Should the Cubs Tank the Division?


I'm not really advocating this strategy, but hear me out. The current NL standings after the jump. 

Team  GB  WP%   Run Differential
 Phillies 64  56   -  .533  +71
 Mets 64  56   -  .533  +48
 Marlins 63 58 1.5   .521  -21
Cubs  73  47   .608  +155
Brewers  70  51  3.5  .579  +50
Cardinals 67 56  7.5  .545  +38
Dodgers  61  59  - .508   +30
Diamondbacks  61  59   - .508  +19

 and the Wild Card standings

Team   L GB   WP% Run Differntial 
Brewers  70  51   - .579 +50
Cardinals  67  56   4 .545 +38 
Mets  64  56  5.5 .533 +48
Phillies  64  56  5.5  .533 +71 
Marlins 63  58  .521  -21 
Diamondbacks 61  59  8.5  .508   +19
Dodgers  61  59  8.5  .508  +30 
Astros   61  59  8.5  .508   -24

So the Cubs have a seven and a half game lead on a playoff spot and ESPN has them at 97.4% chance of making the playoffs and 81% at winning the division. BP goes with 98.04% to make the playoffs and 79.41% to win the division. Plus they lead the league by a healthy margin in runs scored (57 over the Phillies) and are second in runs allowed with 490;  just 11 behind the Dodgers. That is a good baseball team that - sans any black cats crossing their paths - is headed to the playoffs.

But here's the rather small dilemma for the Cubs. If they win the division and finish with the best record in the league, there's a real good chance they'll have to face the division winner with the worst record. That's because they can't play the wild card if it's from the same division and with the Brewers at around 86% to make the playoffs with the Cardinals on their heels, that seems pretty likely. Right now, the Cubs opponent looks like the  winner of the NL West between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in a five game set. That means either facing the trio of Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Randy Johnson or the slightly less intimidating Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe, Clayton Kershaw troika of the Dodgers. The Dodgers could also throw a healthy Brad Penny at us  or Hiroki Kuroda, whom we should not forget dominated the Cubs' asses at a level not seen since the last soft-tossing lefty or rookie made his major league debut against them. Furthermore, both West teams added a huge bat recently to their lineups. The D'Backs with Cub-killer Adam Dunn, and the Dodgers with Manny Ramirez. And the Dodgers should be adding Rafael Furcal before it's all said and done as well. So I don't think their current records or the records they end up with are truly reflective of what will be on display during the playoffs.

Counter that with the NL East, where the Mets and Phillies are tied and the Marlins are lurking. The top two teams go only one deep with studs in their rotations (Johann and Hamels) and then a cavalry of question marks. The Mets go with Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez and John Maine; all of whom are capable of real good starts, but kind of in the way that Ted Lilly is capable of one. They're not striking fear into the hearts of batters. The Phillies go with Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and either Kyle Kendrick or Brett Myers. 

I think the Cubs will have the upper hand in any pitching matchups with Zambrano, Harden and Dempster with Lilly lurking, although the Brewers and D'Backs sure could give the Cubs a run for their money in that department. And as the saying goes, you have to beat the best to be the best. Plus a trip to the West Coast means I most likely get to catch a game or two in person. But if they do lose out on the division, but still win the wild card and have to face the NL East winner, I hardly think all will be lost.

That is other than their pride.



In the WTF category:
Peavy in trouble with 2 on, 1 out, and 3-0 count to Mike Cameron. Peavy having all sorts of trouble finding the plate, about to walk the bases loaded. Cameron swings 3-0 and pops out to the catcher. Peavy gets out of it.

OK, back to the thread topic. Basically, I feel we match up best with teams that have a better offense then pitching staff (Phils). But I still think there is something to be said for having the first 2 games at home in a 5 game series, and going into the playoffs with the best record in the league. The Dbacks and especially Brewers scare me because of their starting pitching, but I'd be happier taking my chances against them with homefield than going on the road.

Anyway, this gives me another opportunity to reflect on how much I HATE the best-of-5 format for the first round. It really does almost become a coin flip as you are in deep do-do if you loose game 1.

Where did you get this idea from?


If the Brad Penny from last night pitches they aren't going to far.

Chad believes Dodgers, I say Dbags.

And I dont want to face Webb, Haren, and Unbeatable Randy Johnson in 5 game set.

Bring on Jaimie Moyer!!!

believe it or not if you wish, but I had an idea for something like this over the last day or two. Nonetheless, knowing that you, jacos, were thinking along the same lines made me realize the idea was genius. 



We swept the Snakes at home, mind you and we will have home field advantage where the Cubs are the best in baseball.

Rather play Snakes at home than Philly on the road.

