Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Previews

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Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers v. Cubs
Dodgers v. Cubs
Overview

So, did I miss anything yesterday while I was at work?  Anything?

How'd Carlos do?  Anyone?

I kid, of course.  Obviously Carlos went The Full Crazy, delivering a ball throw, glove slam, and Gatorade assault before heading to the showers.  As Uncle Milton put it, "that was on a Bradley level".  Smiley Face.

My guess?  He remembers 2007 and, since Lou seems to be sleeping through 2009, decided to take the Cubs revitalization on himself.  And since Geo's too nice a guy to punch...

But I don't feel like talking about the Cubs.  How about some fun facts regarding the Dodgers

  • Russell Martin is struggling through the early season, posting a meager .702 OPS.  Send that boy down!! (Sorry Rob, but I cannot resist)
  • So, some people thought the Cubs should sign Orlando Hudson to play second for us.  I was all, no no, we have Fontenot.  We don't need Hudson.  Hudson is current hitting .349.  Fontenot is...not.  Too bad for all you Hendry always listens to me.
  • Who else is kind of pissed that Juan Pierre is hitting almost .400?  Jerkface.  Well, if Pierre still has a .422 BABIP (career .319) by the end of the season...well, I'll still think he's a jerk for sucking up all of 2006.  Jerk.
  • Want a Juan Pierre fun fact?  He lead the league in steals twice.  Nice.  He also lead the league in caught stealing 5 times.  Hmmm.
  • Juan Castro has taken a break from ruling Cuba with an iron fist to hit .400 in a reserve roll for Los Angeles.  Should have kept the beard, though.
  • Jonathan Broxton: 35 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.  Moderately impressive.
  • Will Ohman: 5.11 ERA.  Less impressive.

Yep, the Dodgers are really, really good. 

The Matchups

Friday, May 28th - Randy Wolf vs. Randy Wells

Randy Wolf has never been a particularly good pitcher, but he's earned his low ERA this year.  With 50 strikeouts against 19 walks, Wolf is controlling things pretty well.  That being said, he's allowed an unusually low .247 BABIP.  That should change at some point (hey!  how about today!). 


You know what's weird about Wolf?  He's been better on the road that at home.  Not your standard Dodgers' pitcher, that Wolf.

But you know what?  I don't care how good the Dodgers are or how good Wolf has been.  Wells deserves to finally get a win and today's as good a day as any.  LET'S DO IT!

Saturday, May 29th - Chad Billingsley vs. Ted Lilly

I seem to remember The Chad being pretty good against the Cubs in the playoffs.  Because of that, I choose not to like him.  You want an amazing stat?  Billingsley has allow 0.1 homers per 9 innings.  And that's not even far off his career numbers.  Billingsley does, however, have mediocre control and so a patient Cub team could make somewhat difficult for him. 

Billingsley is also WAY better on the road than at home.  When did Dodger Stadium become Arlington West.  Er, west-er.

Lilly wasn't particularly good in his last outing, but he's still a beast and we love him.  Plus, he's a fearless defender of his teammates against forces of evil (the umpires).  Here's hoping the wind's blowing in.  He deserves a little help.


Sunday, May 30th - Eric Stults vs. Ryan Dempster


Eric Stolts?  ERIC STOLTS?!?  I LOVED YOU IN "ROB ROY'!!! 

...wait, what?  Oh.  A pitcher?  Really?  Well, that does sort of change things.  I guess Stolts is a decent enough pitcher.  My favorite stat?  A 6+ ERA on the road.  Welcome to Wrigley, Lance.

But what about Ryan?  Well, Ryan was terrible in his last start.  He took the first decent offensive performance by the Cubs in OVER A WEEK and wizzed all over it.  Damn you, Ryan.  Ryan comes into today's action with a 4.99 ERA.  That's bad.

Monday, May 31st - Eric Milton vs. Sean Marshall

Milton's off to a pretty decent start, but we're talking about a guy who's twice lead the in homers allowed.  And in case it's not clear, Eric Milton is not, in fact, Fergie Jenkins.  Here's hoping the wind is blowing out.

Marshall has been a beast all year for the Cubs.  And by "beast", I mean "steady, solid performer."  He broke the Cubs losing streak with a complete game*, one run outing and will be there today to clinch the Cubs' 6th win in a row.

Conclusion

...yep, that's right.  I said 6th in a row.

SWEEP!!!

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Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Series Preview
match-ups
Overview

While this has been the least enjoyable team to watch since Jacque Jones patrolled center, the world is hardly ending (which I know because the seas haven't turned to blood, the four horsemen - er, goat riders - of the apocalypse aren't around, and Bobby Scales doesn't wear the number of the beast). 

