Which Cubs Could Make The All-Star Team?

Ladies and gentlemen, your possible 2011 Chicago Cubs All-Star: relief pitcher Sean Marshall. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It's an off day and there isn't much Cub-related news to discuss this morning, so let's look first at where the team stands, and then give some thought to which players (if any) deserve All-Star consideration.

The Cubs are 15-18. At this point last year they were 14-19 and in the middle of a stretch where they lost nine of 11 -- including five games to the Pirates.

So this season, frustrating as it has been, is a minor improvement. The Cubs are 5-6 in one-run games after a horrific first few months in 2010 (15-30 in one-run affairs at the time Lou Piniella slinked home to Florida). One thing the Cubs have not been able to do well this year is win blowout games (five run differences or more). They're 1-5 in such games, the only win and largest margin of victory this year was five runs in this 8-3 win in Colorado on April 16.

This has led to the poor -30 run differential despite being competitive in most games. That "competitive", though, has to translate into "wins" in games like yesterday's and Friday's if the Cubs have any hope to contend in a weak NL Central. Hitting with RISP would be nice. Even a modest winning streak would get this team close to the top of the division; they haven't won more than two straight, but also haven't lost more than four in a row.

So who among this group will make the All-Star team? Don't say "no one", because obviously there has to be at least one. Marlon Byrd's appearance last year won the game for the NL with his terrific throw in the ninth inning from the outfield. Byrd's struggling so far and isn't likely to return.

Starlin Castro got off to a great start, but with his recent slump (7-for-51, only one XBH) he's not likely to be selected unless he goes back to his April level of performance.

Darwin Barney is having one of the better years for an NL second baseman, but he's not on the ballot -- a ridiculous oversight; they need to wait a little longer to pick the players, so you get people who are actually playing the positions on the ballot.

Offensively, the only Cub who's contributing home runs is Alfonso Soriano, but that's about all he's doing -- he's got 11 home runs and only 18 other hits. Kosuke Fukudome? Gaudy batting average (.397), but only three RBI.

So that leaves the pitching staff. Unless one of the starters suddenly starts throwing zeroes at the opposition for four or five consecutive starts, you can forget about a Cubs starter going to Phoenix for the ASG.

Your choice, therefore, probably comes down to Carlos Marmol, who's been good, although not as dominant as he was last September -- or Sean Marshall. Marshall has arguably been the best setup man in the major leagues this year. He has allowed just one earned run in 14 innings and has a 1.00 WHIP. He's got seven holds, if you keep track of such things.

It's only May 9 and entirely possible for another Cub or two to step up and not only be All Star worthy, but help the team win some games. Other setup relievers have made All-Star teams in the past (last year, for example, Evan Meek, Hong-Chih Kuo, Arthur Rhodes and Matt Thornton were non-closer relievers on All-Star teams). Why not Marshall?

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