Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Rockies

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Silva goes down (Game Recap: Cubs 7, Rockies 8)

Is it time to get out of Denver or what?

I thought about naming this one "DeWitt's Debut," as the Cubs' new man at the keystone managed to do well -- and against a lefty, no less. DeWitt went 3-for-4 on the day, including an RBI double early on.

Other than that? A slogfest. Carlos Silva's heart earned him today's headline, with his having thrown just 15 pitches before needing to visit the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. James Russell relived Silva, and was a bit wild, but pitched well enough considering the circumstances, including a 1-2-3 third inning. And Carlos Zambrano did nothing to inspire confidence, allowing four hits, two walks, and two runs in his two innings pitched. All told: eight runs given up in the first five innings.

Marlon Byrd joined Blake DeWitt on the three-hit train, including a ninth inning triple off Huston Street. And it was cool to see Lou bat Geo Soto 4th with Aramis on the bench. Other than that, not much to say about the offense.

Speaking of "slogfest," I have a feeling that's what the rest of this season is going to feel like, too. Starlin Castro will probably hit closer to .270 than .300 by the end of the year; Derrek Lee will finish up around .250 or so; Tyler Colvin will strike out a bunch more, and will struggle to stay above .270 himself; the starting rotation will continue to confirm our fears that their best days this season are already behind them; and we'll get to watch several Iowa Cubs struggle, as the shuttle bus to Des Moines continues to roll.

So this is what rebuilding feels like, huh? Not as fun as I thought it would be.

Gamecast (August 1, 2010) Cubs @ Rockies

As the calender changes to August, the Cubs find themselves trying to stave off a sweep at the hands of a good Rockies' club that was struggling before the Cubs came to town. Today marks the likely debut of Blake DeWitt. I haven't seen the lineups but I'd bet DeWitt is in there even against the LHP. Jeff Baker will likely be playing third base with Aramis resting his nagging thumb injury. The Cubs should conisder giving Carlos Gonzalez the Albert Pujols treatment.

Today's Matchup: Carlos Silva (107.2IP, 3.76ERA, 3.90xFIP) vs Jorge De La Rosa (43.2IP, 5.15ERA, 3.61xFIP)

Just a point about Carlos Silva. Much is made about his great control and it is the key reason why he has been effective when he's effective throughout his career; having said that, Silva's success this year has been due to his career best K rate. Silva's K rate has never been above 5 but this year, mostly because of the use of the change up, Silva's K rate is over 6. He likely is going to regress somewhat in this second half but he's been a pleasant surprise and while I don't totally expect it to keep up, he has shocked the bejesus out of me.

Who's Hot: He hasn't really been "hot" per se but did you catch that game tying jack that Derrek Lee hit last night? I think his next two months will see him lift his batting average over .270 and get him up to around 22 or so HR. The Cubs are not making the playoffs this year so I will spend time seeing if guys like Lee can regress to the mean (in a good way) the rest of the year. I still think he could be back in 2011 for one more year.

Who's Not: Aramis has really cooled off and it's pretty clear his thumb is bothering him again. They are sitting him down but I say just let him rest on the DL for 15 days again. Last time he did that, he turned into Barry Bonds on steroids for a few weeks.

Conclusion: Let's get an easy win today and give the bullpen (and especially Sean Marshall) a chance to get their bearings straight. DeLaRosa is no pushover, despite the ERA, so we'll see. Go Cubs!

Double doozie (Game Recaps: Cubs 7, Rockies 23)

If nothing else, the Cubs have continued to provide their fans with some variety over the past two days: after getting walloped on Friday night, they managed to keep it close late in the game on Saturday, only to lose yet again.

I'd like to tell you about the bright spots for the Cubs, but there really weren't any. Derrek Lee hit a three-run homer yesterday, so that's good, but it's his only hit so far in seven at-bats.

