So my little experiment, which began so auspiciously, took a bad turn this homestand. With the exception of Sunday night’s loss, I predicted the outcome of every game incorrectly. Now, the pitching matchups were a little different than I thought they would be, but that doesn’t help my cause: I probably would have picked the Cubs to win Sunday night’s game given the matchup of Glavine and Marquis and their repective histories versus the Cubs and Mets. At any rate, at least I got the record right on the homestand–3 and 4. The Brewers went 3-3 on their homestand to gain a half game on the Cubs.

What lies ahead? Well, the Cubs will play three night games against the Astros this week, with the matchups of Hill/Rodriguez, Marshall/Williams, and Zambrano/Oswalt. Hill has almost no history against the Astros, but it’s hard to imagine him being less effective against them than Wandy Rodriguez has been against the Cubs. Derrek Lee has murdered Rodriguez to the tune of a 2.289 OPS in 15 career plate appearances, and Matt Murton has also done well. Aramis Ramirez hasn’t hit very well off of Rodriguez–2 for 11 with a strikeout–but I’m hoping that all his at-bats will come with the bases empty after a Derrek Lee homer. I’m picking the Cubs. Sean Marshall, Tuesday night’s Cubs starter, has not been very good against the Astros’ hitters, though most of the damage against him has been done by the likes of Chris Burke, Jason Lane, and Brad Ausmus. Woody Williams hasn’t been too hot against the Cubs’ hitters,–Jason Kendall is hitting .514 in 35 career at-bats against Williams–but he has pitched well against them twice this year. I’m going to predict a Cubs win, but not with much confidence; that game could go either way. Wednesday night’s game pits two of the best pitchers in the NL against each other. Zambrano has been pretty good against the Astros’ hitters, though Carlos Lee has hammered him (.342/.405/.763). He’s absolutely dominated them this year, allowing only one unearned run in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Oswalt has done fairly well against the Cubs’ hitters, holding Lee and Ramirez to lines of .268/.318/.488 and .278/.268/.500, respectively. Floyd, DeRosa, and Kendall have all hit him pretty well, though. This year, Oswalt has only faced the Cubs once, and he got hammered, giving up nine runs (eight earned) in 5 1/3 innings pitched. I have to go with Zambrano and the Cubs here. That’s right: I’m predicting a sweep. Given the pitching matchups, there’s no way the Cubs should lose this series, so anything less than two out of three would be very disappointing.

When Soriano pulled up lame last night in the bottom of the third inning against the Mets, my immediate thought was “that’s the end of the season.” Since then, I’ve had some time to look at some stats and think, and I’ve come to this conclusion: even if this injury takes Soriano out for the rest of the year, it won’t hurt the Cubs’ chances at a playoff spot that much. Why?

1) The Cubs’ recent success has very little to do with Soriano. His numbers in July, a month in which the Cubs went 17-9, were a paltry .265/.276/.425.

2) His WPA for the year is, somewhat shockingly, -.29. In other words, the Cubs have a winning record in spite of Soriano’s bat. Yes, he has had some great games, and one incredible month (June, in which he posted a .336/.379/.697 line), but, overall, he has actually slightly hurt the team with his bat. His fielding has probably made up for that, but the fact remains that he has not been one of the most valuable players on this team.

I’m actually more worried about the effects this injury may have on Soriano in future years, especially if he tries to come back too soon and makes the injury worse. I think he should definitely take his time and make sure he’s 100% before returning to action.

What should the Cubs do in his absence? I think it’s a no-brainer to recall Felix Pie and install him in center against righties. Floyd should be moved to left (with Pagan or DeRosa playing when Floyd needs a rest/tweaks something), and Jones should be moved back to right. Against lefties, I’m not sure what to do. Murton should replace Jones, for sure, but I’m not sure that I like Pagan against lefties any more than Floyd. I think that perhaps it would be best to have Pagan replace Pie, but then how will Pie learn to hit big league lefties? The best thing to do against lefties is probably to have Murton/Pie/Pagan in L/C/R half the time, and Floyd/Pagan/Murton the other half. My suggested lineups:

vs. RHP

Theriot SS

DeRosa 2B

Lee 1B

Ramirez 3B

Floyd LF

Jones RF

Kendall C

Pie CF

(Pitcher) P

vs. LHP

Theriot SS

DeRosa 2B

Lee 1B

Ramirez 3B

Floyd LF or Murton LF

Murton RF or Pagan RF

Pagan CF or Kendall C

Kendall C or Pie CF

(Pitcher) P

Obviously, there would be opportunites for Fontenot to start some games at 2B when DeRosa starts for Floyd.

In looking through the Cubs’ stats in the wake of Soriano’s injury, it struck me how weird this season has been. The Cubs are 58-52 after 110 games, which is right about where I thought they’d be (I picked them to win 86 games). The way they’ve gotten there, however, is really surprising. The offense has been a disappointment, especially in the power department, and the bullpen has swung between invincibility and ineptitude all year. The Cubs are where they are because no one in their rotation has sucked all year long. Marquis has sucked for some time now, but even he had a month and a half of good starts, and that makes him better than most teams’ fifth starters. The rotation, a huge question mark at the beginning of the year, has kept the Cubs in contention. Can they do it for another two months? I think so, especially if some of that power finally shows up (although it will be hard without Soriano).

EDIT: Apparently the Cubs have called up Eric Patterson instead of Felix Pie.  Huh?  Is DeRosa moving to left?  Is he moving to right and pushing Floyd to left?  Is Patterson going to play second every day?  Huh?

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