Catching the Cubs
The biggest argument I've heard for the Cubs and against the Brewers is
the supreme differential in offense between the 2 clubs.
There's a stat that says the Cubs are (give or take) +97 in run differential while the Brewers are just +5.
Of course that's glaring and eye-opening and if you look at that stat alone, you'd think the Brewers don't have a chance.
But let's break that down a little.
It's no over-exaggeration to say that the Cubs started Red Hot and the Brewers crawled out of the gate.
Let's look at the first 88 games of the season in two parts - the first 2 quarters of the season.
Over the first 44 games, the Cubs run differential was +76 while the Brewers was a hideously embarrassing -28.
In the second 44 games, the Cubs were +26 while we were +39.
It's a small look at the season, but it's fair to say that while the Cubs have leveled off a little (April: +52, May: +39, June: +11), the Brewers have stepped it up considerably.
And let's not forget the Cubs 19-5 win over the Brewers. That game ALONE accounts for a 28 run swing between the 2 teams.
And we always have to account for hot hands. I mean, JJ Hardy is an absolute beast right now and clearly he didn't play this way to start the season and he won't finish the season that way either. But so far for the month of July he's hitting .600. He's hitting .446 since taking 6 days off for his shoulder. Braun's been slumping, but hit another homer this weekend. You never know what you're getting.
The Cubs hot hands have cooled significantly over the first 3 months. Not only on the field, but with pitching as well.
Sure, it's great to have Zambrano back, since he's 5-0 against NL Central opponents and the rest of their staff is 15-16 within the division.
To start the season, there wasn't a club that wouldn't have died to have Carlos Marmol in their bullpen. He was untouchable, but he was also used entirely too much. There wasn't another reliever that came close to his # of innings.
Things haven't looked so good for him lately, though. His last 10 game split on MLB.com shows he has 1 win in 10 tried, an ERA of 11.25 in a total of 8 IP with 10 ER and 7 walks.
Looking at that makes me not hate Mota so much.
Everyone says our bullpen is the big question mark and while I don't disagree, it's obvious that there's no sure thing. I would have traded half our arms for Marmol 6 weeks ago. I would have never guessed Gagne would go 3 and out on his first appearance back, Riske would pull it together, Mota would pull a Turnbow or Torres would be our closer. You can't look at a bullpen and think you know what's going to happen with it.
Ned's been managing the bullpen much better, IMO, and our closers are going much deeper (Suppan excluded) and therefore gives us a better shot.
Both Soto and Fukudome were rookies heading into the season and absolutely tore the cover off the ball to start - now their numbers are down.
April: 837 OPS
April: 1060 OPS
Fukudome's isn't too siginificant, but Soto lost .300 of OPS. Did he lose his hot bat, or did the scouting on him just improve now that he's been around the majors for 3 months?
The return of Soriano is going to be huge for the Cubs, too: They're 32-17 when he starts, only two over .500 (21-19) when he doesn't.