10 good things for the Cubs in 2009
Because the only thing I love more than being a cynic is being a contrarian. In no order.
- No one got seriously hurt. Low bar, but still. Yes, they lost Ramirez for half the season, but I mean more of injuries that will carry over to 2010. No one’s elbow or shoulder was irrevocably damaged. Rich Harden, Angel Guzman, and Carlos Marmol were all involved, and none has new surgery scars and loose plans for returning in midseason. Soriano is getting knee work done, but that should leave him in a better spot than he was for most of this season. There are question marks here, but not due to a hoped for physical recovery.
- Derrek Lee was great.D-Lee only played 141 games, due to little injuries here and there, and maybe that’s gotta be the standard going forward. Playing 10 games less than usual prevented him from setting career marks in counting stats, but his rate stats – what he did when he played – were as great as they’ve been since the spectacular 2005 season. 393 OBP/579 SLG. The double plays were traded for home runs (9% less ground balls, 12 % more flyballs), and a lot better results. He was a 5 WAR player, one of the top 25 non-pitchers in the league (defense counts) and isn’t near as close to being done as feared in April.The batter closest to 0 WAR – in other words, a guy worth exactly about as a random freely available AAA player – is Alexis Rios. The universe is awesome.
- Angel Guzman survived a full season.
Guzman’s been on radar of Cubs’ fans since 2003, but he’s been on the radar of arm doctor’s even longer. After years of bouncing around the farm system and barely making cameos on the major league roster before heading right to the DL, this was the year he finally got to put it together. No one’s still hoping he’ll be the starter he was originally promised, but becoming the most solid & consistent pitcher out of the bullpen is plenty enough. 61 IP, 47 Ks, with only 23 BB and 41 Hits against him. After being a guy who had a fastball and didn’t show any much, he threw his slider 1/3rd of the time, and it was pretty effective. If the Cubs had picked their 2009 closer based on how well they were pitching in this season, not next or last, it would’ve been Guzman. As is, he’s looking like the logical 8th inning guy for next season, as part of a cheap & effective duo to close out games.
- Randy Wells was the happy surprise of the yearBefore the season, I was filling out TangoTiger’s Community Forecast, putting in my guesses for playing times for the Cubs. I remember this, because I saw Randy Wells name and could not even recall who he was. And then I selected “0 IP”. The important isn’t that I’m wrong (that’s never important), but that it’s hard to say Randy Wells exceeded expectations. He was so far off the radar, no one had any expectations for him.Wells was somewhere between 8-10 on the starting pitcher depth chart, and didn’t really get the shot in the rotation because he was good (though he was in Iowa), or because someone else needed replacing, but because there were no good leftys in the bullpen and Lou thought Sean Marshall was more valuable pitching a couple batters every couple days than starting games (dubious.) Wells wasn’t supposed to start more than a game or two, but kept pitching well and hanging around until they couldn’t get rid of him. Now he stands as a 3rd or 4th starter, someone who’s expected to be in the rotation next season
Even for those who projected him, in the process of projecting everyone, didn’t see him being this good – he walked less than expected, gave up less homeruns than expected, and threw a lot more innings than anyone expected.
There are plenty of one year wonders – Rich Hill comes to mind – and I wasn’t thrilled about how many innings they put on his arm after it stopped mattering – but whatever happens next doesn’t taken away from what happened this year. Most pitchers would be thrilled to have one 12 win, 3.05 ERA season. He’s got that banked, everything else just adds on to it.
- Sean Marshall replaced Alfonso Soriano in right field.Season may have peaked right there. (Let’s put aside they lost that game. Or, if that bugs you too much, put Reed’s catch in Milwaukee here instead.)
- Ryan Dempster was actually worth his contract4 years/52 for a guy who’s had just 2 good seasons as a starter (but the good sense to have one of them just before free agency) is sort of the kind of move that’s left the Cubs in the finical situations they’re in. Hey, at least this year, it worked out fine. 200 IP, durable. Strikeouts were down, but his walks per 9 were as low as he’s had in any season ever. He didn’t get as much defensive help as last year, and he gave up more homeruns, but he did enough to make Hendry look good this year. At least on that one.
- Kosuke Fukudome had a non-disastrous season Last year, he put together 3 good months before completely falling apart. This year, he had 2 good months, one horrible, 2 good months, 1 horrible (which no one noticed because everyone had stopped caring.) At this rate, they’ll have to invent a new month for him to be great in by the end of his contract!It was no real coincidence that the downturns in Fukudome’s play correspond with Reed Johnson’s DL stints. This year, the Cubs figured out the rule to play by – under no circumstances should he start against a lefty – and stuck with it as best as they could.
This is secretly why Sam Fuld probably isn’t making the 2010 team; Reed or no Reed, the Cubs have to get a right hitting platoon partner for Kosuke. Sam hits lefty. If they do keep Reed or get another guy who can play all 3 OF spots, they’re going to want another bat as the fifth outfielder, not Fuld. Someone will get hurt and he’ll come up, but he probably won’t be there opening day.
- Alfonso Soriano led off for the last time July 3rd. About 2.5 seasons late, but it was right to get a new start on Independence Day.
- A Ram was great when he was on the fieldI’m stealing from the TV broadcast, but look at these numbers: .317, 29 HR, 128 RBI. The injury robbed him of playing time, but not ability. If he gets back onto the field for 150 next year, he’ll can be counted onto have great numbers once again
- The sale is (almost) done This franchise has been in various levels of limbo for the last 2.5 years, as the sale has dragged along at least a 1.5 years longer than promised. That limbo bar got awful low last offseason; the moved that were made were made in environment where everything had to be cash equal or just about. If there had been an owner instead of a trustee in charge, would they have been swayed by fan support on keeping certain players? (Would they have made it worse?) Who knows, but I’m just sort of frustrated it with it being a concern. This process is taken a toll on this team, preventing things that need to be done from being moved on (which maybe needs to be another post), and this franchise will be significantly better off once it’s removed from this uncertainty.