An Optimistic View of the Loveable Losers

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An Optimistic View of the Loveable Losers

Every year, it’s the same story with the Cubs, “This is the year!” But, alas, it always winds up not being the year; or should I say years?

It’s been 100 years since their last World Series title and that can cause problems for any franchise. I sometimes have to wonder when the word “ loveable” is going to be removed from their “loveable losers” nickname?

But I'm going to stay optimistic, because that’s what Cubs fans do, they stay positive no matter how appalling it looks.

It’s Lou Piniella’s second year as the head coach, and, if history tells us anything about “Sweet” Lou, it’s you don’t know what to expect.

If anything, Cub fans are hoping for a repeat of his 1987 and 2004 years when his teams improved going into his second year, not receded as they did in his 1994 campaign.

This year, Piniella knows the organization, city, and fans a lot better than he did last year.

 

The Lineup:

Piniella has all the pieces in place offensively, but the pitching is suspect, to say the least. The Cubs have a lot they need to improve upon, but it’s Piniella’s job to find the right mix, although the Cubs might add another ingredient or two.

If the anticipated deal with Baltimore for Brian Roberts goes through, the Cubs would have a new lead-off hitter and other adjustments to make.

Otherwise, Piniella said the lineup they went with on Saturday, March 22 is the one that will start the season with, but with one exception. He started Mike Fontenot at shortstop, and Ryan Theriot will be the Opening Day starter at short.

 

Here is the proposed lineup with a little bio about each player and predictions for the upcoming year:

1. Ryan Theriot (SS) He is finally getting his due.

Your shortstop doesn’t need to be a home-run machine or even win a batting title, just look at the last couple of World Series winners: Julio Lugo (‘07), David Eckstein ('06, '02), Juan Uribe (’05), Orlando Cabrera/Pokey Reese ('04), Alex Gonzalez ('03), and Tony Womack ('01).

He plays with heart, and I’ll take that any day over an overpaid and overrated guy, because even when things look the worst, he’s still going to go up to the plate or onto the field and give it his all.

He’s proved he is a winner at almost every level of play: high school, college, and the minors; now, he just has to prove that he can do it for a big league club. We’ll see how his numbers are in the field, considering this will be his first full-time gig.

PREDICTION: 111 runs, 5 HR, 68 RBI, .276 average, 39 stolen bases

 

2. Alfonso Soriano (LF) I think they should leave him in the leadoff spot, only because that’s where he feels most comfortable. He proved last year, when you move him around the order, his offensive numbers go down dramatically.

Last year, when he batted first, his numbers were 92/33/69/.308 in 542 at bats; batting third, his numbers were 5/0/1/.179 in 28 at bats. He only received one hit batting eighth and none while batting fifth.

This is enough proof to leave him in the leadoff spot, even though he’s not your prototypical leadoff man because of his power potential.

Also, one can only hope he feels comfortable at home this year compared to last year (.274 average at home, .325 average on the road). And players also need to realize not to run on him. He had 19 assists in LF.

PREDICTION: 101 runs, 38 HR, 91 RBI, .282 average, 31 stolen bases

 

3. Derrek Lee (1B) Lee is probably the most overlooked guy at the first base position, considering he was sporting a .364 average with RISP in 2007.

His biggest problem, though, is falling behind in the count and getting in a pitcher's count. With a 0-2 count his average is .139, but every player has a weakness, and this is his.

Fielding surely isn't a weakness for Lee. He should win the gold glove every year. Hell, they should rename the first base gold glove after him.

Unlike Soriano, Lee has the opposite problem with playing on the road (.265) and at home (.371).

Expect big things from Lee this year. He’s coming off a sub-par/injury-plagued year, plus, his protection is expected to have a huge year, too.

PREDICTION: 119 runs, 33 HR, 109 RBI, .322 average, 11 stolen bases

 

4. Aramis Ramirez (3B) My friends and I call him “fat boy” because he used to be so bad at defense that we needed a nickname to call him when he screwed up.

