There hasn’t been too much to cheer about on the north side of Wrigley, as the Chicago Cubs have been at the bottom of the NL, something many had predicted at the start of the season. The Cubs are off to their worst start since 2002, and despite the recent five-game winning streak, there isn’t a whole lot to brag about.
The Cubs are dealing with a couple changes at the closer role after the failure of reliever Jose Veras. Veras was designated for assignment after being pushed back to a middle reliever role, leaving the young Hector Rondon as the new 9th inning man for the Cubs. Rondon has 2.45 ERA and has saved 7 games this season with 9 opportunities. Rondon doesn’t seem like a permanent solution to the situation, and now we have to wonder if President of Operations Theo Epstein will look to correct that with a mid-season acquisition.
The shining examples on the team might be players like Jeff Samardzija. Don’t let Samardzija’s record fool you, he has the 7th best ERA in NL at 2.54 and has been one of the more consistent starters in the rotation. Also starting to pick up in the order is starter is Jason Hammel, who has a 6-3 record and a 2.53 ERA in 12 starts this season. While Samardzija isn’t getting the run support he deserves for his starts, Hammel ha been doing well for himself and has proved himself a big help in the fairly poor rotation, as struggles in the ERA category start to haunt pitchers like Travis Wood (5.04) and Edwin Jackson (4.59). Jake Arietta has also started to show promise since coming off the DL earlier this year, going 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA in 7 starts.
On the offensive side, guys like Anthony Rizzo, Junior Lake and Starlin Castro have been leading the way for the Cubs. Rizzo leads the Cubs in average (.276), on-base percentage (.403), home runs (12) and RBIs (33). Lake and Castro have had their recent hot streaks as of late too, making them so the key offensive players as well.
After all this, the Cubs are still far from contenders though, as they place near the bottom in most categories in the league. The team together is 29th in batting average, 27th in runs, and 27th in on-base percentage. In pitching, the Cubs are 10th in ERA, but are 28th in saves, recording 11 saves in 23 opportunities.
It’s clear that the Cubs need to make major changes at the offensive level, needing to score a lot more runs to even show a little progression in what seems to be another rebuilding season. Whether the Cubs will make the changes to the offense with new deals, call-ups from young prospects (look for Javier Baez to get the send-up sometime this season) or in free agency, major changes need to be seen. As for the closer role, Rondon is not a solution, and the Cubs need to make changes with new talent if they want to get more saves for later.
Overall, I will give the Cubs a D for the 2014 campaign so far, as there are really no signs of contention with teams like the Brewers or Cardinals, but there are still signs that the Cubs can make some improvements.