SAN FRANCISCO -- After a nice lunch on the Embarcadero here in San Francisco, and watching the fog try somewhat uneasily to lift this afternoon, I went back to write this preview and had no real ideas. How many great ideas for game previews can you possibly have when the Cubs have lost 11 of their last 12?
Thinking more about the 11-out-of-12 strech actually gave me an idea. So I used baseball-reference's game log analyzer to see what were the worst 12-game stretches in Cubs history. There are some interesting results, and since without this I'd have almost nothing to say to preview tonight's game, let's have a look.
The Cubs have lost 12 or more games in a row in six different seasons: 1944, 1970, 1981, 1982, 1985 and 1997. Some of those streaks were longer; the 1970 and 1985 teams lost 13 straight and the 1997 team's 14-loss streak to open the season is the longest in club history. At least two of those teams -- the 1970 and 1985 editions -- were supposed to be contenders. The '85 team at least had a reason -- injuries to the entire starting rotation.
Here's a list of other years when the Cubs have had a 12-game stretch where they went 1-11: 1916, 1943, 1944, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1973, 1991, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2006 and 2010.
There are a couple of things that stand out there: first, the almost complete lack of streaks like that before the 1940's -- just the 1916 team, which was playing its first year in what is now known as Wrigley Field and was in transition. Second, the really, really bad era between the mid-1940's and late 1960's, when the Cubs lost like this with regularity. And finally, way too much of this in recent years -- five times since the leagues broke into three divisions in 1994.
To me, the best comparison between what's happening this year and any past stretch like this is the 1973 team -- also a veteran team reaching the end of the line with a core of players that had won in the past. This group made the playoffs twice (three times, if you stretch it back to include Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez as part of the core that won the NL Central in 2003 and had five winning seasons in seven years); the other group didn't. The difference is, I think, that the Cubs decided to completely rip the team apart after '73 and the result was a 98-loss year in 1974. It came with a 25% attendance drop. This franchise can't afford that, and a complete rebuild might do that, even to season tickets. A lot of you have scoffed at Jim Hendry's thought that three or four key acquisitions could put the Cubs back in playoff contention. Whether or not that is true, they at least have to try -- because not doing so could cost them the money they need to do it in the future.
|Today's Starting Pitchers|
|2010 - Ryan Dempster||9-8||24||23||1||0||0||0||150.2||136||73||63||20||62||144||3.76||1.31|
|2010 - Tim Lincecum||11-5||23||23||1||1||0||0||151.2||136||55||53||12||58||159||3.15||1.28|
The last time the Cubs faced Tim Lincecum, on September 25, 2009 in San Francisco, they put a wacky lineup on the field that included only two players that could be considered regulars. They won the game -- mainly because that was Z's two-hit shutout, but still. Does it really matter who starts tonight? Half the roster is the Iowa Cubs anyway. Current Cubs are hitting .228 vs. Lincecum and the only Cub who has ever homered off him is Koyie Hill. So why not just put names into a hat?
Since Ryan Dempster returned to the rotation in 2008, he has made four starts vs. the Giants, and gone 1-1 with two no-decisions and a 3.39 ERA -- not too far from his average performance as a starter in that time frame. Pat Burrell (.320, 8-for-25, five doubles) and Edgar Renteria (.318, 7-for-22, two HR) hit him well.
Tonight's game is on WGN, and on NBC Bay Area. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.
Tonight's first pitch thread will be up at 9:15 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 10:15 pm, 11:15 pm and midnight CDT.
Discuss amongst yourselves.