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So donít become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just donít know or just donít care
And just complain when youíre not there
You had your time you had the power
Youíve yet to have your finest hour


Standings as of July 6th, 2005

TEAM               W     L     PCT   GB   2WK		
St. Louis         53    30    .634   --   (8-4)
Houston           40    42    .488  12.5  (9-3)
Chicago           40    42    .488  12.5  (4-9)
Milwaukee         40    43    .482  13.0  (9-4)
Pittsburgh        36    46    .439  16.5  (4-8)
Cincinnati        33    50    .398  20.0  (4-7)
At 364 runs scored vs. 369 runs allowed, it is not as if the Cubbies are underperforming their pythagorean projections. So what's wrong with them?

Pitching

The Cubs have 6 players who have started 7 or more games for them this season:
Carlos Zambrano - 17 Games Started - 22.7 VORP - .261 BABIP
Mark Prior      - 11 Games Started - 20.9 VORP - .224 BABIP
Glendon Rusch   - 10 Games Started - 19.1 VORP - .321 BABIP (+14 games in relief)
Greg Maddux     - 17 Games Started -  7.8 VORP - .303 BABIP
Kerry Wood      -  7 Games Started -  1.2 VORP - .337 BABIP
Sergio Mitre    -  7 Games Started -  0.6 VORP - .269 BABIP (+3 games in relief)
BABIP is "Batting Average on balls put into play." Once again, these stats are from Baseball Prospectus.

Zambrano has performed about as well as analysts expected he would, as BP projected a 42.0 VORP for his 2005 season (last year's performance registered a 61.3). His 5-4 record more reflects a lack of run support, not how well he has pitched. A 101/47 K/BB and 10 homeruns allowed at the All-Star break probably won't win you a Cy Young, but it's very good nonetheless.

Mark Prior was activated from the DL on June 26th and sicne then he's thrown a 6 inning one-hitter against the White Sox and struck out 7 inning 5 innings (giving up 3 runs) against the Nationals. Not bad for a guy who was out for a month with an elbow injury! His 2.86 ERA is a little low given the fact he's allowed 10 homeruns in 11 starts. Like anything else in life, baseball is all about timing, so if Prior can keep limiting his longballs to solo-shots, he'll do well. And if he can't, he'll still do well given that his K/BB ratio is at exactly 4:1.

I've always liked Glendon Rusch, particularly ever since he gave up a 4 pitch walk to Tim Raines in Tim's first game at the Big O after re-joining the Expos. I'm not sure how Rusch can have a 19.1 VORP and a 3.35 ERA while at the same time having a 58/33 K/BB ratio and a .321 batting average on balls put into play? Allowing only 6 homeruns in over 80 innings helps. Who thought that Glendon Rusch would be more valuable to the Cubs than Greg Maddux? I doubt that will last.

Speaking of Maddux, he hasn't pitched nearly as badly as his numbers would indicate, though he's giving up homeruns at the same rate as Prior. His K/BB rate is a little lower than Prior's at 3.5/1, but the main difference between the two is that balls put into play seem to find gloves when Prior is pitching, but not when Maddux is. I expect that trend will reverse itself, and Greg's ERA will go well below its current 5.02.

The lovely and talented Will Carroll (okay, maybe just talented) had a terrific write-up on Kerry Wood in his daily Under the Knife column yesterday. He had this to say about Kerry Wood:

    The three-channel (WGN, TBS, ESPN) coverage of the Cubs/Braves gave me a great look at Wood's new mechanics, leaving me underwhelmed. The slower leg kick amounts to stopping at the bottom, essentially adding a second balance point. The first balance point is unnecessary and counterproductive, so the second is worse. He's essentially throwing from a slide-step, raising the leg and pausing, then lowering the leg and pausing before driving forward. I won't go all Saving The Pitcher on you, but even Mike Marshall will agree that the changes don't amount to much. Worse, the adjustment seems to have had no effect on Wood's motion from the stretch. Each pitch ended with him going violently towards first base due to late hip motion. I'm not sure if this new mechanical set-up is more sustainable than the previous one. I do know it probably doesn't matter. At this point, Wood is going to need to spend the entire off-season retooling.
Wood should bounce back a little (.337 BABIP?), but don't expect him to go all Nolan Ryan on the league.

As a fill in 5th starter, Mitre hasn't been a complete disaster (2-4 record, 5.51 ERA), but at the same time, there's a reason why the Cubbies traded for Jerome Williams. The former Giant, that is, not the guy who used to play for the Raptors.

Hitting

Derrek Lee         - 1B - 54.9 VORP
Aramis Ramirez     - 3B - 28.3 VORP
Jeromy Burnitz     - RF - 15.2 VORP
Michael Barrett    -  C - 10.7 VORP
Jerry Hairston     - 2B -  6.1 VORP
Neifi Perez        - SS -  5.9 VORP
Todd Hollandsworth - LF -  5.2 VORP
Corey Patterson    - CF - -0.4 VORP
Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are off to the All-Star Game, and given their stats, it shouldn't come as a suprise. Lee has already doubled his expected value (30.0 VORP) for his entire season and it's only half over! It's unlikely that he'll keep hitting .377, particularly with a wonky shoulder, but he'll still likely be a legitimate MVP candidate by the time the season is over. Ramirez is already ahead of where BP said he'd be for the entire year, but given his breakout season last year, it shouldn't come as a giant surprise.

Burnitz and Barrett are also above their entire year projections. Does Baseball Prospectus not like the Cubs, or are all of these guys overperforming? Discuss.

That trade that sent Sosa to the Orioles and Hairston to the Cubs is looking better every day.

Neifi Perez has gone back to being Neifi Perez. This team really needs Nomar Garciaparra. Expect him to be back around the 1st of August.

Todd Hollandsworth plays every day. In left field. He has 5 homeruns.

Corey Patterson is looking downright Josh Phelpsish lately. He has 11 homers. That's good! He also has 82 strikeouts relative to 16 walks. That's bad! But they strikeouts come with a free frogurt. That's good!

Questions of the Day

Do the Cubs have any chance of making the playoffs? What should the Cubs (realistically) do to improve those chances?
What's Wrong With The Cubbies? | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Skills - Wednesday, July 06 2005 @ 01:02 PM EDT (#121682) #
It's a little hard to go Ga-Ga over yogurt when it has sprinkles with sodium benzoate in them. That's bad, no matter which Radio you listen to.
Mike Green - Wednesday, July 06 2005 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#121684) #
Yes, the Cubs have a chance to make the playoffs. Their pitching could take them to 87 wins and that could possibly be enough. I doubt that it will be though.

An old favourite of mine, Mike Fontenot, is hitting pretty well at triple A Iowa, and might be an improvement on Hairston.
Alex0888 - Wednesday, July 06 2005 @ 04:29 PM EDT (#121725) #
Where's the NL central line graph :(
Alex0888 - Wednesday, July 06 2005 @ 04:30 PM EDT (#121726) #
If they get in, it's going to be NL Wildcard because there just isn't any catching upto St Louis at this point...
What's Wrong With The Cubbies? | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.