The Chicago Cubs kicked off the month of May by snapping a three-game losing streak and avoiding a sweep at the hands of the division-leading Brewers. But, prior to that, we learned a lot about this team during the season’s first few weeks: both good and bad.
Heading into Monday’s off-day, Chicago sits 5 1/2 games out of first in the National League Central, so the margin for error is already growing smaller if they want to have a shot at sneaking into the postseason picture. As we’ve known from the get-go, it’ll take just about everything going right for that to happen and, so far, that’s just not how things have played out.
Here are three key takeaways from the month of April – and what it can tell us about this year’s Cubs team as we get deeper into the season.
Cubs: 3 things we learned in April: Starting pitching is, again, a problem
Last year’s starting rotation was a disaster. This year was supposed to be better. The only problem is that, even before the regular season got underway, Chicago was without three guys who were supposed to play key roles in Wade Miley, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills. Here we are with April in the rearview mirror and, still, none of them have pitched this year.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele, Mark Leiter Jr. and Marcus Stroman all head into this week’s home stand sporting an ERA north of 5.00 – although the latter is coming off back-to-back quality starts, including a gem against the Brewers on his 31st birthday. As a whole, though, the rotation has been weak – with one exception: veteran Drew Smyly, who boasts a 2.79 ERA through four starts.
As a group, Chicago starters rank 27th in MLB in ERA (5.16), 25th in innings pitched and opponent’s batting average, 26th in strikeout-to-walk ratio – and have just three quality starts (two of which, like I said, belong to Stroman) – more than just two teams: the Pirates and Reds.
Things have to get better in this regard. That’s all there is to it. Getting healthy will help, but the Cubs need more consistency from the guys already in the mix.