The only Cubs to have registered hits in both games were Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin. Colvin tripled on Friday night, and singled last night. He also walked once. Four bases in seven at-bats plus three trips to first in eight plate appearances is representative of a .946 OPS, which is to say that he's been behaving nicely lately. Both of the Byrd's hits were singles, so that's good for a .500 OPS. I suppose those are your three star Cub hitters for the last two games. Joy!

The best pitching appearance of the last two games goes to James Russell. Three strikeouts in two innings, one hit, no walks, no runs... yeah, fine. For the season, Russell has shown pretty excellent control, with 25 strikeouts against just four walks in 31 innings pitched this year. No wonder the Diamondbacks were interested. Going forward he'll have to learn how to limit the long ball (nine allowed this year), which may involve walking a few more batters. But he seems to have the command needed to pitch well into the future.

All in all, a pair of games to forget. From a karmic standpoint, you might say the Cubs and Rockies are even, given their role in one of the most memorable games of 2008.

Now, I'm going to write something about the Cubs' handling of the trade deadline.

Gamecast (July 31, 2010) Cubs @ Rockies

Yesterday's whooping at the hands of the Rocks is a thing of the past. Now all I wonder about is the future. Lilly is gone, the season is effectively over. The Cubs are only playing for pride now. They have a new second baseman (who is not in the lineup tonight, presumably he isn't with the Cubs yet), and a new #5 starter. DeWitt is a .350 OBP guy so I wonder if he wouldn't make a decent leadoff hitter. Heres my lineup, it's actually shocking to me how strong this lineup could be if everything went right:

1-DeWitt-2B
2-Castro-SS
3-Soto-C
4-Soriano-LF
5-Colvin-RF
6-Byrd-CF
7-Aramis-3B
8-Lee-1B

whatya think? Not bad, eh? Theriot was clearly the weak link in the lineup. I just think this lineup could be pretty good for the rest of the year. And with Derrek Lee hitting 8th, Rob will be ecstatic!

Today's Matchup: Tom Gorzelanny (86.2IP, 3.22ERA, 4.17xFIP) vs Jason Hammel (110IP, 4.34ERA, 3.72xFIP)

Hammel wins today's peripherals matchup as Gorzelanny has been way too wild this year. You can't walk too many people in Coors Field, even after the advent of the humidor. Furthermore, the Cubs could use a nice long performance from their starter and Gorz just isn't the guy who can do that. This is going to be a tough game to win.

Who's Hot: He shouldn't be hitting leadoff but Colvin continues to produce an ISO of .285 with a .553 SLG. That easily leads the Cubs and he's already hit 16 HR in just 260 PA. Colvin has a 7 game hit streak and has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 including 4 Jimmy Jacks during that stretch.

Who's Not: Andrew Cashner is suddenly suffering through one of the worst stretches of any relief pitcher anywhere. He has given up 12 earned runs and 3 HR in the last 2 games over just 1.1 innings. Ouch!

Conclusion: Let the the Blake DeWitt era commence. Well, whenever he actually plays. In the meantime, it's the Mike Fontenot era, sort of. Anyway. Go Cubs!

Series (Pre) View...and the view isn't that pretty: Cubs at Colorado (July 30-August 1, 2010)

Well, I am a bit late on the turnaround with this preview due to a pool-induced bout with Jeff Baker temporary blindness syndrome.  For the sake of not wanting to re-live the carnage of last night, I will instead treat this like a two game series and also fill you in with the most relevant Cubs-related trade news.

On the trading front:

  • Carlos Zambrano is open to being traded and the Cubs have rejected a trade offer from the Mets for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.  All I can say is: thank god.
  • The Twins, Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers have varying degrees of interest in Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.  Last night, it sounded like Lilly was basically destined for LA according to various talking heads on local Chicago sports shows.
  • The Diamondbacks have offered the Cubs Kelly Johnson in return for James Russell and Ryan Theriot. WHY HAS THIS DEAL NOT HAPPENED YET?  Johnson is the arbitration eligible player I'd much rather have at this point.
  • The Red Sox made a run at Sean Marshall a few days ago, but were quickly shot down by the Cubs.

