Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Diamondbacks

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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Overview
After a feeling of optimism in the last Series Preview, the Cubs have once again knocked my optimism down a rung by dropping a series to the Nationals.  The Cubs now welcome to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the Diamondbacks (10-11) and their ability to crush the dreams of Cub Nation (See: 2007).  The Dbacks have won their past two series (PHI, @COL) and look to keep that streak alive on the road, where they are 3-6 on the season so far.  Hopefully the Cubs will help continue the Dbacks road woes during the four-game series.

It may not hurt that since the Arizona State Legislature passed immigration reform for the state that the Diamondbacks have been under a lot of pressure. However illogical the protests may be, I hope it keeps the Dbacks off their game and helps the Cubs get back to .500.

How's it all going to play out?  Well, it's complicated...

Thursday, April 29- Theodore Roosevelt Lilly (1-0, 0.00) vs. Ian "Not John F." Kennedy (0-1, 4.43)
Ian Kennedy was once the diamond of the New York Yankees minor league system, but like almost all prospects in that farm system, was traded away for a veteran.  In the case of Kennedy, he was part of the three-team trade that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson.  Kennedy only pitched once in 2009 because an anuerysm near his right shoulder put him under the knife.  Kennedy has a 4-seamer that clocks in around 90-92, a plus changeup, a tight curve, and spent the offseason working on a 2-seamer.  He has only allowed 2 earned runs over his last two appearances, and seems to be figuring things out.

His opponent is the Bullmoose.  Lilly came off the disabled list on Saturday in Milwaukee and threw six shutout innings.  Over the start he allowed only three hits.  Lilly only threw 78 pitches in the game but was pulled after his back tightened up.  Hopefully that was just a precaution and isn't an ongoing issue.  Lord knows our bullpen doesn't need anymore of a workload than it already has. 

Cubs win this one.  If I've learned anything in life, it's don't bet against Teddy.  More importantly, don't bet against Lilly if he's on the mound after the Cubs lose two games in a row.

Friday, April 30- Randy Wells (2-0, 2.49) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 4.88)
Lopez is a journeyman pitcher that always seems to have a resurgence just when you think he's done.  This year appeared to be one of those resurgance years as Lopez turned his minor league invite to the Dbacks camp into a spot in the starting rotation.  After putting up a good start his first time out (6 IP, 1 ER against PIT) he was hit hard in two of his next three starts.  That being said, Lopez is one of those guys that goes out and just eats innings, no matter what.  He is a four pitch pitcher that has a high 80s fastball that is complimented by a cutter, a slider and a change.  However, at this point in his career he gets by on guile more than anything.

Randy Wells is coming off of another solid start.  Against the Brewers on Sunday Wells allowed two runs in seven innings and didn't walk a batter.  There isn't a whole lot that hasn't been already said about this kid and I don't feel its appropriate to go on a rant about my mancrush for him in this space.  Wells looks to keep his strong start to the season going and shut down what has been a potent, at times, Dbacks lineup.

Despite the fact that guys like Lopez usually dominate a "good" Cubs lineup (not the punchless one we are trotting out right now), I'm leaning towards a Dbacks win... but for the sake of it, I'll say Cubs are 2-0 after Friday (Randy is just too good).

Saturday, May 1- Carlos Silva (2-0, 1.73) vs. Mystery Pitcher X (0-0, INF!!!)
Kris Benson was injured last night in his first start for the Dbacks, so the club is looking to call someone up to take his rotation spot.  Until that happens, the Dbacks rotation appears to be in a shuffle.  Sadly this means the Cubs might have to face Danny Haren on Saturday or Sunday.

Silva is coming off his "worst" outing of the season which was still a quality start.  Silva went 7 innings and allowed 3 ER against the Nationals.  It is only a small sample size of four starts, but Silva has done a damn fine job in the rotation.  I expect his numbers to eventually even out a bit, but deep down I'm hoping he's turned over a new leaf and doesn't regress completely to his career mean.  Regardless, Saturday is May Day, so bring your friend Carlos Silva a bouquet of flowers.  Yes, that just happened.

No prediction because I don't know who he's facing.

Sunday, May 2- Tommy Gorzelanny (0-3, 2.45) vs. Another Mystery Pitcher (0-0, ?)
Again, the pitcher here could very well be Haren or Edwin Jackson, but I'm not going to speculate any further until I see something more official on MLB.com in the "probables" section.

