Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Previews

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Series Preview: Cubs @ Cardinals (Aug. 13-15, 2010)

Overview
Last weekend the Reds swept the Cubs, and then the Reds turned around and got swept by the Cardinals. So by that logic, the Cubs are in for a bad, bad weekend against the Cardinals. I actually think it will turn out that way. Its the northsiders first trip to Saint Louis this year, and we're coming in at the wrong time as the Cards are hot and the Cubs are terrible, having lost 13 of 15. Fontenot has been shipped out of town..who's next? Maybe we can trade Nady to the Cards and he can just switch dugouts like Font did? We'll see what happens, but I think we're gonna get swept.

Friday: Thomas Diamond (0-2, 8.00) vs. Jake Westbrook (0-0, 3.46)
Diamond was just about as awful as he could have been last time out on Sunday against Cincy. He didn't have good stuff, his command was all over the place, and he was quite hittable. He was out of the game early, and the bullpen got overworked as a result. We'll see if things are different tonight. Even in his first start Diamond was hittable, despite striking out 10. With Samardzija pitching well in AAA, and Jay Jackson warranting a look, Diamond probably doesnt have that much rope to work with here. Westbrook has been pretty solid in his 2 starts with the Redbirds. I saw some of his last outing against the Marlins, and he looked like Jake Westbrook, against lesser quality hitters. He was a nice get for the Cards.

Saturday: Carlos Zambrano (3-6, 5.46) vs. Chris Carpenter (13-3, 2.89)
Speaking of bad pitching performances, Z turned one out in his first start since being reinserted (again) into the rotation. He made it threw 5 innings, and only allowed 2 runs, which on the surface looks good, but it wasn't just what was on the surface. He walked 7, struck out only 3, and had awful command. His sinking fastball, which used to just be one of his pitches, was about the only thing he threw in tight counts. And instead of it being 94/95 like it used to be, it rarely got to 90, usually working in the 88-89 range. Maybe he's still building arm strength. We'll see Saturday. I'd love to see some more velo. Carpenter's been a stud this year again, and despite him being a dick a lot of the time (did anyone catch him berating Aaron Miles on Monday?), he's still a damn fine pitcher, unlike Z - who's a dick a lot of the time and isn't a damn fine pitcher anymore.

Sunday: Ryan Dempster (10-8, 3.66) vs. TBD
It's not definite yet, but it sounds like Kyle Lohse is gonna be hauled up from rehab to take this start for the Redbirds. He had a pretty shaky start against Omaha, but rebounded well and pitched 7 strong on Tuesday. He's been pretty awful in his MLB time this year. On the other side, Dempster's been easily the Cubs best starter, and he pitched well enough on Tuesday night in the Bay to earn his 10th win of the year, tying Heart-Condition Silva for the team lead. If there's one pitching matchup that favors the Cubbies, its clearly this one.

Despite the Cubs being awful, the Cubs/Cards series is still fun for me. I still really look forward to it, and this weekend is no exception. Go Cubs! Play Wellington Castillo over the awful Koyie Hill please! Get Darwin Barney some time too!

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Series Preview: Cubs at Giants (August 9-12)

The only thing colder than San Francisco in August is the play of a certain North Side Chicago baseball team.  The Cubs look to bring a little bit of a warm front through the Bay Area by re-inserting hot-head Carlos Zambrano back into the starting rotation for the opening game of the four-game series.  In a series likely dominated by Bob Brenly stories of his time on the Giants to take the minds of the fans off the product on the field, the Cubs at least have a chance to play a bit of the spoiler to a Giants team in need of a series win.

Monday, August 9, 2010- Carlos Zambrano (3-6, 5.61 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 3.20 ERA)

Welcome back Big Z.  In an attempt to build some value for the services of Carlos Zambrano in the offseason, the Cubs have brought the big righty back into the rotation to audition in Silva's absence.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that most scouts that saw Z pitch in his rehab starts said he looked like a middle-of-the-road starter at best and had mediocre stuff.  His time out of the pen since then has confirmed this. 

