Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First week illustrates Cubs' strengths and weaknesses

Though it's an admittedly small sample size, the first week (and a day) of Cubs baseball revealed a few positives and a couple big negatives:


Starting pitching
After Zambrano's horrible Opening Day, Dempster, Wells, Silva, Zambrano and Gorzelanny each provided a quality start. Taking out Opening Day, the Cubs' starters had a 1.44 ERA from Wednesday through Sunday. While the back end guys have pitched just one game each, both against Cincinnati, Silva and Gorzo combined to pitch 12 innings and allow just one earned run. If one of these two can come anywhere close to their early success over the entire season, the fifth starter won't be nearly the black hole some feared it would be. In addition, hopefully one of them can provide a boost to the beleaguered bullpen once Lilly returns.

The closer
It's going to be a while before I'm not extremely nervous when Carlos Marmol enters a game with a precarious 9th inning lead, but it must be noted that he converted his first two save opportunities of the season and didn't allow a run in the process. He was very impressive on Saturday, striking out the side to preserve a 4-3 lead.

Hitting for power
The Cubs' 11 home runs ties them for third most in the majors. Ramirez, Byrd and Baker have two each, and Colvin showed his pop with a long home run in his first at-bat of the season. Paging Geovany Soto, paging Geovany Soto ...


Hitting for anything other than power
Unless the ball leaves the yard, the Cubs can't seem to get much done on offense: they had the fewest hits of any team in the majors prior to Monday. The Cubs stranded 25 men on Friday and Sunday combined, and left the bases loaded in the 1st inning Sunday after loading them up with nobody out against a pitcher who had never before pitched professional baseball, meaning major league or minor league. On both Opening Day and Saturday, they scored all of their runs via the long ball. In yesterday's nine-run outburst, all but two runs came on home runs.

Middle relief
Lo, that middle relief. We knew heading into the season that it was a potential problem, and unfortunately it's a BIG problem. The relievers have a 6.30 ERA, ranking them 24th in the majors. They've also walked 13 guys in 20 innings, which is unacceptable.

Remember in 2007 when the bullpen struggled early as Lou tried to figure out where each guy belonged? Well, with a lot of youngsters in the 'pen this year, perhaps some similar experimentation will be required. Whether he'll be able to create a reliable bridge to Carlos Marmol remains to be seen. While Esmailin Caridad has decent stuff, he can't control his slider at all right now and is trying to get by with only a fastball. I don't care if you throw 150 mph (he doesn't), that's not going to work.

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