2004 at a glance for Chicago
Pythag W-L: 95-67
Runs Scored-Runs Allowed: 789-665
Possible 25 Man Roster:
Up and Coming
Last season I predicted the Cubs to finish third, a prediction that looked rather bold coming on the heels of the Cubs pre-season Sports Illustrated cover coronating them as the 2004 champions of baseball. My prediction came true, but I was essentially wrong.
Check out Chicago's Pythagorean record. Given the number of runs they scored and allowed they were expected to win 95 games, which would have easily won them the Wild Card.
Prior to last season I felt that the Cubs were a bit of a paper tiger and that they'd be exposed if they suffered any serious injuries to their starting rotation. That did happen, to an extent, but I vastly underestimated their offensive potential. The Cubs aren't at all a bad offensive team, and I actually like their lineup a little better now that Sammy's in Baltimore, probably against all good sense.
It's a bit strange how little we're hearing about the Cubs this pre-season when they're largely the same team that was expected to win the World Series a year ago. The team has flaws certainly (it's bullpen will be a constant source of concern, and I really don't think Dusty Baker helps them much), but in my mind they're the team to beat in the NL Central in 2005. It really pains me to say that, but this is a team that looks awfully good on paper. If the Cubs can just muddle through with slightly better luck this year (which is certainly possible - after all Boston managed) then they'll be sitting pretty in October. They might not have the horses to overtake the Cards (although I think they will), but the NL Wild Card is there for the taking and they should manage that, at the least.
The Cubs have a different "feel" this year. Maybe I'm just biased towards teams with less hype; it's entirely possible. But I think these are your NL Central Champs.