I wrote a few weeks ago about four things the Cubs need to do to be a great (i.e., 90+ wins) team. I didn’t rank those things in any order, but looking back it seems clear that one of those things is probably necessary for the Cubs to be a merely good team: namely, Lilly and Hill need to collectively come close to their performance from last year. So far, they have fallen far short, and that, more than anything else that has happened on this young season, makes me worry. I have to wonder if Lilly is nursing an injury since his velocity is down from last year; in Hill’s case, I suspect the problem is largely mental (and perhaps a bit mechanical). Of the two, I’m actually more confident in Hill’s ability to get back on track, though of course the Cubs seem to be dead set on preventing him from doing so.

There are, of course, some encouraging things about this Cubs team: the offense looks like it will be solid (i.e., at least league average), perhaps even good (i.e., top five in league, with Soto, Fukudome, and DeRosa providing nice support for the “big boys.” Theriot still sucks, of course, but his numbers so far are low even for him—he’ll improve. The bullpen also looks to be fairly solid, and will certainly improve as Howry finds his form. All of these good things, however, will probably be for naught if Hill and/or Lilly can’t find themselves soon.

The Reds come into town tomorrow for a three-game set that will feature the following pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Fogg vs. Dempster

Wednesday: Harang vs. Zambrano

Thursday: Volquez vs. Lilly

Circle Wednesday, kids: that’s a hell of a matchup. It is not, however, a new one, as Z and that ugly fat dude faced off FOUR TIMES last year! The Reds won all four games, but perhaps the Cubbies can start to turn that trend around. Still, a betting man would favor the Reds. The current Cubs have a collective 1.003 OPS off of Fogg, so let’s call the first game of the series a Cubs win. No Cubs have batted against Thursday starter Edinson Volquez, so the Reds will definitely win that one. Projection, then: Reds win the series, 2-1.

EDIT: Apparently ESPN was wrong yesterday: Harang goes tonight and Fogg goes tomorrow night.  I’m still betting on a 2-1 series win for the Reds.