Breaking Down the Cubs' Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2014 Season
Surprising? Not so much. The Cubs are expected to round out the bottom of the league this season, with all hopes focused on the strength of the team's farm system.
However, the Cubs have also had some positive aspects to their game thus far, including hot starts from shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
Here we break down the Cubs' biggest strengths and weakness in the young 2014 season.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com
Strength: Emilio Bonifacio's Hot Bat
Emilio Bonifacio quite literally had a historic start to this season, hitting safely nine times in his first two games, marking the first time in history that a player has recorded as many hits in two games.
Though not quite as hot as he began, Bonifacio is still leading the team with a .392 batting average and .436 on-base percentage.
Bonifacio does need to cut down on his errors on defense. In 12 games, he has already committed two errors.
Bonifacio's early success pays dividends for the Cubs. Besides the obvious offensive production, his presence also puts some pressure on the team's regular second baseman, Darwin Barney. After Barney posted an abysmal .208 batting average in 2013, the pressure of a hot bat may be exactly the competition that Barney needs to step up his game.
If only there was a way to combine Barney's Gold Glove with Bonifacio's hot bat.
Strength: Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro's Offensive Improvements
Perhaps no other Cubs were under as much scrutiny and pressure entering 2014 than Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
After Castro and Rizzo hit .245 and .233, respectively, former manager Dale Sveum went as far as to mention that the two stars could face being demoted to the minor leagues if their games didn't improve. However, no such event occurred and Sveum was dismissed of his duties.
Luckily for the Cubs, both have had solid starts to the 2014 campaign and have posted similar stats.
After 12 games, Rizzo and Castro are hitting .319 and .300, respectively. Both have two home runs and eight runs batted in.
The success of the two young stars is crucial to the future of the Cubs. With $101 million wrapped up between the two, the team cannot afford for either to struggle.
Strength: Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Travis Wood
Starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Jason Hammel have all started off 2014 on the right foot.
Together they have combined for a 2.28 ERA, .183 opponent batting average and 43 strikeouts in 46.3 innings. They've also given up only 11 walks.
Unfortunately, only Jason Hammel has a winning record, at 2-0 in two starts. Samardzija and Wood both stand at 0-1 with three and two games started, respectively.
The role is not unfamiliar to returning starters Wood and Samardzija. The two were the only starters to notch over 200 innings pitched in 2013, which was Travis Wood's first All-Star season.
Weakness: Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva
Unlike the three starters previously mentioned, 2014 hasn't been as enjoyable for starting pitchers Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs' respective No. 2 and No. 5 starters have started off 2014 poorly.
In 24 innings pitched, the two have combined to surrender 21 earned runs. They have a combined .359 opponent batting average and a 7.88 ERA.
Even more frustrating is the amount of money that Jackson is being paid for a 6.19 ERA. In the second year of his four-year, $52 million contract, Jackson is making $13 million this season.
He struggled last year as well, posting a 4.98 ERA while making the same amount of money.
Mulligan on that contract, please?
Weakness: Run Production
As mentioned before, the Cubs are second to last in the National League in runs produced with 44 RBI in 12 games. Only the Padres trail with 36.
Take away Rizzo and Castro's 16 runs each and the team has only produced 28 runs in 12 games for an average of 2.33 runs per game.
It's deja vu for the Cubs, who finished ahead of only the Marlins in RBI in 2013.
Cubs fans must remember one thing: The struggle will pay off.
With a loaded farm system, the current trials and tribulations of the team will soon become a thing of the past. Prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant look poised to end the Cubs' offensive and championship drought.