't. I don't want these guys to risk hurting themselves running the bases. Please, Randy, jog down the line. Don't hurt yourself. You're an automatic out anyway. Whenever you reach base, it's gravy. If Wells pitches like he did yesterday all year, I don't care if he walks up to the plate and takes 3 batting practice fastballs down the middle of the plate and then takes a left turn back to the dugout.

On to today's game:

Today's Matchup: Mike Leake (95.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 4.42 xFIP) vs Ted Lilly (86.2IP, 3.12 ERA, 4.61 xFIP)

Two pitchers who have an ERA significanly lower than it should be hook up today. Lilly is a fly ball pitcher who needs to keep people off the bases per the walk. But you all know that. Leake needs to get ground balls to win. He has a ground ball rate near 50%. The question is this. Can Leake keep the ball on the ground. I do think the Cubs will have the advantage if the wind is blowing in but the Reds will have the advantage if it's blowing out. Of if the Cubs offense takes the field Smiling

Who's Hot: My man Starlin is 8 for 20 with 4 doubles and 4 unintentional walks since June 26th. People who say there is no good reason to watch the Cubs this year should focus on this player. He is 20 years old and I think he's at the beginning of what is going to be a great career. That is enough reason to keep watching.

Who's Not: There's no longer a good reason for the Cubs to keep batting Tyler Colvin near the top of the lineup. His OBP has drifted down to .316. I don't think he's that bad at that aspect of the game but he is always going to be a bit of an out machine. He will need to hit the ball out of the park regularly to be valuable long term. It's been a nice 3 months but I think we're finally starting to see the real Colvin.

Conclusion: The result of yesterday's game is the reason why I have been dumbfounded by the Cubs this year. See, the starting pitching is so good that they should win games like this. Fairly low scoring games that the Cubs come out on top of should be their forte this year. Instead they've been losing those games all year. The truth is one of two things is going to happen in the second half. Either the Cubs' starting pitching will get worse or the team will surprise people by putting together a bunch of unexpected wins. It shouldn't be enough to get them into playoff contention but I confess, I've never seen a team with starting pitching this good lose so regularly.

Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Apologies for the intense lateness of this.  Blame me for not EMailing Mike to fill in until around 7AM yesterday morning, and for not appropriately asking him to get in touch with AJ or Peter if he couldn't do the jorb. 

Ignoring yesterday's extra inning loss, let's just quickly jump into what the Cubs are facing.

Friday, July 2nd - Bronson Arroyo vs. Ryan Dempster
Bronson Arroyo, who spends his spare time working on the set of Cheech and Chong movies, is a decent and reliable middling starter.  He's again on pace for about 15 wins, which is pretty standard for him, and a mid 4's ERA, which is about his average.

He's facing Ryan Dempster today, a pitcher who's a lot better than his 6 wins.  Unfortunately, Clownsevelt pitches for the Cubs... so he'll be lucky to finish the year with more than 10.

Saturday, July 3rd - Randy Wells vs. Johnny Cueto
Cueto is 24 years old.  He's on pace to win 16, to strike out 150 to only 60 walks, and he's a pretty immense talent.  Shame he pitches for Dusty Baker, who beats his pitching arm like it's a naughty schoolboy. 

Cueto faces Randy Wells, who is quickly proving to be a one-year-wonder for the Cubs.  Who knows -- maybe Randy will bounce back again someday from this mediocre season, but at present he's barely a 5th starter at the most.

Sunday, July 4th - Ted Lilly vs. Mike Leake

Man, those Reds and their young pitchers!  Sunday's starter is Mike Leake, a guy who's 5-1 with a 3.30 ERA.  Oh, and he's a 22-year-old rookie.  Luckily for the Cubs, he pitches righty so they have a decent chance of beating him.

Ted Lilly, meanwhile, continues the swansong of his career in Chicago.  Will Sunday be his final game in a Cubs uniform?

Conclusions

Blah blah blah, firesale, blah blah blah?  Yadda yackity firesale soon? 

Etc., Cubs suck, blerg, firesale, ergo yuck. 

