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Cubs Wed Jul 14 2010

Cubs Midseason Grade

With the 81st All-Star game in the bag it is time to grade the Cubs performance for the first half. The 2009 Cubs were disastrous and the 2010 Cubs were supposed to rebound after last years abysmal season. The 2009 version has seemingly spread to the 2010 version. Minus Milton Bradley the Cubs were supposed to compete, however they've done everything except that. Carlos Zambrano has taken the place of Bradley with just as much drama and not a lot to show for in the production department.

Lets start with the offense or lack of offense. The Cubs are 12th in league with runners in scoring position, 14th in runs scored, and they are 13th with RISP with two outs. Those numbers aren't going to cut. Its amazing how much this team has fallen from 2008. They were first in the league that year with RISP, eighth with two outs and RISP and they also lead the league in scoring with bases loaded.

Those numbers don't lie and they are quite disturbing to say the least. Marlon Byrd, the lone Cub All-Star and one of the heroes of last nights game has been the most consistent member on this team. If it weren't for him I can't say how much worse this team would be. Soriano is having probably one his better years as a Chicago Cub, he's been streaky, but consistently decent throughout the first half.

There are some promising signs for the future of the Cubs as Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro have come on to the scene and have the potential to be key players down the road. Their success has been a nice story, but it takes a back seat to an even more pressing issue and that is the lack of the production from the middle of the order.The Cubs big bats haven't been contributing like they have in years past. I'm talking about Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez, however, was injured yet again and without a doubt it effected his productivity at the plate.

On this last road trip the Cubs had their best offensive showing all year. Particularly Ramirez. Perhaps he can take this into the second half. If they are going to compete in the second half the middle of the order needs to step it up in a big time way. For the first half the offense has been just that offensive.That earns them a grade of D+

Starting pitching has been the strongest thing about the Cubs this season. Their starting pitching is in seventh for ERA, fifth in hits allowed and eighth in walks. While their numbers aren't eye-popping they aren't terrible either. The worst part about the Cubs pitching staff has been their bullpen, with the exceptions of Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall no one else has really stood out. John Grabow was pitching hurt and probably should've been disabled a lot sooner then he was.

The rookies they have are unproven, but they do show signs of promise. Such as Andrew Casher and James Russell. They've had a total of seven different rookie pitchers come up this year. To me it is a sign of instability when you have as many guys come through the bullpen like that. Grant it injuries have taken place, but in order for a team to be successful they need to have specific guys stick to specific roles. Marshall and Marmol have solid in their respective roles.

Marmol in 41 2/3rd innings pitched has 78 strikeouts. That is flatout ridiculous. When they can get the ball to him in the ninth he has been lights out. Marshall has done a magnificent job as the setup man to Marmol he is sporting 2.03 ERA. The one thing that has killed good starting pitching is the lack of run support. Plain and simple. If some of the Cubs starters had any kind of run support their records might be a little better. Randy Wells (4-7) and Ted Lilly (3-8) should've easily won a few more than they've lost, but as I've said lack of run support will always undermine a strong pitching performance.

The best pitcher for the Cubs in the first half has been Carlos Silva. He leads the team with a 9-3 record as well as a 3.45 ERA. Many fans expected after acquiring Silva for him to anchor the back of the rotation, but he has went above and beyond that. He is arguably the ace of this staff for the first half. He went 8-0 before losing in first game on June 12. Factor in Silva and the back end of the Cubs bullpen and the ability of the starting staff to keep this club in most games that earns them a B-.

Now on the manager, Lou Piniella. Toward the end of last season fans began calling for Piniella to be canned. Those grumblings have since grown louder after the Cubs poor first half performance. Personally I'd like to see what Lou has in the second half. There have been times I've questioned some of the moves he's made or didn't make. On several occasions he's left a starter in their one batter too long. The best instance that comes to mind is leaving Ryan Dempster in to face Joey Votto and Votto crushing a home run off Dempster, which ultimately led to a Reds victory.

Its easy to heap praise on a manager when every thing is going right, but it becomes even easier to criticize them when things aren't going right. Piniella has been one of the better managers in Cubs history, but perhaps he got here a little too late. Sure, he led a Cubs team to 97 wins, but he failed twice to get them past the first round in the playoffs. For right now he has earn the grade of a C-. As a manager he can only do so much, he can't hit or pitch for his team. He can only keep trying new things until something finally works. Lets hope he figures it out in the second half.

Overall the season has been a between a D and C. They came in with high hopes and it has been let down thus far, but there is a second half of baseball left. Lets see what they can do.
Finally I'd like to congratulate Marlon Byrd for his contribution in the National League breaking their 13 game losing streak to American League. Byrd showed all of baseball why he truly is an All-Star.

The Cubs open the second half up at Wrigley Thursday night against the defending National League Champions. They split their short two game series in Philly in May. Ryan Dempster (7-7 3.61 ERA) takes on the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer (9-8 4.51 ERA). Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on WCIU and heard on WGN Radio 720 AM.

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