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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh, 8 July 2007

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1:35 PM, FSNP, WPGB

Carlos Zambrano (10-6, 4.04) vs. Shane Youman (1-0, 3.00).

John Van Benschoten was a ticking time bomb that finally exploded in the Pirates' faces yesterday. Not to be overly pessimistic, because unlike Van Benschoten, Youman has some idea of where the ball is going once he throws it. But he's so hittable that I worry that when he starts to fall apart, it's going to be ugly.

So let's wish him the best and think about something else. Like this poll, which asks how a team of the Pirates and Royals combined would fare in the N.L. Central and A.L. Central.

Here's the team I'd make:

Position/Player/2007 OPS
C John Buck .874
1B Adam LaRoche .762
2B Freddy Sanchez .710
SS Jack Wilson .684
3B Alex Gordon .685
LF Jason Bay .759
CF David DeJesus .781
RF Mark Teahen .771
DH Billy Butler .703

C/OF Ryan Doumit .899
UT Jose Bautista .749
UT Esteban German .748
1B/OF Xavier Nady .853
OF Joey Gathright .802

That's far from a good offense, but it's better than it looks. Gordon had a terrible start to the season and has been much better recently, and Bay and LaRoche are (hopefully) better than they've shown so far. The bench is downright great, and Billy Butler has tons of potential.  Shortstop is a bit of a problem.

Pitcher/ERA
Ian Snell, 2.93
Tom Gorzelanny, 3.10
Gil Meche, 3.26
Paul Maholm, 4.76
Zach Greinke, 4.52

Greinke's been horrible in the rotation this year and good in the bullpen; he makes the rotation here on the basis of his potential (and the absence of other decent options). Meche has been terrific this year.

Here's the 'pen:

Joakim Soria, 2.21
Matt Capps, 2,42
David Riske, 2.29
Damaso Marte, 1.71
Joel Peralta, 3.64
Octavio Dotel, 3.94  

After Marte, it's all righties, but who cares - that's a great bullpen. Unlike the Pirates, the Royals have had good relief work this year.

Would that be enough to compete with the Brewers in the NL Central, or the Indians and Tigers in the AL Central. Yeah, probably. The pitching staff would be among the best in baseball, even if some of the guys in it took steps backward. The hitting isn't a sure thing, but with Gordon and LaRoche looking like they've figured things out now, that could be pretty decent, too.