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!
The best thing I can say about last night is Chacin helped out my fantasy team…
Well, that’s not true. Other than one inning, where he fell behind the hitters, Garza pitched well. Aramis is starting to heat up, which may be the single most important factor for the Cubs season. And the bullpen was outstanding. For those worried about the Cubs signing of a couple of journeyman starters to minor league contracts this week… this is why. Russell and Samardzjia are pitching well in relief, and are probably best there.
Castro’s error allowed another run to score on a bases clearing triple, but by then the damage was already done. If you don’t take a second to square up the body before the throw you end up pulling a Dunston. But I don’t want to rag on Castro’s defense, which is MUCH improved so far this year. That’s just another thing to work on. No big deal. Any offense by a player not named Ramirez, and one mulligan pitch for Garza… and this would have been a game. C’est la vie.
Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a superior team. The Rockies are simply the class of the NL at this point (with the Reds and Phils pretty close behind). Chacin is a bona fide stud, and their offense is going to rough up most pitchers.
This offense is going to be a bit dependent on the long ball, lacking speed and contact hitters (other than Castro, and now Barney/Baker). Sooner or later, hopefully, the home runs increase. And the starters avoid that ONE bad inning they all keep giving up…
And of course… looking for a pick me up, I rolled from the Cubs game right to the Hawks game. Ouch.