Nope, this is just a rough patch.  This week has been an interesting (heh, "interesting") combination of bad luck and bad performance.  Over the last week, the Cubs posted a BABIP of .211 after putting up a BABIP of .280 for the whole season.  A .280 BABIP is kind of unlucky, but .211 is insane.  That's simply not a sustainable over any kind of length of time.  Things have to get better. 

If you're interested in reading about season long bad luck, take a look at the luck of the questionable quartet.  Bradley, Fontenot, Soto, and Lee have posted BABIP* of .203, .221, .253, and .274.  The career numbers for these players are .320, .314, .326, and .322 (hat tip to ACB for bringing this to my attention).  That's...insane.  While I could accept that Fontenot's and Soto's career numbers are not representative of their true talent levels, Bradley and Lee are well established.  And maybe Lee's in decline, but what about Bradley? 

(* BABIP - Batting average on balls in play.  This number should trend towards career norms, all things being equal)

Nope.  This is all just a bunch of really, really bad luck. It's what's called a team-wide slump.  Have you felt like all the Cub players are hitting the ball right at people?  That no line drive will fall and sharp ground balls up the middle deflect off the pitcher RIGHT TO THE SECOND BASEMAN?  Well, the evidence is in the numbers.  You aren't crazy, the Cubs' luck is.

Want some more bad luck?  Soriano has a BABIP of .276 but a career mark of .308.  Ryan Theriot?  He has a .285 BABIP with a career BABIP of .314.  IT'S INSANE!  Nobody's hitting up to their career marks!  GAH!

Now, this isn't entirely bad luck, as I mentioned.  It is also bad performance.  With the exception of Soto, each of these players is hitting fewer line drives than usual.  In the case of Lee and Fontenot, they're hitting about half as many line drives as usual.  As one might guess, this can make it harder to hit for average.  But still, nothing here indicates that Fontenot and Bradley should have BABIP's below .230.

Okay, enough of the luck business.  Let's look at how hilariously bad the Cubs have been over the last week.  How about these numbers:

  • Team line: .161/.211/.214
  • And OPS+ of 19.  Yes, 19.
  • Exactly 6 extra base hits.

Hilarious.

The point of all this is that things have to get better.  While I suppose it is possible to have bad luck for an entire season, but it seems a bit unlikely.  And would you like to know the best way to turn around bad luck?

Do you want to know?

Face the Pirates!  Yay!

The Match-Ups
May 25th - Ryan Dempster vs. Paul Maholm
In his last outing, Dempster foolishly thought that 7 innings of 2 run baseball would be good enough for a win.  Silly Ryan!  Don't you know that you're on the team of destiny.  And by destiny, I mean something along the lines of "destined for anal fissures" (so...not "greatness").  Ever since the calendar turned to May, Dempster has been excellent, posing an ERA south of 4 while eating up innings.  The trend for Dempster has been consistently upwards, so I see good things on the horizon.

Maholm has always managed to beat the Cubs, despite not really pitching all that well against them.  I'm actually pretty happy to see Maholm going up against the Cubs, giving them a shot at a lefty.  I see good things coming out of this game.

May 26th - Sean Marshall vs. Ian Snell
Marshall was good in his last outing but, because of the absurdity of the Cubs offense, had to come out of the game despite pitching well.  Marshall's been awesome all season and, being a lefty, has a chance to neutralize the Pirates best hitter, Nate McClouth.

Snell's been pretty crappy all year.  He was also crappy in 2008.  He will be crappy in this start.  He will lose. 


May 27th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Zach Duke
This is the match-up of the series, with ace going against ace.  Zambrano showed good stuff in his last outing, but bad control.  Having a start under his belt, I see much better things for his today.  Plus, you know, he's facing the Pirates.

Duke has been a beast all season, after three years of him trying to rediscover his rookie year magic.  He has very good stuff and it seems that he just needed to learn to control it.  Still, he's another lefty, so I seem the Cubs - having recently broken out of their slump - beating him mercilessly.

Conclusions

The Cubs are going to sweep.  Sweep sweep sweep.  Sweep.

SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE


(*breath*)

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!

