The Cubs begin May 3 with an average—at best—record of 13-13 and find themselves 4.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals (17-8) in the National League Central.
Starting pitching remains the team’s strong suit. But if you haven’t noticed, the Cubs—outside of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez—are starting to hit.
Chicago spent the first two weeks of the season at the bottom of nearly every major offensive category, but the team is now second in the National League in hitting at .278. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks (.476) have a higher slugging percentage than the Cubs (.445).
There’s no reason to believe the Cubs will continue to hit at this kind of pace, but it’s closer to what many expected from one of the more talented lineups in the NL—at least on paper.
If the hitting continues at even a fraction of this pace and the pitching stays on course, Chicago should have no problem keeping above .500 in a weak NL Central—outside of the Cardinals.
For your enjoyment, here’s a collection of stats of the first month-plus from a .500 ball club.
Hit parade: Ryan Theriot leads the NL with 39 hits. Marlon Byrd is second with 35.
Strong start: In 2009, Kosuke Fukudome hit .338 with four home runs and 14 RBI in April. He finished the year with 11 home runs and 54 RBI. This April, Fukudome batted .344 with five home runs and 16 RBI.
Lou Piniella likes to share: Fukudome has played in all 26 games this year. Byrd has played in 25, and Alfonso Soriano and Tyler Colvin have both played in 24.
Around the bases: Soriano and Byrd are second in the NL with 15 extra-base hits.
Six-hole magic: Batting in the sixth spot, Soriano is on pace to hit 37 home runs, score 93 runs, and drive in 105 RBI. He's also on pace for 93 strikeouts, which would be his lowest ever in a full season.
Base hogs: Geovany Soto leads the NL with a .487 OBP. Fukudome is third with a .438 OBP.
Hit-men not hitting: Lee and Ramirez aren’t in the top 10 of any major offensive category. That’s not good when seven of the team’s 13 losses have come by one or two runs.
League leaders: The Cubs have three of the top 10 NL leaders in batting average (Theriot, Byrd, and Fukudome) and four in the top 15 (Soriano).
Nasty stuff: Carlos Marmol is third in the NL with 17.76 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s struck out three batters in four of his 10 appearances and two or more seven times.
Biz Z big in the ‘pen: Chicago is 3-0 in games that Carlos Zambrano has appeared in as a reliever. Zambrano is 12th in the NL with 4.20 pitches per plate appearance.
Overworked: Sean Marshall has made the third most appearances in the National League with 14, and John Grabow has made the sixth most with 13.
Can’t get any relief: Opposing batters are hitting .349 against Grabow. In 30 games with the Cubs in 2009, opposing batters hit just .209 off the lefty. Grabow walked 12 batters in 25 innings with the Cubs in ’09, but he has already allowed five walks in 9.2 innings this year.
Dealing: Cubs starting pitching ranks fourth in the National League with a 3.60 ERA. The bullpen ranks ninth with a 4.52 ERA. Cubs starters have logged 157.1 innings so far. Only the St. Louis Cardinals (165.2 innings) have more.
Quality and quantity: Ryan Dempster is eighth in the NL with 35.2 innings pitched and has the second most quality starts with four. Carlos Silva also has four, and Randy Wells has three.
Award-worthy: Wells has the third highest K/BB ratio in the National League at 5.40. Only Roy Halladay (9.75) and Tim Lincecum (6.14) are better.
No free passes: Silva has walked only six batters in 31 innings, which is 20th best in the NL.
WHIP it good: Dempster (0.98), Silva (1.00), and Gorzelanny (1.10) are all in the top 15 among starters for WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in the National League.
Blowing up: Chicago has the third most blown saves in the NL with four. Marmol has one.
Throwing it away: Cubs pitchers lead the league with eight errors.