The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
Monday, May 07, 2007
HopeThey say hope springs eternal, but for most of the last two years I've had precisely no hope for the Cubs to contend. Finally, somewhere between Zambrano's win over St. Louis and this tidbit from Peter Gammons...
"Then there's the matter of plate discipline and on-base percentage. After one frustrating loss in April, Piniella went into the clubhouse and yelled, 'There's nothing wrong with taking a walk once in a while.' 'In reality, plate discipline and patience has to be taught in the minors and become part of the club's culture,' Piniella says. 'But we'll get more aware on the big league level. Believe me, it'll happen.'"
...that streak of uninterrupted despondency has come to an end. We picked some long overdue close wins this weekend, including our first one-run win of the season (!) yesterday afternoon. That has evened out the luck a bit, and the projected standings shows a two-horse race in the Central.
I would generally say it's too early to worry exclusively about Milwaukee, but a number of factors conspire to allow for some scoreboard watching. Milwaukee is a talented young team, playing well, with a healthy lead in the division. You can't say any of those three things about any of the other contenders. St. Louis was old coming into the year and has played like it. Houston has been holding it together with duct tape for years now, and now with no Clemens to rescue them it's hard to see them as a likely division winner. Cincinnati is 14-17, and only doing that well with a healthy Ken Griffey, a Pujolsian Josh Hamilton, and starting pitchers like Lohse and Arroyo performing far above expectations. Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh.
So that leaves the Cubs and the Brewers, a hundred miles apart on the Lake Michigan shore, battling for the Central for the next five months. Of course its baseball, so a million unexpected things could happen, but right now I see a strong likelihood that one of these teams will win the Central and the other will be hoping for a wild card. Neither looks like a great team on paper, and probably not a division winner in some other situations, but this year in this division its looking like we have an exciting season in front of us. Let's go Cubs!
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
OverreactingThe Cubs mailing list I subscribed to had a little argument the other day about a Baseball Prospectus article (possibly this one although it's hard to tell since I'm not a subscriber.) Joe Sheehan was arguing that Cubs' problems are greatly overstated, and he predicted they'll be leading the Central by the All-Star break. He was met with derision on my list, which is understandable considering we've got 98 years of cynicism built up.
I think Joe overstates the case, but I agree with the thrust of his argument. The Cubs' OPS is sixth best in the league (Milwaukee is fifth) and our ERA is fifth best in the league (leading the division, Cincy and Milwaukee are seventh and eighth.) This team has major flaws, and would be essentially toast in either of the other two divisions. Nonetheless, they are playing like a .550 ballclub, and in the NL Central that gives you a real shot at the division and a trip to the postseason where anything can happen (tm Florida Marlins).
We've won three of four, so hopefully that's the start of turning decent looking numbers on the stats page into decent looking numbers in the standings. Ted Lilly (2-2, 2.18) against Tony Armas, Jr. (0-2, 11.57) tonight. Go Cubs.