Starting three rookies at one point in the rotation and having to deal with the absence of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior also has made the Cubs' job tougher.
"Starting pitching has been somewhat erratic," MacPhail said. "It shouldn't be a total shock given the experience level of 60 percent of your rotation. The starting pitching has been erratic and the bullpen has held up. We just need to knock them in. You win games by knocking the runs home."
The Cubs did sign Wade Miller this offseason but did not add any other starting pitchers to the mix, and had to promote Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall and Rich Hill. Marshall is the only one to stick.
"You just have to try to build up as big a surplus as you can," MacPhail said of the pitching. "Part of the idea that [Cubs general manager Jim Hendry] had in signing Wade Miller was that he would develop a surplus for the latter part of the season. His needs became more immediate with Mark [Prior] getting hurt and [Kerry] Wood having knee surgery.
"We had some promising pitchers in the Minor Leagues we thought could supplement, but we had two guys go down early on, and it wasn't spread out over the course of the season," MacPhail said.
Hendry has been criticized for not being prepared in case Wood and Prior did get hurt.
"Starting pitching is a precious commodity in baseball," MacPhail said. "You understood the injury history of our pitchers, and you had [Jerome] Williams, [Glendon] Rusch, Marshall, Guzman, Hill, Wade Miller, Prior, Wood, [Carlos] Zambrano, [Greg] Maddux, and the numbers were there. You got hit early and you got hit hard. It would be difficult for almost all organizations to compensate for losing that many guys that soon."
The Cubs were five outs away from getting to the World Series in 2003, and have not gotten close since. MacPhail didn't want to use injuries as an excuse because every team has to deal with them. In 2005, the Cubs lost Nomar Garciaparra in April because of a severe groin injury, and this year, Derrek Lee fractured his right wrist on April 19.
"We need to get at full strength and have everybody play to their accustomed level and see how we go from there and find out how good we can be," MacPhail said.