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Why not Houston?


naivin

Seeing the Astros 9-1 in their last 10 caused me to take a closer look, and is looks to me as if the rumores of their untimely demise may have been exagerrated. Just looking how they stack up against the division, I'm not sure why they shouldn't be included in the conversation. Starting pitching is certainly most important, and I don't see a whole lot of difference betwen them and the Brewers and Cubs. Much as the Cubs have Zambranao and a bunch of guys, and the Brewers have Sheets and a bunch of guys, it seems the Astros have Oswalt and a bunch of guys. They probably have the best closer in the division right now in Valverde.

Offesnsively, with Berkman, Lee, Tejada, Pence, and a number of experienced players, it seems they will score runs. Defensively is likely where they fall down a bit, as I don't see many gold gloves being handed out in Houston, but it sure is starting to look like they are going to be around a while.

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If the Cubs dont' win the division they choked pretty much. As soon as Gallardo went down they had the upper hand over everyone.

 

Doesn't mean another team can't get hot and take the division but it is the Cubs to lose barring an injury.

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It always comes down to pitching, and their pitching staff doesn't have enough - especially in their rotation. They have all kinds of offense with that lineup though, they're probably good enough to finish within 5 games of .500, over if their pitching is ok, under if it isn't.

 

You have to think the Cubs are the team to beat, but it's not like they don't have their warts, either. I think we may be looking back at this last road trip as the stretch that kept the Brewers from winning the division - the combination of Gallardo going down and dropping the next six gave the Cubs more than a working margin of a lead on the Brewers.

 

Still a long way to go, and so much can happen between now and September to drastically change things.

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I said back when the Astros acquired Tejada, that they can't be counted out. If Tejada weren't a PED user, he likely would eventually be HOF material. Berkman has 4 HOF caliber seasons under his belt as well and several others just below that level. He's simply a great hitter. We all know what Lee can do.

 

That's a potent middle of the order. Bench is a little weak and rotation is thin, but if their key guys stay healthy, they are certainly contenders. Actually from a Brewers perspective that's not a bad thing. With the Brewers staff weakened, they need a competitive division to prevent the Cubs from running off.

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agreed. and if this is the case, could the NL Central have gone from the weakest division in baseball to the strongest in the matter of one season?

Just because there are more competitive teams doesn't really mean the division is the strongest. In fact you can make the case for the NL Central being relatively weak because of the poor pitching division wide.

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Much as the Cubs have Zambranao and a bunch of guys, and the Brewers have Sheets and a bunch of guys, it seems the Astros have Oswalt and a bunch of guys.

 

You need to go into a lot more depth than that to make any meaningful comparisons. Not all "bunch of guys" are created equal.

 

As Ender said, the Cubs are handsdown the favorites. Anything can happen, obviously, but the Cubs are a cut above the rest.

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Much as the Cubs have Zambranao and a bunch of guys, and the Brewers have Sheets and a bunch of guys, it seems the Astros have Oswalt and a bunch of guys. They probably have the best closer in the division right now in Valverde.
No doubt they have a decent offense. But that pitching is pretty bad. The Cub's "bunch of guys" is much better than Houston's "bunch of guys". The Brewer's should be better...but I digress.

 

I doubt you will still think Valverde is the best closer in the NL Central by the end of the year.

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No doubt the Cubs are the favorites at this point, and the point about the bunches of guys is the reason why - probably ahve the deepest bullpen as well. Not to mention that Zambrano is probably the best among he Sheets and Oswalt.
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twobrewers wrote:

 

I doubt you will still think Valverde is the best closer in the NL Central by the end of the year.

