Another week in the books, and with it the story unfolds for the Chicago Cubs this season. But, enough chit-chat, let's get to the good stuff.
Where we stand: 16-9, 1st NL Central, 1/2 game over STL (16-10). Like I said last time, it's a little early to pay attention to the standings, but a good start early is better than playing from behind come July or August (or September, heaven forbid).
Offensive Output: The Cubs have sunk to second in Runs Scored, but only by 3 runs (ARZ leads with 148, and have a slight edge in the win column), and the output against the Mets and Rockies (in the win on Wednesday), and (to a point) the Nats is a good sign. The Cubs still maintain a lead in overall BA (.285) and OBP (.371, tied with the Cards), as well. The hard hitters continue to get hits, altough, toward the end of the week, things did drop off a bit overall--but, more on this later.
Starting Pitching: Overall, the starters are going deeper into ballgames--Rich Hill (1-0, 3.79 ERA, ND @ COL) had the shortest outing this week, with 5+ IP in the 10-inning win--which translates into a reduced workload for the bullpen. Zambrano (4-1, 2.21 ERA, W @ WSH Mon/Sat) , in 2 starts, went 7 innings each and gave up only one run, further affirming his spot as the ace of the Cubs' rotation. Dempster (3-0, 2.90, ND @ WSH), in his start Thursday, also went 7, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in the loss--an excellent outing, but not quite his best this year. K's are up to end the week as well--Lilly (1-4, 6.46 ERA, L @ WSH Sun) posting a season-high 7 strikeouts in a valiant effort that lacked only offensive backing.
Fielding: Very few miscues this week--only 4 errors for the week--and one excellent grab by Reed Johnson in center field, which everyone has heard about by now. 9 Double Plays were turned (4 in the Monday game vs NYM alone) this week, a pace that will need to be kept close to if the Cubs are to win games. A TP here and there would be nice, but the pitching staff has done well to keep those opporunities to a minimum.
Relief Pitching: Let's face it, Howry (7.15 ERA) isn't quite ready for prime time. He's made progress, yes, but to pop him into a tie game in the 9th is almost irresponsible. The game against the Nats on Friday was quite winnable in extras, if only Marmol of Wood had come in. Even in the wins, the 'pen's performance was lackluster--take Wednesday @ Colorado, for instance, Wuertz gives up two, Lieber another, and Wood the tying run. While only these two games where the 'pen made a difference, it's more than one would like to see early in the season.
Batting w/ RISP: So far this year, this has been a huge weak spot for the Cubs, despite their large offensive output--.244 BA (65-for-266), 11th in NL; BA w/ RISP, 2 out falls under .200, and 12th in the NL. In the losses this week, an improvement here would have made a huge difference, and patience at the plate would alleviate alot of the problems thus far--and likely will be much needed with the upcoming series against Milwaukee and St. Louis. For the sake of comparison, in 2007, the Cubs were 2nd in the NL in BA w/ RISP (.278, tied with LAD), a big push from that coming in the late part of the season, out of necessity to make things happen.
Alfonso Soriano: Lou insists that Sori will be back on Thursday, and batting leadoff. In my last writing, I declared that this is likely a bad idea, and I'll echo the same sentiment now. Based on performance, the best move would be to move DeRosa to the bench for a bit, pop Sori back into left, and keep Cedeno (who's been hot as of late) in for a little while--these moves include position in the lineup, which would have Sori batting 6th (ahead of Cedeno) for a bit. The leadoff spot is a bad place for Soriano to come back to, until we can see he's out of his early-season slump--Reed Johnson is much better suited to it for the time being.
Sean Marshall: Easily the most under-utilized pitcher on staff. So far, he's pitched 5 innings in 8 appearances (less than 1 IP/game); going into his ERA or other numbers really is redundant with such little work. Marshall was a starter last year, and although his numbers weren't the best in '07, an out here or there is far too little work for him to adequately develop. Perhaps sending Howry down to the Minors for a while, and nabbing an extra utility infielder wouldn't be a bad idea, as it would give Marshall a chance to be a bit more than a 'specialist'.
10,000 Wins: It's a nice milestone, yes, but ultimately--who cares? The next 1,000 wins are going to take 10 years or so, and how many of the existing staff are going to be there when it happens? Few, if any. A good passing reference, but let's move on, honestly.
Since Michael Johns left 'Idol'...: The Cubs are 10-5 since DeRosa's pal Michael Johns got the boot from American Idol. Beforehand, they were 6-4, just slightly better. Ultimately, I guess it doesn't really make a difference like I thought it would.
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