Record in April: 12-14
Overall record: 12-14
The Cubs had what I consider to be a disappointing opening month of the season. They played 5 series' against teams that should battle for a top 5 draft pick in the 2012 first year player draft: Pittsburgh, AZ (twice), Houston, and San Diego. For the Cubs to surprise this year, they needed to clean up against some of baseball's shittiest squads. Mission sort of accomplished. Despite another maddening series loss to the Pirates in the season's opening weekend, the Cubs went 9-6 against these very bad teams.
Of course the Cubs also played some good teams this past month, and in those series' they had their asses handed to them. In 11 games against the Brewers, Dodgers and Rockies, the Cubs went a discouraging 3-8. Their performance against good teams is especially disheartening considering the bear of a May schedule the team faces. After tomorrow's series finale against AZ, the Cubs won't face a bad team until May 24, when the Mets come to Wrigley. In the interim, the Cubs get series' against the Dodgers, the Reds, Ratbirds, the Giants, the Reds again, the Marlins, and then have to travel to Boston to play the Red Sox.
Injuries: I would be remiss if I didn't address the injuries that limited Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to 1 start a piece this past month. In their stead, the Cubs have been forced to use replacement level starter Casey Coleman and LOOGY-turned-human gopherball machine James Russell in the rotation. That's gone about as well as could be expected. This while fat, malcontent jackass Carlos Silva counts his undeserved millions while not pitching for the Yankees' AAA squad. ::Ahem:: The Cubs should get Wells back by the middle of May, which should help solidify what has been a struggling rotation. Still no word on when Cashner will be back, and the Cubs appear to want to be extra cautious with his arm. I don't blame them.
Starlin Castro: Starlin has been the best position player on the team in this young season. It seems like every ball that comes off of his bat is a line drive. Forget about the future: This kid is a superstar right now. I want to renew my call for the Cubs to lock him up long term before he hits salary arbitration. The sooner they sign him, the cheaper it'll be.
Alfonso Soriano: Soriano finished April with a flourish, hitting 3 HR in the final two games of the month. A 10 HR April set a new club record for the month. Sori is healthy and mashing, and if he can keep the injuries at bay, he looks certain to top the 30 HR mark for only the second time in his five seasons as a Cub. Naturally, he'll be booed the next time he strikes out at home.
Matt Garza: Despite an ERA of about 4, Garza has been a revelation in the rotation. He finishes April leading the major leagues in strikeouts. He has also seemingly become a ground ball pitcher, which should help him sustain his success during the hot summer months when fly balls routinely end up on Sheffield Ave. Only an extremely high (and unsustainable) .414 BABIP against has inflated Garza's earned run average. That will come down as a matter of course, and we'll be left with a pitcher that is doing everything he can to be successful.
Carlos Pena: Pena didn't hit a home run in April. His OBP was below .300. He flat out sucked. The Cubs signed this guy for his potent combination of power and patience. If he's not hitting for power and he's not reaching base, the team might as well cut its losses and start Tyler Colvin at 1B. At least he has some upside. I think the Cubs will give Pena through mid May to turn it around. If his numbers continue to lag, he should be transitioned out of the starting lineup.
Ryan Dempster: What a horrendous month. Dempster posted a 9.58 ERA in the month of April, after allwoing over 2 and a half homers per 9 innings pitched. The coaches are all insisting that Dempster is healthy and his mechanics look fine, so I'm cautiously willing to chalk this up to a string of terrible luck. If it continues, Dempster may suffer a phantom injury that will allow him to work things out while on the DL, rather than on a major league mound.
Conclusion: The Cubs are a flawed team and played a month of flawed baseball. I expect they'll be 6 or 7 games below .500 by Memorial Day, and the crowds at home will be angry and unruly. Jim Hendry will still have a job, which will make me angry and unruly. Viva Darlin' Starlin Castro!