For NL Central, These Are the Best of Times

As you may have noticed, the top three teams in the NL Central, the Cubs (48-29, .623), Cards (45-33, .577), and Brewers (43-34, .558), also currently have the three best records in the National League. Who'da thunk?

Here is how the Big 3 rank against the rest of the NL in various categories.

First, hitting:

Cubs 1 4 1 1 2 1 9 6 2
Cards 5 10 3 2 6 4 12 15 1
Brewers 8 3 12 10 4 6 7 5 11

*Ranked in descending order of striketouts, i.e., Cards have the second fewest batting strikeouts in NL.

Gotta love where the Cubs sit in OBP, and, it goes without saying, runs scored. It's so un-Cublike.


Next, pitching ("S/ERA" is starters' ERA, "R/ERA" is relievers' ERA, QS is Quality Starts):

Cubs  1 1 4 1 4 7 5 2
Cards  6 3 13 10 7 5 10 6
Brewers  7 6 12 7 10 3 12 9

Interestingly, the Cubs are just fourth overall in the NL in strikeouts, a category they have dominated in recent years.

And here, a few fielding numbers (Fielding Percentage, Caught Stealing Percentage, Defensive Efficiency Ratio):

Cubs 12 5 3
Cards 2 3 1
Brewers 9 2 5


One last quick note (lunch hour is over): In games decided by three or more runs—an area which I think receives far too little notice especially versus the team's record in one-run games, which are often decided on a single play or two, maybe even a chance bad bounce—the Brewers are 19-21, the Cards are 23-16, and the Cubs are 27-8.


God forbid for the first time in my lifetime, they have a kick ass team with an awesome record and they can't run away with the division!!


Please just once!!

Vitters continues his hot streak going 3-for-6 with 2 doubles in Boise’s 7-4 win over Everett. He's now raised his average to .345.

Tito — February 7, 2008 @ 2:25 pm
Don’t forget, The Real Neal says there’s a good possibility that Dempster will be the Cubs’ best SP this year. So, it’s, like, a lock.

you were on the dumpster's side for starting?

damn...for a year+ it felt like i was the only person who liked it.

after all the back/forth i know the fears/concerns, but damn...not like he was some ace closer and he keeps the ball insanely in the park.

I also said that Dempster was due to have a good year ... by my prediction was that it wouldn't happen again until 2010.


i know there were others that thought it was a good idea. i just lost track of who and when and etc.

guy keeps the ball in the park...he wasn't an elite or irreplacable closer...he threw without velocity issues with regular workload without showing stress (though SOMETHING was really screwed up last Sept.).

i totally understand the concerns about his pitch counts, workload, etc...i just think the positives (and team need) outweighs not taking that chance. glad its working out so far even if its at a level that's beyond what everyone thought was probable. hope he keeps it up. hope he's sharp in sept/oct, too. guess we'll find out.

Congrats, Real Ne-al, and I'm glad you came back to gloat. I still think Big Z is their best pitcher, but I'm happy to admit that I did not expect Dempster to do this well.

If someone made a prediction that Dempster could be the Cubs best pitcher this year, they damn well have the right to gloat.

I thought people were way too hard on Dempster as a closer, but I never thought he would be anything other than a very mediocre starter. Anyone predicting anything close to this can go ahead and pat themselves on the back (just be prepared to be roasted if he has a Marquis-like 2nd half.)

absolutely, but it's important to note that previously when he was a starter he didn't have that splitter which is now his #1 pitch. He used to throw a ton of curveballs and his curve wasn't even a plus pitch for him. He ditched the curve and now he's essentially a FB, slider, splitter pitcher and he's done a fantastic job (if indeed it's intentional) of mixing speeds on his fastball. He was reaching back and hitting 94 a few times Sunday along with his usual 89-92. It also didn't hurt to have Maddux around for a couple years to learn from either. He's credited Maddog quite a few times in interviews I've read this year.

he didnt have "that splitter"?

ton of curve balls?

New article up on ESPN about Baseball's Best Duos so far - Cubs are all over it.

from that article...(emphasis mine)

It's easy to take Marmol for granted when he's sucking up outs in the seventh and eighth every night. He's averaging 12.80 strikeouts per nine innings, and he's been borderline flawless with the exception of ERA-wrecking flare-ups against San Diego, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.


quick look using the BR PI index and 12.8 K/9 is good for 22nd all-time with at least 40 appearances in a season. The top 25 are all after 1989 and all specialized relievers.

Yeah, no wonder they're all specialized relievers since I set the target at 40..duh. Let's try this...

That's K/9 over 10 and at least 30 games with 90% of them as a starter

Randy Johnson had a 13.41 K/9 in 2001
Pedro 13.20 in 1999
then Johnson again for 6 more seasons...

39 players total fit that criteria including Kerry and Prior, both in 2003

As someone here pointed out not too long enough, a quick glance at Demp's BABIP suggests he can't keep up this pace forever.

It's .247, one of the best in the majors along with other early-season surprises like Gavin Floyd, Shaun Marcum, Justin Duchsherer, Joe Saunders, Scott Olsen and surprisingly Cole Hamels.

I was really surprised to see that we had the #1 starter's ERA in the National League. Then I noticed that Marquis has it all the way down to 4.43. And Lilly's got it down to 4.71. Gallagher's tossing up a 3.92.

I guess our rotation has suddenly turned it on in the last 3 weeks.

I was surprised too, & thats why I'm not so sure we need to focus attention on trading for another starter.

Its a shame that besides Zeus and Wood, everybody else in the pen seems really schizophrenic, wasting some very nice starts, as well as offence.

I know that you're not supposed to trade for relievers, but I sure would like a bit more consistency.


Birthday Boy (Aram turns 28 today)
The Venuzulan Corey Patterson (Lou must really hate gingers)

(Also Burres has the flu and Albers will make the start, so the VCP will most likely be on the bench)



"Birthday Boy (Aram turns 28 today)"

He's 30.

In his first 4 full Cubs seasons (2004-2007), he has never hit below .291, and has averaged over 30HR and less than 65K per year.

His K's are up surprisingly this year (49 already), but so are his BBs (his OBP is over .400 for the first time), and he is on pace for another .290+ and 30+ HR year.

A hearty "thanks!" to Jim Hendry and the Pirates for this cornerstone to what has been the most consistently competitive Cubs team I can remember -- since his arrival in 2003: two playoff appearances and one near miss in 5 years, and a great first half of 2008.

Enjoy him, becasue we will miss him when he is gone.

Well he is hitting so good maybe he found the Fountain of Youth with one of his latest swings. Yes he is a child of 78 and not 80.

lol ... "Tejada math".

Strange Lineup... After K-Fuk bats first, that's five righties in a row, followed by four lefties in a row...

if i remember right back in april on a couple of
posts i stated that dempster would be our
2nd best pitcher and win 15 games.

C'mon. The game's not 15 minutes old and the Cards already out to a 2-0 lead (HRs by "Shoe Maker" and "Ankle").

"I know that you're not supposed to trade for relievers..."

I don't think Hendry will go that route, primarily because of the amount of money that's already tied up with two of the middle - relief veterans in the pen. They certainly haven't performed up to expectations, considering the resources expended on them. Shades of Veres and Remlinger in '03.

Recent comments

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  • I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.

  • Awesome stuff, Phil.

  • listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.

    That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.

  • it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
    should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?

    sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.

  • HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).  

    Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.

  • I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.

  • One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players. 

  • CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis  at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely. 

  • has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.

  • As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?

  • AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?

  • Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.

  • AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.

  • I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.

    But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.

  • Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.

    Jason deGrom -- oh, my.

  • Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.

    Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.