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.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Cubs look for heavenly intervention
OK, losing all these openers is getting annoying. But, if you remeber back to 2002 the Angels lost the opening game of all three rounds of the playoffs yet eventually brought home the world series title. We are months away from even thinking about this scenerio, but we also have to remember that even though openers feel like they have more magnitude they are just 2 of the 162 games. The Cubs will have ample opportunities to prove whether they are a good or bad team.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Nice heart...no win
Wade Miller's 2007 debut is not one he will likely want to remember 6 earned runs in 4 innings. The Brewers got those 6 runs before the Cubs even put a crooked number on the board. But, the Cubs had some fight in them scoring 4 runs in the 6th inning to set up the most pivotal moment of the game.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I have no clue how this will look since I am trying to blog from a smartphone. Nice win today and a few moments that could be deemed most important. Aramis' homer is probably the most obvious, but I am going for something else.
For me and hopefully to carry over the rest of the season, Dempster's 9th inning was the most important thing. He threw strikes and whiffed the last two on nice splitters (or change-ups). The Cubs will hit so the bullpen becomes crucial for their success. Here is hoping Dempster keeps it up.
Impatience is not history's friend
Continuing on my theme of pointing out what I feel to be the most interesting, impactful moment of the game I am going to again go to something subtle. Obviously Rich Hill was fantastic last night and the bats scored enough in the first to support him leading to an easy win.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I could pick a few pivotal moments in the game where the Cubs messed this one up. I just hope that they don't decide to waste too many more good performances from the back portion of the rotation. Marquis deserved better - the whole team deserved better. But, bad fundamentals, a crappy bullpen and horrible situational hitting will sink a team every time. I just hope they get them all of out of their system now.
Make the other guy make a decision
Read any books about poker and the headline is a common theme. The best players apply pressure to their opponents forcing them to make decisions. Making more decisions gives people more chances to make a big error. Personally, I have a friend I play with that I can tell within five minutes if he is having a good decision day. If not, I play ultra aggressive.
Extra Innings Package
I figure most readers of this site kept track of the negotiations between Direct TV and baseball over the rights to the out of market baseball package Extra Innings. When the potential deal was announced cable TV subscribers (like myself) were up in arms about the hassle over switching to satellite (if they even had the choice where some in apartments would not). My basic stance was I did not care where the games came from I just wanted them to make a decision - announcing something after the season would be the worst thing that could happen.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Discovery of new superstitions
My wife and I moved to Cincinnati shortly after our marriage almost 6 years ago. In that time I have been fortunate enough to have the Cubs open their season here 4 times. I have now managed to attend all of them.