Chicago Cubs: Living on a Prayer

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Chicago Cubs:  Living on a Prayer
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Speaking as a Cubs fan, it is amazing to me that this team is only three games behind St. Louis in the NL Central standings. Among all their problems, the two-time defending division champs are still in the hunt for the division crown.

 

The Outfield

The outfield (Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley) combine to earn more than $33 million. Their individual stats just make a Cubs fan sick to his stomach. For how much they're are making, the outfield has definitely been the Achilles heel of his team.

Bradley's stats, halfway through the season, make me ill. He's only batting .241 and has hit six home runs along with only 19 RBI.

To me, those are good stats for April. Not July!

Soriano has been slumping for about a month now. Apparently he has a bad knee. If that is the case, sit him down!

If he's injured, Soriano shouldn't be playing. Place him on the 15-day DL and call up Sam Fuld to take his place. The worst that can happen is Fuld won't hit, either. They aren't losing anything on defense.

Soriano's stats make me sick, too. He's hitting .230 and has hit 14 home runs and only has 32 RBI. His OBP is .292! That sounds like a batting average!

To think Soriano was the leadoff hitter with an OBP of .292. Amazing.

Fukudome has been a bit better as of late. He is showing flashes of what he can do. I know, he should've been showing flashes in April and May and producing now. But if he can get it going now, I'll take it.

Fukudome's stats are a bit better. Fukudome is hitting .242 with six home runs and 26 RBI. The new leadoff man has been hitting the ball pretty well and his OBP is .380. It should be a bit higher, but I'll take it for now, sadly.

 

Hitting

The hitting has been off and on. The people who are supposed to be the big producers, besides Derrek Lee, aren't producing. Geovany Soto, reigning NL Rookie of the Year, is hitting a mere .230 with eight home runs and 27 RBI. That is not acceptable.

Aside from the struggling hitters, there has been some good news. Lee has carried this team.

As of now, Lee is hitting .284 with 16 home runs and 53 RBI. That is pretty good. He's on pace for over 30 home runs and over 100 RBI. I'll take it.

Ryan Theriot is another bright spot in the somewhat struggling lineup of the Chicago Cubs. Theriot is hitting .287 with a surprising seven home runs and 30 RBI.

The power surge of Theriot is enjoyable to watch. He's a young, gritty ball player who can really play well.

Defense

The Cubs need to get back to basics. At least some players do. Milton Bradley is possibly the worst fielder on this team.

I went to a game on July 3, and I was fortunate enough to see him drop a fly ball in the outfield. Someone has to take him and Alfonso to work on shading their eyes from the sun to catch fly balls.

This is getting ridiculous. They're major league ball players for a reason. They should know how to shade their eyes from the sun.

 

Pitching

The pitching has actually been enjoyable to watch. Zambrano did lose to the Braves last night (July 7), but he only gave up two runs. The pitching has always been one of the bright spots, and it continues to be.

As a team, their stats aren't that bad. They have a team ERA of 3.83 and 629 strikeouts. I'll take that.

Ted Lilly has been the best starter on the team. He is 8-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 97 strikeouts. He is more than deserving of his All-Star selection.

The inconsistency of the bullpen scares me. I never know what I will see.

Will I see the Carlos Marmol who throws a nasty slider and can strike out the best hitters in baseball, or will I see the Marmol who can't find the plate?

What about Kevin Gregg? Will I see the Gregg that will blow another save or will I see a Gregg that can pitch two scoreless innings in a row?

This bullpen has the potential to be great. If the starters can give six strong innings, they will win every game with a consistent bullpen.

The Cubs will just need to go Marshall or Guzman, Marmol, then Gregg. Easier said than done, right?

 

Young Guns

The young guys on the team have been so much fun to watch. Jake Fox especially.

Jake Fox, while filling in for the injured Aramis Ramirez, was hitting .310 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 26 games.

Sam Fuld has played well during the six games he’s played in. He has hit .364 with a .462 OBP. Obviously the more he plays the lower the numbers will be.

I have seen him play in the few games; he started for Soriano and he looked good. He ran well, played left field well, and hit well.

Randy Wells has been an absolute stud in the pitching rotation. For his first few starts, Wells didn't get a win. He had a few tough losses and a couple no-decisions due to bullpen struggles about a month ago.

Wells is 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 11 starts. I say Wells is the second best starter in this rotation. He is consistent and gives a quality start every fifth day. I'll take him as the Cubs fifth starter.

 

Final Thoughts/Prediction

The Chicago Cubs will be okay. Through all the frustration and struggles, I think they will win their third division crown in a row. Lou Piniella is one of the best managers ever in the game of baseball. He is a smart guy and will get this team rolling.

For the Cubs to be where they are through all the injuries is amazing to me. If they can be three games out all while not having Ramirez for two months, and juggling the roster with all the 15-day DL stints, I think they will be okay.

If they stay a little healthier and can get Aramis back to 100 percent, they will win this division hands down.

Final record: 88-74

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