Jul 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum (4) before the game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

First Half Review: Chicago Cubs

Now that the all star break is upon us, I want to take minute and review how the first half of the season went for the Chicago Cubs.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that my expectations were very low for this team coming into the year.

I also think I speak for everyone when I say I was pleasantly surprised with how this team has played thus far.  The Cubs currently sit at 42-51, which is good enough for fourth in the NL Central.  The Cubs are 15 games back of division leader St. Louis.  The Cardinals also hold the best record in baseball going into the break.

The NL Central has been the toughest of the three divisions in the NL.  If the season were to end today, three teams would make the playoffs from the Central (St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh).

I’m going to make things interesting and pick an offensive MVP for the team and an MVP from the pitching staff, we’ll see if you agree.

Alfonso Soriano has been the most productive player on the offensive side for many reasons.  He may not have the average (.259), but lets face it, who does?  Soriano has hit 16 home runs this year and driven in 49 runs.  He is second on the team in hits, first in runs scored and stolen bases, and second in doubles.  The only person who has more hits is Starlin Castro, but that has a lot to do with the number of at bats Castro has gotten compared to Soriano.

For the pitching staff, I am going to go with the lone all star, Travis Wood.  Wood has 17 quality starts to his 19 starts, ask anybody and they’ll tell you how good he has been.  Wood is only 6-6, but has a 2.79 ERA, and a 3.5 WAR, which is wins above replacement.  Wood’s WAR is the highest on the team, by a long shot.  Now I know Garza has been great, but Wood has been doing it all year and Garza has not.

The Cubs’ starting pitching has been the most surprising for me.  As a group they are sixth in the MLB in quality starts and third in the NL.  The staff is also seventh in the league in batting average against and fifth in the NL.  The problem is with the bullpen, especially when it comes to holding on to a lead and saving a game.  The Cub bullpen has 19 blown saves on the year, which is the most in the majors this season.  They are 22-41 in save opportunities, which is the worst save percentage in the majors as well.  Just think where the Cubs could be at record wise if the bullpen had only blown, lets say, 10 saves instead of 19.  If only, if only.

I know people were thinking once Carlos Marmol was out of town things might be different, but James Russell and Kevin Gregg had no problem picking up where Marmol left off blowing saves for the Cubs.

As far as the offense goes, they have been somewhat productive.  The Cubs are third in the MLB in doubles with 186, that number is good for first in the NL.  They are tenth in the league in home runs, which is third in the NL. Lastly, they are third in the MLB in extra base hits with 304, that number is also good for first in the NL.  The problem lies in the average and on base percentage categories, the Cubs are 26th in the league  in both of those categories.  It doesn’t matter how many home runs and extra base hits you have if you can’t get guys on base consistently.

I want to end with the trade rumors that have been swirling around the Cubs over the past week or two.  If you even remotely follow baseball you know that Matt Garza is probably on the move to a contender, not to mention the hottest starting pitching commodity available.  The Cubs have been having trouble dealing him because of what they want in return.  The front office wants a lot in return because of how fantastic Garza has been this year, but other teams are worried about if he can stay healthy because he has been injury prone in the past.  The Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Indians, and Rangers are the teams reportedly interested in Garza.

Nate Schierholtz has been talked about with the Pirates in a platoon role with a struggling outfielder they have.  Schierholtz is another guy that is having a solid year, but has slipped a little recently.  I definitely think he could help a contender down the stretch.

The last guy is Alfonso Soriano, while he hasn’t been mentioned a lot in talks because of his gigantic salary, he could still be moved, however it is likely the Cubs would be paying a majority of his salary if in fact he is moved.

It is going to be interesting to see what the Cubs do with the guys that have been leading their team this year.  All of that will be decided in the next couple of weeks.  Either way, don’t expect a second half run to the playoffs from this team, my guess is they’ll be staying right where they are at until season’s end.

Gold Coast has all your Chicago Cubs tickets for the second half of the season.

Tags: Alfonso Soriano Carlos Marmol Chicago Cubs James Russell Kevin Gregg Matt Garza Nate Schierholtz St. Louis Cardinals Starlin Castro Travis Wood

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