thecubsfan.com

your 2011 Chicago Cubs

Apr
01

Where were we? Where are we?

RF Fukudome
SS Castro
CF Byrd
3B A-Ram
1B Pena
CA Soto
LF Soriano
2B Barney
SP Dempster

CA Hill
2B Baker
2B DeWitt
RF Colvin
CF Johnson

SP Zambrano
SP Garza
SP Wells
SP Cashner

CL Marmol
RP Wood
RP Marshall
RP Grabow
RP Russell
RP Samardzija
RP Mateo

things that are actually really good:
– the pitching! Probably four above average starters and possibly the best 7-8-9 bullpen in the league.
– the lack of injuries (only Angel Guzman, and that was an issue from last year, and no one even counts him any more because it’ll be a miracle if he makes it back)
– the Brewers and the Cardinals having very important injuries
– Carlos Silva will never be a Cub again. SUNK COSTS, hooray.
– a manager who might do some actual platooning

things that are worrisome
– 2B may be an offensive black hole.
– they’re writing “now that Soriano is healthy, he’s going to hit!” articles for the fourth year in a row
– there’s almost no depth on this team; if Ram, Soto or Pena get significantly hurt, the season is over, and you might be able to throw Byrd and Castro in that group
– there’s no hitting coming off that bench. Colvin/Fukudome is the big bat off the bench, with Koskue (& Baker) only helpful in the right situation. Reed is not much. DeWitt almost played his way off this team. Koyie Hill is awful. If there was ever a team that could use a Houffpair/Fox type as a designed pinch hitter, it’d be this team (taking the place of DeWitt, who has no purpose here.)
– at least three guys – Grabow, Samardzija, DeWitt – probably don’t make the team if they weren’t already being paid decently for this year. If one turns out, it’s a big win.

things that have totally suprised me
– the many publications who have the NL Central as a four team race. Usually a bad four team race, usally with the Cubs 4th, btu somehow the Cubs haev gained ground mostly on everyone else being worse.

I really don’t understand it. Even with a bounce back year from Ram, a better bullpen and better results for guys like Wells, this seems a below average team without a strong offensive identity. Last year, I had the team at 80. They won 75. I’ll guess the recovery gets them back to 80, but this doens’t seem like a playoff team without multiple people having breakout years and it doesn’t feel like that’ll happen.

Last year, I had a feeling of dread, of the bottom falling out on this run. I don’t have that this year, but it hasn’t been replaced by any excitement. It’s a team. They’re going to play 162 games, that’s the only part I feel confident about.

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2005 trades in review

Aug
11

(by wins over replacement)

Mike Fontenot
2005 0.1
2007 0.6
2008 3.0 - also, totally awesome
2009 0.4
2010 0.1
--------
4.2

Jerry Hairston Jr.
2005  1.0
2006 -0.6
---------
0.4

Sammy Sosa
2005 -1.1

Cubs 4.6 (+ single A player)
O’s -1.1

I hope the outright player dumps to come this off season work out half this well.

Thanks for 2008, Mike Fontenot, but I don’t know why you were on team for the last year.

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projected the 2011 Cubs roster

Jun
28

Should’ve written this post a month ago, but this team needs as few words as possible

CA – OK
1B – need new starter
2B – need new starter
SS – OK
3B – stuck with current starter

LF – stuck with current starter/borderline OK
CF – OK
RF – offseason salary dump?

SP1 (Dempster) – OK
SP2 (Silva) – OK
SP3 (Zambrano) – stuck with current starter?
SP4 (Lilly) – need new starter
SP5 (Wells) – uncertain

CL – OK
LH Setup – OK
RH Setup – OK (assuming it’s Cashner)
everyone else – uncertain -> need new reliever

The Cubs can, and probably will, fill any rotation hole and most of the bullpen from the minors. They’ve got the guys to try, and they can use the money saved from Lilly elsewhere (needed to improve positions, most likely eating a salary.) Signing one vet for the pen would not be a surprise.

They have the replacement for RF, and finding a new home for Fukudome might be priority #1 for whomever is the GM next year. (I presume Zambrano will be either settled this year, or proved unmovable for anyone and be put on the back burner.)

