Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Marlins

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GameCast: May 1st Marlins vs. Cubs


GameCast
Taylor (0-1, 9.82) vs. Harden (2-1, 3.86 ERA)
Story-Lines
The Cubs descend into mediocrity and their fans descend into madness. I love you guys in a non-gay (or, if you are in fact female then in a non-threatening) way and I respect your right to panic. But deciding that this team doesn't have the keys to get 'er done just because they're 10-11 to begin the year with may be a logical route to take until you consider that more than half the team is not just underperforming below their career norms but are doing so dramatically.


Point is, even if every Cub regular only had "average" years - not career years, not exempliary years, but just avearge ones - then they'd still kick the crap out of the other teams in the NL Central. Seriously. They're stacked.

The problem is they haven't shown they can kick ass yet. Blame the slow starts, the nagging injuries, the poor roster management, and so-on if you want but it's just excuses. Pretty soon the excuses need to stop and the Cubs need to start talking with their bats again.


Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot had decent days yesterday. Theriot got on base via two hits, and Fontenot hit his 3rd homerun in 4 games.

Who's Not
Everybody else, it seems. Also: Aaron Heilman needs to take a day off, come in tomorrow, and efficiently own the Marlins after the beating they dealt him.

Conclusions

It's not what we expected at the beginning of the year, but baseball rarely is. The good news is the Cubs are facing a rookie pitcher who's so fresh that I couldn't find a photo of him and was forced to improvise. He got his ass kicked in his first start not too long ago, so maybe his fatty meatballs are exactly what the Cubs need to pound on in order to get into the groove.

Game Recap: Marlins 8, Cubs 2


Cubs lose
Flashbacks of October, 2003. The Cubs hold a tedious lead on the pesky Marlins. Then, things start to go awry. Very awry. One 6-run inning later and it was all over, with Aaron Heilman playing the Mark Prior role.

Now for the good news. Milton Bradley got another hit today while drawing a walk. It's his second homerun as a Cub and, for a guy with 4 hits in his first 34 at bats, Bradley has a surprisingly decent .333 OBP so far as well. Also among the offensive contributors - in fact, the only other guy to score a run - was Mike Fontenot, who hit his 4th homerun of the season and his 3rd in 4 games. His batting average remains a thugly .232, but his OPS is a respectable .787.

More good news: Sean Marshall gave what is easily his best performance of the season. He threw 7 innings, surrendered 6 hits, 1 earned run, walked 2 and struck out 6. His ERA is now 3.32 on the year -- not bad for a guy who's supposed to be the team's 5th starter.

The bad news is the Cubs offense was again held to a mere 3 hits. Apparently of all the Cub players to fail to get a hit - Soriano, Fukudome, Three Finger, Aaron Miles, and Derrek Lee, fans are only worried about D.Lee's 0-fer performance. Apparently when a guy misses several games due to a sore neck, if he returns and fails to get a hit then it's a sign that he's lost the ability to play at the major league level.

So let's break it down for a second and look at this team. At the moment, the regular offense looks like this:

Geo Soto - 5 for his first 46, .109 AVG. Anybody really think Soto is a .109 hitter all year long? Or even a .200 hitter? Is anybody certain he'll finish the year with an AVG below .250, or even .275? Just checking.

Derrek Lee - 14 for his first 74, .189 AVG. Lee is my favorite example of fan idiocy. In 2004 on the first of May Derrek was batting .233, incidentally. But if we can outline his season so far, it looks like this: Began the year 2 for 25 (.008). Went 12 for his next 42 (.286). Hurt his neck, didn't play for 2 games. While still possibly not at 100%, has gone 0 for 7. Nevertheless, with a .189 AVG fans are basically saying that Lee - who has a complete no-trade clause and is earning 13.5 million this year - is going to get traded.

But imagine for a moment that your apparent hopes are right. The Cubs decide to trade Lee. My questions for you are the following: 1. Why would Lee accept a trade anywhere if he's happy playing for the Cubs? 2. Why would the Cubs try to deal Lee when he's batting below .200, meaning that he has absolutely 0 value to anybody else in the league? 3. Speaking of "anybody else in the league," why the hell would they trade for a guy making 13.5 million a year who YOU like to point out is on the dramatic decline? Who is this magical Idiot GM who WANTS a guy making that much money playing that poorly?

Just asking, but back in reality even if Lee is on the decline he is a much better than .189 hitter. I'm not expecting him to wake up and bat .300 this year with 20+ homeruns, but based on his age and his trends it's probably safe to say that he'll give the Cubs better than .280, better than 15 homeruns, and more than 60-70 walks on the year. Those are entirely acceptable numbers ... for a #6 hitter. Lou needs to move him there NOW.

