Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Chicago Cubs preview

An older team with better pitching than hitting, they are the worst team in the division, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. They have power, don’t get on base well, and no speed. They do hit a lot of doubles, but that’s park effect, and they do have some decent defense at some positions. Lots of strikeouts for the pitchers. It looks to be a long summer.


Geovany Soto. One of the better catchers in the league, but he’s working under reduced playing time. He can get on base, hit for power, and plays decent defense. He needs to get into more than 100 games a year to be more valuable, as he won’t get time anywhere else. He’s giving away to many plate appearances to back ups who can’t hit.

Upside:  can get into 120+ games

Downside:  isn’t able to be the full time starter

Score:  + 1

First base:

Carlos Pena. An effective power hitter who gets on base pretty well, he regressed to an average year. A change in park won’t make much of a difference, as they were both hitters’ parks, but the league change might. The homeruns should come, but they might be his only hits. The defense isn’t anything too great, but he’s not there for that. A return to form would be great, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Upside:  gets back to form

Downside:  becomes a left handed Rob Deer

Score:  0

Second base:

Blake DeWitt. A strange pick up for the team. He’s not a great hitter, and he doesn’t get on base very well. No power at all, and he doesn’t run. The defense is below average for second base, and the left side is going to be a sieve for the pitchers. He does hit left handed, and that will help a heavily right handed team. He’s still young, so he has time to develop.

Upside:  Wrigley helps him to become a hitter

Downside:  better suited as a back up

Score:  - 1

Third base:

Aramis Ramirez. One of the elite ones when he’s healthy, he has to hope he’s all the way back from the injuries of previous years. His power is down a bit, and he’s never walked much. He has to hope the power comes back. His defense isn’t good, and that’s a problem with this team. He needs to get back to form to get this team back on track. He’s looking to be trade bait at the deadline.

Upside:  power comes back

Downside:  this is his new standard

Score:  + 1

Short stop:

Starling Castro. The start of something good, no one should be too concerned about his overall numbers. His on base percentage was good for a 20 year old, and should only get better. He doesn’t run well, but that might develop as well. He hit a lot of doubles, so that should bode well for his future power. His defense is below average, but so is the entire infield’s. He should a star in the future.

Upside:  the new Derek Jeter

Downside:  Ivan DeJesus?

Score:  + 1

Left field:

Alfonso Soriano. Whatever it was that made him an elite player is gone now. He never got on base and always strikes out too much. Now his power is going away and he doesn’t run anymore. His defense is non-existent, and he just isn’t a premium player anymore. Except on this team. He has to have some kind of comeback year, or he’s looking at being a platoon player, at the least.

Upside:  I don’t see one

Downside:  just a deeper symptom of the problem

Score:   - 1


Marlon Byrd. Hits for average, which helps him get on base. Too many strike outs for the power output, which isn’t great. He hits a lot of doubles, but that’s park factor. No speed to speak of, but he does play a good center field. The first good defensive player since Soto, which is good for the middle, but not much else. He’s a complimentary player, and does well in his role.

Upside:  not much as he’s moving up in age

Downside:  plays like the rest of the team

Score:  0

Right field:

Tyler Colvin. He would be the second youngest player in the line-up, and the youth will be needed. He has good power, but that’s about it. A lot of homeruns last year, and he’ll hit a lot more. He doesn’t walk enough, and strikeouts will be a big problem. He doesn’t play defense at all, so he’s going to become a one trick pony. He’s looking at a career at first base before long, if he can hit.

Upside:  becomes another Adam Dunn

Downside:  becomes Adam Dunn without the power

Score:  0

Pinch hitter/general utility:

No one. They are very limited in position players on the roster, and there is really no one slotted for this position. Some non roster invitee will get the call, or possibly a career minor leaguer (Fernando Perez) might get the call. Either way, it’s not going to be someone who will inspire a lot of confidence. Most likely whichever outfielder isn’t playing that day.

Upside:  might be some late signing who can get it done

Downside:  have to settle for whoever can get it done

Score:   - 2

Backup catcher:

Koyie Hill. Could be worse, but you have to hope that Soto will get into 130 games. His defense isn’t good, which it should be for a backup catcher. He can switch hit, which is good, but doesn’t really hit, which is bad. He would be okay on a team that didn’t him him quite so much, and he’ll get way too much playing time here. Less playing time might help him hit.

Upside:  Soto plays 130 - 140 games

Downside:  has to get over 200 plate appearances

Score:  - 1

Backup first baseman:

Jeff Baker. Again, no on the roster really to do this, unless Colvin gets some time there. You would have to hope that Pena will play 150 games, making this a moot point, but if he doesn’t hit, it will be a problem. Whoever gets the last position slot will probably also get some time here. If Fukudome can hit, or make a defensive move, he might get some time here also.

