Monday, March 17, 2008

Movin' Out

To the couple of fans that I have or haven't gained over the last couple of weeks... I will continue my unsolicited, unprovoked, unnecessary and unwise Cubs poetry at a new location; Stop on by so I can welcome you to where I sleep, The Den.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'07 to '08 Continued... Pitchers

Now it's down to the hurlers, dealers and game-sealers. There is so much to be learned about the Cubs rotation that it is very arrogant to think I know how it will play out. Well, make no mistake about it, I do know and it is arrogant.

Starting Rotation 1-5:

1. 2007: Our Raging Bull, Big Z. 18-13 with a sub-4 ERA and 30+ starts. Is this his ceiling? Nope. His greatest contribution? Kicking the snot out of Michael Barrett and exposing him as a losing catcher.

2008: Big Z. I don't expect anything better from Zambrano this season. In interviews he has done already this year, he refuses to recognize that controlling his emotions will make him a better player. I like his fiery attitude (even though sometimes he reminds me of a 9-year old HIghland Park boy when he didn't get what he wanted for Christmas, waa!) and I understand that is who he is. BUT, I would like it much more if he was 23 and our #3 starter without the hopes of millions upon his shoulders to shut down a playoff team in a playoff series. Z has to step up and be a number one and ironically enough, I don't think he will be capable of that until he loses a little zip on his fastball... and a little movement off his sliderl and is forced to learn how to pitch. I think Z is the perfect complement to a bonified number one starter... unfortunately.

2. 2007: Who said Ted Lilly didn't deserve 4yr/$40mm?!?

2008: He's returning and he's bringing his 'take no shit' attitude with him. His stuff isn't lightening. His fastball won't blow you away. He gives up a lot of homeruns. Yet somehow Ted gets through six, seven innings with a lead and next thing you know you're dealing with Marmol. And the best part for me is that Teddy does it quietly. I don't know that he'll have the same season he did last year, but it will be close. Ted's the stopper... the Silent Assassin.

3. 2007: Jason Marquis had a better year than most people think. He lead the team in a very critical category... the Cubs won more games when Marquis was the starting pitcher than anybody else (23). He fell off the cliff in the second half and has since scared the piss out of Lou and the Gang.

2008: Ryan Dempster is back opening doors instead of closing them... well kind of closing them ...mostly leaving the "Don't close the door all the way!" Chris Duhon- bedtime-wail-sized crack in them. He's worked hard and thus far has been impressing the coaches and I'm happy for him. I think he has the right attitude and confidence. If Ryan can stay healthy enough to get 30 starts, and that's a big "if," I think he can get to the 14-9 range-ish.

4. 2007: Richie Hill finally broke out of his shell. A lot has been made of his lack of run support (bottom5 in the NL) and for good reason. He pitched well. When he located his fastball, he was very tough on batters. He had a sub-4 ERA in a hitter's park in his first full season.

2008: I expect 15 wins and 200 k's from Rich this season. Confidence and maturity will go a long way for him. Did anyone catch his Kip impression (from Napoleon Dynamite) for the lineups that one game? He is talent. Tall, awkward, gangly talent.

5. 2007: Wade Miller worked out like John Kruk in the offseason.... Sean Marshall has some potential (if you're in favor of throwing in a mediocre lefty with their lefty incumbants, Lilly and Hill, already taking up two spots).

2008: Jason Marquis will win this job.... if he stays on the team. I hope they hang on to him to be the fifth starter. I would take his 2007 numbers as the production of our 2008 fifth starter in a DeRosa heartbeat. Couple that with the fact that you can use him as a pinch runner and even a pinch hitter.... in a pinch (God, that's terrible), and you have a useful ballplayer.

That's the rotation. I know that many of you don't support it, and maybe, just maybe it won't be this way. However, I wouldn't bet against it.

Next up: Bullpen and CLOSER once it shakes out... Grind on grinders. For the record, I love Krukkie and his bratwurst-based opinions. Anybody else ready to petition to get Harold Reynolds back?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

'07 vs '08 (cont)

This is a continuation of the preview from a few days back. We've compared the infield from last season to this season. Here, we'll tackle the outfield. Obviously these guys, and by "guys" I actually mean Pie, could change by opening day, but for now we'll consider Pie the opening-day center fielder.

Left Field:

2007: Soriano was very good in '07, not great but very good. He dealt with some wheel issues throughout the season that cut into his stolen bases and games (but not that skip before a catch, thank God!). His OBP is not what we're looking for in a leadoff hitter. However, contrary to most Cubs GM's, I like him where he is most comfortable, and if that is at the top of the order, so be it. He hit .299 with 33 jacks.