I'll try to keep everyone posted about what goes down throughout the day as the trade deadline is my Christmas in July.

Now, back to the task at hand of looking at this series in the Mile-High City.

Tom Gorzelanny (6-5, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (7-6, 4.34 ERA)
Tommy G is going to get the role of "stopper" today after that atrocious performance by the bullpen (again).  It just seems like it's one of those deja vu weeks where we get the joy of watching those same bullpen implosions that really destroyed the team out of the gate.  Since returning to the rotation, Tommy has been pretty damn good, going 4-0 with a 2.83 in five starts.  I once again reiterate that the John Grabow trade will forever be tied with the Alfonseca trade in the "getting a much better piece as a 'throw in'" lore.

Hammel has had an up and down season.  Hammel features a low 90s fastball, a pretty strong overhand curve, and a serviceable changeup.  While Hammel started strong and had great success at the start of the season, he has been hit pretty hard lately.  In his last three starts, Hammel has allowed 12 earned runs over 19.2 innings.  Hammel does well when he keeps the ball down, because his career success has been snakebitten in the past by the long ball.

"Good" Carlos (10-4, 3.76 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 5.15 ERA)
De La Rosa was supposed to be sort of the "co-ace" of the team this season before going down with a torn flexor tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand.  Since coming back, his peripherals haven't looked all that great: 1.40 WHIP, 4 HR's allowed in 16.1 innings, and two losses in three starts to show for it.  That being said, he is averaging a strikeout per inning.  He is coming off a good start against the Pirates where he went seven innings and allowed only three earned runs.

Silva sort hit an epic roadblock in his momentum train the two starts before he faced the Astros, not making it past the 2nd inning in both of those previous starts.  Those days are hopefully gone as now he has to resume being "good Carlos" with the fiery, anger-managed, trade-bait Carlos is back on the roster to be the ying to Silva's yang.

Conclusion
I am going to be glued to my computer and the television until the trade deadline passes.  Hopefully, the Cubs will be vigilant and try and acquire some good pieces for the next few years while dumping some salary in the process.  That Kelly Johnson trade would be a good start. 

Oh, and as for the current roster?  I honestly think we can take the next two games and win the series.  De La Rosa was at one point a dominant guy for Colorado, but this season he hasn't been (also, it feels like he's been in the league forever...).  Same goes for Hammel.  Two wins are possible, boys, make it happen.

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What's with this whole winning thing? (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Rockies 2)

Who says the Cubs don't draft well?

OK, so maybe they don't. But last night's starting lineup featured four Cub products -- Theriot, Colvin, Soto and Castro -- and every reliever that appeared last night has been through our minor league system, including Caridad, Russell, Marshall, and that one guy who will soon become a long reliever so he can become a starting pitcher but until then will be the backup closer.

Major kudos to James Russell, who according to Fangraphs' leverage index was the ballsiest player of the night last night. And I'd agree with that. He came on with the tying run at first -- which later got to second on a bloody-nose-inducing steal courtesy of Miguel Olivo. Bleeding aside, the run didn't score, and our late inning guys had a lead to hold.

Three hits for Tyler Colvin, who is now back to hitting .300. In 15 May at-bats, he's got a .908 OPS (boosted by his home run that I believe was hit in Cincinnati). And guess which Japanese prospect blocker has an OPS below .800 so far this month? Hint: It's Kosuke, who has a .759 over 48 at-bats.

Derrek Lee struck out three times. I suppose he did hit that double late in the game, but I was pretty pissed off in the first inning when the Cubs had runners on first and third and no outs and neither he nor Ramirez could bring one of the damn things home.

And Carlos Silva wins again. Five-and-oh for the season. Gee whiz. He was cruising early, and I wonder how much longer he would have gone if not for the mistake to Helton.

In my defense, Rafael Betancourt's first inning of work was fine. Betancourt, of course, was the guy I was pimping earlier this week as a trade target for the Cubs; he does have a good fastball, and he did strikeout Theriot. Also, try telling me the Cubs don't need a right-handed power reliever after Caridad's performance last night. He should be thanking God for the size of James Russell's testicles.