 

Not sure who its gonna be then. Probably Cordero, but they don't look to be a factor (and the reason I forgot about him until just now). Valverde certainly seems like a better option than Gagne or Wood - maybe not Matrmol though, as I'm not sure Wood will even have that job down the line.
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I doubt Berkman is going to continue to hit at the .393/.470/.800 rate he has currently. When he ultimately cools off the shortcomings of the Astros pitchers will be magnified because they will have to win without the benefit of a crooked number on the scoreboard in their favor. After all the Astros pitching staff has allowed more hits and homeruns than Milwaukee's. If Prince got hot like Berkman I am sure the Brewers could rip off 9 wins out of 10 too.
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I don't see how the cubs are a "handsdown" favorite, though favorite they may be. With Hill demoted, their starting pitching consists of the hugely overproducing Zambrano and Dempster. Every one of their batters is overproducing or reaching their potential, except Soriano. They SHOULD have a huge lead, but they don't.

On the other hand, most of the brewers are underproducing their potential and they are still .500.

given odds, I'd put my money on the brewers.

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The Cubs may be overproducing (they are on pace for 98 wins, so that's a very good assumption), but even if they play like an 88 win team the rest of the year (their preseason projection), they will finish with 90 wins. There's certainly a reasonable chance that another NL Central team bests that but I don't think it should be expected.

 

Preseason projections had the NL Central finishing basically:

 

Cubs

Brewers

...

Cardinals/Reds/Astros

...

Pirates

 

Now, it's probably more like:

 

Cubs

...

Cardinals/Brewers

Astros

...

Pirates/Reds

 

I still think the Brewers are a slightly better team than the Cardinals but I'm not sure the gap is large enough to objectively expect the Brewers to overcome the Cardinals' current 3 game lead over them.

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The Cardinals are 12-13 last 25 games.

Brewers 11-14.

Cubs 16-9.

Astros 17-8.

Pirates 11-14.

Reds 10-15.

 

The Astros offense is entirely Bergman, Lee, and Tejada. Pence's rate stats are about average; everyone else is pretty terrible. Among starters, Chacon seems to be doing best, though Oswalt is pitching better. (imho, he's a better pitcher than Zambrano or Sheets.)

 

The Cubs have played 14 of those 25 games against the worst teams in the league: San Diego, Cincy, Nats, Pirates, Rockies, who combined have a winning pct of .411. They've gone 9-5 against them. In this same span they lost 2 of 3 to both the Cardinals and Brewers, but swept the Mets in a 2 game series, and took 3 from the DBacks over this past weekend. 13 of the 25 games were in Wrigley where they went 10-3.

 

The Astros have also enjoyed playing games against the Padres, Nats, Giants, and Cincy in the 25 games. They went 8-3 against these teams. Houston had 11 home games in their last 25.

 

Every team the Brewers have played in their last 25 games has a winning record except Cincy. Houston was 14-16 entering their 3 game series against the Brewers and finished it 16-16. The Brewers only played 11 home games over this stretch.

 

Clearly the Brewers could be playing better this Spring. But just as clear, they've been playing a tougher schedule, at least the last 25 games.

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It's funny, around this time last year there were plenty of threads talking about how if the Brewers would only play .500 ball the rest of the season, there'd be next to no chance that they'd lose the division - now the same line of thinking is being used to show what pace the Cubs would need to remain at to sew the division up. Fact is, it's WAY too early to be writing anyone off. The Brewers took a big hit when their 2nd-best starter went down, but there's still well over 100 games left to play.

 

Projections are interesting things to look at, but there are plenty of instances where reality doesn't match up well with them. The Cubs are the favorite, but I still don't think they're 10 games better than the rest of the division - we're looking at a snapshot of the season right now when the Cubs are going well and the Brewers are scuffling.

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Even if projections were perfect in predicting the true collective talent of every team (and they certainly aren't), they wouldn't be able predict the outcome of a season very well well, anyway. There's just a lot of random uncertainty in 162 games. Even if you knew that a team had literally a 50% chance of winning each game, that team is still only going to win between 77 and 84 games about half the time. That's a cold, hard, undeniable fact.

 

Anything could literally happen between now and the end of the season but the Cubs are all most likely winners of the division. It's no slam dunk though, certainly.

