The Cubs and a Glimmer of Hope

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The Cubs are a dismal 16-22 after 38 games so far this year and are hoping that Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez can help turn things around. It has been a season of inconsistency and disappointment up to this point. Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee have no hit yet, but is part of it just bad luck?

Aramis Ramirez's BABIP (batting average of balls in play) is .179 that is way below his career average of .288. Last year Ramirez posted a .331 BABIP. Ramirez has been hitting a lot of line drives lately right and flying out to the warning track. I am not making an excuse for the way he started the season, basically swinging at everything and missing, but lately he has been hitting the ball with a little more authority ... although his numbers don't show it.

Ramirez went 2-for-5 with a double on Friday versus the Pirates to raise his season average to .168/.233/.267/.500. Not exactly a breakout but a good sign, the way he is hitting right now I think he is finally starting to warm up. His numbers up as a Cub, now in his eighth season with the team, point in the right direction as well .295/.359/.535/.894 with 191 home runs and 645 RBI.

Derrek Lee's BABIP is .260, not extremely low, but well below his career BABIP average of .322 ... in 2009 it was .327. Last year Lee started the season off horribly, as well, leading some fans to call for Micah Hoffpauir to take over at first base. Derrek Lee went on to have a stellar year .306/.393/.579/.972 with 35 home runs and 111 RBI. In his seventh season with the Cubs his numbers with the team are .301/.382/.531/.914 with 167 home runs and 534 RBI. He is beginning to hit, mostly singles, but that it is how he started last year. He is showing signs but he has admitted that he must start driving the ball, hitting home runs and getting the big hit ... when it counts.

Lee will be 35 years old in September and Ramirez will turn 33 in June. They aren't getting any younger. But I think Lee has at least one good year left in the tank and Ramirez should at the very least have a couple solid years left. I think Lee and Ramirez will turn their seasons around, but the Cubs have other problems as well.

The starting pitching has been pretty solid, but the Cubs may need to make a move at some point this year to help solidify it. Andrew Cashner could likely be that guy, especially if the Cubs try to trade Tom Gorzelanny, or Carlos Silva for some bullpen help. So far Cashner has exceeded expectations and was recently promoted to Iowa. Here's a link to his stats from minorleaguebaseball.com.

The Cubs bullpen continues to struggle and Carlos Zambrano is not the answer. When he was starting his velocity was down for the first inning or two. Zambrano appeared to get stronger as the game wore on. In the bullpen, Big Z's velocity has been way down and he has been getting hit hard. The likes of Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, Jeff Gray and John Grabow haven't gotten the job done either. Yet there is hope.

The Cubs have a few pieces with some value in Carlos Silva, Mike Fontenot, Tom Gorzelanny and Xavier Nady (after June 15th) ... along with some talent in the minors, but hopefully they do not part with any of the top prospects in the system.

There has been speculation recently that Jay Jackson might be headed to the majors as a relief pitcher. He has yet to be tested in the major leagues but could help in the bullpen. Jackson is pitching very well for Iowa (AAA), but is projected as a starter and has pitched as one in the minors (here's a link to his page at minorleaguebaseball.com). Chances are bringing up Jackson won't solidify the bullpen ... even if he is lights out. The Cubs still need another late-inning reliever from the right side and that could be attained via a trade.

The point is the season is long from over yet and there is some reason for hope ... but things have to start turning around soon.

Stay optimistic! Go Cubs!