Cubs opponents

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.

Braves rookie Jair Jurrjens, who was scheduled to start tonight's game at Wrigley against Ryan Dempster and the Cubs, slipped on a dugout step following last night's game and twisted his right ankle. Jurrjens may be headed to the DL, where he would join fellow Bravos Smoltz, Glavine, and Hampton; Jurrjens definitely won't start tonight. Instead Jeff Bennett (0-3. 3.47) will get the nod.

The Cubs catch a break this weekend, as the Diamondbacks come through town and the Cubs don't have to face two of their best pitchers. Brandon Webb pitched last night, and with all due respect to today's starter Danny Haren, the Cubs have to be happy to miss Micah Owings as well.

Even though Owings isn't pitching, though, we still might see him in the series. He's gotten quite a bit of press this year, but unlike Webb it's mostly been for his bat. Last week against the Astros, he hit a home run. To the opposite field. As a pinch hitter. In the sixth inning. After the opposing team brought in a reliever specifically to face him. Using a sawed-off piano leg as a bat.

OK, not that last one, but still. It was quite a feat. ESPN ran a great chart after that game. Here it is updated through today:


Highest Career OPS (min 75 PA):

1. Babe Ruth 1.164
2. Ted Williams1.116
3. Lou Gehrig 1.079
4. Micah Owings 1.056
5. Barry Bonds 1.051
6. Albert Pujols 1.041
7. Jimmie Foxx 1.037
8. Hank Greenberg 1.017
9. Geovanny Soto 1.011
9. Rogers Hornsby 1.011

While this isn't necessarily a candidate for inclusion in the next edition of How to Lie With Statistics, setting the bar at 75 PA is just the tiniest bit misleading. I mean, look who's tied with Hornsby! Still, that's pretty heady company, and there's no denying that Owings is an excellent hitting pitcher. With the help of the amazing BaseballReference.com Play Index, I pulled up a couple of other charts that put Owings' accomplishments in a bit more context:

This is semi-ancient baseball history, but for those of us who haven't thought a whole lot about Cincinnati Reds play-by-play man Marty Brennaman until the last 48 hours or so, we can enjoy this as if it were fresh and new.

In late April, 1988, the Reds were hosting the New York Mets in old Riverfront Stadium. Umpire Dave Pallone, who had a long history of conflict with the Reds in general and Cincy manager Pete Rose in particular, was working first base. In the bottom of the third inning, Rose and Pallone got into a chest-to-chest confrontation over a disputed play on the bases. Rose and Pallone got their fingers in each other's faces, Pallone told Rose, "Get your fucking finger out of my face," Rose shoved Pallone with his forearm and then, after Pallone had given Rose the official heave-ho and turned to walk away, Rose shoved Pallone a second time, in the back.

Here's where Marty enters the story.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dusty Baker may juggle the Red Legs' pitching rotation heading into next week's visit to Wrigley Field.

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