Yes, it may be early in the 2013 season, but Cubs fans can already see where it appears to be headed: down the drain.
It is no surprise, really, that the Cubs are as bad as they are. This was expected.
There have been some surprises, though, such as Travis Wood, Nate Schierholtz and Welington Castillo.
But the club didn’t have to be as bad as they are. And their record could be—rather, should be—better if they would have simply played complete games. Instead, their numerous ineptitudes caused wins to become losses.
In 2012 the bullpen was a veritable revolving door, and 2013 looks to follow suit. They called up Rafael Dolis only to send him back down to Triple-A a few days later. Carlos Marmol was replaced in the closer role by Kyuji Fujikawa, who after two appearances was then placed on the DL. After designating Hisanori Takahashi for assignment, the club brought in Kevin Gregg and Kameron Loe.
The team’s starters have on multiple occasions done enough for the club to win games only to be let down by all or a combination of poor run support, porous fielding and/or the bullpen.
The number of free-agent relievers this past offseason was bountiful, and the Cubs could have done a much better job in improving the bullpen.
Another weakness that has become very conspicuous is the club’s aforementioned fielding—or lack thereof. The N.L. Central-leading Cincinnati Reds are the sixth-best defensive team in the MLB, whereas the Cubs are second-to-last.
And the fact that the fielding deficiency is spread all around the field doesn’t help matters either. Pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders all contribute to a woeful defense.
At times it does not appear the Cubs know how to play baseball. That’s why I stated earlier the Cubs cannot seem to play a complete game.
But the Cubs’ biggest weakness has to be the lack of scoring.
If the Cubs could score more runs, then the bullpen giving up a run or two or the defensive futility could be somewhat masked and not have as much impact on the result of the game as it currently does.
And it’s not as if everybody is batting below the Mendoza-line.
If you look at the lineup regulars, statistically speaking, they aren’t that bad—they were better before Monday night’s game against the Reds, though. Before Monday night’s game in Cincinnati, Castillo had a BA of .375 and .900 OPS, Soriano had a .284 BA and Rizzo had a .210 BA and .842 OPS.
Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz are all hitting above .280, and the latter two have OPS percentages above .900.
Consider this: The Reds have the same number of regular starters batting above .280—four—and the same number—two—with an OPS-percentage above .900 as the Cubs have.
But here’s the kicker: The Reds have four players with 10-plus RBI, while Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub with double-digit RBI (14).
And the Cubs have the worst team RISP average at .147. So if they do happen to get runners on-base, they can’t drive them in.
There have been threats made about players, notably Rizzo and Castro, that if they do not perform they will be sent down, but would that really solve anything? Whom would Sveum replace those players with?
Brian Bogusevic (.389/.476/.463) has continued his red-hot spring training with Iowa. He’s an option to replace Rizzo if Sveum wants to make good on his threat.
Would he really, though? Rizzo may not be able to hit a beach ball on a regular basis, but when he gets a hold of one he’s the only player who can drive in any runs—and he’s usually one of those runs.
So, what realistic options are there to improve the team’s ability to drive in runs?
The waiver wire?
Taking the bullpen moves the club has already made in to account, the Cubs have also picked up Julio Borbon and Cody Ransom off waivers after designating Brent Lillibridge and Alberto Gonzalez for assignment—both are now with the Iowa Cubs.
It’s too early to find an impactful trade, so it looks like the Cubs are going to have to make do with what they have in house or other team’s castoffs.
Sorry folks, but it looks like it’s going to be another long and disappointing season.