Goatriders of the Apocalypse

C.C. Sabathia

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Cubs Get New and Improved Player*

The Cubs dealt fan favorite** and celebrated car jumper, Joey Gathright to the Baltimore Orioles for another favorite*** Ryan Freel today.

This does two things:

• First off, the Cubs now have a player that can play pretty much everywhere, and a player with decent speed. The problem is that he hasn't been healthy in a few years. He only played 48 games last season, and 75 games in 2007. He's already been on the DL once this year as well.

• Secondly, the Cubs get to clear a roster spot today for Randy Wells, and it keeps the feel-good story of year Bobby Scales on the roster for a few more days. But, I feel that with Freel around it probably means Scales is headed back to Iowa at some point.

(*Ok, the title is misleading, because Freel is new, but not really any improvement on the team. **Gathright a fan-favorite is probably the most absurd thing I've written at Grota since joining, but he can jump cars.)

The Cubs aren't gaining any payroll since the O's are send us some cash, and Freel can provide some much-needed utility play that the Cubs lacked during all the injuries. I'm not sure if this will cause a dent, but he's probably better than Gathright, at least with the bat.

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Brewers 4; FINNISSSH HIMMM!!!

 

Win!

Tonight was the death blow.  If the Cubs win tomorrow, it's the cheap shot.

It actually wasn't easy.  In fact, it was rather dramatic.  Sure, the Cubs started off by doing what they do best - pummeling an otherwise unbeatable CC Sabathia - but then they finished the game off by doing that other thing they do best - getting past by the skin of their flippin' teeth.

First and foremost, the lineup did what it was supposed to do.  Hitters 1-4 were responsible for 8 of the team's 11 hits.  Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, they all drove in runs.  In fact, at one point the Cubs were up on the "Unbeatable" C.C. Sabathia by a score of 3-0, right up until Prince Fielder decided to lunch... er, launch a two-run homer into the bleachers.

But then, when all hope was lost, Alfonso Soriano stepped up and hit his own dinger, giving the Cubs a comfortable 2-run lead.  Which was promptly ... well, squashed by Prince Fielder, who, uh, sat on a Carlos Marmol heater and knocked it into the bleachers.  And yet, again, dissatisfied with a mere 1-run lead, Hank White made a pinch hit appearance in the bottom of the 8th and gave the Cubs a huge insurance run.

Naturally, the 9th inning was as dramatic as you'd expect it to be.  Kerry Wood continues to scare the crap out of skittish Cub fans everywhere.  After striking out the leadoff hitter, Wood surrendered a single to pinch hitter Mike Lamb, before getting out number 2, only for Ray Durham - of all jabrones! - to hit a run-scoring double.  Wood then gave up an infield single to Ryan Braun before turning things back over to the 3-4, 2 homer, 3 RBI Prince Fielder.

As Wood reached back and heaved pitch after pitch, eventually reaching a ... well, full count on the fat man, I could only imagine Cub fans everywhere yelling the following:

FINISH HIM!

I was on IM with Jason at the time, saying "huh, full count?  Wood should toss him a sick breaking pitch because, worst case scenario, he walks him and faces a less-dangerous hitter."  Wood then tossed a sick breaking pitch and struck Fielder out to end the game.  Yep.  Sometimes I'm very good at pretending that I know what I'm talking about.

Real credit has to go to Ryan Dempster.  Clownsevelt has been putting in a year-long effort to prove that he's ace material.  On this Cubs team, he remains the 3rd option for any playoff series, but tonight he proved to me that he could out-duel anybody else's #1 guy.

The magic number is now down to 4.  The Cubs are on a 5 game winning streak.  The Brewers are down for the count.  There's two weeks left of baseball before it gets really exciting.  This is what we've been waiting for, folks.  I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying it.

Duelling Lefties

This isn't meant to be a series preview, but I've noticed that when the Cubs land in Milwaukee tonight, they will start their four-game set against the new scourge of the National League, C.C. Sabathia.  They will counter him with their own lefty, Ted Lilly.

Point of fact, as far as playoff implications go, this will very much-so have the look of a playoff series.  Lilly against Sabathia, Zambrano against Sheets, it could very well tell us a lot about how the Cubs might play in October.  If only they'd be entering this four-game set with a little more confidence and offense stability.

The preview will be written and posted before tonight's game.  I will give myself away, however, with an early summary.

