Wednesday, September 14, 2016

History Is Happening II

When Greg Maddux left Chicago after the 1992 season, he proceeded to put up eleven straight years of winning at least 15 games or more for the Atlanta Braves.

Eleven years.  Kerry Wood never reached that mark in any season.  In fact, all told, Wood, Mark Prior (1), Matt Clement (0), and Carlos Zambrano (3) only managed the feat four times between them over the course of their careers.

In that eleven year stretch from 1993 to 2003, the Braves had pitchers reach at least 15 wins in a season 29 times.

That's as many times as Cubs pitchers won at least 15 games in the forty-one year period between 1975 and 2015 and Greg Maddux, himself, had by far the most of any Cubs pitcher, accounting for six of those twenty-nine seasons.  (The others:  Rick Sutcliffe (3); Carlos Zambrano (3); Ted Lilly (2); Ryan Dempster (2); Rick Reuschel (2); Ray Burris (2); Jon Lieber (1); Mike Bielecki (1); Mike Morgan (1); Greg Hibbard (1); Jaime Navarro (1); Steve Trachsel (1); Kevin Tapani (1); Mark Prior (1); and Jake Arrieta (1)).

On Monday, Kyle Hendricks won his fifteenth game of the season.  On Tuesday, Jason Hammel fell short of winning his fifteenth and remains stuck on fourteen, having lost his last two starts.  Jake Arrieta will go for his eighteenth win of the year on Saturday and Jon Lester won his seventeenth tonight.

The Cubs haven't had three starters with at least 15 wins in a season since 1989 (Greg Maddux 19; Mike Bielecki 18; and Rick Sutcliffe 16).

If Jason Hammel can notch one more win this season, it will be the first time the Cubs have had four pitchers with each more than fifteen wins since 1935 (Lon Warneke 20; Bill Lee 20; Larry French 17; and Charlie Root 15).

What is exemplary for Cubs fans is mundane for Braves fans.  In 1998, Atlanta had five pitchers with at least fifteen wins (Tom Glavine 20; Greg Maddux 18; Kevin Millwood 17; John Smoltz 17; and Denny Neagle 16).  With John Lackey at nine wins and at most three more starts before the end of the regular season, the Cubs won't challenge those numbers.

Regardless, what they are doing, even if not to the standards of other clubs is virtually unprecedented in the modern history of the franchise.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

History Is Happening

No matter what else happens this year, most outside the fanbase will measure the Chicago Cubs' season purely by whether the team wins the World Series.

The postseason is a crap shoot.  As an incredibly talented and deep team, the Cubs may dominate.  Or they may get cold and bow out in the NLDS.

If Cubs fans were singularly focused on championships, well, then they would not be Cubs fans for long.

The history matters.  The statistics matter.  Even more so in the context of this franchise with deep wells of comparison for supporters to run through.

As Addison Russell drove in the game-winning run on Thursday night against the Giants, it suddenly made September slightly more interesting.  At 88 runs batted in for the season, Russell is in unique company among Cubs' shortstops.  But comparisons to Ernie Banks are tough.

If Russell reaches the 100 rbi plateau over the last games of this year -- a mark that seems entirely reasonable -- it should mean more than another reminder of how exceptional Ernie Banks was in the history of the franchise.  Anthony Rizzo has 93 rbis and Kris Bryant has 91.  If Russell reaches the 100 rbi mark, he will likely be doing so with both Rizzo and Bryant.

That hasn't happened in my lifetime.  Maybe this will end up like 2004, when Moises Alou led the team with 106 rbis, Aramis Ramirez had 103 rbis, and Derrek Lee had 98.  Before that the closest I had ever seen a trio of Cubs reach the same heights was in 1984 -- Ron Cey (97); Leon Durham (96); and Jody Davis (94).

The Cubs haven't had three players with 100 rbis in a season since 1970.  Billy Williams drove in 129 runs that year, Jim Hickman added 115, and Ron Santo had 114.

As a kid, the promise of a team with that kind of offensive firepower was conceivable only by virtue of the baseball cards I studied while watching my Cubbies getting crushed on WGN.  Now, it is particularly enjoyable watching it happen on the field in front of you.