One of the best things about baseball is that it returns every spring. Each team has high hopes when they get to their spring training camp and believe that it may finally be their team's year. Well, "next year" is finally here for the Cubs and spring training is about to start in Mesa, Arizona.
Last season, the Chicago Cubs finished the season with a 75-87 record. They finished in fifth place and ended the season 16 games behind the division winner, Cincinnati. Fans everywhere are hoping the 2011 campaign will be completely different.
The Cubs made some big splashes this offseason by adding key players that will hopefully lead the Northsiders to the playoffs. Let's take a look at some questions that Cubs Nation is eagerly waiting to find out answers for.
As of right now, the Cubs have four starters that are for sure going to be in their pitching rotation. These four are Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva. New pitching coach Mark Riggins has a decision to make for the final spot on the pitching staff. Last season, Randy Wells held the spot.
After Wells' unsuccessful year, the Cubs are giving relief pitchers Andrew Cashner, James Russel and Jeff Samardzija a shot at snagging a position in the rotation. They also invited pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper to spring training to give them the opportunity at the final spot. So out of these six pitchers, which one will be starting every fifth day?
Here are last season's stats for these six pitchers:
Randy Wells: 8-14, 194.1 IP, 4.26 ERA, 19 HR, 1.40 WHIP, 144 K's
Andrew Cashner: 2-6, 54.1 IP, 4.80 ERA, 8 HR, 1.56 WHIP, 50 K's
James Russel: 1-1, 49 IP, 4.96 ERA, 11 HR, 1.35 WHIP, 42 K's
Jeff Samardzija: 2-2, 19.1 IP, 8.38 ERA, 4 HR, 2.12 WHIP, 9 K's
Todd Wellemeyer: 3-5, 58.2 IP, 5.68 ERA, 12 HR, 1.57 WHIP, 41 K's
Braden Looper (2009 stats): 14-7, 194.2 IP, 5.22 ERA, 39 HR, 1.49 WHIP, 100 K's
All of these pitchers' ERA's are absolutely awful and will have to improve in order to stay in the Cubs rotation.
So who will be the final arm in the rotation? We will all find out soon enough.
In 2008 and 2009, Carlos Marmol was the full-time setup man. His overpowering arm and his electrifying pitches would help him lead the league in holds with 30 in one year and 27 in the next. Last season as the official closer, he recorded 38 saves and struck out 138 hitters. Marmol pitched 77.2 innings last season and blew only five saves.
Throughout his entire career, Marmol has struggled with his accuracy. Last season, Marmol led all closers in walks and players being hit by a pitch. He walked 52 and hit eight hitters.
After a complete season as the Cubs' closer, will Marmol finally be able to control his pitches and reduce the number of free passes he gives to opposing hitters?
The Cubs signed Carlos Pena for one year to play first base for Chicago. Last season with Tampa Bay, Pena hit a career low .196. He drove in only 84 runs, his lowest amount since 2007, and hit 28 homers.
Pena is a gold-glove caliber first baseman who will improve the Cubs infield defensively. The Cubs took a gamble by paying him $10 million after he produced very low numbers in 2010. Cubs fans all over are hoping that Pena will return to the player he was in Tampa during 2008 and 2009. The main question people are wondering is simple.
Will Carlos Pena produce higher numbers in Chicago, playing his home games in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field?
One of the most important issues that we will all find out come April, is who will be starting in right field. Kosuke Fukudome has started two previous Opening Days and has started many games for the Cubs.
However, due to low offensive numbers, Fukudome's starting position in right may be in jeopardy. Last year, 24-year-old rookie Tyler Colvin stormed onto the Cubs scene and became a fan favorite. This spring training, the two will be competing against each other for the starting jobs.
Here are last season's stats of the two players:
Kosuke Fukudome: .263 BA, 13 HR, 44 RBI
Tyler Colvin: .254 BA, 20 HR, 56 RBI
Until April 1st, we will not know who will win the job of starting right fielder for the Chicago Cubs.
Finally, the most important question Cubs fans all over are wondering is if the 2011 Chicago Cubs team will win the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. After making back-to-back postseason appearances in 2007 and 2008, the Cubs have failed in the past two seasons of making the postseason.
General manager Jim Hendry has brought in key players who will make a major difference compared to last season. The Cubs brought in pitchers Matt Garza and Kerry Wood to help out the pitching staff.
As for the offense, the biggest acquisition was bringing in first baseman Carlos Pena from the Tampa Bay Rays. Fans everywhere hope that these players will be enough to finally answer their prayers.
The main question this season is the same question every baseball fan wonders each season before the Cubs' season starts. Will the Chicago Cubs end the drought and finally win a World Series?