when this writer closed up shop a couple weeks back and made for the wine, women and song of the old world, it was with the zeroeth expectation for the rickety galleon known as the chicago cubs. as far as yours truly has been concerned, this club had struck a marked shoal named mediocrity and foundered april 24 with precious little hope of return. the rest of the year was largely going to be about discovering how that sinking would be made evident ex post facto to the optimists around cubdom, who had been thrown into the cold sea as the boat vanished beneath them while largely denying the sinking.
speculation hereabouts was that it was going to in the main be about mean reversion in pitching as the offense -- in spite of the expectations of so many -- simply refused to much improve. in so doing, that flotsam such as too-short samples of run differential to which the drowning were then clinging would prove soon enough to be just as tenuous as the ship itself.
it is with methodical melancholy that the cubs have largely gone about working out the verity of these probabilities as they were noted since. from may 17, the cub pitching staff has allowed 5.31 runs/game while scoring just 4.08, going 4-9 to get to 22-29. the club has now scored 231 and allowed 220 to date, dashing many earlier silly visions of a good team struggling to emerge from beneath the obscuring onus of one-run losses -- always only half an observation, unfortunately, which refused to address the team's unbalanced record in blowouts, which has now also started to mean revert and stands still at 9-5. pitchers rich hill (0-2 in 3 gs, 4.50 era), jason marquis (0-1 in 3 gs, 5.00 era), ted lilly (1-1 in 3 gs, 6.39 era), neal cotts (3 g, 18.00 era) and ryan dempster (5 g, 12.27 era) -- all of whom had been earmarked here for mean reversion -- have contributed.
to be sure, milwaukee has played just as poorly -- a possibility here noted for both clubs on may 14 -- and some two games have returned against the worst deficit. but the divisional difference remains as obstinate and inert on may 30 as it was may 16 as it was on april 24. particularly given the recent sorry performance of the team, it should be transparent even to the most sinfully unhinged eye that the wherewithal and firepower to stage a scintinllating comeback -- even against a flawed club like milwaukee -- is sadly lacking.
lou piniella, faced with disaster unwarned and uncomprehending, reduced to the same timeworn babble cubs fans know so well, now furiously shuffles the inadequate cards he has been dealt by outgoing buffoon jim hendry and desperately draws for help that isn't forthcoming. this is a managerial game we've all seen before, and it normally doesn't end well.
and yours truly is left once again to ruminate on how, for the fourth year running, close analysis and a careful tempering of hope came anyway to overestimation in predicting 82 wins (a mark that the team would now have to record 60-51, or .540 over 111 games, to touch). rather than the average, the zeroeth expectation looks once again to be the one closest to final reality. these last trying years have been the darkest days of cubdom, dear reader, and hope abridged remains the theme.