Many people have been pestering me the past couple of weeks about the condition of the Cubs Basement.
That's a lie. NOBODY has asked me about the condition of the Basement of Love, North Central Illinois' largest collection of Cubs parenphenalia!! As you may recall, I was forced to miss Senor Holy Shit's no-no in Milwaukee because of the sudden and unwanted invasion of a very small tributary of the Little Vermillion River, itself a tributary of the Vermillion River proper, it in turn being a tributary of the Illinois River, which of course flows into the Mighty Mississippi down around Alton. Of course, this very small tributary has disguised itself the past 75 years as a very minor drainage ditch, and 99% of the time does not contain enough water flow to sustain a minnow. But 10 inches of rain in 24 hours, coupled with the lack of proper sump pump parts has resulted in somewhat moderate damage to my personal Cubs museum; namely, the curling of paper-based items such as photographs and posters; the absorption of odors into felt-based items such as banners and pennants; and the condemnation and removal of all item-bearing furniture, such as cabinets and shelves. Not to mention all the flooring, baseboards, and everything else that was ankle deep or less.
Right now, the basement is in shambles. The Good News is that Mrs. Sloth had the basement and its contents insured!! The Insurance Rider of Love is making it possible for us to hire professional restoration experts (no kidding) to come in all this week and preserve all important artifacts, and the liberal replacement policy will permit me to update all the furniture and, hopefully I can make the accounting stuff work so that I can actually add a couple of new things I needed, like the pub table.
I couldn't juggle things so that I could venture straight into Version 2.0 (flat screen TV and the Cubs-themed upholstery, but things could absolutely be worse. My sympathies to everyone who has been less fortunate that I have been during this wet season, and I will update the galleries when everything is set up, hopefully in time for the "third round of playoffs", in which case I had planned on inviting the whole town of Corn Hole down there to watch with me..
I know, I'm the only one who gives a rat's ass, but ain't that what a blog is about?
Thought I would share a link to download the Eddie Vedder song. This was captured from XRT and is perfect quality.
Major League Baseball released the aught nine schedules today. Highlights include a 162 game season, in which half are played at home and the other half are played on the road.
The Cubs will open the season in Houston, and will finish the year at home against Arizona. To see the full schedule, follow this link to the Cubs.com website.
Of course, while this is all informational, I think the only schedule you, I, or anybody else is really interested in starts in a few weeks and will include home field advantage for the Cubs. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
If we looked closely, we might discover that Cub fans in particular - and probably sport fans in general - share many qualities with people who suffer from manic depression. The highs and lows that we've experienced, especially these last two weeks, are ridiculous.
A week ago, the Cubs were entering Monday after having lost 2 of 3 from the hapless Reds. Those who hadn't already jumped off the cliff were, at the very least, on the brink of climbing up there and having a good look around.
Two Mondays ago, the Cubs had ended a hot streak unlike anything we'd seen in a long while and had wound up splitting a 4-game set with the Phillies. Nobody was panicking yet; nobody knew that the worst period of the season was about to hit.
And three Mondays ago, the Cubs were in the middle of their best baseball this season.
For those of you who have been walking the Panic Trail, the Cubs went through their tailspin in a period where they did not have Rich Harden or Carlos Zambrano. Both players have since returned and pitched with authority.
With either 14 or 15 games remaining this year, the Cubs now have a 7.5 game lead on the Brewers, who they play 6 more times this year. They are 89-58; 11 games away from that statistic that threw us all in a tizzy just 3 weeks ago.
Is it possible for the Cubs to finish the year with 100 wins? Can they go 11-3 (or 11-4) the rest of the way against dangerous teams like Milwaukee, St. Louis, New York, and Houston?
I submit that it does not matter. It really doesn't. What matters is that the Cubs reach October with home-field advantage and some kind of momentum. The last couple of games have really turned them back in the right direction, and the first Cubs no-hitter of my lifetime cements in me the belief that giving up on this team is absolutely foolish, especially as long as they have the best rotation in baseball, the best lineup in baseball, the deepest bench in baseball, and outs remaining in a game.
There will be a lot of firsts for me this year. There already have been. The Cubs - for the first time in my life - will reach the playoffs in back-to-back years. They should have - for the first time in my life - the best record in the NL. They are doing so on the backs of big arms like Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano, who - for the first time since I was born - threw a no-hitter yesterday.
