Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Dodgers

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Cubs go out with a non-bang (Game Recap: Cubs 0, Dodgers 7)

Starter Carlos Silva gave up a three-run bomb to James Loney in the first inning, and the game never really got much more interesting from there. Cubs lose!

A big "eff you" to the first base umpire, who appeared to have been paid off by Joe Torre before the game started. Every close play seemed to go against the Cubs, to the point that, according to someone I follow on Twitter, the entire Cub dugout deserved ejecting after the umpteenth bad call late in the game.

In the Shout Box, Sayers40 speculated that Carlos Silva was probably hurt, which is probably fact. I wish we had a manager with the balls/brains to 1) identify when players are hurt and 2) tell them they're not allowed to play through severe injuries (see: Ramirez, Aramis this year, Soriano, Alfonso last year).

And thus, the All-Star Break is upon us. Here are some stats to tide you over until someone else decides to write something:

Aramis Ramirez' post-DL, pre-Break numbers: .328/.381/.672 (1.053 OPS)

Starlin Castro, so far, in July: .265/.359/.441
and for the year: .270/.333/.383
(compare to Ryan Theriot: .278/.317/.313)

Tyler Colvin's slash line since June 1: .234/.274/.467
Kosuke Fukudome's slash line btwn June 1 and the Break in 2008: .233/.338/.357

Cubs starters, ranked by ERA: Gorzelanny, Silva, Dempster, Lilly, Wells(, Zambrano)

OK, that's enough for now.

Gorz strikes again! (Game Recap: Cubs 7, Dodgers 3)

OK, World Cup over, but Futures Game on now! Turn on ESPN to watch Brett Jackson, rising Cub star, who is starting in center field!

But I do owe you a recap, so, quickly: Tom Gorzelanny, super, with 7 K against just 1 BB in 6 IP. Hittingwise, Geo Soto went to town, posting a 3-for-4, including a home run and three ribs. Other players collecting multiple hits include Darlin' Starlin Castro, Derrek Lee, and The Resurgent Aramis Ramirez. That's Aramis' fifth or sixth consecutive mutli-hit game, IIRC.

With yet another home run in last night's game, Ramirez' post-DL OPS continues to climb above one. I'll have it updated after tonight's game (also on ESPN, FYI). But for now, Brett Jackson! (And eventually, Hak-Ju Lee at SS for the World team!)

!!!!!!!!

Gamecast (July 11, 2010) Cubs @ Dodgers

Cubs got a good win with a decent performance from Gorzelanny on Saturday. They finish off the pre all star break season with a prime time game on ESPN. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the Cubs "get" to play these get away games on ESPN on Sunday night just before the all star game quite often. Anyway onto the last game of the first half:

Matchup: Carlos Silva (100.1IP, 2.96ERA, 3.82xFIP) vs Vicente Padilla (47.2IP, 4.72ERA, 3.73xFIP)

Today is a much closer matchup than it appears on paper. Padilla has a really high K rate and has been hurt for much of the first half. He is actually a pretty good pitcher and the Cubs should play with that in mind. He does give up a lot of flyballs aned the key for the Cubs tonight is to get the ball up and over the wall against him.

As for Silva, he has given the Cubs more than they could have ever hoped for in the first half. He's nursing a leg injury but the Cubs have decided to let him go out and get a short outing tonight. I hope it doesn't blow up in the Cubs' face. Silva's key is the same as always. Don't allow too many hits. Try to fan around 2 every 3 innings and don't walk a second batter. Other than that, it should be all about the bullpen tonight. I expect to see Cashner, Marshall and Marmol even though they all pitched on Saturday.

Who's Hot: I don't think people realize how good Geovany Soto has been this year. He is, perhaps, the best hitting catcher in baseball. His power has returned almost completely back to 2008 levels. He continues to take walks like Eddie Joost and is even hitting for a somewhat BABIP inflated batting average. I don't expect him to wOBA over .390 the rest of the season but I don't see why he can't continue to wOBA over .365 or so. He's been awesome.

