Chicago Cubs

Bricks & Ivy: April Showers Bring May...Answers?

Bricks & Ivy: April Showers Bring May...Answers?

Monday, May 3, 2010
5:48 PM

By Luke Stuckmeyer
CSNChicago.com

April Shower: The Cubs have questions to answer after the first month of the season, but almost every team in baseball can say the same thing. The Cubs concerns are obvious right now....the bullpen and their inconsistent offense. The biggest hit to the Cubs going into this season was the loss of Angel Guzman. He's not Cy Young but the Cubs were counting on him as a righty with experience and past success to bridge the gap to Marmol. That left young relievers trying the setup role and they were forced into pressure situations.

May Answer: Can Carlos Zambrano be the temporary answer? So far -- so good. Give Carlos credit for being a team player here. Two years ago a more immature Zambrano would never have taken this role. He's not happy, but he's doing it. Zambrano has the best winning percentage of any starting pitcher in Cubs history!! Its the boldest move in baseball this year.

April Shower: An offensive roller coaster with more lows than highs for the Cubs big three. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are struggling to hit their weight with slow starts at the plate. Alfonso Soriano heard more boos than A.J. Pierzynsksi in a crosstown game. This much is simple...all three have to produce if the Cubs are going anywhere.

May Answer: Don't worry. They will hit. Soriano is on a tear to start the month and the booing -- has turned into bleacher bum bowing! Lee was the best player in Chicago last year and a slow start isn't the end of the world. D Lee will hit and so will Aramis Ramirez. They are two of the most productive hitters in the National League every single year. That will be the case again this year.

If that doesn't cheer you up, try this:

1. Geovany Soto had a great first month after struggling last season.
2. Carlos Marmol has been terrific as the closer since taking over last year.
3. Marlon Byrd has been everything the Cubs need him to be on and off the field.
4. Tyler Colvin's spring training was not a fluke.
5. The Cubs starting pitching survived without Ted Lilly. They have been as good as anybody in baseball.

Now let's see if this all adds up to a big month of May on the Northside!

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

221.

That's how many pitches the Cubs saw during Wednesday night's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

11.

That's the amount of runners the Cubs left on base Wednesday.

To Joe Maddon, those numbers don't quite add up.

The Cubs had 20 baserunners on 10 hits, eight walks and a pair of errors committed by Sox fielders. Yet they only plated eight, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Over the last two games, the Cubs have seen 412 pitches and scored 15 runs, but they've also left 24 guys on base and and gone just 9-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

"The proverbial grinding of the at-bats has been there," Maddon said after Wednesday's game. "[221 pitches], you'd think we'd score — I'm not talking about being greedy — we need to capitalize more.

"Eleven runners left on base. Again, I'm not complaining. Just the fact that we have to be more efficient as we move further along. Keep working those at-bats and I think if we do, at some point, it's gotta catch up to us in a positive way where it comes back to us and the ball's gotta fall in better moments, too."

The Cubs have gotten out to a 10-2 start to the season's second half, averaging six runs a game during that stretch and forcing the opposition to throw 154.5 pitches per game.

The Cubs have rapped out 124 hits in those 12 games as opposing pitchers have only recorded four quality starts.

And for all the issues with runners in scoring position in the first half, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are hitting .293 (37-for-126) with guys in scoring position since the All-Star Break. (Even with that, they're still only 27th in baseball with a .238 average with RISP, showing just how much the team underperformend in that area in the first half.)

The Cubs are starting to look more and more like the 2016 version of themselves as a host of other players — led by Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist — have joined Bryzzo in consistently contributing offensively.

"It's very rare when you have a game where everybody hits to their full potential," said Rizzo, who had three hits and drove in four runs Wednesday. "It's guys carrying the load one day and some other guys doing it the next day."

That's been a different script than the one the Cubs were playing off of in the first three months of the season, when only Kris Bryant and Rizzo were reaching their offensive potential.

As the Cubs hit their stride and gear up for the stretch run, they're finally starting to click offensively.

And what's scary is there's still more left in the tank.

"We don't wanna leave guys on, but we want to keep putting guys on to give ourselves opportunity," Rizzo said. "As long as we come away with the win, it doesn't matter.

"We're putting together good at-bats as a unit. [Seeing a lot of pitches] is a good formula for us. We know that if we grind at-bats, good things will happen."

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

The crosstown rivalry doesn't end on the diamond.

Both Cubs and White Sox fans are highly competitive when it comes to trivia, too. 

We found that out when we bounced around Guaranteed Rate Field to quiz North and South Siders in a special edition of "Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?" 

Watch the video above as we pitted fans against each other for the chance to win a killer shirt.