Thursday, September 09, 2004

Off-Day

I hate losing and I hate off-days in the schedule. Having an off-day that follows both a game loss and a series loss? I really hate that.

Of course, it could be worse. The Cards didn't have Larry Walker for the series, many regulars got time off on Wednesday, they were road games (where it's supposed to be harder to win), and the Cards still won the season series 4-2. And, of course, we could be fans of the Cubs.

The Cubs, as you know, just lost two in a row to the horrible Expos. Yesterday, they got waxed 6-0 despite Gred Maddux going for the North Siders against Scott Downs, who had an ERA over 7.00. They get to suffer through an off-day after a loss, a series loss, and jumping from 1st in the Wildcard race to 3rd. Yikes.

Which brings to mind the Nomar trade. I will be honest - that was a pretty good trade for the Cubs. They did not give up a lot of talent, and Nomar was a nice upgrade for them offensively at shortstop. It was a bit of a gamble, since he is a free agent after this season. If they miss the playoffs and he leaves, it will blow up in their faces. But for now - it was still a good move.

As soon as the Cubbies picked up Nomar, many people (I'm looking in your general direction Jeff Gordon) picked the Cubs to be the team to beat in October. While I liked the deal, I thought that was a bit extreme. Once Larry Walker was added to the Cards roster, I knew that shouldn't be the case. I didn't, however, expect the Cubs to fall so completely flat. Let's compare the Cubs and Cards since August 1st to help put things into perspective.

On August 1st, the Cubs trailed St. Louis by 10 games in the standings. Since that time, they've fallen back another 7.5 games. In other words, the Cardinals have almost outplayed the Cubs more post-Nomar as they did pre-Nomar.

Cubs: 16-12 August, 2-2 September
Cards: 21-7 August, 6-2 September

Offensively, the Cubs have been fine. In fact, they have been hitting the ball at a level very similar to that of the Cardinals (ignoring park effects, strength of schedule, etc.)

August
Cubs - 157 Runs, .280/.332/.490, 822 OPS
Cards - 149 Runs, .278/.358/.469, 827 OPS

September
Cubs - 17 Runs, .220/.323/.428, 751 OPS
Cards - 37 Runs, .235/.306/.450, 756 OPS

Very similar. That would suggest that Nomar has in fact helped out the offense.

Why have the Cardinals been better? Pitching and defense. (I know, I know - the Cubs have better pitching than the Cardinals because the experts say it's true.) Since Nomar doesn't pitch, this article will focus on the defensive aspect of the Cubs problems as of late.

August
Cubs - 141 Runs allowed, 16 Unearned (0.6 per game)
Cards - 100 Runs allowed, 9 Unearned (0.3 per game)

September
Cubs - 15 Runs allowed, 4 Unearned (1 per game)
Cards - 29 Runs Allowed, 4 Unearned (0.5 per game)

Now, I don't expect either the Cubs or the Cardinals to continue to post error rates shown during the limited time of September play. But in doing this little look through the numbers, I did find it interesting that the Cubs are allowing more unearned runs since Nomar. When you break it down by month:

April .09 Unearned runs per game
May .11
June .33
July .22
August .57
September 1.00

Interestingly enough, before Nomar, the Cubs had allowed 20 unearned runs over 104 games. Since Nomar, they have allowed another 20 unearned runs over just 32 games.

Pre-Nomar - 0.19 Unearned runs per game
Post-Nomar - 0.63 Unearned runs per game

Am I suggesting that Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop is costing the Cubs approximately 0.4 runs per game due to his defense? Well, no. If you look at the individual fielding stats of Nomar compared with the other guys that have played the position this season for Chicago, you'll see that they are very similar. With that being said - the Cubs are obviously not playing as well with the gloves now as they were the first 2/3 of the season.

Clubhouse chemistry? Choking under pressure? Does CUBS once again stand for "Completely Useless By September?" I don't know. What I do know is a few things.

A. The Cubs would be tough in the playoffs, but they are not the team to beat in October

B. The Cubs are playing worse defense since the Nomar acquisition, regardless as to if it is his fault or not.

C. At this point, Cubs fans have to be hoping their team can even make it to post-season play




2 Comments:

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

Just coincidence that the Red Sox are playing their best ball of the year since dumping Nomar, and the Cubs are struggling, despite having their rotation finally healthy? Probably is. It's still kinda funny, though. It might be an overstatement to say that the Cubs didn't give anything up for Nomar. Justin Jones still projects as a front of the rotation left-handed starter, if he can get and stay healthy. And Brendan Harris is a big-leaguer right now. In fact, if he could find a home at 2nd base, he'd probably be well above average, offensively.

 
At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points, Socnorb.

On the Red Sox defense - I actually got this email from Tom Tippet yesterday (in response to an email I sent him with the Cubs unearned runs allowed numbers.)

"the Red Sox had allowed 74 UER before the trade and only 7 since."

Lot's of coincidences going on.

In regard to the prospects the Cubs gave up - you very well could be right. I've liked Harris for a while. And while I'm not familiar with the other prospect in question, I think the bottom line remains that if the Cubs sign Nomar long term, it was a good trade. If they dont'...

 

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