Lost in all the recent Cub bloodshed—figurative and literal—has been the quality pitching of Sean Marshall, Sunday’s winning pitcher.

Three starts into his 2007 season, Marshall is looking like he might be that rarest of commodities: a quality, #5 starting pitcher. Big Sean's numbers through Sunday's start:

20 IP
16 H
22 K
5 BB
2.25 ERA

I had a vague recollection that Marshall also started out well last season, and after checking with the Mother Ship, I can report that my recollection was right. Marshall's key stats through his first six starts last year:

34.2 IP
20 H
11 BB
3.12 ERA

Handsome stuff. Things got very ugly between starts 7 and 24, however. Only three of Marshall's last 18 trips to the mound were anything to be proud of, and a couple--including a 3 2/3-inning, 9-run catastrophe against the Giants and a 3 1/3-inning, 7-run effort against the Marlins--made the young lefty look like he was downright out of his league...unless his league was maybe the Northwest League.

As the season wore on, Marshall's control suffered too: 3-, 4- and 5-walk starts became his norm. It seems likely that the strained oblique muscle that sidelined Marshall in August was a contributing factor to the onset of his general ineptitude, though it's hard to know for sure.

Maybe the last remaining major cause for optimism about the rest of this Cubs season is the possibility that some of the veterans who haven't performed up to their career standards so far will finally do so. If young Marshall could continue pitching the way he has started out 2007, and the way he started out 2006, it would certainly help the cause.


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