Because if Milwaukee loses to the snakes we have to play them in AZ.

No thank you.

Optimal would definitely be to face the NL East team and then the Brewers, but it might not be so bad to face NL West, particularly if it is the Dodgers. If it's Arizona, need to beat them at Wrigley, because playing in the state of Arizona after March has been almost as bad as playing in Florida....

Meanwhile, check out this beautiful quote from Stark about Dusty - sound familiar?

"Scouts who have followed the Reds continually talk about their messy execution, their mediocre defense and their distinct lack of energy. There also has been plenty of second-guessing of Baker's lineup choices (particularly those 242 at-bats Corey Patterson has gotten).

And there is no shortage of people wondering whether Aaron Harang's forearm injury -- along with his 1-6, 8.49 slide in the past 2½ months -- might be a direct result of Baker's decision to allow him to throw 63 pitches in relief on two days' rest in a May 25 18-inning game, then start him on three days' rest immediately afterward.

Dusty Baker has many admirable traits. And this is not an attempt to heap all the blame on him. We're just saying that when teams like this fall apart, it's everybody's fault -- including the manager's."

it was Harang's throw day...not sure how many a pitcher normally throws or if it's done at game speed, but certainly not one of Dusty's worst moves.

injuries through the season and a lack of replacement player after the griffey trade has given patterson a chunk of ABs.

he's pretty much been in "the doghouse" since late may/early june.

as far as batting him leadoff...yeeesh...but the GM (and to a lesser extent bad luck injuries to the OF, esp. CF types) gave patterson a chunk of those ABs.

the harang thing is kinda f'n hack.

if stark wants to do an article about how dusty needs to air out more responsibility and pour his heart out to the media, do it...

The context of the article was a response to Baker's absurdly ridiculous comments that this wasn't his team. That's just not something a manager says, and I think it fits with Baker's profound hubris and arrogance that I do think has adversly effected his managing in SF, Chicago and Cincy.

That's just not something a manager says, basically insulting the remaining players on his team just to absolve responsibility fror any of the poor play.

Anyway, I agree with both you and Rob that pitching Harang in that game was not his worst offense. It was an 18 inning game, and he had already used 8 pitchers...didn't have many options. But pitching 4 innings and 63 pitches (+32 warm up tosses, plus bullpen work) is a LOT of work on your throwing day, and it is reasonable to think they may have lead to a dead arm.

yeah, he said something stupid and clumbsy...what's new for him? hehe...

it deserves a commentary back.

i got the feeling about what kind of article stark wanted to write, but i feel like he got caught up in weaker sub-plots along the way.

It was in "Rumblings and grumblings" which is typically about gossip from baseball insiders (scouts, gm's, etc.), so I'm guessing he wrote it because several iniders were talking about those things, including Harang's pitching outing.

Here is the full link. The Baker comments were buried pretty far down the article.

I believe Wes, who use to pitch in pros, said that pitchers air it out pretty good on throw days, but I don't know how much and how many pitches.


Hey Rob, what's with all the snarky TL comments these days? Consider yourself in the penalty box.

you know I love ol' Theodore Roosevelt, I'd love him a bit more if he would stop giving up home runs though.


I was pointing more to the lack of execution/defense part of the quote - I had more problems with Dusty in those areas than I did with his use of pitchers.

What about the complete lack of accountability he shows? That always really irked me personally. Try absolving yourself from any and all poor performance next time you deal with your boss. See how that goes over.

j.kendall fulfilled his option clause for the 09 season (team, guaranteed) via starts @C.

4.25-4.60m depending on how many more he can catch this year.

Astros about to go 21-9 in their last 30.
What is it about that team that seems to turn it on at the flip of a switch after the all-star break?

aside from that 3-17 stretch in June, Astros have played pretty good ball for a complete after thought.

Sheets and Peavy got a good one going.

6 innings 3 hit combined.


If the D-Backs and Dodgers respective rotations are so great and they're so dangerous with Manny and Dunn... they should be able to catch up to and pass the NL East leaders over the next seven weeks, making the point of the article moot.

But in reality, if you're really afraid of those teams, maybe it's better to face them in a 5 game set than a 7 game set.

Haren is overated and none of the Dodger's pitchers scare me. Johnson has been pitching better, but this isn't 2001, he gets take deep a lot.

How is Haren overrated? He had a 3.07 ERA in the AL last year, and a 2.93 ERA this year. Sure seems to me like he is the real deal. He isn't Webb or CC, but he's a pretty damn good #2.

Haren is overated

hmm, similar to your Haren isn't top-notch talent comment from the spring.

