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Time for a positive column on the Cubs.
They won two of three over the weekend. And they did so despite the good work of a young Padre shortstop, Fernando Tatis, Jr., who looks like he will be torturing White Sox fans for the next decade-plus.
The Cubs (54-45) now lead the Brewers in the NL Central by three games in the loss column. Yes, they need more hitting, but Theo is on the case. And he still has a week-and-a-half to make moves before the July 31 trade deadline. Trades or no trades, at the end of the day Sunday the Cubs boasted an 85.6 percent playoff probability, according to Fangraphs.
If they win the division or a wild card, that will mark a fifth consecutive year of postseason baseball on the North Side. No Chicago baseball team has appeared in the playoffs more than two consecutive years in the last 110 seasons.
General Manager Rick Hahn made some great trades for the White Sox the last few years when the owner finally said yes to a down-to-the-studs rebuild. But shortly before that, he made the move that could very well go down as the worst in White Sox history. We're talking potentially worse than Brock-Broglio.
Why Hahn agreed to include Tatis, a 20-year-old major league rookie this year, in the trade for Padres veteran pitcher James Shields in 2016 will never be completely known. At the very least it was a crushing breakdown in prospect talent evaluation.
Top White Sox prospect and former Cubs farmhand Eloy Jimenez has had a nice start for the White Sox highlighted by two gloriously clutch home runs against the Cubs. He certainly looks like could make North Side fans regret and then some the Jimenez and Dylan Cease for Jose Quintana trade as well.
But Tatis is a franchise centerpiece shortstop. Jimenez is so awkward in left field that he has already sent himself to the injured list twice with embarrassingly botched plays.
And then there is Tatis's hitting. His on-base percentage is only 64 points higher than his batting average, so he needs to work on getting a few more walks. Then again, his batting average is .324. He slugs .595 for an OPS of .983. Of course, you probably know this but that is ridiculously good, especially for a rookie.
He has had almost 250 at-bats so the league has had a chance to scout him and scout him again. By now virtually all rookies slump for at least a short time because major league pitchers adjust to them and they have to figure out how to adjust to major league pitchers, perhaps the toughest developmental hurdle in the game.
So far, no one has found a hole in Tatis's swing. He. Is. Ridiculous.
What's that you say? You thought this was supposed to be a column about the Cubs? Well, I've got a few more notes on the North Siders. They now head west for a series in San Francisco. In so doing they confront their biggest weakness this year - road games.
After those three games out west, starting with an 8:45 starting time tonight, the schedule gets real. The Cubs have three at Milwaukee, three at St. Louis and then three more against the Brewers back at Wrigley. After those nine games we should have a much better idea of who will be doing what in the Central this year.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.