The Cubs do not have a major league caliber replacement for 1B or 2B. They could bring back Lee and keep Theriot, but both would almost certainly command more than what they’ll produce, and there’s going to be great pressure to shake things up. The big problem is the guys the fans generally like (Theriot, Lee, Lilly) are the easiest to move away from to get to that change. This will not go well.

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going north

Apr
02
01 SS Theriot
02 RF Fukudome     09 ?F X Nady
03 1B Lee
04 3B A Ram        10 3B C Tracy
05 LF Soriano      11 OF T Colvin
06 RF Byrd
07 CA Soto         12 CA K Hill
08 2B Fontenot     13 2B J Baker

14 SP Z!           19 RP S Marshall
15 SP Dempster     20 RP J Samardzija
16 SP Wells        21 RP J Russell
17 SP Silva        22 RP J Berg
18 SP Gorzelanny   23 RP E Caridad
                   24 RP J Grabow
	           25 RP C Marmol

DL Lilly
DL? Jeff Gray - running a few weeks behind, and they had plans of using him;
                keeping him on ML DL saves an option for now
60DL Guzman

Yep. I don’t remember what projections I was looking at; there are many out by now, and I’ve looked at a lot of them. Which ever one it was (the one that was a sum of many projections, run many times?), they pegged the Cubs for about 83 wins, with a range of 72-90. That’s exactly where I’d have them based on this roster. They’re low 80s with a 10 game swing either way. It’s a fault of management to be that low, but at least there’s a chance.

The more I think about it, the less concerned I am about the inexperience of the bullpen. If you believe the vast majority of bullpen arms are unpredictable and unreliable from season to season – which I do, because otherwise they wouldn’t be bullpen pitchers – then you might as well go cheap and promising with it than expensive and flawed. There are going to be some games blown because the rookies blow a lead, and it will be the roster mistake which will get Hendry in the most trouble (because there’s nothing more dramatic than a game lost you should’ve won), but it’s hardly the worst thing here. This is a sounder move than 2010’s Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry.

Making decisions on 40 ABs in spring training is a great way to screw yourself up, but if everyone believes Tyler Colvin’s true upside is major league fourth outfielder, what’s so horrible about using him in that role?

Xavier Nady playing outfield despite being unable to throw the ball is the underplayed story of the season. Really, he shouldn’t be doing anything more than pinch hitting, but they’re making noise as if he’s going to actually start and platoon with Fukudome a little bit. Runners taking extra bases are going to get old quick.

This team kinda shifted to the back of my mind the last couple weeks, but I’m exicited to get this started now (and kinda disappointed I didn’t figure out a way to join a fantasy league I wouldn’t hate.) Maybe it’s the 80 degree weather that’s making it feel like baseball should already be here – probably won’t feel it quite the same in a couple weeks when it’s freezing again.

Spring Training 2010

Mar
23

So, it’s much later than I wanted to do this. If I wait much longer, I’ll forget the 5% I still remember I wanted to say.

Phoenix was nice. I don’t know if it even got to 70 degrees during the weekend I was there, but it felt like 90 from where I was coming from. It looked a lot different. Lots of empty areas; where as here, those empty areas tend to be places where someone had plans to build something and gave up half way thru, Arizona is a lot of subdivisions of empty houses next to tracts of untouched grass and not much else. Not a lot of grass though. You leave a lot of land unattended to here, and the weeds are taller than people by the time it’s cold. Phoenix grass is low to the ground and sparse.

The grass still is green, and so is the cacti, and so is just about nothing else. Where they’ve given up on grass, they’ve replaced it with rock and and sand, and the people designing houses and others buildings are a bit too attached to theme. The color palette seems to range from light sand all the way up dark sand. It was explained to me that the cactus are often secured to the ground to prevent people from stealing them, and it didn’t make much sense to me at the time why you’d want to steal something as painful to transport as a cactus. A few days later, I decided the people must desperately want a non-sand colored object in our life.

The spring training ballparks all seemed on the nicer side for what are essentially minor league parks. Besides Ho Ho Kam, we stopped by Tempe Diablo Stadium (home of insanely expensive concessions) and Peoria Stadium (a nice new two team facility, even if it does have a surprisingly small and generic gift shop), and went by a great majority of the other ones. I think, of all of them they saw, Ho Ho Kam looked the least modern. It definitely felt like they were desperately trying to squeeze as many seats as possible and had run of room for more. The extra grandstand extensions most of all looked ill fitting, like they were in such a hurry to get more seats than they didn’t have time to make it look good.