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Series Preview - Chicago Cubs vs San Diego Padres


Overview

What are the good things during this latest three game slump:

  • The starting pitching has been pretty darn good.  Lilly gave up three runs, Dempster two, and Marshall three.  Usually, that means a three game winning streak, not a mid-week futility streak.
  • The bullpen has been outstanding.  Zero runs during the three games.
  • The Cubs kind of hit the ball hard sort of a little bit.  They just hit it at people

The bad

  • Um...everything else?  How about the most pathetic offensive display I've seen in years.  How about no patience.  How about no power.  HOW ABOUT NO HITS!
  • Okay, so everything else is pretty much just the offense. The offense looks anemic.  Here's hoping it was just really good St. Louis pitching
  • Luck.  Luck has not been our friend recently

Sure, the St. Louis series was really frustrating to watch, but the two weeks before that series saw the Cubs win 11 out of 15.  Any change of seeing those Cubs in San Diego?


I think there's a decent chance.


The Match-Ups
May 22nd - Carlos Zambrano vs. Jake Peavy

Peavy, that is, unless he decides that the South Side is a desirable place to work.  Which, of course, would we a stupid thing to decide, but who knows.

Actually, maybe he'll be a Cub by tomorrow.  Then we get Peavy and we don't have to face him.  Niiiiice.  What can I say about Peavy?  He's real damn good.  I just can't wait to see Milton face him once more. 

As far as Carlos goes, I'm just really happy to get his bat back in the lineup.  But seriously, while Carlos is a really, really good hitter, I really think getting his energy back in the dugout will get the team all jazzed up again and they'll start winning.  Or that's just pop psychology crap and the only thing they need out of him is great pitching and hitting.  Either way.


May 23rd - Rich Harden vs. Josh Geer

Harden.  Oh, Harden.  Wait, nevermind, that's sounds dirty when I write it like that.  We all know how unbelievably dominating Harden can be when his changeup is on, but we just haven't seen it since the first few games of the season.  He needs to get that thing down and throw it for strikes.  When he gets that going again, he will be completely unhittable.

Josh Geer (note to self: not Greer.  Geer) is...let's see...a pitcher.  Who's...right handed.  And...went to Rice!  How's that for a scouting report.  According to cubs.com, Geer has lots of movement on his pitches but tend to leave the ball up and he gives up lots of homers.  Luckily he's facing the Cubs and so I think he'll be just fine.


Because the Cubs can't hit.


Get it?


May 21st - Ted Lilly vs. Chris Young

Lilly remains a frickin'* rock in the rotation, and only the cubs sorry offense could keep him from getting a win.  You can always count on Lilly for 6+ innings and 3- runs. 

Young, on the other hand, has been less solid.  Young was pretty bad against the Cubs in his last outing and is the Cubs best chance to get out of their slump before leaving this road trip.  But dear sweet god, if they haven't snapped out of it by now...

(* yeah, that's right, I said frick)

Conclusions

I dunno.  I just hope they can get one. 

Go Cubs. 

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
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Series Preview: Astros v. Cubs

Astros vs. Cubs
match-ups
Overview

The Chicago Cubs continue their charge to the top of the NL Central.

The Houston Astros battle it out with the Pirates for the "Worst in Division" award.

This is amazingly the third match-up between these two teams already.  So far the Cubs are 4-1 against Houston and this will be the first time they meet in the Friendliest of Confines.  The Cubs will be looking to win their 5th straight after having outscored the Padres 23-9.  The Astros will be looking to hang on for dear life.

The Match-Ups
May 15th - Brian Moehler vs. Randy Wells
The 37-year-old Moehler can't possibly be this bad... can he?  After 4 starts he's 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA.  But despite his terrible record he's only surrendered 1 homerun.  So how did this happen?  In part blame the Pirates and don't forget to serve up a heapin' helping of blame on the Cubs.  In his first 4 innings of work - the representative of his first two starts of the year - Moehler gave up 15 hits, 12 earned runs, and he walked 2.  That is a WHIP of 4.25.  Since he's entered the month of May he has managed to shave about 30 points off of his ERA.  No, not .30 points.  THIRTY points. 

Randy Wells was initially supposed to start yesterday but the Cubs traded him in the rotation order with Clownsevelt.  He'll be getting his second big league start later today.  A decent performance could spell future use out of the bullpen.

May 16th - Roy Oswalt v. Sean Marshall
If ever Houston would win a game this series it'll be this one.  Oswalt hasn't exactly been his former glorious self, and he's had nagging finger problems.*  Through 8 games he's won exactly one time, and that was during his last start.  Through 3 games in May his ERA is 6.00.

Sean Marshall is this year's hard luck loser in Chicago.  Through 5 starts he has a better ERA than pretty much everybody in the bullpen but Ted Lilly, and yet he's only won a single game.  Interestingly enough in his 7 total appearances this year, 3 have been against the Brewers and 2 have been against the Cardinals.

