Thursday, March 29, 2007

Baseball! Baseball! Baseball!

It's that time again kids. Spring is in the air. Soon the smell of fresh cut grass, pine tar, and chewing tobacco will fill the air. Uniforms have been pressed. Rosters have been set. HGH has been injected. Baseball season is a few days away, and that means it's time for my preseason analysis of the Cubs and predictions for all of baseball. If you've actually read past the post title then that must mean your name is Bob. Enjoy.

2007 Cubs

Last we left my Cubs at the end of the '06 season they were 66-96. Yes, they were only four losses away from the magical number of 100. What went wrong last year? It'd be easier to ask what went right, but will stick with the long list.

The first thing that went wrong was the Cubs once again relied on a healthy Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to pitch. Second, All-Star and MVP runner-up Derek Lee missed over a 110 games with a broken wrist. I actually had the pleasure to be at the game with Lee broke his wrist. Third, Ramirez couldn't take the pressure of being the lone RBI guy and has an awful first half of the season. Once the Cubs were out of it, he tore it up. Fourth, Cubs' closer Dempster went into a tail spin the last half of the season by blowing 9 games. The only real positive is that Rich Hill pitched really well the second half of the season.

This season we have an all new and improved Cubs. President McPhail resigned, and the Cubs marketing guy was hired to take his place. Dusty Baker was released and Lou Pinella was hired as the next manager with a good track record that will be ruined by managing the Cubs. GM Hendry some how kept his job, and realizing that he needed to do something to keep it for next season he spent almost $300 million dollars on free agents. So what kind of team does that leave us with. Let's take a look.

2007 Lineup

Alfonso Soriano, CF
2. Matt Murton, LF
3. Derrek Lee, 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Jacque Jones, RF
6. Michael Barrett, C
7. Mark DeRosa, 2B
8. Cesar Izturis, SS
9. Pitcher

Offensively the Cubs should have no problem scoring runs. There are three potential 40 HR guys and three potential 20+ HR guys. This team will mash, and DeRosa and Izturis at the bottom of the order aren't automatic outs like those slots have been in previous Cubs' seasons. The big breakthrough player for this year could very well be Matt "The Big Murt" Murton. Batting between Soriano and Lee means he should see a plenty of fastballs. The Big Murt already has shown above average plate discipline and could see a spike in power numbers hitting in the two hole. I hope he does well enough that any previous idea of platooning him with Cliff Floyd will be nixed. Why? Because even with Murton our outfield defense will be awful. This is the year where every Cubs' fan will hold their breath on every fly ball. Errors by our outfield will lose us many a game this season. Let's look at the real suspect portion of the Cubs: pitching

Pitching Rotation

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ted Lilly
3. Jason Marquis
4. Rich Hill
5. Wade Miller

Look, no Prior or Wood in the rotation. The thing is this year the Cubs started the year not expecting them to contribute. If they somehow end up contributing, it's just gravy. I'm not as sour on this rotation like a lot of people are. Did we spend too much on Lilly? Maybe, I think the contract is certainly too long. I still think he'll thrive this year in NL. He previously pitched in the AL East which can inflate any pitcher's ERA. Well he be great? No, but I'm thinking a 15 win season with a 3.4ish ERA. Zambrano is a stud, and will once again be the ace of the staff. Marquis was a big wild card signing, but I think not pitching for LaRussa will help him this season. Rich Hill I think will turn out to be the second best pitcher on the staff. If he keeps pitching and improving the way he did last season, he should be a solid #2 pitcher. Miller is an arm strain away from Angel Guzman rightfully earning the 5th spot. I think the top four pitchers could all win around 12-15 games particularly with this offense, and in the NL Central that can be good enough. What also helps is that most of these pitchers are work horses and can keep you in the game. That means Pinella won't have to over work his deep bullpen, which fell apart last season due to pitching so much.

So where do I see the Cubs finishing this season? I'm saying an optimistic 2nd place finish. I know most are picking the Cardinals again to win, but they have no outfield, and their pitching is more suspect than people think. The team with the best pitching staff I think is the Brewers, and if they stay healthy and their young positional players improve they should win the NL Central. With that out of the way, time for the rest of my predictions.

AL East: Boston

As always this will come down to the Yankees and Red Sox battling for first place. The Yankees have the better overall lineup by only a little. What will decide this is the pitching. The Yanks opening day starter is going to be Carl Pavano. Carl Pavano! The Yankees pitching will hurt this club which is why I pick the Red Sox to triumph.

AL Central: Detroit

A lot of good teams here. The White Sox's pitching isn't as scary as it once was. Twins won't get the career years it got from its players last year, and pitching rotation becomes suspect after their #2 pitcher. Royals will be improved but still in the basement. Detroit will still be mostly young players. Their pitching should be better. Their relief pitchers are nasty good. They added a very good veteran bat in Sheffield.

AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I don't know. It's either the Angels of A's. I tossed a coin and it came up Angels.

AL Wild Card: Yankees

Somehow, even with subpar pitching, the Yankees will make the playoffs. This time as the wild card.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana

Who else, but the best pitcher in baseball.

AL MVP: Derek Jeter

After this though, his age catches up to him, and it's all a slow decline into mediocrity.

NL East: NY Mets

I was originally going to go with Philly, but I think they will once again collapse at the end of the season. The Mets will probably be in third place by the All-Star break. Then they get Pedro back. The young pitchers at this point should be more comfortable and better than at the beginning of the year. Their lineup once again will score a crap load of runs.

NL Central: Brewers

See above

NL West: LA Dodgers

I'm going Dodgers again because of pitching. Arizona will improve but won't make a run till next year. Padres will be the biggest competition for the Dodgers. Jake Peavy could very well push the Padres over the Dodgers, but that's putting your eggs in one basket.

NL Wild Card: Phillies

It was between the Phillies and the Padres. Both will win around 88 games, so I'm throwing the Philly fans a bone.

NL Cy Young: Ben Sheets

I think this is the year he's completely healthy and proves what he can do by carrying the Brewers into the playoffs. He will then completely fall apart over the next few seasons because of overuse, and torture fantasy baseball owners for years.

NL MVP: Pujols

The writers will hate themselves for picking him as he becomes more and more of an asshole diva.

AL Division Playoffs:

Detroit beats the Yankees
Boston beats the Angels

AL Championship:

Boston beats Detroit

NL Division Playoffs:

Mets beat Dodgers...again.
Brewers beat Phillies.

NL Championship:

Brewers beat Mets in another heart breaking series where every Mets fan will vow to never utter the name Ben Sheets again.

World Series:

Boston beats Brewers in a 7 game series, and the Red Sox will end up the second most hated team in baseball behind the Yankees.


Eric said...

You have made one fatal mistake in your NL Central analysis. Never underestimate the battling bucs fom Pittsburgh PA. I do not have your telephone number, call me!!

Bradford said...

Pittsburgh has a nice young nucleus of positional players, but their pitching (minus relief) leaves something to be desired.

I'll call you this weekend.

MOL Junior said...

brewers??? at least you're going out on a limb.

as for your cubbies, just ask tom hicks: throwing money at a bad team fixes nothing. not optimistic for them given their rotation.