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Gamecast (July 2, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Things to watch for the rest of the season. Starlin Castro's growth. Carlos Marmol's K rate. The Cubs record in one run games. Tyler Colvin's return to reality. Trades and trade rumours. The continued awesomeness of the starting rotation. Cubs playing the spoiler. Marlon Byrd booking it hard down to first base. Geovanny Soto's incredible walk rate. Jeff Baker's excellent glove. Alfonso Soriano's hot streaks. Andrew Cashner's development. The season really isn't over. The Cubs aren't going to make the playoffs but I think it's time like this that the real fans show their faces. Let's keep rooting for them to win day by day and realize there a ton of things to watch for that have nothing to do with making the playoffs. Besides, it's freaking baseball, what else would you rather be doing anyway??

Today's Matchup: Ryan Dempster (110.2IP, 3.58ERA, 3.77xFIP) vs Bronson Arroyo (106.1IP, 4.49ERA, 5.15xFIP) Obviously, the Cubs have the better pitcher. Almost a run and a half better in xFIP. Arroyo should be facing the wrath of the Cubs' awesome offense. Yeah, that's the ticket. The truth is, the Cubs have better starting pitching than the Reds and it's not even close. If the Cubs get a few timely hits, they should win today.

Who's Hot: I know it's hard to think of him as such but Aramis Ramirez is on a mission to make it back to the Mendoza line. He has a six game hitting streak and has only K'd 3 times in that period (OK 2 were yesterday but still). I think Ramirez will end up north of .230 with a second half that looks like him but people here and elesewhere will think his whole season is trash. I still think the guy is relevant. It will be interesting.

Who's Not: Koyie Hill is producing a wOBA of .248 or an OPS of .574 for those wOBA challenged. His career wOBA is below .260. And yet, he's on pace to produce over 200 plate appearances. This despite the fact that the Cubs' offense is struggling and they have Geovanny Soto. Soto's wOBA is .381. That is 10 points higher than his rookie year. He is, simply, the most productive offensive Cub. Lou, come on!

Conclusion: I will no longer say the Cubs "need" to win. They don't really need to win. They need to play as well as they can and let the chips fall where they may. The season as over as playoffs are concerned but there are still things to contest. Beating the Reds and Dusty Baker is #1 on the docket. I would rather the Cardinals make the playoffs than the Reds (though when the Cubs play the Cardinals, I hope they beat them also).

Do as Colvin does (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Reds 3)

Did you hear about the Cubs game? The starter posted a quality start, the bullpen gave up another run or so, and the offense was terrible. Weird, huh?

The Cubs easily should have lost yesterday's game, as their pitchers allowed 16 hits, while the offense could only manage to collect five of their own. But somehow, they found themselves down only two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out recorded in the inning.

Red reliever Nick Masset managed to get two strikes on Tyler Colvin, the second coming on a tight curve thrown up and in that Tyler refused to swing at. But rather than go back to the off-speed out of the zone, Masset threw a 93mph sinker in the middle of the zone, which Colvin managed to rap into right to score Theriot and Castro, and tie the game.

Things would get better before they got worse: a single from Mike Fontenot in the next at-bat put runners on the corners with one out. But then, the "worse" part, as DP Lee came back from the dead to end the threat on a double play. Ihatewhenmajorleaguerscan'tscorerunnersfromthirdwithlessthantwoouts!!!!!

And then the Cubs lost. So, that's what happened!

Gamecast: May 9, 2010 - Cubs @ Reds

Ryan Dempster (2-2, 2.95) vs. Mike Leake (2-0, 2.94)

Overview
Well, the Cubs come into this Mothers Day contest trying to win the series.  Yes, the game last night was effing atrocious.  However, you don't get style points for your wins or losses, and with a win today the Cubs will get 2 of 3 @ Cincinnati and that's OK in my book.  Ryan Dempster takes the mound for the Cubs, and quite honestly, there's no one else I'd rather have on the mound trying to turn it around after a tough loss than Ryan.  He pitched pretty well last time out on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, but got the L because the Cubs couldn't score more than 2 runs.  He has allowed 2 dingers in each of his last 2 times out, so that's a bit troubling, especially given the bandbox where today's game is taking place.

