Monday, May 18, 2009

Where is This Weak Division I Keep Hearing About?

Yesterday's game aside, the Cubs have actually been playing better baseball and winning most of their games as a result. The bullpen is still toxic and capable of imploding at any moment (see Saturday's ninth inning), but overall I think we have to be pleased with how this team has responded to losing their best hitter for two months.

Derrek Lee is starting to hit the ball with more authority. Milton Bradley has come up with some clutch RBIs. Bobby Scales has been a ray of sunshine and Ryan Theriot just keeps hitting the ball a lot harder than anyone thought he could. Even Geovany Soto is looking more comfortable at the plate.

Alfonso Soriano has been doing everything he can do to silence those who claim he never comes through in the clutch. His game-winning single in the 9th on Saturday was only his latest example of how huge he has been for this team so far this year.

The starters have been doing very well in Zambrano's absence to the point where Lou and Jim have a very nice problem in trying to figure out who should get bumped out of the rotation when Carlos does return.

At the moment, it would appear to be Sean Marshall, through no fault of his own, drawing the short straw and heading to the bullpen and hopefully making Neal Cotts expendable.

The timing of the offensive resurgence and hopeful improvement to the bullpen are looking more and more necessary as the National League Central is proving to be much more difficult than most prognosticators gave it credit.

The conventional wisdom has been that the Cubs will be fine because they are loaded with too much talent to not win a weak NL Central. But what if the NL Central is not so weak?

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the season, the NL Central is in a virtual tie with the AL East for best overall winning percentage. The Al East is at .53645 to edge out the NL Central by .00009 (.53636).

The NL Central has a .578 winning percentage over the NL East and .610 over the NL West. Five of the six teams have a positive run differential on the season (only Houston is negative at -19).

This is not looking like a weak division so far. The Cardinals have lived through an injury to their ace, and now an injury to Ryan Ludwick, their second best hitter in their lineup. The Brewers are looking very strong despite losing their two aces in the off-season, and Manny Parra hasn't even pitched all that well yet. The Reds are hanging right in without Edinson Volquez being nearly as dominant as they had hoped, and losing Adam Dunn in free agency.

So the Cubs have work to do, and can't rest too much on the thoughts that they will get stronger once they get healthy. Almost all the teams in the division have had some sort of adversity that they expect to get better as well.

They also are going to have to do the dirty work within the division themselves because it is looking less likely that the other divisions are going to be very helpful in knocking our opponents back down if the Cubs can't take care of their own business.


Post a Comment

The easiest way to comment is to choose the Name/URL option from the Comment As dropdown menu below. You do not need to put in a URL for this option to work.

Sometimes upon submitting the comment, you will get an error saying there is a problem. Submit the comment again and it should work. I am looking into correcting this glitch.