Madison Bumgarner is a top prospect of the Giants that seemed to have lost his way.  Initially a fireballer with upper-90s heat on his four-seamer, Bumgarner mysteriously lost the fire and struggled to break 90 at the end of last season.  Featuring a low-90s fastball with less develolped change and slider.  Despite some success at the major league level, it seems that the lefty lacks the bulldog confidence he once had when his velocity was up.  While he is highly deceptive to left-handed hitters, the same cannot be said against righties.  Right handed batters are hitting .282 against the young lefty, while lefties are hitting only .196.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010- Ryan Dempster (9-8, 3.76 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (11-5, 3.15 ERA)
Demp is coming off a win against the Brewers where he gave up three unearned runs over six innings.  It seems at this point in the season that Demp is the most consistent start the Cubs have right now and will tend to at least keep the team in the game.  Whether the offense shows up for their end of the bargain has been the challenge all season.

Lincecum is a pitcher you might have heard about.  Most likely you've heard of him because of his offseason antics through TMZ or People Magazine.  Outside of that, most people around baseball only know about the diminutive righty because he won some award or something for being popular with sportswriters.  I expect he will fare decent against us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010- Tommy G (6-6, 3.51 ERA) vs. Barry Zito (8-6, 3.35 ERA)
Tommy put up his 9th quality start up in his last outing allowing only three earned runs over seven innings.  I still contend that the G-man was a great throw in on the otherwise terrible Grabow deal and the continued dividends he's given the club are proof.

Barry Zito is also a lefty that likes to surf, write music, and long walks on the beach.  While getting paid millions to be a waste of space in San Francisco, Zito magically realized how to pitch again and is doing so with quite a fair amount of success this season.  In his last outing he struck out 10 batters and only allowed 2 earned runs on four hits.  Since the All-Star break, Zito has a 2.02 ERA.

Thursday, August 12, 2010- Randy Wells (5-10, 4.37 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (9-9, 3.06 ERA)
Despite having a terrible start to the season, Wells has been pretty consistent as of late.  In seven of his past nine games he has given up three or fewer earned runs.  Despite a quality start against the Reds in his last outing, Wells was hung with another loss because the Cubs are terrible at supporting their starting pitchers. 

Cain is a pitcher that has more or less dominated the Cubs in his young career.  Every time he seems to toe the rubber, Cubs hitters look baffled.  Given the fact that most of the Cubs hitters would look baffled if I took the mound against them this year, this is not a good omen.  Cain has a 5-2 career mark against the Cubs while toting a 2.41 ERA in that span of eight starts.

In what should be a long series, the Cubs have a chance to play hard against a contending team and prove they aren't just mailing it in along with their lame duck manager.  It would be nice to see some life, if only to give me hope for the prospects of next year.  I've said it once, and I'll likely have it be my mantra for the rest of the year: Entertain me and prove to me that you deserve a spot on next years club.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Dusty Baker's Reds (Aug 6-8, 2010)

Overview
This is just another set of 3 games in a season that's lost pretty much all meaning. I'm convinced Lou has thrown in the towel, and most of the veterans are just playing out the string. The only thing this season has left for me value-wise, is the development of our young players. Colvin, Castro, Cashner, Diamond, even young veterans like Soto, Wells, Marmol, Gorzellany, and DeWitt. They need to play as often as possible, and it wouldnt hurt to take a look at some other guys in AAA. I'm thinking Jay Jackson, John Gaub, Wellington Castillo (backup C next year?), and yes, even Jeff Samardzija. His contract is running out, and with him out of options next year, we won't be able to send him back to AAA without him clearing waivers, which he won't. I'd like to see him again before too long. However, that's getting a little far ahead of ourselves. Here are the matchups for the upcoming series against the first place Cincinnati Reds.

Friday: Bronson Arroyo (11-6, 4.01) vs. Tom Gorzellany (6-5, 3.48)
Gorzo the Magnificent made his last start on Saturday against the Rockies, and didnt pitch well (shocking, no one pitched well in Coors last weekend, except Silva - he only allowed 2 hits). He allowed 11 baserunners in 6 1/3, as well as 5 ER in a game the Cubs ultimately lost 6-5. Despite that, he's been pretty solid for the Cubs as a starter this year, keeping the club in most games, despite his penchant for wildness, as he's walked 46 batters in 93 innings, far too many. Arroyo is doing his smoke and mirrors act again this year for Dusty Baker's Reds, only this year, he's getting wins out of the deal since the team behind him is winning games. He's hittable, he's beatable, and I like the Cubs chances this afternoon.

