The first half of the major league baseball season is over and it’s time to hand out mid-season grades. The Chicago Cubs finished the first half with a 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves yesterday, putting them at 2-7 in their last nine and 40-54 overall. To the surprise of few, the Cubs are in last place in the National League Central Division and are only a few games out of dead last in the Major Leagues but despite their record there have been a few bright spots. Here are the Cubs first half grades for the 2014 season:
The Cubs offense has been their biggest weakness this season and has been kept on life support by the efforts of, all-stars, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. As a team the Cubs have hit .237, putting them at 29th in baseball. However, the Northsiders have experienced a surge in the month of July, hitting .275 as a team in 13 games. Recent hot streaks by Arismendy Alcantara, Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano provide optimism for the second half but it does not erase the team’s arduous struggles of the first half.
The Cubs pitching staff has put forth an exceptional effort but has been met with mixed results. On the whole, the staff has been very strong thanks to the performances by Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrietta and the Bullpen. The Cubs team ERA sits at 3.85, good for 18th in baseball but their bullpen ERA (3.61) is 14th in the league and is the third best in the NL Central (the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals rank 12th & 13th in bullpen ERA in 2014). However, the Cubs pitching staff faces many question marks after the departure of Samardzija and Hammel and the fate of the staff will rest on the shoulders of unproven pitchers such as Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler, Tsuyoshi Wada and possibly Dan Strailey.
The Cubs defense has been their saving grace this season. They have, very quietly, put together a decent effort in the field but it has been largely overlooked because of their record. The Cubs are 12th best in the league with a .985 fielding percentage and 54 errors but they could be better. Anthony Rizzo and Welington Castillo had phenomenal seasons in the field last year (both earned gold glove consideration) and have yet to reproduce that level of success this year. If those two can have a strong second half, look for the Cubs defense to climb a few spots.
In order to be a success in professional sports, you need to win. Period. Despite having a pitching staff and defense that have been about average/above average, the Cubs’ .429 wining percentage is the third worst in baseball heading into the all-star break. The Cubs are severely lacking in “intangibles” such as leadership, clutch performance and big-game performance (due in large part to the age & experience of the majority of their roster) and the result has been an inability to close out games. A bright future is just around the corner, though, as nine of the Cubs’ top ten prospects are in AA or higher, including Arismendy Alcantara who has made a splash in his five games in the major leagues, but right now the Cubs are simply not deserving of a higher grade.
(stats in this article are per ESPN.com)
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