A couple of thoughts while waiting for a game that I have already decided to treat as important wildly out of the proper 1/162 proportion:
We've discussed how the Mariners are doing it with smoke and mirrors before, but what about the Diamondbacks? After losing to the Padres 11-0 today, Arizona is ten games over .500 despite being outscored by 34 runs. If ever there were an appropriate situation for the descriptor "whopping," this is it. The Rockies by comparison have outscored the opposition by 11 runs and yet are four games behind the D-Backs in the standings. Arizona's offense hasn't impressed, as you would expect from a team whose chief weapon is presently Eric Byrnes, but even with Randy Johnson out their starting pitching has been mighty. When Brandon Webb arrived on the scene, Arizona sort of lucked into a team-building approach that the Rockies still have trouble comprehending (hellooo, Jason Hirsh): If you play in a ballpark where fly balls go a long way, get a lot of pitchers who induce ground balls and put world-class infielders behind them. Can defense and sinkers alone account for such a huge discrepancy between RS/RA and record? Not for a full season, says I.
It's time for me to admit I was totally wrong about the Cubs. They're good. It pains me to say it (we don't here have time or space to go into my painful estrangement from Chicago N.L., but take my word for it, it's big-time pain), but this roster might be the best argument for the "just sign a whole bunch of free agents and see what happens" approach since the '97 Marlins. Practically everybody the Cubs signed last offseason has been way better than I thought they had any right to be: Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Mark DeRosa, even Daryle Ward and Cliff Floyd have been somewhat useful. The only guy you could sort of categorize as a bust is Alfonso Soriano, who has been good but not eight-figure good, and his .250/.287/.401 line at Wrigley Field is very troubling. Soriano is one of those players who seems to have been invented simply to give the stat-aware migraines. He goes to a barn in metro D.C. and simply kills the ball, and then he goes to cozy little Wrigley and has only five homers in more than 200 at-bats. Go figure.
It's past time to call the season for the A's. Really, the only reason I've held off this long is out of respect for their recent accomplishments. Seattle seems to have righted the ship after a predictable post-break slump, but I still don't think they have even as good a team as Oakland's. They're +2 in RS/RA and 12 games over .500, which is pretty goofy. The A's, going by that metric, ought to have the better record, but they don't, so there you have it. The ever-indispensible BP Playoff Odds Report is fun to monitor on a day-to-day basis to see how the balance between its two major inputs changes. The closer we get to the end of the season, the less it matters what the "real" quality of your club is and the more it matters how many wins you have in the bank. In this spirit, the Rockies should now go win some games, starting tonight in Florida. C'mon, guys, the schedule couldn't have set up better: Desperately needing a road series win, the Rockies face the worst home team in the whole of the majors. Jason Hirsh gets the ball, his first start since a DL and rehab stint. He'll face (not making this up) a person called Rick VandenHurk. The Rockies have a somewhat shaky track record when it comes to facing pitchers you've never heard of, so watch out.