The Sorianoless Cubs
Goat Friend and Iowan broadcaster Jon Miller recently EMailed me from his boat because he'd noticed something of particular interest.
To paraphrase - because copying and pasting is just too much like cheating - Jon has noticed that in the 19-or-so games that Soriano has not played, the Cubs have averaged 7 runs per game. In the 51-or-so games in which Soriano has batted leadoff, the Cubs have averaged 4.98 runs per game. Pitching-wise, it's a wash - without Soriano, the pitching staff is allowing 4 runs a game, and with him, they're allowing 3.98. Likewise, without Soriano, the Cubs are 12-7, a .631 clip. With him, they are 33.18, a .647 clip.
First and foremost, I think that neither Jon nor myself would suggest that the Cubs are a better team without Soriano. In terms of why they've averaged so many more runs per game without him, a lot of it has to do with the drubbings they've dealt Pittsburgh, and the relatively small sample size. Over a 19-game span, even the Royals can look like the Yankees.
That said, the real interesting sampler will come over the next few weeks. I believe Colin posted something to the effect that the Cubs should score roughly 4 fewer runs without Alfonso in the lineup while he's out - how that will translate in the wins-loss column is anybody's guess. Will the Cubs win roughly the same number of games, except they will be closer in score? Or will the rest of the Cubs lineup step up and lay some offensive smack down on their rivals?
As we've said about a million times, the Cubs are such a good, complete team, that they should win even without their talented left fielder. However, my sports fanatic friend at work thinks we're all crazy, because he believes that Soriano is hands-down the best hitter on the Cubs, and they will ache from his loss.
Burnett: saying the right things
A.J. Burnett has been in the news lately as he has been lamenting for the chance to play in a city where they love baseball. I've been speculating that Burnett would be a Cub probably since the middle of May. As we draw nearer to the trade deadline and as the Blue Jays fall farther from contention, it seems likely that they'll be dealing A.J. before the end of July.
As somebody over at the Desipio boards said, it would be like the second coming of Kerry Wood. Burnett has great strikeout stuff, questionable durability, and he seems to find it impossible to win more than 12 or 14 games in a season.
However, while I question his durability, Burnett would evoke more confidence than even Ryan Dempster in a short series - at least, for now. He's not my first choice, but as I said recently, I'd rather see Burnett than no improvement at all. In the past, Jim Hendry has seemed unable to formulate a Plan B when Plan A fails - this time, however, perhaps he can do everything possible to land Sabathia but keep a trade for Burnett as a backup option.