Zobrist exceeding Maddon's high expectations

Zobrist exceeding Maddon's high expectations

CHICAGO -- Memorial Day is a good milestone to gauge where a team is, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon said there's only been one surprise and it has nothing to do with the club's red-hot start.

"[Ben] Zobrist being able to play at this level as well as he has would be the one thing -- I expected him to play well, but he's exceeding those expectations," Maddon said of Zobrist, 35, who ranks among the National League leaders in on-base percentage and batting average.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Zobrist and other #ASGWorthy players

It's not that Maddon didn't expect Zobrist to play well, but the level the second baseman is playing at has been a little bit of a surprise. Zobrist continued his hot hitting in Sunday's 7-2 victory over the Phillies, belting a three-run homer with two outs in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. He now has reached safely in his past 34 starts.

• As of Sunday, the Cubs' pitching staff boasted the best ERA in the Major Leagues at 2.67, and the starters were on pace for their goal to each total 200 innings.

"By the end of the season, when you get these guys close to 200 ininngs, it makes a huge difference," Maddon said. "The goal of the group is to get to 1,000 innings. When that does occur, you usually have a good bullpen."

The Cubs starters were tied for third in the National League with the Dodgers for innings pitched.

• Maddon was aware of the flap over the Dodgers using a laser rangefinder to determine defensive positioning before a game against the Mets. The Cubs manager felt the matter was "a little bit overblown" regarding its importance.

When he was in charge of the defense, Maddon said he would have someone stand on the field at each position to find where "straight up" is and try to line that up with a sign on the wall. That way, he had a reference point to use when he wanted to maneuver the players left or right.

He wasn't worried about the Dodgers' laser technology.

"They can put bullseyes out there, I don't care," Maddon said. "There's other ways to do exactly the same thing without that method of technology just by preparation before the game."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.