Eighteen games into the 2011 season, the Chicago Cubs stand at 9-9. They have won five of nine at home and four of nine on the road. They have not yet been more than one game away from .500, confirming the pre-season suspicions of many that this year’s team will be exceptionally medium in every way. While they have hardly fallen from contention–a split in yesterday’s doubleheader against San Diego moved Chicago into a first-place tie–but they also have not distinguished themselves. The 2011 Cubs, as a team, are boring.
But the 18-game mark is a fun little landmark in the baseball season. As of today, with 18 games under their belts, the Cubs have completed one ninth of the full 162. Therefore, all stats accumulated to this point in the year can be by nine to get the pace each player is on for the season in each statistic. Is it reliable or predictive? Not remotely. Is it fun? If you’re a huge dork, sure it is. And boy am I a huge dork. Let’s comb the numbers:
- Starlin Castro is on pace for 270 hits. With 30 already, he leads the NL and is on pace to eclipse Ichiro’s 2004 record-setting total of 262. Okay, that’s preposterous. But hey, 229, the Cubs’ all-time single-season hits record… well, still preposterous. But it’s a better goal, anyway.
- Alfonso Soriano is on pace for 54 home runs, 126 RBI and 144 strikeouts. His on-base percentage is .300. Two of those rates are sustainable; two are not. I love Soriano, though, and while he won’t reach those power levels, don’t sleep on him: 30 homers and 90 RBI are not unattainable by any means.
- Carlos Pena is on pace for 90 walks, 162 strikeouts and zero home runs. Please don’t freak out, Cubs fans. Yes, Pena is going to hit .220 and strike out a TON. But he’ll also reach base a lot and slug 25-35 homers.
- Matt Garza is on pace of 306 strikeouts in his first season in the National League. That would be the highest season total by any pitcher in either league since Randy Johnson fanned 334 in 2002. That 306 number seems lofty for a guy whose career high so far is 189 whiffs. But Kerry Wood‘s NL-leading 266 in 2003 is n real jeopardy. If you had any lingering doubts about the separation between the AL East and everyone else in baseball, watch Matt Garza pitch. His stuff is filthy on top of filthy. In the NL, 250 strikeouts are very possible. In Tampa Bay, facing the Yankees and Red Sox, he was a mere and relatively modest mortal.
- Carlos Marmol is in line to strike out 126 and walk 54 in 87 innings of work. Maybe the biggest cause for concern this year so far has been Marmol’s lack of dominance. He struck out 138 in fewer than 80 innings in 2010, and allowed just 4.6 hits per nine innings. GM Jim Hendry said he knew some of those figures would be impossible to duplicate. But if he really did know it, why did he sign Marmol to a three-year, $20-million extension this winter? A guy with Marmol’s utter lack of command would need to remain singularly dominant to return value on that deal. Instead, Marmol has shown up this year with a fastball closer to 90 than the 95 he hit frequently last year and a slider with much less bite-and-sweep action that it had the prior three seasons. I’m not saying Marmol is kaput, but he needs to get back on track in order to be worth the money he made in February.