Plus, I know he probably used to be the first one to hit the buffet after the game.

Offensively, he doesn’t have any holes, except in a 0-2 count (.111 average), which is great because he’ll have a lot of ducks on the pond in front of him this year.

His power numbers dropped off last year. I think he finally realized that he has to play the field decently, too. Putting forth that much effort in the field tired him out to where he couldn’t hit the ball as far, at least that’s my theory.

His numbers went up in the field, for once, posting a .972 fielding percentage; compared to .947 fielding percentage two years prior.

Look for his offensive and possibly his defensive numbers to return to normal this year.

PREDICTION: 98 runs, 36 HR, 122 RBI, .301 average, 0 stolen bases

 

5. Kosuke Fukudome (RF) Most Japanese players' numbers suffer when they make the trip across the Pacific, unless your name is Ichiro, and Fukudome will probably not be any different.

The seasons are longer, tougher, and hotter in America than in Japan. The Cubs don’t need him to be the player he was in Japan, hitting 30-plus home runs, they just need him to bring his solid defense, patience at the plate, incredible eye, and batting average with him.

The Cubs have the role players to hit the ball over the ivy-covered brick walls, they just need people in the lineup to back them up with a single or double, in case they don’t hit the big fly.

Predicting his numbers is pretty difficult, but I feel confident that he’ll have a decent first half and probably do better at home, and his numbers probably will drop come August.

PREDICTION: 78 runs, 11 HR, 71 RBI, .287 average (hopefully higher), nine stolen bases

 

6. Mark DeRosa (2B) The super utility man. Notice what I said there, utility man. I love DeRosa. I’m a huge fan, but I would love to see him in the utility role; he could keep the whole team fresh.

What this man is able to do, play at different positions day after day, and have such a great fielding percentage at each, is in itself amazing. He could still play 120 games at the utility position, while helping out the team in a way that no other player can.

Then again, when a Hall a Fame coach (Bobby Cox) says he wishes he could play him every day you don’t question it, or do you?

He does dramatically better at night, but the problem is, most of the Cubs' games are during the day. Last year, he was a slow starter, so don’t get too worried when his numbers aren't there at the end of May.

Plus, with the problems that he was having this spring, it might take him even longer to get “baseball ready.”

Having him bat sixth (30/5/33/.325) and playing second (43/8/45/.307) was great for his numbers last year, so hopefully, that will translate to this year. Needless to say, his numbers should rise dramatically with Geovany Soto hitting behind him.

PREDICTION: 79 runs, 15 HR (13 is his career high), 73 RBI, .283 average, two stolen bases

 

7. Geovany Soto (C) A lot of people are expecting a lot out of this kid, especially me.

He’s coming off his MVP season in AAA and a huge late-season call up by the Cubs. He has the promise to be one of the best young catchers in the league for years to come, but, first, he has to prove his worth in his first full season in the majors.

Don’t expect the numbers he put up in the minors, where he batted .353 with 26 home runs and 109 RBI, but expect decent numbers from a catcher.

I, a huge Cubs fan, originally had predicted his numbers 62/18/70/.277, but, after looking at his minor league numbers over the last six years, that prediction is way too high.

He only had one really good year in the minors, but, at the same time, when he was called up for 18 games last year, he posted 12/3/8/.389.

Maybe he finally “gets it” now, but he has a lot on his plate this year: learning the pitching staff, adjusting to MLB pitching, catching over 120 games, and everything else that a rookie has to deal with coming into the league.

Also, his spring numbers have been awful. Therefore, I’m lowering my expectations. (Hopefully, I’m wrong about these numbers).

PREDICTION: 59 runs, 15 HR, 68 RBI, .258 average, 0 stolen bases

 

8. Felix Pie (CF) How many times have you heard his name associated with the Cubs' future? I know, too many.

Right now, he’s probably not hearing anything along those lines, but, instead, as many jokes that can be made up using baseballs as a pun.

