Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Mets

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Game & Series Recap: Mets 4, Cubs 2 (1 game to 2)

Game Recap
Randy Wells didn't have his best stuff ever today, as he surrendered 7 hits in 6 innings and 95 pitches, but he was effective enough that he should have gotten the job done.  Instead, the Mets appeared to rub the belly of the Cubs offense, which promptly rolled over and continued its slumber. 

Of course, Kevin Gregg did his best to continue the ruination of his season -- nay, his career -- by getting slapped around in the 7th, putting it out of reach.  More than the departure of DeRosa, or the acquisition of Crazy Milton Bradley, Gregg's trade from Florida to Chicago has to be Jim Hendry's biggest blunder of this past off season.  I regret ever having defended that ball-tossing turd.

The one good thing from today's game: Geovany Soto, his season long since wasted (much like he himself is in the off season), collected two hits, both doubles, and was responsible for driving in both Cub runs.

So, the Cubs are out of New York, off to play the Pirates, and we can only wish them the best of luck.  Not that it'll help -- this team needs more than luck to win baseball games.

Current Record: 68-67
Position in the NL Central:
2nd place, 11.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 95-67
Worst Possible Record: 68-94
Record needed to win 90: 22-5
On Pace For: 82-80

GameCast: September 6th at New York

With real content to come later ... probably with the game half over by then:

GameCastRandy Wells (10-7, 2.90 ERA) vs. Mike Pelfrey (9-10, 5.03 ERA)

Story-lines:
Happy birthday Derrek Lee.  The newly-turned 34-year-old had a huge day yesterday, two days after the birth of his most recent child (that he knows of).  Lee's production of late is admirable, although it really symbolizes the season in many ways -- the Cubs have often had a hot hitter, but rarely have they had more than one at a time.  And while it's possible for a Derrek -- or, traditionally, an Alfonso -- to carry the team with his smoking hot bat, theoretically the other players should be more than capable of winning without that guy who's batting .450 the past week with 4 homers and 10 ribbies.  But that hasn't been the case in Chicago this season.

On the mound for the Cubs today is Randy Wells, a guy who should be mentioned more often when people talk about prospective Rookie of the Year candidates.  There are really only three guys in competition with him -- Chris Coghlan, who's batting .309 with 9 homeruns for the Marlins, Dexter Fowler, a switch-hitting center fielder with a great OBP and a number of steals, and the likely winner J.A. Happ, the reliever-turned starter for the Phillies who is presently 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA.

As cool as it would be for Randy to win the award, it's not exactly as if the Cubs have had a ton of ringing long-term success with their recent Rookie of the Year winners.  So, not so big a deal.

Who's Hot
The Afore-Mentioned Derrek Lee - He's 8 for his last 18 with 1 double and 4 homeruns (that means 50% of his last 8 successful contacts left the park) and a ridiculous 1.667 OPS.

Jeff Baker - He's batting .429 in his last 6 games.  It's about time the Cubs could count on a second baseman.

Who's Not
Pretty much every other starter on the Cub. Fukudome, Theriot, Ramirez, Fox, Soto, Hill, Fontenot ... all batting under .200 the past week.  Quitters.

Conclusions
Win, lose, just look pretty doing it, baby!

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Mets 3 -- Derrek Lee, you're my hero

Game Recap
I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs managed to play about .500 ball from here on out -- which in itself would be disappointing if only because against so many crappy teams you'd think they could do much better than that.

Yesterday's game, for example, was one in which the Cubs should have won, and did.  But considering that their opponent was a luckless pitcher who belongs nowhere near a competitive baseball team, maybe the Cubs should've scored more than 5 runs.  As it was, the only reason they scored that many was thanks to Derrek Lee, who hit 2 homers and drove in 3 runs -- elevating his homerun total to 29, or 9 more than he had in many more at bats last year.

Lee's production -- coupled with a two-run shot by Aramis (of which Derrek was on base for, giving him a share in all offensive success the Cubs had yesterday) was all the support Rich Harden needed.  Harden only managed 5 innings on just over 100 pitches, where he surrendered 7 hits, walked 1, and impressively struck out 10.  I'm honestly not sure how the hell he managed to throw 20 pitches an inning when he only walked 1 guy -- he must have had a lot of full counts.