Who's Not: Why, oh why does Lou Piniella keep Ryan Theriot and Tyler Colvin at the top of the order. Colvin is a perfect #6 hitter and Theriot is a, yeah, ok so Colvin is a perfect #6 hitter. The Cubs need to bury Theriot deep on their bench and go to a full out Fontenot/Baker platoon at second base and possibly in the leadoff spot of the order. The lack of production from the 1/2 spots is hurting the Cubs. I love Theriot's spunk and thought he was a better defensive shortstop than the Cubs gave him credit for but he's falling off precipitiously and wasn't particularly good to begin with!

Conclusion: It would be nice to finish the season with a win. The Reds are scuffling at the moment and just got swept in four games in Phlly and the Cardinals haven't exactly set the world on fire this year so the Cubs still might have a shot in this week division. I don't think a loss is the end of the world though and we all need to philosophical about this game and this season. Still, a win would be real, real nice.

Go Cubs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lilly Lowers His Value (Game Recap: Cubs 7, Dodgers 9)

Not exactly the outing you want to see from a pitcher your team is trying to trade. Or, you might say, exactly not the outing you want to see.

Ted Lilly didn't make it out of the fourth inning last night, allowing seven hits, two walks, and a home run, for a total of five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The home run was hit by Russell Martin, immediately after Lilly allowed a walk and a single.

The Cub offense showed up last night, putting up seven runs over the course of the game, including two in the ninth when Aramis Ramirez drove in Kosuke Fukudome on a triple, and was then brought home on a Marlon Byrd single. But it wasn't enough.

Gold stars go to Marlon Byrd, who went 4-for-5 on the night (all singles) with three RBI and a run scored; Tyler Colvin, who went 1-for-3 with a double, a run scored, and two walks; and Aramis Ramirez, who posted his fourth consecutive multi-hit game, going 3-for-4, with a walk to boot. Aramis ended up a home run short of the cycle, while scoring twice and driving in one run. His post-DL stint stats now look like this:

.333/.381/.628 (1.009 OPS), 10 R, 9 RBI, 4 HR

So much for my analysis a month ago, when I said Derrek Lee looked capable of a comeback while Aramis looked toast. The only defense I can offer up is that I wish Aramis spoke up sooner about his bum thumb. I guess athletes are supposed to tough it out, but Ramirez' at-bats have truly been as different as night and day pre- and post-DL. I'll try to take another look at each hitter's peripheral stats later on to figure out what the problem is.

In the meantime, as trade speculation continues, the Cubs continue to lose games. So that's too bad.

Guess who? (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Dodgers 3)

Stop me if you've heard this before: Cub starter goes quality, offense can't score enough runs, we lose a close one.

And now, the mitigating factors:

- Randy Wells was one pitch away from a super outing. He gave up six hits (a leadoff double, four singles, and a late, low, line-drive homer that barely made it out), walked one, and struck out seven. Whether it was bad mechanics, bad luck, or a combination of both, whatever was ailing Randy's ERA seems to have subsided.

- I promised you a guessing game in the title, so here goes. Check out these numbers, compiled over Mr. Mystery's last 47 at-bats:

.297 avg, .340 obp, .596 slg (i.e. .936 OPS), 4 HR in 47 AB

I know you know who it is, but still, that was fun, right? Of course, every time I look at Aramis' post-DL numbers, I wonder why he wasn't put on the DL earlier. Clearly, an Aramis Ramirez with one good thumb is a completely worthless hitter (see: April and May), so let's try to keep him healthy for the next season and a half, shall we?

- Kudos to the two Cubs who drove in runs last night. If you believe the numbers at Fangraphs, Geovany Soto is on pace for a more valuable season than his 2008 ROY campaign, and Alfonso Soriano has been worth $10.4 million in value over a replacement player thus far this season.

Just saying!

Gamecast: July 8, 2010- Cubs at Dodgers

Randy Wells (4-6 4.67 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-4 3.02 ERA)

Overview

Well, that was easy.  The Cubs pull out of Arizona with their first series win since 2003 and their first sweep since April of this year.  To keep the streak alive, the Cubs turn to Randy Wells and hope he can build on his performance against Cincy where he went into the 7th before allowing a hit. 

Kershaw is NOT the type of lefty that seems to mess with the Cubs.  In fact, he is nowhere near "crafty" but uses gasoline and hard moving stuff to get by (and a high strikeout rate evidenced by his K per IP in his last 3).  That being said, he has a win in his only start against the Cubs this year. 

