Monday, March 14, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one of the teams who will probably fight for the NL Wild Card, but I don't think they have the offensive weapons to win it this year. With the Marlins and Phillies stacked lineups, I would put the Cubs on a level above the Mets, based solely on the strength of their rotation...of course that rotation has to remain healthy for it to be most effective. With Dusty Baker calling the shots, I am not too confident that the big three in Chicago will stay healthy all season.

Chad Fox, RP: Out of the blue, Chad Fox is fighting for the closer spot with Ryan Dempster and LaTroy Hawkins. Chicago's best option? Probably Fox, if only to keep Hawkins out of the closer role and Dempster out of the walks lead for relievers. You may think this is because Hawkins can't do it, if you listen to newspapers, but the truth is that Hawkins is their best reliever and would be relegated to the 9th inning, rather than when necessary earlier on in games. So the Cubs belief that Hawkins just can't close may help them in the long run.

Henry Blanco, C: Baseball Prospectus said statistically Blanco was deserving of a Gold Glove at catcher last year...sadly he hits worse than Brad Ausmus (is that possible?)

Jeromy Burnitz, OF: Burnitz is expected to replace Sammy Sosa's production in the outfield. The bad part of this is that Burnitz put up numbers comparable to Sosa in 04' with the aid of Coors Field in Colorado. Sadly for Chicago, they are going to soon be disapointed I think. Burnitz has his strengths, but honestly guys, you waited waaaaaaay too long to address this need.

Acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. for Sammy Sosa.

Hairston is basically the utility guy for Chicago now, which would be useful except for the fact he will most likely be hurt when his services are needed. As bad as Burnitz could be, I would probably rather have him in the outfield than Hairston, so at least they got that move done.

1) Corey Patterson
2) Todd Walker
3) Aramis Ramirez
4) Derrek Lee
5) Nomar Garciaparra
6) Jeromy Burnitz
7) Todd Hollandsworth
8) Michael Barrett

This lineup is still very good, but Burnitz is capable of being an offensive black hole, and I am not sure which Michael Barrett is the real one yet (03' .208/.280/.398...04' .287/.337/.489). Patterson should continue to improve his game, and a full season of Todd Walker is an upgrade over the Grudzielanek/Walker platoon of 04'. Ramirez may regress slightly, only because last year was so great. A full season of Nomar Garciaparra (the Cubs hope) should offset some of the lost production of Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa. Todd Hollandsworth has been shoved into a starting role, and that most likely means two or three months of good offensive production with multiple injuries mixed in.

1) Mark Prior
2) Kerry Wood
3) Carlos Zambrano
4) Greg Maddux
5) Glendon Rusch

If Prior, Wood, and Zambrano all remain healthy this will be one of the best rotations in baseball, if not the best. Wood is basically in the #2 hole based on the idea of how good he is, because Big Z has surpassed him. Rusch should be a real surprise out of the #5 spot, as he has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball the past few years as far as actual ERA versus peripherals have gone due to a lackluster defensive effort and other problems behind him. Maddux will continue his decline phase, but out of the #4 spot I'm not sure you can complain. I didn't draft Zambrano in my fantasy league this year basically because I am waiting for his arm to fall off. If it does not, maybe he can be likened to Livan Hernandez by the fact they are both medical enigmas capable of taking massive amounts of arm abuse. If it does fall off, I want to call for Dusty Baker's head. Whose with me!!! Guys? C'mon...

The bullpen lost Kyle Farnsworth, to the delight of Cubs fans everywhere, but has not really added anything of substance. If Chad Fox is Florida Marlins Chad Fox of 03', it is a great addition. If he is Boston Red Sox Chad Fox of 03', then the Cubs should call the Tigers back and plead for Farnsworth. Dempster holds the closers spot now, but we'll see how many double plays it takes to bail him out of walks in the 9th inning before someone wises up and removes him from that role. Hawkins is one of the best relievers in baseball, and will continue to setup closers who will probably blow leads.

I can see everything working for the Cubs this year and them actually taking the division. I just think they did not help their bullpen out enough (addition by subtraction is nice, but nicer still would have been Armando Benitez) and the rotation has question marks that could take the form of surgical knives. The lineup is still dependent on the homerun, because there are no real OBP threats on this team. The problem is they just lost the 70+ homeruns from Sosa and Alou's departures...this could be real beautiful or real ugly in a hurry...or maybe it will be slow and painful, keeping with Cubs tradition. Either way, I'm secretly rooting for them now that the Red Sox have won...I refuse to root for the White Sox until Kenny Williams is deposed...not fired, but deposed as a dillusional tyrant would be, so my vote goes to the Cubs suffering fans. Ugh...so many Chicago revolutions to stage, so little time.



Comments:
Yeah, it's kinda strange that Chicago didn't get a serious bullpen upgrade. I wouldn't write off Burnitz yet. Wrigley isn't called the friendly confines for nothing. It's a true hitters park. Not quite Coors field, but probably the next best thing. For that reason look for Nomar, Barrett, and Burnitz to all post solid numbers.

Good luck to Fox and the Cubbie faithful this year though. Looks like Aramis will be the new Sammy too.

Andy from Twins Killings
 
Oddly enough, about an hour after I posted this entry I see that Prior is out indefinitely with elbow inflammation. Ugh...Kerry Wood has shoulder bursitis and might miss the opening day start, so I'm pretty sure Cubs fans everywhere are preparing for the worst a little earlier than usual.
 
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