It can be silly to try and evaluate a team after just one series.
I have no choice but to do it anyway.
Coming out of spring training, I thought I could count on a few things from this team.
They were going to have much improved starting pitching and defense, aggressive base running, and a very questionable bullpen. So far check, check, and check.
The starting pitching has even exceeded my expectations. Yes, runs are at a premium so far this season around baseball, and the wind did keep some of Ryan Dempster’s pitches in the park. However, this staff will carry this team if Jeff Samardzija is anywhere as near as good as he was today.
I was among the doubters regarding moving Samardzija out of the pen. I figured he had found his spot after having a nice run as a late inning guy last season. Why mess with him again? Well, he came out this spring with something to prove and admitted Sunday that he is pitching with an added purpose.
"I really feel like I have a chip on my shoulders, because I've talked a big game about wanting to start and made it public," Samardzija said. "I don't want to look like an idiot."
I was critical of Samardzija for seemingly having an entitled attitude towards a starting role. I now think he is just a player that has lofty expectations for himself. That attitude can come across differently sometimes.
I wonder if Dale Sveum was slow to commit (starting role) to push Samardzija, looking to take advantage of his ultra competitive nature.
Samardzija could turn out to be one of the surprise keys to this “building” plan. You are now allowed to drool over the possibility that he could join Garza as a young power-pitching duo. Un-foreseen development has a way of making rebuilding plans accelerate.
The defensive improvement this weekend was in your face. Sveum’s star pupil Starlin Castro didn’t disappoint one bit, until his ninth inning miscue today. You even had Alfonso Soriano flashing some leather out there.
The aggressive base running has carried over from the spring and into the season. Count me as surprised. I thought maybe it was just Sveum playing with his new toy in Arizona. It seems he does really like to run. He may have no choice; this offense looks to be very power challenged for now.
The bullpen unfortunately could still stop this team from seeing any improvement in the win column. Carlos Marmol is still anyone’s guess. However, the return of his velocity could be key in the big picture. Kerry Wood probably won’t pitch this bad all season. I do have to wonder if he should have had such a prominent role so far, without really pitching this spring.
It is still very early and guys like Rafael Dolis and some other unknown could step up. Until then, I’m not too worried. Jed Hoyer says the pen is usually a place where you can improve the easiest and the quickest.
Let’s hope Jed can show us how that quick bullpen fix thing works soon.