Chicago Cubs (10-13, 2.5 games out of 1st) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (10-13, 6 games out of first)
There's something incredibly soothing about how crappy the NL Central is. After all, were the 10-13 Cubs playing in the West, then they'd already be 6 games behind the surging Rockies (who, if you recall, just administered a beat-down of the Cubs). Instead, Chicago is coasting along toward mediocrity in the central, only a short winning streak away from standing atop the division like the glorious baseball kings of old.
The only problem with a short winning streak is that it can't be had ... y'know, without winning once in a while. More after the jump.
Somewhere in the minor leagues, the greatest second baseman of our lifetimes is smiling. After all, he avoided this whole mess. Then again, maybe Ryne Sandberg is what the Cubs needed... Mike Quade is Mr. Nice Guy, Ryne Sandberg led Triple A in Administered Beat-Downs last year.
Regardless, it's way too early to get too negative. After all, some brilliant genius recently pointed out that the Cubs are much better than their ERA, while they are bound to start getting hits even when runners are on base. It's just a matter of time. Looking at this upcoming series...
Thursday, April 28th
Ryan Dempster (1-2, youdontwannaknow ERA) vs. Barry Enright (0-2, 6.65 ERA)
Don't cry for Clownsevelt. The man scuffs his baseballs with hundred dollar bills, after all. Cry instead for Cub fans, who are surely now gnashing their teeth and tearing their garments over the prospects of paying this guy a ridiculous sum of money this year and next. Except ... it's been 5 starts. Surely they don't mean all that much, do they? So what if Ryan has yet to surrender fewer than 4 earned runs in any outing. Big deal if he's given up more hits than Elvis's anonymous songwriters. At this point, we should give him the benefit of the doubt - he's established a three year record of consistency, and one month of pitching like Calvin Schiraldi can't change that.
Besides, the Cubs target of abuse tonight is Barry Enright, a 25-year-old ginger in his second year as a major leaguer. Enright is 6-9 on his career, with an ERA of 6.65. More importantly, he surrendered 20 homeruns in 17 starts last year, and has already coughed up 5 homers in 4 games this year. The Cubs should go off on him like a drunken Lohan.
Friday, April 29th
Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 5.28 ERA) vs. Armando Galarraga (3-1, 6.00 ERA)
So Carlos has had some rough games. Are you surprised? Even at his best, he loved to pepper us with the odd game in which he looked absolutely flabbergasted on the mound. Still, it hasn't been all bad. The Big Moose has a WHIP of 1.30 - that's not "Cy Young" material, but it's not "Why Dempster" either.
(Get it? Cy Young, Why Dempster, "Cy" rhymes with "Why" ... aw, forget it...)
Anyway. Once you ignore Carlos's 1-hit-per-inning No Matter What rule, his numbers aren't so bad. He's on an early pace to strike out 190 guys while only walking 70. Ignore the hits, pay no mind to the ERA. If Carlos ends his season with those two stats, then the rest will have fallen into place.
Like Carlos, Armando Galaragga is a fat Venezuelan with an unspeakable compulsion for Mountain Dew and computer mice. (I just made that last part up.) He's living on the remains of his one successful year, which was like, back before the economy tanked. Like his rotation companion Barry Enright, Armando has a ridiculous first name and gives up a lot of homeruns - 8 so far this year.
Saturday, April 30th
Matt Garza (0-3, 4.11 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (3-1, 4.02 ERA)
Matt Garza. Who would've guessed that after 5 games and 30 innings, Garza would be both winless and devoid of having surrendered a single homerun? Both are bound to change - hopefully soon, at least in the case of the former.
He squares off against Ian Kennedy, who is undoubtedly Arizona's best pitcher up to this point in 2011. The former Yankee, who went 9-10 with an ERA of 3.80 last season, is hardly an ace in the traditional sense but it's any port in a storm for Arizona. Ironically, this will be the one game the Cubs win in this series...
Sunday, May 1st
Casey Coleman (1-1, 7.43 ERA) vs. Daniel Hudson (1-4, 5.64 ERA)
Casey Coleman was pretty decent in 2010. I'm not saying that he rocked our world or anything, but he was a rookie pitcher, promoted in a time of need, who kept his ERA down and won more often than he lost. The only problem was that, as Eddie pointed out not too long ago, wins and losses are not the best way to measure a pitcher's success.
(Side bar: although, frankly, until the World Series is awarded to the team that accumulates the best VORP in the post season, "wins and losses" ultimately are the only numbers that mean anything ... but I'd rather have a starting pitcher with a losing record and a 0.95 WHIP than Kevin Tapani and his 19 wins in 1998. Just saying.)
The problem with Coleman is that he's just not particularly dominating. Even in his time of success, he finished the season with 27 strikeouts in 57 innings of work, and 25 walks, not to mention the 56 hits he gave up. It's been a similar story in '11 - so far, Casey has struck out 9, walked 8, and surrendered 19 hits in 13.1 innings. Not exactly heroic numbers.
On the other hand, if Coleman's going to triumph over anybody, it'll be Daniel Hudson, although the D-Back pitcher has been more unlucky than bad. So far, D-Hud has walked 12 and struck out 32 in 30.2 innings of work, while surrendering only 30 hits. That 1.38 WHIP isn't so bad, even if it's not the stuff of legend. And yet, D-Hud has a 5.64 ERA. Let's face it... if Carlos and Dempster have been unlucky and are bound to right their wrongs, then so is Daniel Hudson. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that he doesn't figure out how to win on Chicago's dime.
It's a four game series on the road, against a mediocre team with challenged pitching. Then again it's the Cubs, a team with pitching that would struggle in a slow-pitch softball league, with a lineup that would fail to deliver runs if hitting off a tee. Nothing can be taken for granted.