Tom Gorzelanny is the Randy Wells of 2010.  I don't know what he did and to whom, but the whole team refuses to give him run support any time he is on the mound.  The only way to make his losses any less painful than they are is if we could revive Harry Carey and at least listen to the man butcher Tom's name.  In Gorz's last outing he went seven innings and allowed only two runs.  A quality start from a Cubs pitcher?  Again?  I know, it's a shocker.  Hopefully the team can actually get him some run support and beat the current streak.

Tenatively, I predict the Cubs win (more out of pity for Tom, than anything).

Conclusion
It would be nice to see the Cubs at .500 after this series by going 3-1.  I mean, eventually the Cubs have to win a series against someone other than the Brewers, right?  Why not now?

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Gamecast: April 29, 2010 - Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

GameCastTed Lilly (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (0-1, 4.43 ERA)

Overview
Ted Lilly tries to break a 2-game losing streak for the Cubs this afternoon at Wrigley Field. On Saturday, in his first start of the season, T'Lil looked very strong, tossing 78 pitches over 6 scoreless innings. He'll try to duplicate that feat this afternoon. The visiting Snakes will send Ian Kennedy to the mound. This will be his first ever appearance against the Cubs, having come over from the Yankees during last offseason's Granderson/Scherzer/Edwin Jackson/Austin Jackson three-team deal. So far this season, he has just 1 quality start in 4, that being last time out..a nice 8-inning start versus the Phillies. His start before that was 5 scoreless innings against the Padres, and while that's nice, it doesnt count as an official QS by MLB's standards. Kennedy is finesse/flyball type righty, so if the wind's blowing out, the Cubs have a chance to throw up quite a few runs.

Who's Hot
Me - My frustration is getting at an exceedingly high level after yesterday's "effort" with runners in scoring position. Several innings in a row we had runners in scoring position with 0 or 1 outs, and we couldnt get them in. That can't continue to happen. We just lost 2 of 3 at home to the Nationals, after losing 2 of 3 at home to the Astros the home series prior. I dont know if the Cubs are a "good" team or not yet, but "good" teams have to win home series.

Who's Not
The mendoza twins of Lee and Ramirez. Their non-hitting routines are getting old. Lee's average has plummeted to .203, and Ramirez is stagnating at .155. I'm not advocating sweeping changes, and I'm hoping you're not either, but they need to pick it up. They're a large reason why we lost 2 of 3 to the Nats.

Finally, you might have heard that Bruce Levine wrote an article about Starlin Castro yesterday. Paraphrasing, I believe it said something to the tune of: "The Cubs might be calling Castro up soon, there are front office types evaluating when a potential call-up might occur, no one knows when it will happen, but it could happen soon." So basically, Levine said nothing. Which is par for the course for him.

Keep the faith.
-MW

Game Recap: Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2 - You Thought We Forgot Edition

Aha!  Just when you thought we'd shirked our duties in the last game of the season, here finally is the belated Game Recap.  Just look the other way and forget that Yarbage missed the GameCast.

So.  Ryan Dempster became the only Cub to pitch 200 innings in his final outing of the season -- he didn't toss all 200 in one go, though, but lasted 5 innings -- while striking out 10.  Dempster finishes the first of four seasons with 11 wins, 9 losses, and a 3.65 ERA.  For comparison's sake, the five pitchers above Dempster in ERA and four of the five pitchers below him all have more wins, which is my way of saying that on a team with a more reliable offense, he wins 15 all day long.  I still think that by the time year four rolls around, Dempster's going to have Cub fans contemplating suicide, but that's a ways away.

But Ryan didn't have his best stuff -- despite 10 strikeouts -- and so the Cubs lost to Arizona, dropping to 83 wins to finish the season. 

Way back in March, I was convinced that they'd win about 17 more than they did.  I didn't know that Chicago's offense would be non-existent, that their pitching would be erratic and often-injured, and that their manager would be clueless to fix the problems.  I thought that they would walk an easy path into the playoffs, where they would be unbeatable. 

I thought a lot of things.  In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm actually kind of stupid.

Anyway, I'm over this "wait 'til next year" crap.  It grates me to see it, to hear it, to think it.  So instead, I'll say this: if you have daddy issues, resulting in a chip on your shoulder the size of Omaha, and if you are inclined to get confrontational with coaches, umpires, and fans, then you probably shouldn't play in Chicago.  Just a heads up for the future.

Oh, and White Sox suck.

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Diamondbacks 0 -- Randy Wells rides again

Maybe knowing that he was down to the last hundred yards of the marathon, Randy Wells decided it was okay to give it all he had left.  Whatever the reason, Wells pitched 7 solid innings of 3-hit, 1-walk, 10-strikeout baseball to punctuate the end of his season.  Very fittingly, Jason Stark wrote an article today in which he presumptively awarded the NL Rookie of the Year trophy to Chris Coghlan.  Runners up included J.A. Happ, Tommy Hanson, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Casey McGehee.  Wells didn't even receive an honorary mention.

