I find it interesting that in spite of the fact that both Chicago baseball teams have done well to this point, with the “usual” ups and downs that every team goes through in a season, that the fans of the team on the north side seem to think it is a foregone conclusion and a lock that they are headed to the post-season (many of them even extend it as a foregone conclusion that a World Series championship is “in the bag”). While it may indeed play out that that way, I’ll remind them that there are still 67 regular season games to play and nothing is a given. That is what makes the game so fascinating and is also why I have to remind those fans that you actually have to play the games before anything is decided. Those same fans like to talk about how much better they think their team is than our White Sox team. A comparison of the stats here at the All-star break will actually show that the 2 teams are a bit more evenly matched than you might think.
One of my favorite sayings out of Hawk Harrelson on our TV broadcast team is that defense is the most important aspect of putting a winning team together and that the first line of defense is pitching. While it is nice to have a high-scoring offense, it generally does hold true that the teams that come out on top in the end are the ones that have that good “defense and pitching” scenario. Case in point would be the Texas Rangers, who for years (and it looks like this year is no exception) thought the way to the “promised land” was outslugging their competition, even with a mediocre at best pitching staff.
I’ll preface the numbers that follow with this: it is pretty widely known throughout baseball (with the exception of northside team fans that won’t admit it to be true) that the northside team, while a good team, has a much easier schedule than the White Sox do due to the competition they play (or lack thereof) for most of the regular season.
Let’s start with the starting pitching to this point. The Cubs have the best ERA amongst starting pitchers in the National League at 3.88 (and remember also this is the league WITHOUT the designated hitter). The White Sox ERA amongst their starting pitchers is 3.87 and is only good for 5th in the American League (yes that means the Cubs are 6th in MLB in starting pitching and the White Sox 5th). Given the American League has the DH, I find it rather odd that 5 AL teams have better starting pitching than what is supposed to be the best of the NL (the 5 AL teams are: Oakland [3.41], Boston [3.73], Los Angeles [3.75], Toronto [3.81] and the aforementioned White Sox). Better starting pitching: White Sox (by a slight margin but nonetheless a margin and is amplified a bit by the “DH” factor).
We hear a lot about both bullpens in Chicago and how good they both are.Try this on for size.The Cubs ERA amongst their relievers is 3.92 – 17th of 30 teams in MLB. There are 9 AL and 7 NL teams who have better ERA’s in the bullpen than the Cubs. The White Sox are 2nd in MLB (following only the Phillies at 2.71) with a 2.96 bullpen ERA. That is just shy of a full run less than the Cubs. Since baseball has become a game of bullpens beyond the 6th inning, this is a glaring statistic. Better relief pitching: White Sox (and this is not even close).
Put the combined pitching numbers together and the White Sox are 2nd only to Oakland with overall pitching (3.39 for Oakland, 3.56 for the White Sox) in MLB. The Cubs are 9th at 3.89 with 6 of the 8 teams with better pitching being AL teams. Better overall pitching: White Sox
The Cubs get the edge with team batting average (.281), with only the Texas Rangers in MLB at .283 and Boston Red Sox at .282 being better. The White Sox are 9th with their .265. There are 5 AL and 3 NL teams ahead of the Sox in batting average. The next paragraph will show you why this number is a bit deceiving and lends credence to the statement “don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it”. Better team batting average: Cubs
The Cubs have scored the second most runs in MLB (507 — Texas Rangers have 538). That is an average of 5.34 per game (95 games). They have also given up 401 runs, the 9th least in MLB (6 AL and 2 NL teams have given up fewer), for an average of 4.22 runs per game allowed and a net run scored versus runs agains of +1.12. The White Sox have scored 465 runs, 5th in MLB (behind Texas, Cubs, Boston and Philadelphia in that order) for an average of 4.89 per game (95 games). The Sox have allowed 382 runs, 4th behind Oakland, Toronto and the Dodgers in that order) for an average of 4.02 and a differential of +0.87. Best run dfferential: Cubs (by a slight margin)
I recall back towards the end of May the local radio talk show hosts discussing whether there had been a “changing of the guard” with regards to the AL and NL. I thought then and still do believe the reason the numbers in a way reflected that was due to sub-par pitching in the NL. This was bluntly reiterated with the 149-103 edge the AL took out of interleague play (something I absolutely hate about today’s baseball but that is a subject for another day).
Anyway, the tally (for the record) on the things I’ve posted, Sox 3-Cubs 2. In a funny sort of way, I do rather hope that the Sox-Cubs meet in World Series. If pitching is the key factor to winning championships – our players on the southside will have to make room for another ring.That is of course if they can get through the much tougher schedule that they play than our rivals on the northside do. We have to remember that games aren’t played on paper and also remember that no matter what transpired in the first half of the season, things can change in a hurry.