Not too early to analyze these Cubs

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.


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  • Except for the relief pitching, I'm impressed so far. Especially on the base paths. They're playing smart, aggressive ball. Pushing their advantage. Reminds me of the '89 team who I'm wildly gay for. (That's a feather boa and a Tiger Beat worse than just regular gay.) I don't even mind Soriano getting thrown out at third on that attempted steal since it was an aggressive Soriano, something we haven't seen for awhile. I get the feeling everyone's buying in, which is cool as hell.

    Samardzija and Garza were great, but I'm impressed with Dempster too. He was terrible last April. I've heard a few peeps say a couple of those pitches would have have been gone if the wind isn't blowing in, but that doesn't really mean anything since he was pitching to the conditions trying to induce fly balls. If the wind isn't blowing in, he doesn't throw some of those pitches.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I just want Demp to give us a solid #3, eat up innings, etc. I think he can still do that.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Agree on Demp, he's savvy enough to know how this park works. I think if the wind were blowing out he'd have kept the ball down more.

  • I will gladly take some bullpen inconsistency for now if we get say a good #3 starter out of it meaning Samardzija. He pitched like an ace yesterday so it's certainly not out of the question he can be better than a #3. Man that was fun to watch. The fact that he was throwing harder in the last inning than in any other without losing command is a testament to the type of athlete he is and the condition he's in. Now if we can get Volstad going well like he has looked in spring training we have 3 good starters to build around going forward.

    I love the base running too and I think it will continue. You're right Tom in that a lot of managers stress this and that in ST only to see it dissipate when the season gets going but I think this will be a consistent theme for the Cubs this year. Hiring Dave McKay was a great move and he will help keep it a consistent theme all year.Same thing with Starlin, I expect him to keep improving throughout the season.

    I suspect that the Cubs will look a lot different in September than they do now from a personnel standpoint. No doubt there are some trades coming as we all know and I think at least Brett Jackson will be up here is not a couple of other young guys. I feel confident that they will get the BP settled down somehow and I agree that it's probably the easiest thing to improve. I just hope it doesn't cost us too many games in the mean time. Losing like that casts a pall over the team and might over shadow the good things they are doing.

  • In reply to draco:

    It's a good trade off. I've always like the idea of putting Samardzija in the rotation if you think he can be a #3 starter or better. Judging from his stuff and command yesterday, that doesn't seem out of the question.

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    Tom, speaking of defense, I also thought Stewart got to 2 balls on Sunday that Ramirez would have just watched go by him. He has very quick athletic hands. After choking down the bitterness of the first two games, I too am still hopeful. Woody will get back on track. Dolis looks to be ready for the show and where was Russell? Looking forward to see how Volstad does tonight.

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    Stewart's glove play yesterday was one of the biggest things I picked up on. The diving stop would have been a double last year - no way Ramirez makes that play. Even if Aramis could have stopped it, he never really was a throw-from-his-knees third basemen. At least, not with that kind of accuracy. Now we need for his offense to catch up a bit (though he did have a key insurance RBI).

    Also surprised that we haven't seen Russell yet. He may be the most reliable known arm in that bullpen as of right now, what with the struggles of Wood and Marmol.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Urge, don't forget he would have crushed a Sheffield shot if it weren't for that crazy wind on Thu. Also surprised we haven't seen Russell.

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    I love, love a 3b who can pick it, and Stewart has not let me down!

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    The one play where Stewart dove and threw from his knees was phenomenal.

  • The bullpen is tricky because you don't wan't to allocate a lot is resources there, volatility of performance being the biggest reason. Additionally, there is trend in baseball that dictates you can build pens on the cheap from discards, internal failed SP types, etc. I'm beginning to question what is now "conventional wisdom" around the game. The pen is an integral part of your staff and I think it can be a bit foolhardy to assume it'll just "work itself out". That being said, I'm not advocating Papelbon deals-per se. I will say that I find Dolis to be pretty interesting.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I'm completely on board with this. Bullpen is just the easiest part of your team to build. Can find some cheap effective ones in FA and in the minors you have plenty of starter prospects who will wind up in the bullpen. Cubs need to worry about other things first.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, given the Cubs' current situation, I'm on board with this approach. My point is more towards a more competitive team that might adopt this approach and get torched by it. BOS is exhibiting EARLY signs of being such a team.

    With respect to CHC, there is no better & easier way to experiment on a developing club ,than your pen.

  • Unleash the Lendy!!

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Cubs have several games in a row now. I think we'll see Castillo and Russell in the next couple of days. Dolis is rested as well.

  • I am fearful Wood may be at the end of the line, hope not but.....

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    He's had a long career with lots of injuries. It wouldn't surprise me if he's reaching the end. On the other hand, he's still dealing 95 mph heat, so arm seems okay.

  • my neighbor's mom makes $62 hourly on the computer. She has been out of a job for six months but last month her income was $17736 just working on the computer for a few hours. Here's the site to read more lazycash42.c()m







  • Two words describe to Cubs.... "Misguided Confidence".

    It shouldn't take too many guesses to figure out which two players I'm talking about but here's a hint... I can't throw strikes with any goody on 'em so I either walk everyone or throw meat up there that gets pounded.

    The batters all know this so the they just wait to walk or get something fat. Hopefully management realizes this quickly.... this is a team that should actually be 3-0, not 1-2.

    On the plus side Dolis looked like a bona-fide major league pitcher in his one outing. I hope to see him again soon rather than either of the above, who have me cringing whenever they enter the fray.

  • Here are some facts following this weekend about why we shouldn't hit the panic button just yet:

    Cubs: 1 win 2 losses

    Yankees: 0-3
    Red Sox: 0-3
    Braves: 0-3
    Angels: 1-2
    Phillies: 1-2
    Giants: 1-2

    Orioles: 3-0
    Mets: 3-0

    Kinda wacky weekend. This is gonna be a great summer!

