Thursday, March 15, 2007

FC's MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs

Offseason Analysis: My, oh my, did Cubs general manager Jim Hendry go nuts. He went all out this offseason, maybe in the wrong directions, but he still went all out, spent lots of money and brought in a new crop"talent." Gone are manager Dusty Baker and centerfielder Juan Pierre, but in are new manager Lou Piniella, new centerfielder Alfonso Soriano, new second baseman Mark DeRosa and new starting pitchers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Additionally, Hendry shelled out the biggest contract in Cubs history to third baseman Aramis Ramirez (5 years, $75 million) only to top it the next week with the contract he gave Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million).

Random stat from 2006 that was awesome: 2. That was the number of complete games that the Cubs rotation threw last season, both of which were by Rich Hill, and they were in consecutive starts in September. One of them, however was a 5 inning rain out against the Reds. Hill still struck out 10 in the 5 innings, but gave up 3 homers. The other complete game was legit, though, and was a complete game, shutout, 2 hitter against the Reds in his previous start.

Most Overlooked Player: Players can be overlooked in a bad way too, and there's one player on this team whose awfulness nobody has yet considered. Cesar Izturis put up a whopping .613 OPS [yes, on-base and slugging combined], and his name was not mentioned at all from this offseason. Shortstop was not a position that was going to be improved, and there are no in-house options other than Ronnie Cedeno, who is basically the same thing as Izturis. Between the two of them, shortstop will be awful offensively, and nobody seems to notice.

Fun prop bet: Jason Marquis home runs allowed (2006: 35; 2005: 29) vs. Derrek Lee home runs (career average 28). Also, Carlos Zambrano wins vs. Combined wins by Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Take Lee in the first and take Zambrano in the second straight up, but expect neither to cover the spread.

Funnest non-roster invitee: Apparently, Val Pascucci is still around and he's in Cubs camp. He only has a .177 career batting average, but his player profile page on still has him in Expos gear.

One of the last remnants of the fabled Montreal Expos

Player unlikely to live up to expectations: This depends on whose expectations we're measuring. As far as the organization goes, it's safe to say that neither Jason Marquis nor Ted Lilly will live up to whatever unreasonably high expectations the team has of them out of two rotation spots following Carlos Zambrano. The same goes for Mark Derosa, as he is unlikely to reproduce the .296/.357/.456 line he put up last season. However, the grandaddy of them all is Alfonso Soriano. His expectations are high all around, whereas for the other players it's mostly internal expectations which are not necessarily shared by the fans as a whole. Soriano, on the other hand, was the big splash this offseason, and everyone knows that he is now a Chicago Cub. The thing is, he's not the final piece to this Cubs puzzle. He'll probably do what he's always done and that is hit .280 and hit 35 homers or so, just this time it will be slightly more valuable out of centerfield than it was last season out of left field. I don't expect him to post a higher OBP than Juan Pierre did last season (.330), and that's not very good out of the leadoff spot, especially when coupled with a high strikeout rate. While he'll certainly be a great improvement over Pierre, that speaks more of the poor season that Pierre had last year. Soriano will be good, and will produce as his career says he would, and while that may be enough to satisfy some fans, he's not the top-10-in-the-Majors type player that the organization paid for or expect.

Player most likely to finish second to David Eckstein in this years Holiday Inn Second Look/scrappy white guy award: This is none other than Ryan "The Riot" Theriot. The players who fit this bill normally project as only utility infielders, and Theriot is just that. He can play all of the infield positions as well as some outfield, and he might just be able to do something with the stick, too, as last year he hit .328/.412/.522. He would be a better option to start at shortstop than Izturis, but he's a great utility infielder as it is. Of course, none of this matters if he doesn't actually make the team, which amazingly he might not.

Mike Caruso Memorial Overrated Prospect Award: It might be too early to write off Ryan Harvey, but it's not looking good for him. He was the sixth overall pick in 2003, is only 22, made the single-A All Star game in 2005, and has shown some power [20 homers last season, 24 in 2005]. However, He's never posted an on-base percentage above .330 [.327 is his high which came in 58 games in low-A in 2004], has never walked more than 25 times in a season, and has struck out more than 120 times each of the past two years. He's certainly not the prospect that he once was, but he's heading down a path that will make him into the "typical, bargain bin corner outfielder." It's looking more and more like he's going to peak as Jacque Jones.

A Fake Newspaper Headline From Some Point In The Season:
Piniella Goes Apeshit: Ejected for seventh consecutive game amidst 15 game losing streak

A haiku about this teams chances:
New players, faces.
Lots of money spent this time,
Still gonna be fifth.

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