Seriously, Are The Cubs Going To Be Any Good This Year?

With Spring Training right around the corner, it’s time to evaluate the offseason moves made by Jim Hendry, the Cubs General Manager.  Each and every year Cubs’ fans get excited around this time.  We are ever hopeful that the new season will bring that elusive championship, but in the end, we are disappointed yet again.  Could this year be different?  Could 2011 be the breakthrough year to remember?  Have the Cubs made the necessary moves to bring the right balance to a team that has struggled to reach its potential?  I am going to gaze into my crystal ball and peek into the future and try to determine what kind of team we have to look forward to.

The first glimpse that may be indicative of a promising year dates back to the last month and a half of last season.  After the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella, Mike Quade took over the helm and steered the Cubs in the right direction.  Under Quade, the Cubs finished strong.  The players responded to his style of managing and won nearly 2/3 of the remaining games.  Quade made a strong impression on Jim Hendry and Cubs’ Chairman, Tom Ricketts, and the interim tag was removed as he won the managerial job over fan favorites such as Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi.  There was much controversey over the process, but in the end, Mike Quade had earned the position.  In 2011, Mike Quade will face the challenge of managing over the long haul of the season.  If 2010 was evidence that he has what it takes to turn this team around, then indeed, the Cubs have much to look forward to.

As the Cubs searched the free agent market to fill some obvious holes, Jim Hendry finally found a left-handed first baseman in Carlos Pena.  Was it the right fit?  Some may argue, but seriously, Pena is a great defensive first baseman and has a powerful left-handed bat.  Exactly what the Cubs needed.  Is his .196 batting average and high strikeout ratio a concern?  It would be, but Pena is working with Rudy Jaramillo, the Cubs’ hitting coach, and is totally committed to improving his swing.  That willingness to learn is the key.  There are far too many veterans who think that they are so great that they have nothing more to learn, the very same players who start to stink and drag everyone around them down.  So it is refreshing to see a player who wants to get better.  Carlos Pena is going to work out just fine, you’ll see.

The Cubs also re-acquired Kerry Wood.  I am very happy about this because Woody is, was, and always will be a Cub.  He is a club house leader and understands what it means to be a Cub.  He gave the Cubs a huge discount to come home.  He did an awesome job for the Yankees last season and he promises to do more of the same for the Cubs in 2011.  Hopefully he can remain healthy and prove to everyone that HE’S BACK!  I think that he will return with a vengeance.  I am excited to see him again!

Then, there was the controversial trade for Matt Garza.  The Cubs may have lost some top prospects, but they have gained one of the best pitchers in the game today.  He will be a welcomed addition to the Cubs’ pitching staff.  Coming to the National League where hitters aren’t very familiar with him will be to his advantage.  I look for him to have a great year.  Like Woody and Pena, I foresee him silencing the critics very quickly.  I predict that he will win 18 games or more this season.

The Cubs have also made some minor moves, such as re-acquiring Reed Johnson, Todd Wellmeyer, and getting some players in the Tom Gorzellany trade.  We’ll see how those work out as only time will tell.  On a positive note, the Cubs have signed Geovanny Soto, Sean Marshall, and I believe, Carlos Marmol thus avoiding arbitration.  So that is good news.

One important factor that will determine the Cubs destiny is whether or not they can stay healthy.  Last year was a disaster as far as injuries go.  A healthy team learns to play as a team and gel.  A different line-up everyday is disastrous to team chemistry and that was something we saw too much of last year.  The Cubs need to stay healthy, period!  It is good to hear that Tyler Colvin will be back this year.  Watching him being impaled by a broken bat scared us all.  It’s great that he will return, we’ll need him.

The Cubs seem pretty solid up and down the line-up, except for one thing.  We still do not have a protypical lead-off hitter.  I probably sound like a broken record, but this could make or break the Cubs’ offense.  Last season, there was no spark to ignite the offense and consequently no pressure on the opposition.  If the Cubs truly want to contend, this crucial piece must be found.  If no trades are made, then somebody will need to step up and learn how to get on base and rattle the defense.  I hope that Mike Quade doesn’t just pencil in just anybody.  He knows full well that the lead-off hitter sets the tone for what will follow.  Anyway, we’ll see what happens.  Perhaps Starlin Castro or Kosuke Fukudome will be willing to learn how to fill that role.  Who knows, after all, there is still some time before the season begins.

