COMMENTARY | As the Chicago Cubs struggle to stay within striking distance of .500, there are a number of players who haven't been playing to expectations thus far in 2013. If it was not for a few players playing above expectations -- Scott Feldman, Travis Wood, Kevin Gregg -- the Cubs would assuredly have a much worse record.
As it stands, a number of players will need to bounce back from sub-par first months if the Cubs are going to have a chance to play competitive baseball beyond about July 1. Shawn Camp gets an honorable mention, but I already said I think the Cubs should cut him, so he is already spoken for.
Carlos Marmol (2-2, 5.06 ERA)After a less-than-stellar 2012 campaign, Marmol might not have had the expectations of a few seasons ago, but the Cubs were absolutely counting on him to be more effective than he has been here in 2013. It only took Marmol about a week (April 7) to lose the closer job to Kyuji Fujikawa and the struggles continued even after he did. To Marmol's credit, his ERA has slowly declined as the season has progressed.
The dark side of those stats is that he has given up 15 hits and 13 walks in just 16 innings. Those numbers are dreadful -- especially when most of your work comes in the ninth inning with small leads.
Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76 ERA)Even though it is still early in Jackson's tenure with the Cubs, I wonder if he will suffer a similar fate that Alfonso Soriano has. Jackson is a solid pitcher despite his lacking numbers this season, but he has not shown to be a rotation anchor at any point in his career (4.45 career ERA). At $13 million per year, he is being paid to be something he is not. Either way, an ERA of almost 6.00 is not getting the job done. If Matt Garza stays healthy, Jackson will only need to be a third- or fourth-level starter. At that point, Jackson will begin to be valuable, presuming he can improve his numbers a bit.
Scott Hairston (.122 AVG, 3 HR, 7 RBIs)Hairston gets a partial free pass because he has been used sparingly -- just over 50 at-bats -- and consequently has not had much opportunity to get comfortable. He was mostly signed as a power bat against left-handed pitching. With Nate Schierholtz performing well, Hairston's intended platoon role in right field has been greatly diminished. He is only a career .244 hitter so if he doesn't get the at-bats to have a chance to benefit from his power stroke, his day-to-day usefulness drops drastically.
Kyuji Fujikawa (1-1, 6.75 ERA)Fujikawa was signed from Japan with the intention of being the Cubs' setup pitcher. When Marmol scuffled early, Fujikawa was tabbed as the new closer. Six days after his promotion to closer, Fujikawa went to the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Unlike Marmol, Fujikawa's problems have not come from walking batters (only one walk in nine innings) but from giving up hits (10 in nine innings).
Prior to giving up a run against the New York Mets on May 19, Fujikawa had not given up a run in his previous four appearances. He looks to be slowly getting better but given his numbers in Japan over six seasons (202 saves, 1.36 ERA), he has been a disappointment thus far in 2013.
Ian Stewart ( .148 AVG, 0 HR, 6 RBIs -- Triple-A)Despite not having been on the major-league roster so far this season, Stewart's inability has to be considered an underachievement since he was projected as the Cubs' starting third baseman. His situation has gone from bad to worse as he was recently removed from the Cubs' 40-man roster and has been placed behind Josh Vitters on the Triple-A depth chart. The Cubs' current third basemen (Luis Valbuena, Cody Ransom) have both performed well enough to hold down the position, but the Cubs are fooling themselves if either are considered long-term solutions. It looks like Stewart is even less of one.
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Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo! Contributor and Yahoo! Sports. He is also a senior in college majoring in English and Creative Writing.