2008: If Soriano can get his OBP up from .337 to somewhere in the neighborhood of .345 (.351 in 2006) I think the Cubs will be very, very well off. For some reference, in 2007 Jose Reyes' OBP was .354 and Jimmy Rollins OBP was .344. I expect a bigger year for Sori. I think Alfonso is somewhat of a sensitive player. The fact that this will be his second season in Wrigley (or whatever entity Montgomery Burns sells it to-field), his second season under Lou and his second season with his teammates helps him more than it helps the average MLB'er. I'm looking for a .310 average and 40 homeruns. I hope his increase in OBP comes from more patience and walks, but I'd also like to call Erin Andrews my girlfriend. It's a pipe dream.

Conclusion: I don't like throwing out predictions in stats... but I did it. Advantage '08. Sori's the man.

Center Field:

2007: Jacque Jones manned CF the majority of the season last year. As our rubber-armed outfield engineer, his line was .286/.333/.765. He played a decent outfield, needed more power at the plate to make up for his lack of steal-speed (how does he go from 27 dongs in '06 to just 5 in '07??) and we've all seen the amateur-hour hose Jacque would triple-bounce into second base one out of every ten throws. He got bad jumps on a lot of balls, but managed to run them down and make several highlight reel plays throughout the season.

2008: Right now it is Pie's job to lose. We heard about how they are trying to shorten his swing to make more contact, but doesn't that eliminate any power he might have? Down to four tools. From what I have seen thus far, he doesn't look especially smooth out in center. It's like I'm nervous that every ball hit out there for him to field off the ground might go bouncing through his legs to the wall. Watch a game and tell me you don't feel like this. I need the comfort. All that said, Felix's AAA numbers warrant him a long audition with the big club. I want to see him get the entire first half of this season before really looking for a right hander to platoon with him. Also, I was at the game when Sam Fuld made that ridiculous catch in right last year and everybody was looking at each other going, "Who the hell put this Cubs uniform on a midget and told him to get out to right?" When he came to the plate everybody was cheering for him to get a hit and although he didn't get one, he did take a walk... in his first big-league at bat. I still haven't decided if that was real gutsy or exactly the opposite. Either way, I have a soft spot for him and would not be crying (as if I ever cry) if he ends up the starting center fielder at the end of the season.

Conclusion: I can't bring myself to say that Jacque was a better option. I think that whatever happens in the first half will lead to an advantage in the second half to even things up. So I'm taking the easy way out, DRAW.

Right Field:

2007: Cliff Floyd, Mark DeRosa and Jones did a reasonable job in 2007. A reasonable job in a corner outfield spot on a world series contending team is not enough. I will miss the occassions when Cliff hit the ball on the screws because there are very few people that can hit a baseball as hard as him. Prince Fielder admitted to wearing a bulletproof vest for two of their games when Cliff was in the lineup.... as far as you know. There just was never enough power, speed or defense out of the position in 2007.

2008: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kosuke Fukudome. Here is my disclaimer: If he is as good as advertised, we just earned an upgrade in our homerun numbers, stolen bases, rbi's and runs scored. Not to mention, potentially the largest difference Kosuke provides is with his glove.

Conclusion: Advantage 2008. Domo Arigato Mr. Hendry. You got it done. Now let's hope that our Asia scouts are as reputable as you say they are.

Pitching staff coming soon. We just modified the comment box so that you do not need an account to leave a comment. Leave your thoughts as my all-knowing capability was on break during this post. She will be back later though!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Missing Link

"Roberts, who hit .290 last season with 12 homers, 57 RBIs and 50 steals, led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second and third and then scored on Melvin Mora's chopper to the left side that was booted by third baseman Jorge Cantu."
-Baltimore Sun

I didn't need much convincing, but.... SOLD!! What else do we need? Insert sly remark about front-line starter here. Hang on to Ceda. Throw Veal and a lower-level prospect into this mix on top of Gallagher and Cedeno and get Roberts into camp. Then our middle-infield can start doing "Doublemint" commercials together....

Check back over the weekend for the rest of the season preview (Outfield and Pitchers).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

First Game Results

The guys had a good showing today. Theriot had a few hits and a stolen base. Felix Pie had a long homerun. However, it was reported by Bruce Levine, ESPN 1000's Cubs guy, that his early walk was the most impressive at-bat of his.

Poor Fukudome got hit on the very first pitch he saw. Later he came back with a hit of his own and an RBI.

Dempster apparently gave up a homerun very early, but came back to look impressive through the rest of his work.

Great start for the squad, but nothing that will force me to do a "Superbad-waistband flip."

"It hides it AND it feels awesome."

"Just read the lines, Ryan... read the lines"

Dempster's audition for the rotation begins today at 2:05 pm Central time vs. the San Francisco Giants. Here's the rest of their starting lineup:

1. Theriot ss
2. Cedeno 3B
3. Fukudome RF
4. Lee 1b
5. Murton LF
6. Soto C
7. Cintron 2B
8. Pie CF
9. Dempster P

Soriano and Ramirez are expected to be in the lineup for Friday.