I wonder what other firsts will happen this year?
The Tribune reported earlier today that the Cubs-Astros series remains up in the air. Although structural damage did not occur at the Juice Box, the Cubs are apparently refusing to fly down to Houston until no earlier than Monday.
In his post, Goat Reader Luke mentions the possibility of a game played in Atlanta.
I don't really care where they play, so long as they do it soon. The ironic thing is that Alfonso Soriano said a bit ago that the negative of the extra time off is that the Cubs might lose their rythym.
Uh, Fonz, you've lost like 7 of your last 10. I'm just saying.
The Astros, meanwhile, are one of the hottest teams out there. Seems like the time off could be more of a negative to them than it might be to the Cubs.
Update: The Tribune is reporting that two games have been scheduled in - of all places - Milwaukee. Goat Friend Paul Sullivan writes:
The Cubs and Houston Astros will play two games in Milwaukee, one on Sunday night at 7:05 and the other Monday afternoon at 1:05. The Astros will be the home team.
Luckily for Houston, the Cubs are unlikely to get a large crowd of fans willing to drive from Chicago to Milwaukee in order to see two extra Cub games. Equally fortunate for the Astros, the Cubs haven't shown a tenacity at winning ballgames in Milwaukee this year.
Put it to you another way: score.
It's become tradition now that, at the start of every new month, I take a gander at the upcoming schedule and discuss the team's chances. If you want to see what I said about the Cubs in August, just go back to this post here, although I will summarize the important stuff for your convenience. I wrote, "n their 28 games played, I believe the Cubs are capable of going 17-11 without breaking much of a sweat. I'd submit that if they do worse than that, even to the tune of 16-12 or 15-13, then it will be a tight race until the last day of the season. However, if the Cubs can win their 17 - and they truly should be capable of winning as many as 20 - then it might not be as much a race in September as it is a victory lap, because I don't think Milwaukee or St. Louis will be able to keep up."
Well, the Brewers have succeeded at keeping up, but the Cubs met my high water mark of 20 wins and they made it look easy.
In September, the Cubs play 25 games, and they are all important. They play 9 games at home and 16 on the road. Their home games include battles with Houston, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, and while the Astros and Cardinals have fallen off the pace, both teams would be division leaders in the NL West right now. Of their 16 games on the road, the Cubs travel to Cincinnati, St, Louis, Houston, New York, and they finish the year in what may be an epic series in Milwaukee.
I'm going to predict that the Cubs could and should go 15-10, and I'm not saying that because I want them to win 100. However, I do think that 15 wins is well within the realm of possibility, and while they also may "only" go 14-11, they could just as easily kick it up another notch and go 17-8 or even 18-7. It's not probable, but it is possible.
Milwaukee, for comparrison's sake, have a much easier schedule and they play 16 games at home. It very well might come down to the last series in September in order to determine if the Cubs have home field advantage, or if they are the wild card team. I'm sure a lot of us would be nervous if the Cubs failed to win the division; I'm not really one of them. What's important to me, above all else, is that the Cubs play very strongly in their final 10 games this season and that they enter the playoffs with momentum.
How They Match Up
My brother called me up a few days ago and said "you know, you should do a post about the Cubs records against playoff teams." I'm going to do that, but I will take it a step further.
Right now, it looks like the following teams could be playoff bound: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Arizona. Here's how they are all doing against each other:
Phillies: 5-10 vs. Mets
4-3 vs. Cubs
1-1 vs. Brewers
4-4 vs. Dodgers
4-3 vs. D-Backs
Mets: 10-5 vs. Phillies
0-2 vs. Cubs
1-2 vs. Brewers
4-3 vs. Dodgers
3-3 vs. D-Backs
Brewers: 1-1 vs. Phillies
2-1 vs. Mets
4-6 vs. Cubs
2-4 vs. Dodgers
5-1 vs. D-Backs
Dodgers: 4-4 vs. Phillies
4-3 vs. Mets
2-5 vs. Cubs
4-2 vs. Brewers
5-7 vs. D-Backs
D-Backs: 3-4 vs. Phillies
3-3 vs. Mets
1-5 vs. Brewers
3-4 vs. Cubs
7-5 vs. Dodgers
Cubs: 3-4 vs. Phillies
2-0 vs. Mets
6-4 vs. Brewers
5-2 vs. Dodgers
4-3 vs. D-Backs
So, there you have it. Based on these statistics, we don't even need the playoffs. Let's just give the Cubs the NL crown and send them to the Series!