For the record, his worn-down showing in September definitely would have played against him anyway, but no matter what the outcome I doubt Wells will get serious contention from the voters.  But he finishes the season with a 12-10 record, a 3.05 ERA, and with 46 walks to 104 strikeouts.  His only pitching rival, J.A. Happ, who I promise you will blow Wells away in the voting, is 12-4, with a 2.85 ERA, and with 55 walks to 118 strikeouts.  Then again, Happ's younger.

Anyway, on top of Wells and his last gasping breath of a pitching performance, the Cubs managed 8 hits and 5 walks -- which they parlayed into 5 runs.  Geo Soto is desperately trying to get his AVG over .220 -- he went 2 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 RBI (if only he'd raised his average to .222 today).  I think it's safe to say, on this late date, that Soto proved without a doubt to be the lost cause Rob said he was way back in May ... but next season is a new story.

Speaking of next season, it can't get here soon enough.  But tomorrow is the last of this year.  We'll have the preview and recap and, mercifully, it'll be over.

Gamecast: October 3rd vs. Diamondbacks

Daniel Cabrera (0-5, 6.07 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (11-10, 3.18 ERA)

Story Lines

Randy Wells' rotation spot for next season is pretty secure, I would guess, but I'm sure he would like to end the year with a better than .500 record.

The Cubs, by the looks of it, looked terrible yesterday. Thank goodness, I didn't see anything.

Who's Hot

The Twins - Don't look now, but they are just 1 game back of the Tigers.

Who's Not

GMs - The Blue Jays and the Padres both made changes. Maybe the Cubs can get Doc H from the Jays?

Conclusions

Just two games left.

Game Recap: Diamondbacks 12, Cubs 3 - Blow Out

In a game of stunning mediocrity and epic defeat, the Cubs were handed their 77nd loss of the season yesterday against an Arizona team that sucks golf balls through garden hoses.  Still, in a series that matters none, these things are bound to happen.

The Cubs pitcher was Tom Gorzelanny, who is in rotation audition mode until next April.  He didn't do much to help his cause, serving up 7 runs in 3 innings of work, but nobody's going to remember how badly he got his ass kicked once March rolls around.

He was relieved by a team of pitchers who all proceeded to bumble their way through the game, except for Berg and Grabow who both only allowed hits but held the 'backs at bay. 

Offensively, the most impressive thing to happen was that Kosuke Fukudome walked 3 times.  That's how you can tell that it was a meh-diocre day. 

Today's game is an early one, for which I am sure we are all excited to watch.  Right?  Amiright?

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks



Overview

Well it’s finally here. The end of the season.

As tough as this season as been on some of us, I’m personally not looking forward to the winter. Do I want to see the Cubs win? Of course, but baseball is baseball. It’s a great game that people all across the country can enjoy the same way. The weather is hot, the beers are cold, and the game is there for us almost everyday from April through September. I am going to miss it.

At the expense of getting sappy, it is time for this dogshitary of a season to end. We might not be able to watch baseball until the snow melts, but there will be plenty to talk about over the coming months.

But first, we have the D-Backs…

The Matchups
October 2nd - Billy Buckner vs. Tom Gorzelanny
Tommy GoGo will be on the team Opening Day next year, but it’s just a matter of determining his role at this point. I’d say No. 5 starting spot is his job to lose at this point.

October 3rd - Daniel Cabrera vs. Randy Wells
Wells has fallen apart lately, and understandably so. Wells has never pitched this many innings in a season and there is no doubt in my mind fatigue is a factor. I’m just glad he’s having his growing pains now rather than during a season when it matters.

October 4th - Doug Davis vs. Ryan Dempster
The man who leads this team in innings pitched will finish off the 2009 season for us. I think Dempster learned a little something about conditioning this season, but we also have learned something about Dempster: He’s not a reliable top of the rotation pitcher.

Conclusion
I’ll admit that I was filled with optimism going into this season, too much for my liking actually. Outside of a Milton Bradley trade and perhaps a new addition to the middle of the infield, you’re already looking at your 2010 Cubs.

Will we be as optimistic next March as we were in the last one? I doubt it, but just keep this in mind folks: Almost every player on this team played below their career averages and preseason projections. Maybe we would like to place the blame on some combination injury, illness, pot, batshit craziness, or apathy, but I see the 2009 season as being the exception rather than the rule.

