Commentary

Bruce Levine's interactive Cubs report card

Check out our expert's midseason grades, then share yours for each player on the 2011 team

Updated: July 11, 2011, 1:09 PM ET
By Bruce Levine | ESPNChicago.com

The Cubs have earned their lowly position in the National League Central. But a variety of problems that were out of their control, including injuries, played a part.

Being able to play through adversity separates the good from the not-so-good teams. Although the Cubs lost two starting pitchers -- Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells -- in the first week of the season, other teams like the Red Sox have had the same misfortune with injured starting pitchers and were able to stay competitive in baseball's toughest division.

Giving grades to players is not one of my favorite things to do, however as Coach Ditka says, "In life," you listen to your superiors and follow your orders. Let's hope the players and coaches don't start grading media people any time soon. Keep in mind some of these ratings will be based on the fact the Cubs had 13 players go on the disabled list in the first 90 days of the season.

Here are some midseason grades for Cubs players, with an opportunity for readers to give their own assessment. Agree or disagree, it's your choice. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Koyie Hill, C

Levine: He's improved for a guy who is offensively challenged. His leadership and pitch calling is among the best in the league. His throwing has not been as good as the last two seasons. Grade: C







Geovany Soto, C

Levine: No one has done a better job blocking balls in the dirt than Soto. His game-calling has become a strength. His hitting has been a disappointment, most likely affected by his stint on the DL for a strained groin. He needs to pick up his power stroke in the second half. Grade: C-



Carlos Pena, 1B

Levine: He's been one of the most consistent contributors in the league since May 3 after five fruitless weeks. He's helped people forget Derrek Lee's outstanding defense at first base. The acrobatic defender has saved probably 20-plus throws from being errors. He's a great teammate and his power stroke is at mid-season form. Grade: B-

Darwin Barney, 2B

Levine: The young second baseman has made numerous big plays on defense and contributed some big hits. His 31 RBIs isn't bad for someone who hits mostly singles. He's helped the Cubs improve their defense up the middle. Grade: B




Starlin Castro, SS

Levine: The Cubs' lone All-Star continues to hit over .300, something he's been able to sustain since May, 2010, when he broke into the majors. Although not a home run hitter yet, he has been Mike Quade's most consistent hitter. His defensive skills have improve dramatically, but he can be erratic, especially with his throws. Grade: B+

Aramis Ramirez, 3B

Levine: He's been A-plus since June 1, when he became one of baseball's hottest hitters. The third baseman had two unproductive months before turning it up a notch. Ramirez's defense has been average as his range dropped off. Grade: C+

Jeff Baker, IF

Levine: Like Johnson, he's done more than anyone expected. He killed left-handed pitching and has been better this season against righties. Grade: B






Blake DeWitt, IF

Levine: He lost his second base job in spring training to Barney, but he's filled in for Soriano admirably in left field when Soriano went on the DL. He's considered the hardest worker on the team, which says a lot for a team of hard workers. Grade: D+


Alfonso Soriano, LF

Levine: He had good power numbers the first month of the season hitting 12 of his 13 home runs in the first six weeks. A trip to the DL stunted some of his offensive numbers. His defense has been below average. Grade: C-


Marlon Byrd, CF

Levine: If you were just rating guts, it would be an A-plus. He's still recovering from getting hit in the face and missing six weeks. The high energy player doesn't have much of a slugging percentage. He's better than you think on defense. Grade: B-


Tony Campana, CF

Levine: He may be the fastest player in baseball. He's helped his team by adding the element of the stolen base to a team lacking in that department. His outfield play has been average. Grade: C-

Reed Johnson, CF

Levine: The consummate team player always makes the big defensive play when you need it. He's had several clutch hits and is consistently one of the smartest players in the league. Back spasms have kept him down. Grade: B

Kosuke Fukudome, RF

Levine: After his usual hot start, he's fallen off in batting average and on-base percentage. Fukudome's defense remains solid. He's made some great catches and has thrown out runners at second and at home. Grade: C

Tyler Colvin, OF

Levine: One of the greater disappointments in the first half, he's starting to get his hitting together in the minor leagues. But his hitting and defense were way below what was expected. Grade: D-



Matt Garza, SP

Levine: Three weeks on the disabled list makes his grade a bit inconclusive. He's averaged just 5 2/3 innings, which is not enough. Extra fielding practice is recommended in the second half. He has a 4-7 record with a 4.26 ERA. Grade: C

Ryan Dempster, SP

Levine: The Cubs' ace has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Cubs over the last three years, posting at least 200 innings in 2008, '09 and '10. With a 5.01 ERA this season, he's averaged just 5 2/3 innings per start. Dempster has pitched through some illness and injury, which impacted at least two of his starts. Grade: C-

Randy Wells, SP

Levine: His nine first-half starts have been underachieving after coming back from a strained right forearm, for which he missed seven weeks. The injury gives him a bit of an excuse, but overall his pitching has been below average. He's 1-3 with a 6.80 ERA. Grade: D+




Carlos Zambrano, SP

Levine: He's pitched well at times and has put up the most innings -- 112 -- of anyone on the staff. For the first time since 2007, he's on pace to throw 200 innings. The 6-4 record says a lot on a team that's struggled so much this season. Grade: C+





Carlos Marmol, RP

Levine: With a 75 percent save ratio, Marmol has been less productive than he was over the last two seasons. The closer has had a tendency to lose his slider from time to time, but he's still one of the dominant closers in the NL. Grade: B-





Sean Marshall, RP

Levine: The left-hander is one of the top set-up men in the game. His bad outings have been more a reflection on being overused. He's been impressive with 16 holds. Grade: B+






Chris Carpenter, RP

Levine: Big-time power arm with a 100-MPH-plus fastball could be a future closer. Grade: Incomplete





John Grabow, RP

Levine After a very slow start, Grabow has been very good in his last four outings. The veteran could help a contender and bring back a prospect in a trade. The Yankees are knocking at the door. Grade: C

Rodrigo Lopez, RP

Levine: Has pitched well in his brief stints. Grade: Incomplete






Marcos Mateo, RP

Levine: He showed some strong signs before a forearm strain put him on the DL until at least mid-August. Grade: Incomplete




Ramon Ortiz, SP

Levine: Has pitched well in his brief stints. Grade: Incomplete







James Russell, RP

Levine: Russell stepped up and started five games when the team needed him the most because of injuries to other starters. His command and confidence have improved dramatically because of his emergency starts. Grade: C+


Jeff Samardzija, RP

Levine: The Cubs' young reliever has improved greatly over the past year. Major league experience and better command of his slider and cut fastball have made him into more than a serviceable reliever. With the Cubs' dearth of starting pitching, don't be surprised if he returns to the rotation. Grade: B

Kerry Wood, RP

Levine: His health and command go hand in hand as he missed three weeks with an infected right index finger. Wildness has been a part of his problem with 14 walks in 28 innings. Grade: C-





Mike Quade, Mgr.

Levine: Quade could not find same mojo that worked for him last season. Maybe Lou Pinella wasn't wrong when he said 'no mas' last August. Thirteen men on the DL gets Quade a mini pass. Grade: C-


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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