In all seriousness, though, despite the hard schedule, I like Chicago's chances in September. Consider it a run through the gauntlet in preparation for the playoffs, where their experience - and success - against winning teams will be huge.
A few weeks ago, after a Cubs loss I wrote something along the lines of "to the shock of everybody, the Cubs will not win every game between now and October."
As the Cubs surge ahead toward 100 wins, after having won their 5th straight, after getting to 33 games over .500 in August, after going more than a month now without losing in back-to-back games, let us not forget that they will lose again, and sometimes they'll even lose badly.
In fact, the Cubs will almost certainly go through one more phase in which they lose 3 straight, and 5 of 7, and maybe even 7 of 10, and there will be Cub fans out there who will act as though they've just had the air deflated from their party baloons. However, what will remain true is this:
The Chicago Cubs are the best team in the National League.
The funny thing about baseball is that there's a whole lot to consider even beyond the most detailed, complicated statistic, and I think that momentum can play a huge part in winning throughout the playoffs. Last year's Cubs entered October having slid toward the end of September. This year's Cubs will work to reverse that trend.
In other words, the Cubs will play another run of bad baseball before the year ends. It's bound to happen. The question is, will it happen before or after they've left Milwaukee in the dust? Will it happen near the beginning or end of September? The answers to both of those questions interest me greatly, because if the Cubs enter the playoffs as strong as they've played so far in August, then it will be hard for any team or any curse to stop them. So stay calm, Cub fans. Don't panic if things look scary again, if only for a few days. I've said it before and I will repeat myself now: this team is too damned good to fall apart. Consider this a happy reminder of that fact.
I'm just updating an older post; go read it for an explanation of what I'm doing.
Last I wrote about the Cubs' strength of schedule, I anticipated them having a .702 win percentage over the past six games. That didn't come to pass, mostly because a team can't go 4.21200 and 1.78. They did go 4 and 2, which I think is close enough. (5 and 1 would have been better, but I'm not greedy.)
The Cubs have fewer home games left on the schedule, and tougher opposition to face than they did a week ago, but their win expectation has actually gone up. Why? The Cubs have been doing a lot of winning big, which has increased their win expection - remember, I'm using a variation of Pythagorean win percentage, which is based on a team's runs scored and runs allowed. The rather embarassing loss to the Nationals wasn't enough to offset this.
So the current expectation, based on the log5 method, is 99.4 wins, just a tick above the 98.9 wins from the last report. Same as last time, right now it looks like the Cubs' big test is going to be the four-game set against the Mets. Everyone is talking about the final series against the Brewers, but the Mets are (just slightly) a tougher opponent than the Brewers, and its a four game set.
It may not matter, though. Based on the model, the Cubs are expected to be at 96 wins by the time that series rolls around. The Cubs' magic number to clinch a playoff spot right now is 23 games, so the Brewers would have to go 24 and 7 to keep the Cubs from at least clinching a playoff spot by then, or a .774 win percentage. That's not impossible, strictly speaking, but I have to say it's not likely.
So long as we're on that note, the Cubs are expected to have between 97-98 wins to start the series in Milwaukee, again based on the model. That's 16-17 wins; their magic number to win the division is 27. The Brewers would have to go 19 and 9, or a .679 win percentage, to keep the Cubs from clinching the division by the start of that series.
Now, this is simply a model, anda pretty simplistic one at that. (I'm not modelling individual pitcher matchups, which is the one thing I really wish I was doing - I'm working on it, but it's very difficult to figure out probably starters a month in advance.) And there's a reason they play the games, after all.
Apparently the widget is giving people fits, but here's a link. Check the second tab.
It's August 26th and the Cubs are already an 81 win team. They are the first team to win 81 this season - in fact, no other team even has 80 at this point. With 31 games remaining, the Cubs need to go 19-12 in order to win 100.
