2009 CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW
The Cubs had a very successful 2008 season, winning 97 games and the National League Central Division. Unfortunately for the Cubs, their playoff hex continued as they were eliminated 100 years after their last World Series Title.
This season should provide Cub fans with just as much hope as any previous season. The Cubs return a deep rotation, a very solid bullpen and a potent offense. Barring injury, the Cubs appear to be the class of the division.
The Cubs boast a very good rotation. Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA, 30 starts, 188 IP last year) is the staff ace and should show improvement after having a slightly off year in 2008. Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.06 ERA, 34 starts, 204 IP, 184 K) was excellent last season and should continue to eat up innings this year. The third spot will belong to Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA, 33 starts, 206 IP, 187 K), who successfully transitioned from his former role as closer to become one of the best starters in baseball last season. Supremely talented Rich Harden (10-2, 2.07 ERA, 25 starts) has ace potential if he can remain healthy. Expect a big year from him. The final rotation spot will be occupied by Sean Marshall (3.5, 3.86 ERA, 34 Gm, 7 starts) or Aaron Heilman (3-8, 5.21 ERA, 78 Gm), though Marshall has a big advantage because of Heilman’s proven effectiveness in a bullpen role. The Cubs have the division’s best rotation and should win a lot of games this year on the strength of their starting pitching.
The Cubs’ bullpen will undergo a transition at the back end this season. Gone is former closer Kerry Wood to the Indians and Carlos Marmol (2.68 ERA, 82 Gm, 114 K, 7 SV in 9 SVO) is expected to take over in the 9 th. Former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg (3.41 ERA, 72 Gm, 29 SV in 38 SVO) is also an option should Marmol falter but he is expected to lock down the 8 th inning. The bullpen in front of them is also solid as Jeff Samardzija (2.28 ERA), Chad Gaudin (4.40 ERA) and Neal Cotts (4.29 ERA) will provide solid depth. The Cubs shouldn’t have a lot of trouble with this unit.
The Cubs have an excellent infield. Catcher Geovany Soto (.285, 23 HR, 86 RBI, .364 OBP) was an All-Star as a rookie and should only get better. At first base, Derek Lee (.291, 20 HR, 90 RBI, .361 OBP) is a very dangerous hitter and should again provide excellent run production. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.289, 27 HR, 111 RBI, .380 OBP) is cut from a similar cloth and is one of the most productive 3 rd basemen in all of baseball. Up the middle, shortstop Ryan Theriot (.307, 1 HR, 38 RBI, .387 OBP, 22 SB) and second baseman Aaron Miles (.317, 4 HR, 31 RBI, .355 OBP) are not power threats but will get on base consistently and score a lot of runs. This is the division’s best infield.
The Cubs also boast a solid outfield. Leftfielder Alfonso Soriano (.280, 29 HR, 79 RBI, .344 OBP, 19 SB, 109 Gm) is a five tool player who should have a very effective season, provided he stays healthy. Kosuke Fukudome (.257, 10 HR, 58 RBI, .359 OBP, 12 SB) started hot last year but faded down the stretch in his first season coming over from Japan. Expect Fukudome to hold up better this season. He will move to centerfield this year to accommodate new arrival Milton Bradley (.321, 22 HR, 77 RBI, .436 OBP) in right field. Bradley should again have a great year in the hitter friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Reed Johnson (.303, 6 HR, 50 RBI, .358 OBP) should also see plenty of at bats this fall. The Cubs have a very good outfield.
The Cubs have a ton of potential with this group. They are as talented as any team in baseball. Now, Chicago fans have seen plenty of talented Cub teams fall short in the past 100 years but they should definitely be optimistic with the 2009 edition. Another factor to consider is the possible acquisition of San Diego star pitcher Jake Peavy, who the Cubs have chased all offseason. It would not be a surprise to see Peavy pitching on the North Side of Chicago in August.
Overall, expect the Cubs to have a great season. While the NL Central is very good, the Cubs are the clear class of the division. No other team can combine their excellent pitching and powerful lineup. Expect the Cubs to win between 95-100 games and take home their second consecutive National League Central Crown.
By Matt Baxendell
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