If the Cubs can win 3 of 4 on the road against the Brewers, then we can effectively declare Milwaukee dead in the water and a non-factor in the central.

If the Cubs go 2-2 against Milwaukee at home, it's a twofold victory - 1) they will have split at home against their biggest opponent, guaranteeing their position in first place once they leave and b) having taken 2 from the lion's den, they will have effectively declared their dominance fo the Brewers, as it will be safe to assume that they'd do better than a split at Wrigley.

If Milwaukee takes 3 of 4, or sweeps, then it will mean absolutely nothing because there are still 2 months to play.  

See that?  No bias there, nope, none at all. 

Sabathia Redux

As was discussed yesterday, C.C. Sabathia is now a Milwaukee Brewer. Reportedly the Brewers were able to get a deal done because they had a uniform his size already available. (Yeah, that was cheap. I’m sorry.) The package is reported to be “Class AA outfielder Matt LaPorta, Class AAA left-hander Zach Jackson, Class A right-hander Rob Bryson and a player to be named.” Outside of LaPorta, the PTBNL is probably the biggest part of the deal – it could be one of several very good prospects the Indians want some additional time to scout. (PTBNL are chosen off a list predetermined by both teams, so the Brewers can’t just forward some 28-year-old Midwest League non-prospect.)

His updated ZiPS projection is a 3.48 ERA, 101 innings pitched. Now let’s presume that the Brewers take this opportunity to move Dave Bush to the bullpen (they could also move McClung to the pen instead, but McClung has been more effective.) Bush projects to have a 4.76 ERA in 85 IP. I’m taking a shortcut here, but I’m filling the rest of those innings with the average ERA of the Brewers pen, 4.07 – so Bush/bullpen hybrid would put up a 4.65 ERA in those innings.

Using some formulas from Tango, I have Dave Bush’s win percentage pegged at .464. Sabathia, meanwhile, is a .596 win percentage pitcher. Assuming 101 IP is correct, that’s 1.48 wins more than Dave Bush. (This doesn’t factor in improvements in the bullpen – but I really don’t feel like resorting to the utter witchcraft that is bullpen projections, so I’ll pass that for the time being.)

This is why I caution that trade-deadline moves are overblown; so much of the season is already passed, that it becomes harder and harder to find a meaningful upgrade.

Also, I want to add – we lead the Brewers by more than a game and a half at this point. Sabathia alone won't give them the division. I know being a Cubs fan is like being some constantly-jilted woman, and we're always afraid of disappointment. On plenty of Cubs sites, I see a lot of handwringing and self-flagelation.

Please, for your own sakes, get over it. Find some Cubbie swagger, commit to the Indian, whatever you want to call it. We're a first-place team right now in the best division in the NL. The Brewers are doing this because they aren't happy with where they're at in relation to us. Take it as a compliment; we have a good team and they know it. And they have a good team too, and this should be a good race. (The Cardinals should attend to themselves.) So let's enjoy the summer.

Other news:

Sabathia a Brewer

ESPN reports that, in an attempt to piss on our parade, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired C.C. Sabathia from the Indians for a slew of minor leaguers and 1/100th of the soul of every Brewers fan.

As Colin would point out, Sabathia will start perhaps 14 more games this season.  Without looking at the numbers, I'd assume that, in those 14 games, C.C. might be able to win perhaps 3-5 more games than whomever he's replacing in the rotation - in this case, probably Seth McClung or Dave Bush.   

The area where Sabathia becomes dangerous - at least, in my opinion - is in the post season, where starts get amplified and having two really good pitchers can carry you through a series far more easily than if you have one really good pitcher and a couple of average ones.  That said, Milwaukee still has to get there, and while it appears that whomever finishes second in the NL Central is playoff bound, we can keep our fingers crossed and hope that a) that isn't the case and b) the Cubs retaliate with a big trade of their own.

I would have to surmise that A.J. Burnett has now sprung to the forefront of any Cubs trade talk.  He very well might be the best option for Chicago, and I can't help but wonder if Hendry will step up his time table a bit and pull a deal within the next two weeks, rather than toward the end of July. 

Saturday Odds and Ends, What Rhymes With Sissy Edition

Nothing like a win over the Cardinals to get people off the ledge. I mean, it’s getting ridiculous. For instance:

Sometime around 8 or 9 tonight, the Cubs can make the call on whether to print playoff tickets this year.