Upside:  they don’t need a back up

Downside:  no one available to do the job

Score:  - 2

Back-up infielder:

Jeff Baker. A good choice here. He can play multiple positions, and isn’t a bad hitter. No power and no speed, but he gets on base at an acceptable rate for a backup, and hits for a decent average. Very good defensively, which will help out around the infield. If DeWitt doesn’t hit, it could end up a platoon at second. He’ll also see time at first, and could pinch hit when needed. A good all around player for the team.

Upside:  doesn’t start too much as the rest of the infield is healthy

Downside:  no back up if he’s stating

Score:  + 1

Back-up outfielder:

Kosuke Fukudome. Depending on how much Colvin and Soriano hit. He might be better suited to a backup role instead of starting. No power and no speed, but he does get on base a lot. He should also hit more doubles than he does. Plays good defense and would make a good pinch hitter. At his age, if he wants to stick in the majors, he needs to start hitting or find a role.

Upside:  might be better suited as a fourth outfielder

Downside:  has to come to the plate 500 times

Score:  0

Rotation (front 3):

Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano. A good front three, and this will definitely be a strength for the team, if anything is. They should all go over 200 innings, and strikeout a lot of batters. They might walk a little too many, and the defense isn’t going to help the staff at all. They’ll have to be good for this team to have any chance at .500.

Upside:  makes the team respectable

Downside:  doesn’t really matter

Score:  + 1

Rotation (back end):

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner. Wells had an above average ERA+, and Cashner is a young guy. Wells will get over 200 innings, and Cashner strikes out a lot of hitters. They don’t have to be great, just get the job done and keep it close for the bullpen. Wells will help the front three and Cashner has a lot of upside. The rotation will definitely be the strong point for the team. If they get things done, the team can finish near .500.

Upside:  don’t have to be good, just get the job done

Downside:  none really, as not much will be expected of them

Score:  0


Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, John Grabow, Jeff Smardzija, and Marcos Mateo. Wood and Marshall are good, but Wood doesn’t pitch enough innings. Grabow has been good in the past, and last year was his worst as a pro. The others are young and haven’t done much yet. If the starters are able to pitch a lot of innings and go deep, the bullpen should be okay. If not, it’s going to be a long hot summer.

Upside: don’t have to pitch a lot of innings

Downside:  can’t hold the few leads that they have

Score:  0


Carlos Marmol. Shined in his first full year as a closer, but faces the ‘closer issue’. How good does he need to be if he doesn’t really make a difference? He’s going to set strike out records, and can pitch every other day. He would be good trade bait for a lot of help somewhere else. He’ll rack up saves, but the team won’t rack up wins. If the bullpen can hold leads, he’ll get a lot.

Upside:  sets a strikeout record that will never be broken

Downside:  doesn’t really matter

Score:  + 2

Team speed (which includes base running):

Doesn’t exist. They don’t steal. Castro is the returning leader with 10, but at 50%. No one else runs at all. No doubles and no triples. Its feast and famine, and the only range for defense are Starling and Byrd. There is nothing here to help the team at all. You have to hope that Starling develops into some kind of speed guy, but I’ll bet he has more homeruns than steals.

Upside:  none

Downside:  they stop hitting homeruns

Score:   - 2

Team defense:

None. This team is a disaster as far as positions players. Byrd is the best, which should help the pitching staff some. Soto is okay, and you have to hope Starling gets better. Pena is good around the bag, but all in all, defense doesn’t really exist on this team. They can throw out some runners, which will help, but there will be a lot of free runners and movement around the bases.

Upside:  Starling becomes a positive defender

Downside:  he ends up in center field, which pushes Byrd out

Score:  - 2

Team batting:

Nope, not here either. The batting average is okay, and they don’t strike out much. They don’t do a lot of anything else either. They don’t walk, and they don’t hit for extra bases. The power isn’t as good as it should be in the park, but might rebound with Pena and Ramirez, if they have comeback years. Colvin will help, but there just isn’t much there. They will make other staffs look good.

Upside:  the young guys become the hitters we think they will

Downside:  the old guys are done

Score:  - 2

Team pitching:

The only redeeming feature of the team, between the front four and the closer. The rest isn’t as good, but will be helpful. The starters will, and will need to, pitch a lot of innings, and will need to get a lot of strikeouts. If Marmol gets a lead, it will be safe. They will have to be good for there to be any chance of this team hitting .500, as nothing else it going to help them.

Upside:  lots of quality starts

Downside:  injuries and ineffectiveness

Score:  + 1

Total score:    - 5

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