The Long Road to October Begins Here, Cubdom!

Josh TollesonCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2009

MILWAUKEE - JULY 29: Manager Lou Piniella #41 of the Chicago Cubs watches as his team takes on the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park July 29, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It's about that time, Cub fans.

We're less than two weeks away from opening day in Houston. There are plenty of questions burdening Cub fans; Will Carlos Zambrano finally put together a Cy Young season? How many games will Harden pitch? Who will be our closer?

And, of course, the most important question, will our bats arrive come late September and, hopefully, early October?

I will attempt to accurately predict how the Cubs will fare for the entire 2009 campaign, series by series. Of course it's early, but it's never too early to divulge into America's past time.

This will be the first of four installments, each previewing 40 games or so. I will refer to this installment as "first quarter."

Some of you may recall that I did a similar article last summer detailing the Cubs second half, and correctly predicted the regular season win total. You can check it out here.

Alright lets get start!

Apr. 6 - Apr. 8 (Three-game series)

Chicago Cubs @ Houston Astros

Emotions will be high, Minute Maid will be rocking, and it'll be great to see the 2009 MLB season underway! According to the Cubs depth chart, we will see Zambrano, Lilly, and Dempster pitch in Houston.

The Astros will look to start the season on the right track, countering with Oswalt, Rodriguez and Backe. Experts around MLB say Oswalt is an easy Cy Young candidate, and based off his WBC performances, I'd strongly agree.

I believe Oswalt and Valverde will shut the door on our offense opening day, but look for Lilly and Dempster to swing the momentum in our favor as the Cubs take two of three from Houston.

Prediction: Cubs win two of three.

Apr. 10-12 (Three-game series)
Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers bats remain a major force but their pitching as very suspect. I believe Milwaukee's bats may press too much early on to compensate for the lack of pitching. They are projected to send Parra, Looper, and staff ace Gallardo to the hill.

Look for Cub pitchers Harden, Marshall, and Zambrano to have their hands full; however, the Cubs' bullpen should be the difference in this series. I like the Cubs to build momentum from the Houston series and it'll carry over through Milwaukee. I like the Cubs for two of three.

Prediction: Cubs win two of three.

Apr. 13, Apr. 15 (two-game series)
Colorado Rockies vs Chicago Cubs

Another year, another great opening day at beautiful Wrigley Field. Ted Lilly is slated to take the ball for the home opener against the Rockies highly-touted young arm, Ubaldo Jiminez followed by former Cub Jason Marquis returning to Wrigley to face off with Ryan Dempster.

The Rockies' lineup has a lot of question marks, and a major void in the outfield with the departure of superstar Matt Holiday. Corpas and Street will anchor the end of the pen, and that could be a potential solid 8th/9th inning punch.

I look for a split.

Prediction: Cubs win one of two.

Apr. 16 - Apr. 19 (four-game series)
St. Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs

Luckily the schedule-makers didn't waste any time in getting the Cubs/Cards feud underway in 2009! The two teams will face off 10 times within the first two months of the season.

The Cubs won't have to wait long to get a taste of the NL central, as 21 of their first 41 games are against NL central foes. Much like the Cubs, health will be a major key for the Cardinals success.

If Pujols and Carpenter remain healthy, Tony La Russa's club will be near the top for the majority of the season, but that's a major "if."

This series will be full of excitement and energy. Much like the rest of the NL Central, pitching is suspect for the Cardinals and depending on how the Cubbies are swinging the bats, I like the Cubs here.

I see the Cubs taking three of four.

Prediction: Cubs win three of four.

Apr. 21- Apr. 23 (three-game series)
Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago Cubs

Each year, there's always one of two clubs that give an opposing team fits, and the Reds will give the Cubs plenty of fits this year. The Reds will be a sleeper in the NL this season, in my opinion.

Look for Harang and Arroyo to rebound from disappointing 2008 campaigns, and young aces Volquez and Cueto to make major strides. I like the Reds to hand the Cubbies their first series loss, taking two of three.

Prediction: Cubs lose two of three. 

Apr. 24 - Apr. 26 (three-game series)
Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

...and the fun rivalry makes it way to Busch Stadium. The Cubs went 5-4 in St. Louis last season, and finished up with a 9-6 record against the Red Birds for the '08 campaign.

The Reds series will set the Cubbies back a little bit and the Cardinals should be able to capitalize as a result. The Cubs could get their second glimpse of Chris Carpenter, who may very well be back on track at this point.

