Saturday, June 7, 2008

Why I don't believe in the Cubs

So welcome to my own personal hell. The Cubs are in first place and every drunk bleacher reject in North Central Indiana trots out their Cubs hats to celebrate. The only good news for Cubs haters like me, is that this season is highly unlikely to end well for the Lou's boys. Aside from the fact that I hate them, there are a few objective to disbelieve what the Cubs are doing.

1. Their rotation is not nearly deep enough to contend in October. Raise your hand if you believe that Ryan Dempster will win 78% of his decisions and carry an ERA under 3 into August. No one? Yeah, me neither. Dempster, the reason cited by Lou Pinella for the Cubs strong start, has NEVER had a season with numbers this good, not even when he was healthy with Florida. Dempster will fall off sharply in the next few months, and when he does so will the Cubs. Remember last year when Lou had to yank Z from the first playoff game because he KNEW he only had one reliable starter? NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

2. The division. Contrary to popular belief the NL Central has actually become one of the best in baseball. Only the AL East can boast the depth of field from top to bottom that the Central has. It's fashionable to mock the Pirates and Reds, but both clubs have records as good as Detroit, Cleveland, the Dodgers and Seattle. The Cubs have done most of their damage against the weak NL West (going an insane 17-5), but will have much more trouble against the Central as the summer wears on.

3. The schedule. The Cubs have already played 5more games at home than on road. The schedule was loaded with early games at Wrigley, but come September they'll face 16 of their last 22 on the road. The Cubs are under .500 on the road.

4. The bullpen. Pinella has openly said that he doesn't have an 'innings' staff. He has relied heavily on his pen to this point in the season. Only three teams in the NL have logged more innings from the bullpen this season. The Cubs are 3rd in bullpen ERA, but that is an advantage that will deteriorate unless they get more IP from the starters. By the end of the year, the strongest facit of their club could well be over worked. Not to mention the fact that they are relying on Kerry Wood to hold up.

5. The farm. The Cubs have the 20th rated farm system in baseball. When the time comes for July dealing, the Cubs don't have as many chips to bargain with as other teams.

6. 100 years. At some point you stop saying, "Hey, they're due!" and you start saying, "Hey, they suck".

The great part about this post is that I don't even have to resort to wishful thinking to write it. This team may well win the division, but they simply don't have the horses to go anywhere in the playoffs. Honestly, if I didn't believe so strongly in Sweet Lou's genius, I wouldn't even expect them to take the Central. They are primed for a huge drop off, and I for one won't be the least bit sorry to see it happen.


zac said...

Gotta disagree here. As much as it pains me to say this, the Cubbies have the look of a legit powerhouse.

They have scored 346 runs and only allowed 253 runs, meaning their record isn't a fluke. In fact, they are performing under their Pythag projection.

As far as the horses in the playoffs, well, the playoffs are a total crap shoot. The fact is, if Zambrano is dominant and the Cubs offense hits a groove in October, the Cubs will have an excellent chance to win it all. If that doesn't happen, they they will get bounced by the D-Backs again.

I'm a Cardinals fan, and I can admit this. Trust me, I hate them more than you do.

Deshawn Zombie said...

It's not about hate. I get they are scoring runs, but the pitching has been amazing and I can't see it holding up.

zac said...

Dempster isn't the extent of their pitching though. Lilly will most likely get better, Rich Hill could come back and contribute, and Z will continue to be good.

Plenty of horses there. Plus they have an excellent bullpen that will become a HUGE weapon in the postseason.

While certain pitchers may drop off their current pace, there are others who could pick up the slack with improved performance. Their pitching overall is likely to hold up, if they stay healthy.

I have now sunk to defending the Cubs.....and I do it better than their idiot fans.

Shake'n'bake said...

1 Yes the pitching scares me, but they can really hit. Since Jim Edmonds stopped sucking they can now field a lineup of 9 hitters that are above the average for their position.
(Lee, DeRosa, Theriot, Ramirez, Soto, Fukudome, Edmonds, Soriano and Big Z. With CedeƱo Ward and Blanco above average at their positions still on the bench.)

2 Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle and the Dodgers are colossal disappointments who are already being written off.

3 Half the division leaders are under .500 on the road (Red Sox, Cubs, Diamondbacks) and a fourth (White Sox) is at .500 away.

4 I have total confidence that Marmol (Marmol's numbers are crazy now that he has his control fixed) and a healthy Kerry Wood will be great from the pen.

5 They have the best record in baseball if it ain't broke don't fix it.

6 The team results of the past 100 years have no effect on the outcome of this season. They are independent events.

Deshawn Zombie said...

What makes you think Lilly and Hill are anything other than what they are? Lilly might improve slightly, but he's basically a 4+ ERA pitcher his whole career. Hill is what he is. These guys are NOT going to get better. Dempster IS going to get worse. The bullpen seems like a weapon now, but they are in danger of serious over use. What seems like a strength may well be a weakness after 162 games of covering up a very weak starting staff.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Jim Edmonds does suck. A good week is not a good season. My point on the Cubs is that they have had good results to this point, but the season is long and that will work against a club with weak starting pitching. The Cubs are a mirage. If they don't fall apart in August and September, they will in October. They aren't built right and they have nothing on the farm to get the pitching they need.

