After yesterday’s tough to swallow loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs sit 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals after setting a team record for wins in April (17 wins). The Cubs offense has been way ahead of their pitching with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot and both performed very well in that role. The Cubs surged to the top of the league in virtually all offensive categories in Soriano’s absence. Both Johnson and Theriot bring a fiery presence to the top of the order. The Cubs would be unbelievably formidable in the middle of their order with Soriano batting in the 5th or 6th spot. The Cubs should make this move immediately.
2. Send LHP Rich Hill to Iowa, move RHP Jon Lieber into the rotation – Rich Hill has been a disaster this season, with tonight’s start the latest gaffe. Hill’s inability to consistently find the strike zone with any pitch has taxed the Cubs bullpen. Tonight’s 2/3 of an inning, 27 pitch outing where he walked 4 of the first 6 batters he faced has literally handcuffed Manager Lou Piniella for tonight’s game and possibly for the rest of a very key series against the Cardinals. Hill needs to work out whatever issues he has in AAA and come back ready to pitch every time out.
3. Send Of Felix Pie to Iowa and install Reed Johnson as the starting CF – Felix Pie is struggling big time against major league pitching. He looks clueless at the plate and is hitting just above .200. Pie needs playing time and not in Chicago. Reed Johnson was one of the best spring training pickups of the season for the Cubs and provides exactly what the Cubs need – a gritty, hard nosed, all out effort performance every game he plays.
4. Move Carlos Marmol to the closer role, Kerry Wood to long relief or setup – need I say more after yesterday’s game? Wood has almost as many blown saves (3) as saves converted (4). I love Kerry Wood, he is a competitor, a gamer, never complains, takes the ball in any situation. He’s a man, but not a closer when you have Carlos Marmol and his repetoire of nasty stuff on your roster. Marmol has been virtually unhittable this season. He has come into games this season in pressure packed situations and has been completely dominant. Give this guy the 9th inning and we have at least 3 more wins this season (and 3 less losses).
5. Continue hydrating Carlos Zambrano – or continue limiting/restricting his caffeine intake. Whatever the Cubs are doing to keep Carlos Zambrano healthy, focused and dedicated, continue to do it. Zambrano has been fantastic this season, a true top of the rotation starter since Opening Day. He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA this season, by far, his best start to a season. He would have been 5-1 but for yesterday’s 9th inning implosion. Zambrano needs to have a big year for the Cubs to dominate. He is well on his way going into May.
This Cubs started the 2008 season virtually the way they wanted to start, with a 17-10 record in April. Their early season success (and at times, dominant play) have raised expectations even further for the remainder of the season. With these suggested moves, the Cubs can position themselves to continue their hot start into the meat of their season.