Saturday: Edinson Volquez (2-1, 6.35) vs. Randall T Wells (5-9, 4.40)
The up and down season for Wells took another sharp down on Monday night as he was the starting pitcher for the 26 hit debacle against the Brewers. He gave up 10 of those hits in just over 4 innings. He'll be looking to bounce back on Saturday - which is an early 12:05 start. I love those games. Early afternoon baseball as I wake up from my brown-bottle induced malaise is the best. Volquez has taken a sharp fall since he was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in early 2008 after joining the Reds in the Josh Hamilton trade. He wasn't as good in the second half of '08 or in the first few months of '09, and then he had to have Tommy John surgery. Then he was suspended for violating the drug policy, which he got to serve while he was rehabbing. Now that he's back, he's been hit hard. He did get his 2nd win of the season last time out, despite being all over the strike zone, walking 5.

Sunday: Travis Wood (2-1, 2.42) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-1, 4.50)
Couple of rookies highlight the finale of the series. Wood's been very good for the Reds, and was dowright dominant in a start against the Cubbies in early July. He's held up pretty good since then, as his sparkling 2.42 ERA shows. Diamond will be making his 2nd start. He had a perplexing first start. His fastball wasn't overwhelming, but his changeup looked good and he had his breaking pitch moving as well. But he fell behind too many hitters and gave up some unneccesary hits to the 8 and 9 hitters, as well as walking too many. But he K'd 10, which was impressive. I'm intrigued by him.

Go Cubs!

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Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Aw, Who the Hell Cares? (Brewers)

Holy crap, I was wrong.  I was so wrong it looks pathetic!  And it's not even the FUN kind of wrong where everybody who is more optimistic than me is able to say "ahah, Kurt, you douchebag, you were wrong!" 

See, about a week ago I posted my opinion that the Cubs could finish the season with a .500 record.  I know, it was a far cry from the days when I used to say things like, "the end is nigh!  The Cubs are going to win the World Series!"  But, I thought it was realistic.

Then, the Cubs bullpen colluded to strike, the Cubs offense took an early vacation, and the remaining Cubs fans were left holding the bag.  Quite painful.

So -- here's how things look now: the Chicago Cubs are only 9 games out ... of last place.  I'm pretty sure it was somebody on Desipio who suggested that a total, flat-faced collapse would be almost more comforting than any kind of assembled effort to finish the year on a middle note, because like the insanely bi-polar Mel Gibson the Cubs deserve to be hated.  They deserve to be punished for the crap they've put us through.

I mean, Jeezus.  Look at the last 6 games (all losses).  The Cubs have scored 17 runs -- a total that their opponents have, in a single game, eclipsed twice.  TWICE!!  All told, the Cubs have allowed 63 runs to their 17 in those 6 straight losses.  It makes me want to throw up in my mouth, swallow, and throw up again.  Horrible.

But, hey!  They're only 9 games behind the Pirates for the most losses in the NL, and they're 13 games back from overtaking the Orioles.  If any team can lose a lot of games quickly, it's these Cubs!  It's like 1999 all over again!

So, normally this is the part where I write about the upcoming matchups.  Cub 27-year-old rookie Thomas Diamond makes his first ever major league appearance tomorrow.  Ryan Dempster looks to stop the bleeding the day after that.

But the truth of the matter is, despite the Cubs having spent hundreds of millions of dollars amassing the best players money can buy, regardless of the fact that they have now had a decade under Jim Hendry's guidance to build the best farm system in all of baseball, ignoring Hendry's dogged pursuit of Lou Piniella and the best crack coaching staff he could possibly get, the Cubs are an embarrassing team.  They are humiliating us right now.

Don't worry, though.  Tom Ricketts has already assured us concerned Cub fans that Hendry would be back to try again next year.

Thanks, Tom.  While you're at it, would you like to kick us in the balls?

Oh wait.  You already did.

