• AP Photo/Gene Puskar
  • If Jeff Samardzija’s excellent pitching continues, he’ll bring the Cubs better prospects when he’s traded this summer.

Only an incurable optimist could find five reasons to be hopeful about the Cubs based on their play the first two weeks this season. But I’m willing to try.

True, the Cubs are 4-8, tied for last. They’re on pace to commemorate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday this year with at least one loss for every year. (The magic number is now 92.) Their record may worsen tomorrow because they have a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium; the game that was scheduled for tonight has already been rained out and rescheduled as part of a day-night twin-bill tomorrow. In one of those games they’ll be facing Masahiro Tanaka, the formidable Japanese pitcher they vainly pursued this winter. Known for his impeccable control, Tanaka, 1-0, has fanned 18 and walked one in 14 innings. The north-siders have played seven games in Yankee Stadium in the franchise’s history, and their next win in the Bronx will be their first. A long piece in today’s New York Times greets the team: “As Cubs Wander Into the Bronx, They’ve Never Been Worse“.

But consider:

1. Jeff Samardzija’s ERA, 1.29, is fifth lowest among NL starters. If he could just get it under 1.00, he might even win a game. The 29-year-old right-hander has surrendered only three runs in three starts, and is somehow 0-1. The better he pitches, the better the return when the Cubs deal him in July.

2. Two other starters have also pitched well. Twenty-seven-year-old Travis Wood has a 2.92 ERA. Jason Hammel’s is even better—2.63. Hammel is less important because he’s 31, but, again, the better he does, the better the trade opportunities.

  • AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
  • The Cubs, who tried to get Masahiro Tanaka last winter, will get him in Yankee Stadium tomorrow.

3. Two position players key to the team’s future are off to good starts: First baseman Anthony Rizzo is hitting .319, shortstop Starlin Castro .300. The versatile Emilio Bonifacio is sixth in the league with a .392 average, and second in stolen bases with seven, but he’s been overachieving: he’s a lifetime .265 hitter, and he’s already cooling off—he’s one for his last 13. The 28-year-old Bonifacio matters less, however, than Rizzo and Castro, who are 24.

4. Yes, the bullpen has, um, struggled. But Justin Grimm, 25, and Hector Rondon, 26, have not: they’ve each pitched seven scoreless innings. Rondon, in fact, has a 16-inning scoreless streak dating to last September.

So that’s four reasons to be hopeful about the Cubs. If I said five, I was being overly optimistic.