The Chicago Cubs 2009 season has been one to forget for the most part. Instead of focusing on the bad, however, I aim to shed some light on those players who have come forward for the Cubs organization and have made progress in a big way.
Most of these players are paid the bare minimum in baseball standards but yet really have made those veteran millionaires look plain out bad in comparison. The best part about younger players is probably that they show the will and the want and the passion that it takes to win in baseball.
Unlike almost every year I can even remember at this point, 2009 has brought quite a few talented young players that have helped this club even come close to the playoffs.
1. Randy Wells
Since Wells' arrival in Chicago, he has blossomed into an unlikely young star starter for an aging rotation. Coming out of the foggy depths of the Cub’s farm system, Wells has started an amazing 21 straight games. His record stands at 10-7 while posting a sparkling 2.90 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP while averaging about 6.1 innings per start.
It gets better when you come to realize that this guy has allowed four or more runs a game only five times this whole year. Yes, that is 16 starts out of 21 where Mr. Wells has shinned brightly.
Now let’s compare Well’s stats to those of the rising star Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves.
i. Wells – 21 Starts, 10-7, 2.90 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 133.1 Innings Pitched
ii. Hanson – 16 Starts, 9-3, 3.07 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 93.2 Innings Pitched
Hanson, pegged to be the next big thing for the Braves, has comparative stats to those of Wells. If the season ended today and the rookie of the year came down to these two, Wells would have to be getting the nod.
2. Angel Guzman
His line reads 52 games pitched, 3-3, 3.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 58.1 Innings Pitched. For a guy that almost was cut from the roster at the beginning of the year, Guzman has done everything he possibly could have to give the Cubs something for their years of patience and understanding.
Once the Cubs' top pitching prospect in the minors, Guzman has been derailed in recent years by various injuries. But Guzman is showing the stuff that made him a top prospect and will hopefully make him an excellent reliever for years to come.
3. John Grabrow
The big midseason acquisition by the Cubs this year has pitched in 16 Games for 13 Innings Pitched. He has given up 3 hits, has a 0.00 ERA and has recorded 4 holds.
4. Jake Fox
Now here is the guy that has the whole town buzzing. Yet we see him play irregularly for a struggling offensive team. This kind of reminds me of Hoffpauir last year during the last month. He was one of the Cubs best hitters at the time yet they keep him off the playoff roster.
Fox has been a utility fielder playing first, third, catcher, right and left field. Even having to deal with learning new positions while trying to make it in the majors, Fox has excelled. He is hitting .286 with 12 double, 0 triples, 10 Homeruns and 39 RBIs in 175 AB’s.
Amazingly, nine out of those ten homers have been off righties along with 8 out of his 12 doubles. He is hitting .307 with runners on base and yet they give us an excuse that there is no room for him. Well make room, HELLO? Before they brought him up from the minors earlier this year Fox hit .409 with 14 doubles, 3 triples, 17 homeruns and 53 RBIs in just 194 at bats.
So the production went down a little between stations but this guy is the real deal folks. We got a hitter right here and he should help in the very near future. As long as there’s a place for him to play.
5. Koske Fukudome
Well I would have never imagined I would be saying this about the Helicopter Strikeout Machine but here it is. Fukudome has done everything and more for the Cubbies this year. He is fourth in slugging on the team with a .454 clip to go along with an OBP of .384. He is an excellent defender which is crucial when playing the seemingly lost boys on his sides.
His only flaw is that left handed pitchers eat him up. He may only be batting .274 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs but Fukudome does have 30 doubles and 5 triples on the year.
The best thing I have seen from him so far this year is that he worked hard and managed to follow up the month of June in which he hit a mere .169 and follow it up by hitting .307 in July and .287 in August. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting a robust .315 compare to him hitting just .217 after last year’s break.
6. Koyie Hill
Koyie’s value to the team is not really in his offense but actually stems from the results we have seen with him calling games this year when Geovany Soto has been out. The Cubs are 32-19 when Hill has started for them. He has gunned down 41.3 percent of would be base stealers and has committed just three errors behind the plate.
Even more impressive has been the durability that he has showed while playing at such a demanding position. For 26 straight games Hill started six coming before the All Star Break and then 20 straight games with no days off in between.
He was only subbed for a mere three times during games that went to extra innings. When Hill’s streak started the Cub’s were in third place in the division and five games out. When Hill’s steak ended we were tied for first. Don’t get me wrong I love Soto, but I kind of wish he would have kept going.
Without these guys we may have been looking at the 2004 season straight in the face again. Each and every one of these guys has contributed in a big way to the 67 wins the Cubs have this year.
I don’t even want to know who would have been starting if Wells wasn’t for those 21 solid games of his.
And just imagine how horrifying it would have been down in the pen if we would have released Guzman at the beginning of the year. How about if we would have kept Paul Bako as our backup catcher this year? There would have been no way he’s catching 26 games in a row. And Fox alone saved the Cubs in a couple of games with his bat and versatility as a fielder thus far.
So as you can see this season may be a bust in the standings, but we have some things to take away from 2009 that aren’t so bad after all.