Off-Day Musings

I was telling Howard yesterday that between March 17 and yesterday (April 13), I had attended 22 games -- 13 exhibition games, and the first nine games of the regular season.

22 games in 28 days -- that's a pretty long haul, even for someone as ... well, nuts as I am.

So I was glad to have the day off, to do routine things, catch up (I still haven't taken four weeks' worth of newspapers to the recycling center yet, though), and attend the science fair at my daughter's school (project: Which gum retains its flavor longest? Answer: Bubble Yum).

And, a few thoughts about the Cubs.

They are 4-5. As I mentioned yesterday, other good teams are under .500. In 2002, the Angels started 16-22 and were in last place, yet won 99 games and the World Series.

Doom and gloom should be saved for when doom and gloom is appropriate.

The Cubs have outscored their opponents 47-42. This, of course, is skewed by the 16-6 win on Opening Day. They are 1-2 in one-run games; this screams out "small sample size", and none of those three is a blown save (the only blown save was the 6-3 loss to the Brewers at the home opener).

In the four wins, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 34-14. In the five losses, they've been outscored 28-13. They traded blowouts with the Padres and extra-inning games with the Brewers.

They've gotten really good performances out of the starters (Zambrano and Prior) and really bad ones (Zambrano and Wood).

All of this is to say that it's too early to say.

Someone from Mexico asked the Cubs mailbag whether Mike Wuertz should be the closer.

Anyone here operating under a Mexican pseudonym?

The answer was worthy of a presidential press secretary:

It's a little extreme to say Hawkins can't handle the closer duties when he's had one save situation since the season began. If you apply your logic, the New York Yankees would have dumped Mariano Rivera by now. He's blown two save opportunities this year. Hawkins had a 1.46 ERA in 12 Spring Training games. The Cubs have confidence in him. Wuertz definitely benefitted from his experience last season as the Triple-A Iowa Cubs closer, and Baker hasn't hesitated to call on him in tough situations. So right now, Hawkins is the closer.

Of course, ERA is about the least meaningful stat for closers. The reason we don't want Hawkins in the closer role isn't the one blown save this year, it's the NINE blown saves LAST year.

As long as Wuertz keeps putting together good outings, Baker will eventually notice. Either Hawkins will figure out how to close, or someone will have to replace him, because blowing games is simply not an option if the Cubs are to be a contender, not a pretender.

Housekeeping: Welcome another new member of the SportsBLOGS family, Lone Star Ball, about all things Texas Ranger.

Enjoy the day off. I'd love to be watching the Nationals' first home game in Washington, but MLB Extra Innings has chosen not to carry it.

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