Don't Look Now, But the Chicago Cubs Might Just Have What It Takes

Joe WillettSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 26: Milton Bradley #21 of the Chicago Cubs is safe at home plate after sliding under the tag of Craig Tatum #30 of the Cincinnati Reds on July 26, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Reds 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The following article is a post from TheDailyCub.com, a website that also boasts B/R writers Bob Warja and Ben Calloway.

A little over half way to the end of the season, the Cubs have finally jumped past the St. Louis Cardinals and stole the division lead.

Before the All-Star Break, the Cubs split a four-game series with the Cards. Since the break, however, the Cubs are 8-2. The Cardinals are 4-6 since the break, including losing two of three against the Phillies in their most recent series.

The Cards now go from facing the defending champions to facing this season’s best team, the L.A Dodgers, in a four-game series. The Cubs face the Astros, and have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division.

But what has caused the Cubs recent resurgence?

It starts with the starting pitching staff. Kevin Hart has been Randy Wells II, starting three games and not allowing more than two runs in any start.

With Ted Lilly on the DL, the Cubs will need him to continue playing at a high level, and if he does, then the Cubs may not even need to trade for a starting pitcher. But more on trades later.

Rich Harden has been struggling all season, but in his last three starts, he hasn’t allowed multiple runs to cross the plate. He has dropped his ERA from 5.47 to 4.55 in that span.

However, the pitching staff is not the only reason for the Cubs making waves in the second half.

Before the break, the Cubs scored an average of 4.1 runs a game, since the break, that number has been 5.6.

The reason for the sudden increase in runs has been the revival of Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez.

Fukudome was batting .255 before the break, in the ten games since, he has been batting .382 with an OBP of .477 and an OPS of 1.006.

Bradley was looked at as the disappointment of the century when he came to the Cubs and was essentially awful. However, since the break, he has been better in every facet of the game.

Bradley’s average, OBP, slugging, and OPS have all been at or above league average. However, you can’t look at this as just ten games for him, as these have come after he spent a few days out of the lineup and working with manager Lou Piniella on his swing.

Ramirez wasn’t exactly playing bad before the break, he just was out of the lineup. However, Ramirez has been having a career year in every offensive category that goes by an average.

His return has been a big part in the Cubs recent run, as they are 11-6 since he made his return to the lineup.

Soriano has been streakier than he has ever been this season, and he knows it. But his .444 average since the All-Star Break has been a big part of the Cubs coming back.

“I remember with the Yankees and Texas, I was also [streaky],” he said. “But what’s happened this season never happened to me before. I’ve cooled off for two to three weeks before, but never for a month and a half. That’s the first time in my life.”

But while all these players have been coming from virtually nowhere to make big contributions, the Cubs still will likely need to make a deadline to have a legitimate chance at taking their NL Central lead and turning it into a World Series.

They still have inconsistent bullpen play from most everybody besides Kevin Gregg, and could use another lefty bullpen arm. Despite Sean Marshall’s current 8.2 inning scoreless streak, the bullpen still lacks depth.

Bullpen depth could come with Baltimore Orioles reliever George Sherrill, whom the Cubs have been rumored to be interested in.

Sherrill has a sub-2.5 ERA and has 20 saves this season. A new arm in the bullpen is needed with the Harden, Wells and Hart in the starting rotation, who usually won’t give the bullpen a night off.

However, they are also said to be eying Orlando Cabrera, who can play both second or short stop. Cabrera, currently on the Oakland A’s, also has the Twins interested in him.

Cabrera would make a lot of sense for the Cubs, who could use some middle-infield depth, as Aaron Miles has been struggling in the minors and might not make it back to the majors this season.

Cabrera brings a consistent bat, solid defense, and some speed when he gets on base. He would solidify the infield and give Mike Fontenot a chance to play from the bench, where he thrived from last season.

However, the biggest potential move might not even involve a trade. With the recent signing of B.J Ryan, the Cubs are hoping that he can return to his dominant ways.

He has been working his way through the minors, and has been moved up to the AAA Iowa Cubs roster. Reports are that he has pitched well at every level so far.

“The guy has a good history and has pitched in the ninth inning in huge games,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “We wouldn’t ask him to do that. If it works, he can maybe add to the pen with ( Sean) Marshall.”

Whatever the Cubs do this season, they will need to continue their strong play, as the Cardinals just got Matt Holliday, and they won’t be playing the Phils and Dodgers every game.

I'm Joe W.


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