If there was someway to make him more patient at the plate, I think his numbers would skyrocket. He’s proven that, when he’s patient his BA, OBP, and HR go up.

Example: In 2007, Pie is sent down to work on his hitting and being, believe it or not, patient. In 55 games, he posts 51/9/43/.362. The year before, when he spent the year in AAA, he posted 78/15/57/.283 in 86 more games.

The numbers don't lie. Become more patient, and you’ll flourish.  One can only hope that he can live up to half of his potential, and, hopefully, this will be the year of his coming out party, keyword hopefully. But don’t rule out an implosion, either.

PREDICTION: 71 runs, 9 HR, 49 RBI, .251 average (a bit high, but here’s hoping), 17 stolen bases

 

As you can see, the Cubs have it all offensively: speed, power, and average. It’s just a matter of mixing and using them all to full potential, especially the speed potential.

With all the speed they'll have on the base paths, which makes opposing pitchers unable to fully concentrate, it should play to their favor with better batting averages and more home runs.

Want proof? Look at the White Sox in their 2005 World Series campaign. Their leadoff man stole 59 bases by himself with a team total of 137. I’m predicting 109 from the starters of the Cubs this year, do you see the comparison?

 

The Bench: 

The bench this year looks pretty promising, I’m not going to get into the specifics with each player, I’m just going to give a little background and bio:

 

Henry Blanco (C) Everybody that knows me, knows that I’m a huge fan of Henry’s but I’m just stating the facts here. His bat is not superb by any means (.233 career average), but this man is a back stop behind the plate. A little known fact, he has a bazooka attached to his neck, it’s his right arm!

 

Daryle Ward (1B, OF) He is a professional hitter. That’s all you really need to know about him. His approach to pitch hitting is quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen. He’s not an everyday guy, by any means, but when you need that late inning single or double, he’s the guy you call.

 

Mike Fontenot (2B, SS) He was teammates with Theriot on LSU when they won a couple of National Championships together. He’s just like Theriot too, will not hit for power, but will steal you a lot of bases. They have him listed at 5’8”, if you’ve ever seen him you know that’s not right; he uses his small stature in his favor at the plate all the time. Expect a firecracker off the bench that can leadoff or bat deep in the order, and just like Theriot, will play with heart.

 

Ronny Cedeno (SS, 3B, OF) He's just like Pie, seems to have a lot of promise, kills the ball in the minors (.355 [‘06], .359 [‘07]) but just can’t get it done in the majors (.245 [‘06], .203 [‘07]). One has to wonder what is wrong with these kids?

 

Reed Johnson (OF) The Cubs newly acquired talent. He’s been brought in to have a back up for when Pie implodes (and he probably will), and to hit lefties (.325 last year and .308 career). He will probably wind up being the everyday centerfielder before the season is through.

 

Matt Murton (OF) I honestly thought that Big Red was going to have the starting job this year in RF and he probably did too. He hasn’t done anything wrong to not get the job, but he also hasn’t done anything to set the world on fire either. He’s also a lefty specialist, but since they added Johnson to the mix and they are going to carry 12 pitchers, Murton will either be traded or let go; I think his three options to the minors are used up. This will be a sad day, in my opinion, because he’s a quality player that deserves a shot at a club.

 

The Pitching Staff:

The pitching staff, as I said before, is suspect, to say the least. Last year the biggest problem the whole staff had was getting on the same page at the same time. When two guys were struggling one guy was on fire and vice versa. This year there are a lot of question marks in the rotation, such as:

Can the whole rotation stay consistent?

Can or will Zambrano finally step up and be the big stopper this year?

Can Lilly pitch the way he did last year?

Can Marquis pitch the whole year the way he pitched the first month of last year?

Will Dempster have the stamina to pitch all year?

