Month one into “Year One” (as the Ricketts family likes to call it) is in the books but it seems like the same old circus we’re used to with the north-siders. Zambrano’s in the pen, Soriano lost the hop but is still scared of the wall, and the Cubs best hitters, Ramirez and Lee are both below the Mendoza Line. Finishing April with a very mediocre 11-13 record, the Cubs already find themselves mired in third place, 5 games behind NL Central Division rival Cardinals.
Starting pitching, believe it or not, has been a major strength so far. Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78 ERA), Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA), Carlos Silva (2-0, 1.73 ERA) and Tom Gorzelanny (0-3, 2.45 ERA) have been more than respectable. But Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.90 ERA) was tremendous in his return from the DL against Milwaukee and anything but in his second start this past Friday versus Arizona (I was privileged to witness that monstrosity from the bleachers). However, the real problem has been the perennial underachiever, Carlos Zambrano (1-2, 6.56 ERA). Fortunately, Lou has the insight (and the balls) to tell their overpaid “superstar” he would better serve the team as the 7th/8th-inning set-up man, turning a weakness into a strength.
Speaking of, the bullpen had been like a high-wire act on a windy day with Cubs pitchers combining for a dismal 10.80 ERA in the eighth inning, but the addition of Zambrano has had a stabilizing effect. The jury is still out on whether Zambrano will remain happy and effective in this less prestigious role.
The offense has been descent despite the lack of production from Derreck Lee (.193 avg.) and Aramis Ramirez (1.56 avg.). Kosuke Fukudome (5 HR, 16 RBI, .344 avg.), Ryan Theriot (16 R, .337 avg.) and welcome addition, Marlon Byrd (4 HR, 14 R, 16 RBI, .348 avg.) have carried the load in their absence. And you’ve got to believe Lee and Ramirez will pick it up soon—they’re just too good not to—so there is reason to believe offensive production will only go up from here.
Defensively, Alfonso Soriano is a butcher (3 errors in a month in the outfield is almost unheard of) and is almost solely responsible for bringing the grade down, but overall, they’ve been about average.
After one month, there are legitimate reasons to believe the Cubs can improve in all areas and make a run at the Cardinals, but there simply isn’t much room for error at this point.
Offense: B (112 Runs – 4th in NL, .266 Avg – 6th in NL)
Defense: C- (18 Errors – 11th in NL)
Starting Pitching: B (3.47 ERA – 5 in NL)
Bullpen: C- (4.52 ERA – 9th in NL, 4 Saves – 10th in NL)
Player of the Month:
Kosuke Fukudome (13 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, .344 avg.)