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Cubs’ 2013 season looking awfully familiar

CHICAGO IL- JUNE 21:  Starting pitcher Matt Garz#22 Chicago Cubs stands dugout after eighth inning against HoustAstros Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL- JUNE 21: Starting pitcher Matt Garza #22 of the Chicago Cubs stands in the dugout after the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on June 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 163494190

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The facts: 7:10 p.m., CSN,

The starters: Edwin Jackson (3-9, 5.49 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (2-6, 3.68).


Wednesday: 7:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Scott Feldman (6-6, 3.39) vs. Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 4.09).

Thursday: 1:10 p.m., CSN,
720-AM. Matt Garza (2-1, 4.25) vs. Wily Peralta (5-8, 5.59).

Updated: June 25, 2013 11:47AM

The second year of the Cubs’ makeover is looking a lot like the first as midseason approaches.

After 74 games, the Cubs are five games better this season (31-43) than they were last season (26-48). Their starting pitching is better (3.76 ERA vs. 4.32 ERA in 2012), their overall ERA is better (3.87 vs. 4.37), they have scored more runs (299 vs. 274) and they have hit more home runs (79 vs. 59).

But the pluses might mean more tradable commodities before the July 31 deadline.

Last season, starters Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25 ERA) and Paul
Maholm (9-6, 3.74 ERA) were leading the rotation when they were traded. Matt Garza (2-1, 4.25 ERA) might be the Dempster of 2013, a free agent-to-be after this season who likely would have been traded last July had he not suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Scott Feldman (6-6, 3.39 ERA) might be the Maholm of 2013, a veteran having some success who has experience in playoff runs (with the Texas Rangers).

The Dempster and Maholm trades last season, coupled with Garza’s injury, decimated the
Cubs’ rotation in August and September. After going 15-10 in July, the Cubs went 18-42 in the last two months to finish 61-101. The
replacement starters included
Justin Germano (2-10, 6.75 ERA), Chris Rusin (2-3, 6.37 ERA), Brooks Raley (1-2, 8.14 ERA) and Jason Berken (0-3, 4.82 ERA).

The Cubs’ rotation is deeper in 2013, with Jeff Samardzija (5-7, 3.39 ERA) and Travis Wood (5-6, 2.85 ERA) having better seasons than they did in 2012. Edwin Jackson
(3-9, 5.49 ERA) is under a long-term contract and struggling, though not as badly as Chris Volstad (3-12, 6.31 ERA) did last season.

But the Cubs also might see their bullpen shuffled this season. Closer Kevin Gregg has been rock-solid in his second go-around with the Cubs (1.11 ERA, 11-for-11 in save chances) after being released by the Los
Angeles Dodgers after spring training, and setup man James Russell (2.22 ERA) also might be shopped. Next to starters, relievers are the most valuable commodities for contending teams.

As much as the Cubs might want to move outfielder Alfonso Soriano and the remaining $18 million-plus on his contract, outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney might be more marketable.

Schierholtz is having his best season at the plate and has been the Cubs’ most consistent hitter (.296, 10 homers, 29 RBI). He is steady in the field and has playoff experience with the 2010 world champion San Francisco Giants. After being released by the Boston Red Sox this spring, Sweeney (.309, three homers, 13 RBI) is making the most of his chance to play every day in place of injured David DeJesus.

The 2012 Cubs suffered at the gate in the last two months, too. Their average attendance slipped to 33,373 in August and to 32,244 in September. The Cubs’ total atten-
dance last season was less than
3 million (2,882,756) for the first time since 2003.

But the 2013 Cubs already have taken a bigger hit at the turnstiles. Average attendance through 39 home games is 32,381, but the no-show factor is estimated to be as much as 11,000 per game. The Cubs have fallen to 12th in the majors in attendance and are projected to see their total attendance drop by as much as 200,000.

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