The Cubs, Like the League, Currently Sitting at .500

This morning, walking to work, I was reading the MLB headlines – my regular morning routine. Nothing makes a 40 minute walk to work fly by like reading about who came through in the clutch last night and who fell flat on their face.

I read the Cubs recap for last night’s game. I was able to follow the game on-line but I always read the recaps, regardless. Demp was great until he wasn’t. That pretty much sums it up. After six innings he had only given up only one run and was cruising along. Of course, the trick is to catch him or any pitcher before they are no longer producing in a game. It’s always a gamble and something I’m sure Quade and his pitching coach are still fine tuning only 10 games into the young season. I was happy to see Dempster land his first W of the season and to hear that at his best he struck out five consecutive Astros batters.

It was good to read about Castro’s unbelievable day in the leadoff spot. Are we a little spoiled with Castro, or what? The baseball bat is to Starlin Castro what the ping pong paddle was to Forrest Gump.

No matter what you throw in front of Castro, if he decides to swing at it he is going to make contact. Last night in the lead off spot by the fourth inning, Castro had three hits, scored three runs and stole the Cubs elusive first stolen base of the 2011 season. Second base is no longer the Hope Diamond. We finally secured our first SB of the year and I’m hardly surprised Castro is the guy that accomplished it.

Marmol finished strong with three strike outs in his four-out save. It bothers me the club didn’t go to Marmol earlier as their closer. Remember that horrible experiment with Kevin Gregg?? Ugh. Marmol is dominating in the role again this season and I am becoming more and more comfortable with him that he will finish a game successfully as well as make it entertaining to watch (if not nearly heart attack inducingly entertaining).

The win put the Cubs back at the .500 mark at 5-5. We are 2 games back in the Central in second place tied with Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. We have that in common with those two teams…but my gut told me we had something in common with the league as well.

As soon as I saw the 5-5 record, something told me that’s about exactly what the league is doing right now. .500.  And as it turns out, as of this morning, it is. Adding up the wins in the win column across the league and you end up with 145 wins. Add up the losses in the loss column across the league and guess how many you get? 145.

145-145. That’s the league’s overall record as of right now. Many teams are hovering between 4-6 and 6-3 and for every 9-1, 8-2 or 7-2 team, there are those that are sitting at 3-7 as well. The Rangers have the best winning percentage at .900 followed by the Indians at .800 and Rockies/Phillies tied at .778. Otherwise, teams are either already considering making their basement stay a permanent fixture for the season or scraping to crawl their own way back to .500 while the rest is comfortably sitting at .500 looking to get better.

The Cubs, I feel are sitting in an uncomfortable .500 position. We are down two starters. We’ve been unable to secure enough run support to swing a couple of those losses to the win column and the Reds seem to be progressing every day. It’s surprising to look around and see that you’re tied with Pittsburgh ten games into the season. However I believe that they are in an uncomfortable position, not because of the negatives, but because of the potential positives around the corner. It’s uncomfortable to know that you’re this close to improving, this close to playing better yet knowing that you’re not quite there yet.

It’s frustrating to know that you have the talent and the capability and the signs are all there that you’re about to hit that level of performance that puts you over the top…you can taste it/see it, but you haven’t quite reached it yet. I believe Quade likes what he has seen lately in Barney, Castro, Colvin, Marmol and even Soriano. I believe he believed coming out of camp that he had the right mix of guys to surprise some people this year. I also believe that after Cash and Wells went down, he felt Coleman could step in and make a difference.

I believe that at .500 after 10 games, we could clearly be a game or two better possibly rooming with the Reds at the top of the division as opposed to the mid-level standings exception we currently reside in. However, looking at the league as a whole and seeing that overall the entire league is no better than .500 with only a handful of stand outs (mostly in the American League) it makes feel even better about the Cubs chances this year.

Sure, it would be fun to blow away the league and run away with it. However, sometimes, some seasons, all you have to do is stay competitive and consistently contend with those around you to make sure you are still in it come time to make that September push for the playoffs. I like that the Cubs are at least hanging in with the rest of the league and with three teams tied for second place, clearly they are hanging in their with the rest of the division.