This Mike Leake character made his big league debut against the Cubs the first week of the season (remember, he was the cat that skipped the minor leagues entirely).  That game he walked 7, and was generally pretty sketchy, but the Cubs only managed 1 run, and he survived his wildness.  His control has got quite a bit tighter since then, and he's only allowed 1 run in each of his last 2 starts.  The Cubs could use a major bounceback, however, I don't know if it's going to come today.  I feel a low scoring game today honestly.

Who's Hot
Soriano.  It pains me, but we have really needed him the past couple weeks.  And last night, he, the Byrdman, and Theriot (who's still hitting well at the top of the lineup) were the only Cubs with more than one hit.  Honestly if you told me that by this point in the season, that Byrd and Soriano would be raking..both hitting about .320, I'd have told you we'd be in real nice shape.  Oof.

Who's Not
Everytime I write one of these, I mention Rami's name. So there's him. Apparently Jeff Baker lit his ass on fire, so he's not doing so well..(or should I have put him in the "Hot" column?). And of course Jeff Gray's not doing well either. (This is what I wrote Friday, and it still applies..and Jeff Gray's now in AAA). - Also apparently John Grabow has a knee issue and has been sent home for an MRI.  Can we just give him the same treatment that you give lame racehorses?  Just put him out to pasture to graze? 

So here we are.  It's Mothers Day, and our season is in trouble.  You can't fix it all in one day though.  All the Cubs can do today is win the one game, and then head home and try to right the ship.  I'm feeling a W, are you?  Go Cubs!  And Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

-MW

Game Recap: Cubs 14, Reds 7

I couldn't have scripted that any better. 

Most recaps and articles on the game last night involve some cool play on Starlin's name, like "A Star-lin in the Making" or "Castro Brings the Revolution" or "Hey, that Starlin Kid is Pretty Good."  However, I am not that creative at the moment and figured you loyal readers had already been inundated with aforemnetioned pun-filled headlines.

It's also the trendy thing to mention that most "can't miss" prospects, in fact, miss.  It seems the name du jour is Ben Grieve, who drove in 5 RBI in his first game, went on to a Rookie of the Year award, and then promptly faded into a career of obscurity, eventually hitting his final HR with the Cubs (118 in total, for those counting).  I could mention Corey Patterson, Hee Seop Choi, and countless others that were supposed to be the saviors of our organization. But that would just be far too cynical, even for a Cubs fan, after last night's performance.

The big takeaway point from last night is this: Starlin Castro has the ability to be an impact player.  Before his first at bat, everyone wanted to know whether he could adjust to the majors and if he'd be intimidated in the box.  What we learned last night is he wasn't too over-eager at the plate and could punish the mistakes of an opposing pitcher.  In the second inning, Castro saw one of the nastiest curves Homer Bailey could throw get called for a strike on the inside corner.  He then deposited the next pitch, a hanging curve, to the right field stands for a 3-run homer.  Three innings later, Castro hit a gapper to left field with the bases loaded for a triple to drive in three more runs.  At least in the small sample size we have so far, it's nice to see the "uses all fields" portion of the scouting report hold true.  Castro ended the night 2-for-5, HR, 6 RBI.

Lost in the hype of the Castro debut, Marlon Byrd added a home run of his own in the third inning, his sixth on the season.  Byrd just keeps on hitting and is off to a ridiculous start.  If he stays on the current pace, he's projected to have a career high 33 home runs by the end of the season.

Fontenot added added a pinch-hit grand slam in the 8th to cap the Cubs scoring. 

The pitching for the Cubs was less than impressive.  Silva only lasted five innings and gave up four runs on ten hits.  In a game where your team is up by 9 after five innings, most pitchers say it is hard to keep focus and stay as sharp as you are in a tight game.  I am hoping this was the case for Silva.  However, based on his track record, there are going to be nights where hits just happen to drop against Silva.  What matters is whether he is able to scatter those hits or whether they come all at once.

John Grabow continued his terrible excuse for pitching in the 9th inning and allowed the Reds to score 3 runs.  It is nice to see Lou trying to get Grabow some experience in non-pressure situations.  What isn't nice to see is Grabow hanging pitches constantly.  I'm no pitching coach, so I don't know what he is doing wrong, but I do know that it needs to stop.

My complaints aside, the Cubs offense woke up once again, our top prospect gave Cubs fans a taste of his potential with a historic performance, and most importantly the Cubs can add another one to the "W" column.

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