Maybe things will be better: a Chicago Cubs preview

Joe Robbins

It's time once more for the Crosstown Classic. Thankfully, it wraps up shortly after it begins.

Offense: David DeJesus-CF, Starlin Castro-SS, Anthony Rizzo-1B, Alfonso Soriano-LF, Nate Schierholtz-RF, Welington Castillo-C, Luis Valbuena-3B, Darwin Barney-2B. Bench: Dioner Navarro-C, Cody Ransom-INF, Julio Borbon-OF, Scott Hairston-OF, Ryan Sweeney-OF.

The Cubs really should be much closer to .500 than they are, but hey, baseball. David DeJesus is having himself a nice little season. He's quietly put up a .355 wOBA while playing a pretty good center field. He's had a pretty nice career as a complementary piece on some pretty terrible teams. Poor guy. Well, not poor but really unfortunate. He should get traded to a contender at the deadline though, so maybe he'll finally get to taste the playoffs. Starlin Castro has been struggling mightily and I can't really see a reason why. His peripherals are all normal other than his BB% being even lower (3.7%). Maybe the league is finally figuring him out? Either way, it makes Al Yellon's decree that Castro will reach 3,000 hits seem even more silly, but that's like putting a tutu on an orangutang. It's already silly enough, but it can always get better. Unlike Starlin's fielding, which continues to be terrible.

Anthony Rizzo continues to look rather hitterish. The main power threat for the Northsiders isn't having the same BABIP luck he did last season, but should still hit around .270 by the time October rolls around to go with his 30 or so homeruns and strange handful of stolen bases. He's not an elite first baseman yet, though he still has pretty good odds of developing into one. I prefer to think the Padres saw something the Cubs didn't though, because I am mean and/or full of spite/hate. Every year I somehow think Alfonso Soriano's contract is about to expire and every year I am wrong. You'd think I'd commit it to memory so I could stop kicking myself but I do not. He's still doing his weird "hit like crap in odd-numbered years" thing, which seems a pretty poor strategy for a professional athlete (or any person really) to employ, but hey, he's rich and successful and I am typing from my childhood bedroom. Alfonso appears to be in a contest with Starlin as to who can walk fewer times this season, though they are mere amateurs compared to the great Jeff Keppinger. Soriano hasn't been showing his usual power so far this season, so he may currently be circling the drain.

Nate Schierholtz was signed by the Cubs to add yet another last name that is annoying to type. Pretty bizarre market inefficiency Theo is trying to exploit. I guess they can't all be winners. The former Giant is showing more power than ever before, though moving out of San Francisco and into a hitter's park certainly hasn't hurt. He's a perfectly cromulant right fielder and boring to write about. He doesn't wear batting gloves. That is the most interesting thing about him. Welington Castillo is the first starting catcher we've seen in a few series that is actually good at throwing out thieves. Well, league average but still. If not for his .376 BABIP, Welington would have little more to offer than a humorous first name and defensive skills though. He doesn't draw walks, strikes out far too much, and doesn't really have much power to speak of.

Luis Valbuena seems to have at least temporarily solved the Cubs problems at third base. He's not a world beater by any means, but a league average bat that isn't horrible defensively that doesn't cost much of anything is a pretty nice commodity to have. He should probably be batting higher than 7th. Darwin Barney is a defensive wizard who is just about inept when at the plate. His walk rate is up this year and he doesn't strike out very often, but he doesn't really have any true offensive talents.

Pitching: Jeff Samardzija-RHP, Edwin Jackson-RHP, Travis Wood-LHP, Scott Feldman-RHP, Kevin Gregg-CL.

So I guess Jeff Samardzija has actually developed into a pretty good starting pitcher. He's not an ace though, so people really need to stop referring to him as such. I'll always remember him as the asshole who drilled Paul Konerko in the face because he doesn't like homeruns being hit off him. His K/9 continues to go up while his BB/9 remains at a perfectly acceptable level. Add in all the groundballs he induces and Jeff is a pretty useful starter. His fastballs sit in the mid-90s, and he also mixes in a cutter, a slider, and a splitter. Edwin Jackson finally landed a multi-year deal this winter and has rewarded the Cubs with an incredibly unlucky season so far. When you're only leaving 56.4% of the hitters who reach base on base, you're not going to have a very fun time. He's the same pitcher he always was, he's just been very unfortunate thus far. While he has more pitches than just his low-90s fastball and slider, he sure as hell hasn't been using them.

Travis Wood has somehow been good this season. I'm not saying he should be terrible, but a guy with a 6.0 K/9 who doesn't induce a ton of groundballs should not have an ERA under three. But here we are. My theory is that Travis is some sort of luck vampire, draining poor Edwin. That is the only way I can explain his .211 BABIP over 66 IP. Regression is going to hit harder than Sonny Liston and people will stop thinking Wood is actually a good pitcher. He's not bad, but c'mon now. Those numbers are silly and impossible and not in the good way. He throws a fastball that sits around 90, a cutter, a slider, and a changeup. Scott Feldman is a groundball maven who is also being favored by the BABIP gods. Maybe having Edwin around just makes everyone else better, like a reverse cooler. He's another Cub that should be shipped out before season's end. He throws a sinker in the low-90s, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.

Kevin Gregg's second stint in Chicago is going much better than his first. He's yet to allow a run over 13.1 innings this season and is currently sporting a sterling .176 BABIP. Edwin Jackson suffers for his teammates' greatness. He is the most noble of all. Gregg throws a fastball in the low-90s, a curveball, and a splitter.

Outlook: It's a bit of a bummer we don't get to play the Cubs after the trade deadline because this will be a very different roster come August. Not that it will matter much though. Sox win the series 3-1.


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