That's how important Carlos Zambrano's start is against the St. Louis Cardinals. Win or lose, that's how important his shoulder is to the Cubs' chances of doing any damage in October -- and possibly of even getting there.

That came out of the Sun-Times, for crying out loud. That’s actual press coverage of our team.

Adding to the circus atmosphere is the return of Jim Edmonds to St. Louis, this time in Cubbie Blue. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz kicks it off with the Five-Minute Hate:

Bulletin: Edmonds is a Cub.

He plays for the enemy.

He plays for the team that so many of you claim to "hate."

It is a team that has Jim Edmonds' complete loyalty.

It's a team with fans who now bow down in salute of Edmonds when he trots out to center field.

You're gonna give a standing ovation to the latest darling of those fickle Cubs fans? Edmonds has given his heart to those front-runners, and you still want to hug him?

Please. It's like being dumped by a girlfriend and then begging her to come back so you can give her a kiss and relive the good old days.

Have some pride.

After all, this is the new Edmonds, who says things like, "I don't have to feel like a Cub — I am a Cub," when he speaks to Chicago reporters.

And, "I'm a Cub now, and I'm happy."

And, "Whenever you guys get done tying me to the Cardinals, it'll be fine, so I can start getting a little bit of Cubs history in my background."

Wow. So much hatred of the Cubs, you’d almost think that you were reading a Jay Mariotti column!

Somebody must’ve fed LaRussa some of those quotes, because he chimed in:

"I think we ought to follow his lead," La Russa said, tersely. "His quote was roughly, within a couple of words, 'I've had enough of people asking me about my Cardinal days. I'm a Cub now.'

"So I would treat him like he never played here. I would wait until the end of his career and I would remember he was a Cardinal. I would ignore the fact that he was ever here because that's what he wants. I would honor his request. Forget the Cardinal days until his career is over."

Edmonds was not thrilled:

Asked if he would talk to La Russa before the game because he was so upset, Edmonds said: “He said the same kind of [stuff] when I played here. That doesn’t bother me. He got bad information, and he reacted to it. I mean, we all do … he’s in control. It’s his show, and that’s the way it should be. He’s the manager. He doesn’t want anyone upstaging his team. I’m not trying to do that. I’m here to play, and that’s it.”

La Russa told the media he would shake Edmonds hand if he sees him. When told of that, Edmonds replied: “He’s a [sissy] if he doesn’t.”

By the way, as an aside to any beatwriters or other media personalities that read GROTA: If any of you are willing to share exactly what “[sissy]” was, that would be keen. Send us an e-mail; we promise not to reveal your identity.

I’ll be honest – as much as I hate the melodrama surrounding the Cubs-White Sox series, Cubs-Cardinals is fun. Especially this year, when the Cubs matter and the Cardinals matter; each game counts for double, which provides some real substance to the sturm-und-drang.

Lou says that Fukudome may be wearing down a little. Meanwhile, video doesn’t seem to show any signs of Marmol tipping his pitches. Rothschild also claims that Marmol does not have a dead arm, and should “get back on a run.”

Meanwhile, AZ Phil of The Cub Reporter was sensationally impressed by Rich Hill’s simulated game today. I’d like to see him do it facing live hitting before I got my hopes up, though.

The Brewers haven’t won the C.C. Sabathia sweeps yet; the Dodgers are joining the hunt. There’s a catch, however:

However, the Dodgers' bid for Sabathia is complicated by their pursuit of Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson as a replacement for the injured Rafael Furcal, sources say.

To get Wilson, the Dodgers would need to trade the Pirates some of the same players that the Indians want for Sabathia, leaving Los Angeles with a choice of one deal or the other.

While the Dodgers might not offer a prospect better than Brewers Class AA left fielder Matt LaPorta, their proposal for Sabathia would include three players, sources say.

Class AA right-hander James McDonald, Class AAA shortstop Chin-Lung Hu and third baseman Andy LaRoche are among the Dodgers' prospects likely drawing consideration form the Indians.

Yeah, I know I have a hard time choosing between Sabathia and Jack Wilson.

For their part, Brewers beatwriter Tom Haudricourt thinks the current offer is “top prospect Matt LaPorta, minor-league third baseman Taylor Green and probably another prospect, perhaps outfielder Lorenzo Cain.” Brewers blogger Jeff Sackmann isn’t exactly impressed by Haudricourt’s credibility in the past, though.

