Well at least the Cubs aren't doing as bad as the other Chicago baseball team. After one month of play, the Cubs only have a couple pitching injuries that are coming to an end. Other than that, all the players are healthy! But some of them are playing like they are unhealthy. I don't know what the Cubs have planned for Carlos Pena if he continues to have a batting average below .160. I know the weather at Wrigley has been unseasonably cold for April, but three out of the four road stadiums the Cubs have played in has a roof, which should be a benefit to the guy who used to play all his home games under a roof. I would expect the power hitter to have at least, ONE home run by now. I know home runs are not the main goal, but Pena came advertised as a guy to hit a few out of the park. So far, it seems like he strikes out, or pop's out. And when Pena hits a pop-up, it is a mile-high pop-up. Maybe Pena just hasn't found his sweet spot yet, but he found his sweet spot in his webbing on opening day. Pena had a tough act to follow after D-Lee's tenure at first, but Pena has had an outstanding glove. I think Pena should hang around Soriano more in the batting cages to get some of that mojo Soriano has... with 10 home runs! A new Cubs record for April. Hey, Pena has to "conquer the now", right NOW!
One other guy I'm a little concerned about is Marlon Byrd. Byrd is the fan favorite, he has the 110 percent hustle and the glove, but as a middle of the order guy, like Pena, Byrd has yet to hit a ball over the fence. However, Byrd said he feels like his funk is about to end. We'll see what happens.
Some other guys of concern are Tyler Colvin and Ryan Dempster. Here are Colvin's numbers: in 21 games played he has 51 at-bats with 7 hits, 2 are home runs and 3 are doubles, giving Colvin a .137 batting average. I would say Quade could have a difficult decision to make if Colvin's numbers don't improve much in the coming weeks. I hate to say minor leagues but looking at the Iowa Cubs, three players on the team have a batting average above .300, and they are all outfielders: Lou Mantanez (.416 AVG, .688 SLG, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 3 triples which is the most on the club), Tony Campana (.358 AVG, 4 bases stolen, 0 HR, 6 RBI, must be a top-of-the-order guy), and Bryan LaHair (.343 AVG, .642 SLG, 16 RBI, 4 HR which is most on the club). Also, none of the players mentioned from Iowa has an error. I know these numbers don't translate to MLB numbers but that's just a glimpse of the Iowa Cubs after a month of play. Just for fun, outfielder James Adduci of the Smokies has a .371 AVG with 7 stolen bases and two homers and outfielder Brett Jackson leads the Smokies with 8 stolen bases, he's batting .317 with 3 homers and a couple triples.
Ryan Dempster, who was given the role of opening day starting pitcher, has the team's highest ERA of 9.18... that's even higher than the ERA of "College of Pitchers" starting pitcher James Russell: 8.31. As Al mentioned after Demp's start from Thursday, he might have some personal family matters affecting his performance. If that is the case, rectifying that issue needs to be done. It's already bad enough that the Cubs are giving away a game every fifth start in the "College of Pitchers", it'll be even worse if Dempster continues to struggle. It just seems like Dempster gives up a home run at the worst possible time, with the bases loaded, most notably back in the 2008 playoffs, this year's opening day and the game on Thursday.
There have been some pleasant surprises to note. For a while it seemed like Jeff Samardzija needed to find his football gear and apply for the NFL Draft. I think Samardzija's key outing that kind of turned the tide for him was the one he had in game one of the April 20th double-header. Jeff got out of the 10th inning allowing zero runs after his wild pitch put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Then, he got out of the 11th allowing zero runs after the bases were loaded with one out. Last year in those situations, Jeff most likely would have imploded.
Earlier, I mentioned Soriano's surge in home runs. Now, I would like to mention another offensive surge from Starlin Castro. Starlin is everything as advertised. I hope he turns into one of those hall of fame players that stays with one team his entire career... in this case, the Cubs. I noticed Starlin tends to put a lot of pressure on himself and when he fails to produce in a big spot, he smashes his helmet and gets down on himself. How could you blame him, considering how young he is. But what he has done for the club is phenomenal.
Fukudome and Baker have been moving the ball around. As long as Quade keeps an April calendar in Fukudome's locker, he should be producing his April numbers the rest of the season. Despite Baker's average (.386) being higher than Darwin Barney (.351), I think Barney's speed around the bases is what's keeping him in the lineup more than Baker, as well as the Cubs facing more righties than lefties.
With all that said, these guys finished with a 12-14 record in April. The Cubs played 11 games against teams that currently rank 13th or better on MLB.com's Power Rankings (Cubs are lower than 15th). The Cubs went 3-8 against those teams (Brewers, Rockies, Dodgers, Rockies again). The Cubs went 9-6 against teams 16th or worse on the Power Rankings (Pirates, D-backs, Astros, Padres, D-backs again). Just looking in May, the Cubs face teams 15th or better on the current power rankinigs (with the exception of May 1st vs. D-backs) every day until May 24th when the Cubs take on the Mets at Wrigley. These teams include: Dodgers (11th), Reds twice (7th), Cardinals (12th), Giants (15th), Marlins (5th), and Red Sox (9th). So with that information, hopefully the Cubs can go to LA coming off a third straight victory in Arizona today, and keep it going against these tougher opponents.
What do you think of this ballclub so far? Please vote for your favorite Cubs win from April while you ponder those thoughts. After the poll, leave your thoughts about the team in the comments. Happy voting!