Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Athletics

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All About Kosuke (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Athletics 2)

The Cubs won their series against the Athletics last night behind the bat of Kosuke Fukudome who, after having to wait until the eighth inning for an at-bat, eventually both scored the tying run and later drove in the winning run.

Randy Wells pitched seven pretty decent innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk, while also collecting six strikeouts. And fortunately, it only took him 128 pitches to do so.

(Grumblegrumble... EVERY DAY this team feels more and more like it's being managed by Dusty Baker instead of Lou Piniella... grumblegrumble)

Andrew Cashner was the first guy out of the 'pen to relieve Wells, and he did well in his first inning of work. But a leadoff single advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a groundout, forcing Lou to bring in the Strikeout Machine That Is Carlos Marmol to prevent the Athletics from scoring the go-ahead run.

The plan worked, albeit without anyone striking out against Marmol, and the Cubs had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, which they did, as Geo Soto walked, Castro bunted him over, Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot walked to load the bases, and then Kosuke singled to drive in Soto.

Heads up to the Athletics: you deserve to lose any game in which you walk both Koyie Hill AND Ryan Theriot while the game is tied.

And for today's Young Cub Update: Starlin Castro has a four-game hitting streak going on.

Good times, go Cubs!

Fact: The Cubs can score runs. (Game Recap: Cubs 6, Athletics 2)

Six runs, holy crap. Who knew they could do that?

Derrek Lee got the night going with an early solo shot. His OPS for the season is just over .700 at this point, and his batting average is still pretty low at .230, so hopefully this is the first of many subsequent multi-hit outings from him that include some power.

Several other Cubs reached base multiple times last night, including: Xavier Nady (2-for-3, R), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-2, BB, R, 2 RBI), and Geovany Soto (doubled and walked). Starlin Castro reached three times, with a single and two walks.

Castro drove in two runs last night, giving him 16 RBI for the season. That ties him with Soto and The Great Ryan Theriot, the only position player in last night's game who failed to reach base.

Tyler Colvin doubled in his lone at-bat, raising his OPS to .987. And on the pitching side, Ryan Dempster was solid, yielding two runs over 6.2 innings and getting the win. He collected seven strikeouts, but also gave up eight hits.

With the box score-driven narration out of the way, I'll issue my verdict on a couple of last night's more notable plays before asking for your opinions in the comments section:

1) Geo Soto sent home on Castro's 2nd inning single.

I liked the call here. It ended up being a close play, and if their left fielder hadn't made a perfect throw, it'd have been another run. If Soto holds at third, you have the pitcher coming up with one out -- as in, probably won't bring him home -- followed by Ryan Theriot, who we all know sucks. So yeah, give me the close play over counting on Riot to drive a run in with two outs.

2) Alfonso Soriano bunts Nady and Lee to 2nd and 3rd with no outs.

I'm having trouble deciding whether I like this play or not, but I do know at least one thing, which is that I don't like it as much as the fans at Wrigley appeared to last night. Soriano got a standing ovation for this play, and he should get some credit for being creative, but the guy is one of our best hitters. I don't necessarily hate the decision, but I think I'd rather see him swing away there.

3) Alfonso Soriano makes the third out at third base, attempting to stretch out a double.

This is silly. Soriano would likely have scored from second on a single, since there were two outs in the inning and he would have been running on contact. But the guy did knock in the 5th and 6th runs with this play, so it's hard to complain.

Alright, everyone else: Thoughts on the game?

Gamecast: June 16, 2010, Atheltics at Cubs (7:05 CT)

Ryan Dempster (4-5, 3.74) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.79)

Overview
Lou Piniella and the Cubs are finding new and interesting ways to lose games.  Most of these ways are screwing up in the most basic fundamentals of baseball.  The Cubs allowed four unearned runs last night, and despite most of their mishaps, were in it for the majority of the game.  However, a missed cutoff man here, and wild pitch there... letting your pitcher hit even though you are going to pull him, have a man in scoring position, and a very viable pinch hitter available... and the game fell apart.  As I was in attendance, all of my frustrations have been told to the players on the field last night, so I figure it would just be overkill to let it flow out in this forum.

Apparently the term "Moneyball" means a nickel and diming offense that gets on base on a great deal of flukey hits and a few lucky bounces/errors courtesy of the opposing team.  The Cubs found that out last night.  Tonight the A's will send out (twice) former White Sox farmhand Gio Gonzalez.  Gonzalez has had a year very much like the Cubs ballclub: flashes of brilliance, moments of implosion, and mediocre peripherals overall.  Gio tends to strike out a lot of batters, but he also walks a lot of batters.  When he walks batters, he gets flustered and hitters can get to him.  As a lefty, right-handers hit him better overall (.261 on the season), so I expect Lou to trot out the anti-lefty lineup and hope for the best.

Who's Hot:  Um... That Colvin fella hit a nice home run when it didn't matter.  I guess we can call that an injection of youth into the team.

Who's Not: The Cubs fundamentals.  Lou and Hendry need to have a pow-wow with Tom Emanski and get these kids playing "pickle" and "hot potato" stat to get their glovework going.  Or at least get this guy to get Big Z's mojo back.

Conclusion
We need a win.  Any way possible.  In the immortal words of Ron Stillenovich: "Just because some of us weren't born with a whole lot of natural talent doesn't mean that we can't contribute."

Errors cost Cubs (Game Recap: Cubs 5, Athletics 9)

Two errors each from two players cost the Cubs in two big innings for the A's.

In the fourth, Derrek Lee misplayed a Trevor Cahill (read: AL pitcher) forceout on one play, and followed that up with a missed catch error on the very next play. Admittedly, Carlos Zambrano had not looked good so far in that inning, allowing the first four batters in the inning to reach base. But Z did his best to get out of it as quickly as possible, and unfortunately Lee wasn't there -- something that doesn't happen often, to be sure.

