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Chicago Cubs are Showing Signs of Improvement

June 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 PM
By Tim Duxbury

Very quietly the Cubs are beginning to turn their season around. Since May 17 the Cubs are, a National League leading, 18-13. A large part of their success can be attributed to strong pitching (particularly out of the bullpen) and the hot steaks by Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Luis Valbuena. It almost makes you wonder if the Cubs should really be sellers at the trade deadline…

'Anthony Rizzo' photo (c) 2012, Ben Grey - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The answer to that question is still, undoubtedly, yes. Despite the Cubs having a great month, they still own the second worst record in baseball at 31-41 (only the Tampa Bay Rays have fewer wins). But their recent streak is definitely a reason to be optimistic about the future because the players who are playing well are the ones who are part of the team’s core group. Who’s to say that these guys can’t continue to play well and make a run at .500 by the time the season is all said and done?

 

Here’s a list of what the Cubs need to do the rest of the way to finish at .500.

1.    Continued Production from Castro and Rizzo. The PETCOTA projections for Castro and Rizzo’s year end stats are .283, 18 hr, 77 RBI and .269, 30 hr, 92 RBI, respectively. Matching those projections will be huge in the Cubs efforts to get out of the cellar

2.    Replace Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel with solid stopgaps. If the Cubs want to continue to improve they need to find decent pitchers to fill the void after they trade Samardzija and Hammel. This doesn’t mean they need to trade for major league ready talent, it just means they need solid production out of whoever they acquire or promote from AAA.

3.    A productive second half from Welington Castillo. The Cubs major problem this season has been scoring runs due, in large part, to the lack of a third big- bat in the lineup. Thus far, Castro and Rizzo have had to shoulder the responsibility of producing runs but they can’t do it alone. The Cubs need another bat to step up and with Nate Schierholtz being of no help (and probably on his way out of Chicago) Castillo needs to be that guy. He proved last season that he is capable and now he needs to step up.

4.    Continued production from the bullpen. So far this year the Cubs bullpen has been top 10 in baseball according to ESPN.com.  The Cubs ‘pen has the seventh best ERA (3.09) and the second best opponent batting average (.211) so far this season thanks to the efforts of guys like Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and James Russell. Much of the Cubs success will hinge on the stability of the bullpen.

 

It will be no small task but the Cubs have a very real chance of pulling themselves out of last place. And, who knows, finishing this year around .500 could be a nice launching pad for the team’s 2015 campaign.

Tags: Anthony Rizzo, Baseball, Chicago, Chicago Cubs, Hector Rondon, James Russell, Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija, Luis Valbuena, MLB, Neil Ramirez, PETCOTA, Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo

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