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TIC Projection: NL Central
by Phil Bencomo
Predictions and projections, of teams and individuals, are all the rage these days. So I think to myself, Maybe I should put together my own set of previews and predictions.
But I pretty quickly came up with three solid reasons not to: 1) It's a lot of work, 2) Everyone else has already done their own – what else is there to say? and 3) It's pretty likely I'd make a fool of myself in the process.
So what you have instead is a projection of the NL Central that took only a few hours to complete, but will tell you about every injury, ranking and meaningful statistic.
A Tongue-In-Cheek Projection.
All it took was an old copy of MVP Baseball 2005, some roster updates, the creation of a few players, and a quick simulation. Who knew projections could be so easy?
April: The Cubs began the season ranked 5th in the majors in pitching, 7th in batting, 14th in fielding, and 19th in baserunning/speed.
Standings: End of April
Injuries: 4/9 – Adam Wainwright (STL), strained right forearm, out 12 days. 4/12 – Ken Griffey, Jr. (CIN), strained right ribcage, out 15 days. 4/18 – Prince Fielder (MIL), hernia, out 22 days.
Notable Cub Performances: Closer Ryan Dempster threw 11 scoreless innings, earning 7 saves. Rich Hill won 4 games and threw 2 shutouts over 32.1 innings. Alfonso Soriano hit 5 home runs. Cesar Izturis hit 3.
May: The Cubs followed a strong April with a solid May, finishing the month 15-12. Defending champ St. Louis continued to struggle.
Standings: End of May
Injuries: 5/6 – Rich Hill (CHI), fractured right knee, out 29 days. 5/6 – Woody Williams (HOU), minor ACL sprain, out 15 days. 5/24 – Mark Prior (CHI-AAA), fractured right knee, out 39 days. 5/29 – Matt Belisle (CIN), separated shoulder, out 60 days.
Notable Cub Performances: Carlos Zambrano finished the month with a 3.49 ERA, Ted Lilly finished at 3.45, and Jason Marquis at 3.86. Fifth starter Wade Miller surprised with a 3.68 ERA. Dempster still had not given up an earned run after 17 innings. Soriano led the team with 9 homers through May, followed by Aramis Ramirez and Jacque Jones with 8. Somehow, Izturis led the team at this point in the season in average (.318) and slugging percentage (.491).
June: The Cubs faltered, going 10-17 during a month that included a seven-game losing streak. The Astros took advantage and opened up a lead of 6 games.
Standings: End of June
A few notes about June: Hill rejoined the rotation on the 4th of the month; and Mark DeRosa was awful – so awful, in fact, that the game's managerial assistant gave me this message on the 30th.
Mark DeRosa might be out of his element in MLB ball. You may want to consider sending him down to the AAA level for a while to see if he can bounce back.
At the end of the month, DeRosa was batting .233/.309/.300.
Notable Cub Performances: Marquis sure does have a knack for garnering run support. His 4.03 ERA was second-highest on the staff, but through the end of June, he led the team with 7 wins. Hill, Zambrano and Lilly all had 5. Dempster finally surrendered his first run, but his ERA remained a miniscule 0.83. Soriano had a team-leading 15 home runs at month's end, but Izturis still led the team in slugging (.487). Derrek Lee was hitting .320/.409/.483. The team's 3.55 staff ERA was best in the Central.
July: The Central is proving to be a weak division, with only 1 team over .500. The Cubs went 11-16 in July, but remained in second place.
Standings: End of July
A note: At month's end, the game again suggested sending DeRosa (.236/.312/.328) down to the minors.
Injuries: 7/26 – Will Ohman (CHI), strained left forearm, out 20 days. (I brought Mark Prior up from Triple-A to replace Ohman in the bullpen. After 4.2 July innings, he still hadn't given up a run.)
Notable Cub Performances: Hill won his 7th game, tying Marquis, who didn't win a game in July, for the team lead. Miller saw his ERA balloon to 4.73, and Zambrano to 4.17. All regulars in the lineup, with the exception of DeRosa, reached 10 home runs on the season during July. Soriano had 23 with two months remaining, Ramirez 20 and Lee 17. Lee was leading the team in average (.320) and on-base percentage (.413). Izturis finally cooled (.286/.373/.440).
August: The Cubs played well, going 16-12, but the Cards came out of nowhere to take over second place behind Houston.
Standings: End of August
Injuries/Transactions: 8/25 – Ohman back from DL. Released Neil Cotts and his 5.68 ERA to make room in the bullpen.
Notable Cub Performances: Hill and Marquis both earned their 10th wins, but Hill did it with an ERA of 3.65 and Marquis with a mark of 4.37. Miller continued to struggle out of the fifth rotation spot with a 5.16 ERA. Kerry Wood reached 75 innings out of the bullpen, recording an ERA of 4.68 and 72 strikeouts. Dempster lowered his ERA to 0.78 and finished the month with 29 saves on the season. Setup man Bob Howry lowered his own ERA to 1.75. Soriano hit his 28th home run and stole his 18th base. Ramirez leads the team with 80 RBI.
September/October: Despite an outstanding final month and few days (18-11 overall), the Cubs missed the playoffs and finished 3rd in the Central. The Cardinals, picked by most to again win the division, finished under .500 for the year.
Final Statistics For Starters:
Final Notes: For some perspective as to just how tongue-in-cheek these projections are, consider this: Juan Pierre won the NL MVP after hitting 27 HR and batting .316/.400/.544. I'm still baffled by the sheer absurdity of that one.
Wonder where Angel Guzman went? To be honest, I did the simulation before the Wood injuries, meaning there was no spot for Guzman. After writing half-a-dozen pages of notes during the first sim, I decided, for the sake of my poor hand, not to run a second.
Another caveat: I didn't bother to update the rosters of non-NL Central teams. It took me long enough to update the rosters on a three-year-old game for five teams; no way was I going to do 25 more. Interestingly enough, division-winning Houston ended up making it past Atlanta in the NLCS, only to get swept by the Yankees in the World Series.
If you notice any other omissions and/or caveats, just remember that this is a TIC projection, after all. IT'S FOR FUN, and nothing more.