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After Lou Piniella stepped down as manager of the team with a quarter of a season to go last season, the Cubs rebounded to finish 24-13. That was under new manager Mike Quade after being 51-74 until he took over.
If everything goes right, although it never seems to do so, the Cubs could win some games this season.
Their lineup, though, has a lot of holes in it. Sure it has a bunch of big names like the newly signed Carlos Pena, along with veterans Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. But most of their hitters have question marks.
Starting with new first baseman, Carlos Pena, who hit .196 last season with the Rays. That was the lowest batting average in baseball among all qualifiers, and that comes a year after batting .247. He only signed a one-year deal so he'll have motivation, and he'll hit home runs at Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out, but he doesn't bring a lot of promise.
Over at third base is Ramirez, who didn't do too much with the bat last season either. He got off to a horrific start before picking it up a bit, but only hit .241. That's not a great corner infield hitting duo to say the least, although both are capable of hitting 30 home runs.
The guy to pay attention to is shortstop, Starlin Castro. He's going to be a mega star in this league if he isn't already one. He'll only turn 21 years old this March and hit .300 in his rookie season before turning legal drinking age. He finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting and added to his young resume 31 doubles and five triples.
He's what the future offense of the Cubs will be built around, not the previous guys mentioned or the guys about to be mentioned.
The outfield may be the most overrated in all of baseball other than the Yankees. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is still playing these days without a glove, speed like he used to or a great bat. Once again, he's another one of those guys who can hit home runs, but who can't at Wrigley Field? This will be Soriano's fifth season with the Cubs, and he certainly has not lived up to the contract.
In center field will be Marlon Byrd, who after a nice 2009 season, saw his power and overall production tail off last season. Kosuke Fukudome will be allowed to play games again without Lou Piniella as manager and will bring his inconsistency to the table.
One thing that's looking good on paper for the Cubs is their starting rotation. The biggest offseason addition for the team is right-hander Matt Garza, who'll bring stability and big-game experience to the team. After spending time on winning teams such as the Twins and Rays, Garza comes to the Cubs off a 15-win season that included throwing a no-hitter.
He'll be the second starter, pitching after another 15-game winner from a season ago, Ryan Dempster.
The biggest question mark in the rotation will be Carlos Zambrano. After going through some mental problems last season that got him suspended for a while, what will he be able to do? The former Cubs ace didn't do poorly when he returned last season, finishing with an 11-6 record.
The back end of the bullpen is solid with Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood making a return as a setup man after years with the team as a dominant starting pitcher.
With some additions this offseason, the Cubs should make a slight improvement.
NL Central team rankings
Starting rotation: second
2011 prediction: 78-84, fifth place