Cubs Appear Ripe for "Miracle" Season (in 1984)
No, this isn't a bold Ryan Dempster-like statement about the Cubs 2008 chances. We're going to hop into the DeLorean we have sitting around here at the sprawling TCR headquarters and visit my all-time favorite Cubs team - the 1984 ballcub.
I recently finished a rather impressive historical account on the Cubs by Glenn Stout, aptly titled "The Cubs: The Complete Story of Chicago Cubs Baseball". Of course, as I approached the section on the 1984 Cubs, my ears perked up a bit as they are my all-time favorite Cubs team. In his research, Stout came across a rather intriguing article posted on April 1st of that year. Reading through it, you'd think it was an April Fool's Day joke.
A substantial portion of the 19-game difference between the Cubs and the top of the division is not a real difference in talent. It might be called an illusion. It might be called a difference in the ability to play one-run baseball. But whatever it is, it isn't a difference in the ability to score runs or the ability to prevent the opposition from scoring runs.
This is an unusually large disparity - eight games - between projected performance and actual performance, and such disparities do not hold up from year to year.
So who this mysterious Carnac? Bernie Lincicome? Jerome Holtzman? One last clue...
The Cubs certainly don't have the potential to be a great team, a dominant team over time. But that's not really germane; miracle teams are never great teams. They're teams that have a moment, teams that slip through a window of dominance.
Alright, that wasn't much, was it? Let's see if this helps:
The Cubs have a specific, correctable weakness, action on which can have a huge impact on their record. I speak of their ability on artificial turf. The Cubs last year were 58-56 on grass fields, but were the worst team in baseball [13-35] on artifical turn by a wide margin.
The reasons for this are not hard to understand. They have a power-hitting offense, and Larry Bowa and Ron Cey don't move so much as sort of melt toward the ball. Their staff is composed heavily of ground-ball pitchers - they had more ground balls hit off them than any other staff in the majors- and ground-ball pitchers get killed on artificial turf.
Well if you haven't guessed yet, there weren't a lot of sabermetrically-inclined authors back in 1984 and the article was actually an excerpt from the "Bill James Baseball Abstract/1984", naturally written by the true father of sabermetrics, Bill James. Thanks to Transmission for finding the actual Trib article for me, which you can view the full text by following this link.
PS - The Cubs were 2 games behind their Pythagorean record last year if it makes anyone feel better about 2008. They won 85, but "should" have won 87.
If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.
Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."
This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.
I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.
They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.
However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.
I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
- They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
- Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.
new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup
Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.
.500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.
...i hate espn.
nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.
oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.
I'm liking this rookie Nathan.
Richard DFA'd. Meh...
Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.
The next 2 games are nationally televised. I think we dominate tonight, hitting 3 HRs off Shields. Great night for KB to end HR drought facing HR prone pitcher in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league.
If the ball didn't deflect off the pitcher's mound, the game wouldn't have ended. Montgomery did miss his location though, but if that same contact was made and went in any of direction, good chance of ground out if it doesn't get through.
If it was 1 night later, Chapman would be out there and we probably would be going to extras.
Also, If KB wasn't robbed of a HR, perhaps we would have won. We will never know. Nice play by Melky though.
The comparison isn't Chapman replacing Rondon. It's Chapman replacing Richard (hopefully) in the pen. Chapman's better.
I'm with you, Rob. You pretty much summed up how I feel about it.
Been quite the roller-coaster the past two days -- both games, plus the Chapman kerfuffel. How about a couple of nice, comfortable wins before facing Sale? Cubs should definitely wear throwbacks for that game.