 

I know sports fans are obsessed with predictions in a "yes or no" fashion" but that's how the real world works. A realistic prediction is that the Cubs will win the NL Central in 2008 about 75% of the time. Not as much fun I guess. http://forum.brewerfan.net/images/smilies/smile.gif

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Not sure who its gonna be then. Probably Cordero, but they don't look to be a factor (and the reason I forgot about him until just now). Valverde certainly seems like a better option than Gagne or Wood - maybe not Matrmol though, as I'm not sure Wood will even have that job down the line.

 

A comment about Wood: Yeah you guys were witness to 2 terrible performances (1 non-save and 1 save) and he is 7/10 in save opportunities and you keep thinking he won't be the closer by the end of the year. Maybe he won't but think about 10 opportunities in 23 wins. I can immediately think of the 2 games against the Mets where he was in line for a save when we exploded for 4 runs in the 8th to wipe out a save opportunity. He hasn't gotten enough work in save sits. He also discovered a slight change in his slider was necessary and has barely been touched since that May 1st BS (that's blown save). I'm not worried.

 

With Hill demoted, their starting pitching consists of the hugely overproducing Zambrano and Dempster. Every one of their batters is overproducing or reaching their potential, except Soriano.

 

Zambrano overproducing? Did you ever think that maybe he finally got IT? His strikeouts are way down as well as his walks and his ERA. He's completing 7 innings in around 100 pitches instead of 115 or so. He's become a pitcher! Lilly has just started to get it together. Ramirez over producing? He's at 5 year lows in HR's and BA. Daryle Ward got his first pinch hit this past weekend. DeRosa over producing? He is 15 point below his last 2 yrs BA and only .001 above his career BA. Johnson over producing? How about 25 points below his career BA. Derrek Lee is doing the same thing he did in 2005 the year he became the Cubs #1 guy and the year before he broke his arm. Theriot's numbers took a nosedive in September last year in his first full season so he really may not be over producing. Soto (rookie), and Fukudome (MLB rookie) haven't enough established data to determine one way or the other.

I'll give you that Cedeno is over producing. Dempster might be over producing but since he hasn't started regularly since 2003 nobody really knows. Maybe his time in the closer role made him a better pitcher. Endurance might turn out to be an issue.

 

The Cubs have played 14 of those 25 games against the worst teams in the league: San Diego, Cincy, Nats, Pirates, Rockies, who combined have a winning pct of .411. They've gone 9-5 against them. In this same span they lost 2 of 3 to both the Cardinals and Brewers, but swept the Mets in a 2 game series, and took 3 from the DBacks over this past weekend. 13 of the 25 games were in Wrigley where they went 10-3.

 

I'm not apologizing for the schedule. No point. In the long run we all play basically the same schedule. But, ya know what? That's 1 of the thing I was holding on to last year. We were done with San Diego and Atlanta early and you guys had to play them in the last 2 weeks. I believed those 2 weekends would be the turning point for us and I was right. You guys should continue to believe that the last week this year when we have to go to New York and Milwaukee will be the turning point in your favor, while I will continue to hope we have it wrapped before the last week.

 

And yes Houston's bats scare me but not their pitching staff.

 

4½ months to go!

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The Astros look better than most are going to give credit. Everyone says the starting rotation is weak, but they have pitched better than most would have thought. Oswalt actually has the second highest ERA out of the starters, mostly from his first 3 outings of the year, however he has won his last 4. The "projections" might say they will be inadequate, but holding a 4.50 ERA or so might be good enough with that lineup.

 

Kaz has been pretty big as well. He is getting on base, and one of the best defensive 2nd baseman in the league. A huge upgrade of what they had with Biggio the last few years. Bourn has struggled, but is still 2nd in league in steals, and is a big upgrade defensively as well. Tejada has been better than advertised, and Lee is driving in runs, although he hasn't looked as sharp as he has in the past.

 

Berkman leads the league in HRs(13), RBIs(38), Runs scored(42), and slugging(.800), and is second in avg(.393) and hits (55). He is also a very good first baseman, which some dind't agree with in the topic I brought up last week.