Deshawn Zombie said...

My point on the road record isn't just that the Cubs are bad. It's that they are below .500 and have a bunch of road games late in the season. The schedule doesn't favor them.

As for 100 years, at some point it becomes a trend or at the very least one extra pressure point for the club. That and the fact that I just like to bring it up to mock the Cubs.

Shake'n'bake said...

A week ago (can't find more recent #s) Dempster was eighth in the league in BABIP. So you may have a point. But, Every single one of the 18 pitchers that have appeared this season for the Cubs have a higher Defense independent ERA than regular ERA so it's pretty safe to assume the Cubs are playing good defense. So the BABIP #s might not be as out of wack as they appear.

zac said...

Lilly put up that ERA in the AL East at the height of its meatgrinder status with two offenses he faced that both scored 920+ runs a year. He might not be as good as he was last season, but he is better than his performance would indicate so far this season.

Rich Hill is what he is? Alright, he is a 28 yr old above average pitcher. He had an ERA+ of 119 last year and struck out 183 batters in 195 innings.

Again, the Cubs have the firepower to win the Central going away, and then ANYTHING can happen in October.

And the nothing on the farm stuff is ridiculous. You don't have to have premier talent in your farm system to acquire top flight players via trade. Sometimes all you have to do is eat a contract, like the Abreu and Walker deals of the past. The Mets just proved this offseason you can land the BEST PITCHER IN THE GAME without giving up your top prospect.

It's just not a legit knock.

zac said...

And the mirage comment is just weird. Their Pythag tells us the Cubs are under performing! Their pitching will falter!! Dempster does not equal their staff.

Shake'n'bake said...

He's saying he thinks the number of runs allowed is too low for the staff the Cubs have. Pythag wins and that aren't related. The Cubs underperforming their pythag wins means that with the current run scored/runs allowed they should have won more games. It doesn't say whether their runs scored or allowed are normal/sustainable.

Shake'n'bake said...

Dempster is having a career year. 151 ERA+ so far. His previous highs were 141 (2005, mostly as a closer), 120 (2000 as a starter in Florida), then his only other above average season was 2004 when he pitched less than 21 innings. For his career he's been a about average pitcher. I think he'll come down a bit.

Ted Lilly is underperforming pretty badly right now though. 80 ERA+. He's at 101 for his career and his last 5 seasons were 119,102,118,80* ,106,122.

The only below average season looks like an injury affected season since he only played 25 games ~120 innings.

Zambrano is having a above average (for him) year but not his best.

Marquis is a bit below his a touch below average career ERA+, though he's been above average 3 of the last 4 years.

Hill was about at his career average when he was sent down.

Dempster will come down, Lilly will bounce back up. The Cubs will put out a great offense, good defense and average pitching staff.

Shake'n'bake said...


Is that a good job defending the Cubs coming from one of their idiot fans?

zac said...

-shake n bake

as always, you are the exception that proves the rule.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I think the odd thing about the Cubs starters is that it's not just that they are all very average (outside of Z). It's that they don't really do a good job eating innings either. The Cubs are burning their best weapon (the bullpen) now, and will pay for it later in the year. I think Dempster will regress more than Lilly will improve, but ultimatly the Cubs will be undone by a staff that leans too heavily on the bullpen. The point on pythag is right. The run differential now means the Cubs have underperformed with this 'version' of the staff. Dramatically increase the runs allowed portion of the equation (which I think is inevitable given the makeup of Dempster), and suddenly the situation looks bleak. As for not needing good players to acquire talent, I suppose we'll see. I would be worried about the Cubs ability to compete in a bidding war for a real #2 starter when they enter the fray with no real chips.

jc said...

None of these clown teams you guys rep for are gonna hit Big Josh in October anyhow so it's all moot.

zac said...

JC- assuming his manicure holds up

Picky said...

As a lifelong Cubs fan, I gotta say, I disagree with your statement that they won't win this year. This year's team is better than last year's team. Do they have the series locked up? No. Here are some things that concern me:

1. Every game seems to end the same way: The starter goes off in inning five or six. Some mid-range relief guy comes in for a few innings. Marmol pitches an amazing eighth, and Wood closes it out in the ninth. Can we sustain that? I don't know.

2. Zambrano's fit when he lost. Come on, dude. It's just a game, and there are kids watching you.

3. Aramis Ramirez and his horrible batting average. He has flashes of greatness, but most of the time, he just stinks. It's like he's been getting performance tips from Rex Grossman.

Now the good news:

Wood, Marmol, Lee, Fukudome, and the best catcher in baseball: Soto!

I remember last year. The Cubs wered dominant at the end of the regular season, beating out the Brewers for the NL Central title. Then they blew it in the playoffs and got swept. I hope that doesn't happen to us this year. As a Cubs fan, sometimes hope is all I have. This year, I have a little bit more.

Shake'n'bake said...

.297/.408/.507 for a OPS of .915
OPS+136 as of 4 games ago.

How is that horrible and a concern?