These are just a couple of the questions facing their starting rotation. This doesn’t even include the bullpen; they have a lot of questions too, such as:

Can Wood go a whole year without going on the DL?

Can Marmol be a beast again?

Is Marshall going to throw out of the pen?

Is Lieber going to be effective out of the pen?

Will Dempster be back in the pen?

 

Starting Rotation:

Here is the proposed rotation with a little bio about each player and predictions for the upcoming year. I’m not going to include WHIP in my predictions because it can sometimes an overrated stat:

Carlos Zambrano, is the “leader” of this staff. I say “leader” because last year he wasn’t the stopper he should have been, Lilly was.

Everyone knows that Zambrano is a head case and this is proof by his stats from last year: bases empty his ERA was 0.89, but with RISP his ERA was 10.66; but the biggest red flag was when the bases were loaded his ERA was 22.50 while the opposing hitters batted .417 against him. These are pretty intimidating numbers, but they’ve been this way his whole career: bases empty his ERA is 1.09, but with RISP his ERA is 8.58, and with bases loaded his ERA is 12.43.

It’s obvious that it’s easier to score runs on a guy when there are runners in scoring position, but his numbers are too skewed in one direction in comparison to other pitchers in the league. The Cubs should probably sign him up for anger management or yoga so he can learn to control his anger.

The other biggest problem that Zambrano faces is his first 15 pitches of the game, hitters tend to jump on him early and this is proof of his ERA for his whole career.

In pitches 1-15 his ERA is 6.69, after that the only time his ERA is above 2.99 is in pitches 31-45 and 91-105.

Lefties tend to kill Big Z too, last year alone they were batting .268 off of him, while righties were hitting a miserable .200 off of him.

If you’ve ever seen Zambrano pitch live at Wrigley the one thing you notice is the way he feeds off the crowd, but the biggest question mark around him is why he pitches so bad at home (4.96 ERA) as opposed to on the road (3.06) ERA?

Expect a normal season from Big Z, maybe one year he’ll show he can win the Cy Young and pitch the whole season the way he did last year in June and July (2.53 and 1.38 ERA respectively).

PREDICTION: 17-10, 3.63 ERA, 191 strikeouts

 

Ted Lilly, he was what Zambrano couldn’t be last year, the stopper. He stopped the bleeding a lot of the time when the Cubs needed it, especially the first two months of the year when Zambrano was struggling with a 5.77 ERA in April and 4.72 ERA in May; while in April last year Lilly had a 2.18 ERA and a 4.66 ERA in May.

Lilly isn’t an overpowering guy, except for his big sweeping curveball, but the one thing that makes him a great starting pitcher is that he hardly walks anyone.

Last year he only walked guys in double digits three times (10, 12, 15) and in the other three months in single digits (5, 8, 5). These are great, especially when you compare it to the Cy Young winner, Jake Peavy, who walked guys in double digits four times (13, 11, 14, 16) or the runner-up Brandon Webb who walked guys in double digits five times (16, 12, 14, 13, 11).

The biggest question mark facing Lilly this year is: can he perform this way two years in a row?

It was the first time in four years that he didn’t lose double digit games and five years since his ERA not to be above 4.00. Most of the hitters had never seen him last year because he came over from the Blue Jays in a free agent signing, so I expect some of his numbers to go up, while others will go down.

PREDICTION: 15-10, 3.94 ERA, 168 strikeouts

 

Ryan Dempster, has had a great spring, but spring doesn’t matter during the regular season.

When I first heard that they were going to make him a starter my mind wondered back to his days in Miami, when he posted records like: 14-10 and 15-12, with 3.66 and 4.94 ERAs, but those also had 209 and 171 strikeouts, respectively.

When he started to catch the injury bug he didn’t start at least 20 games until 2003 in Cincinnati and by then he was awful as a starter. He started 20 games in 2003, his season was cut short because of injury (I know, I was surprised to), and he posted a 3-7 record, 6.54 ERA with opposing batters hitting .293 off of him.

