Cubs defense still has room to improve

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
6:43
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Over the winter the Chicago Cubs' main plan for improvement centered around adding more pitching depth, getting more left-handed and playing better defense.

After 16 games there does appear to be more balance on offense and the starting pitching is certainly more fortified in the case of injury.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStarlin Castro's defensive issues have continued early on in the season.
The one area that still appears below average is the defense. Going into this series with the St. Louis Cardinals the Cubs have made 16 errors. Or a better way to break it down… they are on pace for 162 errors.

In the 2011 season the Cubs were the worst defensive team in baseball, making a major league-high 134 errors, not to mention the botched relay throws and poor positioning around the middle infield, which featured two inexperienced players in Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. Castro (29) and Geovany Soto (13) had the most errors at their positions in the league last year.

On Sunday Soto made throwing errors on back-to-back plays, begging the question of whether this team has improved in this crucial area.

“We are taking pride in [the hopes] we are a lot better defensively,” Soto said. “We are working our tails off trying to improve in the areas we need to improve in. So I think we have improved on defense.”

One spot worth watching for improvement over the season is first base. Since 2004 the Cubs have had a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, starting with Derrek Lee and ending with one great year of fielding by Carlos Pena. Bryan LaHair will give you a great effort, but until Anthony Rizzo is ready to be moved up to the parent club, balls in the dirt may not be scooped up like they have in the past.

Nothing says bad baseball to a fan base like a shoddy group of defenders, although improvement at third base and in right field are a nice addition to this year’s club. Ian Stewart and David DeJesus are top-notch defenders.

The jury is still out on the fielders’ chances of helping the pitching staff with better defense with only 10 percent of the season having been played.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167