Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Well, what did you expect?

We've reached the "halfway" point of the baseball season, and that means it's time to look back at the Cubs' performance thus far. We're going to take a look at the individual players, and in this analysis, like in life, it's all about expectations. For this reason, the following is brought to you by Dennis Green:

They are who we thought they were!!

Ryan Theriot: A solid top-of-the-order contact hitter. But 7 HR? Theriot must have BALCO's number on speed dial (kidding).

Derrek Lee: Whether Lee fits into this category actually depends on your levels of optimism and patience. A month into the season, I would have penciled him in for about 12 HR and a .265 BA. But it turns out, he is who we though he was at the beginning of last year.

Kosuke Fukudome: A hot starter with a penchant for dropping off the table when the temperature hits 75.

Koyie Hill: A backup catcher.

Ted Lilly: A great signing by Hendry. Top-notch left-handed innings-eater (enough hyphens for ya?).

Sean Marshall: Reliable, do-what-the-team-needs lefty. Has been better than expected out of the 'pen.

Kevin Gregg: Serviceable closer. Has 16 saves in 19 chances.

Aaron Heilman: Not-so-great reliever who walks too many people.

Carlos Zambrano: A bit frustrating at times, but gets the job done in the end.

They aren't who we thought they were! (the good version)

Angel Guzman: Not many Cubs have exceeded expectations, but Angel Guzman has been a godsend out of the 'pen. His 2.60 ERA has given Lou another reliable late-inning arm.

They aren't who we thought they were! (the bad version)

Milton Bradley: .321, 22, 77. Recognize those numbers? Those are Bradley's numbers last year with the Rangers. .243, 6, 21. Surely you recognize those. He needs to step it up, and he's not alone.

Aramis Ramirez: Well, we did think he was injury prone, but the fact that he missed two months means we have not had his big, clutch bat in the middle of the lineup like we expected.

Alfonso Soriano: .233 BA (lowest in any prior season: .268). 14 HR and 33 RBI (averages 36 and 93). But, he has stayed healthy! (Unless, of course, he's actually hurt and that's why he looks so terrible.)

Mike Fontenot: Won the 2B job after batting .305 last season. Batting .230 this year.

Geovany Soto: From Rookie of the Year to struggling, injury prone disappointment. Is the WBC at fault?

Aaron Miles: From my season preview: "He's scrappy and I like him." Never mind.

Ryan Dempster: Most of us didn't expect a repeat of his 17-6 performance last year, but he's got an ERA over a run higher and just five wins.

Jeff Samardzija: Made some waves last year, hoping to build on it this year. Not so much.

Rich Harden: Career ERA 3.47. 2009 ERA 5.47. But he's batting .304!

Carlos Marmol: I know, I know, his ERA is 3.64, but I can barely watch the guy any more with his 42 BB in 42 IP.

Who the hell are they?

Randy Wells: Nabbed by the Blue Jays as a Rule 5 last year, it sure is nice that we got him back. Two more quality starts than Harden.

Sam Fuld: Put his name on the radar screen last year, and has brought some energy to a listless left field this year.

Jake Fox: An up-and-coming prospect for several years, and now we know why. The ball just jumps off his bat.

Micah Hoffpauir: His average has slipped to .244, but his 8 HR and 25 RBI have provided some pop.

So that's how the Cubs stack up in relation to my expectations. It's obviously not good that there are so many players who have failed to meet expectations, but it could bode well for the second half. Teams that are in the playoff race due to guys playing out of their minds have to worry about them coming back to Earth. The Cubs just need to find a way to get guys like Soriano and Bradley back to this solar system in order to break away from the .500 mark and make a run in what to this point has been a very weak division.

The Cubs have the fourth best ERA in the league despite Zambrano and Harden spending time on the DL and the fact that they've used 14 relievers. If Marmol gets his act together, Guzman settles in again and guys like Samardzija and Stevens can contribute, the Cubs can add a solid bullpen to a strong rotation and continue to shut down their opponents' offense in the second half.

On the offensive side ... well, it was offensive. The Cubs' $214 million outfield of Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley has combined for 81 RBI; Ramirez checks in with just 17 due to the time he missed with an injury; and Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright and Aaron Miles were as useless as a catcher with no mitt. The lineup has seen more position changes than Ron Jeremy, and without Derrek Lee the Cubs would likely be out of contention by now.

But, with Reed Johnson and Aramis Ramirez back (and Milton Bradley says he's back too), combined with the emergence of guys like Jake Fox and Sam Fuld, perhaps Lou will be able to find a lineup that clicks as we head into the second half. There's nowhere to go but up for the offense, and even a slight improvement--even if it's just an improvement with runners in scoring position--should enable the starters to rack up the wins they deserve.

It was a first half of mediocrity, averageness, ordinariness ... fill in your own synonym here. The Cubs went 43-43 and outscored their opponents by two runs. It wasn't what we expected to see, to say the least, but with the Cubs needing to lose just one fewer game than the Cardinals in the second half, there's a lot to look forward to.


  1. Awesome report card. Apparently you're a bit more of an optimist than me...I didn't expect Lilly to perform nearly this well. After a couple years in the NL, I thought batters would know what to look for. This is also about what I expected out of Dempster; last year just seemed too good to be true.

    With Soriano now out of the lead-off spot (and knocked off his pedestal by Lou) and a resurgent Milton Bradley, I have a lot of hope for the second half. Lee and Ramirez don't have to carry this team, but they do have to anchor it with consistency and hard-nosed play.

  2. Let's shine in the balance of '09 ... Go Cubs!