Starting as a Cub in 2005 for one month he posted a 1-3 record, 5.67 ERA, 30 strikeouts, with opposing hitters hitting .287 off of him.

Lefties are going to eat him alive, last year they batted .259 off of him, the year before, .310 and as for his career they’re batting .288, while righties are batting .249 off of him.

I understand that the last couple of spots were up for grabs and the way to win one of those spots was to perform in spring, but Dempster’s numbers are terrifying as a starter.

I can’t honestly see him making the whole year as a starter, but my numbers are geared towards him staying in the starting roll.

PREDICTION: 9-15, 4.92 ERA, 156 strikeouts

 

Rich Hill, analysis always predict sophomores to have bad years because they, the sophomore, figure they can go out and do the same exact thing they did the year before and be fine. But the truth of the matter is they have to work harder then the hitters to be better.

Hitters have seen them a lot during the year and have had time to adjust and watch film on them, so the pitchers should do the same. But the little known fact about pitchers is that they tend to be cockier then hitters.

Hill will probably have a mini slump this year because he’s no different then anyone else out there, but his numbers will not be horrific, if anything they will mirror the numbers from last year.

He showed signs of tiring at the end of the year, the proof is in his 5.08 ERA in September and throwing a big fat one in the playoffs last year.

He has been working on his pickoff move this spring which should help get some ducks off the pond.

Don’t be too amazed by his April numbers, he’s usually a great first month guy (1.77 ERA), but comes back down to earth in May (6.52 ERA).

As far as games go, he tends to get better as the game progresses but once his pitch count gets to 91 or above his ERA jumps above 4.82 for his career.

This year his stamina should be up, he should be more head strong, and hopefully he’ll do better on the road (5-6) as compared to at home (6-2) last year.

PREDICTION: 14-9, 3.82 ERA, 180 strikeouts

 

Jason Marquis, there are not too many positives to Mr. Marquis.

His ERA is always high, he usually gets in arguments with other players and managers (i.e. Marquis and Piniella have already had it out this spring), and he doesn’t strikeout too many guys.

The biggest positive, and the only reason I love this guy, is that he doesn’t care what his numbers look like, just as long as they win the game.

He’s going to give you 200 innings a year, six innings a game, and keep the game moderately close.

In 2006 when he was with the Cardinals he threw two games were he gave up 12 earned runs in one game and 13 in another. The reason for this is because the bullpen had been worked to the bone the games before and LaRussa needed Marquis to stay in the game, even though it was obviously not his day those two days.

These are the two games I remembered the most when the Cubs signed him and I remember saying to myself, “That’s a waste of *%$#@!^* money!” Once I found out the reason for these gruesome outings I became a fan.

His numbers will probably be worse this year then they where last year, but he’s going to eat up those innings and give the bullpen a break.

Does he finish the year as a starter or even on the team? All signs point to no, with Sean Marshall and Jon Lieber waiting in the wings, he’ll either be traded or possibly let go.

PREDICTION: 13-10, 4.82 ERA, 101 strikeouts

 

The Bullpen:

The bullpen is a little better this year, but they are suspect also. They have the right guys, but Lou has proved to stick with one guy for too long and that can sometimes be costly.

Lou hasn’t decided if he’s going to keep Sean Marshall on as a bullpen guy, so I’ll pretend that he’ll be sent down to the minors, which is probably the right move.

The reason for I feel this is the right move for him is because he’s a starting pitcher, not a reliever, and if they send him down they can keep him on a regular regiment and keep him fresh. If the Cubs need a long reliever they have Lieber in the pen, if they need a long lefty reliever they have Pignatiello.

 

Here are the bullpen guys with my predictions:

Kerry Wood (CL) This is going to be Wood’s first full time closing and it will be a work in progress because, as many Cubs fans know, Wood can sometimes let the screws come undone, just like Zambrano.

