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Series Preview: Brewers (11-7) at Cubs (7-11)

All offseason, I said it would be a three-way race between the Brewers, the Cubs, and the Cardinals.  When pressed, I'd say I figured the Cards were the team to beat.  I backed off on that a little bit as the season approached, and now I've done a complete 180.  Forget about the Cardinals.  If any team in the Central is going to beat the Brewers, it's the Cubs.  Here's why:

  • In terms of runs scored and runs allowed, they are already beating us.  If it were August, I wouldn't put much stock in that stat--by then, you've accumulated most of your actual wins and losses.  But in April, we're looking for signs of just how good a team is.  Based on those indicators, the Cubs are a slightly better team than the Brewers.

  • Like the Brewers, the Cubs have many players who aren't playing anywhere near their potential.  Check out their stats so far: Zambrano has a 7.77 ERA, Soriano has a .702 OPS, and their fifth starter has an ERA over 10.00.
Granted, there are some Cubs who will come back to earth: Rich Hill currently sports an ERA of 0.41, and Jason Marquis has an even more unbelievable (for him) mark of 1.88.  Mark DeRosa is slugging over .550, which won't stand, not even if the wind blows out at Wrigley all year long.  But on balance, the Cubs could get better.

Of course, you could say the same thing about the Brewers: we haven't gotten the defense we'd like, Sheets is still warming up, and we can't lose any more games because of Greg Aquino for a while.  But my point is this: it's easy to look at the standings at mock the Cubs.  (In fact, I'll do it, and I encourage that you do, too.)  But the difference between the Brewers 11-7 and the Cubs 7-11 is largely luck up to this point.  This series would be a nice time to a) open up that gap a little more, and b) suggest that it's more than just luck.

Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend:

The matchups look a bit like they did over the weekend:  a couple winnable games (Tuesday and Wednesday, unless you think Rich Hill is going to throw eight scoreless again), and one against an ace.  But really, I think tonight's game is ours.  Vargas, of course, has exceeded expectations, and Zambrano has underwhelmed in every outing except for his first one against the Crew.  I don't think the Milwaukee offense is going to let him get away with any mistakes this time around.

Should you care to venture over to the dark side:

  • Goat Riders: Wade Miller is awful.  Surely there's somebody in Triple-A who can pitch better than Miller is.

  • View From the Bleachers: With Pie playing center and an 11-man pen when Lou wants 12, the Cubs have a roster crunch.  Aramis for Capellan, perhaps?

  • Bleed Cubbie Blue: Piniella ain't so good with the bullpen management, either.
The Cubs took two out of three at Miller already this year; I think it's time to return the favor.  Starting with an 12-1 blowout tonight, crushing Zambrano and swinging that run differential back in our favor.  And, you know, moving us one more game ahead of the NL Central pack.