Chicago Cubs First Half Review: The Good, Bad, and Cubly

+Read full article

With the All-Star break comes the unofficial end to the first half of the MLB season. The Chicago Cubs currently sit at 33-52, and 15 games out of first place in the Central division. This record is far from surprising, as most predicted they would finish in last, or near last place in the division.

2012 has been full of ups and downs, so let’s take a look at some of the good and bad heading into the second half:

The Bad

The Cubs started the season woefully to say the least, going 4-11 in their first 15 games. Business started to pick up over the next 15 as they won 8, and pulled in the vicinity of .500. Then the month of May came around and the club hit a season low, losing 12 games in a row.

-Closer Carlos Marmol couldn’t save a game to save his life, and eventually went on the DL. The team hasn’t found a replacement for Marmol, and the 9th inning has been an adventure all season long.

-Starting pitchers Randy Wells and Chris Volstad struggled mightily, and eventually Volstad was sent to Triple A Iowa, and Wells was designated for assignment. I’m not ready to give up on Volstad, but I was very excited to see the news of Wells being DFA.

-Catcher Geovany Soto has been awful all season, batting .177 with only 12 RBI. Even though he had a stint on the DL, these numbers are just not going to cut it. His play behind the plate is decent, but certainly not overwhelming enough to make up for his lack of production as a hitter.

The Good

Starting pitching has been the most impressive part of the Cubs’ first half. Ryan Dempster (4-3) has been flat out awesome, with an ERA of 1.99 and WHIP of 1.01. Everyone else in the rotation (with the exception of those listed above), has pitched well enough to give the team a chance to win on most nights.

-Travis Wood (4-3) has been the biggest surprise, boasting a 3.05 ERA in 10 starts. His Cubs career got off to a rocky start, but he’s pitching as well as anybody heading into the break.

Starlin Castro and Bryan Lahair were voted to the All-Star team, combining for 73 RBI in the first half. They both have had ups and downs at the plate, but at the end of the day you can count on them when it matters.

Anthony Rizzo was called up 12 games ago, and all you can really say is, why wasn’t he called up sooner? Rizzo has been as good as advertised, and maybe even a little bit better. He looks as calm and collected at the plate as anybody on the roster. Almost all of his hits have been timely, and several have given the Cubs the lead. He’s hit for power and contact, and really looks mature, working deep counts on a regular basis.

Outlook for the Second Half

The Cubs won 8 of 12 going into the break, and that’s mainly due to Anthony Rizzo. His presence in the middle of the lineup, and glove at first base, have changed the complexion of the entire team. He is the spark they’ve been waiting for, and if he continues at his current pace, there’s no telling how much impact he could have.

-Marmol has settled down, and is resembling his old self. I wish there was someone else to fill his role, but there isn’t, so fans will have to hope for the best from him (if he’s not traded).

-Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are faced with the task of wheeling and dealing before the trade deadline, and Cubs’ fans can only hope Alfonso Soriano is finally sent packing. Don’t get me wrong, he’s played very good all season, but I still don’t want him. His trade value will never be higher than it is right now, and the Cubs must move him.

-As for dealing Matt Garza or Dempster, I won’t care either way. As long the prospects in return are the same caliber as Travis Wood, I’ll live with it. I really don’t want to see both Garza and Demp gone, but if a great deal presents itself, why not?

Are the Cubs out of the race? I’m about 98.9 % sure they are, but with new found spark of Rizzo and solid starting pitching, you never know…

Andrew Fisher is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, and feels your pain if you are too. Follow him on Twitter @the_realfish