The Cubs play later today for the series win -- which they should be able to achieve -- although lord knows it'll be tougher than it should be.

Doubleshot -- Game Recap: Mets 6, Cubs Blew ... er, 2. GameCast: September 5th at New York

Game Recap
Due to time constraints, laziness, and because I think it looks kind of cool, I'm going to combine yesterday's ugly recap with today's scag-like GameCast.

So.  Your team is struggling for offense and you have one guy who's been hitting the ball decently.  Do you:

A) stack the lineup to give him as many opportunities as possible to hit with runners on?
B) find your second best hitter on the team and bat that guy behind your "one guy" in order to create an illusion of protection?
or C) give him the day off.

Lou picked "C," and the Cubs lost again 6 to 2.  At least it wasn't the fault of Carlos Zambrano, who was recently accused of having "quit" on the season.  (I have a feeling that if you told Carlos to his face that he was a quitter, he'd probably punch his hand through your head.)  The Big Moose tossed 6 innings, surrendered 3 hits -- 1 a solo homer -- and struck out 7. 

Jeff Baker tied the 1-0 game in the 8th by knocking in Crazy Milton, and that was when Kevin Gregg stepped in and completed his own personal circle of suck.  Gregg allowed the only 2 men he faced to reach, and when John Grabow relieved him the former Pittsburgh reliever apparently started delivering his pitches underhand or something, because the Mets beat him as if they were Ike Turner high on coke and he was a getting-lippy Tina. 

The two pitchers -- Gregg and Grabow -- faced 7 men while getting none of them out -- they instead allowed 6 hits, 1 walk, and 5 runs to score. 

The Cubs bullpen.  Yay?

GameCastGameCast
Rich Harden vs. Nelson Figueroa

Story-lines
The.  Cubs.  Suuuuuuuck. 

Ignoring that, with expanded rosters (it's September already?) the Cubs have all sorts of individual guys for us to root for.  For example:

Bobby Scales -- Chicago's 31-year-old rookie is back for the first time in nearly 3 months.  I get why he was demoted to begin with -- it was an odd-man-out sort of deal -- but his numbers really aren't bad for a defensive sub.  in 26 games and 59 at bats, Scales is batting .254 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homeruns, and 7 RBI.  He's got a .343 OBP and a .818 OPS.

Micah Hoffpauir -- He returned to the team for the first time since early Sept.  As anybody not swimming in a bleached-out pool of optimism could tell you, he's had the kind of year one might expect from a guy in his late 20's who'd never had hitting success before just the previous season.  He's batting .228 with 8 homers, 25 RBI, and an OPS of .691.  Anybody still think he could land the Cubs Adrian Gonzalez?

Andres Blanco -- Rob's favorite Neifi-clone is back for the first time since early August.  He's batting .240 with a .298 OBP, and a .631 OPS. 

There are a few other September additions -- Justin Berg, for instance -- but I think we'll leave it at this for now.  I wonder which of this bunch of riff-raff will play today?

Who's Hot

Based on yesterday's play, we could probably make an argument for Jeff Baker -- he went 3 for 3, raising his AVG to .291 on this season.  Milton Bradley also went 2 for 5, and is flirting with a .270 AVG.
 
Who's Not

Micah Hoffpauir picked up right where he left off before his demotion, going 0 for 4 and dropping his AVG to .228.

Conclusions
If the Cubs are in the midst of a proverbial downward spiral, then they will have plenty of time to meet the Mets down there.  New York is already at the bottom of the barrell.  As screwed up as Milton Bradley is, and as frustratingly insane as Carlos Zambrano can be, the Mets may be the most dysfunctional organization in baseball right now.  So, I guess we've got that going for us.  Which is nice.

GameCast: September 4th at New York Mets

Note: this was written earlier in the day, but never got published.  Sorry about that.

GameCastCarlos Zambrano vs. Bobby Parnell

Story-Lines
It's an epic collision of suck!  The Cubs and Mets are both teams that had been expected to compete way back in the spring, only to suffer crippling injuries and personnel problems resulting in a Season of Meh. 