Who's Hot- I never thought I would get to say this during this season, but: Aramis Ramirez.  In his last three games he is 5-12 with 3 HR and 7 RBI.  One can only hope that his thumb is in good shape and he's ready to resume his career norms for the rest of the season.

Who's Not- All-Star Snubs.  Carlos Marmol is a filthy man.  So filthy that he has been overlooked on the All-Star Roster.  Marmol is piling up strikeouts like there is going to be a shortage with a total of 77 in 40.2 IP.  In terms of K/9 that is a 17.04 rate.  For a bit of reference, the best rate out there for a full season was Eric Gagne in 2003 with a 14.98.  Yep.  No pitcher that has pitched over 50 IP has ever cracked even above 15 K/9.  Marmol: Amazing. 

Conclusion

Hopefully "good" Wells shows up tonight and we at least have a pitchers duel.  I have a strange feeling that the momentum being on our side could make this trip not completely suck, starting with tonight.  Let's hope my gut is right.

Series Preview: Cubs at Dodgers

Hot on the heels of a road trip sweep, the Cubs head to Los Angeles to do battle with their '08 playoff rivals in the final four game set before the All Star Break.

Since Cubbie Cynicism is frowned upon (nobody wants to date Debbie Downer, right?), let's look at the recent positives of the team.

  • They've had three straight wins, in which the Cubs' offense averaged nearly 8 runs a game. 
  • Aramis Ramirez is doing his best Frampton impression, having come alive to the tune of 3 homeruns and 7 RBI in his last 5 games.
  • annnnd that's about it.  Damn.

Now, I know that some criticism has continued to be levied, here and abroad, at Geovany Soto.  My question is -- why?  There is only one catcher in all of baseball with a better OPS -- Miguel Olivo, who's having a career year.

Soto, meanwhile, is on pace for nearly 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 90 walks.  Not bad.  More impressive, though, is the fact that only 49% of ESPN Fantasy team owners have him.  Sounds like a reasonable grab, folks.

Anwyay, on with the Preview.

Thursday, July 8th - Randy Wells (4-6 4.67 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-4 3.02 ERA)

Sayers wants you to know -- Randy Wells is not a one-year wonder.  But while Wells may someday have another good season, his 2010 looks pretty wasted.  So much for the mentorship of Greg Maddux.

Actually, come to think of it, I can't name a single pitcher who was mentored by Maddux and went on to have a ton of success.  Jason Marquis?  Sucks.  Sean Marshall?  Bullpen journeyman.  Randy Wells?  Lookin' awful.  With all due respect to my Goat Riding compatriot, I haven't seen anything from Wells at this point that I didn't see from Jeremi Gonzalez, Kevin Foster, and other one (or two)-year wonders. 

His opponent is 22 years old, has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and is on pace for 15 wins and a 3.02 ERA.  And unlike Randy Wells, he is certifiably not a one year wonder -- he pitched 171 innings in 2009, striking out 185 and winning only 8 while posting a 2.79 ERA.  Oh -- did I mention he's a lefty? 

Friday, July 9th - Ted Lilly (3-7 3.76 ERA) vs. Chad Billingsley (6-4 4.06 ERA)

Ted Lilly's long career is an improbable -- and fascinating -- one.  He was drafted in the 23rd round by the Dodgers, but he never pitched a game for them, instead getting his break in Montreal in 1999.  He was then dealt to the New York Yankees, where he pitched for two and a half seasons, before being traded to Oakland where he had his first somewhat successful season -- going 12-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 2003.

Lilly's journey then continued onward to Toronto, where he pitched decently for 3 seasons before getting into a fist fight with his manager in 2006, resulting in his free agent jaunt to Chicago.  This year aside, his time at Wrigley has been pretty freaking awesome.

So, it'll be somewhat sad when Lilly leaves, whether it's at the end of the season or in a few weeks.  Regardless of what happens, though, I hope the Cubs do not pursue to resign him.  Lilly's just a bit too old, and the Cubs desperately need to get as young as they can, as fast as they can.

Speaking of young pitchers, Lilly faces Chad Billingsley tomorrow.  For some reason, it feels as though Billingsley has been around forever, but he's only 25.  He's another of LA's young, high strike-out pitchers, having SO'd nearly 1 batter an inning since 2007. 

