Thursday, May 05, 2005

after the first month

after over 25 games, a lot of what we are going to find out about this year in baseball has already been revealed. sure, there will be surprises and changes -- who thinks the yankees will finish last in the AL east? -- and there always are. but the shakeout of the first month tells us all a lot about how things will be in the end.

so what can we say about the cubs and the central? 6th in the NL in runs scored, but 11th in pitching makes for 12-14, two games under .500 and six back of the cardinals, good for third in a weak division.

many must be utterly aghast and surprised at this faltering, and indeed some of it is really unforseeable -- nomar's injury, for example, or todd walker's. but what of the rest?

the cub bullpen rates about the middle of the NL pack, but have issued a league high 55 walks in relief. leicester and wuertz have had difficult appearances. wood and prior have been hurt or pitched as if they are. ryan dempster is a disaster at 1-3 with a 5.35 era and 22 walks in 33 innings, failing to replace matt clement. aramis ramirez has played more like his 2002 self than his 2004 incarnation, hitting just .240, while barrett too is looking less like yogi berra every day. patterson continues to be frustrating, striking out 23 times next to four walks with an obp of .292 -- despite hitting leadoff half the time. the cub outfield is hitting a collective .265 with 157 total bases -- a bit better than expectations, but hardly stellar despite burnitz.

in other words, a lot of stuff we talked about before the year began. and performance has been about as expected. a torrid derrek lee, a nice month by burnitz and neifi perez playing out of his shoes in nomar's absence have lifted the cub run production temporarily -- but that's been nicely countered by the underperformance of the pitching side.

many would (and will) point the finger at injuries and claim that all we have to do is get healthy, etc. etc. but i think the honest upshot is that this is your 2005 chicago cubs. they were never going to be great, and they aren't. i don't think one can expect radically more than what we've seen -- and shouldn't have to begin with, so any disappointment is limited only to whatever irrational optimism you adopted before april began. 82 wins remains a reasonable target for this team to hit -- but playoffs seem a distant possibility, more distant than the prospect of a deeper slide into the second half of the NL.

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