The Chicago Cubs have the best record in the National League, they have the best run differential in the game, and this team is favored by many fans. That much you already know.
Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano lead the pitchers, each with nine wins and respectable ERAs. Ted Lilly has also chipped in nine wins, despite getting off to a bad start.
Jason Marquis, Sean Gallagher, and Sean Marshall contribute as well—these six pitchers threw seven quality starts in eight tries (the lone exception being Gallagher's performance in SF, where he was pulled early to save his arm for the bullpen).
Hypothetically, this team has a chance to have three 20 game winners. However, my focus is not on the known horses, but the dark horse, Sean Marshall. Since debuting with the Cubs, he has quickly become one of my favorite pitchers.
I sympathize with him when I see his low run support in the past. But the 96 loss Cubs of 2006 are gone, and the team with seven All-Star selections remains. So despite only having made three starts, and despite not making the first start until June 24, I will predict 10 wins for lefty Sean Marshall.
The small smattering of statistics for Marshall show no such evidence. He was replaced by Steve Trachsel down the stretch last season. He was only a starter in 2006 because Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Wade Miller, and Angel Guzman had all become non-options.
He's had 43 starts before this season and only recorded 13 wins. This season, as of Sunday, he has one.
So what reason can I possibly give for making this suggestion, this prediction, of a breakout half season for Sean Marshall? Empirical evidence? None. True, his Hit Batters, Walks, ERA, and HRs allowed all improved from '06 to '07. But to the casual fan, they'll have no reason to believe me.
Maybe I like the fact that he's 6-foot-7 and has a devastating curveball AND a devastating slider. Or that strikeout per inning he's going to average this year. Mostly, I have to think it's the quiet way he goes about his game, never showboating, trash talking; he is the ice to Zambrano's fire.
And as left-handed aces go, the Cubs answer to the Brewer's C.C. Sabathia.