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!
I’ve got a bad case of the Aprils. April Anxiety. So I needed some help.
P.J.: What’s wrong with you?
Brendan: I don’t know. I am not right.
P.J.: Dude, you are sick, okay? Just go see a doctor.
Brendan: No. No doctors.
P.J.: No doctors? What are you, like a wounded bank robber?
Brendan: My health insurance got canceled. I have no choice. I’ve got to go to Dr. Brando now.
Bobby: Who’s Dr. Brando?
P.J.: He’s the doctor that lives inside his head.
Brendan: Went to Harvard medical school.
Bobby: Inside your head?
Brendan: Whatever dude, it’s Harvard.
P.J.: Anyway, it’s Brando’s self-diagnosing, usually using the internet. And the last time he did it, it did not go very well.
Dr Brando’s prescription for April Anxiety was easy. More homers. Who am I to argue with a Harvard trained physician?
Back to back homers for the first time this year? (So-ri-ahhh-no! and Soto!) Check.
A Second helping of Soriano? Check and Check.
Quality start by Zambrano? 6 innings, 2 runs. Check.
Domination from the three-headed monster of Wood/Marshall/Marmol? 3 innings, 3 hits, 4 K, 0 runs. Check, Check and Check.
Soriano is locked in. And anyone who has watched the Cubs knows, that when the Fonz is locked in – you just get out of the way. It doesn’t last the whole year of course :)P But it can certainly be fun to watch. Soriano now owns the record for the most homers ever hit by a Cub during a month of April (and the team has been around awhile… as other fans like to point out).
Wins can settle a team down. Good Zambrano was joking about settling down after giving up a ‘cheap homerun’ to Justin Upton. (It sailed 455 feet into the second deck – and I was afraid they would have to alert the FAA)
Let’s get another one today. May is just around the corner, and I’m excited.
Remember Cubs, the prescription is more homers. Trust Dr. Brando.
Oh, and Jordana Spiro? Call me.
The Cubs beat the Padres 1-0 in the 2011 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field last night. In the shootout, Marmol stopped four shooters and Colvin beat Qualls with a wicked top-shelf glove-side wrist shot.
Wait, that was baseball? With temperatures in the 20s? Yikes.
Polar Bear Zambrano, he of the short sleeves, has officially earned his reprieve from my regular Zambrano Watch with the best starting performance for the Cubs this year. 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts. No decision, but that’s because…
Wrigley is a hitters ballpark, except, you know, when it’s not. Like last night. When the wind blows straight in at 10-15 mph, and it’s too cold to hold the bat, it’s a pitchers ballpark. The Padres should feel right at home… except for that snow of course.
Colvin’s pinch-hit walk-off double in the tenth may be FAR more important than a single win in April might suggest. Colvin has the raw talent to be an important piece of the Cubs for a long time, but now that the NL pitchers have adjusted to him – he has to adapt. When a rook starts knocking the ball around, teams start to look for a weakness. And when they find it, the entire league exploits it mercilessly, until the hitter adapts. If he adapts. The difference between a ‘AAAA’ hitter and a big league hitter is whether they can adjust. Last night may just give him the confidence that he needs to muscle his way back into the lineup. I’m pretty confident he will. Colvin will be solid. Which brings us to…
The Castro. Castro could be that extremely rare, truly elite hitter. Castro is frightening in that he has so far befuddled the attempts of the opposition to find a weakness. He uses the whole field and while he wants to hit more home runs, he takes what the pitcher gives him – and doesn’t swing for the fences on each pitch. The Castro is exciting to watch.
Congrats again to Zambrano, who appears to have thus far forced the Bad Z into remission. I’m a big fan Z. Keep it up, but…
I’m watching you. We need you, big Z.
Good Z – 5 outstanding innings before letting the Astros back in the game in the 6th. Monstrous Solo Homer in the top of the 6th ended up being the game winning RBI.
Bad Z – Some exciting Cub defense and a tiring arm led to 5 Astros runs in the 6th and the hook from Quade. Z leaves the mound before Q can even get there…. The water cooler held its breath as Z approached the dugout, but evasive maneuvers were not required.
Zambronic Alert Level – 1 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (Description – gentle)
The Zambrano watch enters its second week.
Good Z – Despite not having great stuff and needing a LOT of pitches to get through 6 innings, Z held off a tough BrewCrew lineup and appeared to be well-hydrated.
Bad Z – Missing In Action. If you have seen this man, please do not call us.
Zambronic Alert Level – 2.0 on the Richter Scale (Generally not felt, but recorded)
- Good Z – first extra-base hit of the year for the Cubs, solid performance (with no run support)
Bad Z – leaves the game reportedly due to cramping – Yikes
Zambronic Alert Level – Yellow. Z drinks water. Water Cooler lives to hydrate another day.