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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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Series Preview (July 23-25, 2010): Cardinals @ Lifeless Cubs

Overview
The Redbirds return to Wrigley Field this weekend, their 2nd trip to Wrigley this year, to drive the final nails in the coffin of the Cubs 2010 season. Despite being 1-hit yesterday at the hands of a filthy Cole Hamels, the Cards have been red hot, and go into play 11 games ahead of the hometown nine in the standings. An optimist would look at the situation and say, "Well if we get a horseshoe up our ass and sweep them and are then only 8 out...", but I think we're all smarter than that. For me, the last good chance to turn the season around came when we had the then-first place Reds in town for 4 games the 4th of July weekend and dropped 3 or 4. That was it for me. I expect the Cubs to at best win 2 of 3 this weekend, but likely only 1, and then the firesale starts. That's the only thing we fans truly have to look forward to: What young prospects will we get for veterans like Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee, and perhaps guys like Ryan Theriot and Xavier Nady. Let's take a look at the weekend's pitching matchups..

Friday @ 1:20: Jeff Suppan (0-3, 4.20) vs. Randy Wells (4-7, 4.33) - I'm excited that the Cubs get to face Suppan, mostly because I know he's awful. He's a 5 inning pitcher at this point - a slug that can maybe if he's lucky keep the Cardinals in the game, but isn't going to shut anyone down. He's been very average since the Cardinals picked him up - and average is twice as good as he was with the Brewers. If the wind is blowing out today - Soup could be in trouble. Wells has been pretty average this year, but he's seemed to solve his early-season bouts of awfulness in the first inning. He's got a 1.66 ERA in his 3 starts this month, including last time out versus the Phightin Phils where he threw 7 shutout innings. Having grown up a Cardinals fan near St. Louis, I wonder if Wells remembers his last start @ Wrigley vs. the Cards.. a gem on May 28th where he didnt get one out before being pulled. I'm hoping that won't be the case today.

Saturday @ 12:05: Blake Hawksworth (4-5, 4.85) vs. Tom Gorzellany (5-5, 3.12) - Hawksworth is a guy who seemed to be a perpetual prospect who never got his chance with the big club until late last year when he was added to the scuffling Cardinals bullpen and he thrived, allowing 29 hits in 40 relief innings. This year has been the opposite. His ERA doesnt tell the story of how many baserunners he's allowed. In 59 1/3 innings, he's allowed 80 hits, 8 HR, and 25 walks. That's a lot of runners reaching base. His last time out he got the win against Philly despite allowing 13 batters to reach in 6 innings. Opposing him will be the magnificent Gorzo, who has proven himself to be quite steady since being re-inserted into the Cubs rotation. In those three starts, he's allowed just 6 ER in 17 2/3 innings. He's had off and on problems with wildness though, so that's something to watch.

Sunday @ 7:05: Chris Carpenter (11-3, 3.05) vs. Ryan Dempster (8-7, 3.70) - This was supposed to be Carlos Silva's start, but he was pushed back another day by Lou Piniella. Something's amiss with that guy, and I'm starting to think maybe a 15-day DL stint wouldnt be the worst idea. He's been struggling of late leading up to last Monday's start against the Astros when, to borrow a phrase from my buddy Brad, Silva got his tits lit on fire. So taking his place is Ryan Dempster, who scuffled himself against HOU. But he stuck it out for 5 innings and saved an overworked bullpen in a game the Cubs ended up winnning 14-7. He's been our steadiest starting pitcher, in my opinion. Carp will be starting for the Cards, obviously the best pitcher they'll throw this series. He's death on the Cubs, and under the lights on national TV, there's no reason to expect anything different this time. This should be the best pitched game of the series.

Cubs/Cardinals @ Wrigley on what should be a gorgeous summer weekend. Should be a good time, regardless of how bad the Cubs are struggling. Go Cubs!

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Series Preview: your third-place Cubs vs. the fifth-place Astros

Overview
Hot on the heels of thrashing the Phillies, the Cubs continue their home stand by hosting the 37-55 Houston Astros.

Hey, remember when the Astros were perennial competitors?  That was back in the day of 'roids and growth.  These days, Houston's lucky to win 70.  Roy Oswalt, whose nickname officially became "Trade Bait" not too long ago, has to be begging the baseball gods to be unloaded on a large market team.  The guy has a 3.12 ERA and -- more impressively -- a 1.07 WHIP, and he's one bad outing from having twice as many losses as wins.  Ouch.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are in limbo.  They're starting to look good.  Things are getting better.  Aramis Ramirez raised his batting average by 40 points in 8 games.  Ryan Theriot realized he sucks and is making adjustments to his game to suck slightly less.  These are the greatest days of our lives, folks.  Soak 'em in and enjoy 'em.