The Cubs could fall into a mini-slump to close out April, but nothing too major. I like the Cubs to barely avoid a sweep, but lose two of three.

Predictions: Cubs lose two of three.

Apr. 27 - Apr. 29 (three-game series)
Chicago Cubs vs Arizona Diamondbacks

The Cubbies make a quick three-game trip to Arizona to combat the Diamondbacks stellar pitching and pesky offense. If the Diamondbacks remain on track with their rotation, the Cubs would face Garland, Scherzer and Brandon Webb. The Cubs fared well against Arizona last season, but dropped two of three away from Wrigley.

I like Arizona to repeat this season, taking two of three.

Prediction: Cubs lose two of three.

Apr. 30 - May 3 (four-game series)
Florida Marlins vs Chicago Cubs

A series that will feature arguably the best young pitching and the most established pitching rotation in the National League, the Cubs and Marlins match up well against one another.

The Marlins will rely heavily on the bat and speed of fantasy baseball beast, and perennial all-star shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

Another potential superstar to keep an eye on is leadoff man and center fielder Cameron Maybin, acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the blockbuster deal that included Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

I think the Cubs will rebound from a tough road trip, and will manage a split against the improved Marlins ballclub.

Prediction: Cubs win two of four.

May 4 - May 5 (two-game series)
San Francisco Giants vs Chicago Cubs

Another potential sleeper in the NL, the Giants pitching staff has tons of potential, and could arguably surpass the Cubs as having the most potent pitching rotation in the NL.

The Giants offense could also lead the NL, but in the dubious category as the lowest scoring team. Despite the Giants solid rotation, their bullpen does have questions. The Cubbies match up well against the post-Bonds Giants. I like the two-game sweep.

Prediction: Cubs win two of two.

May 6- May 7 (two-game series)
Chicago Cubs vs Houston Astros

What's with these random two-game series? Anyway, the Cubs go back to Houston, perhaps as a makeup for the whole "lets move the Houston series to Milwaukee thanks to the hurricane, and oh yeah, Zambrano gets a no-no" fiasco.

Despite the no-no, the Astros actually won the season series last year 8-9, despite the Cubs outscoring the 'Stros 78-60. Look for the split here, and some late-inning heroics from one of the LSU boys (article coming tomorrow), Theriot or Fontenot, off Valverde.

Prediction: Cubs win one of two.

May 8 - May 10 (three-game series)
Chicago Cubs vs Milwaukee Brewers

The Cubbies make their second trip to Milwaukee, knocking out a bulk of their road trips against NL Central foes in the process. Although it'll only be early May, the Brewers pitching should begin to shape up as either a strength or weakness.

Will Gallardo be the ace at this point?

How will free agent Braden Looper be holding up? And possibly most important, will Trevor Hoffman have discovered the fountain of youth? I see the Cubs dominating the Brew Crew this season, and it won't be any different this series.

I like a Cubbie sweep!

Prediction: Cubs win three of three.

May 12 - May 14 (three-game series)
San Diego Padres vs Chicago Cubs

Just when the Cubs slump in late April, they'll begin to build momentum throughout May. The Padres have a bleak 2009 outlook, even though they retained ace Jake Peavy.

Perhaps the Cubs will get a glimpse of what could've been with Peavy, but regardless, I like the Cubbies to take two of three and have solid momentum going as the Astros and Cardinals are next up on schedule.

Prediction: Cubs win two of three.

May 15 - May 17 (three-game series)
Houston Astros vs Chicago Cubs

These clubs will be quite familiar with each other at this point, which doesn't fare well for either pitching staff. Despite their woeful pitching rotation, the Astros have more than capable bats like Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejeda.

As these season series goes forward, I believe the Astros will become tougher for the Cubs. I like the Astros to slow the Cubbies down a bit, especially if Oswalt gets the ball here. I give the Astros two of three.

Prediction: Cubs lose two of three.

May 19 - May 21 (three-game series)
Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

We'll conclude the first quarter of the '09 season with another series including the Cubs and another NL central rival. Much like the Astros, the Cardinals will get plenty of looks at the Cubs pitching staff, which could be troubling for the Cubs.

As the weather begins to warm up, look for Pujols and Soriano to have monster series here. I like the Cubs to escape Busch with two wins, but they won't be easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Prediction: Cubs win two of three.

Well it was fun forecasting the first quarter of the 2009 season for the Cubs. I'll present the second quarter Thursday, followed by the third and fourth quarters next week. I hope you all enjoyed my attempt at psychic reading. Thanks for reading!


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