Note: This article was originally published on TheDailyCub.com, the best site for all Cubs news.
I apologize for being MIA over the past few days, I've been having internet troubles which could hinder the posting to this site over the next few days, but once I get everything straitened out, we should be ready for regular posting.
Now, on to what this article is truly about, baseball and the Chicago Cubs.
Pitchers and catchers reported on Friday to start getting ready for the season. I figured that this would be the perfect time to break down how our pitching staff is going to play this year.
Last season, the Cubs had one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, and late in the season the the trio of Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood shut down opposing offenses after the seventh, and Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden rarely let teams get the lead before that.
But that was a year ago, how are the Cubs going to fare this season? Let's start with those that will pitch the most innings.
The Cubs are one of the best pitching teams in the majors from their first through fourth pitchers.
Carlos Zambrano is a fiery player who has a ton of passion, which leads to some games where he lets his stuff get away from him, but when he is on, he is one of the best in the Majors and deserves to be the ace of this staff.
Ryan Dempster came on last season and was a real surprise. Re-signing him was major for the Cubs this offseason because it allowed them to stay away from Jake Peavy and save the farm system. He was strong all year and if he keeps it up, he could help the Cubs go deep this year.
Rich Harden was the big acquisition during last season. When he came to the Cubs, he was lights out posting an ERA of just over two and going 10-2, an outstanding second half.
Ted Lilly is a great fourth starter, his ERA was about four last season and he got a lot of strikeouts. The best part about him is his 17-9 record is fantastic for a fourth pitcher in the rotation.
The fifth spot in the rotation this year is going to be decided in spring training, but the spot is likely to either go to Sean Marshall or Aaron Heilman.
Marshall has shown signs of brilliance and he has also faltered at times. However, he kept his ERA under four last year in about 65 innings.
Heilman is a new addition to the Cubs and would bring more experience and reliability to the Cubs if he were to start, but his above five ERA scares me a little bit.
The Cubs also had a lockdown bullpen last season, but they lost Wood and it has been said that Samardzija would start the season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
However, it looks like the Cubs have two viable options for the closer this year. Although Marmol will likely take the job, Lou Piniella has publicly stated that newcomer Kevin Gregg will have an opportunity to be the closer as well, and it will be an open competition.
If Marmol does become the closer and Samardzija stays on (he should after the way he played last year) the Cubs could still have a strong bullpen with Gregg, Samardzija and Marmol as the most used pitchers.
Either way, the Cubs should still have a solid bullpen this season.
Expect the pitching staff this season to be just as strong if not stronger than last year, I like Marmol as a closer and I think that he could be one of the best in the majors within the next few years.
Our starters are also among the best in the league, and I love the way our pitchers are set up.
Look for an outstanding pitching year from the Cubs.
I'm Joe W.