The Cubs are now guaranteed to finish .500 or higher, calming the many Cub fans who will never forget 1977. One of our readers asked how long it's been since the Cubs reached .500 as early as the 25th of August. The answer, I have learned, is Wednesday, August 21st of 1929. That day, the Cubs won their 76th game. In fact, the Cubs have very rarely ever surpassed the .500 mark for the season in August. Going from 2007 down to 1935, when I gave up and decided to just find the answer, here are the years, dates, records, and teams beaten:
2007: Friday, September 21. 81-73 after beating Pittsburgh
2004: Friday, September 17, 81-64 after beating Cincinnati
2003: Tuesday, September 16, 81-70 after beating the Mets
2001: Friday, September 21, 81-66 after beating Houston
1998: Wednesday, September 9, 81-65 after beating Pittsburgh
1995: Tuesday, September 28, 72-69 after beating Houston"
1993: Monday, September 27, 81-76 after beating Los Angeles
1989: Monday, September 11, 81-63 after beating Montreal
1984: Saturday, September 1st, 81-54 after beating Atlanta
1977: Monday, September 26th, 81-76 after beating Philly
1972: Saturday, September 16th, 77-64 after beating the Mets
1971: Wednesday, September 22nd, 81-74 after beating the Mets
1970: Thursday, September 24th, 81-74 after beating St. Louis
1969: Friday, August 29th, 81-52 after beating Atlanta (the Cubs would be 30 games over .500 on August 30th)
1968: Wednesday, September 25th, 81-78 after beating Los Angeles
1967: Saturday, September 16th, 81-70 after beating Atlanta
1963: Friday, September 27th, 81-79 after beating the Milwaukee Braves
1946: Monday, September 16, 76-64 after beating Brooklyn
1945: Wednesday, August 29, 76-44 after beating Pittsburgh
1939: Thursday, September 14, 76-62 after beating Philly
1938: Wednesday, September 14, 76-60 after beating the Boston Braves
1937: Wednesday, September 8, 76-52 after beating St. Louis
1936: Friday, September 4, 76-55 after beating Pittsburgh
1935: Thursday, August 29, 76-50 after beating the Boston Braves
As far as 81 wins goes, the Cubs won their 81st game on August 26th in 1929, and that's as close to this year's accomplishment as they get, right up until 1907. In 1907, the Cubs won their 81st game on August 22nd, and in 1906 they won their 81st on August 21.
Those appear to be the only two years that the Cubs won 81 games before August 25th of any year in their history. Oh, by the way, they won the World Championship in one of those seasons.
It's August 20th and the Cubs are 29 games over .500. They remain on pace to win about 100 games, but most impressive, they are now tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the best record in baseball.
The Cubs currently have scored 677 runs. That's 60 more runs than the second-best team in the NL, the New York Mets. (By the way, the Mets have played one more game than the Cubs.)
In the American League, where they have one extra talented hitter in their lineups, only one team has had a better offense than the Cubs - the 62-65 Rangers, who've scored 705.
As a team, the Cubs are 3rd in baseball in doubles, 9th in homers, 2nd in RBI, they lead with a .281 team AVG, they lead in OBP (.359 to Boston's .358), they lead in OPS with .808, and they lead all of baseball with 504 walks, to Boston's 492.
On the pitching front, the Cubs have allowed 506 runs to score. No team in baseball has a greater run differential. Chicago's is +171, second best are the Red Sox with +122.
In the NL, only one team has allowed fewer runs to score, the Dodgers, who have given up 500. Next, behind them and the Cubs are the Phillies, who've allowed 533 runs.
In the AL, there are actually 2 teams with better pitching - the Rays and the Jays. Tampa's allowed 497 runs to score, and Toronto's given up 488.
As a team, the Cubs have the best ERA in baseball for starting pitchers, with 3.80, while the Cubs bullpen has a modestly respectful 3.72 ERA, 8th in the league and a full 0.70 runs behind the Dodgers pen. (For comparison's sake, Arizona's bullpen has an ERA of 4.04, another reason why I'm pulling for the D-Backs to hold down the Dodgers).
Overall, the Cubs have the 4th best ERA in the game, at 3.74, and they lead baseball with 978 strikeouts.
I obviously can't speak for them, but if I played for the Phillies, Mets, Brewers, or Cardinals, the only comfort I would have is knowing that the Cubs play my division rivals equal to how often they play me. Teams can not be looking forward to traveling to Wrigley Field this year, and that fear of a blue hat needs to be carried into the post season.
It's true that when you are the team to beat, you play with a target on your back, but the intimidation factor cannot be denied. And the Cubs are intimidating, rather than the intimidated. It's a refreshing change.