There might not be a more frustrating team in baseball than the Cubs – and they appropriately sit at 43-43 after a mediocre first half. But they do only sit 3.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals, though they are behind the Brewers and tied with Houston, who is 44-44. So that N.L. Central race is tight.
But with Aramis Ramirez returning, the Cubs have to feel like they have enough firepower to win the division. The key, of course, will be having guys like Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto start hitting; the Cubs were the worst hitting team in the National League with runners in scoring position in the first half. The bullpen is also a question mark.
The second-half schedule isn’t very easy, as the Cubs get to play Washington seven times but do have to deal with both Philadelphia series. They also have a nine-game road trip through Florida, Cincinnati and Colorado.
September will likely decide the Cubs’ fate, as they travel to New York to face the Mets, then host Cincinnati and Milwaukee and travel to St. Louis, Milwaukee and San Francisco, the last series being a four-game series. They do get to finish with six home games against Pittsburgh and Arizona, which could be a big boost.
Eighty-eight wins should win the N.L. Central, and the Cubs would have to go 45-31 to get there. That’s a lot to ask for, though the division champ might be able to win a game or two less.