Ten games in and the Cubs are .500. I believe Quade has them headed in the right direction though and that we’re on the upside of what the record shows, capable of winning more series and pulling away from that .500. We’re .500 now, sure, but no need to panic.

Essentially, so is the rest of the league. Go Cubs Go!

Update: After writing this, I realized something and I’m including an update instead of editing it in an effort to stay honest with you and also to point out some humor in it all. As soon as I tweeted about this new post with the headline as the tweet, I realized – wait a second. Of course the league is .500. The league is ALWAYS .500 because when one game is played, one team wins and the other team loses. ALWAYS. Except for the called All-Star game every few decades or so, every game has a winner and a loser. Thus, a .500 record across the league. The only thing that would not have made sense was if the overall league record was anything BUT .500. Ok, fine. So, maybe it wasn’t the epiphany I thought it was…but, still. The Cubs are playing .500 ball. Exactly at the level that the league can’t be worse than. The trick is to find the right mix to hang with teams like the Rangers, Orioles, Phillies and Rockies and not pull the league down like the Red Sox, Astros and Rays. Quade still has to be frustrated that he is this close to having this team perform well on a regular basis. A week ago when we were only mere games away from the first play ball of the season, it was just flashes. Then it became signs. Now, it’s clearly potential. Injuries have already affected the 2011 Cubs season but that’s going to happen to everyone. Quade needs to find a way to get this team playing better than average ball. The league average will always be .500. Right now we are average and we are two games out. Let’s start playing above average ball and see where we sit another 10 games from now. And as I told @croquet037: Next time coffee…THEN challenge the zero-sum rule! : )

Hmmm…interesting

Cubs sign Rudy Jaramillo as their hitting coach for 2010.

His time in Texas was littered with experience guiding Soriano and Bradley through productive years at the plate.  You have to wonder if his time with them, plus the fact that Bradley trusts him so much, is a sign that regardless of whether a team out there is interested in Bradley, that perhaps Hendry is thinking of giving this Bradley experiment one more shot.

Jaramillo is known as being a guru.  Hendry says he’s the best hitting instructor in the game.  Really Jim?  You think so?  It’s a good thing he’s received such high praise from his peers as well, because really, what else is the guy that hired him supposed to say?  “Who, Jaramillo?  Yeah, he’s alright I guess”.  Not happening.  Of course Hendry is going to say he’s the best.

Jaramillo is known for being a great communicator in getting players to work hard and after seeing results, earn his trust.  The Cubs website has a story where Jaramillo speaks of a time where Sosa was in the batting cage with four other hitters.  Over 100 balls were hit and after the session, the four hitters picked up the balls and Sosa didn’t touch one.  Next round, same result.  Only this time when the hitters went to pick up the balls, Jaramillo told them to stop and let Sammy do it all.  Sammy, the diva, did just that.  Considering Sosa has selective bi-lingual ability communication resulting in Sammy Sosa doing a ball boy’s job that most major league hitters do without a second thought is definitely a great example of Jaramillo being a great communicator.  But he’s still a batting coach, not a shrink.  So, not sure how he helps in Bradley’s case.  If he’s even still around in 2010 that is.

Love the work ethic already though.  Jaramillo is planning on viewing tape of Cubs’ hitters from ’09 and then meeting with some of the younger talent in Arizona in November.  Taking this team from potential to reality is going to take someone willing to go the extra distance.  I love Piniella and think he’s a great baseball mind.  However, people think he’s sleeping a bit lately and not quite the fire plug he’s been in the past in motivating and getting results.  Maybe that’s where Jaramillo comes in to reinforce that fire and add a level of urgency and desire on the coaches’ level that’s been missing.  Jaramillo could help from his place on up in the organizational in that way potentially, as well as from 1 down to 8 in the Cubs’ order.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

And not for nothing, but in 2006, Cub fan fave Mark DeRosa hit nearly .300 with Jaramillo on the Rangers as well.  As far as working with former players goes…well, I’m just saying.  That would be a great reason to welcome Jaramillo as well.

Off-season has begun already for the Cubs regardless of the fact that game one of this year’s World Series hasn’t even kicked off yet.  And their first move comes on the coaching level.  Interesting first tweak in getting this team to the next level in 2010. 

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!  (Great movie)  Go Cubs Go!

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