(*he just can't stop flipping off people in authority.  President Obama visited the Astros clubhouse a few weeks ago and they had to stuff Oswalt into a meat locker.  Hijinx ensued.)

May 17th - Rich Harden vs. Felipe Paulino
Harden has shockingly made his first 7 starts.  He is presently on pace to win 19 this season - despite his 4.54 ERA and he's also projected to strike out more than 200.  But so far the only important "pace" number is 33 - his projected starts.  Harden has yet to face the Astros this year.

Felipe Paulino.  25-years-old and with the pitching stats of Mark Grace.  The good news for Astros fans is that he's pitching below his career ERA so far this year.  The bad news is that his career ERA is 7.01 and he's only under it by 8 points.  Also if he's 6-2 and weighs only 180 pounds then I'm the bloody Pope of Nebraska.*

(*There is no Nebraskan Pope!  Felipe is really fat!)

Conclusions
I like the Cubs' chances.  They're riding a 4 game winning streak, they're facing 3 underperforming pitchers on a team with an erratic offense and their cylanders have started clicking.  I predict big wins.  I hope I'm not wrong.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Opening Day Cubs at Astros
Series Recap - April 9th, Cubs 11 Astros 6
Series Preview - Cubs at Houston May 6-May 7
Series Recap - Cubs 2, Astros 0
NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 12)

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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres

Padres vs. Cubs
Match-Ups
(editor's note: this Preview was written mostly by Jason with a few tidbits thrown in by Kurt.  If you read a line that's funny, Jason wrote it.  If it's lame, blame Kurt)
Overview
Oh, the Padres, how we scorn you.  Who can forget the way you crushed our hopes and deprived the Cubs of their first trip to the World Series in 39 years? 

...hold on, that was 25 years ago and nobody really cares anymore? 

Who can forgive the smoking bat of that fat, hit-machine pud known as Tony Gwynn?  Imagine what his career would have been like if he hadn't gone blind and died tragically prematurely ...

...wait, that was the fat, hit-machine pud known as Kirby Puckett?

Ahem.  Anyway, the Padres are exactly the team we thought they were back in the winter time when they came >< that close! to trading Jake Peavy to the Cubs.  Imagine what the Cubs would be like right now with Peavy in their rotation?  They'd be unbeatable!

...oh, he's 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA?  Dammit.

Regardless, the Cubs are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first, while the Padres are 13-19 and are eating the Dodgers' smoke.  Plus it's a home series.  Sounds to me like it's advantage Chicago, but let's break it down by outing:

Tuesday, May 12th - Rich Harden vs. Jake Peavy
Now *this* is a marquee matchup.  The 2-4 Jake Peavy goes up against Rich Harden and his...4.83 ERA.  Huh.  But...

No really, both these guys are really good!  I was ready to trade four prospects, a DeRosa, three Ronnie Cedenos and a generous helping of Cubbie Pride* for Jake Peavy and his arm of gold.  He was supposed to combine with Harden to form a rotation, not a Tuesday matchup.  WHY JIM HENDRY!!  WHY DID YOU NOT TRADE FOR HIM?!?  You broke my heart.

And Harden!  He's one of the few guys out there who can honestly claim to have better stuff than Peavy.  His poor ERA, in my humble opion, is largely a result of his having poor control of his changeup in several of his starts, and not because of any issues with velocity (despite the protestations of hack writers). 

If both pitchers are on this game, look for few runs and tons of strikeouts.  Not a good day to be a batter.

(* yeah, that's right, I said Cubbie.  Suck it)

Wednesday, May 13th - Ted Lilly vs. Chris Young
Here's hoping Lee can make it into the lineup.  I love a good fight.  Young, generally an excellent pitcher, has also struggled a bit this year (4.76 ERA).  I thought Petco was a pitcher's park.  Actually, I thought Petco was a pet store, but that's neither here nor there.

Lilly, on the other hand, has been awesome this year.  Sporting an ERA just a notch above three, Lilly is the proud owner of a 4-2 record.  He's also the proud own of Illinois' largest collection of human shins.  Who knew he had a thing for shins? 

Color me surprised.

Thursday, May 14th - Randy Wells vs Chad Gaudin 
Wait, what?  Chad Gaudin?  Huh.  We could kind of use him right about now, couldn't we?  I mean, not that Dave Patton hasn't been great and all**.  DAMMIT, CHAD, YOU COULDN'T HAVE TRIED A LITTLE HARDER THIS SPRING?  Granted, he's continued to issue more walks than a gleeful warden, but apparently his genius plan of pitching his way off the Cubs roster and into a starting rotation has paid off.  But he still looks like an extra from the set of Deliverence.