So what will happen in this, the high-tension battle of teams that can barely make the effort to don their uniforms before each game?  Who will win -- the angry, unfocused Cubs or the dysfunctional, injury-riddled Mets?  It's not a case of which team is better ... it's a case of WHICH TEAM IS WORSE!

Who's Hot

On this team?  After getting shut out by the White Sox?  Probably Cub fans everywhere, angry at the team's poor play.  But otherwise, not much of anybody.

Who's Not

Lou Piniella.  If anybody should be "hot," it should be him at his players.  Instead he appears resigned.  Speaking of resignation, why is Lou bothering to come back next year?  I remain unconvinced that he's done anything in 2009 to better his team's position.

Conclusions
The Cubs offense should pummel these guys.  Carlos Zambrano should shut them down.  It should be a cake-walk.  Instead it's just another long game in a long season.

Series Preview: Cubs at New York



Overview

Two percent. That’s the chance coolstandings.com gives the Cubs of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus is slightly better at 2.8 percent.

Some you are still holding out hope for a 2ish percent chance at the playoffs, but I’m just hoping Lou will bench Soriano.

How many times is he going to let this guy burn us offensively and defensively before he realizes it’s time to give guys like Jake Fox and Sam Fuld more playing time?

Soriano just can’t play, even worse though, he might not want to play. I’m tired of seeing a bunch of players out there who look like they don’t care. Lou told Milton Bradley earlier in the season he wasn’t a ballplayer. Well why don’t you check out the rest of the team?

Put the guys out there who want to play and who have something to prove. Piniella has already done this with Koyie Hill by banishing Geo Soto to pinewood Purgatory. Now make this a team-wide plan. What do we have to lose at this point?

The Matchups
September 4th – Carlos Zambrano vs. Bobby Parnell
In my humble opinion, no one deserves the boo-treatment this season more than Zambrano. He is being out-pitched by a guy who traditionally can’t stay healthy, a guy who didn’t even pitch in the playoffs last season, and a guy who started the season in Iowa. In his two “starts” since returning from the DL, Z has given up 11 earned runs over 7.2 innings. Ace my ass.

The Cubs faced Bobby Parnell in his last start and roughed the guy up. Nine hits and eight earned runs over 4.2 innings – not pretty. Like I said in the preview for the Mets series at Wrigley, Parnell isn’t that great on the road. Alas, he is less sh!tty at Sh!tty Field. Opponents are hitting .271/.348/.392 at home. Still not very good, but they are a lot better than his road numbers…trust me.

September 5th – Rich Harden vs. Nelson Figueroa (according to the Chicago Tribune)
Harden finally came back down off of his high against the Astros and pitched much more like the Rich Harden we all know and get frustrated with. Although he struck out nine ‘Stros, he also gave up five earned runs and walked six guys. Six! The Mets strikeout the least of all NL teams, so it could be a tough night for a guy who relies so much on K's.

Another game against the Mets and another pitcher the Cubs have faced recently. Figueroa threw a gem at Wrigley going 7 innings and giving up only one run on six hits. He also had 10 strikeouts. But don’t fear the Fig my friends. He sucks it hard in NYC. He has a 6.87 ERA at Citi Field as compared to 1.32 on the road.

September 6th – Randy Wells vs. Mike Pelfrey
See, this is what I’m talking about. Randy Wells has been pitching for his Major League life all season and I think we can all agree he has earned a position in next season’s starting rotation. Randy is a perfect example of the kind of player I want on my Cubs team. I want a guy who wants to win and feels like he has something to prove. Right now, we have too many asshats (Z, Sori, Dempster, Bradley) who are satisfied with their abilities. Wells is a perfect example of a guy who can succeed despite not having the best physical talents or hype.

It looks like Pelfrey is starting to lose his command. In his last two starts, he gave up five walks (both season highs) and lost both games. The Cubs don’t draw a lot of walks or have a particularly high team OBP, but we’ve seen this team display some patience before. Make Pelfrey throw strikes guys. Sometimes the offensive game plan just writes itself.

Conclusion
The Mets are about as bad as a team the Cubs will face for the remainder of the season. While I enjoy watching them beat up a bunch of minor leaguers as much anyone else, this series offers Lou another chance to get a head start on 2010 by finding out who WANTS to play.