What else to watch for:
-Who comes out of the bullpen first? Second? Third?
-Who closes the game... not that this will determine the closer, but may give us a heads up for the front runner.
-Kosuke! I can't wait to hear about his play today. This should be at the top of the list...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cubs '07 vs. Cubs '08. Who Do You Like?

Here we go. Can April come soon enough? I didn't think so. In the meantime, here is a comparison of the 2007 NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs to the 2008 version. I will do a few positions at a time.. feel free to post any comments.

2007: A combination of Barrett, Hill and Kendall did a great job of allowing stolen bases while simultaneously being a consistent black hole in the everyday lineup. Congratulations! I know I'm not the only one that is looking forward to late-season games versus the Brewers/Padres when we need to advance a runner to second....

2008: Geovany Soto is a definite question mark behind the plate for the Cubs. Fortunately for optimistic Cubs fans, it is not due to a lack of talent as he will vie for ROY honors in the NL.

Conclusion: Will Soto be able to maintain a high level of play for an entire season or was his late call up more 'Mike Fontenot'esque?' We will know by June. Until then, I'm confident we could suit up Olin Kruetz to squat behind the plate and get more production than we did from those jokers in '07. Advantage '08.

First Base:
2007: Derrek Lee was coming off a wrist injury that he says was healthy although his low HR totals would suggest otherwise. He still posted good numbers and his spike in power over the second half leads one to believe that he actually was still regaining strength in that wrist. What troubled me most was that he seemed much less reliable in '07. I have no numbers to back that up as his strikeouts were on pace with his last few years. It was just the impression I got when watching him game after game. It seemed like he'd lost a bit of confidence even. I'd like to hear others' thoughts on this as well.

2008: Derrek Lee is probably stronger and will probably hit more dingers than his 22 a season ago. However, the expectations for Lee following '05 have been too high.

Conclusion: I see a slight increase in slugging from .513 to somewhere around .535 and a similar batting avg hovering around .315. The crucial thing with Lee will be keeping him in the lineup and manning first base. He is a team leader in the clubhouse and on the field. Overall, slight edge to the '08 version as he should be 100% on opening day.

Second Base:

2007: Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot. DeRo had a great season for the Cubs. He won over fans with his honest approach and interviews. He spelled our stars once they became fragile and even provided some pop that first month when others couldn't deal with the cold. Then, Fontenot comes up and similar to the sensation of irresponsibly dumping a shot of 151 down my throat, stunned me. You know that feeling. When your body is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. That's how we felt watching Mike. Predictably, he fell off the shelf but not before having an unbelievable June that kept him up for the rest of the year.

2008: It will be DeRo this year.... unless Angelos can get over not being able to surprise-hop out of Brian Roberts' locker everyday with massage oil and a pez dispenser. I truly believe that it will happen, and not totally because I think he is exactly what the Cubs need. It makes a lot of sense for the O's as well. This rumor has been beaten like a $60 million Ben Wallace so we'll leave it alone now.

Conclusion: Huge advantage if Roberts comes around, slight edge if it's DeRosa all season. Of course he just got shipped back to Chicago, and I'm assuming that this isn't a problem that will keep him out. If it is, I have confidence that Jim will make a move. And hope that Mark is okay.

2007: Theriot is below average defensively. He is below average at the plate. What he brought to the table in '07 was intensity. He is hard not to like. He doesn't take his career for granted. He hasn't been blessed with the five tools we here about with Felix Pie and WOW, SHOCKER! His hat size hasn't grown either!

2008: Ryan Theriot, the '08 version. If The Riot can get his OBP up, nab 35 bases and bring the same intensity he brought last season, he will be fine. I think a team like the Cubs needs a spark plug like the Riot... if he is batting .280. Get on base or get used to your role as pinch-runner. Hopefully Ronny Cedeno can get his big-boy bat out and start playing like he is capable of.

Conclusion: Advantage 2008. Ryan will be better this year than last. However, the fact remains that he is our worst position player. Cedeno needs to earn this spot, or Jimmy will be making a move at the deadline. There's a guy by the name of Brendan Harris that is playing second for the Twins that could be an interesting option come July if the Twins are out of it.....

Third Base:

2007: Aramis Ramirez has a consistent bat, a great eye at the plate and leather that gets better every year.

2008: For me, he is turning into the NL version of Manny at the plate. They compare to one another a lot like the leagues do... they play the same game, it looks mostly the same, only the NL dish is a poor-man's version. When he is dialed in, he is scary. He has the same ability that you see out of Barry and Manny to recognize pitches quicker than the rest of the league.

Conclusion: I'll take the 2008 version. I don't think he's peaked yet. It may be that I overvalue Aramis as a Cubs fan. I think he is our guy when it comes to clutch (forget those 3 vs. AZ... it was 3 games). I know who I want in the box when the Cubs need production. Keep in mind that ARam won 42 straight fights with his cock in the offseason.