Yes, Big Z is prone to the mental-lapse-induced blowout performance; sometimes he just loses it, and the other team all of a sudden gets eight or nine runs. But one of the man's best qualities is that he's capable of overcoming that and continuing to pitch through trouble. (Case in point: 2008 NLDS, Game 2. I will never forget that game, and neither should you when people start bitching about Z.)

After Zambrano toughed through six innings, the game was put away in the seventh via a rough appearance from Jeff Stevens, made worse by two errors in right field from Tyler Colvin.

A few Cubs reached base twice with a hit and a walk, but the only guy who really deserves kudos for his hitting is Tyler Colvin, who went 2-for-4 with a home run. His slugging percentage is now eight points over .600, and his OPS is up to .967.

Just so you know, here are the top six Cub hitters in terms of slugging:

Colvin, .608
Soriano, .541
Byrd, .536
Fukudome, .456
Soto, .453
Fontenot, .431

Interpret that as you will. And go Cubs!

Series Preview: Oakland Athletics @ Chicago Cubs, June 15-17 2010

Preview
I've got to admit it, I like Interleague play.  I like when we have series like this one, where teams you don't normally see come into Wrigley for a few games.  I went to Cubs/Blue Jays game a couple years ago, and it felt special.  It was a bad Blue Jays team, but hey, they don't show up at Wrigley often!  So I have to say, even though the Cubs are brutal, I'm excited for this series.  Cubs and A's.  The 2 teams I liked when I was young.  In fairness I only liked Oakland b/c of the Bash Brothers and because I was like 8 years old at the time.  I grew out of that phase, and quick.

Oakland, after spending time early in the season at the top, or near the top of their division, has scuffled of late, losing their last 3 against their rivals across the Bay, the San Francisco Giants.  They're still just 4 out at the start of play today, and are obviously still putting themselves as in the race, as they acquired Arizona 1B/OF Conor Jackson today.  One has to figure he'll be an option in LF for A's manager Bob Geren.  Late word out of Chicago has Jackson available tonight, even though he's not starting.

The Matchups
*Tonight: Big Z (2-4, 6.05) vs. Trevor Cahill (5-2, 2.91)
Cahill's one of Oakland's good young pitchers, and he's had QS his last 6 times out. He's a righty, and I feel like we're gonna struggle against him.  Z is Z.  This year - ya just don't know what we're gonna get out of him.  I can't imagine we win tonight.  And why are we insistant on starting Koyie Hill every night? 

*Tomorrow: Demp (4-5, 3.74) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.79)
Demp's been a HR machine this year - allowing 13 bombs in 13 starts.  Good news for him, the A's aren't much of a HR team.  Maybe he'll get lucky and the win will be blowing in tomorrow night.  Gio will be making his first start against the Cubs.  He's been pretty good this year, though his command has been a bit wobbly (roughly 4 BB/9).  He had a tough go of it last Friday night against the Giants as well.

*Thursday: First Inning Randy Wells (3-5, 5.15) vs. Dallas Braden (4-6, 3.95)
Interesting matchup here.  I personally think Wells is pitching for his rotation slot on Thursday.  If he flops again, there's a chance the team options him to Iowa, and someone else gets a turn.  I'd assume that guy would be Gorzo, but Jay Jackson at AAA Iowa is an interesting option.  Honestly, it should be Cashner, but we're all about taking our best starting pitching prospect and putting him in the pen, baby!  Great job Cubs!  Idiots.  Braden's best known for his love of the 2-oh-9 and his perfect game earlier this year..but he's been up and down all year.  I know - he's on my fantasy team.  By the time he starts Thursday, he'll be at 8 days between starts due to some left arm soreness, so it'll be worth watching to see if that continues.  He's allowed 11 hits in 2 of his last 3 starts, so this could be a high scoring affair.  Here's to hoping Wells figures his shit out.  I like the kid, honestly.

Conclusions
What conclusions can you have other than we need to win some damn games?  I dont care how, just win some damn games.  Score some runs, don't act like assholes in the field and give those runs away, and be better than those guys in green.  Not hard.  

Go Cubbies.  Keep the faith

-MW

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Gamecast: June 15, 2010, PT Barnum's Athletics at Cubs

Trevor Cahill (5-2, 2.91) vs. Big Z (2-4, 6.05)

Overview
Well kids, at least we got one against those pesky White Sox.  And in what fashion.  We may just spill our winning ways into the gulf of baseball and claim that BP Cup afterall.  I feel like I am beating a dead horse (not nearly as fun as a pinata due to the lack of candy) but the Cubs go as far as their offense.  The good news is, the A's are close to anemic in terms of offense as well. 

One sign of the A's desperation for a bat, they have traded for King Valley Fever (not as cool as Disco Fever), Conor Jackson to add to their OF rotation.  CoJack has had a hard time establishing exactly what type of player he is, batting anywhere from leadoff to cleanup... and hitting about .238 on the year.

Who's Hot
Marlon Byrd- 
Marlon seems to have his bat back after a brief hiatus.  Over his past 7, Byrd is batting .500 with 2 HR and an .889 SLG.  Gotta love it when he is going. 

Who's Not
John Grabow
- Well, he had a rehab start, meaning he's on track to make it to the club.  Bad news... he got lit up.  Badly.  Even minor leaguers are torching the guy. Can we get a do over on that contract?

Conclusion
On paper this should be a struggle to plate a run.  Maybe we can have a second pitcher flirt with a no-hitter tonight.  I'll be there working my magic and hoping I don't get poured on, so I'll keep you posted as best as my phone internet will allow me to.  And as I finish this it starts pouring...awesome.

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Conclusions:
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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