Wells, on the other hand, has been the Cubs best pitcher with a zero point zero zero ERA.  Wells also has a pet monkey.  That's all I know.  But in seriousness, he wasn't exactly unhittable in his last outing.  However he has to know that there's a gig waiting for him once Carlos returns, and if a few decent starts keeps him on Lou's happy list then just maybe the Cubs have an answer to one of their bullpen conundrums in Wells. 

(** far be it from me to mention that I said we should keep Gaudin going into the season) 

Conclusions
I'm sorry, call me crazy, but I have to call split again. 

Note From Kurt
I'm with Jason.  I'm not sure how they'll pull it off, but a split appears inevitable. 

In all seriousness, we keep harping patience here at GROTA which has earned us the respect of half the Cub fan nation and the scorn of the other half.  Those Cubbie Downers appear intent on taking us out via a full-body fling off a building ledge, but we're fast!  We're nimble!  They're not gonna get us!

However!  (You knew there'd be a however, right?)  Sooner or later the Cubs will need to buckle down and reel off 10 or 15 straight wins.  Or at least, they need to win 10 of 15.  Or something.  But this up and down and up and down thing needs to end!

So go get 'em!  Go Cubs!

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
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Series Preview: Cubs at Milwaukee

Cubs at Brewers
Match-ups
Overview

Who remembers where we were a week ago?  Our beloved Cubs were 10-11 - practically in the basement - and people were panicking.  "This isn't a winning team!" people lamented.  "As built they can't possibly reach the playoffs!" they decried.  "I believe that Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Geovany Soto will bat .175 all season long!" they blathered.

A week later, the Cubs have won 6 of their last 7, the Questionable Quartet have very slowly been picking up the pieces, and the 16-12 Cubs are 2.5 games out of first place.  Then again, they won their games against the bottom-dwelling Astros and the Florida Marlins - the latter of whom are in the process of redefining the term "downward trend."  The Brewers represent a different kind of challenge.  We must ask ourselves some of the following essential questions:

Without Carlos Zambrano, do the Cubs have the fortitude to scale Prince Fielder's Cheeseburger Mountain - at the top of which is the legendary White Castle?
Will Kosuke Fukudome don a sausage costume - as did his forefather Hideo Nomo - and win one of the legendary races?

Will it be possible for the Cubs to finally figure out the mysterious northpaw Jeff Suppan?  (Wait, you mean they hammered him harder than Thor earlier this season?)

Let's take a closer look at the match-ups...

Friday, May 8th - Randy Wells vs. Dave Bush
Since he's a rookie, you might not know a lot about Randy Wells.  This is from his bio page: When he's not on the mound, Randy Wells spends his time participating in an amateur dance troupe.  He has also finished in the Top 3 in more than 20 Kevin Federline look-alike contests.  He briefly pitched in Toronto last year before coming to Chicago for a guy in a monkey suit.  So far in Iowa this year, Wells is 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA.  Hey, who knows, if he does half-decently then maybe he'll be the eventual bullpen solution the Cubs are so anxious to find?

Dave Bush is the quintessential 4th starter.  On a good year he'll win you 12 games, get his ERA into the low 4's, and be absolutely unreliable in big game situations.  In his first game against the Cubs this year he threw 6.1 innings of work, allowing 3 earned runs.  This is a step up from his typical production against Milwaukee's biggest rival as from 2006-2008 Bush is 1-7 against Chicago with an ERA of 4.84.  Hey, if the Cubs are lucky enough to face off against him 3 more times this year they might be able to get that record to 1 and 10!  It would be an amazement of ineptitude!

Saturday, May 9th - Ryan Dempster vs. Yovani Gollardo
Ryan Dempster - The Good: 32 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched.  The Bad: 1.35 WHIP, thanks to the 34 hits and 16 walks he's allowed this year (note: a 1.35 WHIP isn't really that bad).  The Ugly: 20 earned runs for an ERA of 4.86.  At this point, Dempster's run-to-hit ratio is .540, and his run-to-hit+walk ratio is .400.  Last year when he won 17 games and posted an ERA of 2.96, it was .390 and .340. 

At this point the amount of hits+walks he's on pace to surrender (190 and 89 respectively) isn't really that much worse from 2008 (174 and 76).  I suppose it makes sense that Dempster is bound to have a higher ERA but so far his biggest problem is that he's issued walks and given up hits at really inopportune times.  We can probably call it the statistical equivalent of "unlucky" while hoping for things to balance out a bit.  If he finishes the year having surrendered 190 hits and 89 walks in 207 innings at last year's run-to-hit ratio, then his ERA would be 3.22.  (And based on the run-to-hit+walk ratio, it would be 4.12 - still a lot lower than 4.86).

