Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Cubs Ks

Saturday: Cubs 5, Mets 3

2009 could mark the end of an era. I refer to the Cubs' streak of leading the league in strikeouts dating back to 2001. Trailing the Giants by 36 (and in fourth place overall) after Saturday's action, it looks like the Cubs might finally relinquish the strikeout throne. While it's not an inherently good category in which to lead the league (strikeouts lead to higher pitch counts, and obviously aren't as strong an indicator of pitching strength as something like ERA or WHIP), I for some reason find it immensely enjoyable to see them at the top of the heap in this particular category every single year. The race isn't over yet, but the Cubs are really going to have to hunker down and start focusing on racking up those punchouts.

Rich Harden did his due diligence on Saturday, fanning 10 in five innings of work (what was it I was saying about strikeouts and pitch counts? Harden threw 102 pitches in five innings, partly because of all those Ks). All 10 strikeouts were of the swinging variety, and it's the third time he's reached double digits this season. I don't know how it's possible, but Harden's career high in strikeouts is still 11.

Derrek Lee provided some offense for Harden, having apparently been re-energized by a couple days off or by the birth of his second child, a son, or both. He hit a home run for each of his children, both into the second deck in left center. He's one home run shy of 30, and just two points shy of .300.

Thanks to Citi, Santo can finally enjoy New York City

Listening to Ron Santo's annual lamentations regarding the existence of Shea Stadium, his least favorite place in the whole world, would have been comical had it not been so evident how much it truly pained him to be there. But with Shea Stadium gone forever, Santo can finally take a bite out of the Big Apple each year without taking extra blood pressure medicine. He went so far as to say he likes the Mets' new digs. I feel like Santo probably had a Shea Stadium demolition watching party at his place last year.

Zook on the hot seat?

I don't know enough about Illini football or Zook's contract situation to actually know if he might be on the hot seat. What I do know is that he went 2-10 in 2006, had a great year which included a Rose Bowl appearance (and blowout loss) in 2007, but then went 5-7 last year. And I also know that the nearly-ranked Illini got pushed around in 2009's season opener against a Missouri team that lost 23 seniors from last year. 37-9 was the final, a terrible start for the boys in orange and blue.

But it's the conference schedule that really matters, and here's another thing I know: the Illini better beat the living daylights out of Illinois State next week, and they better use this creampuff matchup to work out all the kinks. Because once Big Ten play begins for them on September 26, it's full steam ahead: Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State are the first three opponents listed on their conference schedule, and they just happen to be rated 1, 2 and 3 preseason in the Big Ten. If the Illini find themselves sliding downhill as quickly as they did in their game against Mizzou, it seems to me that Zook might suddenly feel like he's sitting on a Bunsen burner.

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