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Nothing Lasts Forever
by Derek Smart
Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have been abjectly terrible on offense, save for a single outburst in Houston on Sunday, and even that was somewhat marred by the fact that this team which has been so patient all year, failed to walk once. In fact, they only walked four times as a team during the first four post-break contests.
So, one could be excused if Tuesday seemed like it might be the beginning of something, despite only plating two runs. Even though Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez continued their 0-fer streaks, the team started to approach things better, walking more times in that one game - five - than they had the previous four. Which, in my mind, set the stage for last night.
The headlines this morning are about how the Cubs' offense is reinvigorated by the presence of Alfonso Soriano, and while I'm thrilled to have him back, thought it was nice that he had a double in the game so he could feel like he didn't need to press going forward, he wasn't really involved in the ten-run onslaught, beyond his RBI groundout, and any speculation about how having him in the lineup allows others like Ramirez (broken 0-fer), Soto (broken 0-fer) , and Lee (first homer in a month) to relax is just that. I'm not completely discounting it as a factor - and believe me, I think the team is unquestionably better with him on it - I just can't vouch for the causality being assigned.
What I can vouch for is the fact that the Cubs walked five times again last night - three of them by Kosuke, which is especially nice to see after a long stretch of relative hackery - and that their big eighth inning was in large part sparked by two walks, as well as the two streak breaking hits by the aforementioned Soto and Ramirez.
In other words, while Soriano being around may well have contributed to a general easing of pressure in the rest of the lineup, it seems like they were headed in that direction to begin with, that the necessary change in approach had already begun. The truth is - which you all know - they would have broken out eventually whether Soriano came back or not. Because even 0-fers and homerless streaks don't last forever.
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I'm trying to be better about checking out other blogs. I had a hard time doing that for a stretch, and while I had my favorites that I continued to check out, I've been terrible about keeping up with new folks in the mix. One of those that I failed to see for way too long was Cubs f/x.
If you like learning things, and seeing the game in different and enlightening ways, then check out Harry Pavlidis' work over there. He's using the Pitch F/X data from MLB Gameday to do some really interesting analysis, and it's inspired me to do a little digging around myself, which for me, is high praise (this space won't ever do the volume or depth of work Harry's doing, but I hope to be able to add to the conversation a bit once I get my head around it - now if I can just figure out the math to get those cool 'flight path' charts going...).
So check the site out, and hopefully, I'll be able to get my sidebar straightened out over the next couple weeks and get more familiar with the rest of our little corner of the blogosphere.