The Cards and Cubs will be entering this weekend series far closer in the standings than anyone expected them to be. While most prognosticators believed the Cubs would play at this level, few but the most addicted to Cardinal Kool Aid would have believed that the Cards would set a franchise record for wins in April. It seems that there would be a variety of ways to compare the teams. Given that the Cardinals have such a favorable/weak early schedule with a lot of home games, I thought that perhaps that was the reason why the Cards were doing so well--and maybe it is. But when looking at the Cubs schedule, it seems like they have a weak schedule too with a lot of home games--not as weak as the Cards but not super tough either.
The Cards have played 12 games against weak opponents--Pirates, Nats, Giants--and gone 8-4. The Cubs have played 9 games against the cupcakes of the league--Pirates twice & the Nats and have gone 7-2. The Cards have played 9 games against medium teams--Houston twice and the Reds. They have gone 6-3. The Cubs have played 6 games against medium teams—‘stros and Reds—and gone 4-2. Against tough teams--Colorado & Milwaukee--the Cards have played 8 games and gone 5-3. The Cubs have played 11 games against tough teams (NY, Col, Mil) and have gone 6-5 against those upper echelon teams.
Each team has had its fair share of cream puff pitchers--Matty Mo, Matt Chico, Odalis Perez, etc. Looking at those results didn't seem to be particularly illuminating. But what about when they teams faced #1s or #2s--the small bears have seen 6 pitchers of that type (by my definition of a 1 or 2).
Sheets 6.1 innings 2 hits 2 walks 7 Ks 0 ER (Cubs L)
Oswalt 6.2 innings 10 hits 1 walk 0 Ks 5 ER (W)
Hamels 7 innings 1 hit 2 walks 5 Ks 0 ER (L)
Harang 6 innings 8 hits 2 walks 6 Ks 5 ER (W)
Cook 8 innings 4 hits 3 walks 5 Ks 2 ER (L)
Sheets 5 innings 3 hits 7 walks 2 Ks 3 ER (L)
It seems that the small bears have been abusive to two of those pitchers--Oswalt and Harang. They were also a bit rough on Sheets last time out--or more accurately, Sheets was kinda rough on himself. The Cubs have forced those "aces" into a 3.46 ERA and have gone 2-4 against teams who have started their best.
Cook 6 innings 6 hits 3 walks 3 Ks 4 ER (Cards W)
Cain 6.2 innings 3 hits 3 walks 5Ks 2 ER (W)
Linecum 6 innings 6 hits 1 walk 11 Ks 2 ER (L)
Cain 3.2 innings 8 hits 3 walks 4 Ks 9 ER (W)
Linecum 7 innings 6 hits 3 walks 5 Ks 0 ER (L)
Oswalt 6 innings 5 hits 3 walks 5 Ks 3 ER (W)
Harang 6.0 innings 7 hits 3 walks 4 Ks 3 ER (W)
The Cards have faced 7 upper tier pitchers. They were dominated by Cain the first time out and Linecum both times out--but have held their own against the other five. The Cards have forced these "aces" into a 5.01 ERA and gone 5-2 when the opposition started its “best.” Admittedly a small sample size and skewed by Cain's blow up--but still the Cards have looked pretty good against some of the best pitchers they have seen and that seems to bode well for the Cards season.
While this Cardinal mirage could evaporate at any time--and most of us probably half expect it to--in the early going, they have been just as good as the Chicago team--that on paper looks to be very good. So . . . go get'em big boys.