It really wasn’t the 4 game winning streak or winning 9 out of 13 that had me feeling better about all things Cubs yesterday.
We know all too well there is still a long way to go. However, I think we can now realistically say the worst is behind this outfit. The toughest phase of the plan is becoming visible in the rearview mirror. It has been painful, but I can finally see the light. The draft picks, the international free agent signings, the renovation deal coming to fruition soon. Dare we say things are falling into place?
Let us not get too carried away with writing out line-ups that include all homegrown Cubs prospects at every position. That never really happens (John wrote about that here last week). The last time I did that was in 2002, with names like Dave Kelton, Luis Montanez, Bobby Hill, and Nic Jackson filling it out. You remember those.
That being said, with the signing of Kris Bryant, the Cubs now have four of the top prospects in all of baseball. There may yet be more talent injected into the organization this month with the passing of the trade deadline. Speaking of the deadline, much has been made lately of Matt Garza’s trade value going up with his stellar last month of starts. Jed Hoyer says that is not how it necessarily works.
Hoyer: “The ups and downs of a player probably impact the trade deadline less than people think.” #Cubs
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) July 11, 2013
Now I could also read Alfosnso Soriano into that quote as well (Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles agreed with me on that one via Twitter). GM’s and scouts weren’t born last night. They are fully aware who these guys are.
You can even see the progression from the record from last year, and it could’ve been much better with a legit bullpen. Hoyer even joked he wanted to commission the league to determine the playoff seeding by run differential. Bruce Miles had some numbers up yesterday that gave me more perspective.
The Cubs are 40-48 this year, compared with 36-52 through 88 games a year ago. Their run differential is plus-1. Last year, it was minus-57 at the same point … The Cubs are 27-22 in games outside their division, but they’re 13-26 against the NL Central, the lowest winning percentage by any team against its own division in baseball.
It is actually a huge break for Epstoyer that the Cubs aren’t closer to .500. Could you imagine the outrage if Hoyer tried a sell-off with Cubs fans believing the team was in the mix? Awkward.
Hoyer admitted as much, saying he wouldn't be in selling mode if the team was a few games closer to .500 and still within shouting distance of the wild-card leaders.
"In some years the answer would be yes, but the challenge is we're so far behind," he said. "There are three teams in our division and two teams, the Reds and the Pirates, are kind of running away with the National League wild card.
Thankfully for the big picture, this isn’t the case. We all anticipated the Cubs would bottom out just as bad as last season after the anticipated deadline deals were completed. That may not be the case either this time. Hoyer accumulated a bit of pitching depth to help absorb trading the Garzas and Feldmans. Carlos Villanueva and the rehabbing Scott Baker could keep us free from Chris Rusin starts and another free fall this summer. That is if they don’t trade Villanueva too.
‘‘Last year was a pretty unusual situation,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said of a rotation depleted by trades, an injury to Garza and the innings limit put on Samardzija in his first season as a starter. ‘‘There’s no question that the pitching staff we ran out there in September was, uh, short. I think we feel a lot better about that. We have a lot more depth in the minor leagues, more depth on the major-league roster. We’re not as concerned about that [this year].’’
There is still much to watch for this season as Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro need to find consistency and continue growing. The front office will also face some big decisions this offseason in how to take the next step forward. It takes a big leap of faith for most Cubs fans to trust that there is actual help on the way.
You may not yet let yourself believe in the progress within the organization because it’s the Cubs, but just look around others can do it for you.
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) July 10, 2013