The sun is out, the snow is melting and spring training is under way.
Today is one of the greatest days of the year, for today marks the beginning of another season of America’s past-time.
Since today is the first day of spring training, I figured I would bust out my crystal ball and predict how good the Cubbies will do this season.
"Big Z" is the ace of the Cubs staff and has been a proven pitcher for many years.
Last season, it seemed as if Zambrano tailed off after his no-hitter, but I think that he will rebound very well and have one of the best seasons out of everyone on the team.
Zambrano should be almost as good as he was in 2004. I predict him to have a 3.36 ERA, 18 wins and 193 Ks.
I love what Dempster was able to do last season, but I think it is time for him to come down to earth a little bit.
This is not to say that he will be a bad pitcher, but I think that he will be more of a three man rather than the "ace" numbers he put up last season.
I say he will put up a 3.74 ERA with 15 wins and 174 Ks.
Much like Dempster, I don't see Lilly putting up the same kind of numbers this year.
Lilly has been great since coming to the Cubs, but before that he was never anything special. I think that some Cubs fans might be in for a wake up call when he does not put up number two starter numbers in 2009.
I predict a 4.03 ERA with 14 wins and 162 Ks.
I will not say that Harden will stay healthy, because, lets face it, it won’t happen. I do think, however, that when he is on the mound he will put up the best numbers out of everyone in the rotation.
He has filthy stuff and could win a Cy Young if he ever finds a way to stay off the DL.
I think Harden will put up a 2.46 ERA with 11 wins and 142 Ks.
Assuming that Marshall doesn't win the final spot in the rotation, he will most likely start the year in AAA, but for the sake of predictions let's say he is the No. 5 starter on opening day.
I think that he will put up some decent numbers for a five man, which leads me to say that he will have a 4.12 ERA with 13 wins and 153 Ks
As for the bullpen, I think that the loss of Kerry Wood will hurt the Cubs quite a bit.
I love Carlos Marmol, but he began running into some problems later in the season.
One thing that I hope Lou does is give Marmol some breaks early in the year. This will get Gregg some more playing time and will help out in the long run. Otherwise, it could be rough on Marmol's arm come September and October.
I really like Marmol and I hope that he will fill the closer role well.
Part of me would have liked to see Wood still in the pen, but I know that Marmol is the man of the future and the organization has a lot of faith in him. I think he will have a 2.64 ERA with 42 saves and 112 Ks.
Now that the Cubs have their closer of the future, Gregg will most likely be placed in the set-up role. He was solid in Florida, but I don’t think that he will put up quite as good of numbers in Chicago, after all when the wind blows out the balls fly out.
I think Gregg will have a solid season with a 3.62 ERA, 7 saves and 72 K's.
I will not get into the entire bullpen situation, because I think that a few of those spots will be decided in spring training.
Now, it’s on to the lineup. A few months ago I wrote an article about how Alfonso Soriano should not be the lead-off hitter and that he should be much further down in the lineup. I still do not think that he should be the lead-off man, but I think that he should be higher in the order than I previously wrote.
That being said, here is my lineup.
1. Ryan Theriot
Theriot is a good player and I think he has what it takes to be a leadoff man.
He may not have the speed, but he does have a consistent bat and has the ability to get on base. I think that he will have a very similar year in 2009 as he did in 2008: .313 BA, four HRs, 42 RBIs, 92 Runs and 11 SB.
2. Alfonso Soriano
I think that Soriano should be able to put up better numbers than last year due to the fact that he will hopefully be healthy.
As long as he doesn't hurt his legs again, he should hopefully be able to return to a 30-30 player.
With Soriano out of the lead-off role he should be able to put up more RBI's since there will be more men on base. I think he will have a .284 BA, 32 HRs, 85 RBIs, 93 Runs and 35 SB.
3. Derrek Lee
Comeback player of the year anyone?
I think 2009 will be Lee's return to the main stage.
Ever since his wrist injury he has not been the same player, but I think that he will come close to some of the numbers he put up in 2005: .324 BA, 32 HRs, 94 RBIs, 103 Runs and seven SB.
4. Milton Bradley
I like the acquisition of Bradley.
He will bring a good switch-hitting bat and some power.
Bradley has had quite a few injury problems through out his career as well as some off the field problems. My hope is that the veterans in the clubhouse like Lee will be able to calm him down when his tempers flare.
Aside from that, I think he will have a good year hitting .312 BA, 31 HR's, 84 RBI's, 73 Runs and two SB.
5. Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez has been one of the key offensive players for the Cub's for many years now, and 2009 will be no exception.
The one thing that I hope with Ramirez is that he is able to become a better rounded player and become more consistent with his glove.
As for his offensive output, expect something around .296 BA, 32 HR's, 107 RBI's, 82 Runs and 2 SB.
6. Geovany Soto
The big question on many people's minds is how Soto will play after winning the NL rookie of the year award?
I don't think he will hit much of a sophomore slump and I think that he will establish himself as one of the best offensive catches in the game: .292 BA, 27 HRs, 83 RBIs, 72 Runs and one SB.
7. Mike Fontenot or Aaron Miles
Both players are good at their position, but I think that the opening day starter will be Fontenot.
Miles will then play the same role that Mark DeRosa played, but there will be a significant power decrease.
I think that Fontenot will end the season with .274 BA, 13 HRs, 53 RBIs, 62 Runs and four SB, whereas Miles will have .306 BA, three HRs, 46 RBIs, 52 Runs and six SB.
8. Reed Johnson or Kosuke Fukudome
I hope that the starter on opening day is Johnson.
Fukudome did great up until the all star break up couldn't hit the broad side of a barn during the second half. Johnson was a great addition to the club and he proved that he can play.
I don't expect as good of numbers as last year but they should be good.
Johnson will hit .287 BA with seven HRs, 51 RBIs, 57 Runs and six SB.
Fukudome will hit .271 BA, eight HRs, 62 RBIs, 77 Runs and 13 SB.
In the end, I think that the Chicago Cubs should be able to win the central division for a third year in a row.
I do not think that they will be able to match the 97 wins from 2008; however, they should be able to win around 93.
I think that most people can agree on the Cubs being in the playoffs in 2009, but what, if anything will change from the last two-years.
With the addition of the left handed bats the Cubs will be in a better position come October.
They might go out and try and acquire another bull pen arm during the season, but I do not think that there will be any significant changes to the team.
So, the main question to be asked is, will this be the year?
I don't really want to say.
The Cubs have put themselves in a great position to win the division again, but in baseball the team that wins it all is often the team who is hot at the right time.
There is no way of predicting if the Cubs will be hot when the regular season comes to an end, but they certainly have the ability to win it all.
Hopefully, there will be a few nights in October where the beer will be flowing and the crowd will be singing "Go Cubs Go.”
I know one thing for sure, if the Cubs make it all the way, I will be one of thousands who will be running through Wrigley-ville screaming "World Champion Chicago Cubs!"