Actually, yeah, I'm gonna leave it right there. Go Cubs.

Gamecast: May 18th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Rockies

Carlos Silva (4-0, 3.40 ERA) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (2-1, 2.66 ERA)

Overview

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT:

The Cubs go for a sweep and three wins a row tonight.

It's crazy to think about, but the Cubs have actually won two in a row with last night's dramatic win over the Rockies.

In other news, Carlos is headed to long relief. Marloz Byrd is predicting a Cubs playoff run. Jim Hendry chimes in to say the Lou isstaying put for now.


First off, Carlos in the pen is just crazy. The Cubs need to trade a starter and pick up some value. If they want to keep Gorzelanny, then they have to let Ted Lilly go.

As for Byrd, I love his hustle and his bat. He might want to work on the predictions. Hey, at least he is doing something.

Hendry, I just don't have enough strength to give a quality reponse to this question.

Who's Hot

Aramis Ramirez - I was in bed when he hit the home run, but hey Clutchy might be returning.

Randy Wells - He worked out of trouble from what I saw in the first few innings, including two huge strikeouts with the bases loaded. Wells is the type of pitcher every team needs.

Who's Not

Derrek Lee - Another rough day for Lee. Maybe today will bit a little better.

John Grabow - Just when you thought he might be pitching better he goes and gets wild again. Grabow is the perfect example why Jim Hendry shouldn't be retained as a GM. These deals for bullpen arms have been terrible.

Conclusions

It's nice to be winning again. Maybe the Cubs can get on a serious roll heading into the Philly two-game series.

Welcome back, Aramis. (Game Recap: Cubs 4, Rockies 2)

Who knew Aramis Ramirez could still hit?

Three RBI for the day, including a deep shot "into the night," as Lenny Kasper called it, ending this one in the bottom of the 11th inning. I actually thought he skied it when he hit it, but apparently he really REALLY skied it -- enough to get it out of the park.

Starlin Castro had three hits -- all singles -- and a stolen base against Miguel Olivo, who is apparently quite good at picking off base runners.

But about those singles: I think it's likely that the home run Castro blasted in his debut was the last homer we'll see from him for a long while. The kid doesn't have an extra-base knock since his first game. I think he'll hit plenty of doubles this year -- his first inning liner almost gave him a two-bagger -- but he's got a ways to go before he can afford to start swinging for the fences again.

Tyler Colvin had a hit and a walk, and also struck out once. He now has 17 strikeouts on the season to go against his seven walks; in contrast, Castro has five walks, against two strikeouts.

Derrek Lee had a rough night. These things happen I guess.

Most folks were fairly outstanding on the pitching side for the Cubs. Kudos to Lou for using Marmol in the high leverage situation -- bases loaded, one out -- instead of saving his "closer" for a "save situation." I suppose that's kind of an easy decision, but not every manager would have gone that way. Which is sad. Also, Marmol was nasty again. Surprise surprise.

You know who else was nasty? Sean freakin' Marshall. I'd encourage any and all fans arguing that we trade Marsh to stop what they're doing and re-evaluate their positions. Marshall is a control guy, not a flame-thrower, so he could have a really long career of throwing junk all over the corners of the plate.

In 20.1 innings pitched this season, Sean Marshall has allowed 11 hits, and given up just three unintentional walks, to go with 27 (!!!) strikeouts. DAMN.

Kudos also to Randy Wells, for another solid start. Also John Grabow sucks.

And now Z is eventually headed back to the rotation? Whatever that means. I suppose we'll see what happens.

Cubs win, oh yeah, get excited.

Gamecast: May 17th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Rockies

Randy Wells (3-2, 4.27 ERA) vs. Aaron Cook (1-3, 5.80 ERA)

Overview

I usually like to look at some of the news around the Cubs world  to discuss, but there really isn't anything of note to discuss.

