Rick Sutcliffe

As part of this Cubs history kick that started with Wiklifield, I had this idea of trying to figure out what was the best individual season by a member of the Cubs. As I started pouring through the research I decided that the burden of annointing the best Cubs' season ever was too much for this humble Cubs fan. Now I realize as a blogger and top 10 list-maker, I'm suppose to just present my opinion as fact and not accept any other arguments, but I decided for this instance to enlist the rest of the TCR writers.

I put together a list of 27 great Cubs seasons and put it to a vote and would weigh it MVP-style (10 pts for a first place vote, 9 for a second place vote, etc). The criteria for this list were all the Cubs' NL MVP seasons and Cy Young winners and then the best of the rest based on sabermetric dominance in either WARP-3 or Win Shares (Lee in 2005) , historical signifcance  (Wilson's RBI record in 1930) or place in Cubs history (Sutcliffe in 1984). Now there may have been a few names that deserved to be in that
original top 27 list over some other names, but I'm sure I didn't miss
the top season. As I mentioned in the poll, just think of it as the
NCAA tournament...there's a lot of arguments on who deserved to be in
the original 65 picks, but those that are left out never really had a
chance to win the whole thing. 

The only instruction I laid out for their votes was to use whatever
criteria each writer saw fit. Some of us have a sabermetric slant to
the world, some like MVP trophies, some just remember what we saw and
its impact at the time and so forth and so on. Transmission, Cubnut, Dr. Hecht and myself ended up participating and our ballots are listed at the end of the post. The final results for the readers voting is also at the end. We by no means believe this is the list to rule all lists, but it was an interesting exercise nonetheless. I mean if Arizona Phil or Christian had submitted their ballots, the final results could have been very different. Also, we tend to believe with our eyes and hearts and I don't think any of us saw much baseball before 1950 - and for some of us - not much before 1980. Speaking for myself, I had a hard time giving double credit for a player, generally focusing on what I felt to be their best season, even if they had a second or third great season that deserved to be recognized. But this is more art than science and the final results certainly are skewed by a small sample size.

Rich Harden's brilliant effort Tuesday night followed yet another complete-game win for the second-place Brewers' C.C. Sabathia the evening before.

Through last night's play, here is what Harden and Sabathia have done for their NL Central teams, alongside the contribution of another mid-season acquisition, who, once upon a time, made a huge impact when he joined the Cubs from the American League:

  GS CG IP
H
K
 BB ERA
 W L
C.C. Sabathia 9 5 73 60 69 15 1.60 8 0
Rich Harden 7 0 42 26 59 14 1.50 3 1
Rick Sutcliffe (thru 8/19/84) 13 1 94 87 93 32 3.26 11 1

 

(Note: Sabathia's first start for the Brewers was on July 8, Harden's Cub debut was on July 12, and Sutcliffe's first game for the Cubs was on June 19, 1984.

Thoughts after the jump...

Tonight when the Braves visit the Mets, former Cub Rick Sutcliffe will be in the ESPN broadcast booth for the first time since he was diagnosed with colon cancer during spring training. Sutcliffe, who has been receiving chemotherapy and radiation, is scheduled for surgery on June 16th, which he hopes will lead to a clean bill of health.

On an infinitely more mundate note, Dayn Perry at foxsports.com argues that the Cub Express must be seen as wobbly, given that Ryan Dempster appears to be pitching with a rabbit's foot or similar in his pocket--Dempster's .211 batting average against on Balls in Play is way below the normal .290-.300 range--Carlos Marmol is on pace for an ungodly number of innings pitched, and Jason Marquis is just not very good.

Perry does, however, end on this semi-upbeat note:

If they do get to the postseason, then they'll have the kind of team
that's built to succeed in that environment. Teams with good defenses,
high-strikeout pitching staffs, and dominating closers tend to do well
in the playoffs, and all of that describes this year's Cubs model.

...the team defense has been exceptional, and the
pitching staff ranks third in the NL in whiffs. As for the closer
thing, Kerry Wood has looked strong save for two isolated bad outings.
If he continues to grow into the role, then the Cubs will have a real
shot at ending their comically long title drought.

Of course, unless the pitching holds up, they won't get the chance.

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