Overall, I think the Cubs will be much improved.  If the lead off role can be filled, I think the Cubs will be in business.  Once again, I am excited about the upcoming season, unfortunately, my crystal ball isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, but that would take all of the fun out of watching the season unfold now wouldn’t it?

7 Comments

One thing I would’ve liked to see is Starlin Castro putting some quality time in with Jaramillo so he could leadoff this season. I seriously hope that management is thinking Castro for leadoff of the future. (If we can’t get a Rickie Weeks type player). Whatever happens, I think this is going to be a great season.
Go Cubs!

There’s Always Next Year

I am more excited about the potential we have in 2012 than in 2011. I still think we can be a good team this year if we stay healthy, find a leadoff hitter and several players have bounce back years. I like our pitching staff a lot. The addition of Garza was great! I wonder what will happen if Quade has a bad year. Will he get axed? Will we keep him? I hope we don’t have to find out.

Ron

http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/

Call me a pessimist, but I see the Cubs winning 75 games tops. If I were a betting man I’d place the total closer to 70. STL is as strong as ever, CIN is rock solid and improving, HOU is holding pretty steady, MIL has improved with the Greinke addition.
Cubs meanwhile have made a good bullpen addition in Wood but still have a potential timebomb in Marmol. They haven’t addressed their defensive problems in the OF or up the middle. The starting rotation in my opinion is a potential disaster.
Dempster will continue to decline as he has the past 2 years, Zambrano is terribly over-rated and a complete clown, Silva relies on a good defense behind him which we don’t have, Wells still has to prove himself, Marshall is best in long relief, I pray the Samardzija stuff is done, Diamond was and is a bust, and finally, Garza.
Garza will NOT be what people hope he’ll be. He’s a flyball pitcher coming to a small ballpark with a questionable defense playing behind him. He no longer has Crawford and Upton in the OF or Bartlett, though not outstanding he is still a better defensive SS than Castro. Aramis has made enormous strides with the glove but he isn’t Longoria. Take a look at Garzas numbers in hitters parks: TEX 6.04 ERA, CLE 6.35, NYY 6.17, MIN 5.91. Open air stadiums – 4.45 ERA. Grass stadiums – 4.76 ERA. Losing record in day games. 4.63 ERA in Inter-League games (against NL teams). He’s a disaster in September and October.
I am just totally underwhelmed by this team. Whether it’s future potential, the defense, offense, starting pitching, bullpen, payroll, what have you. This franchise is a mess. THAT is why fan favorites like Reed Johnson and Kerry Wood have been brought back to Chicago. To try to appease what is going to be a very disappointed fanbase.
That’s just my opinion though.

I still haven’t decided how I feel about the up coming season, I’m sorta waiting for spring training to start. But reading Adam’s comment above mine does not make me feel hopeful. Those are some brutal stats for Garza.
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

I don’t think anyone will need a crystal ball this year because it’s unpredictable.

This is going to be one of the more interesting seasons yet!

—Mark Gauthier

http://cubden.mlblogs.com/

You know, I don’t know where best to make this comment.
What has absolutely got me so pessimistic about the franchise is the colossal waste of money on a yearly basis. There are currently 16 players signed to Major League contracts for a total of just over $120M. That leaves 9 more roster spots to fill and arbitration to go through with Marmol.
What’s worse is that half of that money is tied up in 4 scrubs. Soriano, Silva, Fukudome and Zambrano. I think it’s entirely feasible to replace all 4 players with near league minimum players and still get the same amount of production. A pair of COF that could combine for .265/.330/.455, 35 HRs and barely average defense should cost no more than $2-3.5M. A pair of SP that could combine for 24-26 Wins shouldn’t cost any more than $8M.
So there’s $50M that could be spent on amateur signings, signing Latin prospects, saving it, or, the craziest idea, spending it on good players.
Sorry, I’m really aggravated with the state of this franchise.

It absolutely would take all the fun out of it! I can’t wait to see how this season plays out. I think we have the strongest bullpen we’ve had in years and I love the Garza/Pena deals. Happy Demp is getting Opening Day, I think he earned it. Errors have been an issue this ST, but that’s what ST is for, right? I think our bench will be stronger this year than last and I fully expect us to contend this year! Go Cubs! On a separate note, can you email me? proseandivy@cubsmvp.com Quick BBA question for you.

Thanks
Ryan
Prose and Ivy
http://onedayatwrigleyac000000.mlblogs.com/

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