Off Day Thoughts On Chicago’s Mediocre Start

[Editors Note: This article was written prior to the Milwaukee series. If Chicago had been able to pull out a hard fought win in the 13 inning game one, I might look back at this a little differently. But the Brewers series put a bit of a damper on a nice start to May. All that in mind, it’s still early.]

Geovany Soto walks off after St. Louis wins against the Cubs in 2011. Could Chicago find a way to make this happen less this year?

An off day for the Cubs on Thursday allowed me to reflect on the season so far. Sure, it’s only been slightly less than 20% of the season, but it’s probably best to do so now before it’s apparent the whole season has fallen apart.

Chicago is 13-18 this year and currently in last in the central division, seven games behind St. Louis. Seems dire, but in all fairness they’re only 3.5 games away from second place. The opening month had its rough patches. A six game losing streak comes to mind. The month of May has provided better times and a 5-3 record.

My impressions so far have been that this team isn’t as bad off as it appeared during the off-season. They may not have the necessary pieces for a post-season run, but I don’t feel they’re too far from getting there.

Cubs First Baseman Bryan LaHair

Bryan LaHair is leading the team in numerous offensive categories including batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Not too shabby for a rookie first basemen. Starlin Castro is following up his first full season with the Cubs with a great start. Second in average and leading the team in RBIs, the team’s shortstop is again a leader at the plate.

Of course, those are the bright spots. There have been some struggles too. Five of the Cubs typical starters are hitting .257 or lower, highlighted by Geovany Soto and Ian Stewart who are hitting below .200. Although, since the start of May, nearly every hitter has improved their averages except for Darwin Barney, Tony Campana, and LaHair. Of the last two, Camapana played in only nine games in April and LaHair’s average has only dropped .006 points.

Ryan Dempster (in 2011) has been great on the mound, with a 1.02 ERA, but wins are a team stat (2012 record 0-1 in 5 starts).

An improving offense will be much needed for a squad ranking 26th in the National League in runs. The big question mark for the rest of the season will be the bullpen. It’s the one piece to the puzzle that seems to be the furthest away from being ready to make a run at a division championship.

Cubs starters have been better than average to start the year. The team ranks 10th in quality starts with 19. Besides Chris Volstad’s 0-4 record Cubs starters are a combined 10-5. Cubs’ relievers have lost a total of six games. It does seem that Rafael Dolis has welcomed the role of closer as he’s already collected more saves than the previous owner of the position, Carlos Marmol.

If the team can continue to right the ship like they have to start this month, it seems like they’d have a line-up and rotation that could give them a decent chance to win day-in and day-out. The question will be, what happens when the starter hands over the reigns to the bullpen?

We’ll have to see, but if they can find any consistency, I think they could have a chance to at least finish better than last years 71 wins. 10 more wins and they would have been in the conversation for a hypothetical second wild card selection. This year Commissioner Bud has added a second wild card team, can the Cubs make a run at that spot (or better) and give us fans a reason to cheer? We’ll have to wait and see. #GoCubs.

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