Baseball is a game of numbers. These numbers have been proven over and over again. For a whole team (outside of Derrek Lee) to play this bad all in the same season is…well…utterly ridiculous.

I’m not saying the team is cursed or that the manager needs to be fired or that a clubhouse cancer needs to be eradicated. No one reason (or combination of reasons) for failure exists. Naturally we want to find an answer, but the answer is simple: statistical anomaly.

I know the Cubs are far from perfect, but the window is still open and will still be open for a few years. You don’t have to be optimistic going into next season, but don’t expect such a subpar result either. Just saying.

Go Cubs. The end.

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Gamecast: October 2nd vs. Diamondbacks - Three Games Left Edition

Billy Buckner (3-6, 6.59 ERA) vs. Tom Gorzelanny (7-2, 4.20 ERA)

Story Lines

This is not going to be long and neither is the reminder of the season. The Cubs caught a break last night when the sky opened and washed away another fantasic preformance.

All kidding aside, the Cubs and D-Backs are playing for nothing. It will be interesting to see how Gorzelanny pitches as he tries to get a rotation spot for next season.

Who's Hot

Jim Tracy - Nothing like taking over a job in June and turning it into gold. The Rockies clinch a playoff spot, and it will be good for Tracy's pocketbooks next year.

Who's Not

Matt Diaz - Anybody see the great baserunning from Matt the other night? Ouch! That is a great way to lose a game. Maybe the Cubs can figure out something like that.

Conclusions

Enjoy your weekend and get ready for an interesting football weekend.

Series & Game Recap: Diamondbacks 10, Cubs 0


D-Backs 10, Cubs 0

There's a downside to having a Cubs blog that actively covers the Cubs. That downside is this - if we are writing Series Previews, GameCasts, and Game Recaps to every game - and so far it's usually been me with a sprinkle of Jason and a dash of Yarbage doing all that - then we're essentially committing around 1,000 words daily to the team. If they suck, that means we're writing 3 pages a day about a team that sucks. If I instead chose to dedicate my life to writing 3 pages of fiction every day for the duration of the baseball season, then I would roughly have a Stephen King-sized book written by the time October rolls around.

So maybe I have something invested in the Cubs not being a bad team, which would explain why I stubbornly have been ignoring the signs.

Yesterday's theme was basically: the Cubs need to get consistent! Yesterday's game exemplified that theme - a day after blowing the D-Backs out of the water with an offensive barrage, the Cubs promptly got shut down and gave up 10 runs. But much as the Yankees were recently slammed by the Indians - who scored better than 20 runs against New York - whether the Cubs lost by 1 run yesterday or 10, it still only counts as one loss in the standings.

In my mind, here are the relevant issues with the consistency problems.

1. Poor ability to adapt. Most teams are built to handle a number of scenarios. It's not uncommon in a National League game to see Team A call on a lefty reliever, only for Team B to respond with a righty hitter, only for Team A to respond with a righty pitcher and so-on. But on a team that has a recent history now of carrying an extra pitcher, the team's adaptability is excessively poor - especially if some of your regulars are hurt, or slumping, and the majority of your backup hitters only know how to play outfield. I blame Jim Hendry for his continued obsessive-compulsive desire to load up on one position each winter and Lou Piniella for chosing those players to fill out the 25-man roster at the start of the season.

2. Poor performance. Yesterday's keen example was Ryan Dempster. As a paragon of patience, a warrior of waiting, a courier of caution, an example of etcetera., of all the players on the Cubs Dempster has me the most worried. Generally a player who has a ridiculous career year like his in '08, who then gets a huge contract extension for 4 years ... well, these guys aren't necessarily always going to pay off. Last year Dempster had the tremendous ability to get himself into and out of numerous situations via walks, ground-outs, and so-on. This year his walks have been hurting him and he's been lit up more than a cigarette lighter at a Metallica concert. On the surface 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings of work don't appear to be the worst numbers in the world, but 5 earned runs in those 6 innings? Do I need to say how NOT GOOD that is?

Last night, Carlos Marmol also joined the ranks of inconsistent performance. In his first game back from the leg injury he gave up 4 earned runs and managed to get only 1 out. My Caustic Cubdar (kind of like gaydar, but not about my keen ability to identify homosexuals) leads me to think that his leg is affecting his delivery which is affecting his performance which is affecting the suicidal tendencies of high-strung Cub fans. A crazy thought I'd like to implant in the mind of Lou Piniella: Caution Is Not Bad. Exclamation point! Your best reliever sprains his knee? Disabled list! Your injury-prone right fielder has a sore groin? Disabled list! Your third baseman hurts his leg? Disabled list!!!!

