As we continue into the first full week of May, this is around the time when I begin to look at the standings around Major League baseball. It is difficult to pin-point the exact time that standings begin to hold meaning, but usually in the months of May and June is when the standings come into full effect.
There is a reason though why I decided now is the time that I should look at the standings. Reason being I wanted to give this Chicago Cubs team at least a month before I compared them to the rest of the team’s in the the National League Central division. Now to this Cubs team, the standings may be irrelevant. The fact remains that the 2012 Cubs are not a team that will be focused on the standings. The focus is on rebuilding with players from the Minor League system, and beginning to play baseball with an emphasis on fundamentals.
Over the past couple of weeks, it seems as if the Cubs have turned a corner. When the season started, the Cubs appeared to be a team that would stay relevant in games but lack that final push in order to give them the victory. However, lately the Cubs have gotten quality pitching from both their starting rotation and bullpen, combine with the timely hits the offense has produced and the Cubs have been a team that has become familiar with the winning column as of late. Now the Cubs still remain six games under the .500 mark, but the team has been playing .500 baseball over the course of their past 10 games. That alone is reason for any Cubs fan to be impressed.
Looking at the standings in the National League Central division, one would find that the St Louis Cardinals are in first place with a record of 17 and 11 followed by the Cincinnati Reds who are 2.5 games back, the Houston Astros who are 4.5 games back, the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates who are 5 games back, and the Cubs who are six games back. Needless to say, the Cubs have differentiated too much from the rest of the team’s in their division. But if the Cubs continue their turn around the corner, I would say it is possible that the team could challenge the Brewers for the third place in the National League Central. Not much to get excited about, I know, but it is the little things that count.
One of the reasons the Cubs have been relatively impressive is because of the production they have received from starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija was 3 and 1 on the season with an ERA of 3.03 before taking the mound for the Cubs in Monday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. Samardzija’s efforts in Monday’s game against the Braves did not go unnoticed as the starting pitcher earned his fourth victory of the season with the Cubs 5 to 1 victory.
What Went Right: Samardzija was brilliant once again on Monday night. Samardzija allowed one run on five hits and two base on balls while striking out seven batters. Samardzija has done nothing but impress the Cubs so far during the 2012 season. Depending on who you talk to, Samardzija may be the second best starting pitcher in the team’s rotation. Though when you add Samardzija in the same group as Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, and the Cubs’ top three pitchers in their rotation may be among the best in the National League.
The Cubs offense was also impressive on Monday night. The Cubs offense featured three home runs on Monday night: solo home runs by both Bryan LaHair and Ian Stewart, and a two run home run for Geovany Soto. For LaHair, he now has 7 home runs on the season and is quickly becoming one of the top power threats in the National League.
What Went Wrong: What the hell? The Cubs won another game, lets just celebrate this one.
What Was Interesting: The seventh inning of Monday’s game between the Cubs and Braves was certainly interesting. In the top of the seventh inning, Samardzija hit Braves outfielder Jason Heyward with a pitch that appeared to have simply missed. Heyward stared toward Samardzija before heading toward first base. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Braves pitcher Eric O’Flaherty repaid the favor by hitting Cubs outfielder David DeJesus. Unlike the Samardzija pitch, the pitch that hit DeJesus appeared to have been intentional. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was consequently ejected after taking the field to discuss why O’Flaherty had been warned after throwing at DeJesus. The Cubs dugout was warned as well. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio is already on record as saying Cubs pitchers will not be afraid to pitch inside. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs retaliate in Tuesday’s game.