Whenever the Cubs win, say, six or so in a row (not all that common in the past 20 years), I start to wonder at what point the winning streak would become notable for more than simply the fact that it’s a lot of wins, which is good for the team. Like, how many would the team have to win in a row before it becomes its own thing, totally separate from caring about Cubs wins, that you’re following each game (and non-Cubs fans are following, too) in part because you want to see if they can keep doing it?
Does that make sense?
I think for me the cut-off was always 10 games, something that’s been exceedingly rare for the Cubs. Once they get to and past 10 games, I start to want to see them win another one in large part because I want to see the streak get as long as possible (and the part of my brain that simply wants the Cubs win because winning helps their record, which helps them make the playoffs, starts to quiet down). The Cubs are at 11 games right now, and they last reached 12 games back in 2001. That streak immediately followed an 8-game losing streak, but the 2001 club was actually pretty good, finishing with 88 wins, though they missed the playoffs by five games. In fact, even if the Wild Card system had included two teams back then, the Cubs would have missed the playoffs by two games.
I actually no longer know where I was going with this, as I’ve mostly just gotten lost down a wormhole about that 2001 Cubs team.
Oh, yes. Winning streaks.
The Cubs have their current ride up to 11 games, and if they add another today, they’ll match that 2001 club for the longest streak in this century. Beyond that? Hey, let’s get nuts.
- It was probably a dubious thing to say after just one inning, but after Jake Arrieta’s first inning yesterday, I mentioned that, visually, he was looking a particular kind of good:
My word. That was second half 2015 Jake Arrieta right there. Huge velo, crazy movement, and dotting right where he wanted with the fastball.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) August 12, 2016
- He kept that look throughout the start, and others noticed. After the game, Joe Maddon described Arrieta’s performance thusly (Cubs.com): “The fastball had extra life at the end, the strike-throwing was better, the curveball had great depth. That reminded me of last year, physically.” That’s pretty much the size of it. Although it’s probably impossible for Arrieta to duplicate the results of his second half in 2015 – which was literally the best stretch by a starting pitcher in baseball history by many measures – there is no reason to doubt that he can perform like that guy again down the stretch this year. And if he carries it into the playoffs this time? I just shake my head at the possibility of how he transforms a short playoff series. (And that’s with a great rotation around him, a good bullpen to pair with him, a great defense behind him, and a great offense, too!)
- The Cubs are so hot that their post-game celebratory fog machine in the clubhouse set off the fire alarms yesterday (CSN). Bonus fun from that piece, this quote from Joe Maddon on Willson Contreras: “He plays with his hair on fire constantly. And I love it. I absolutely love it. He’s contagious. I don’t see him changing. He could be here for the next 10 years and I think – with good health – you’re going to still see him run like that to first base.” It’s easy to love Contreras for his incredible performance on the field and his upside from there, but it’s also really easy for fans to appreciate how amped up he gets. Contreras has an edge, and it’s not hard to see him becoming that guy that Cubs fans love and fans of other teams love to hate.
- More on Matt Szczur’s big day yesterday at Cubs.com.
- If you missed the homer party write-up, by the way, it has quite a bit on the four Cubs who went deep.
- Random note: if you check out that 2001 Cubs team, you’ll see a name popping up for the first time at the end of the season: a 20-year-old Carlos Zambrano. Interestingly, yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Zambrano’s final Cubs meltdown, the time he got rocked by the Braves, threw at Chipper Jones, got ejected, and then simply left in the middle of the game, telling folks he’d retired. Zambrano never played again for the Cubs, as the new front office was brought in after that season, and he was dealt to the Marlins for Chris Volstad. Another random historical note: Cubs GM Jim Hendry had to deal with all that Zambrano craziness three weeks after he’d been told, privately, that he was fired, which was not actually made public until a week after the Zambrano incident. Another random historical note: that July was when I started doing Bleacher Nation as my full-time job. Man, that was a really crazy time.
- I wonder where he’ll go from here, and whether he can turn his ugly season around:
Papelbon has requested his release and #Nationals are trying to figure out best way to do it, industry source says. Could be soon.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) August 13, 2016
- If the NL Central race were an Olympic swimmer …
Cubs' lead in the NL Central. pic.twitter.com/o8xSRwWpvQ
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) August 13, 2016