The Cubs played Arizona the first day, an exciting 8-7 comeback win. I left my camera in my luggage for that. Besides the backups making an inspired really to win, the highlight was Justin Upton crushing a ball to left field for a grand slam, the ball connecting near the top of the scoreboard.

I did take photos the next day (including at the SEA/SD building), when the White Sox annihilated the Cubs. I really need to get a scanner so you can appreciate my efforts at scoring the game. In some way, it wasn’t as tricky as I thought, because they were only planning to play 2 groups of players (they ended up with more; this is the game where Andres Blanco got hurt, and essentially lost his spot on the roster.) The Cubs give out lists of their extended roster, so figuring out who is who based on the number is too troubling; the trouble is figuring out who goes where in the batting order, or at least managing things until the new guys come up and you can verify their spots.

The last game never actually took place, but I had lots of photos of various warmups. I tried to get video of Starlin Castro taking batting practice (and special fungo fielding practice; he had one notable bad backhand try, and got a supportive lecture from Alan Trammell after.) The rain storm was the kind of rain storm where they’d probably try starting if this was a real game, and they did make an effort to dry things out as best as they could, but then suddenly gave up.

It did come down really hard shortly after they gave up on the game, but there are no long rain storms in Phoenix (expert knowledge of three days), and it was clear and drying up within an hour. Still got every game canceled.

Only baseball can get people to be so thrilled to see scrimmages. Basketball barnstorms into towns they don’t ever go, because the usual towns aren’t going to pay for 5 extra games that don’t matter. Football preseason is a plague. Baseball preseason is just inconsequential, but the locations and the timing make it feel much more like a rebirth (and much less like time killing.) I’m not sure if it’s something I’d want to do again, but that more of a personal thing (feels like I spend too much time on the irrelevant, or the barely relevant), but if you haven’t done it, I’d recommend it. It definitely feels like a vacation.

Spring Training roster, 03/15

Mar
14

I need to write about the trip, still, but this is quicker and those photos are someplace else.

Locks That We Knew Going Into Camp and I Really Can Stop Mentioning,

01 SS Theriot
02 RF The Fuk
03 1B D Lee
04 3B A Ram
05 CF Byrd
06 LF Soriano
07 CA Soto
08 2B Fontenot

09 SP Dempster
10 SP Z
11 SP Wells – not that you would’ve known it today.

12 CL Marmol
13 RP Grabow

14 ?P Marshall – the position is another argument…
15 ?P Gorz – …and no one seems to have the first clue…
16 ?P Silva – …on even who’s leading here…

17 CA Hill
18 2B Baker

And I think that’s it, at least coming in. There’s three more who had/have hopes of being included

possible opening day Disabled List!

DL SP Ted Lilly – this one keeps bouncing back and forth like a metronome. Even best case, it makes since for him to start on the DL and get the extra warmup starts, since they may only need four starters anyway.

19 PH Xavier Nady – I don’t like the idea of an OF who can’t throw until June; doesn’t really work at most any position, but since the idea here was to platoon him with Fukudome, that’s not very helpful. I’d start him on the DL until he can at least do something, but Lou brushed off that idea.

DL RP Angel Guzman – :( At least he got one good season. I’ll be shocked to ever see him pitch in the ML again.

Up four grabs

That still leaves 6 spots, and four of those are in the bullpen. One of those jobs is already accounted for:

20 RP Esmalin Caridad – already know how this one plays out. He’s got a live arm, so Lou will be thrilled to give him a shot. He’s got a walking problem, so Lou will bury him deep in the pen. This is your anointed setup man!

I’ll get back to pitching in a couple spots, but the bench is easier to finish out

21 OF (who can back up all three) – this was clearly supposed to be Sam Fuld coming into the season, but he might have had it snaked from him. Tyler Colvin does not have the positionally flexibility (he’s really more of a corner guy) but has been killing the ball and has that 1st round draft pick tag. James Adduci has hit a little less, but still really good and offers more defense. Colvin’s thought of a prospect (though I doubt he’ll be much more than he is at this point), but Adduci isn’t really and it’s not as though the Cubs would be risking a great upside by having him sit on the bench 6 days out of 7. No idea how this is turning out.

