Dana DeMuth Didn't Squeeze Anyone During Game 1

Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, there was an offhand comment about the strike zone during the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Nationals on Opening Day.

Kerry Wood didn't perform well in his first outing, so the natural reaction is to blame the umpires, because the Sainted No. 34 couldn't have just been bad.

Wood was bad today. He issued three walks, forcing in the tying run, before finally ending the inning on a groundout. It did appear that he had strike three on at least two of the hitters he walked; plate umpire Dana DeMuth was squeezing just about everyone this afternoon, and Wood couldn't adjust.

Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But before we all rush the field to tackle the umpires (Don't rush the field to tackle the umpires), maybe we should look at what the cameras that Major League Baseball installed to track pitching tell us.

Pretty Sure That The Cubs Fan Wins; Sox Fan Uses New York Argument

"DH stands for Don't ... Havetalent."

"Have talent is one word."

"Yes, it is."

The Zimmerman Effect: How Ryan Dempster Got Lucky

Kerry Wood's performance wasn't the only problem with Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.

No, another problem lurked below the surface, one that you wouldn't necessarily notice because of the results.

That cryptic explanation points to Ryan Dempster's performance.

The veteran pitcher struck out 10 Nats on Thursday. He threw 108 pitches and his arm didn't fall off. He even retired 15 in a row at one point.

The ugly truth is that he got lucky, in ways that he wasn't so lucky last season.

Game 1: Failure To Prepare for Season Dooms Cubs

Friday morning you will probably read how not much has changed with the Cubs after a 2-1 opening day loss to the Washington Nationals.

Surprise, surprise. It takes longer than a few months to turn around the franchise that had sunk to lows that even the die-hard fans couldn't believe over the last couple of seasons. Yes, the Cubs have been bad before, but this sustained period of bad baseball -- not just losing, but playing dumb baseball -- is not normal, not even on the North side of Chicago.

You will read about more bullpen collapses. You just won't read about the reasons for bullpen collapses.

I am not even talking about Carlos Marmol. Marmol is his own issue. His trade value, because the team fails to work on the issues with his delivery and pitch selection, declines day by day.

This is about Kerry Wood. Wood was held back during spring training, with the idea that he would be needed later in the season. That made March less important.

But why was later in the season important to this Cubs team? Why this year? What did they they think were saving Wood for?

Paul Maholm may give up more home runs, but a steal for Cubs

After the Chicago Cubs dealt Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres, it left the team in a precarious position. The team would have had five established starters going into spring training with no reasonable option existing to be No. 6.

The front office took care of that problem Monday night by signing Paul Maholm to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $4.8 million -- if he meets all his incentives -- with an option for 2013.

Maholm adds much needed depth to the rotation, and another lefty to the mix. The move means that the Cubs will likely have another option to start should the injury bug strike as it did in 2011.

But how will Maholm fare in the move to Wrigley Field?

Cubs ship Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood

The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds closed in on a trade Wednesday night that would send left-handed reliever Sean Marshall to the Queen City in return for Travis Wood and two still-unnamed minor leaguers.

The Cubs are looking to bolster a rotation that needed help, and continue to add depth in the farm system lacking much to get excited about. Marshall was one of the few pieces with any value at the major league level, and the Cubs managed to get a decent haul back for them, no matter who the two yet unknowns turn out to be.

During the rush to the trade deadline this summer, Marshall looked to be about the only Cubs that would change uniforms. Somehow Chicago managed to move Kosuke Fukudome, but Marhsall's bags must have been packed for the entire month of July.

Only the trade never happened. Some speculated that the outgoing Hendry administration didn't want to make any moves that could cost the new front office pieces to deal with. That makes sense, if only in retrospect. There was no telling who the new GM would be, nor what value the club would continue to place on a middle relief arm.

Bullpen strength is fungible. One year a team has it, the next it is gone. Relievers rotate between the big club and Triple-A all season long. A player with a 2.5 WAR might quickly turn into one that registers below replacement. Missing an opportunity to trade the lefty at his peak when teams were seeking bullpen help seems like a missed opportunity.

Cubs and Free Agent Pitchers: Joe Saunders

Among the many ills of the 2011 Chicago Cubs was the lack of quality starting pitching. Short outings ate up the bullpen and left the Cubs trying to dig from a hole with an anemic offense. So how does this get better in 2012?

After the Cubs made their singular trade of the winter meetings, swapping Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu for Ian Stewart, the message from the front office was that the next step was to look at non-tendered players and other free agents.

The Japanese star Yu Darvish is supposedly one chance the Cubs have to shore up a rotation that was tied for last in average Game Score, and had less quality starts than every staff but Colorado.

The posting process is a crap shoot though, and while Theo Epstein has some history with it, you get one shot to throw what amounts to $100 million total at the player. That seems more like a move from the old Cubs regime rather than the new Cubs. Chances are that the Cubs are not going to be the team that is chosen by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (and the rumors are that Toronto has already sealed this up).

If the season started today, the Cubs would throw out a rotation that looks very similar to last season. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano would lead out, with Randy Wells returning in the No. 4 spot. Andrew Cashner should return from his arm troubles, and be in contention for the fifth spot if the Cubs don't make a move, although rumor has it that a return to the bullpen -- probably permanently -- is in order.

With starting pitching depth a concern, the team should be looking at realistic choices on the market. While Tim Wakefield has been rumored to be of interest, you don't need stats breakdown why a 45-year-old knuckleballer shouldn't be (Neither should his favorite catcher Jason Varitek).

Instead, today begins a series of articles looking at the potential choices the Cubs have for the rotation.

To begin, Joe Saunders.

Brewers get a steal with Aramis Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez had worn out his welcome in Chicago. Injury-filled seasons in 2009 and 2010 left fans restless with the aging third baseman.

That 2011 began with Ramirez hitting just two home runs over the first two months of the season didn't help. While his slash line of .288/.351/.396 wasn't terrible, it lacked the power component the Cubs seemed to desperately need over those first cold months.

No matter what Ramirez did over the remainder of the season -- only becoming one of the top third basemen at the plate by the trading deadline -- his time was done. His final .306/.361/.510 was like a mirage to Cubs fans.

Cubs lose out by Cardinals not signing Pujols

There is a lot of rejoicing in the NL Central today now that Albert Pujols has signed with the Los Angeles Angels. The division will be freed of its most feared player, one that had punished them all to the tune of 40-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs in a little more than 170 games against each team.

It is slightly sad, because one of the greatest players in baseball history will be leaving the only team he played for. It seemed like Pujols could potentially be like Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken, and stick with the Cardinals. It feels like it could have cemented an even bigger legacy for him. The legacy needs no help, but there is something about being known for wearing just one cap in a career.

It is also slightly sad, because this seems like bad news for the Cubs.