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    That puts things in perspective!

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    At the end of the day, all I care about was Shark's performance yesterday. It is what this season is about. We can win 70ish games and still have a successful season!

  • What impressed me most about Samardzija yesterday was that there was movement on all his pitches. Also, starting with spring training, his ability to avoid walks is significant. Don't forget, he doesn't have the wear and tear on his arm of most 27 year old pitchers. He lost a lot of pitching time in his youth playing football. That's a good thing today. It's also the reason it took him so long to develop. That and mishandling by the Cubs staff.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    Great point about Samardzija's fresh arm. Cubs have to keep it that way by not letting him throw 200+ innings this year. He's a big strong kid, but that's a big jump. Then again, it didn't seem to affect Dempster much, so who knows?

  • this might sound really bad, but im pretty happy that our bullpen has been so bad.

    my hope is to get the lowest draft pick possible, while the players that we need to play well are playing well at the same time. the only player on our team who is currently losing trade value is marmol, and he will be provided with chances to help rise that back up. every other player that we possibly might look to trade has been playing pretty well so far. it takes multiple drafts to rebuild a farm system and the higher pick we have in consecutive drafts, the easier that process becomes. also the new CBA has made it so draft position is even more important than normal.

    i dont see the bullpen as a long term problem. dolis looks to be our closer of the future, russell is solid, belliveau is gonna be coming up some time this season. those are 3 solid arms that project to be in our future bullpen. then u throw in the likes of casey coleman, nick struck, chris rusin and jay jackson. all of those guys have the potential to be starters, but im pretty sure all of them project to be 4th and 5th type starters so theres a great chance that 1 or 2 of them are traded, 1 of them ends up starting somewhere (maybe not with the cubs) and 2 of them end up in the pen. john has pointed out a few times that colemans stuff/velocity seems to be better coming out of the pen. and of course u cant forget lendy castillo

    if we use these guys to predict our future bullpen situation it looks like this

    closer - dolis
    8th inning- russell(L), castillo
    7th inning- belliveau(L), jackson
    situational guy- struck, (insert kerry wood like veteran here)
    long reliever- coleman

    although obviously im sure it wont work out exactly like this, the bullpen as constructed above would cost very little considering the service time of the players listed. this would allow us to reallocate some money to the rotation or another area of need.

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    In reply to jshmoran:

    dont forget the guys with arguably better stuff than everyone on your list John Maine John Gaub and Alberto Cabrera. cubs are looking good in the bp for the future

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Hey Marcel, John Gaub was claimed by Tampa after the Cubs tried to sneak him through waivers.

  • As noted, way too early to talk about this stuff, but SP has been phenomenal, RP is fixable, and so far so good for LaHair, Castro, & Soriano. 3 guys with some pop could start to change some attitudes about the team being offensively challenged. Although there have been a few unfortunate/unexpected errors (Stewart on Opening Day and Castro yesterday), overall the defense has looked much better than the last few years. Winning a few series should instill some confidence, so lets go beat the Crew!

  • Let's beat the crew but cheer for Ramirez. Overall, the best Cubs player of the last decade.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    Doubtful, you may be right, but the fans soured on him over the past few years.

  • Yeah, I kinda doubt that Ramirez gets cheered unless he boots a couple of plays at third base. As productive as he was, he was still not a player that I would buy a jersey for, if that makes sense. I just tired of continual slow starts, and only heating up when the club was out of contention. As a parent of a young son, I keep looking for players that I would like for my son to follow growing up. Ramirez just didn't fit that bill.

  • O may sound like a bit of a curmudgeon on this board, but it is of no consequence to me if the Cubs start the year 1-9 and end the year with 98 or 105 losses, of if they pull off incremental gains and go 83-79.

    What is important at this point in the development cycle is that the front office puts the right building blocks in place for sustained, repeatable excellence.

    On the 25 man roster are very few long term pieces that fit the mold of achieving sustained excellence.

    I understand that cub fans (and sports fans for that matter), have a need to ruminate and play arm chair GM, but I pay attention to what actions the franchise is taking to get and stay at the next level.

    In 2012, we are not close to getting to that next level...not by a long shot.

    There is still a lot of work to do before we can start looking forward to year in and year out chances of making the post season.

    This year, more often that not, we will be the doormat.

  • I coached a traveling baseball team for a very long time. I told the kids I would rather have 9 David Eckstine(sp) types than 9 Ramerizes. Effort, attitude and heart are the three things a coach cannot teach. We can teach you where to be etc but we cannot teach eah. You can be very average and be a good player but if you have all the talent in the world and do not put forth the effort we do not want you.

  • In reply to John:

    Just wrote an article on two minor league players you might like.

  • I agree that for young kids he may not have been the ideal role model. But Ramirez was THE best 3B the Cubs have had since Santo retired. And it's not even close. He may not have been the best defensive 3B (hence the reason Hendry brought in good defensive 1B like Derrick Lee). But boy could he hit. For power, average, RBIs, etc. Think back to the Gary Scott's of the world and then tell me Ramirez should be booed. I agree that for a rebuilding team and for an organization that puts a premium on defense he wasn't a fit. But I'll look back on his days with the Cubs and remember how nice it was to have a borderline All-Star 3B for a 9 year stretch.

  • Oh and for the record a certain Hall of Fame 2B that played for the Cubs in the 80s and 90s ALWAYS started off slow. It's a marathon not a race. If we're judging players for their hot starts than Tuffy Rhodes would be in the HOF instead of being an answer to a trivia question and an afterthought.

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