I’m pretty sure that no one had high expectations for this team heading into this season, which is a good thing. The Cubs are not a very good team this year. They have very little power in their lineup, their pitching rotation is sub par (with the exception of Garza and Samardzija so far), and their bullpen is a near disaster. But, there have been some bright spots up to this point.
Bryan LaHair has been on a tear to start the season. He is hitting .390 with 5 home runs, and 14 RBI. His 5 home runs lead the team, and he is tied with Starlin Castro for the team-lead in RBI. There were a lot of questions surrounding LaHair heading into this season, with a lot of people wondering if he could perform in the MLB at the level that he had been performing at in the minors. Well, so far he is not disappointing anyone.
Starlin Castro has picked up right where he left off last year at the plate. He is hitting .333 with 14 RBI, and 10 stolen bases. One thing that I would like to see him do is hit for a little more power. Many people have compared Castro to Hanley Ramirez of the Miami Marlins in that both are built similarly from a physical standpoint, and that both have the potential to hit for power. Ramirez has proven that he can hit for power, but Castro has yet to do so. If he could end up averaging anywhere from 15-20 home runs per season as a shortstop over the length of the remainder of his career, his value would sky rocket. Another thing that Castro needs to improve on is his fielding. Last year, he ended the season with 29 errors, which is unacceptable at the major league level. This year through 23 games, he already has 7 errors. He must cut down on his mistakes in the field.
Matt Garza has pitched like an ace through is first 5 starts of the season. He is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.67, 36 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.89. Had he gotten some more run support, or had the bullpen not blown the lead in a couple of his 5 starts, he might have one or two more wins. A lot of teams were coming to the Cubs this off-season with trade offers for Garza, but they held onto him because of the potential that he has to pitch like the way he has been so far.
Tony Campana is back in the big leagues. Although he has only played in 9 games this year, he has had a big impact on just about each game he has played in because of his speed. In those 9 games, he is hitting .370 and is 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts. Just the other night in Philadelphia, he had an infield single, and also bunted for a hit. It has gotten to the point where any ground ball he puts into play, he has a legitimate shot at beating it out for a hit. Infielders on opposing teams literally cannot afford to bobble the ball or make any kind of mistake when trying to throw out Campana at first base. Once he is on base, he is the ultimate threat to any pitcher or catcher. Campana is one of only a few guys in the big leagues who have pitchers and catchers totally distracted while he is on base because of his incredible potential to steal any base at any time.
The Cubs are not going to go anywhere this season, and none of us fans should expect them to. Even despite the stellar play of the guys I just mentioned, this team still has way too many holes, with the biggest being their bullpen who can’t seem to hold any kind of lead. For those of you who like to take optimistic points of view on things, like me, here is a theory for you to keep in the back of your mind.
No one has any high expectations for the Cubs this year, including their management and front office, and the players are aware of this. Therefore, they are going out and playing with the “we have nothing to lose” mentality each day. When athletes go out and play relaxed with no pressure on them, they end up performing pretty well. I know this from experience. Because of this, there is a good chance that the Cubs might end up surprising a few people with their record this year. I have seen some analysts say that the Cubs might reach 120 losses this year. If they continue to go out there and play relaxed with no high expectations of them coming from the fans or management, they might just win a few games and have a decent season considering the circumstances. That’s just my theory, and you can take it or leave it.
I am looking forward to the remaining 139 games on the Cubs’ schedule because I am very interested to see how some of their top prospects perform at the big league level once they are inevitably called up. Hopefully we are all in for a pleasant surprise.