The Cubs seem to be out of their recent slump and have quickly regained the top spot in the N.L. Central.
Low and behold, however, a nemesis of years past has crept to within 1.5 games of the top—the Houston Astros and Lance Berkman are within striking distance, which gives me an eerie sense of deja vu.
Not too long ago, it would only be a matter of time before the Cubs would have lost eight out of ten and handed the division to Houston or St. Louis, but this year just feels different.
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are unstoppable and even Ted Lilly has bounced back to win his last few starts.
The Cubs lead the majors in runs scored (238) and for the first time in a long time, I really feel that each guy in the lineup can swing the bat and perform in the clutch. No longer do we look forward to relying on the three, four, and five-hitters for the power and RBI; each guy in the starting nine, including the pitchers, can make the offensive plays and get on base.
Let's put together a realistic starting eight and check the stats.
If the lineup is, say, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto, Mark DeRosa, and Ronny Cedeno—these boys are batting a healthy .309 and have driven in 169 runs.
Put Big Z on the mound and you've got some healthy hitters!
The Cubs have outscored second place Houston by 30 runs. Compare that to A.L. East leaders Tampa Bay and the Cubs are up 52 runs!
Remember all that talk about the N.L. being Minor League compared to the A.L.? Well it's a new year and it's about time this Cubs offense really lived up to its potential.
40 games into the season, I can honestly say that the Cubs are the team to beat in the Central. Though I love the competition from Houston, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, I'm going to predict a 90-72 final record and an N.L. Central Championship.
Postseason predictions will take a little more time, thought, and historical consideration.