Mike Fontenot - 16 for 69, .232 AVG but with 4 homeruns already. Fans have been lamenting for the versatile Mark DeRosa, although I'm not sure how his versatility makes him that much more desireable when he's batting .236 and has only 1 more homerun than Fontenot this year. Here's the funny thing - the Cubs actually have a ton of players in their system who are exceedingly versatile. It's not an issue that they need a DeRo to fill 5 different roster spots. The issue is that they're not using them. So instead you've got Fontenot poorly filling in for Ramirez when he's hurt and Aaron Miles - the most versatile player on the bench - starting at second base. Dumb move by Piniella. Anyway, I fully believe that Fontenot will continue to put up as-good-or-better numbers than DeRosa over the course of '09. So far they're pretty much on par with each other. But I ask you the same question I asked for Lee and Soto - is Fontenot really a .232 hitter? Or will he begin playing better?

Milton Bradley - 4 for 34, .118 AVG, 2 homeruns. Same question. Is Milton Bradley a .118 hitter? Is he a .200 hitter? Is he a .250 hitter? Unless he lost an arm and isn't telling anybody, his numbers are much better than they appear.

So look at that. 4 Cubs starters who are presently 223 at bats into the '09 season with a meager 39 hits between them. They're batting .175 with 7 homeruns. This is half of the Cubs offense right now. Batting .175. HALF THE CUBS OFFENSE. No fricking KIDDING they're going to be playing like a .500 team when HALF THE OFFENSE is batting .175!!!!


Therefore unless you REALLY believe that these four Cubs are coming by their terrible numbers honestly; in other words, if you believe they can't possibly - or even probably - do better than they're doing right now, then I can understand why you think this is a 4th place team that is not pennant bound. But I also think that if you really believe that their current level of performance is indicative of how they'll play once the offense actually gets consistent, then I quit you. If this team is still playing around .500 once the offense actually starts coming anywhere close to meeting it's potential, then - AND ONLY THEN - that is when they are screwed and buried.


But we all know that they're a better team than their current record. So for gawd's sake relax already!

Quick Links
Series Preview - Marlins at Cubs
GameCast: April 30th Marlins vs. Cubs

GameCast: April 30th - Cubs vs. Marlins

Game Cast
Chris Volstad (2-0, 2.70 ERA) v. Sean Marshall (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
First, an announcement
Tomorrow morning at roughly 6:30AM central, I will be appearing for a segment on Miller&Deace In the Morning on 1460 KXNO radio.  But if you don't want to get up early and listen to me shake out the cobwebs live on the air then you can tune into it later in the day on their podcast page (I think Jon said it would be up and available by noonish).  I have a pretty clear idea on the things I plan to talk about and I can promise you I'll be doing my best to entertain.  So tune in!

Story-lines
It turns out that you make the most fantastic focaccia bread in the world.  It's a long-standing, handed-down family recipe that your father made you swear to guard with your life.  Then one day the prestigeous cook of a five-star restaurant tastes your amazing bread and offers you on the spot a job to work in his kitchen.  But 3 hours into your first shift your bread isn't cooking right.  The dough is too tough.  It isn't rising properly.  It turns out that your glorious bread - which tastes like heaven when you have time to prepare it - turns into doughy shiz when you have to churn it out regularly.  You know why? 

Because you lack consistency, my friend.  Just like these Cubs.

Right now we can come up with these tremendous reasons - no, let's call them excuses - for why the Cubs are tanking.  Players are hurting.  The team lacks balance.  The #3 hitter hasn't found his stroke.  The replacement right fielder looks like a lawn gnome out there.  The newly-rich 17-game-winning ace is pitching like crap.

But these are all just excuses.  Good teams find ways to win no matter what their day-to-day situation.  I still believe the Cubs are a good team.  They have time to turn into a consistent winner in 2009.  But when?  When will it happen?

Note to the Cubs: make it happen starting tonight.

Who's Hot
The Cubs just got shut out.  The only one who's "hot" is the poor bastard who lit himself on fire yesterday rather than face another season of crushed hopes and broken dreams.

Who's Not
The Cubs just got shut out.  Until further notice, the entire team has been dumped onto the NOT HOT list.  I don't know if that list actually exists - although if it did Roseanne Barr would be holding down the fort - but it should and the Cubs belong there.

Conclusions
I'm feeling emotional!  I'm feeling angry!  I'm just some schmuck who writes about them mostly for free on the internet!  Imagine how Lou feels!

But you know what?  While I'm sure he's other-than-happy right now, we've yet to see a story about a big blow up.  This could be from one of two reasons.  A) Lou's too old to get fired up anymore and maybe it's time to put him out to pasture.  2) Even Lou is not worried yet. 

