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Chicago Cubs 2009 Season Preview: Favorites To Win The NL Central

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 03:  Pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs reacts on the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game One of the National League Divisional Series at Chase Field on October 3, 2007 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Bare KnucksAnalyst IMarch 24, 2009

The Chicago Cubs head into 2009 with a bad taste in their mouths following an epic collapse in the 2008 playoffs.

Chicago should have another chance to disappoint fans come October, as they are heavy favorites to again win the NL Central and reach the playoffs. With what should again be one of the top offenses in baseball this year, pending its ability to stay healthy, the Cubs can ride their depth in the outfield and power bats at the corners of the infield to a playoff appearance in 2009.

With a rotation that features Carlos Zambrano (who threw a no-hitter against Houston last year at Miller Park on Sept. 14), Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden, the Cubbies have one of the better starting rotations in the division.

The question is, who will be that fifth starter? As of now, it looks as though Sean Marshall is the leading contender for that role, but that can always change. The bullpen, assuming Marshall wins the fifth spot in the rotation, will include Kevin Gregg, Jeff Samardzija, Gaudin, Cotts, and Vizcaino.

Kerry Wood leaving for Cleveland leaves the closing duties to Carlos Marmol, most likely, who finished with a 2.68 ERA in 2008. With such a well-rounded ball club, the Cubs should be expected to again win well above 90 games and finish first in the NL Central.

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