Chicago Cubs: NL Central Leaders Go as Soriano Goes

Kevin LuchanskyAnalyst IMay 16, 2008

Almost seven weeks into the season, it’s easy to see that the Chicago Cubs go as Soriano goes.

When the weather heats up, so does Soriano’s bat. When Soriano’s bat is hot, so are the division-leading Cubs.

The converted left fielder led off today’s 7-4 victory over the Pirates with a towering home run over the ivy in left-center. It was third time in four games that Soriano has led things off with a solo home run. The lead-off blast was the 47th of Alfonso’s career—just 34 behind 10-time All Star Rickey Henderson’s record of 81 leadoff bombs.

To add to the Pirates’ troubles, Soriano left the yard again in the second—this time a three-run shot, his eighth of the season.

Cubs young right-hander Sean Gallagher picked up his first career major league victory today (1-0) as the Boston, Mass. native scattered four hits and allowed one run in six innings of work.

There can be several cases made for the Cubs’ success this season—Zambrano’s arm and low ERA, D-Lee’s 10 home runs, “The Riot’s” impressive batting average, Dempster’s surprise success as a starter, or Soto’s 30 RBI’s—but none are as great as the case for Soriano.

Sure, No. 12 is no wizard in the field, we all know that. Who else can injure their calf on a routine fly ball to left? His dismal fielding percentage and high number of errors made the decision to move him from second base to left field and easy one.

Prior to their 7-1 record during their current homestand—which includes a three game sweep of the NL West leading D-Backs—the Cubbies had dropped five of their last seven contests.

With Derek Lee and Geovany Soto driving in runs at will, the pressure isn’t all on Soriano’s back, and the Cubs have proven they can win without him, thanks to an improved pitching staff. For the Cubs to be a legitimate contender this season though, they need Soriano’s bat to stay hot. In the NL, no two teams are as hot as the D-Backs and the Boys in Blue, but the AL has many teams that can contend.

In a cold Chicago April on the North Side, Soriano’s bat was equally as cold, hitting just .192. In May, the leadoff slugger is batting .350 with six jacks and 17 runs driven in. No team in baseball, AL or NL, has a five-tool leadoff hitter like the Cubs do in Soriano. The only counter-argument to this could be the Indians' Grady Sizemore, but his power is no match for Soriano’s.

During the Cubs' current three-game win streak, Sori has been responsible for seven of the eighteen runs driven in. There is no doubt that the Cubs have benefitted from Soriano’s return to the lineup and have felt his presence. If skipper Lou Piniella can get consistent production like this out of Soriano all season, there’s no telling what this Chicago team is capable of.

Hey Chicago, what do you say? If Soriano goes deep, the Cubs are going to win today!