The Cubs entered play Thursday with the worst record in all of baseball. Yet somehow, they actually have several players in the All-Star conversation.
The team may not be doing well, but some Cubs are having good individual seasons.
With the All-Star game roughly a month away, Dale Sveum spoke to the media Wednesday about his players' chances.
"We got a few," the Cubs skipper said. "Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. We got a few that are right there on the bubble. As far as consistency, obviously Dempster doesn't have the wins but he's been as good a starting pitcher as there is in baseball. He's got the real numbers there except the wins.
"Obviously, Sori's past three weeks. If he puts up another four homers and 10 RBIs, it's going to be tough to probably keep him out of it, as well as Dempster...It will be interesting to see what happens."
As a disclaimer, the chances of more than one Cub appearing on the 2012 National League All-Star roster are extremely slim. In this day and age, every team is represented, but the best teams have the most representatives and the worst teams have the least.
That stands to reason. Why should the Cubs have three or four guys make the roster when they have the worst record in the league?
Let's take a look at the four candidates Sveum mentioned (all stats are through June 13):
Sori took forever to get warmed up, failing to hit a home run until May 15. But he's been on a tear since then, clubbing 12 in the last month. However, that slow start will likely be his doom, as he ranks 12th among NL outfielders in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and is tied with Matt Kemp for eighth in home runs. Kemp has almost 100 less at-bats, though, thanks to two DL stints.
Soriano is also 23rd in the NL in on-base percentage. The All-Star team will feature anywhere from six-to-10 outfielders and there are simply better candidates. Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran and the Brewers' Ryan Braun are locks. Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Melky Cabrera of the Giants are also likely shoe-ins.
Then there's Andre Ethier, who currently leads the NL in RBI with 55, and his teammate, Kemp, who may still get voted in given his superstar status. That leaves Soriano battling with Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, Jay Bruce, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan for what may only be one or two spots.
The best thing going for the Cubs' late-bloomer is the fact that first base in the NL is kind of a crapshoot right now. Ryan Howard is still sidelined and Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have packed up and switched leagues. That leaves only Joey Votto, who is arguably the best hitter in the game right now.
LaHair is second to only Votto among NL first basemen in average, slugging, OBP and OPS. His 12 home runs leads the group.
Votto is a lock, but only Paul Goldschmidt (.857 OPS) and Adam LaRoche (.848) provide any real competition to LaHair. Because of that, LaHair may very well find his way on the roster, even though his numbers have steadily dropped off of late.
If I had to pick one guy to represent the Cubs in the All-Star game, I'd go with Dempster. As Sveum said, Dempster has been one of the best starting pitchers in the game this season, even though he's only picked up two wins. But that's just proof that pitchers shouldn't be judged on wins.
Dempster's 2.31 ERA ranks fifth in the NL and his 1.03 WHIP is good for eighth. The NL has a great collection of starting pitchers to choose from for the All-Star game roster, but Dempser has to be near the top of the list.
Of course, he may not be wearing a Cubs uniform by the time the midsummer classic rolls around next month. Dempster will almost assuredly be traded before August, and a deal could take form over the next few weeks.
Chances: Very good
Castro is the Cubs' most marketable player and was the team's only All-Star in 2011. He also has the added advantage of playing at a rather offensively-challenged position.
Castro leads the NL in both hits and average and is fifth in OPS and tied for second with 16 steals.
Jose Reyes, Rafael Furcal, Jed Lowrie and Troy Tulowitzki provide the most competition, but Tulo has been hurt and suffered a setback on his rehab assignment this week, so there's no guarantee he'd be able to play in the All-Star game. Furcal has fallen off after a blazing hot start and Lowrie plays for the Astros, who don't figure to boast more than one All-Star, either. That being said, Lowrie may be Houston's best option, as his 12 homers and .868 OPS lead NL shortstops.
Castro still has a good chance of making it, but if the Cubs are only going to get one guy on the roster, how do you deny Ryan Dempster?
Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija each have an outside chance of making it. Both have had solid stretches this season and Samardzija may have even been the most likely Cubs candidate before getting rocked for eight runs on nine hits in less than four innings his last time out. Prior to that, the 27-year-old carried a 5-3 record on a bad team to go with his 3.13 ERA.
There are still several weeks left until the complete rosters are chosen, and a lot can happen in those games. Players can get hot or go through a terrible cold spell or injuries could befall some surefire options.
But it's still amazing that a last-place team has so many hopefuls.