Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Ryan Dempster

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Game Recap: Cubs 3, Padres 6 -- Not looking good.

Recap
Last night's game was all about the oh-fer. Five Cubs failed to get a hit last night, including the first, second, fourth, and fifth hitters.

That's how seven hits and five walks translate into three runs.

The pitching was bad, but not horrendous. Ryan Dempster posted an almost-quality start, racking up 10 strikeouts in seven innings, while giving up four runs. Guzman put the Cubs in an even deeper hole in the 8th inning, but the L still went to Demp.

It's not looking good, guys. The pitching isn't working, the hitting isn't working, and we're in San Diego of all places.

Lately, the biggest problem seems to be plating runs. It's not that we aren't getting hits, and it's not that we're not getting walks. The base runners are there, and to a lesser extent, there's some power too--Lee had a double and a homer, and Baker doubled as well, in last night's game. But somehow, we just aren't scoring.

Maybe this year is some sort of balancing out of the baseball luck equation. After Jim Edmonds and Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol and Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot had career years, we were due for some suffering this year I guess. Maybe?

Yeah, let's go with that for now. Unlucky.

In the meantime, go Cubs.

and THIS is why I am so stingy when I serve the Kool Aid

Are oblique muscles related to the abdomen?  Can you run the risk of straining the obliques by being overweight?


Anyway, since I poked my head out here the other day and suggested that perhaps things might be looking up for the first time in months, we found out that Dempster broke his toe and Soto has strained his obliques.  (Also, don't forget David Patton's pulled groin...heh heh...he said 'groin').  No sooner do we get healthy, than guys start dropping again. And the worst thing is...I'm sitting here convinced it's MY fault!


If you don't ever have anything good to say, then everyone thinks you're a kill joy and suggest you hang yourself.  But every time in my whole entire life I have ever said something positive about the Cubs, it always comes back and bites me (and the rest of us) in the ass.  Every single time.


So now you know.  Honest to God, I want us to do well.  I just don't write about it, because it seems like when I do, hell comes for breakfast.

News Flash: Dempster to DL

Ryan Dempster has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken toe. Carlos Zambrano will be moved up to start in tonight's game, and Kevin Hart has been called up to start Game 3.

In other news: I'm pretty sure this sucks.

I'll drop in links and updates as I see them.

Update: Steve Stone has chimed in. He says via his Twitter account that Demp could be unavailable for anywhere from four to six weeks, and that the injury is believed to be non-baseball related.

Here's the link to the spot starter article we did when Z was suspended. It's a good starting point, albeit a little outdated, to figure out the Cubs' options from Iowa if need be.

Game Recap: Cubs 1, Cardinals 2 -- This is NOT fun.


It's a tough loss, to be sure. No one likes to watch their team put up just one run in 18 innings.

While that sucks, let me see if I can talk you off the ledge anyway.

For one, the pitching has been brilliant. Demp was pretty excellent tonight, and Lilly did well for himself last night as well. It's starting to look like the Cubs will have legitimately fantastic starting pitching throughout this season. Of course you're gonna lose a couple close ones like tonight and last night every once in a while, but over the course of 162 games, I think I'll take the Cubs rotation over any other in the league.

On the other side of the ball, the Cubs have one major issue on offense. They're lacking power. It appears there are two hitters in the Cubs' system capable of helping deal with this problem. Unfortunately, Lou is having a tough time finding a spot in the lineup for either Micah Hoffpauir or Jake Fox.

The trouble with lacking power is, in these close games you often find yourself saying: "We're one swing away." Well, who's gonna give us that one swing? Is it Derrek Lee? Or Milton Bradley? We miss you, Clutchy McClutcherson.


Having said all that, I have one final note for all you ledge jumpers out there: after tonight's game, the Cubs are 11-6 this month, with games against the Padres and Pirates remaining on the schedule. An 18-11 month is very much within reach, and this without our best hitter.

Let's steal one tomorrow, yeah? Go Cubs!

Game Recap: Brewers 12, Cubs 6 - the Quitting Continues

booooooo!
I truly love it when Cub fans quit on their team during every rough patch.  Rather than beat around the bush, I will directly ask the question that needs to be asked:

What the hell is the matter with you people?

There has never been a team in the history of the game that didn't look like fumbling idiots at least once in a while during a long season.  Even the 1906 Cubs - winners of 116 games - had a 2 and 4 stretch early in the season, went 1-4 between May 19th and May 24th and went 2-4 between July 19th and July 24th.  And they won 116 games!!!  They won more games than any other team in the history of baseball and over the collected span of close to a month of baseball they played like dirt.  And if you don't have the stomach to watch a team lose games badly then go follow inter-murals, brother.  You'll never experience joy from a baseball season because you're too high strung.

So, let's take a look at today's reason for why people are quitting the team. 

Ryan Dempster.  17 game winner.  Multi-millionaire.  Bad luck pitcher who can't string together wins.  Dempster pitched into the 7th today, which is good, he struck out 9, which is better, but he gave up 7 hits and 3 walks which is bad.  Consequently he walked away with the loss.  But the real story is the bullpen.

Here's the funny thing.  I don't think the Cubs pen is actually all that bad.  The problem is that they've got two or three guys who really don't belong there and aren't even the best choices to be there to begin with.  Those three guys - Neal Cotts, Dave Patton, and Chad Fox, three guys who certainly will not be on the team by the time July rolls around - combined to surrender 6 earned runs.  Had that not happened, then the Cubs would actually have had enough offense to possibly win the game.