Lou might or might not be here next season, but he certainly can have an impact on the team that will take the field come April if he would just pull his head out of Soriano’s ass.

Go Illini…(errr)…Go Bears…(getting closer)…Go Cubs.

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Game and Series Recap: Cubs 1, Mets 4 (2 to 1) -- Oh no! We suck again!

Unsurprisingly, the Cubs were shut down by another crappy fringe starter today. Also, Carlos Zambrano got rocked. All in all, a great day for Cubs fans!

It's not usually easy to get double digit strikeouts in a game as a starting pitcher, but somehow Nelson Figueroa managed to do it today. He must have been pitching against a really bad offense. Honestly, how did this guy make it to the eighth inning?!

Milton Bradley is creeping even closer to the .270 mark; he went 1-for-2 in today's game. And Derrek Lee somehow managed to leave three men on base despite going 2-for-4. That kind of year, I guess.

As for the pitching, it sounds like Carlos is not quite right yet. When you give up 11 hits in less than four innings, there's something you're not doing correctly. From the stuff I read after the fact, it sounded like it was a mechanical issue, with Carlos opening up his shoulder for too long, or maybe too soon, or something. Anyway, I wouldn't really worry about it as a long term thing, but it'd be nice if he could remember proper pitching mechanics sometime soon.

The Cubs ended up winning the series this weekend, which is nice--but it seemed like they were trying their best to lose it. Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa combined to allow just two runs in 14 innings, for Christ's sakes.

And now the Cubs are ten back. Rest easy, Kurt--things really are that bad!

Current Record: 65-63
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 10 whole games out
Best Possible Record: 99-63 (hahahaha)
Worst Possible Record: 65-97
Record needed to win 90: 25-9 (hahahahahaha)
On Pace For: suck

Gamecast: August 30th vs. Mets - No. 4 Starter

Nelson Figueroa (1-3, 5.40 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (7-5, 3.80 ERA)

Story Lines

I hope everybody can read the sarcasm in my typing about the doom and gloom of the Cubs. If not, I still want the Cubs to play well, but I can't write the same things over and over about the Cubs still having chances to make the playoffs. So that being said, lets take a look at another player locked up in 2010.

Starting Pitcher - No. 4 Starter (Randy Wells)

Contract 2009: 402 Thousand

Contract 2010: 400+ Thousand

Stats 2009: 9-7 , 3.06 ERA in 126 2/3 innings. 78/33 K/BB Ratio with a 1.22 WHIP

Randy Wells has been better than anybody could have imagined this season. He was so good, that the Cubs pushed Sean Marshall to the bullpen to be the LOOGY, which worked as well. The problem was the offense once again not hitting, which meant that Randy didn't pick up a lot of wins, and neither did the Cubs.

Now, the Cubs have a guy that can slot into the rotation once again for 2010. I have a feeling that he will be a lot like Ryan Dempster, in the fact that he will probably see his ERA rise quite a bit in 2010. My guess is that he ends up being a 3.80 ERA to 4.20 ERA for next year, which is not terrible, but not really special either. The good thing is that he will be the No. 4/5 starter, so he doesn't have to be an ace.

Now the Cubs are making one last run at the Wild Card, the Cubs are going to throw Wells at least a few more times. The moment that chase ends, the Cubs really need to shut him down for the rest of year, so he doesn't develop any arm problems. I have to say, I'm quite happy with his performance and the fact he will make make less than 12 million dollars for next year.

Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
44.8 Million (4 Starting Pitchers)
2010 Average: 12.2 Million a player

Who's Hot

Milton Bradley - Hey, better late than the never, right? He had three more hits yesterday and his average is up to .268.

Jake Fox - Fox hit his first career grand slam yesterday, and he gets another start today with Alfonso Soriano still nursing his bum knee. Fox has 39 RBI and 10 HR's now.

Who's Not

Derrek Lee - Hey, even our best player has to have an 0 for 5 day every now and then.

Conclusions

I leave you today with Bruce Miles and his quote from Lou Pinella:

So I figured I’d ask Lou what he thought of his team being written off.

