July 2008

I’m a little drunk, but that won’t stop me from using WordPress.

I don’t know what’s going to happen over the last two months of the season—Kerry Wood’s blister might turn out to be a space alien (a smaller version of the thing in the guy’s chest in Total Recall), rendering him done for the season; the Ryan Dempster Fluke Train might (will?) derail; Rich Harden might (will?) get hurt—but right now, at this moment, the Cubs could beat anybody, and the Brewers look like a bunch of petulant children.


and the Cubs don’t score!  For all their offensive prowess this year, the Cubs have had a lot of trouble turning bases-loaded, no out situations into big innings.  I documented this problem earlier this year; how have things gone since then?  Well, the Cubs have had 14 bases-loaded, no out plate appearances since that post; here are the number of times they’ve scored each number of runs following those plate appearances:

0 runs: 1

1 run: 8

2 runs: 3

3 runs: 2

4 runs: 0

5+ runs: 0

On the bright side, the Cubs have managed to at least score 13 out of 14 times; however, they’re only averaging about 1.42 runs in these situations, which is actually less than their 2007-May 2008 average.  As I noted back in May, this is about a full run lower than the league-wide average for the years 1999-2002.  Though we are definitely in a different run environment nowadays, I would wager that the Cubs are still doing worse than the last couple years’ league averages for runs scored after loading the bases with none out.  For the year, the Cubs are 3/16 in these situations with one double, no walks, six strikeouts, 1 HBP, six sacrifice flies, and 18 RBI; they are posting a .188/.174/.250 line.  It’s easy to shrug this off given how well the Cubs have played overall, but let’s hope that the Cubs can start producing a little more in these situations.

I wrote earlier in the season about an article I read in which the author suggested thinking of the baseball season as consisting of nine 18-game chunks.  Believe it or not (I can’t), we are now through five such chunks; how have things gone?

Chunk 1: 12-6.  The Cubs obviously started off strong.  It’s probably worth noting that the Cubs went 6-0 against the Pirates in this chunk.

Chunk 2: 9-9.  This stretch included the 2-4 road trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis and the series loss at home to the Brewers, but it also included the first two games of the Arizona sweep and the two-game Mets trouncing.

Chunk 3: 12-6.  The sweep of the Dodgers at home, 3 out of 4 from the Padres, and more; a good chunk.

Chunk 4: 12-6.  This chunk included the West Coast road trip and the home sweep of the Braves.

Chunk 5: 9-9.  The just-completed chunk included both series with the White Sox and the Cardinals series.

In a way, none of this means anything: you can find an 18-game stretch in which the Cubs played like crap and an 18-game chunk in which they were nearly unbeatable; the divisions between the chunks quoted here are somewhat arbitrary.  Still, I think it says something that none of these chunks are 6-12—this is a team that won’t stay down for too long.

When I first heard rumors that the Cubs were thinking about getting Harden a few days ago, I thought “please don’t lose Pie or Vitters or Gallagher for a guy who can’t stay healthy.”  Well, the Cubs only had to give up Gallagher of those three, and they also managed to get back Chad Gaudin, a useful back-of-the-rotation starter/reliever.  Still, I’m a bit worried: when you deal with Billy Beane, you usually lose the trade, especially if you’re getting a pitcher back.  I think that there are two ways to look at this trade:

1) Beane “knows something” or simply has a strong feeling that Harden is going to go down again soon, making the trade essentially a four-for-one which will almost certainly favor the A’s.

2) Beane doesn’t know anything (much) more than we do: Harden is a huge injury liability.  There are then roughly three outcomes: Harden stays mostly healthy this year and next, in which case the Cubs win the trade by a lot; Harden suffers nagging injuries but still pitches well when healthy, in which case the trade is probably a wash; or Harden goes down soon and contributes nothing.

I’m willing to give Beane the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not pulling a Kenny Williams with Mike Sirotka, in which case it seems to me a pretty fair trade, on average, though one that has a small potential to greatly favor the Cubs and a larger potential to slightly favor the A’s.