Can you believe that there are actually people out there who get paid to write about sports that are advocating the Cubs to hold off on Fire Sale 2010 because they're on a "high note" at the moment? 

I mean, c'mon!  There gets to be a point in every disappointing season in which the action off the field is exceedingly more interesting than the action on the field.  We're at that point, so let's see some wheelin' and dealin'! 

...no?  No wheeling?  No dealing?  Fine, then.  Let's look at the match-ups while I pout.

Monday, July 19th, 7:05PM - Carlos Silva (9-3, 3.45 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (6-11, 4.97 ERA)

Carlos Silva is looking less like a golden goose every single outing.  Take his last one, for instance.  1.1 innings of work, 6 earned runs, 345 crying orphans.  Not cool, Carlos.  Not cool.

But, if Silva is ever going to get his 10th win, it's going to be tonight.  He faces Wandy Rodriguez, who -- apart from having the most embarrassing first name in professional sports -- has about as much pitching talent as the face men of Milli Vanilli have singing talent.  Blame it on the lame*. 

(*If you're old enough to get this joke, you probably have better things to do with your life than spending your midlife crisis reading this blog...)

Tuesday, July 20th, 7:05PM - Ryan Dempster (8-7, 3.57 ERA) vs. Wesley Wright (0-0,  5.59 ERA)

Dempster is one good second half away from almost justifying the ridiculous contract that Jim Hendry gave him two years ago.  So far, so good -- he's got a respectable 1.20 WHIP and is striking out as many batters as innings he's pitched.  His only problem?  He's wasting what would have been a good season on a baseball team that can feel a justified sense of accomplishment for climbing back into third place

He faces Wesley Wright, according to ESPN.  I'm skeptical about this because Wright has never started a game in the major leagues.  Ever.  But what he has done is pitch 110 innings in his career as a reliever, for which he has surrendered 110 hits, 62 walks (that's a 1.56 WHIP), 20 homers, and 64 earned runs (career ERA of 5.52).  I don't know about you, but if the Cubs have to square off against this jabrone, I won't complain.  The Cubs need to face more journeymen relief pitchers with career ERAs in the 5's.

Wednesday, July 21st, 1:20PM - Ted "Farewell Tour" Lilly (3-8, 4.07 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (7-6, 3.35 ERA)
Ted Mother-F*cking Lilly.  The best lefty pitcher the Cubs have had since our writer Rob Letterly was still young enough to poop his pants and get away with it.  Sadly, his twilight campaign in Chicago is not going as we'd hoped it would.  It's not that he's been bad, per se, although he does have an ERA of 8.83 in the month of July.  It's more that when he has been bad, he's sucked worse than a socialist banker.  But chin up, Cub fans.  In his last outing, he managed to drop his ERA by a whole 0.01, while striking 10 Phillies out in 7 innings of work.  W00t!

Lilly and the Cubs will be hoping to continue their dominance of the Phillies on Wednesday, as they square off against Philadelphia alumni Brett Myers, who's basically the One Good Thing in the Astros rotation this year.  (He also has a neck that is literally as wide as his head, and a goatee that only Nic Cage could love.)  The bad news is, Brett has pitched really, really well in July -- he's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.  The good news, though, is this: he's bound to get smacked around sooner or later -- possibly even as soon as Wednesday against a *snicker* dangerous Cubs lineup. 

Conclusions
Just think!  If the Cubs sweep the Astros -- not an impossible scenario by any means -- then they will be 45-51.  That's spitting distance of .500!  Then, the Cubs only need to put the hammer to the Cardinals, before traveling to Houston to do some more smiting.  Who knows?  By the end of the month, the Cubs could be a .500 team!

Before you poo all over that thrilling concept, consider this: the Cubs are a broken team desperately in need of scrapping what they have and rebuilding as much as possible.  Therefore, nothing could be worse than a two-week resurgence in which, for long enough to render their valuable players untradeable, the Cubs set the ball on fire with a holy vengeance. 

It's just Cub enough to actually happen. But hell, I can think of worse things...

