Tuesday, March 25, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

A look back: The Cubs came up big with an NL Central crown and a spot in the playoffs in 2007. But it quickly came to an end when Chicago went three and out in the playoffs at the hands of the Diamondbacks. To correct the problem, the Cubs have added a few more pieces, and might not be quite done making additions.

Positives on the field: The Cubs can definitely score, and they have built themselves a nice lineup from top to bottom. If Chicago could pry Brian Roberts loose from Baltimore, they would become an even stronger force offensively. If not, the Cubs already have Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano to drive in runs, and will get the table set by Ryan Theriot, new acquisition Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome. On the offensive side, there is already a lot to like about the Cubs in 2008.

The pitching rotation looks solid as well, led by Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, both of whom looked strong last year, save for an awful stretch by Zambrano which gave Cub fans every right to boo him (quit whining, Zambrano). The bullpen tries for addition by subtraction by getting Ryan Dempster out of it and allowing Kerry Wood the chance to close. It will be an interesting situation for the Cubs.

Negatives off the field: Sam Zell is a prick who wants to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field. This needs to not happen. Wrigley should never have a corporate name, it is far too historic.

Negatives on the field: Behind Lilly and Zambrano, Chicago's rotation is very questionable. Dempster has been poor in the bullpen and might not be better as a starter. Jason Marquis is inconsistent. Sean Marshall and Rich Hill are also questionable. Jon Lieber should be solid, but will solid be enough for the Cubs to keep opposing bats quiet?

Also, the bullpen is a question mark. It could be great, or it could blow up with players adjusting to new roles. Kerry Wood started as a rotation ace, not a bullpen ace. How will Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry adjust to their roles as setup men this season? For Howry, it shouldn't be much of an adjustment, but Marmol closed last year, and that could make it tougher for him.

Outlook: The Cubs are not a championship team at this point. Sorry, Chicago fans, but you will likely reach a full century without a title. But the Cubs should repeat as NL Central champions, something they haven't done in almost as long. That is progress.

Projected finish: 1st in NL Central, lose to Phillies in NLDS. Season opener is March 31 against Milwaukee at Wrigley Field.

Spring base: HoHoKam Park, Mesa, Ariz. The team plays its games in Phoenix and Tucson.

Fan of the team?: Check out Bleed Cubbie Blue, the Cubs fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads from some of the most loyal fans in baseball to the most invisible fans in baseball, those of the Florida Marlins, who have somehow won two World Series already in 15 years.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Embassy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The rotation is stronger than you think. It finished second in NL ERA last year, and it is definitely better this year. Big Z and Lilly are strong workhorse types, and Rich Hill is a proven entity. People are counting out Dempster at this point but he had a terrific spring, and he has qualified for an All-Star game as a starter before and he has won 15 games in a season. Lieber and Marquis are good for back of the rotation guys, who don't need to be relied on as much, and the Cubs have more depth with Marshall in the minors. The real Cubs weaknesses are their positions up the middle of the field. Soto is a young catcher who has yet to handle a MLB workload, and Felix Pie in center is unreliable and has little to back him up (Reed Johnson anyone?).