After securing a spot in the playoffs last season, it seemed the Cubs were poised for major league greatness.
However, the Cubs suffered a disappointing loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks during their last playoff game. This year is different for the Chicago Cubs for a variety of reasons. For starters, 2008 is exactly a century after the Cubs won their last World Series title. Ex-Cubs pitcher Mark Prior is gone and a variety of fresh faces are now on the roster.
New outfielder Kosuke Fukudome started the season with a bang, bringing excellent defense, speed and a lofty batting average, which was .320 on May 9, to the plate. Fukudome is credited with bringing patience to the club.
With a record of 19 wins and 15 losses in the Major Leagues this year, the Cubs trail 2 ½ games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals, as of May 8. The problem the Cubs have is consistency, which has always been an issue for the team.
Pitcher Rich Hill struggled during his brief stint with the ML club in 2005, losing the two Major League games he pitched for, but he won more games in the Triple-A minor league. But things turned around in 2007 and Hill went on to win 11 games. This season alone, Hill has walked 18 in the five starts that he had to date, showing that he needs to find the strike zone.
Cubs Manager Lou Piniella isn’t worried about Hill, saying “He will go down to Iowa and get a few starts, and I think you will see him back here pitching well for us.”
Piniella is short with his pitchers. He knows how to switch up his roster and needs to identify problematic areas with what the Cubs are doing offensively and defensively.
Hill’s confidence might be waning, but infielder Ronny Cedeno’s confidence must be at an all-time high. Cedeno’s batting average is .345 as of May 9.
Though Cedeno’s motivation was pure, he got a bit ahead of himself at the end of April, proclaiming the Cubs were “thinking about the World Series.”
I am giving the Cubs an overall grade of B for this season thus far, because their defense is keeping its consistency with veteran players like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez playing well at first and third base, while having Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano defending the outfield for a well-rounded defense. Even rookie catcher Geovany Soto has showcased a level of offense and defense rarely seen from any Major League catcher, let alone a rookie player. Overall, the Cubs have a good chance of making it to the playoffs, as long as their players stay patient and pitch well.