Last year he only had three bad outings all year (shortened year because of injury) and he sometimes pitched more than one inning.

I like Wood in the closer role, he has electric stuff and if he can harness it for one inning a night, he should be lights out.

Wood has had a tremendous spring, he didn’t walk a single batter, and could very well be at top closer for as long as his arm holds up.

But lets be realistic, it’s Kerry Wood and instead of the letters CL being behind his name it should be DL, a place he knows all too well.

I’m predicting that he’ll go on the DL at least once this year; so Marmol or Howry are going to have to step it up when he does. Fair warning, Wood is possibly my favorite pitcher pitching right now so these numbers are probably a little bias.

PREDICTION: 2-4, 2.80 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 31 saves

 

Carlos Marmol (SU) He was insane last year. The numbers he put up were unpredictable.

His slider was some of the nastiest I have ever seen and his fastball had movement up and down in the strike zone.

One can only wonder if he can do it two years in a row?

He didn’t have any weaknesses last year, except he hated pitching in Coors Field and Dolphins Stadium (6.75 and 10.80 ERA respectively) and when his pitch count gets high, 31 or more, his ERA ballooned up to 7.94; this is proof of Lou sticking with someone too long.

PREDICTION: 4-1, 2.14 ERA, 82 strikeouts, nine saves

 

Bob Howry, if you have ever seen this guy pitch live, you’d ask yourself, “How the hell do guys hit off of him?”

He has that slow delivery to the plate and then the ball explodes out of his hand. Some hitters have claimed it feels like hitting a bowling ball when they make contact with one of his pitches.

He is another one that you have to watch a pitch count on, 16 or more pitches his ERA jumps to 8.71.

The thing that still baffles me to this day is why is ERA jumped so high when he came to the National League (2.74 and 2.47 two years with the Indians; 3.17 and 3.32 with the Cubs)?

PREDICTION: 5-6, 3.24 ERA, 70 strikeouts, four saves

 

Michael Wuertz, this is my boy, besides Wood, in the pen.

He’s consistent and he almost never lets inherited runners score; over the last two years only two inherited runners have scored in each year; in 2004 he didn’t let one inherited run score on him at all.

I expect his numbers to return to his 2006 campaign.

PREDICTION: 3-2, 3.01 ERA, 81 strikeouts

 

Jon Lieber, his numbers as a reliever are going to be hard to predict.

I expect him to be in the rotation before it’s all said and done, but if you look at his past performances as a reliever the only word that come to mind is: vile.

Last year he started as a reliever for the Phillies and in two outings he pitched: 2/3 giving up 2 earned runs and 1 2/3 giving up 1 run, but after those two outings, which his ERA was 11.57, he started a game and went 5 2/3 giving up no runs and striking out 5.

He’s a mystery as to what he can do as a reliever, so these numbers are probably not going to be accurate at all, but they are also geared towards him staying in the pen; and as I stated before, I don’t see that happening at all.

PREDICTION: 2-5, 4.11 ERA, 52 strikeouts 

 

Scott Eyre, he’s one of the lefty specialist that the Cubs will be carrying this season (the other will either be Marshall or Pignatiello).

His numbers went up last year which is disheartening considering his a lefty specialist, their numbers, in my opinion, should always be pretty good considering they only have to concentrate on a small portion of the opposing team’s lineup.

I can only hope he gets his numbers down to his 2005 campaign, but since he’s starting the year on the DL and is unable to throw his breaking pitches, he’ll probably be ineffective; I’ll be amazed if he makes it through half the season.

The biggest thing with Eyre, is when a righty comes to the plate they should throw anyone else onto the mound besides him. Throw an infielder on the mound if there’s no one warmed up, because they kill him (.281 career and .317 in 2007 are opposing righty averages off of him).

PREDICTION: 3-2, 3.98 ERA, 57 strikeouts

 

Carmen Pignatiello, is another guy who’s numbers are going to be difficult to predict.