I mean, really, the Cubs offense was there last night.  They scored 6 runs off of 12 hits, including a 5 for 12 night from the 3 members of the Q4 who played.  Every regular but Theriot collected at least one hit, and every regular but Soriano and Scales got on base at least twice.  The offense was there.  The bullpen was not.

So, here's the deal.  If you think that pitchers like Chad Fox, Neal Cotts, and Dave Patton will still be around blowing leads into June and July, then you're right.  The Cubs are doomed. 

If you think that starters Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, and Derrek Lee will combine to bat below .200 all year long, then you're right.  The Cubs won't reach the playoffs.

But since the Cubs won't be using relievers who suck all year long, and since the Q4 are in fact much better than their numbers convey, then I think we can agree that quitting on the Cubs is a pretty stupid take to have.

I've said this before and I'll say it now.  If the players quit as easily as some of you do, then you would be outraged.  You would be furious.  I'm sad to see that some of you don't hold yourselves to the same standard that you'd hold the people actually playing the games.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2
GameCast: May 9th - Cubs vs. Brewers

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: April 24th vs. Cardinals

cubs @ cards
Story lines

The Cubs come into the series down two games, and they are playing the best offense in the league (I gagged as I typed that). The Cubs have shifted around the lineup, thanks in part for Crazy Milton sitting out with only one hit this season. Ryan Dempster will try and get back to his dominating stuff from last year, instead of walking everybody.

The Cubs will also have to hold down Albert Pujols, who is crushing the ball early in the year.

Who's Hot

After two games and 1 run, I'm going out on a limb and saying nobody's hot. We need to win before anybody can move back up.

Who's Not

The Bullpen - I'm not ready to give on them, but we need some improvement.

The bottom third of the lineup - I could have said everybody, but it looks we need to get going.

Conclusions

The Cubs are scuffling heading into this season, and the Cards are coming off a sweep of the Mets. All it take is one game to get the next winning streak going. I think it starts tonight.

2009 Player Previews - Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster

Quick Links:

Many of you know that I predicted a World Series Championship last season during Spring Training. Wait a minute that was Ryan Dempster. Well, I really predicted that Dempster would be an All-Star and rack a 17-6 record with a 2.96 ERA, not to mention a 1.20 WHIP in 206 innings. Who am I kidding, nobody thought Dempster would or could do that in any amount of innings.

Before last season, his best season as a starter came back in 200 with the Marlins. He posed a 3.36 ERA with 1.356 WHIP. During the spring, I was actually rooting for Jon Lieber to win a rotation spot. I really didn’t think Dempster was going to be able to hold up as a starter, but in reality was our best pitcher last season.

So, where does that leave us? Of course the Cubs went out and resigned Dempster to a 4-year 52 million dollar deal before the market crumbled. Will this hurt the Cubs? That truly is the question.

A few things alarm me about Dempster:

  • He was in a contract year.
  • It was first season starting since his surgery.
  • He walked a gazillion people in Game 1 of the NLDS.
  • He was in a contract year, oh wait I said that before. Still he was in a contract year.

Does this mean that Dempster can’t repeat his numbers? No, but I’m very worried that he is going to regress at least a lot. I hope he proves me wrong, but I can’t see a way he puts up those Cy Young type numbers this season. The guys at Baseball Prospectus seem to agree with me.

They have Dempster’s line at 11-9 with a 4.10 ERA in 168 innings to go along with his 1.38 WHIP.

I hope these numbers are wrong, but I would have thought his line would’ve been closer to this last season. The Cubs success will rest in large part on the shoulders of Dempster. Honestly, you have to think that Carlos Zambrano might be a little better (if healthy), and Ted Lilly (who I will talk about Thursday) will be about the same. The Cubs are putting a lot of faith into one year, and I hope the Canadian is up to the challenge, because he was a joy to watch last season.

Quick factoids for 3/16/2009

Major league leader in Spring Training total bases: Mike Fontenot: 32

Major league leader in Spring Training RBI (tie): Micah Hoffpauir: 13

Cubs leaders in batting average (tie): Carlos Zambrano&Ryan Dempster: 1.000

In regards to Kyle's review of Alf Soriano - c'mon, kids.  We can all agree that Hoppy is being PAID to be a 40/40 guy, and we can all HOPE he will be a 40/40 guy, and we can see that he APPEARS to be in decent shape, perhaps the best he has been as a Cub.  But that doesn't mean he WILL be a 40/40 guy.  I mean, I can squint my eyes reeeeeal tightly closed and cross my fingers and hope and pray and chant incantations, and I can pray not only that Soriano will go 40/40 but also for Lee to regain his 2005 form, and for Fukudome to be the guy we paid for coming out of Japan, and for Zambrano to win 20 with 2 no-hitters.

Don't mean it's gonna happen, and in fact, you could go to Vegas and get pretty long odds on ALL of those.

Just an incredible factoid that I want to share with the class

This I just read from Buster Olney on tWWL:

Taking the Yankee$ out of the equation; only one free agent has signed a contract larger than $40 MM so far this off season.

Of course, we are talking about the Dumpster ($52MM for 4).

Not the Sawx, nor Mutts, nor Asstrolls.  K-Rod went for $36MM for 3, remember?

So when we sit here today, this last day of the 100th Year of Futility, and wonder why the hell we haven't gotten a right fielder yet, just keep in mind that, so far, it has been a really, really, REALLY strange off-season.  The fish just ain't bitin'.

Before I go:

Still wondering what in God's name Luis Vizcaino did that was so damn bad that the Rockies would consider trading him straight up for the turd sammich that is Marquis' contract?  Yes, he cannot get out lefties, whatsoever.  But he has a .170 BAA with righties. 

So he's a ROOGY.  Although we already have a few of those.  At least he isn't a turd sammich.

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