Yovani Gollardo is Mexican for "we hope he's this year's Sabathia, gringo."  So far the 23-year-old is 3-1 with a 3.02 ERA and is on pace for 218 strikeouts in 229 innings of work.  Considering that he's 23, he's bound to come down a bit.  Then again, he's thrown 176 career innings now and has a record of 12-6 and an ERA of 3.27.  Gollardo is the real - albiet probably unable to pass a phsyical - deal.

Sunday, May 10th - Sean Marshall vs. Jeff Suppan 
Marshall has been "hard luck" so far.  His numbers haven't been bad - and were actually inflated in his last start by a terrible Samardzija relief outing - but he's just not been lucky enough to get a win.  Considering the book I wrote on Dempster, this is all you get.  NO BLOG FOR YOU!!!

Jeff Suppan.  A 34-year-old crafty right-handed starter who's been in the league since 1995.  As a Cardinal he won 16 games back-to-back, as a Brewer he's a borderline gas can who the Cubs probably can't get enough of.  In his first outing against Chicago this year, Suppan went 3.2 innings, surrendered 5 earned runs, and wept tears of remorse into his calloused hands after the Cubs chased him in the 4th.  Over the previous 3 years, Suppan is 3-3 with an ERA of 4.24.  In other words he's "adequate" against the Cubs, but not stellar. 

Conclusions
As hot as the Cubs have been playing of late, the Brewers have been on their on little run.  Since starting the year 4-9, Milwaukee is 12-4, and they sit barely behind the Cubs in the standings.  In other words, unlike the series against the flopping Marlins and the crash-and-burned Astros this series will actually be a challenge to the Cubs.  While Wells is a mystery, Dempster has been unlucky and Marshall is due.  Not to mention the Brewers rotation is not exactly likely to lead the league in shutouts this year.  At the very least this will be a high scoring series that will leave Ron Santo groaning.  At the most it could be another step in the right direction for the Cubs.

 

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
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Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at. Houston Astros

Cubs @ Houston
Match-ups
Overview

Ahhh, another two game series, another chance to predict a split. 

The Cubs leave Wrigley for friendlier confines, leaving behind a handful of boos and a locker room full of broken hearts.  Everyone from The Shark to DLee felt the razor sharp tongue (BOOOOOO) of the (BOOOOOOOOO) dissatisfied (BOOOOOO) fan (Boo) base (...boo...).  I mean, no reason for them not to boo.  The Cubs were about to lose a game...after winning four straight.  But totally, anytime you feel the least bit dissatisfied during this 162 game season, you should boo.  Perspective is for the weak.

Alright, enough of the boo talk, let's get onto some quick hits regarding your Chicago Cubs

  • Yeah, as Kurt pointed out, Fukudome's being hitting around .250 for the last week or so, which is quite a step down from his the lofty level of play he's established early on (BOOOOOOOOOOO).  That being said, he still looks really good, the hits just aren't dropping.  Plus, the walks are still there.  My big concern's going to be if his power goes away for a prolonged stretch, which would signal the return of Fuku v2008.
  • Cubs, as a team, have an 85 OPS+ at Wrigley and a 108 OPS+ away from home.  No wonder the boo birds have been raining down (BOOOOO).  Cubs: don't like to be cold and wet.  Me: not blaming them.
  • In an inverse of the flip side, the Cubs pitchers have a sub-4 ERA at home and a super-5 era on the road. 
  • And you're surprised we're basically a .500 team?
  • GET MY PLAYERS HEALTHY!!!!!
  • (okay, they're not my players)
  • (I don't have any players)
  • (I wish I had a pet monkey)

Onto the matchups!

Wait, what the hell?  Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz? What is this, the greatest hits of 1999?  Somebody fetch me my Smash Mouth t shirt.  Hey look, the Phantom Menace is coming out!  That's going to be awesome!

What's a Jar Jar?

Wednesday, May 6th - Rich Harden vs. Mike Hampton

I suppose if this was 1999, Hampton would have a ERA a little bit closer to 3 (or 4, for that matter) and a bit less of the suck.  It seems that he's finally done with The Contract of Insanity and can start anew with whatever the going rate is for a crappy, old lefty who was dumb enough to try to make a go of it in Colorado and say he career wash out.

Harden, on the other hand, is completely awesome.  He's just had a case of the up and downs and there's been a bit more down than up so far this year.  But I'll take 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings...I'd just like Rich to pair that with a WHIP that's closer to 1 than it is to 2.