If the Cubs are going to trade for Bedard, they might have to pay freight for the bus his teammates are throwing him under:

Whenever Erik Bedard starts a game these days, Mariners relievers know there is about a 99-plus-percent chance that some of them will see some action.

Sure enough, the left-hander departed after five innings and 99 pitches on Friday afternoon. Right-handers Sean Green and Brandon Morrow combined for four scoreless innings, finishing the job as the Mariners handed the Tigers a 4-1 loss in front of 30,564 at Safeco Field.

"[Bedard's] pitch count was up near 100, so I was already getting ready," Green said. "I also knew they had a lot of right-handers in the lineup today, so I was prepared."

Bedard, who has now thrown fewer than 100 pitches in each of his past six starts, and has reached triple digits six times in 15 outings this season.

Go, team!

Friday Odds and Ends, Pitching Is King Edition

Sean Gallagher goes to the pen, Sean Marshall stays in the rotation. (Meanwhile, Jason Marquis stays in the rotation. Isn’t life grand?) Piniella says that Marmol is starting to be a “little bit of a concern.” Out in Cub fandom the words “full blown panic” might be more descriptive.

As the All Star Break nears, trade rumors mount. Chris DeLuca runs them down. Short version: the Cubs could pursue Sabathia or Harden if they had better prospects, or Randy Wolf if they didn’t learn a lesson from the Steve Trachsel deal last season. DeLuca adds:

Another Padre who definitely might interest Hendry is former Cub Greg Maddux.

Definitely might.

Meanwhile, the Toronto papers are split on whether or not Burnett is or isn’t being shopped for a shortstop. The team’s president denies actively shopping Burnett, but says the Jays could deal him to “affects the long range betterment of the club.” Spoken like a Canadian.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are in the thick of the bidding for Sabathia. Rosenthal says that the Cubs and Phillies can’t match the Brewers’ farm system.

Trading Bedard is not priority number one for the Mariners, but they’re not ruling it out. Stark also makes a valuable point:

There's no commodity teams chase harder at the deadline than starting pitching. And it's mind-boggling how rarely it gets them anywhere. … So remember, friends, there's no assurance that trading for a C.C. Sabathia is going to give your team any better chance of winning the World Series than trading for, say, Tim Redding. And that's a fact.

The reason, said [Rockies GM Dan] O'Dowd, is simply that those starting pitchers only get to play every five days. So "just look at the number of starts a starting pitcher is going to get by the end of September," he said. "It's probably 10. So if the guy doesn't dominate in eight of those 10 starts, it's a disappointing trade."

Too true.

C.C. you soon?

If there is one thing Cubs fans love (besides large-chested woman, cheap booze and old men with microphones who have an undying love for the North Side), it’s trade speculation.

Yes we sure do love playing fantasy owner with our real players and within the confines of the realistic baseball landscape…except that we tend to completely ignore the intelligence and existence of our potential trading partners and their fan base.

“Marquis for A-Rod. The Yankees would be dumb not to do it. They need the pitching.”

Anyway, as I’m sure many of you have been able to tell from this blog, other Cubs blogs and every other form of mass media in Chicago, the Cubs may have their eyes on Cleveland Indians ace C.C. Sabathia.

The hefty lefty is currently 5-8 with a 4.26 ERA (although he has been pitching much better in his last few starts…actually looking like the reigning AL Cy Young winner) for an Indians team that is only 5.5 games out of first place in the AL Central.

While the Indians can in no way be consider out of the race (we all know the White Sox are going to implode some time this season…and it will be oh so glorious), the Cubs will surely express their interest in acquiring C.C. with a fleet of MLB-ready players just chillin’ down on the farm.

While I’m sure we’d all love to send the amazingly talented, upside-laced, knee-buckling curveball thrower Rich Hill (Sounds pretty good doesn’t it Indians? You can trust us. Seriously.) for a Cy Young caliber player who is almost guaranteed to leave in the offseason anyway, it’s just not that simple.

So to have some of our questions about the potential C.C. trade of totally awesome awesomeness answered, I decided to take a page out of Byron’s playbook and ask a few questions to Indians blogger Ryan of Let’s Go Tribe

(Let’s assume Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Zambrano, Marmol, Soto, Fukudome are probably untouchable in Hendry's eyes, but everyone else is fair game in a potential deal with Cleveland.)

Question: If the Indians were to trade Sabathia to the Cubs, who would YOU WANT them to get in return?

