Going into today’s game, the Chicago Cubs are in fifth place in the National League Central with a record of 9-14. While the record still says that the Cubs are a bad team, and this recent three game winning streak has come against the Miami Marlins, the Cubs may not actually be that bad.
Before you call me a meatball (yes, some followers believe that we at World Series Dreaming are meatballs), allow me to explain myself.
To start the season, the Cubs have faced off against some pretty tough teams. The Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Brave, San Francisco Giants and the Cincinnati Reds are all power houses. The starting pitching has done all they could to keep the team in each and every one of those games, as only three of the clubs first 20 games have been decided by more than three runs. In all of those others, the Cubs were able to bring either the tying or winning runs up to the plate.
In all of those games, small mistakes have been what have cost the Cubs the victory. Defensive miscues, or bullpen meltdowns by everyone inserted into the closers role not named Kevin Gregg have been responsible for each of those wins. While I fully understand that mistakes like those are what separate the good teams from the bad, this team has a quality which allows them to hang around long enough to either win or lose the games. That takes talent to do, even if your record does not show that you have any.
If the Cubs are able to complete the four game sweep of the lowly Marlins, they will have momentum on their side, which as was pointed out earlier is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. With the way the Cubs pitching staff has been pitching to start the season, I would have to say that the momentum is going to continue in their favor. At least until they get through the series with the equally as bad San Diego Padres. If the momentum continues through that four game series, and the Cubs are able to pull off a sweep there as well, then the team will be at .500.
While momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter, do not under estimate the role that confidence plays in average teams having success. A four game winning streak can give the younger players on the roster all the confidence they need to show them that they belong in the majors. Confidence can give the journeymen that were picked up these past two seasons that they are worthy of a spot on the major league roster. Confidence can do a lot for those players who allow their mind to drift when they are worried about making mistakes out in the field. While having talent is the most important thing to have if you want to succeed in this game, confidence is not far behind. If this team gets confident, they could surprise a lot of people. They may not win the division or the wild card this year, but they will surpass that woeful record from last year.
Look at what confidence has done for the bullpen. Now that people’s roles are figured out (at least for now) everyone is settling in. Carlos Marmol has looked good in the setup role, James Russell continues to dominate the opposition (Sean Marshall who?) and even Kevin Gregg has been able to lock down both of his save opportunities. How that works when Kyuji Fujikawa returns remains to be seen, but I doubt he will be inserted into the closers role immediately.
If you asked me before the year started, I would have told you that .500 was a pipe dream the Cubs would not sniff after the first two series concluded, but there is a real chance the team could be there at the end of the first month.
How good this team really is remains to be seen. After all, they are only on a three game win streak against one of the worst teams in all of baseball. Perhaps building confidence is not why this team is as good as they have looked this weekend. Perhaps, they are simply just the best of the worst.