Here's a look at the NL Central standings as we head into the last week of May:
Our previous glances at the standings have focused on the Brewers and Astros. But what about the Cubs? They've been stuck in the bottom half of the division for most of the season - can they climb out and make a playoff run?
Well, maybe. The Cubs have scored 26 fewer runs than they've allowed this year, which suggests they aren't playing particularly well. Starlin Castro, who is batting .330, has led an offense that probably rates as a slight disappointment. The problem is that Castro is overachieving, and other hitters who haven't played particularly well so far, such as Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez, are pretty old. The recent loss of Marlon Byrd to facial fractures won't help, either.
If the Cubs do make a run, it will probably be on the backs of their pitching staff. Cubs pitchers have gotten no help from a mediocre team defense, but even putting that aside, they've still been rather unlucky. Ryan Dempster, in particular, appears to have been ferociously unlucky with fly balls clearing the fence; going forward, he should be much better than his early-season numbers. Unfortunately, they recently lost perhaps their best starter, Matt Garza, to the DL with elbow stiffness. That doesn't seem likely to be a lasting problem, however.
The Cubs are still just seven games back of the Cardinals, so they're in the race. They have the talent to stay there, but to do so, they'll have to get the most out of a roster that's increasingly rickety.