ERA+ the last 3 years starting with 2006: 108. 117, 151

K/9: 7.10, 7.66, 8.32

K:BB:  3.91, 3.49, 5.44

HR/9: 1.25, .97 .74 

I'm thinking he's underrated.


How many prospects did he get traded for?

2nd half ERA, 2007 = 4.15
2nd half ERA, 2008 = 4.05, but that may be a start behind

He's not crap, but it's not like any teams are saying 'Oh, no, we have to face Dan Haren'

FWIW... an ERA+ of 108 is nowhere close to great, and a 117 is good but not great.

But he has been very good this year.

Marquis has put up ERA+ of 128 and 115 for reference.

wow, thanks guys, I had no idea

it was typo, should be: 108, 137, 151 and if we go 4 years back it was 117, 108, 137, 151. He was 28 and clearly improving  which was my actual point...besides that he's been real damn good now for awhile and getting better.

There's been 20 players since 2000 with at least 7 K/9 rate and a ratio above 5 of K:BB

Here are the names in that top 20

Schilling, Sabathia, Johann, Sheets, Pedro, Randy Johnson, Shields, Mussina.

There's also Cliff Lee, Halladay and Haren from this season. I'm not going to pretend to try and explain Cliff Lee's season, but everyone on that top 20  list is or was considered ace material. I think Haren is well on his way, if not already there.


So if David Bush is on that list, that makes him an ace or a #2 guy?

Let's see how Haren finishes up the season.

Don't get me wrong, Rob. I like Haren. And I don't think he is overrated.

I was jut pointing out that a 108 and a 117 ERA+ wasn't that good... but being that one of those was a typo makes my comment pretty irrelevant. :)

And this is really random, but Brad Ziegler's ERA+ of 1763 is decent.

f'n Brewers.
Walk, Peavy error on pickoff, single
1-0 Brew

go Padres, they go up 2-1.


phitting for Peavy though...go bullpen. 



3-1 Padres, Sheets out 

weird, wild pitch, Gerut scored when the pitcher dropped the ball on a close play at the plate, ump says he never touched the plate.

Sure looked like he did. 

Big argument?

Gerut and Black argued, but when you live in San Diego and are in last place, how much do you really care what happens?

ump missed it, but Gerut should have looked for the safe call too. I can't blame the ump too much, because he was looking at the ball and the tag near his feet, and Gerut quickly slapped the bag around the catcher and got up before the call was made.

heads up by Kendall to notice that the ump didn't signal him safe but ump completely blew the call. Was looking at the ball dribble away from the pitcher Shouse and didn't see Gerut hit the plate with his hand.

Still 3-1 Padres, Heath Bell in. 

instant replay.

go-ahead run to the plate in Corey Hart, 2 down.

yikes, looked close to homer on gameday? How deep was it?

Hart flies out just short of the track in center. Phew!


I wasn't sure how to post my own blog, but this link is really interesting. Spanning nearly a hundred years - from "Three-Finger" to Sosa - this collection of the all-time greatest Cubbie players by team position is sure to entertain, impress and possibly annoy - but will surely spark many heated debates among devoted fans. Can't say I agree with all the choices, but they certainly did their homework. Lots of pictures and videos too! Check it out...

Spanning Spamming nearly a hundred years...


(Seriously, TCR should probably delete that message.)

The Cubs have a pretty good all-time starting, 9, but it should be The Peerless Leader at first and not Grace.

"...they certainly did their homework."

"Lots of pictures and video too!"

What makes you think it's a plug?

No. There are a lot more clearer reasons why the Cubs should win the division, have the best record, play more games at home than all the indirect, speculative, cross-your-fingers double psyche reasons offered here.

The effect of playing more often at home dramatically swamps any alleged matchup (which are highly speculative and are almost always wrong anyway as lots of other things can happen like injuries, rain, etc.).

Gagne sighting!

1 pitch, 1 double rocketed down the left field line.

nice over the shoulder catch by Counsel to get them out of the inning, still 3-1.

Wow. Southsiders hit four consecutive homers today.

Another Rosenblog post today. These are always must-read because of the comments. :-)

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    billybucks 7 hours 8 min ago view
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    crunch 9 hours 12 min ago view
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    crunch 9 hours 15 min ago view
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    Cubster 10 hours 13 min ago view
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    Cubster 10 hours 25 min ago view
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    billybucks 10 hours 43 min ago view
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    crunch 10 hours 48 min ago view
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    crunch 11 hours 9 min ago view
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    billybucks 12 hours 18 min ago view
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    billybucks 12 hours 18 min ago view
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    billybucks 12 hours 35 min ago view
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    Brick 12 hours 39 min ago view
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    Eric S 12 hours 40 min ago view