Reader/Contributor Dave Sobie, who goes by Dave S. on the comment board, e-mailed me his grades on the Cubs at the break, and I thought I'd share them with you to see what you think...
2012 Cubs Season First Half Grades
By Dave Sobie
The Cubs are 33-52 at the All Star break. No one expected much from this team this season, in fact 100 loses at the start of the season seemed a possibility. The focus is now on the future of this team, with Anthony Rizzo recently recalled, the additions of Jorge Soler and Albert Almora to the organization, and last year’s draftee Javier Baez there looks to be some talented prospects to look forward to. But I’m going look back to the first half of the season and see how the big league team did. The starting pitching at times has been very good, and after a very rough start the bullpen has settled down a bit, at least up until the 9th inning. The offense has been inconsistent and too often has had difficulties putting runs on the board. So I have compiled a list of surprises and disappointments in the first half, as well as given each player a grade.
Biggest Surprise Pitcher: Travis Wood. He has pitched much better than his record indicates. He has won his last four starts and has been up to the task against some of the best pitchers in the game (Santana, Verlander, Peavy) over the last month. He has bounced back well after a disastrous spring training which saw him getting sent down to start the season. At 25 years old looks to be part of the Cubs rotation for years to come.
Biggest Surprise Position Player: Reed Johnson. Not sure how many 4th outfielders in the game today are good as he has been. He has seen his playing time increase as of late, and has been consistently hitting both right and left handed pitching. He has always been a solid outfielder that can play all three spots.
Biggest Disappointment Pitcher: Matt Garza. Supposedly one of the two top starters on the staff, he has taken a major step back this season. Was dominant at times last season but suffered from lack of run support. This season however he has had command issues and has struggled to put hitters away. He has not gone deep enough into games because of ineffectiveness and high pitch counts.
Biggest Disappointment PP #1: Geovany Soto. Seems like decades ago when he was the ROY and an impact player. 6 HR and 12 RBI’s for a guy hitting 6th and 7th in the lineup is one of the biggest reasons this team has struggled to consistently score runs. His OPS of .597 is .016 lower than Campana’s.
Biggest Disappointment PP #1A: Ian Stewart. Only strong defense from Ian kept him from getting a failing grade all together. Out for the season after wrist surgery, he was never a factor in an offense that looked to him for power early in the season.
Shawn Camp A-. From the scrap heap to a major contributor in the bullpen. Has been reliable and a workhorse.
Manny Corpas B Has pitched well in limited non pressure situations
Ryan Dempster A- Nothing short of spectacular in what will likely be his last season as a Cub. His 1.99 ERA is second in the majors, and only a couple of stints on the DL cost him a spot on NL All Star team.
Rafael Dolis D+ Pitched well earlier in the season, even got a shot a closing in May. Control issues and a possible lack of confidence cost him. Sent down to AAA, has pitched sparingly since his return. At 24, he is still considered part of their future in the bullpen.
Matt Garza D See above.
Paul Maholm C+ He has been a solid #5 starter. Got off to a rough start in his first two games but has a 3.70 ERA since.
Carlos Marmol D Has shown brief flashes of vintage Marmol, but has looked way too much like last year’s model. 28 walks in less than 26 innings with a WHIP of 1.87 aren’t getting the job done. He is virtually untradeable with his high salary.
James Russell A- Similar to Camp, James has been a real bright spot in the pen. He has been a reliable 7th and 8th inning reliever and has been effective against both lefties and righties.
Jeff Samardzija B- At times he has looked like a front line started, and other times he has struggled. He is already at a career high in innings pitched, so fatigue may be a factor. He looks to be part of their rotation for the next few years.
Chris Volstad F 0-7, 7.94 ERA and the team is 0-9 in his starts. He has looked good during some games, but then completely falls apart and takes the team right out of the game.
Travis Wood B+ See above
Steve Clevenger B- Made the team after a solid spring, hitting left handed helped too. Hit well early, spent quite a bit of time on the DL with an oblique strain. Slumped a bit since coming back, but is light years better offensively than Koyie Hill.
Geovany Soto F See above
Jeff Baker C+ Grade could have been much lower but has been hitting much better as of late. He really struggled early on against lefties for a guy who has kept his job in MLB feasting on southpaws.
Darwin Barney B Very solid defensive second baseman, he must improve on his 18 BB’s and .304 OBP. His 17 doubles leads the team.
Starlin Castro B He has taken a giant step forward defensively this season, especially the last two months. His footwork at short and turning the double play have dramatically improved. Average is bit down, and 12 walks for a guy now hitting in front of Rizzo needs to change. It will be exciting to see him and Rizzo get hot at the same time.
Anthony Rizzo INC Too small of a sample size to grade so far, but looks to be a fixture in the heart of The Cubs lineup for years to come.
Ian Stewart D- See above
Luis Valbuena C+ A lot better defensively than advertised, he has been given the chance to play every day after the season ending injury to Stewart. He has shown some pop and has gotten a few big hits; he must improve his OBP to warrant the playing time. He looks to be a possible valuable utility infielder.
Tony Campana C He’s tough to grade because his playing time has dwindled the last month or so, he still remains a valuable asset to have on the bench because of his speed.
David DeJesus B- He has been a solid addition to the club this season. He has been platooned lately, but still has a very respectable .359 OBP as a leadoff hitter. He has also been better than average in a tough right field at Wrigley, it’s too early to tell about the center field spot he has moved to now.
Reed Johnson A- See above
Bryan LaHair B Might make a lot of people’s list for biggest surprise, but I expected him to hit well. He has shown both patience and a good eye at the plate, he seemed to be in a hitters count almost every at bat earlier in the season. He has not hit left handers well, so has seen his playing time drop lately. Will see how he handles the switch to the outfield and if he can make the adjustments at the plate to be a better than average MLB hitter. An All Star and great story of perseverance.
Joe Mather C- He was not expected to make the team but hard to leave off after an outstanding spring training. Joe has been a non-factor most of the season.
Alfonso Soriano B After not hitting a home run until May 15th he now has 15 to lead the team. He isn’t worth the 18 million a year they are paying him, but he is having a pretty good year. His defense has improved despite playing with aching knees; Dave McKay has been getting a lot credit for working with him in the outfield starting in spring training. He has made himself somewhat attractive to contenders, although it is still not likely he can be moved with two years left on his contract.
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