October 2008

Here is this year's Ex-Cub Factor update:

 

Philadelphia Phillies: 3 -- Scott Eyre, Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs

Milwaukee Brewers: 1 -- Jason Kendall

Chicago Cubs: None

Los Angeles Dodgers: 3 -- Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Juan Pierre

Chicago White Sox: None

Tampa Bay Rays: 1 -- Cliff Floyd

Boston Red Sox: None

Los Angeles Angels Etc.: 2 -- Gary Matthews Jr., Justin Speier

A quick reminder: the Ex-Cub Factor, as coined by Ron Berler, popularized by Mike Royko, and brought to the Web by yours truly, says that no team with three or more ex-Cubs can win the World Series. Based on the numbers, then, only the Phillies and Dodgers are out of luck this year.

But I've been thinking abut the Factor recently and I wonder if it is as strong (and unfailing) as it used to be. The factor was originally born out of the idea that there is an ineffable "Cubness" (these days some might call it "Cubbery"), a stink of loserdom that works its way into the psyche of any player who toils on the North Side. Even after they leave the Friendly Confines, the theory goes, those players carry this Cubbie essence with them, and if you get a critical mass of ex-Cubs on one team, their combined futility is enough to deny their team the ultimate prize.

The Factor has been pretty strong; only twice (in 1960 and 2001) has it been defeated, and in each case it took walk-off hits in the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game (both times against the Yankees, no less) to overcome it.

The thing is, though, that I wonder if what it means to be a Cub hasn't changed over the last few years. After decades of management that ranged from boneheaded to non-existent, the team's corporate overlords seemed to wake up and realize they owned a baseball team in a major media market. They started increasing payroll to attract free agent talent; they hired some smart people to work on drafting and in the minor leagues; and they started bringing in proven talent at manager: first Dusty (a disaster, but still) and now Uncle Lou.

The net result has been three playoff appearances in the last six years. A casual fan might not think that's a big deal, but any Cub fan knows that's equal to the number of playoffs appearances the team had made in the previous 57 years.

It's more than just the playoff appearances, though. There has been a change in the feeling that surrounds the team. It's not like we're all suddenly, automatically, expecting the Cubs to be winners; it's hard to shake a hundred years of futility. But I think most Cub fans feel differently about the team's general prospects now than they did even a decade ago -- while we still acknowledge the problems of the past, and worry about them out of proportion with reality, we (or at least I) no longer default to the worst possible outcome when I start thinking about what's ahead.

As far as I know, Ron Berler never talked about what it would take to end the reign of the Ex-Cub Factor. I think a World Championship this year would probably do it; a pennant might be even be enough. But even if neither of those things happen, I feel like the Factor is on its way out. Being traded to the Cubs no longer means years of toiling for a second-division team, playing meaningless games in the best park in baseball and hoping for a ticket out of purgatory; I don't think it's a stretch to think that players can leave the employ of the Chicago National League Base Ball Club and no longer be branded losers from there on out.

Maybe the factor will come into play this year (although I hope it doesn't, because that would mean the Cubs aren't in the Series). If it does, it's possible that the Dodgers or Phillies will lose the Series, and the Factor will be said to have claimed another victim. But whether or not that happens, I have a feeling that, as time goes by, we'll hear less and less about the Lovable Losers and the effect playing for them has on the rest of players' careers.

Go Cubs!

When no clear answer presents itself, go with the most obvious..

LDS:
Cubs over Dodgers in 4

Phils over Brewers in 3

Angels over Red Sox in 5

Rays over White Sox in 5

LCS

Cubs over Phils in 6

Angels over Rays in 7

World Series

Cubs over Angels in 5

Past the time until first pitch by doing some ball hawking.The playoff roster has been announced as well.

C - Blanco, Soto

INF - Lee, Ward, Fontenot, DeRosa, Theriot, Cedeno, Ramirez

OF - Soriano, Edmonds, Johnson, Fukudome, Pie

SP - Demspter, Zambrano, Harden, Lilly

RP - Wood, Marmol, Samardzija, Cotts, Marshall, Howry, Marquis

With DeRosa limping, the Cubs needed someone who could play the outfield when Lou needs to pinch-hit for Fukudome or the couple dozen other late-inning possibilities. Hopefully the only time we see Bob Howry is if the Cubs are nursing a 13-0 lead after Sutcliffe and the Penguin homer.

Cubs Offense vs. Dodgers Pitching and Defense

Let's finish the preview and see what the Cubs pitching can do against the Dodgers bats.

Dodgers Offense vs. Cubs Pitching and Defense

Dodgers Hitting: .264/.333/.399 .732 OPS(11th in OPS), 126 SB's at a 75% success rate (3rd and 5th respectively)

Cubs Pitching: .242/.316/.395 .711 OPS, 3.87 ERA (1st in BA, 3rd in ERA, , 2nd in the rest,)

Dodgers Hitting vs. Right Handers: .260/.326/.390 .716 OPS

Dodgers Hitting vs. Leftt Handers: .275/.350/.419 .769 OPS

Cubs Pitching vs. Right Handers: .237/.302/.385 .687 OPS

Cubs Pitching vs. Left Handers: .249/.336/.409 .745 OPS

Dodgers are 53-57 when a right-handed pitchers starts the game, 31-21 when a left-handers starts.

Cubs Defense: .706 DER (1st in NL), .832 RZR (6th in the NL)

Cubs Rotation: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly

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