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Series Preview: Phillies @ Cubs (July 15-18, 2010)

Overview
The All-Star Break is over. Thank God. Don't get me wrong, I love the All-Star game, but yesterday is the worst sports day of the year and I'm ready for the season to get going again. Even if it means I have to get frustrated consistently by the 2010 version of the Cubbies. The Cubs start the 2nd half of the season with a 10-game homestand (the longest of the season), and if they don't make serious progress in these first few games of the homestand, it will be time to throw in the towel - that is, if you haven't done so already. Up first is 4 games against the defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils themselves have had a disappointing season (not near as much as the Cubs, however), and currently sit 4.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. Now is a decent time to play them because even though they won 4 straight heading into the break, half of their IF is on the disabled list in the form of Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. We shall see what the Northsiders can do, if anything, to get the season going.

Thursday: Jamie Moyer (9-8, 4.51) vs Ryan Dempster (7-7, 3.61)
Moyer is still going strong at age 71. I, as well as others I'm sure, keep waiting for the wheels to come completely off..but he's having an alright year. That 4.51 ERA seems artificially high as he's had a couple games where he was just DESTROYED, such as his 1+ inning start out in Boston a few weeks back. However, for the most part he's been pretty good, even if he is a 6 inning pitcher at best. The Cubs usually have issues with soft-tossing/junkball lefties, I don't expect tonight to be any different. Hopefully the good Ryan Dempster shows up.

Friday: Joe Blanton (3-5, 6.41) vs. Ted Lilly (3-8, 4.08)
After a solid 2009, Blanton has gone back to being downright awful this year, and you could make the case that he's been one of the worst starters in baseball this year. That disgusting ERA over 6 is nearly 2 and a half points higher than what it was in 2009, and he's given up 15 homerjobs in just 80 innings. On what should be a hot Friday afternoon at Wrigley, if the wind is blowing out, watch out. That goes the same for Ted Lilly, however. He's had some truly brutal outings as well (namely last Friday at Dodger Stadium), and I'm hoping he's not irrepairably hurting his trade value. Each start he makes, I wonder if it's the last one he'll make in a Cubs uniform.

Saturday: Cole Hamels (7-7, 3.78) vs. Randy Wells (4-7, 4.61)
For me, this is the most intriguing matchup of the 4-game set. A lot of that feeling is because I believe that both of the starting pitchers are better than their records and ERA's indicate. When he's on, Hamels is probably one of the 10 or 15 best pitchers in baseball, and after 2008, there seemed to be no doubt about that. But he regressed in 2009, and like the Phillies team itself, has been up and down in 2010. His last start before the break was a good one, as he shut out the Reds over 7 2/3. As a lefty (albeit with different stuff than Moyer), he's a good bet to cause the Cubs some issues.

Sunday: Roy Halladay (10-7, 2.18) vs. Tom Gorzellany (4-5, 3.16)
Coming into this season, you couldn't find a bigger Roy Halladay fan for fantasy purposes than me. Huge strikeout pitcher moving from the toughest division in the tougher league, going from a bad team to the defending champs. I thought it was reasonable that he might win 25 games. That's not likely to happen, although 20 shouldn't be out of reach. The Phillies have just blown too many games where Halladay has pitched well, and he's been the victim of poor offense a few times as well. A 10-7 mark is fairly pedestrian for a lights out pitcher like Roy.

I'm not sure what to expect from this series. I can't imagine us beating Halladay, and I have a sick feeling we're gonna make Jamie Moyer look like Tom Glavine in his prime tonight. Maybe a split? What do you guys think??

Series Preview: Cubs at Dodgers

Hot on the heels of a road trip sweep, the Cubs head to Los Angeles to do battle with their '08 playoff rivals in the final four game set before the All Star Break.

Since Cubbie Cynicism is frowned upon (nobody wants to date Debbie Downer, right?), let's look at the recent positives of the team.

  • They've had three straight wins, in which the Cubs' offense averaged nearly 8 runs a game. 
  • Aramis Ramirez is doing his best Frampton impression, having come alive to the tune of 3 homeruns and 7 RBI in his last 5 games.
  • annnnd that's about it.  Damn.

Now, I know that some criticism has continued to be levied, here and abroad, at Geovany Soto.  My question is -- why?  There is only one catcher in all of baseball with a better OPS -- Miguel Olivo, who's having a career year.

Soto, meanwhile, is on pace for nearly 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 90 walks.  Not bad.  More impressive, though, is the fact that only 49% of ESPN Fantasy team owners have him.  Sounds like a reasonable grab, folks.

