Through 81 games, Cubs improved over last year

Through 81 games, Cubs improved over last year

OAKLAND -- The Cubs have reached the halfway point in the season, posting a 35-46 record in the first 81 games, a slight improvement over last year's 31-50 record at the midpoint.

The Cubs have hit 20 more home runs at this point compared to last year (87 vs. 67) and have scored 39 more runs (337 to 298). The team ERA of 3.97 is nearly a half run lower than last year's 4.37 ERA through 81 games. Cubs starting pitchers have a 3.82 ERA through 81 games this season after posting a 4.32 ERA at this point last year, while the bullpen has a 4.32 ERA through 81 games this year, lower than the 4.47 ERA through 81 games last year.

How does manager Dale Sveum assess the team at the midway point?

"The two areas most glaring are obviously the bullpen and closing games out after having all these leads after the sixth, seventh, eighth innings," Sveum said. "We've got to clean that up somehow and win those ballgames that we put ourselves in a position to win.

"The offense is coming around a little bit and we're getting a little better with men in scoring position," he said. "Our two biggest problems have been men in scoring position and closing things with the bullpen."

The Cubs are tied for third-lowest batting average in the Major Leagues with runners in scoring position.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.