Well, the 2014 Chicago Cubs season has now officially begun, but they look very similar to the 2013 Cubs. Throughout the 2013 campaign the Cubs struggled hitting as a team, and had an inconsistent bullpen (to say the least). Yesterday the Cubs kicked of 2014 in Pittsburgh to face their division rival Pirates. New manager Rick Renteria sent out a lineup with many familiar faces from last year, and got the same result.
Jeff Samardzija took the hill for the second straight opening day, looking to improve this season and show his worth to the Cubs. He did not disappoint, throwing a gem consisting of 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks and no runs in only 89 pitches. Poised to be a the true ace of the staff, Samardzija started off great. Unfortunately, he had to settle for a no decision because the Cubs offense couldn’t generate any run support, something that plagued Samardzija all of last season. Win or loss, Samardzija pitched a great game and hopefully it was a sign of what is to come for the rest of the year.
Last season, hitting came far and few between. Core players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, thought to be the answer for the Cubs World Series drought, struggled last year. Unfortunately, Castro was hurt most of spring training and never got a chance to have consistent at bats to get ready for this season. He went 0-3 yesterday with a walk. Rizzo, had a productive spring hitting .321, but he failed to reach base yesterday going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. Obviously, yesterday was game 1 of 162 so it is not fair to judge based on only one game, but Cubs fan can agree that yesterday was a mirror of most games looked like in 2013.
One of the offseason acquisitions Emilio Bonifacio had a productive day from the plate going 4-5. He and Samardzija were the two main bright spots, and they hope to continue that success over the course of the season. Bonifacio, the Cubs utility man, is on the outside looking in on a starting job. However, if second baseman Darwin Barney continues to hit poorly, Bonifacio may see a significant amount of playing time at second.
Most people do not believe that the Cubs will compete for a playoff spot this season. They finished 2013 with a 66-96 record, and much of that roster remains today. Since it is almost a forgone conclusion the Cubs will not reach the post season, fans would at least like to see improvement starting with Rizzo, Castro and Samardzija. Fans can only sit and wait for minor league prospects to finally crack the major league level, but that could be a long process. Clearly, it is hard to predict how the rest of the season will go, but it seems as though the problems that were prevalent last year still exist today. If yesterday is any indication of how the Cubs season will be, then it will be another long summer on the North Side.