“I love it,” he said. “I hope they continue to write that. It would
be nice. What people write or don’t write has no bearing on how we do.
It’s good. There’s nothing wrong with playing the role of a big
underdog. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve got to go out and play
on the field regardless of what people write or don’t write. The less
attention, the better.”

Gamecast: August 29th vs. Mets - No. 3 Starter

Bobby Parnell (3-6, 5.08 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (7-7, 4.07 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs won, but the Cardinals pull out a crazy win...go figure. Ok, so onto our look at the Cubs in 2010.

Starting Pitcher - No. 3 Starter (Ryan Dempster)

Contract 2009: 9 Million

Contract 2010:13.5 Million

Stats 2009: 7-7, 4.07 ERA in 143 2/3 innings. 122/54 K/BB Ratio with a 1.36 WHIP

Ryan Dempster as a big reason the Cubs won 97 games a year ago, and he hasn't been in bad in 2010. Of course, he really has been up and down, which is the story of the Cubs 2009 season. Dempster was rewarded with a big offseason contract and we all knew that it might have been a bad idea. One year into the deal, and I'm sure Cub fans wished Dempster was not signed for three years.

The Cubs have a lot of money committed into the rotation for next year, and Dempster going to be getting a nice 4.5 million dollar raise. The problem with sinking so much money into guy's like Dempster is that it is hard to make improvements.

The problem is that Dempster will probably not be as good as he was in 2008, and he's getting paid more than Ted Lilly, who is a better pitcher at this point. Of course, if Dempster pitches with a sub 4 ERA in the last three years it would work out just fine. Does anybody else think he can do that for three more years? This is just another move of Jim Hendry that is going to tie the Cubs hands for the next few years.

Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
44.4 Million (3 Starting Pitchers)

Who's Hot

Alfonso Soriano - Dude, he had three hits yesterday including his first home run in ages. It is good to see, but I have a feeling he is heading to a nice DL stint. Looks like Jake Fox needs to get ready and play some OF.

Milton Bradley -
Maybe Milton can play just good enough over the last month and get some trade value for the Cubs. He had three more hits yesterday and is up to .262 on the season.

Who's Not

Ryan Theriot - Another 0 for 4 at the top of the lineup. He's down to .290 and looks rough out there.

Sam Fuld - Fuld's hot start is over, as he has seen his average did down to .259 with an 0 for  4 yesterday.

Conclusions

The Cubs need to win, but I'm not getting some hopes up.

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Mets 2 -- Thanks, Brian!

You know how I know Brian Stokes sucks? He gave up four runs and got just one out yesterday--AGAINST THE CUBS!! Sheesh. Fortunately, Stokes decided to be really bad at baseball on a day when the Cubs' ace was on the mound, and SOMEHOW this team snagged another win.

(Also Brian Stokes probably listens to Coldplay.)

At the very least, Stokes made teammate Pat Misch look stellar. Misch went seven innings as the starter, allowing just one run on six hits. (THAT'S the Cubs team we all know and hate!) Even though it happens all the damn time, it's still somewhat baffling to see how often total no-name pieces of crap shut down this team's offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Cubs got a good performance out of their starter, as Ted Lilly pitched 7.1 solid innings of his own. Since the offense was generally inept (surprise!) aside from Brian Stokes' incredibly sucktastic performance, Lilly deserves a lot of credit for keeping the game close for a long time yesterday.

If anybody on offense deserves any credit for yesterday's win, it's gotta be Milton "Everyone's Favorite Cub" Bradley. Bradley had a double in each of the innings in which the Cubs scored, went 3-for-3 on the day, and also walked. This guy is trying as hard as he can to get his average all the way up to... .270. Guh.

Only three other Cubs had hits of any kind yesterday: D-Lee, A-Ram, and Soriano (The Fonz was 3-for-3, and hit the game-winning home run in the 8th). That means four other Cub starting position players posted oh-fers: Theriot, Soto, Baker, and Fuld. Man, Geo Soto has had a rough year, huh?

If you're in favor of the idea of picking one Cub to root for while the rest of the team goes down in flames, you could do a lot worse than Ted Lilly. His starts are a refreshing break from what's usually a totally mystifying level of incompetence demonstrated by this team.

Go Ted Lilly!

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