Ryan’s Answer: Best case scenario, a major-league player or a prospect that's at worst a year away, with third base, second base, and corner outfield being a priority. Given that Jake Westbrook is going to be out a least a calendar year, a starter would be nice as well. If I'm allowed to be irrational, Sean Gallagher would be ideal (young, MLB-ready, low service time). And as far as I'm concerned, quality >>>> quantity - I'd much rather receive back one or two good prospects than five mediocre ones.

Question: If the Indians were to trade Sabathia to the Cubs, who do YOU THINK management would get/ask for in return?

Ryan’s Answer: I'm sure they'd be asking for any of Chicago's top prospects/young major-leaguers, with emphasis at the positions mentioned above. Whether they can get what they ask for depends on how many other clubs are seriously interested in Sabathia. And I'm pretty comfortable in predicting that there will be at least several clubs seriously interested in CC, including several who have the cash to keep him after this season. That means at least the best MLB-ready prospect in any system. I doubt we're ever going to see a Randy Johnson-type haul again (even the big markets value their prospects now), but Sabathia would be a huge upgrade for any team, even those with good starting pitching already. That means any player not contributing to the major-league club should be on the table.

Question: How do you think C.C. would fit in with the Cubs and the National League? Do you think he would want to go to Chicago? Would he bolt at the end of the season? Would he consider signing a long-term deal with the Cubs after the season or at the time of the trade? (OK, so this is like 4 different questions…but who’s counting).

Ryan’s Answer: Barring a crazy contract offer, Sabathia's going to test the free agent market - he's come this far, he'd be a fool to sign this close to free agency. CC loves hitting, so he'd actually like being in the National League. And although, all things being equal, he'd like to stay in Cleveland or go to the West Coast, I doubt he's going to limit his earning potential by ruling out anybody. I would go on the assumption that trading for Sabathia would get you nothing more than 3 months of Sabathia plus draft picks.

Question: What is the general feeling among Indians fans about trading C.C. and getting something in return instead of letting him walk away at the end of the season?

Ryan’s Answer: If the Indians are out of it (10+ games back in both races at any time from now to the deadline), I think most fans are resigned to trading Sabathia if the return is good enough (in other words, better value than the two draft picks could give you).

So as far as I can tell from Ryan’s opinion, it seems likely that the Indians would probably be seeking Sean Gallagher/Rich Hill and a combination of young position players like Matt Murton (for the outfield), Josh Vitters (for third base) or maybe even Eric Patterson (for outfield or second base). Perhaps you could even put Felix Pie into the mix despite his continuing struggles in Iowa.

So for recaps sake, here is the list again…

Sean Gallagher
Rich Hill
Matt Murton
Eric Patterson
Felix Pie
Josh Vitters

All of these players are MLB ready/proven or could be ready within a 1-2 years (Vitters probably needs the most development time).

But now the eternal baseball trade question still remains: How much of your team’s future are you willing to accept giving up in order to have the best chance at winning the World Series.

Of course those words (World and Series) mean a little something extra to Cubs fans…so I’m more than willing to trade just about everything outside of the core players…

Or we could just give them Marquis. That’s a great deal for everyone.

Cubs to aggressively pursue Sabathia?

The two best-sourced national reporters, non-Gammons division, are both gearing up the hype machine on the Cubs to Sabathia notion.

Ken Rosenthal:

The Cubs' priority will be adding the best available starting pitcher — C.C. Sabathia?

Buster Olney:

Some folks within the industry think that if Sabathia is traded, the Cubs will be the most aggressive in bidding for him. "They're going for it this year," said one GM. "Other teams are laying back and might not want to trade prospects, but the Cubs will."

Okay, so they mentioned it in passing. And maybe the two of them have the same source here.

The Indians are a long shot to win the AL Central this year, with only a 13% chance right now according to BP's PECOTA-adjusted Odds Report. And the AL Wildcard looks to be even tougher to crack. If they continue to slip, dealing Sabathia may be appealing, especially with 2009 shaping up to be a shallow draft in the eyes of many - the Indians don't figure to resign the prospective free agent.

Sabathia started off miserably, with a 7.88 ERA in April - since then, his ERA has been a cool 2.43. His overall ERA for the season is 4.34, which seems inflated by a poor defensive performance behind him.

As far as raw stuff goes, Sabathia seems to pair a 95 mph fastball with a slider and a change. He's a lefty as well.

 

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