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Offday League Inspection

Friday, April 30, 2004

The Cubs had the day off yesterday, but the front office didn't take a rest, as Jim Hendry swapped minor league southpaws with the Tigers. Felix Sanchez was sent to Detroit for another minor leager, Jon Connolly, and a player to be named later. (Sanchez has a 7.11 ERA, and Connolly had a 3.68 ERA last year.) Initially, I thought the Cubs got the better end of the deal, but today the news got better. Apparently, by trading Sanchez who was on the forty man roster, the Cubs cleared a spot to bring up Glendon Rusch, a lefty with a fair amount of major league experience. I am pretty happy with the move, because it looks like Rusch will replace Mitre in the starting rotation until Prior returns. I'll take adding a mediocre lefthanded starter over a mediocre righty any day.

I was looking at standings around the majors today. The important news is that the Cubs are in first place by one game over both Cincinnatti and Houston. However, some interesting notes. The NL Central appears to be the strongest division early on.

Divisional Comparisons

Games above (+) or below (-) .500
vs. East
vs. Central
vs. West
NL East
NL Central
NL West

Games above (+) or below (-) .500
vs. East
vs. Central
vs. West
AL East
AL Central
AL West

Strongest Division: NL Central. This division could realistically have two 100 win teams. The Astros and the Cubs look very good early on, and the rest of the division is pretty solid.

Weakest Division: NL East. A poor start in Philadelphia combined with an injured Mets team and a horrible Expos squad has the NL East 10 collective games below .500. This division will probably be won with 88 wins. This is good news for the Braves who might make it thirteen straight division titles. My money though is still on the Phillies.

Best Team Record: Boston Red Sox (15-6) - on track to win 116 games. All of their games have been played intra-division so far, which will probably be a huge factor as the Yankees pick up steam and start trying to chase down the BoSox.

Worst Team Record: Montreal Expos (5-18) - on track to lose 127 games. They are 5-14 against the NL East, and 0-4 against the NL West.

Not as good as their record: The Florida Marlins. They have a gaudy 15 - 7 record to begin the year, but that is buoyed by a 5-1 record against the Expos. The Marlins started off 8-1, but are just 7-6 since. They haven't played any games against NL Central opponents, or teams with great pitching staffs. For anti-Marlins fans, the problem is that this team has talent, but needs to maintain their confidence to win. With Jack McKeon, miracle worker, and a fast start, that confidence hasn't taken the hit it should have after losing Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Encarnacion, Derrek Lee, and Mark Redman this offseason. However, I doubt Hee Seop Choi is going to keep on hitting as well as he has. Choi had a fantastic April last year too, earning the NL Rookie of the month award, but soon cooled off. I frankly expect the same thing this year from Choi too. He still has gaping holes in his swing that pitchers will start finding again.

April '03 CHC 20 58 16 14 5 14 18 22 0 0 .436 .552 .241
Post April '03 CHC 60 144 17 30 3 14 19 49 1 1 .316 .368 .208
April '04 FLA 20 59 12 17 8 15 10 17 1 0 .400 .695 .288

If the season ended today: Red Sox, Twins, Angels or Rangers, and the White Sox make the playoffs from the American League. In the NL, the Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers, and Padres would be post-season contenders.

Overrated?: The Dodgers are off to a hot start, 13-8, 1st place in the NL West. I was under the impression that this might be because their pitching was still strong and their offense improved. Well, only part of that statement is true. Last year, the Dodgers pitchers/defense allowed 556 runs, while their offense scored 574 runs (or 3.43 runs allowed/game vs. 3.54 runs scored/game.) This year, the Dodgers are again in similar territory, only their offense has improved while their pitching has declined. Through 21 games in 2004, the Dodgers have scored 96 runs and allowed 95. They are up two games over their projected pythagorean standings.


  • The Cubs will win 100 games, but they may not win the NL Central Division Title. The Astros are one game back, and two games below their projected pythagorean standings. The 'good' news for Cubs fans is that despite having Mark Prior, Mike Remlinger, Jose Macias and Mark Grudzielanek on the disabled list for most of the season so far, the Cubs are still 13-8. The bench is performing well, and the return of Macias adds even more depth. Todd Hollandsworth has really had a good start too. He has five hits so far, and four of them are home runs, at least three of which came off the bench.
  • Montreal will lose 120+ games. This team is horrible. It has no depth and has a schedule from the devil. Too little talent and too much travel will land this team in the history books. Moreover, MLB owners aren't about to pony up the cash to help a team which is competing with their own teams. League ownership of the Expos is going to ruin this team, and is an obvious conflict of interest. Until baseball finds a new owner for the Expos, this franchise will be in a state of decay.
  • The Phillies will win the NL East. Despite a sub .500 record 15% of the way through the season, the Phillies are too good of a team to continue losing. Larry Bowa may be fired, but I am not going to "call it" just yet. The Phillies are currently on the upswing. After a 1-6 start, the Phillies have turned it around and are playing 8-5 ball since.
Posted by Byron at April 30, 2004 12:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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