Saturday, July 10th - Tom Gorzelanny (3-5 3.31 ERA) vs. John Ely (4-6 4.07 ERA)

Tom Gorzelanny -- or Sloth, as we like to call him -- is better than his 3-5 record conveys.  He struggled a little in his second game back to the rotation, although he beat Arizona. 

He faces another of LA's young arms -- John Ely, a 24-year-old rookie, is "struggling" with a 4-6 record and a 4.07 ERA in his junior effort.  While I don't know that Ely will ever be better than a #3 or #4-type pitcher, I'm impressed by LA's ridiculous abundance of young talent.

Sunday, July 11th - Carlos Silva (9-2 2.96 ERA) vs. Vincent Padilla (3-2 4.72 ERA)

Carlos Silva is wasting the best year of his career in Chicago.  I can only hope that the Cubs manage to deal him for some  younger talent in the next few weeks, or otherwise his great year is pretty well wasted.  Consider this -- he's presently on pace to win more games than he did in 2007-2009 combined.  Crazy.

He faces one of the few pitchers on the Dodgers who is old enough to grow facial hair -- 32 year old Vince Padilla, who's 3-2 record and 4.72 ERA leave him as the most vulnerable Dodger, making Sunday's game the most likely Cubs victory. 

Conclusions
The Cubs are the inverse of the Dodgers -- LA is 46-38; Chicago is 38-47.  As a realist, I'm not exactly expecting the Cubs to dominate while on the road -- or at home, for that matter -- and so I would expect the Cubs to be lucky with a series split. 

As for the other issues, particularly pertaining to how it may be "early" to feel so cynical, allow me to justify this blog's position on things.

We all know that Lou Piniella is a goner, and so is Jim Hendry.  Most of us liked Lou quite a bit, but it's been clear for about a full year now that the Cubs wouldn't win the World Series on his watch.  Same thing with Hendry -- he did a few things well, but those things failed to make up for his numerous faults. 

So when we blog about the season being over -- well, that's just reality -- and our frustration at the lack of movement going on in the clubhouse, it's only because we know from ample experience just how hard it will be for the Cubs to get back on track with the next crew of managers.

It is key, then, that Jim Hendry successfully unload the overpriced veterans who won't be able to help the team anyway three years from now, when they might be competitive again.

It's also important that the next GM and manager both be competent winners, guys who have that extra little drive to get things accomplished on and off the field. 

So, we're all a little worried about Tom Ricketts screwing it up.  What if he hires another Jim Hendry-type who's so bad at assessing talent that he'd vote for the fat chick at an America's Next Top Model competition?  What if the next bumbling GM hires a manager who makes Dusty Baker look like a genius savant? 

If the next group of managers are as incompetent as the last dozen or so groups of managers -- and really, it's all been downhill since Dallas Green was chased out of town -- then, as Cub fans, we're looking at another 3 to 5 years of mediocrity before Ricketts rolls the dice again with potentially another batch of bumbling idiots.

So ... we're probably more nervous than we are cynical.  We've been to this dance before, and odds are, we'll be there agian ... sooner than we'd like.

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Stats Update (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Dodgers 0)

The Cubs win another close won today, thanks to back-to-back extra-base hits from Cubs bench players who I would argue should be starting against righties -- for now, at least.

After seven and a half scoreless innings combined from the two teams, Mike Fontenot led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple. (Stats Update #1: Fontenot is now hitting .330 this season, with a respectable .836 OPS to go along with his average.)

Cub fans everywhere were immediately overcome with dread and fear, as we all know the team can't bring home runners from third when there are less than two outs. And Geovany Soto added fuel to those flames by striking out on three pitches. (Status Update #2: Soto is now hitting .257, quickly converging with Lee's average, which now stands at .246.)

Fortunately, Tyler Colvin hasn't been with the team long enough to learn how to not bring runners home from third with less than two out. So he went ahead and doubled in Fontenot, and then took third on a fielding error by the Dodgers' right fielder. (Stats Update #3: Colvin has a .348/.385/.609 in May, while Kosuke has a .258/.338/.394 after today.)

Cubs take lead, all is well -- until Theriot pops out on a bunt attempt (grrrrrr) and Starlin Castro, Mr. Contact Hitter Himself, strikes out at the worst of times. (Stats Update #4: Castro's .292 average has now fallen two points below Theriot's .294.)