He’s only pitched a total of two innings in his major league career.

He’s lights out in the minors though, last year between AA and AAA he posted a 2.76 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 55 innings; the year before between AA and AAA he posted a 2.43 ERA, 78 strikeouts in 59 innings.

His numbers in the minors proves that he has nothing left to prove in there, now it’s just a matter of getting it done for the big club.

I’m expecting big things from this kid; he’s got a funky delivery and seems ready for the show. My prediction: this year’s Carlos Marmol.

PREDICTION: 3-1, 2.66 ERA, 68 strikeouts

 

NL Central: 

Everyone knows that the NL Central is a weak division with teams, such as: the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals (when Pujols goes out, they're officially done).

This year the division is going to be a three horse race between: the Cubs, Astros, and Brewers. All of these teams got better this year, here's a look at to who these teams added:

The Brewers added: Mike Cameron (who is suspended for the first month for using a banned substance), Jason Kendall (why do all of the ex-Cub catchers go to the Brewers), Eric Gagne, Salmon Torres, Guillermo Mota, and David Riske.

They moved Braun’s awful defense to the outfield (.895 fielding percentage at third base) and will have Corey Hart and Braun for a whole year. They didn’t lose any notable players and bettered their bullpen, so they look quite intimidating.

The Brewers have a huge problem though: playing on the road is not one of their strong suits. Last year they were 32-49 (tied for second worst in the NL) on the road, but at home they were 51-30 (the best in the NL). Last year the Brewers had a lot of kids on the team, so that could have had something to do with it.

The only thing I can't figure out is why they are better at home?

Have you been to that ball park?

Have you been to that city?

Ugh!!!

The Astros added: Michael Bourn, Ty Wigginton (technically), Miguel Tejada, J.R. Towles, Darin Erstad, Geoff Blum, Reggie Abercrombie, Kazuo Matsui, Shawn Chacon, Jose Valverde, Doug Brocail, Oscar Villarreal, Wesley Wright, Geoff Geary, and Chad Paronto.

With all the potential on this team it’s hard not to pick them to win the division, but their rotation is extremely weak and I’m not fully sold on their manager Cecil Cooper. Although if he uses the speed potential to its fullest, I'll become a fan.

The Reds added: Corey Patterson, Francisco Cordero, Jeremy Affeldt, Edison Volquez, and Josh Fogg.

The Reds have a lot of young talent that they'll be using this year too, that is if Dusty Baker is a changed man or not: Norris Hopper, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce. Apparently it's extremely trendy to pick the Reds to do well this year, but as a Cubs fan I know how much of an idiot Dusty Baker is, especially when it comes to young talent.

 

The Cardinals added: Troy Glaus, Ceasar Izturis, Rick Ankiel (for a whole season), Kyle Lohse, and Matt Clement.

As you can see the Cardinals have seriously gone on the decline since their World Series win a couple of years ago. Their only bright spot is the possibility of having Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, and Chris Duncan or Ryan Ludwick all in their outfield for years to come.

 

The Pirates added: Tyler Yates, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Chris Gomez. Their biggest move was getting rid of that moron Jim Tracy though.

They have, quite possibly, the best young rotation in the majors with: Ian Snell (26), Tom Gorzelanny (26), Paul Maholm (26), Matt Morris (34), and Zach Duke (25). If they could just run support, this would be a scary team. They're headed in the right direction, just not there yet.

The Cubs had the best Central Division record out of all the teams (45-34), but the Astros are a whole new team.

So as you can see this is a difficult decision, especially for the Cubs fan in me, but all the signs point towards the….CUBS!!!

PREDICTION:

Cubs 89-73

Brewers 84-78

Astros 82-80

Reds 79-83

Cardinals 72-90

Pirates 70-92

I’m not saying the Cubs are going to win it all, but they will make the playoffs to represent the Central Division again.

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