The Dodgers and Cubs haven't faced each other this season, which means there are questions to be answered about Chicago's 2013 campaign. Luckily for TBLA, Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue took the time to answer a couple questions about the Cubs.
DAVID: Who have been the Cubs' MVP and Cy Young so far this season?
AL: The Cy Young so far is clearly Travis Wood. He's been a revelation; he doesn't have great velocity, but has good movement on his pitches and good pitch selection, keeping hitters off balance. He's tied for the MLB lead in quality starts, and while QS isn't exactly the best of stats, look at some of the other names he's tied with: Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Patrick Corbin, Bartolo Colon. At 26, Wood is a candidate for a long-term extension after the season. He also contributes with the bat; he's got three home runs, most in the major leagues this year by a pitcher and most for a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano hit four in 2009. You'll see Wood pitch against the Dodgers on Friday.
AL: I think I might have to nominate him for team MVP, too, as the offense has struggled. Alfonso Soriano got hot just before he was traded, but since he's gone, I can't nominate him. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have both disappointed.
AL: Dioner Navarro, signed to be a backup catcher to Welington Castillo, should be known to you as a former Dodger; he's having the best year of his career with (as of Wednesday) nine home runs in only 143 at-bats.
DAVID: Did you expect Chicago to currently sit at fourth in the NL Central this late in the season? Why or why not?
AL: Fourth seemed about right, when the Cubs came back from a dismal 5-13 start to play basically .500 ball since then. Bullpen failures have been the Cubs' biggest problem, with 22 blown saves this year. Better bullpen work would have the Cubs near a .500 club, as their Pythagorean record has them maybe 3-4 games under for the year. They will have a tough time competing in this division going forward, with the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals still looking strong.
DAVID: The Cubs received a pretty good package (from my understanding) for Matt Garza. Do you think trading him to Texas was worth it based on the prospects Chicago received? Or would you have liked to see them get more in a trade or maybe even keep Garza?
AL: I was on the fence about Garza. At 29, he could have been signed to an extension and still been a contributor when the Cubs returned to contention. But he was reportedly asking for way too much money (north of what Anibal Sanchez got from the Tigers). So I was happy with the return the Cubs got; Mike Olt still has a chance to be a good major-league hitter and the Cubs got High-A pitcher C.J. Edwards, who looks like a keeper.
DAVID: Alfonso Soriano was a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster lineup.. Was ghis trade good for the Cubs seeing as they were able get the Yankees to pay for a little bit of his contract?
AL: When Cubs fans discussed getting rid of Soriano last offseason (as they have for several offseasons now), they figured the Cubs would have to eat the entire contract to get even a middling prospect. Instead, they only had to eat 75 percent of the deal, and got Corey Black, a good-looking young flamethrower (throws 100 MPH). Yankee fans weren't happy to lose him; I think the Cubs did quite well.
DAVID: In terms of almost every major offensive category (home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, and batting average), Starlin Castro is having a down year. Why do you think that's the case?
AL: The Cubs want Castro to be a more patient hitter. That hasn't been in his nature for his first few big-league seasons and he has struggled to adjust. For weeks, Cubs fans begged Dale Sveum to give him a day off (he had played in almost 300 consecutive games). Since that one day off, Castro is hitting .286/.326/.421 in 133 at-bats (through Tuesday), much closer to his previous level of performance. He'll be fine.
DAVID: Chicago is 27th in the MLB with a combined team batting average of ..242. Has getting on base been the team's biggest issue? If not, what is?
AL: I'm not as concerned with the team BA as I am with the club's seeming total inability to hit with RISP. This, along with the blown saves, has almost directly resulted in the Cubs' 15-23 (through Tuesday) record in one-run games, which accounts almost completely for their deficit to .500.
AL: For some reason, too, the Cubs can't seem to win in their own division. They are 15-31 against the N.L. Central and 33-27 against everyone else (which includes 12-12 against the N.L. West).
DAVID: Series prediction?
AL: I don't really get much into series prediction. So let's just settle on a split. Deal?