Let’s start with some comments that Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano made just days before the 2013 MLB season started. According to Carrie Muskat from MLB.com, Soriano emphasized the importance of a fast start:
“…I think if we have a good April, it will send a message to the other teams. I hope we have a better April than last year. I think we can do that because we have a better team this year.”
Later on, Soriano claimed,
“If we want to be a contender, we have to have a good April.”
Things started off nicely when the Cubs took two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since then, they’ve gone 2-6 en route to a 4-7 record. Shoddy defense and an unreliable closer have cost this team at least two wins. It doesn’t help that the No. 2-4 hitters—Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Soriano—have all slumped out of the gate.
For Soriano, his slow start is no surprise. In 2012, Soriano didn’t hit his first home run until May 15. He finished that month with seven homers and a .944 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS). Despite the unproductive April, Soriano hit 32 homers with 108 RBI.
What consequences did that have on the team? After May 14, the Cubs had a 15-20 record. That put them five games behind the National League Central leader. What’s funny was that right when Soriano found his rhythm, the Cubs lost 12 consecutive games. The Cubs won 15 games before losing their first 20. They won four games before losing their next 20, leading to a 19-40 record.
Castro, Rizzo and Soriano all have sub-.290 on-base percentages (OBP). Soriano has a .256 slugging percentage. He has no homers and only one of his hits have gone for anything more than a single. When the No. 2-4 hitters aren’t hitting well, this offense isn’t going anywhere. The bottom-half of the order is too weak to pick up the slack. These first 11 games provide the visual evidence.
Regardless of what Soriano said, a slow start won’t kill this team. Not as long as a slow start means a slow April and not a slow first-half of the season. Maybe his 3-for-4 day on Apr. 13 is a sign of things to come?