And if the most tempramental, angriest manager of our era isn't red faced and yelling yet, then what the hell are we doing getting so worried so soon?  Just a thought.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Marlins at Cubs

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs Florida Marlins

Florida @ Cubs
Matchups
Overview

Wow, that was not a pretty series.  I'd say it was reminiscent of...every series the Cubs have ever played at Chase Field.  Jeebus.  What a disaster.  And a 10-0 loss is just a delightful way to cap the series. 

The Cubs now have three series losses in a row and three superstar (well, "superstar" might be stretching it a bit) losses in Lee, Aramis, and Uncle Milton.  While Milton and Lee might have returned in spirit, their performance remains at large.  Aramis, sadly, still remains and owwie-haver and may end up on the DL.  On the plus side, that will allow the Cubs to carry their first mobster on the roster since Steve Buechele: Bobby Scales. 

Yeah, things are sort of hovering between travesty and tragedy for the Cubs right now, but I believe they'll get better.  I mean, they kind of have to.  Just remember: Soto and Bradley won't continue to hit .100, Lee (probably) won't continue to hit .220, and Aramis will play again.  The only thing I'm a bit unclear on is whether Cotts will ever get another out.

That's a bit more of a tricky one.  Now onto the matchups.

Thursday, April 30th - Sean Marshall vs. Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad: He's young, he's good...he's terrifying!  Volstad has decent control and is about unhittable, so runs are going to be pretty tough to come by.  He's also coming off of an excellent outing against the Phillies.  So...yeah, nothing much more to say here.

Marshall has pitched a bit better than his 4.50 ERA would indicate and about as well as I'd expect him to, given his Sean Marshalliness.   If I had to hang a realistic ERA on his level of pitching thus far, he'd be at least a 4.30 pitcher.  And I really mean that.

Friday, May 1st - Rich Harden vs. Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor - Pride of the Fightin' Fish and possessor of a 9+ ERA (note: match-up image may not be accurate).  For someone who's marketed himself on his control, he certainly seems to lack that at the Majors.  If the Cubs are in a walkin' mood, Graham should provide.

Rich Harden, A.K.A Mr. Sexytime, continues to be the mirror image of the Three True Outcomes.  When you come to the plate against him, you'd better homer because, if you don't, you're going to strike out (well, or walk.  I'm trying to stick with the positive).  I see Harden enjoying slicing and dicing a young Marlins lineup.

Saturday, May 2nd - Ted Lilly vs. Anibal Sanchez

Hannibal vs. Anibal!  What poetry!  Who cracks first and feasts on the brains of the middle infielders?  Watch and see!


Sunday, May 3rd - Carlos Zambrano vs. Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco, a.k.a., The One that Got Away, is struggling a bit after a nice year last year.  His control's been fine and he's keeping the ball in the yerd, but the hits keep on a-comin'.  Unless he's just feeding fastballs down the middle, I see the WHIP coming down...just hopefully not against the Cubs.

Zambano was good in his last start despite a shaky start in which is fastball went every which way but over the plate.  He settled down after the first and put up seven strong innings, something he's been able to do in about half his starts.  When does he break out with a truly excellent game?  I think today.  Yep, that's what I think.

That's my thought.  The thought in my head.

My head-thought.

Conclusions

Something inside me says "Split Series", but that might just be my spleen and the last time I listened to my spleen I ended up in Denmark with no socks.  So take that for what it's worth. 

Go Cubs.

Note from Kurt
You know how we're supposed to feel about the Cardinals?  White trash rednecks with an overrated sense of importance who follow the only "clean" super slugger left in baseball.  Or the White Sox - crack smoking idiots who would spend their victory parade shouting down the Cubs.

Well, I don't feel that way about the Cards or the White Sox.  I do feel that way about the Marlins, though.  I hate them.  I have not recovered from the '03 debacle.  I will never entirely recover from it.  I blame the pesky fish and I hope the Cubs pummel them each and every game.

Of course, they usually don't.  The Marlins tend to beat the Cubs.  Which is another reason why I hate them.  Just sayin'.

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Game Recap: Cubs 9, Marlins 2; Chicago fears no fish

Win!

I didn't really get to blog about yesterday's game, which means that you were saved from having to read my frustration about the 8 hits and 7 walks that the Cubs failed to capitalize upon.  Not that you would have gotten a lot of bile from me, as it would have been half-hearted at best.  It's really very hard to be angry at this Cubs team, short of them running over my pet cats - and even then, I'd be more annoyed than anything.

Today's game provided plenty of reasons to feel joy.  The Cubs, down 2-0 in the 7th, uncorked the bats* and in Anti-'03 Fashion, blew the lid off of Dolphins Stadium for 8 runs.  The coolest thing was that they did it without homeruns - Soriano doubled in 2, Ramirez doubled in 2 more, Fukudome - who seems to be bouncing back and forth between his white bat and a black one - sac flied a run in (plus he made a stellar defensive grab early in the game), and Reed Johnson capped off the inning with the third double of that frame, this time for 3 more RBI.   