Dude is absolutely raking right now, hitting .605(26-43) during his 11 game hitting streak, and .641 in May total. And he is doing it from both sides of the plate, hitting .471 from the right side and .368 from the left.

I tried to sell him last week and no one wanted to listen, just trying to back up my case again.

 

But of course it will come down to pitching, which no one is going to be scared of until they prove it over the long haul, and the "projections" won't agree with most people

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How well they've pitched, though, isn't what I think people are talking about when they mention lack of depth on the 'Stros pitching staff. Just because guys have played over their heads doesn't necessarily mean their talent has improved. And unless Matsui & Bourn prove they can get on base consistently, Houston will have your typical defensive-minded setup at CF & 2B. Speed is fun, and can be useful, but nowhere near to the ability to consistently get on-base.

 

Berkman is a fine player, but that unsustainable .800 SLG is the main reason he's leading the league in those categories. No player has ever been able to keep that kind of SLG going for a season. It certainly wasn't that 'you tried to sell him & no one would listen'. The discussion was about taking Prince over Berkman, and I still would. I think nearly every NL Central fan knows how killer Berkman is at the plate.

 

 

[Zambrano's] strikeouts are way down as well as his walks and his ERA.

 

I personally would be worried about a guy as K-reliant as Zambrano having his K rates go down. The BB decrease is nice, but only time will tell in both cases, of course. ERA is a team stat, and is terrible to try to apply as a gauge of talent, especially over only a handful of IP.

Stearns Brewing Co.: Sustainability from farm to plate
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cubfan, I said overproducing or reaching. Ramirez is among those playing close to expectations; same with derosa. Note that I would put Braun in to the same category even though his average is lower than I would have expected and a goodly amount of his HR were in the last two games--his performance is in the "ballpark" of what his expectations would be.

Regarding Zambrano, maybe he has turned the corner, but I'd think it was more likely this run is an aberration rather than him suddenly refusing to throw balls. He's not a 24 year old.

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The Cubs have played 14 of those 25 games against the worst teams in the league: San Diego, Cincy, Nats, Pirates, Rockies, who combined have a winning pct of .411. They've gone 9-5 against them. In this same span they lost 2 of 3 to both the Cardinals and Brewers, but swept the Mets in a 2 game series, and took 3 from the DBacks over this past weekend. 13 of the 25 games were in Wrigley where they went 10-3.

 

I'm not apologizing for the schedule. No point. In the long run we all play basically the same schedule. But, ya know what? That's 1 of the thing I was holding on to last year. We were done with San Diego and Atlanta early and you guys had to play them in the last 2 weeks. I believed those 2 weekends would be the turning point for us and I was right. You guys should continue to believe that the last week this year when we have to go to New York and Milwaukee will be the turning point in your favor, while I will continue to hope we have it wrapped before the last week.

 

And yes Houston's bats scare me but not their pitching staff.

 

4½ months to go!

Well two things good teams have to do is beat up on weaker teams and win at home. The Cubs schedule may have been more favorable this Spring, but to their credit they've come through winning the games they should. Sweeping Arizona is also particularly impressive. They are playing as well as any team in baseball. Given the way the Brewers have been playing, I'm not sure they'd have the Cubs' record if they were playing that schedule.

 

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Well two things good teams have to do is beat up on weaker teams and win at home. The Cubs schedule may have been more favorable this Spring, but to their credit they've come through winning the games they should. Sweeping Arizona is also particularly impressive. They are playing as well as any team in baseball. Given the way the Brewers have been playing, I'm not sure they'd have the Cubs' record if they were playing that schedule.

 

Yet the Brewers have taken 4 of 6 from the Cubs all on the road. So, I think the Brewers have at least shown they can compete with the Cubs. The Cubs are going to hit a rough stretch at some point this season. They actually just went through a stretch where the went 4-8 over 12 games. before this recent 4 game winning streak. The Cubs have had winning streaks of 4,5, and 6 games this year already. So, they are a streaky team and that could catch up with them over a long season. Not saying it will but to at like the Cubs have been consistent isnt true. They have been all over the place.

 

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