22 ?? – This spot is supposed to be backup shortstop, which means it’d be Andres Blanco, but he’s been hurt a week. It was never going to be Starlin Castro…but now it seems like it actually may be some other position entirely.

Bringing in Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar on NRIs never made much since, because there really wasn’t going to be a spot for them on the 25. That math changes if Fontenot can actually play a little SS – there’s no need for the fourth guy, and there’s room for an extra 1B/3B type. (As I’ve pointed out too many times, this is why they shouldn’t have bothered to keep Fontenot, but he’s hitting good so I should lay off.) If this spot exists, it looks like it’s Millar over Tracy, with Hoffpauir and LeHair trailing far behind. I don’t know that any of them will actually hit when the calendar turns to April, but the bench could use one more hitter so it’s worth trying.

The thing is, Fontenot has played all of four innings of SS. Maybe he’s been putting in a lot of work on the back fields, or maybe that was enough for Lou, but I’m not so convinced this plan is actually happening.

And all of that was easier than the last three bullpen spots.

23 + 24 + 25 RP (or maybe starter?)

Gorz and Marshall probably won’t make the rotation, or at least won’t be there for long, so there’s no specific need for a LHP over a RHP. Past that? Who knows. Everyone left who’s pitched, minus those not on the 40 man roster, and those cut already

  • RHP M Parisi – Rule 5 pick, seemed to be here as a starter not at all (and definitely won’t be hid like Patton last year); has been good in short stints
  • RHP J Samardzija – coming in, the idea seemed to be start in ML or AAA with no chance of bullpen; does Guzman’s injury change that? Has been hit hard and not looked good.
  • LHP J Gaub – on the fringe of the bullpen coming in, has pitched good
  • RHP M Mateo – not this year and lit up
  • RHP J Stevens – probably had a spot at the start, but has been hit hard, who knows
  • RHP J Berg – like Guab, but with a win and a save
  • RHP B Parker – not this year and lit up
  • RHP B Schlitter – not the year and OK

If you based it on just Spring Training, which is both dumb and what will probably happen, it’s clearly Parisi, Guab and Berg as the last three, with Stevens and Samardzija on the perphiary. But there’s still plenty of innings to change things.

Aaron Miles freedom day

Dec
03

I know it’s been too long between blog entries when there’s 150 spam messages waiting for me. Let me tell you, the post I only write in my head are super.

Cubs trade IF Aaron Miles & DH Jake Fox (and $1 million) to the A’s for RP Jeff Gray, ?P Ronny Morla, ?? Matt Spencer.

and so Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry is halfway done in undoing the bad moves by last year’s bad Cubs General Manger Jim…oh, right.

If the prospects ever turn into anything, that’d be neat and all, but this is really giving up Jake Fox to get Aaron Miles off his hand. And I guess THAT works if you subscribe to the beliefs the Cubs clearly do:

  • Aaron Miles had no future on this team and was just going to eat up a roster spot until they got up the nerve to cut him and eat the rest of the contract
  • Jake Fox had no future on this team because all the corner positions are taken and he’s not never going to be even an an OK defender anyway

I agree with the first point. The Cubs were clearly screwing with roster rules last year, sending Aaron Miles on as long as possible rehab stints, because they didn’t want him to take a spot on the 25 man roster. This saves the Cubs the spot in 2010, and it’s nice they can recoup $1.7 mil of a bad investment.

Can’t be emphasized enough – EVERYONE knew the Aaron Miles deal was bad the moment it was announced. The Bradley did was a dare, where you had people on both sides – those saying he’d hit, and those saying he’d crack. (I lost that one.) Miles had a disappointing season by his standards and will probably rebound, but having to do this deal to get rid of him is why it was a bad idea to give him two years in the first place.

Fox, I don’t buy into. The Cubs are going to be short on power unless Alfonso rebounds in a big way. Soriano may have entered the part of his career where he’s only going to miss 20-30 games every  year. Plus, until the Cubs actually sign someone to be a centerfielder, they could’ve still played Kosuke there and Fox in right from time to time. I understand a price had to be paid to get Miles off the Cubs hands – and they got a pretty good price for him – but the team is definitely worse of now than it was before the trade.

If they can turn the saved money into something useful, maybe this can be redeemed a little bit. But I suspect it’ll go to a veteran reliever who’s actually not that good.