(Note: The Cubs are actually thinking about doing that with Rammy, placing him on the DL. I wonder who they'd call up to replace him ... maybe Jake Fox?)

A few days ago one pessemist asked, what happens if all the underperformers never perform in '09? Well, if that happens it would be historic. I'm hardly a probability expert, but mathematically speaking if something is possible it will happen given enough time and space. Since space and time are both essentially infinite, then that means that anything that could happen will happen eventually. But I'm not sold on 2009 being the year where half the Cubs lineup mysteriously gives up the ghost at the same time.

In other words, things will get better. Maybe they'll sort themselves out, or maybe they will require active puzzle-placement by Hendry and Piniella, but a little bit of tinkering to get the "sorting" portion started would not be a bad thing in my opinion.

Tonight the Cubs take on the Fish. Jason says he'll do the Series Preview, but the graphics might be a little late since I've got to go try on tuxedos.

Current Record: 10-10
Position in the NL Central: 5th place, 4 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 152-10
Worst Possible Record: 10-152
Record needed to win 110: 100-42
On Pace For: 81-81

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 11, D-Backs 3

GameCast: Cubs at Arizona for the series win!

Cubs at Arizona
Story-lines
Or: Statistics as I Understand Them

I'm hardly a genius and I am especially not mathematically inclined. But here's what I understand about statistical probability in reference to the Cubs:

Two games ago, the Cubs scored 2 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their inability to score runs was not an indication that they would be unable to score runs the following night as evidenced by their 11-run barrage of Arizona.

Last night the Cubs scored 11 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their ability to score runs is not an indication that they will be able to score runs this afternoon.

Based however on the composition of the Cubs lineup, using the large sample size of their individual offensive performances of not just last season but the past several, it's fair to conclude that they will likely score a large number of runs on average over the course of the 2009 season. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that they are capable - if not likely - to score a large number of runs today.

Actually that's more philosophical theory with a hint of statistical evidence, rather than statistical theory. Regardless, I'm not wrong. The Cubs are neither likely to score only 2 runs or to score 11 today but they are likely to score a lot. But what I really wanted to take from my little adventure into probability discussion is this key fact - and yes, it is a fact - small sample sizes are irrelevant in predicting future performances. The only relevant samples we can take are from the large ones, and from June of 2007 until now the Cubs have been a run-scoring, game-winning force of nature. So I say again that all this panic and concern over small sample sizes (unfortunately occuring under the microscope of the start of the season) is probably a case of jumping the gun.


Take last night's offensive outpouring. Clearly the Cubs are like the kid forced to participate in sports even though he really wants to dance. They're just itching to bust out, dying to show off their steps, and a team as bad as we're afraid they are wouldn't be very likely to flat-out pummel another team in the way the Cubs did yesterday. The Cubs are playing for consistency more than anything else. A win today would be a good step in the right direction, and what's more it would be a step the team is entirely capable of taking as they have a good pitcher on the mound.

And that is my understanding of how statistics prove the Cubs should be a good team.

Who's Hot
Everybody had hits yesterday, but the biggest and the best came from Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot (and Carlos Zambrano, but he's unlikely to hit today). Both players have now hit homers in consecutive games. At one point last night Lil' Babe Ruth got his batting average up to .250 before watching it drop back down, but everybody's favorite lil' shawty now has a .351 OBP and .780 OPS and is - at least briefly - on pace to hit 26 doubles, 26 homers, and to draw 85 walks. And just for the record, the guy he replaced is batting .235 for Cleveland with an OPS of .720, although he's actually on pace to hit more homeruns - at least for now.

By the way, Kosuke Fukudome drew 3 walks yesterday and at this time has an OBP of .482. I'd categorize him as the team's biggest mystery. Will he flounder like last year when pitchers get a second look at him? Or has he finally figured out major league hitting. If it's the latter then the Cubs have the potential for an even better offensive season than what we'd expected ... even while Geo Soto and Milton Bradley hit like little leaguers.

Who's Not
Geo Soto is sitting down for a few games while Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are still not at 100%. Not to mention that Milton Bradley will have to do a lot more than get his second hit as a Cub before he escapes the "who's not" section of this article.

Conclusions
I'd love to see the Cubs build on yesterday's performance with another solid smack-down of the D-Backs. Then again, while statistics dictate that the Cubs could and should do well today, there's no reason to expect it. After all, this team has been very much hit and miss. But a road series victory following the harsh road series defeat at the hands of St. Louis would be incredibly nice and, hopefully, evidence that this season is faaaaar from over.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 11, D-Backs 3

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