(*perhaps a bad pun for a team that once employed Sammy Sosa) 

Reed is now batting .314 as a Cub.  Like Edmonds, Reed Johnson was a late acquisition by Jim Hendry, plucked from the scrap heap, who has turned into an invaluable member of the Cubs.  If on April 1st you told me I would later say "I don't want to think about where the Cubs would be without Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds," I would have thought you were yanking my crank, which sounds particularly dirty.  Moving on.

Ryan Dempster pitched 6 strong today.  He left after 96 pitches, after having allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 earned runs.  Oh, and he struck out 10.  Clownsevelt is now 14-6.  Never in a million years would I have expected this kind of production from him.  We could make an argument that Dempster is the Cubs MVP this year, but the reality of it is that he'd be fighting with a crowd of players for that distinction.  From Dempster, to DeRosa, to Soto, to the Fonz, the Cubs have had a number of players step up and do big things.

Oh, by the way, without much fanfare, Carlos Marmol has now gone 10.1 innings in a row without surrendering a hit, and his scoreless streak is up to 15 straight.  Maybe he also should be included in the field of potential MVPs, and, retrospectively, he flat-out absolutely belonged at the All Star Game.  

Series Recap: 

I hate the Fish.  Perhaps more than any other team in baseball, I hate the Florida Marlins.  I don't even hate the White Sox or the Cardinals, but after the 2003 NLCS, there is a vile spot in my stomach that belongs to that ragtag bunch of losers who can't even afford to keep a solitary good player who's eligible for arbitration.  

Therefore, you can probably understand how satisfying it feels to see the Cubs travel down to the hole that is Dolphins Stadium and walk all over the Marlins.   Sure, 2 games were close, but the Cubs now leave the putrid state of Florida with 2 wins in 3 tries (pretending the Rays never happened), and I feel slightly less nervous about the prospects of the Marlins storming the weak NL East and sneaking into the playoffs.

The Cubs, by the way, are now 76-48.  28 games over .500.  They have a 31-31 record on the road.  And they are back in Chicago on Tuesday, hosting the lowly, bottom-feeding Reds.  They've already got 11 wins this month, with 13 remaining it does not seem out of the question that the Cubs might exit August with 20 wins in total.  Best yet, on July 17th, the Cubs were 57-39.  Since that time, they've gone 19-9.  They are piling on wins, and somewhere, a Brewers fan is weeping, while a Cardinals fan is at this point too numb to feel.

Current Record: 76-48
Position in the NL Central:
1st place, 5.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 7.5 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 114-48
Worst Possible Record: 76-86
On Pace For:
99-63
Magic Number: 34, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com

Damned fish

Multiple recaps are coming.

I just wanted to take a brief moment to say that I continue to hate the pesky Marlins, who have made it their business to be tough on the Cubs.  Rich Harden continues to be everything we wanted, but he's been a hard luck loser.

That is all. 

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 3; die Fish

 

Fish Cubs

 

I've come to realize in recent months just how much I hate the Marlins.  I suppose that a similar hatred is felt toward the Padres by Cub fans of a certain generation.

For that reason, I'm always somewhat nervous when the Cubs play Florida.  The Marlins have had a nasty tendency to beat Chicago as of late, and to sometimes beat them badly, but last night was an exception to that new rule.  

The Alfonso Soriano led-off offense scored 6 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks.  Soriano himself went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk, although I remain unconvinced that he's going to be slump free upon his return.  The Cubs also had 2 homeruns, both from unlikely players - Ronny Cedeno and Henry Blanco.   Aramis Ramirez is trying hard to best out of his clueless slump by going 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI.  Oh, and Carlos Zambrano went 1 for 2 with a double.  He's batting .356 on the season and I will shortly have to break out the Zambino photoshop again.

Speaking of the Big Moose, Carlos went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, walking 0, and striking out 6.  His shoulder concerns appear to be a thing of the past, as he was allowed to throw an absurd 125 pitches.  

Most important on the pitching front was Carlos Marmol, who came into the game in the 8th inning with 2 men on and 2 outs and struck out Willingham to escape the danger.  He then decided that he liked the danger, and in Rod Beck fashion he came back in the 9th and walked the bases loaded before striking out Wes Helms to end the game.  The difference is that when Beck would allow 3 men to get on base in the 9th, he'd look as though he was bored with it while he calmly struck out the last batter to end the game.  When Marmol does it, he looks like he's on the brink of soiling himself, or at the very least, of vomiting.

That evokes the question - What does Carlos Marmol need in order to handle closing?  The answer: it Depends.  

"It Depends," get it?  It's a pune, or play on words. Y'know, because Depends is the brand name for adult diapers.  Pretty funny, right?  Anybody?  Anybody laughing at all?   No?  Crap.

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