Here we are, May 4, 2009. The Chicago Cubs are only 24 games into a season in which many picked them to run away with the National League Central. At 13-11, they find themselves three-and-a-half games behind the dreadful Red Birds of St. Louis.
This has caused major stress for numerous Cubs fans. Understandably, they are remembering seasons of recent past, 2004 and 2006, where the Cubs were picked by many to make the playoffs. I bet I do not need to explain what happened in those years.
Now, I have always been a realist. If I thought the Cubs were bad, I would be the first to say it. At times in 2009, they have looked terrible, but they are only 24 games in.
This is still one of the top three teams in the National League.
I think that Cubs fans are blessed. How often can a team start over .500 and be scrutinized for being off to a slow start?
Now, how often can a team do this while missing a major piece of their offense nearly every game since the season began? Just look at the list of players who have missed time due to injury: Milton Bradley, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee.
To top that, they might as well reverse their rotation. The fourth and fifth starters, Ted Lilly and Sean Marshall, have easily been the best so far. Lilly has been fantastic, throwing 31.2 innings with a 3.13 ERA and 26 strikeouts, yet he is only 3-2.
The Cubs' top three starters, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden, have combined for 92.2 innings, a 4.98 ERA, 95 strikeouts, and a 6-3 record. Once this trio (figuring Z isn't hurt for too long) turns it up a notch, this starting rotation will be filthy.
To go along with those three pitchers, the Cubs can expect their Bradley-Lee-Soto combination to hit better than their combined .172.
So, as the ivy starts to turn from its ugly winter brown to its beautiful summer green, I believe the underachieving Cubbies will turn mean.