Anwyay, on with the Preview.

Thursday, July 8th - Randy Wells (4-6 4.67 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-4 3.02 ERA)

Sayers wants you to know -- Randy Wells is not a one-year wonder.  But while Wells may someday have another good season, his 2010 looks pretty wasted.  So much for the mentorship of Greg Maddux.

Actually, come to think of it, I can't name a single pitcher who was mentored by Maddux and went on to have a ton of success.  Jason Marquis?  Sucks.  Sean Marshall?  Bullpen journeyman.  Randy Wells?  Lookin' awful.  With all due respect to my Goat Riding compatriot, I haven't seen anything from Wells at this point that I didn't see from Jeremi Gonzalez, Kevin Foster, and other one (or two)-year wonders. 

His opponent is 22 years old, has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and is on pace for 15 wins and a 3.02 ERA.  And unlike Randy Wells, he is certifiably not a one year wonder -- he pitched 171 innings in 2009, striking out 185 and winning only 8 while posting a 2.79 ERA.  Oh -- did I mention he's a lefty? 

Friday, July 9th - Ted Lilly (3-7 3.76 ERA) vs. Chad Billingsley (6-4 4.06 ERA)

Ted Lilly's long career is an improbable -- and fascinating -- one.  He was drafted in the 23rd round by the Dodgers, but he never pitched a game for them, instead getting his break in Montreal in 1999.  He was then dealt to the New York Yankees, where he pitched for two and a half seasons, before being traded to Oakland where he had his first somewhat successful season -- going 12-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 2003.

Lilly's journey then continued onward to Toronto, where he pitched decently for 3 seasons before getting into a fist fight with his manager in 2006, resulting in his free agent jaunt to Chicago.  This year aside, his time at Wrigley has been pretty freaking awesome.

So, it'll be somewhat sad when Lilly leaves, whether it's at the end of the season or in a few weeks.  Regardless of what happens, though, I hope the Cubs do not pursue to resign him.  Lilly's just a bit too old, and the Cubs desperately need to get as young as they can, as fast as they can.

Speaking of young pitchers, Lilly faces Chad Billingsley tomorrow.  For some reason, it feels as though Billingsley has been around forever, but he's only 25.  He's another of LA's young, high strike-out pitchers, having SO'd nearly 1 batter an inning since 2007. 

Saturday, July 10th - Tom Gorzelanny (3-5 3.31 ERA) vs. John Ely (4-6 4.07 ERA)

Tom Gorzelanny -- or Sloth, as we like to call him -- is better than his 3-5 record conveys.  He struggled a little in his second game back to the rotation, although he beat Arizona. 

He faces another of LA's young arms -- John Ely, a 24-year-old rookie, is "struggling" with a 4-6 record and a 4.07 ERA in his junior effort.  While I don't know that Ely will ever be better than a #3 or #4-type pitcher, I'm impressed by LA's ridiculous abundance of young talent.

Sunday, July 11th - Carlos Silva (9-2 2.96 ERA) vs. Vincent Padilla (3-2 4.72 ERA)

Carlos Silva is wasting the best year of his career in Chicago.  I can only hope that the Cubs manage to deal him for some  younger talent in the next few weeks, or otherwise his great year is pretty well wasted.  Consider this -- he's presently on pace to win more games than he did in 2007-2009 combined.  Crazy.

He faces one of the few pitchers on the Dodgers who is old enough to grow facial hair -- 32 year old Vince Padilla, who's 3-2 record and 4.72 ERA leave him as the most vulnerable Dodger, making Sunday's game the most likely Cubs victory. 

Conclusions
The Cubs are the inverse of the Dodgers -- LA is 46-38; Chicago is 38-47.  As a realist, I'm not exactly expecting the Cubs to dominate while on the road -- or at home, for that matter -- and so I would expect the Cubs to be lucky with a series split. 

As for the other issues, particularly pertaining to how it may be "early" to feel so cynical, allow me to justify this blog's position on things.

We all know that Lou Piniella is a goner, and so is Jim Hendry.  Most of us liked Lou quite a bit, but it's been clear for about a full year now that the Cubs wouldn't win the World Series on his watch.  Same thing with Hendry -- he did a few things well, but those things failed to make up for his numerous faults. 