Yesterday, Lou went off and the Cubs picked up a win. So, I guess it worked this time. But will it last? This team isn't really built to win it seems. Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Mike Fontenot/Ryan Theriot are probably will be dealt if the Cubs can find something that will help.

Thanks to some odd scheduling, the Cubs face the Rockies today and tomorrw, before heading to Philly on Wednesday. The Cubs are still 5.5 back thanks to the Dusty Baker's Reds sweeping the Cardinals. Just Nuts!

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Well, it took long enough for Lee to heat up. But he did hit .375 this past week. Thinks are better, but he only had two RBIs and no HR.

Alfonso Soriano - He continues to get knocks and is hitting .331 on the season with 7 HR's. Not too bad, but it's too bad the Cubs can't win.

Who's Not

Geovanny Soto - Soto leads the team in OBP, but is not hitting in his last week. He's only 3 for his last 20 with no RBIs. Everybody is going to be up and down, and right now Soto is down.

Ryan Theriot - He's not looking great since Castro came up. He's three for his last 17 with no walks. No wonder Lou sat him on Sunday, because he has done nothing other than K with a tying runnin on third base.

Conclusions

As we all get ready for the last 3.5 Hours of lost, we will try and get through this week of Chicago Cubs baseball.

Series Preview: Colorodo Rockies at Chicago Cubs, May 17-18, 2010

Series Preview
Overview
The Rockies swing into Chicago for a brief two game series against the Cubs.  The Rockies are fresh off of taking 3 out of 4 from the Washington Nationals while at home, due largely in part to great starting pitching in the series.  Last night, the Rockies got a great start out of former "ace-until-ubaldo-threw-a-no-hitter" of the staff Jeff Francis.  Colorado has been struggling away from home and look to bring some of that momentum from the Washington series into the Windy City.  If the strong pitching holds up for the Rockies, this could be a rough (albeit short) series for the Cubs.

Matchups
Monday, May 17, 2010- Aaron Cook (1-3, 5.80) vs. Randy Wells (3-2, 4.57)
Cook is a junkerballer that frustrates hitters because of how many times he seems to induce the weak groundball.  Usually a model of consistency for the Rockies, Cook has struggled mightily this year through his first seven starts.  In his last start he did hold a potent Phils lineup to three runs over six innings, but his sinker has not been nearly as effective this year.  If Cook continues to struggle with his sinker, the Cubs could be in for a treat of the run-scoring variety.

Wells is similar to Cook in the sense that he doesn't really have anything "overpowering" but can really frustrate the heck out of hitters with his control.  Wells notched a quality start in his last outing against the Marlins but got the loss despite throwing eight innings of three-run ball.  He looks to build on the success and get a win this time around.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010- Jhoulys Chacin (2-1, 2.66) vs. Carlos Silva (4-0, 3.40)
Jhoulys' career as a starting pitcher took a meteoric rise to legitimacy when he threw 15 1/3 scoreless innings out of the gate.  He couldn't keep the gig up on Thursday as the Nationals tagged him for six runs over five innings.  Still, Chacin has been a very pleasant surprise for an already good Rockies pitching staff, and looked pretty composed even in his worst outing of the year.  He throws a devastating change up, usually late in counts, after he sets it up with a 90-92 MPH fastball.  His slider is still a work in progress, and when it is off it can lead to starts like the one against the Nationals.  Regardless, his career upside has been compared to that of a Ben Sheets without the injury problems.

Carlos Silva has also been a great suprise for his ballclub.  Silva threw his fifth quality start of the year against the Marlins.  There really isn't much to Silva's success: he keeps the ball around the plate and induces contact.  With balls being hit into play, he will have some bad days, but overall, he has been keeping the ball down and getting hitters to hit "his" pitches.  Hope to see more of the same in this game.

Conclusion
The Cubs really could use a series sweep to right the ship.  Hopefully they run into the Chacin that struggled against the Rockies and get their mojo back on the offensive front.

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