WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly
Check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire
Chicago Cubs fans weren’t exactly treated to the most dazzling of Jon Lester starts in the team’s opening night clash with St. Louis.
The high-priced lefty, the team’s main jewel of a wealthy off-season, was touched up for eight hits and three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on April 5 night, though one could argue Lester’s final line was a little misleading and not quite as bad as it seemed. Several of the hits were of the soft line drive variety — coming off the bats of above-average hitters — and Lester still managed to strike-out six of the 22 batters he faced.
That reality didn’t prevent Chicago media from rushing to early judgments and condemning this Cubs season and the team at its center to be still “under construction,” an analogy so creatively born out of the team’s stadium situation, it had to be the product of an elite team of writers.
The first game of the MLB season is, without question, the most over scrutinized and analyzed game of the season. The Cubs lost a 3-0 game to a perennial World Series contender in the Cardinals. It should be left at that. The Northsiders may well in fact be still “under construction,” but they’re much improved and already starting to resemble a team that can contend in the fall.
At the very least, the addition of a true front-end ace in Jon Lester and improvements at just about every position that under-performed last year should equate to meaningful home games in August and September. That in itself is a big improvement over late-July fire sales at the trade deadline.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a thing for Lester, so more than not I will be coming to his defense, but quoting this guy’s six-year salary after one shaky start serves as what kind of analysis exactly? Lester’s value isn’t going to be proven or unproven in one game, he’s a veteran and an All-Star that has made his mark on the league and he deserves at least a few starts before anyone starts questioning his salary.
Cubs fans should be excited about a 31-year-old lefty ace with 116 wins, a career 3.59 ERA and nearly 1,500 strikeouts, I get that. That excitement should not lead into over-analysis of one game in April. I’ll be the first to alert anyone of when it’s appropriate to hit the panic button. (It won’t be for a while.)
Far From Fowl(er)
Offensively, the Cubs haven’t done much to make me think they’re a different team than the one I projected for somewhere in the 80-82 range of wins. It was nice, however, for the newly acquired leadoff man Dexter Fowler to get things going this weekend, though.
Fowler entered the weekend series against his former Colorado Rockies club with just a single hit, starting the season on an 1-13 slide, he made up for the down start on Saturday and Sunday, collecting two hits in each game, scoring three runs and driving in four, including two on a go-ahead home run Sunday to deliver a series salvaging-win.
Similar to what Melky Cabrera may represent for the White Sox, I think Fowler is (or could be) the X-factor for the Cubs this year in regards to their offensive production. The club lacked a true leadoff man last year and if Fowler can play that role adequately this year, setting the table for the Cubs’ 2-5 hitters, they might be able to score enough runs to make this a .500 ball club.