This is going to be a "throw shiz on the wall and see what sticks" kind of article. In other words, I will be talking a little bit about this, a little bit about that, and hopefully will be able to conclude with something like "and that's why the Cubs are awesome."
First, the bullpen.
Contrary to Lou's apparent take on the deal, the Cubs actually have more than one reliable reliever. Point of fact, Cub teams of the past decade would have killed to have many of these relievers as the setup men to such legendary closers as Flash Gordon, LaTroy Hawkins, and Joe Borowski.
Actually, let me preference* this by saying that the fun thing about statistics is that they can be worked and reworked to fit in any situation. So, I'm not taking them that seriously. I'm just presenting them to you in order to allow you the opportunity to take 'em any way you want to.
(*I know, it's supposed to be "preface." It's an inside joke so inside that no other Goat Rider but me even gets it)
Bob Howry, who has been Lou's backup Go-To Setup Man shouldn't be. At this point, his numbers land him in the 6th-7th inning. He's presently on pace to throw damn close to 80 innings, and I think that, at 34, he's just not setup material anymore.
Jon Lieber, meanwhile, has an ERA of 2.53 while out of the bullpen, and better yet, it's 1.86 when not facing the Reds. Maybe Lieber needs to become a 7th-8th inning presence.
Michael Weurtz got his ass handed to him yesterday. However, in his previous 25.1 innings of work, Wuertz had put up an ERA of 1.42. I'd agree with some of his harsher critics and say that Wuertz shouldn't be a setup man, but he's not a bad 7th inning pitcher.
Neal Cotts - I still don't trust him, I won't for a while, but he has been better than Eyre. So far in 15.1 innings of work, Cotts has an ERA of 2.93.
Carlos Marmol - His numbers have been awful, awful, for the last two months, primarily from a handful of really bad outings. He's already made six appearances this month, and I think overuse is becoming a serious issue. At the age of 25, Marmol is on pace to throw 90 innings. If, by the end of the year, he can finish with 75 innings pitched, that would be ideal and he might be fresh for the playoffs.
Other fun stats:
The 55-37 Cubs - who are easily the best team in the NL standings-wise - have scored 498 runs, which remains not only the best in the NL but the second best in all of baseball, behind only the Rangers. Second in runs scored in the NL are the Phillies, who've scored 29 fewer than the Cubs. Pitching-wise, the Cubs have now allowed 389 runs on the year. 3 teams in the NL have allowed fewer - the best being the Dodgers, who have allowed 371.
In terms of the differential, the Cubs have scored 105 more runs than they've allowed. Next best in baseball is Boston, who's a +91. In the NL, the next best are the +80 Phillies. In the central, Milwaukee is +19.
And, on that note, I'm going to get back to work. Because the game starts early and I'm stuck here, there'll be no series preview until later tonight unless Jason - or any other volunteer - delivers in my place.