Tuesday, April 28th - Ted Lilly vs. Russ Ortiz

And Russ, remember 1999?  When you had the 18 wins and a career on the upswing?  That was awesome.  Do you wish it was still 1999 and you idn't know the secret ending of the Sixth Sense? 

Ortiz has seen better days (not surprising, given this post, they were in the late 90's) and Houston has now picked him up and is watching as his career winds down.  Ortiz used to be a fastball curve pitcher, so I'd guess he's now he's a mediocre fastball/mediocre curve pitcher.

Oh yeah, and Russ?  Don't bother to see the Matrix 2 or 3.  It's just...just don't.

Ted Lilly, on the other hand, is in full career upswing.  He's working on his first Cy Young season and, if he can get around the lefty-killing Carlos Lee, he'll get right through this Astros lineup.  Lilly has a WHIP just south of one and a K:BB ratio better than 4.  Niiiiiiice.  Of course, he also has an ERA of 9 on the road and 0.42 as home, but nothing cures a case of the road blues like the Astro's lineup.  Look for Lilly to slice and dice and devour the Astros hitters.  And I mean that 100% literally.

Conclusions

I said that I would predict a split, but it's so hard to believe that a couple of pitchers who peaked when Britney was still hot can take down two of our best pitchers.  But still, I'm the guy who calls "Edge" for every coin flip.

Sorry kids, the tea leaves say split.  But expect the Cubs to get cheated out of one of these games. 

Go Cubs.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Cubs v. Astros April 6-April 8
Series Recap: Cubs 2, Astros 1

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Series Preview - Cubs vs. Giants

Series Preview
matchups
Overview

I don't understand what's going on.  The bright, shiny lights and three game win streaks, they hurt my head!  Where am I?  Is that a strained hamstring?  Where are my pants?

Yes, it may seem like a dream, but fear not.  The last three games were real as pudding.  Yes, you really did see Theriot hit homers in back to back games.  Yes, and perhaps more importantly, you did see Lee crush two balls on back to back days.  And yes, in between those two homers, you did boo Lee.  I'm not sure about that one, but I think you're just an idiot.

It's a brave new world!  Unicorns and rainbows and win streaks!  Sandwiches!

None of it matters, of course, as the St. Louis Cardinals have the division all sewn up.  Or do they?  I present to you three scenarios that could propel the Cubs from second-dwellers into first place.

  • Isiah Thomas looks to be wearing out his welcome in Florida already (well, it has already been two weeks) and might be looking for a new job.  Give him a month as skipper of The Greatest Team on Earth and I give you a fourth place team.
  • Lure Pujols into the Democratic party.  His team will alienate him, he'll pull into his shell like a frightened turtle, and those numbers will fall faster than a brick in a barnyard (doesn't make sense?  Let's see you write metaphors at 6 am.  Or was that a simile?)
  • Swine Flu (too soon?)

And with that, what will the Cubs have to do for their part?  Let's move onto the matchups to find out.

The Matchups

Jonathan Sanchez vs. Ryan Dempster - I'd say not to let Sanchez's low 2 era fool you as he posted a 5+ era last year, but that'd be risking a jinx.  No, I prefer to let you know that Sanchez is off to a hot start (that hit rate is totally sustainable) and the Cubs will be lucky to get to him as the Cubs always struggle against young pitchers.  Blah blah blah. Rinse.  Repeat.

Dempster, on the other hand, has been just as bad as his numbers (5.40 ERA) suggest.  His control has been spotty and he's getting knocked around pretty good.  Other than that, though, he's been great.  Don't worry, folks, we've got three and three quarters years to find out which Dempster is the real Ryan Dempster.

Tim Lincecum vs. Sean Marshall - How about we just don't have to face Lincecum this series?  I don't see any real need for it. 

Lincecum got off to a slow start this season, but in his last two starts he's been stellar.  Lincecum is sporting a brilliant strikeout rate (43 in 30 innings) and has been keeping the walks down pretty well.  In fact, there's nothing wrong with his stat line.  He doesn't even give up homers.  For once, I'm glad I'll be at work and miss this game.

But hey, we've got our new ace on the mound: Sean Marshall.  Marshall has been decidedly awesome recently, culminating in his 7 inning, one run gem in his last start.  Marshall will be facing an impressively bad lineup and should be able to take advantage with his mix of curves and changeups away, so I see a pitcher's duel in the offing. 

Conclusion

This series has split written all over it.  Not literally, of course.  That would just be silly.  But still.  Split.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs Florida Marlins

Florida @ Cubs
Matchups
Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

My head-thought.

Conclusions

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

Go Cubs.

