Every day, I will be presenting a season preview for individual MLB teams. Today we look at the Chicago Cubs.
Will this finally be the year?
That is often the question on Cubs fan's minds this time of year. After another long offseason of heartache and waiting, the Cubbies are ready to take another crack at ending baseball's lengthiest Championship drought. Last season's Cubs were shadows of their former selves. In 2008, they had the best offensive team in the game. A year later, with much of the same roster, they sunk back to mediocrity due to a multitude of crippling injuries.
Their pitching didn't help their quest either. Carlos Zambrano must bounce back. His 9 wins were the fewest since his rookie year. While he posted a respectable ERA, Zambrano was frusturatingly inconsistent. Winning three in a row only once, Zambrano was unable to string anything together. His intensity is great when he's striking people out and he's pumping his fist on the way to the dugout. Too often, however, his agressive persona holds him back. It compromises his mechanics and in turn he walked 78, the 13th most in baseball. Ryan Dempster must also find what he lost last season. In 2008 his finicky glove shaking worked for him and he posted 17 wins with a sub-3.00 ERA. Like the rest of the Cubs, 2009 wasn't as successful. We've been through this before with Dempster. He has had an up and down career. He has spent time as a closer and a starter. His time in Cincy was disastrous, notching ERA of 6+ in his two seasons there. On the contrary his career with the Marlins was rather successful. You never really know what you're going to get out of Dempster. There are two pitchers that I am very high on. Ted Lilly is a legit number two starter and Randy Wells is an exciting young starter. For the Cubs to get back to the playoffs, these two need to continue what they've been doing. Lilly can be counted on for 15 wins. Randy Wells put together one of the more impressive under-the radar seasons. I'll take a guy with 12 wins and a low 3 ERA on any team. Tom Gorzellany, a trade deadline pickup from the Pirates also figures to be in the mix for a rotation spot. I'm starting to give up on Jeff Samardzija. Should've played football. Carlos Marmol can't control much lately, after dominating with his sizzling stuff in 2008 as a setup man. He may just not have the mental make-up of a closer.
The pitching isn't the biggest worry on this team. Its the aging hitters and there just wasn't enough done to this team to really shake up the lineup. They're basically switching Byrd for Bradley and hoping that Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano can shake off their injuries and put together big seasons. Its a lot to gamble on. There frenchy middle infield of Theriot and Fontenot impresses no one. Aramis really is one of the great third basemen in the game, if he can only shake off the back pain. Derrek Lee and Soriano are going to be 34. The aging roster, coupled with a frusturating lack of hitting throughout the lineup doesn't bode well for a team that was mediocre and dissapointing last season. Maybe Lou can light a fire under these old men, but it doesn't look promising.
The Cubs will be a borderline playoff team. If you twisted my arm and asked me to say yes or no, I would say no. Colorado and San Fran will keep getting better and the Cardinals will be the Central Division champs. Sadly, it looks like Cubbie lovers are going to have to wait 'til next year...again.
By Erik Lambertsen