I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that thought the Cubs were going to have a magical start to the season after Ian Happ led off the season with a first pitch home run. Those feelings of a magical start quickly faded when they lost to the AAA Marlins the next day and ended up splitting the opening series with the fish. It’s been a roller coaster since then. The Cubs are a feast or famine offense so far and that’s going to be problematic if it continues throughout the season. I don’t think it will and I think part of the problem is that Joe Maddon changes the lineup like it’s his job. (Wait a second…) I know he’s trying to get different guys looks at the beginning of the year and kind of gauge who he can trust in certain situations, but you have to let guys get into a groove. I could go on and on about lineups as I have done over the years, but the bottom line is, if you’re in the MLB and you’re expected to get a job done, you better do it or you’ll be out of a job quickly.
Rizzo having back issues this early in the season is a little concerning to me. The schedule has been less hectic than usual because of snow outs and rain outs and yet Rizzo still wasn’t 100% ready to go even with added days off. He has returned to the Cubs lineup, but he’s off to a painfully slow start. He’s got 1 home run and is batting a dismal .146. These aren’t exactly the numbers you want to see out of a guy that has fans begging to be named Captain. I’m all for the “C” on the chest of Rizzo and I think once he figures out whats going on with his back, he’ll start producing like the Rizzo that Cubs fans have come to love watch playing over the years. I’m not worried about the production of Rizzo, I know the numbers will come, I’m concerned about his health. Doing anything with a stiff back is hard enough and we’re expecting him to jump in the batter’s box and nail a 95 mph fastball with one, not gonna happen.
The two biggest surprises thus far have been Tommy La Stella and Albert Almora Jr. Neither are considered everyday players, but Almora may have cemented his spot in CF with his hot start. Almora has been a magician with his glove and has already made some highlight catches on the young season including three yesterday in Colorado. The Rockies have a huge hitters ballpark and Almora looked like Superman flying around in CF last night. Not only has his glove been great, he’s started off the season batting .327 and has racked up a .377 OBP. Again, he does not play everyday, so he’s had less plate appearances than others, but he has been efficient and successful with his plate appearances so far this year. La Stella hasn’t put up any glaring numbers (.320/.393/.400), but he’s been very good off the bench. It seems like every time I see him pinch hit he comes in and gets a hit. He’s swinging the bat well and even when he gets out he makes it a tough at-bat for the most part. Players like these two guys are exactly what the Cubs need if they want to make a postseason push this year.
I was going to put Javy in the surprise category, but this is what fans and the front office have been waiting for throughout his whole career. Baez has 7 home runs and 23 RBI to lead the Cubs at this point in the season. He’s been much better with his plate discipline this season which is nice to see. I don’t have to yell at my tv anymore because Javy is swinging at balls that bounced 10 feet before the plate, you aren’t Vlad, Javy. This start for Baez has also been great because every fan base in baseball likes to shit on Javy and make fun of Cubs fans for putting a player on a pedestal that can only “make good tags.” Yeah, I bet a lot of you would rather have Baez at short or second than your current option. I think Baez is slowly going to turn into a leader for this team. He’s already been a little more outspoken this season and it’s nice to see a guy that we’ve been waiting on for so long finally start to find his stroke and his voice.
Quintana and Darvish have been nothing short of trash this year. I wasn’t thrilled with the trade for Q last year when the Cubs sent their best prospect across town to the White Sox. I understand the trade and what the Cubs were trying to do so don’t try to jump down my throat. Everyone likes to make excuses for Quintana throughout his career because the White Sox weren’t good enough offensively to get him wins and now the Cubs give up too many leads for him to get a decision. Until he goes out there and limits teams to 2 or less runs every time out the excuses need to stop. He has one game this year where he has allowed less than 4 runs. In his other three starts, he has allowed 6,7, and 4 runs. It’s hard for any team to win games when your starter is giving up that many runs and has a 7.71 ERA. No more excuses for Q until he pitches like he did last year in his first start with the Cubs against Baltimore. Darvish is another signing I wasn’t completely thrilled about. He pitched terribly in the World Series last year and there were rumors swirling that he was tipping his pitches. I haven’t noticed anything this year, but it was pretty apparent in the Fall Classic. So if he isn’t still tipping his pitches, what’s the issue? Maybe he’s just bad. It’s okay to admit that players are bad sometimes. People and the media love to make excuses about health or tipping pitches in order to take some of the blame off of Darvish because they’ve treated him like an International Treasure ever since he came to the MLB. I think his best years are behind him and unfortunately for Cubs fans he may not get any better. I don’t think he’ll end the season with terrible numbers like he has now, but they aren’t going to be great. He flips curveballs up to the plate like a frisbee and opposing players are just teeing off on him. Darvish has a 6.86 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP. Those numbers are like video game numbers of an opposing pitcher if you play on Rookie. Glad the Cubs are paying this guy $11 million this season for that.
All in all I think the Cubs will be fine. This hasn’t been the greatest start to the season, but once the bats start clicking for more than one game at a time, they’ll be alright. The Cubs have one of the best offenses in the league and one of the better pitching staffs. Both are underperforming right now, but I’d rather see this early on in the season than later when they have to worry about the playoffs.