Chicago Cubs: An assessment of the first two months of the season

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A month ago, I wrote about the schedule for the Chicago Cubs in the month of May and how it would be a tough test for the young team. Going into the month of May, the Cubs were 12-8 and in second place in the NL Central. Ending May, the Cubs are now 26-22 and still in second place in the Central. What have the Cubs shown us after the first two months of the season?

The Good:

The starting pitching for the most part has been very good. Jon Lester got off to a slow start, but once the calendar turned May, Lester turned back into the pitcher the Cubs expected when they signed him. In his last seven starts Lester is 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.

Jason Hammel is pitching like he did with the Cubs last year, proving to be a steal in free agency. Hammel is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.

Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks have been victims of unfortunate circumstances. Whether those circumstances are run support, the bullpen losing the lead or the defensive errors – it has cost the two pitchers a few wins each.

Now that Tsuyoshi Wada is back from his injury that delayed his season, he has been a solid No. 5 starter for the Cubs. He doesn’t have a win yet, but he’s sporting a 2.30 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP – he allowed his team to stay in the game and he’s been consistent; something that the former No. 5 starter, Travis Wood couldn’t do.

The young studs that the Cubs have brought up and had all of the Cubs’ fans waiting for have not disappointed.

May 14, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Addison Russell (22) high-fives third baseman Kris Bryant (17) after he scores scores on a RBI by first baseman Anthony Rizzo (not pictured) in the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Bryant took a while to get his first home run, but once that first one came, it didn’t take long for the other six to follow. He’s also has shown that he isn’t a typical power hitter – he can run too. He has run out several infield hits, scoring runs from first and second base with smart running and good speed. He’s also improving every game with his glove, making it hard to imagine him moving from third to the outfield.

Addison Russell has also been stellar with the glove. It was always said how good of a shortstop he was, but he’s picked up second base very quickly. At the plate, he’s delivered in some clutch moments and he’s shown some good pop in his bat. He has four homers on the season so far, but he also has 12 doubles which is good for second on the team.

Anthony Rizzo has taken the step from All-Star to MVP candidate. His plate approach is by far the best on the team; he doesn’t take anything that he doesn’t think he should and doesn’t mind taking a free pass if that is all that’s being offered. His .319/.439/.572 line, nine home runs, 13 doubles, and 55 hits lead the team. Rizzo also has nine stolen bases, good for second on the team and a new career high for him.

Miguel Montero has been solid for the Cubs and since the team traded Welington Castillo, Montero has seen more time and has been better at the plate.

The Bad:

The bullpen started out the first two weeks as one of the strongest links of the Chicago Cubs chain, now it is one of the weakest. With their inconsistent play, it is hard to feel safe with any lead that is given to them.

Jul 6, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop (46) pitches during the eighth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated Chicago Cubs 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Pedro Strop, who last year was as good as you could ask for in a setup role, has struggled this year. He is 1-3 with a 3.91 ERA, two home runs allowed, 12 runs allowed, 10 earned, and nine walks have been hard to handle. Even Hector Rondon has had his troubles.

Rondon is 3-0 but has failed to convert three of his save opportunities.

Defense, like the bullpen, has been inconsistent. Most of it unfortunately, falls on Starlin Castro. He leads the team with 11 errors and ties him for third in all of baseball.

As a team the Cubs are fourth in errors – committing 41 so far. They are also third in baseball with 36 stolen bases allowed; a stat that will always highlight Lester’s lack of ability to hold runners at first.

More from Cubbies Crib

Strikeouts continue to hurt the Chicago Cubs. They currently stand atop of baseball with 476 team strikeouts, 12 ahead of the next team.

The strikeouts hurt, but the .223 batting average with runners in scoring position hurts the Cubs a lot more. The Cubs have also only managed 91 runs and 142 hits with runners in scoring position.

Overall:

The Chicago Cubs are a young team and like any young team there will be ups and downs along the way. There has been inconsistency with the team, but there are still over 115 games to go in the season, there is plenty of time to figure things out.

The bullpen is a work in progress – that’s something that probably won’t change anytime soon. Even if the Cubs were to add a Jonathan Papelbon to the pen, there is no guarantee that he’ll fix what is wrong with them.

The young hitters are still adjusting to major league pitching. The strikeouts are high, but there are times when each of them show some ability to be picky at what they take – that shows they are making progress and listening to what their coaches are saying.

Are the Cubs still a postseason team? Probably, but the schedule coming up in June will be even tougher than May was. If the starting pitching stays as strong as they have been, it isn’t unrealistic to see the Cubs battling for a wild card spot.

Next: Oldest remainning Cub Merullo passes away at 98

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