Why do we even bother - The 2011 Cubs at the halfway point

They've played 79 games....eeeeh, close enough.

In situations such as the one your 2011 Chicago Cubs find themselves in, the biggest commodity that needs to be doled out is "blame", although there are some reasons for "praise" as well. 

When discharging your own personal Protected By Our Constitution Assault Weapon of Blame, you may choose to point yours in a different direction than I have.  That just means you're wrong.  Ahh, I kid.

After the jump: Who should we be taking potshots at, and who should be spared?
Fielding: anyone not named Fukudome, Johnson or Pena, please bend over and take your flogging like a man.  This is a horrifically poor fielding team; although most mental decisions have been acceptable, physical limitations and absence of skill has doomed us nearly every game.  Even Fukudome, who came to us with supposedly top-of-the-charts defensive skills, has shown his age, and he doesn't get to balls as he once did.  Remember early in the year, when he pulled a hammy running in on a dying liner?  But he still has sound fundamentals, which is more than everyone else except Pena can claim. 

If fielding is 10-15% of the game, well, based on 79 games played, that's 8-12 losses, right there.

Running: we don't run.  Even against the White Sox, with the failed abortion wearing their catcher's gear, we didn't run all three games.  Those of you who have been on Baldy McGrindy's case for not making aggressive calls, please let me refer you to this weekend's series against KC, when we tried to be a bit frisky, and what?  I think the Royals set a series record for outfield assists?  No?  Oh, my bad.

Hitting: we on this site have been very meek and timid about forecasting great things for our offense.  If you would have told me in March that winter was gonna last until Memorial Day at Wrigley, yet after 79 games, our offense would plate 327 runs, which is a sliver over 4 runs a game, I would have shrugged and said that it was about what I expected.  Weak, but not historically so.  This extrapolates into 683 runs; even more if the June trend continues.

Starlin Castro can hit big league pitching.  And look, he's the benchmark when/if the powers that be decide to bring up 'prospects'.  We talk a lot about giving prospects a fair chance; such as, for example, everyone's little darling, Tony Campana.  Castro hit, practically from day one.  The league adjusted to him; he adjusted back.  League adjusted again; he responded.  THAT'S how a real prospect works.  Guys like Campana hit for a few days; then they plummet back to Earth.  That's not an indicator of real talent.  Tyler Colvin is another example of a so-called prospect who, his 21 homers last year aside, has not truly shown the ability to be impactful.  The league adjusted to him; he rolled over and died.  Fair trial.  Trade his silly ass.

Alfonso Soriano has hit 14 home runs.  Is he worth the money?  Hell naw.  But in my mind he has met my expectation for the first half of 2011.

Same story for Aramis Ramirez.  8 homers, 40 RBI, .290 average.  He worth his money?  Noooo.  But to me, he is meeting his expectation, as well. 

Fukudome hit hard in April and May, and is swooning in June.  Just as he has always done.  Jeff Baker hits lefties; Reed Johnson hits lefties; Blake DeWitt has little power and hits .265, all of which are pretty much what I figured going into this year.

The two outliers on my chart are Carlos Pena and Geo Soto.  (More on them in a minute).  After a miserable start, Pena now has 17 homers, and 42 RBI.  He is hitting over .200, and as a result has a decent OBP.  This is pretty much what the league expected out of him; I expected something less, so he has been a pleasant surprise lately. 

Soto, on the other hand, is only hitting 6 percentage points higher than Koyie Hill.  Ugh lee.  I mean, hey, he hasn't been busted for Mari in his system this year, and he is nowhere near as fat as he was in 2009, when I wanted to beat him with a bludgeon.  But it is clear that he is a man who, unless he maximizes his focus and his commitment to his craft, is a much lesser player than he can be.  Some guys can coast, but he simply cannot. 

All that and, I guess, the Cubs' offense has been pretty much as we figured it would be, and when Barney and Byrd come back to the team this week, it should be good enough to win as many games as they lose, which would be okay given our expectations for this year.

Pitching: Honestly, we all thought this would be, at least early, the strength of the team.  And the back of the pen has been decent; not great, but good enough to win as many games as not.  I even figured it would be what kept us afloat for the first two months. 

Last in baseball in walks, ERA, and WHIP.  Our best starter has a 4.07 ERA.  Last in quality starts; thus, we have the most abused bullpen. 

First of all, remember the rant about prospects?  That applies to Casey Coleman.  Casey, thanks for playing.  You too, Scott Maine and Jeff Stevens.

Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez?  Hey, I accept the fact they were brought to us in a last-ditch effort to remain relevant.  I can't think of any other pitchers who have joined their club in May or June of this year off the scrap heap and have helped.  Once again, thanks guys, for the memories.  There is no reason anymore to keep either of these two mopes.

Randy Wells?  Your attitude and preparation sucks.  Your bus to Iowa leaves tonight, if it were up to me.  Don't look so smug, Samardzija.  I've seen all I care to see of you, too.  Can't start, can't relieve, can you play third base?  Didn't think so. 

Zambrano and Dempster have not provided the leadership or production their status as members of the 8-Digit Club demands.  It really is quite gloomy when everything is added together: poor fielding, middling hitting, and awful pitching. 

Changes have to be made, and as always, the 8-Digit Club always rises to the front when changes are discussed.

The 8-Digit Club: these are the guys making greater than a $10,000,000 annual salary.  That's 8 digits.

It's quite the gathering on the North Side: Zambrano, Dempster, Soriano, Fukudome, Ramirez, Pena.  Am I forgetting anyone?  Well, the Bradley/Silva the Hutt fiasco, of which Ricketts is still paying on.  But that's out of our control.

It is no surprise that the name being mentioned most often lately is Pena as the man who Can be Traded for Much-Needed Young Blood.  He is having the best year out of the six, and he was brought in here to be a one-year band-aid until the Great Prince Fielder and the Even Greater Albert PooHoles became available to stretch the blue pinstripes in their own special ways.

It is utterly ridiculous to even consider signing either one of these guys at this point in time.  Both will require salaries upwards of $25 million annually for a long, long time.  One is huge, the other is old.  If we were one or two players away from contention, then modern conventions say 'go for it'. 

But we aren't, and besides, can we even count on this particular front office to complete a decent trade?  At this point in time, considering the notion that we do not have a major corner infield prospect, I advocate keeping Pena around for another year or two.  Shit, if he'd have us...

If I'm trading someone, I believe that Wellington Castillo could do 90% of the job Geo Soto is doing right now.  If a good value trade could be made for Soto, I'd say make THAT one.

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