Looking back on Cubs' highlights and struggles

Updated 10/10/2012 2:19 PM
  • The emergence of starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was one of the highlights of the season, says Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper. Inconsistent hitting hurt, but team defense improved overall.

    The emergence of starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was one of the highlights of the season, says Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper. Inconsistent hitting hurt, but team defense improved overall. Associated Press

Q. Now that the Cubs' 2012 season is in the books, what were the biggest reasons for their 61-101 record?

A. In the overall perspective it was the lack of a consistent offense, the ups and downs of a young bullpen, and a rotation that didn't have enough depth after the midseason trades.

I thought this team made good defensive strides, particularly with Alfonso Soriano's comeback year in left field, Darwin Barney's emergence as a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, and the addition of David DeJesus in the outfield. Starlin Castro is slowly getting better at short and if he can keep improving, I think he legitimately could win a Gold Glove down the road.

The baserunning was a disappointment, especially after all the hard work that was put into that area during spring training.

Q. There were some bright spots this season. What was the biggest for you?

A. There were definitely bright spots, from Anthony Rizzo's call-up to Bryan LaHair's improbable All-Star first half to the entire coaching staff working overtime on a daily basis to focus on all the fundamentals.

But for me, Jeff Samardzija's season really stands out. He has suddenly emerged as a top-of-the-line starting pitcher with nasty stuff to go along with the attitude and fortitude of an ace. He really exceeded my expectations going into the year.

Q. How far away is this club from being a consistent playoff contender?

A. Always a tough thing to tell. I think next year will look like a transition year as well, mainly because I still see holes in the rotation, at third base and in center field (or right field, if they move DeJesus to center), not to mention an inexperienced bullpen behind the top three guys.

If everything hits just right, I wouldn't rule out competing next year. Realistically, I would say 2014 possibly and for sure by 2015. By that point, some of the young prospects we are just starting to hear about could be wearing a big league uniform.

Q. Any postseason award picks in any of the categories that interest you?

A. I really hope Mike Trout wins the AL MVP. I've been having lots of fun debates about Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera, who had a monster year offensively. I just think Trout is the best overall player in baseball and deserves it.

That whole thing seems to be a referendum on Wins Above Replacement, a stat that favors Trout. It may have taken on too much importance, but it is indicative of just how great Trout is in all facets.

I am also rooting for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to win the NL Cy Young. What a great story he has been.

Of course, I want Darwin Barney to get a Gold Glove. And I'm pulling for Dusty Baker to get his fourth manager of the year award. He took a lot of heat at the end of his Cubs tenure, but you can't argue with the success of the 2012 Reds, especially their pitching staff.

Q. How much October baseball do you watch now that you are done "working" this season?

A. I normally don't go out of my way to watch playoff baseball once the Cubs season is over (although I did catch a lot of the controversial Cardinals/Braves wild-card game).

If it's convenient for me to sit down and watch, I will check out a few innings. However, I really like to dive into my family/vacation time in October.

Plus, I've just watched seven months of baseball every single day and I need a little detox period. By the time the World Series hits, I pretty much catch parts of, if not all of, every game.

• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @lenandbobwww.wgntv.com/lenandbob;http://www.wgntv.com/blogs/lenandbob/[URL]. [/URL]

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