So when we blog about the season being over -- well, that's just reality -- and our frustration at the lack of movement going on in the clubhouse, it's only because we know from ample experience just how hard it will be for the Cubs to get back on track with the next crew of managers.

It is key, then, that Jim Hendry successfully unload the overpriced veterans who won't be able to help the team anyway three years from now, when they might be competitive again.

It's also important that the next GM and manager both be competent winners, guys who have that extra little drive to get things accomplished on and off the field. 

So, we're all a little worried about Tom Ricketts screwing it up.  What if he hires another Jim Hendry-type who's so bad at assessing talent that he'd vote for the fat chick at an America's Next Top Model competition?  What if the next bumbling GM hires a manager who makes Dusty Baker look like a genius savant? 

If the next group of managers are as incompetent as the last dozen or so groups of managers -- and really, it's all been downhill since Dallas Green was chased out of town -- then, as Cub fans, we're looking at another 3 to 5 years of mediocrity before Ricketts rolls the dice again with potentially another batch of bumbling idiots.

So ... we're probably more nervous than we are cynical.  We've been to this dance before, and odds are, we'll be there agian ... sooner than we'd like.

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Series Preview: Cubs @ Diamonbacks. Arizona, Yee Haw!

Well game one is in the books as we, the writers at the vestible that is the Goat Riders of the Apocalypse Chicago Cub weblog have failed to provide an adequate series preview up until now. I guess it's hard for all of us, including me, Mr. Happy Talk (the Anti Rob??... That Jim Haley guy should fuckin' love me! Oops) to keep the passion for this team going in this crappy year. Of course, I am trying to keep it in perspective. As I keep telling myself (because no one else believes me!), the Cubs are a better team than they have shown so far.

Well, they adjourn to the heat of the desert to lock horns with the snakey team called the Phoenix (er Arizona) Diamondbacks. Our favorite team has escaped with a victory in the first matchup so I will discuss the next two:

Game 2: Carlos Silva vs Barry Enright

Silva should have made the all star team but in reality, he's lucky that he's still in the starting rotation after all this time. He should still be able to stay successful for some time. Silva is, in my opinion, testamount to the genius of Larry Rothschild. He has learned a new pitch, started throwing his breaking balls more and let the chips fall where they may.

Amazingly, he is still doing well even in terms of his peripherals. He is categorized as a ground ball pitcher and he has a high ground ball rate but he's hardly Tim Hudson. But his K/BB ratio is sitting at an astounding 4.47/1. You have to work hard not to be successful when you're K'ing close to 4.5 times as many batters as your walking. Silva should be good the rest of the season and I wonder if the Cubs could find a trade partner. I think it's possible that he's lifted his value enough that the Cubs might be able to get a decent prospect and some salary relief for 2011

As for Enright. He's making his second start. He is 24 and was repeating Double A this year with some success so the struggling D'Backs decided to jump him over Triple-A and right on into the majors. Now, he's a rookie, so he'll probably no hit us. I hope not. The Cubs will probably find themselves in a low scoring game here.

Game 3: Ryan Dempster vs Edwin Jackson

One of the reasons why I find it hard to completely give up on this team is that I never think they are that far behind in any pitching matchup. I see no reason why they sholdn't win this game. Dempster has been awesome, yet again this year, and he is also testamount to the genius of Mr. Rothschild in my opinion. You know his story but one thing to look for is when Lou pulls him. He's been leaving him in about 2 or 3 batters too long this year for some reason. The Cubs bullpen has been doing better lately (outside of games where they play the Reds) so I hope that will change for Mr. Piniella.

As for Jackson, yep, the Cubs bashed his head in in Wrigley Field back on May 2 but he's really turned it around since then and has added a no hitter to his resume. I think the Cubs might be able to get to him if we are patient. I'd love to see patient hitters like Soto, Fukudome and Fontenot (as opposed to Theriot) in this game. Let's see how the Cubs play this.

Conclusion: I'm not going to lie. I pretty much think we're done for but I'm hoping for a bunch of wins in a row. As I've said before there is no reason the Cubs can't put a string of wins together. The pitching is just too good for the team to be this bad. Hopefully this is the start a winning streak.

Oh and BTW, Jim Haley, I concur with Kurt. Choke on it!

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