Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: Starting pitching

Between now and the end of the season we're going to compare the last Cubs championship team to this year's future championship team. Next stop: Pitchers. We're only highlighting the top 4 starters, because that's all you'll see in the playoffs.

Mordecai Three Finger Brown vs. Carlos Zambrano

Brown had one of the best seasons in Cubs history in 1908, winning 29 games, saving another 5, and compiling an ERA of 1.47. He was a big game pitcher, the man who rescued the Cubs time after time. He also won two of the games in the World Series (game 1 in relief, and game 4 as the starter). Brown remains the best pitcher in Cubs history--and is a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame. On the other hand, Carlos Zambrano did something in 2008 that Brown did not do in 1908...he pitched a no-hitter. While Zambrano is not a Hall of Famer yet, over the past five years, he has been the best pitcher on the Cubs, and one of the best in baseball. Cubs fans worry about him in the playoffs, however. Zambrano is a volatile volcano...ready to erupt at any moment.

Orval Overall vs. Ryan Dempster

Dempster actually won more games (17) in 2008 than Overall (15) did in 1908, but good old Orval had ice water in his veins. Like Brown, he was often used to pitch in relief. Orval has the distinction of being the last Cubs pitcher to win a World Series deciding game. (He also won a game in the 1907 World Series). Like Overall, Dempster is no stranger to relief, having been the Cubs closer for several seasons before 2008. Dempster led the Cubs in wins, and his 2.96 ERA is a testament to his excellent season. While Overall was a serious college boy from California, Dempster is the key to the loose Cubs clubhouse. His temperament is the exact opposite of Zambrano.

Big Ed Reulbach vs. Ted Lilly

1908 was Reulbach's best season by far. He won 23 games, including a crucial double-header (yes you read that correctly) in September. He pitched shutouts in both games, and remains the only player to do that in baseball history. Reulbach was a tough competitor, but he was also a free spirit. In July he missed the team train because he tried to buy some fried chicken at a stop in Cleveland. Reulbach was so hot down the stretch in 1908, he got the ball in Game 1 of the World Series. He had some trouble in the game, and was rescued by Mordecai Brown. Ted Lilly had his own difficulties in the 2007 playoffs, but during his two seasons in Chicago, he has consistently been the pitcher the Cubs count on to stop losing streaks. He also pitched the best game of his career in 2008, a one-hitter over the Astros in Milwaukee (the day after Zambrano's no-hitter.)

Jack Pfiester vs. Rich Harden

Pfiester and Harden share one undeniable trait: they are both injury prone. Pfiester started the 1908 season by injuring his thumb when he couldn't get it unstuck from a bowling ball, and had several other injuries during the season. He only managed to win 12 games, but a few of those wins came in crucial games against the arch rival of the Cubs--the New York Giants. That's why Pfiester was known as Jack the Giant Killer. Success began to elude him at the end of the season, however. He had to be removed after 2/3 of an inning in the one-game playoff against the Giants, and was the only Cubs pitcher to lose a World Series game in 1908 (Game 3). Harden came to the Cubs in mid-season with a reputation of being so fragile, the Cubs treated him with kid gloves after his arrival. When he was on the mound, however, his stuff was absolutely electric, and his ERA was among the lowest in the big leagues in 2008.