It has been a little while since I last wrote something about our beloved Cubbies. However, my school year is over and things are settling down a bit which offers me more time to do other things. One thing I love to do is provide my crazy perspective on how the Cubbies are doing during the season.
We are currently in the second season of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod et al. in charge of the Ricketts family franchise. So where are things at this point in the plan that has been entitled, “The Cubs Way” at this point? All I know for sure is that I do find this team, except for the middle relief, to be doing a bit better than last season’s 61-101 team that was a challenge to watch. The thing that impresses me the most is that even when losing, it appears that this team is never giving up. Prime example is our new multi-year million dollar baby Anthony Rizzo. A lot was being said in the press that Rizzo was doing to many things wrong in his approach at the plate which lead to a slump in his hitting. Watching the first game of the Cross Town Classic against the White Sux, shows to me that Rizzo did something as Rizzo hit the ball pretty well in going 2-5 with a double and triple and knocking in runs. Pretty nice way to start to pull out of the slump. Heck, the starting four in the lineup went 9-18 with four stike-outs and two walks. Ideally there should be more walks than strikeouts however, producing six of the seven runs is pretty awesome. My best guesstimate is that this team will finish closer to .500 this season and will not exceed 100 losses and I am willing to bet that this team will ideally lose less than 95 games. I see progress happening on the field with the starting members of the core that Epstein et al. are building around and the future continues to look very promising.
The rest of the position players and bench seem to be all right with what they are doing. No one is blowing away the competition out there however, that is not necessary. The bench just needs to fill in nicely at times and help to make sure that this team does not miss a beat in the path that it is on. Even if the Cubs are still some what contending at the end of July as the trade deadline approaches, I would still like to see Alfonso Soriano traded for a couple of prospects that will continue to help move this franchise in the right direction. Hope Hoyer will find a team that Soriano will be willing to waive his no-trade clause and we’ll finally be out from under that ugly contract that he was signed to by the previous general manager.
The starting pitching for the most part has been surprising this season. Jeff Samardzija pitched a very nice game for the start of the Cross Town Classic. A complete game, 2-hit shut-out on 108 pitches. Granted 108 pitches seems a lot to a degree before the weather really heats up and I just hope that Samardzija does not get shut down to early near the end of the season. Travis Wood plus Scott Feldman have been nice surprises so far this season and hope that they continue to perform as well as they have so far this season. These two starting pitchers continue to make this season something to pay more attention to. Matt Garza has finally returned to the rotation after being shut down due to injury last season and set backs going into this season. If Garza returns close to his pre-injury form that made him one of the best pitchers in the American League, don’t expect Garza to remain in a Cubs uniform. It maybe nice to have Garza around long term however, I do not see Garza in the long term plans for this team. Then you have Edwin Jackson, the $52 million investment that Hoyer created. Jackson’s career ERA does not leave a lot of positive things to look at however, of what I remember Jackson was brought in to eat up innings and truthfully he is not doing that to well either. We’ll see what happens as the season rolls on and what every Hoyer thought Jackson would bring ideally will start to emerge grom the depths of where it is.
The relief pitching has been the Achilles heel of this team. Carlos Marmol started out as the closer and was pulled out of that roll and hopefully on a permanent basis. At one point and time I did feel that Marmol was going to be the National League version of Fransisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez yet, time has proven that Marmol is not Rodriguez in many ways including an ace closer. The Cubs went out and got Kyuji Fujikawa from the Japanese League to ideally take over the closure position however, Fujikawa has turned out to be more fragile than Jim McMahon was at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Fujikawa has just been placed on the disabled list for the second time in this almost two month long season so far. Is this another pitcher that Hoyer paid more money for than he is going to be worth? Time will tell for sure on that notion and we’ll have to wait and see. The big surprise so far this season is the addition of Kevin Gregg to the relief corps for the second time in Gregg’s career. So far in the closer role, Gregg is an amazing 6 for 6 and appears to be doing the right things again that made Gregg one of the better closers earlier in his career. This is a nice pick up of the Los Angeles Dodgers scrap pile and hopefully will continue to perform well this season for the Cubbies. The rest of the relief corps leaves everyone with sinking feelings each and every time that they are brought into the game. The one that scares me the most when brought in would be Shawn Camp who is now on the fifteen day disabled list. There is just something about Camp that does not instill confidence in me. James Russell is another one who I am scared of when it comes to putting in a reliever for a starter. These two relief pitchers stand out the most in regards to the middle relievers although none of the middle relief pitchers are going to excite Cubs Nation at this point.
The hope is that as the Cubs enter the mid point of season three under Epstein et al., that the team will start to achieve as it is being envisioned. I know I will lose patience with the 2015 season if the Cubs are not contending the entire season. In the mean time I look to see improvement where it has been most important, going younger and developing the minor league system and so far it seems that it the plan is working pretty good. 2013 is just a step in the process and I am not expecting more than improving on the 101 loss 2012 season and so far in my view, the 2013 season is going a little bit better and I expect 2014 to be better than 2013 with 2015 really being the key season to the plan. I am getting more excited about the future with the way things are developing and it will be sooner rather than later that things will be completely different for Cubs Nation.