Fortunately, Carlos Marmol is teh balls. He struck out Rafael Furcal swinging, walked Blake DeWitt (which people booed? WTF), struck out Manny Ramirez swinging, and then struck out Garrett Anderson swinging. (Stats Update #5: Marmol has struck out 49 of 103 batters faced, a 47.6% rate. Thanks for that one, Rob.)

(Stats Update #6: The Cubs are now two games below .500, and will be either four or five games behind the Reds for the division lead tomorrow morning.)

Gamecast: May 27th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Dodgers

Ted Lilly (1-4, 4.30 ERA) vs. John Ely (3-1, 3.41 ERA)

Overview

Well, Chad Billingsley gives up a ton of hits, but the Cubs can't make him pay. That result leads us to the rubber match today.

Today, the Cubs will trot out Roosevelt again to face the Dodgers. I read something about the Dodgers not playing well against lefties, but that wasn't case last night.

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - It's nice to see D-Lee get hot. He's got 2 HR in his last six games with a .358 average. Hopefully, he's ready to take off and lead the Cubs on a run.

Carlos Marmol -This hot report comes from Bruce Miles:

Marmol had faced 99 batters, striking out 46 of them. That means he has struck out 46.4 percent of the batters he's faced. For a whole season, that would be a major-league record. The existing mark was set in 2003 by Eric Gagne, who struck out 44.8 percent (137 of 306) of the batters he faced.

For the season, Marmol has pitched 23.2 innings, striking out 46 batters. That's 17.49 per 9 innings. His record is 1-0 with a 1.52 ERA, and he has his WHIP down to a tidy 1.14.

Needless to say, Marmol's hot right now.

Who's Not

Tom Gorzelanny - I think we found the person that is not going to be in the rotation after Big Z makes his return. It looked like he was really pressing and it didn't. He could make a nice innings-eater for somebody in contention. Maybe the Tigers?

Marlon Byrd - We all new he had to cool off and he finally has for the free swinger. He's going to have to prove that he can walk to keep seeing good pitches. His .217/.143/.360 OBP/SLG/OPS is not promising.

Conclusions

I would be really happy with a 2 of 3 in the this series with the Cardinals coming into town. So, enjoy the early baseball and go Cubs!

Poor Gorz (Game Recap: Cubs 5, Dodgers 8)

When asked if the constant chatter about the Cubs' oversupply of starting pitchers had affected his performance in last night's game, Tom Gorzelanny answered, "No."

"But you read it."

Of course you read it, and of course it affects you. Tom was clearly off his game last night. In the game's first at-bat, he had Rafael Furcal in a 1-2 count before giving up a single, and then followed that up with a dreaded four-pitch walk to Russell Martin. Three runs would eventually score.

In the second inning, he started the at-bat against Dodgers' starting pitcher Chad Billingsley with three straight balls, before eventually walking him. It's little things like that that make you think, "Something's not right."

Pressured or not, however, that's probably that -- Gorz will likely head to the 'pen, and James Russell will likely head back to Iowa. Having said that, I know it would not at all be fair to Tom, but I'd almost be in favor of sending him to Iowa to have him continue to start games, with the understanding that the Cubs would soon trade either him, Lilly, or Silva for either some relief help, or some quasi-talented young players. But what do I know?

On offense, there were some blown opportunities, sure, but five runs are five runs, definitely enough to give your team a chance to win. Perhaps more importantly in the long run, I don't know who looked worse last night: Kosuke Fukudome or Tyler Colvin.

I think it's pretty clear that, with Soriano and Byrd carrying most of the load on offense so far this year, Kosuke should be feeling the most pressure in terms of being replaced as an everyday starter in favor of Colvin. But for Tylermania! to replace anyone at all, he has to earn it, regardless of how poorly the Fook performs in May (.254/.338/.397 as of right now).

Colvin looked ugly in his first inning at-bat, swinging at two super-low breaking pitches to strike out. He walked in the third, but then didn't take the bat off his shoulder in the fifth, striking out again. So, yeah, he isn't seeing the ball real well lately. And it's not like he ever has -- the kid didn't walk once in spring training this year. But you know what might help improve his eye? Maybe some regular playing time. But again, what do I know?

The Cubs go for the series win this afternoon. Theo gets the start against some young guy. Have fun with that.

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