Kap's Corner

The Latest on the Cubs, Zambrano, etc....

With the Cubs record now back to .500 at 13-13 and a 6 game road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati up this week it's time to take a critical look at the team and some of the issues that they are facing in the fairly near future.

Before I go position by position I feel it necessary to address Phil Rogers "Morning Phil" column on the Chicago Tribune website today. Phil addresses the hot streak that Alfonso Soriano is currently in and says:

1. Forgive us, Alfonso. We should know better, but how quickly we all forget. When Bob Brenly, David Kaplan and seemingly everyone following the Cubs was treating Alfonso Soriano with something between contempt and ridicule for failing to run hard out of the batter's box on a blast to the wall April 20 at Citi Field in New York, they missed the bigger picture: Soriano was showing signs of become a dangerous hitter again.

Well, Phil you are showing an incredible lack of understanding of how the game is supposed to be played. Sure, Soriano is red hot and he is carrying the team but you have once again missed the much bigger picture. There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact. You can defend his lack of hustle all you want but if it is no big deal then why was he pulled into Lou Piniella's office after that game in New York and talked to about the play? Are you telling me Phil that when he hustled a double into a triple the next night that it had nothing to do with the tongue lashing he received from his manager less than 24 hours earlier?

C'mon Phil, I know that you are smarter than that. Reading this it sure doesn't show it though.

Now, onto an assessment of the Cubs through the first month or so.

Starting Pitching

With Carlos Zambrano now in the bullpen as a set up man the rotation has stayed surprisingly solid through the first month. Carlos Silva has been solid and Tom Gorzelanny has been very capable in the #5 spot. Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells have been excellent and if not for the failings of the bullpen prior to Zambrano's arrival the Cubs record would be far better than 13-13. Ted Lilly has had one good start and one poor one so it is far too early to pass judgment on his long term prognosis this season. While the back end of the rotation has been a pleasant surprise you still cannot convince me that the rotation is better without Zambrano and I fully expect him to return to his role as a starter at some point this season. Unless of course the Cubs make a major trade that includes Big Z.

Bullpen

With 3 rookies on the opening day roster it is not hard to understand why the Cubs pen struggled so mightily in April. Combine that fact with the struggles of John Grabow and you can see why the record is what it is. Will Zambrano be the steadying influence that bullpen needs to vault the Cubs into contention? He can be if he is willing to commit himself to the role and if the Cubs rotation stays solid. If one of the 5 starters struggles then Zambrano will go back to the rotation and the hole in the set up role will again become a glaring weakness. Look for Jim Hendry to make a trade to shore this area up but with very little trade activity in the industry over the season's first 45-60 days it may be a while before deal gets done unless the Cubs GM is willing to significantly overpay.

Infield

The corner spots have been an issue offensively but Derrek Lee is showing signs of breaking out of his April slump and should be a solid force going forward. Ryan Theriot has been outstanding offensively hitting .348 and while he is not a Gold Glove shortstop he is more than solid at the position. Aramis Ramirez has been awful through the first month but based on his career numbers you have to believe that he will return to form as a very potent offensive threat. If he doesn't then the Cubs have major issues because his production is irreplaceable from the backups currently on the roster. Second base has been a pleasant surprise offensively as Mike Fontenot is hitting over .300 but can that continue for an entire season remains to be seen. The Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro is currently hitting .354 in Class AA but he is 5 for his last 35 at the plate so it appears he is in line for at least another few weeks of seasoning before he could make his major league debut. When he does look for Ryan Theriot to move over to 2nd base on an everyday basis.

Outfield

With all five outfielders on the roster deserving of playing time this is perhaps the toughest part of Lou Piniella's job. Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome have all hit well but Tyler Colvin also is producing and has more than justified Piniella's faith in him when he put him on the opening day roster. Xavier Nady is a professional hitter and is not happy with his lack of playing time but with his surgically repaired elbow still an issue and the outfielders hitting well it has made opportunities for him to play scarce.

Catcher

A position of strength as Geovany Soto has rebounded from an awful 2009 and is a threat again at the plate. He is also throwing well and is a huge upgrade over the production the cubs received behind the plate in 2009. Koyie Hill is a very capable backup and has more than held his own when he gets an opportunity to play.

Summary

So, can the cubs make a run in the NL Central Division? Yes, if their rotation stays solid and the bullpen anchored by Zambrano and Carlos Marmol does its job consistently. Aramis Ramirez has to return to the form that he is capable of because without his bat in the lineup the Cubs have no chance to be solid enough offensively to compete for a playoff spot.

However, this is a station to station baseball team that does not have much team speed so when the wind blows in the Cubs are not very adept at manufacturing runs. They need to string together bunches of hits to score and that is not an easy proposition in the big leagues. I still have major questions about this team and while the past weekend was a solid step in the right direction let's not forget that they were playing the Arizona Diamondback and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Show us some excellent play against some of the better teams in the league and then maybe I'll start to believe.





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7 Comments

Steve said:

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I gotta agree with you Kap. This team is showing signs of returning to their 2008 form, but aram needs to come back. I can think of a couple games already that could have gone a different way if he had hit. II also believe that we can make a run at the division but it will tight. Barring injury, the cardinals will be solid all season so the cubs need to stay right with them. If we cant grab the division, I believe that the wild card wouldnt be out of reach.

Cutsizzle said:

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http://www.chicitysports.com/forum

Would love to invite you Chicago fans to an all Chicago sports messageboard. We could use more posters so check it out and post some with us! Discussion, news, articles for all Chicago teams...Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Sox, B'hawks.

If you love to talk and read about Chicago sports, this is your home!

cc002600 said:

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Kap,

Phil Rogers is without a doubt, the dumbest writer I have ever seen. Another case in point. Remember his constant whining about how dumb the cubs were to not get Curtis Granderson ?? I sent him an email after reading like the 5th article in a week, telling him to stop, you are making a fool of yourself. He was making him out to be the next Willie Mays. The guy is nothing more than a glorified platoon player, that is a strikeout machine.

And now look at him. He's hitting .225, with 2 HR 7 RBI, and he's out for 4 to 6 weeks, all the while, Marlon Byrd is tearing it up.

So next time you talk to the great Phil, ask him how's that Granderson thing working out ?

He's brutal

cc002600 said:

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Kap,

Phil Rogers is without a doubt, the dumbest writer I have ever seen. Another case in point. Remember his constant whining about how dumb the cubs were to not get Curtis Granderson ?? I sent him an email after reading like the 5th article in a week, telling him to stop, you are making a fool of yourself. He was making him out to be the next Willie Mays. The guy is nothing more than a glorified platoon player, that is a strikeout machine.

And now look at him. He's hitting .225, with 2 HR 7 RBI, and he's out for 4 to 6 weeks, all the while, Marlon Byrd is tearing it up.

So next time you talk to the great Phil, ask him how's that Granderson thing working out ?

He's brutal

David Kaplan said:

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Great point! I will reference this on Chicago Tribune Live today!

shawndgoldman said:

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There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact.

Can we please use the word fact in properly... or at least not use it to mean the opposite of what it means? You're stating an opinion, and then claiming it's a fact. This is not something that is hard to learn. And that, my friends, is an opinion.

shawndgoldman said:

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Ugh... grammar police FAIL. I tried to correct that first sentence, but didn't catch it in time.

Kap, I understand the need for you to stir things up, but it's a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people use the word "fact" as you did above.

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