Series Preview: Taming the Cubs

What are some things you should know about this Cubs team:

1) The offense is jumping: The Chicago Cubs have spent a lot of money in the past few years to build a good offense. They paid for Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, developed Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro while bringing in mid-priced guys like Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome.

The result? A pretty good offense so far. Guys like Ramirez and Soriano are hitting for power. Fukudome is getting on base at an astounding clip and six players have batting averages over .300 with at least 19 plate appearances.

2) Pitching is their weakness--especially the top of the rotation: The Cubs currently have three starters who have made multiple starts. All three have ERAs over 5.00. You might expect that from Mr. Volatility Carlos Zambrano, but I'm sure the Cubs expected more from Matt Garza, after they gutted the farm to bring him over in a trade this offseason.

Ryan Dempster, who has quietly been very solid in this rotation, has started off the season bumpily. Neither of his first two starts have been very good, and the Cubs will need a rebound to his 2010 numbers if they expect to stay close to .500.

3) Andrew Cashner was good and gone: His one start may have been a doozy, but heralded rookie Andrew Cashner rode it right to the disabled list. Though he only allowed two hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings, the converted reliever left his start with stiffness in his right shoulder and was placed on the disabled list Friday.

Cashner was good enough to let the Cubs show Carlos Silva the door and give Cashner a shot in the rotation. They got exactly one start out of him and had to replace him with Casey Coleman, who was not nearly as good in his start ( 5 IP, 9 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk).

4) Starlin Castro looks legit: He's gone from phenom to legitimate starting shortstop. Second-year shortstop Starlin Castro is bringing an upgraded bat to the team this season. So far, the 21-year old is hitting .333/.366/.487. With those numbers, he could be not only the most improved player in the league, but a legitimate All-Star at short.

Of course, he's not likely to hit like that all season, so the Astros can hope for the regression to start in the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park.

5) Carlos Pena does not: The Cubs made a semi-bold move in the offseason, opting to not bring back Derrick Lee, after he hit the free agent market following a trade with Atlanta last season. Instead, they brought in free agent Carlos Pena. Expectations weren't nearly as high for Pena as they were for Lee, who as a sometime MVP candidate. Pena is who he is at this point in his career. He'll hit for power, especially in Wrigley, but isn't going to have a high batting average and will strike out a ton.

That's exactly what he's done this season, minus the power. Pena is hitting .190/.333/.238 with nine strikeouts in 28 plate appearances this season.

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