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

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

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

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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks

Cubs at Backs
Matchups - Cubs @ Backs
Overview
By now you probably have a pretty good grasp on my opinion about the 2009 season and the people who are already thinking about abandoning it.  So rather than go over a tired topic - albeit one that's always good for discussion - I'll do something that we probably need a little more of here at GROTA: recent Cubs news.

The Theriot experiment is apparently over with at least for now.  The Sun-Times reports that Lou will be batting the Fonz leadoff again for the foreseeable future - perhaps the pitch Alfonso took to the head recently has caused him to forget how to bat anywhere but cleanup.  But speaking of injuries, the Sun-Times also reports that neither Aramis nor Marmol are hurt seriously, which is good since they are apparently intent on not placing anybody on the DL for the forseeable future. 

Nothing quite like entering a series with a struggling, short-handed squad.

Your favorite and mine Carrie Muskat has an article about the struggles of Geovany Soto.  It's a little early to worry about Soto becoming a Servais (Servias? too lazy to look it up), but a sophomore slump is not shocking. 

And lastly Goat Friend Paul Sullivan notes that Carlos Zambrano took some infield practice "just in case," but he's about as likely to be used in that situation as you or I am.  Oh, and the Herald reports that ex-Cub legend Tuffy Rhodes - for whom it cannot be confirmed that he ever dated Punky Brewster - has hit his 450th career homerun in Japan.  Hey, good for him.  I read somewhere that when Doc Gooden gained word of Tuffy's feat, he attempted to inject cocaine into his eyeball.  Anyway, on with the show:

Monday, April 27th - Ted Lilly vs. Dan Haren
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly - aka Hannibal - is off to a much better start this year than he was last year.  Probably the most impressive thing is that in 18.2 innings, he's surrendered only 14 hits and 2 walks.  You know, it's pretty impressive to see what Lilly's done since coming to Chicago.  I think most of us were happy with his signing (although how many of us idiots hungered for Zito?) but nobody could have expected 15 and then 17 wins in his first two seasons. 

Dan Haren, meanwhile, is quietly one of the better #2 pitchers in baseball.  He pitches behind Brandon Webb on the 'backs and doesn't get much attention (at least from me) but since he became a regular starter in 2005, Haren has consistently pitched between 216 and 223 innings while winning 14 to 16 games and posting ERAs as low as 3.07 and no higher than 4.12.  Oh, and did I  mention his fantastic K/BB ratio?  Regardless, he's only faced the Cubs once in the regular season since 2006 and that year he somehow managed to allow only 2 runs in 7 innings and he still ate the loss.  I'm sure the Cubs are hoping for a better showing tonight.

Tuesday, April 28th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Yusmeiro Petit
The good news about Carlos: through 26 innings of work, he's allowed only 11 walks while striking out 27.  The bad news: he's tossed more than his share of fatties and has already surrendered 28 hits and 4 homeruns.  The better news: he's a flippin' animal! 

Yusmeiro Petit, meanwhile, a fellow countryman of Carlos, has a ridiculous name.  Just sayin'.  At this point he's pitched through 151.2 innings in his career, with an ERA of 5.46, a 7-11 record, and he also lacks the rage of his Venezuelan brother Carlos Zambrano.  Also he's prone to surrender homeruns, and he'll be facing a Cubs team that is theoretically inclined to hit a lot of them.

Wednesday, April 29th - Ryan Dempster vs. Doug Davis
Ryan Clownsevelt Dempster's nickname doesn't make as much sense if he's not pitching in front of (or behind) Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.  Anyway, through 4 starts this year he's pitched a lot like I thought he'd pitch last year - erratically with the consequence of surrendering too many runs.  But chin up, Cub fans!  While Dempster has yet to really dominate a team, he has very reliably pitched 6 innings each start never allowing more than 4 runs or less than 2.  In his last outing he surrendered 3 earned while walking only 1.  Let's root for some improved consistency!

Doug Davis kind of blows.  He's not a bad 4th or 5th starter, but I wouldn't count on him to win regularly.  That said he's already 1-3 this year, but with a good ERA.  I'm still a little bitter over the fact that he beat the Cubs in the 2007 NLDS, and I'm hoping the Cubs hitters share that resentment.

Conclusions
In our urgent panic, we haven't really taken into consideration that the Cubs' latest woes have mostly occurred on the road.  Sometimes winning in a strange ballpark is tough to pull off.  But if ever the Cubs were going to thrash a team outside of Wrigley Field, it should be Arizona.  They're not exactly "good." 

Besides, 3 games of high energy offense would be just what we need to settle down a bit.  So I figure why not?  Go get 'em, Cubs!

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