It’s time to recap April, locate those kernels of hope, drink the blue kool-aid and look forward to May! Woooooooo! May!
After a rough start, the Cardinals promenaded their way back to the top of the division, with the rest of the teams mired in the mud within a few games of the .500 Reds. The Cubs? Right about where most people expected them to be. I was hoping for better, but there are plenty of reasons why a 12-14 record in April is exciting…
- The Starting Pitching has not been good. Not good at all.
What was hoped to be a strength struggled through the monsoons of April, the injuries to Cash and Wells, and the disappearance of Dempster. The Cubs rank dead last in the NL in quality starts (it’s not even close), team ERA, and walks issued. Garza and Big Z have 7 of the 8 quality starts. The Cubs still managed to win 12 games.
- The Bullpen was a little bit Dr. Jeckyll and a little bit Mr. Hyde.
Marmol, Marshall and Wood have been very, very good. Samardzija has been shockingly useful. It’s almost as if he realized this is the last year the Cubs are going to be paying him. The rest have been up and down and up and down. Although, with even a little bit of starting pitching, the Cubs won’t depend on them nearly as much. Despite the ups and downs, and the fan-favorite All-Bullpen Days, the Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Offense has mainly consisted of Castro, Barney and Soriano.
Zambrano is tied for THIRD on the team in homeruns with 1. Soriano has almost as many homeruns as the REST OF THE TEAM COMBINED (10 of 21 total). Barney has more RBI than Ramirez (14 – 11). Pena is SOMEHOW hitting worse than last year. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs are 12th in the NL in runs scored. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Cubs do not lead the league in Antidefense, but they’re close.
Not every Cub feat of antidefense shows up in the errors column. Thankfully. There have been enough botched run-downs, missed bunt assignments, dropped fly-balls (it’s not just a south-side disease), Dunston like throws to first base, throws to the wrong base, and pigeon attacks in the outfield – to lose a few close ones. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- Quade is learning on the job.
Early in the year, I admonished Cub fans to trust in the Quade. I’ll stick to that. He IS getting better. The Quade is sticking with a struggling and/or tiring starter less often (trying to squeeze that ONE more inning out of a pitcher is almost always a big bucket of Fail when facing major league hitters). Heck, he even got thrown out of a game for the first time. And then promptly admitted being wrong for arguing (after seeing the replay). Despite some puzzling batting orders (always overplayed in the media), and lack of Tweeting from the clubhouse… the Cubs still won 12 games.
The Cubs have hit just well enough to hand off some leads to the three headed monster in the back of the bullpen. And that is enough to go 12-14. Despite a lot of room for improvement.
So I’m proudly drinking the Blue Kool-Aid out of a glass that looks half full. 3.5 games back after significantly under-performing for the month? Sign me up.
Now, bring on May. Cardinals and Reds at Wrigley? First road-trip to Fenway?
This is the Month!
Thank goodness for the Blackhawks.
Well then. In the spirit of optimism, I will balance the bad with the good from last night’s Comedy of Errors.
Bad: Castro makes an error in the top of the second inning.
Good: Darwin Ryno Barney homers in the bottom of the first to give the Cubs a lead.
Bad: Castro makes a second error in the top of the second inning, leading to the first Rockie run.
Good: Garza pitching 6 innings: 1 ER, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7 K
Bad: Castro makes his third error in the top of the second inning, allowing two more runs to score.
Good: With men on base in the first inning, Carlos Pena did not strike out… he walked… (I’ll do optimism, but I can’t promise to leave out the sarcasm)
Bad: With the bases loaded in the third and two out, Garza grounds out. Not your fault Garzy, we don’t pay you to hit. But it still sucks.
Good: Jeff Baker went 3-4 as the unlikely cleanup hitter.
Bad: Castro went 0-5 in the three hole. He’ll be fine, but it’s hard to argue with the notion that he hits better in the leadoff spot.
Good: Fukudome went 5-5 in the leadoff spot. Damn it, only one of you can lead off, someone has to hit third behind Sandberg.
Bad: Garza makes a throwing error in the fifth, leading to the Rockies fourth consecutive unearned run.
Good: Garza picks off Tulowitzki to end the fifth inning.
Bad: Pena strikes out with two men on base to end the fourth inning.
Good: The much maligned Samardzija (frequently by me) pitched two scoreless innings. And didn’t walk anyone.
Bad: With two men on and two out in the sixth inning, Baker strikes out.
Good: Reed Johnson channels his inner Craig Biggio with the patented ‘pretend to turn away from the inside fastball but don’t actually back away – causing the arm to move directly into the path of the pitch’ move, drawing a HBP. It needs a catchier name, but I like the results.
Bad: Cubs score only three runs, despite plenty of chances.
Good: Cubs pitchers only gave up one earned run.
Bonus Bad: Cubs defense gave up four unearned runs.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Well, it’s April. And the field was wet (apparently only when we were on defense). I’m not worried about it. The boys will bounce back today.
Oh look! The Blackhawks play again tonight… Thank goodness.
Well… the defense is going to lose us a few games this year. This was one. I guess we might as well pile up all of the errors and questionable decisions into as few games as possible. The usually dependable Dempster had another rough outing, so at least the defense didn’t waste a quality start.
The Cubs hitters tried to make a game out of it, but there just wasn’t enough.
On the D-Back side, they may want to play with 6 infielders and just let Young cover all three outfield positions… and I’m only half joking. He gets a great jump and tracks down the ball like a guided missile. Bloomquist is certainly stepping up for the injured Drew, and Putz looked better than I expected… so some Glass Half Full thrown out there for the Diamondback fans.
A .500 homestand to start the season. Not great. Not bad. Was hoping for better, but we’ll take it. Let’s take this show on the road to Milwaukee, Houston and Denver. Big NL Central games early. These count every bit as much as the games in September.