I was actually happier with this trade before I started considering it. Getting rid of Aaron Miles for not full price is great, but they shouldn’t have been in that spot to start with. At least this is done, and Hendry can spend next week finalizing his other mistake.

Pretty sure this trade is going to be thrown back in Hendry’s face should he be in any trouble next year. Fox will hit 20+ if given regular DH time and it’ll be really easy to spin this against him. He knows it, too, which is why he’s already trying to make the case that he wouldn’t have the same chances with the Cubs.

Jeff Gray is a fastball strikeout (though not impressive so) reliever who will compete with a half dozen other guys for a spot in the bullpen. The other guys seem to be such long shots, they’re not worth thinking about (except hoping later we’re all dumb for not thinking about them at the time.)

centerfield

Nov
12

better example of the state of local baseball coverage

– 7 days and running dedicated to commentary on Sammy Sosa’s face without, I dunno, having someone find him and take another picture.

– Phil Rogers writing a column about how little budget room the Cubs have, then writing about how the Cubs must pick up Curtis Granderson’s 3/$24 salary ASAP.

This is why they are what they are. And by that, I mean the Cubs, who race into situations like that without thinking long term, and all the sudden you’ve got a slumping DH playing left field for 5 more years.

I’m mixed on Granderson. I think he had the fortune to sign a contract at the exact best moment for him, and someone is going to be stuck paying for that good year for the next three. If he was in some nice spot in between his really good 2008 and eh 2009, I think he’d a fine pick up, but there’s no guarantee. FanGraphs already has the Bill Jamies projections for next year, which tend to be a lot closer 2008, but my worry is another number on that page – 13% of his outs were on infield fly balls. Seems like a guy who was trying to hit for more power, and ending up too far underneath balls.

Maybe he can correct that in an easier park to hit. And the league adjustment will certainly help. Just not so certain that I want to give up the whole farm system.

He’s definitely a better idea than giving a multi-year deal to Marlon Byrd, which seems like the current rumor. You’d think the Cubs would learn not to take hitters from Texas. The 479 slugging is not going to work out well outside that park, and the 329 on base will. He’s already the wrong side of 30, and they’d be paying for decling years. A one year deal for a reasonable price might work, but Byrd’s the sort of fungible player you don’t sign long term, because you don’t want to be stuck with him if a better option comes along (or he suddenly becomes a worse option.)

I think Mike Cameron is every single team’s back up choice, so he’s going to end up getting a lot better deal than casual people expect. Maybe it’ll secretly be the year people pay for defense.

Kinda cool that the Burrell deal is the closest, having called it a while back. I stil think it’s the best the Cubs can do – they’re going to lose any deal they make for him, because they’ll be giving up the better player. You’ve just got pick the best bounce back candidate.

Roster note few have picked up on: Mike Fontenot being declared a Super Two player means he’s eligible for a big pay raise thru arbitration unless the Cubs non-tendered him. So, he’ll be cut, and the Cubs keep Aaron Miles around as a backup instead of eating his contract this year.

In my mind, the current opening day 25 looks like

CA Soto
1B D Lee
2B ???? (let’s say Baker)
SS Theriot
3B A Ram
LF Soriano
CF ???? (someone not on the roster)
RF Fukudome

SP Zambrano
SP Dempster
SP Wells
SP Gorz
SP yo-yo Marshall or Samardzija?

CA Hill
IF Miles
OF Hoffpauir??
OF Fuld?? or Colvin? or Johsnon??
IF Blanco or ???

RP Stevens?
RP Marshall or Samardzija
RP Caridad
RP Grabow
RP Guzman
CL Marmol

DL Lilly – he’s not late if he starts on May 1st. Bet on it.

A lot of question marks. Doesn’t really seem like it’s a 90 win team there.

This might be a good place for baseball comments.

On the new owner

Nov
03

Tom Ricketts did the best possible job introducing himself and his family as new owners for the Cubs. Everyone liked him, so much so hat no one made much of a fuss when he mentioned tickets were going up next season. He did a good job of positioning himself as an owner who’d be focused on the business end while hiring baseball people to manage that side.

There were some quotes in the newspaper interviews – all of which were presented as exclusive interviews done beforehand, but sure seem like the same one – that I thought were particularly lighting.

Payroll: It’s going to be just a little higher than last year, just over $140mil. The Cubs are currently committed to $120 (Cot’s Baseball contracts), before counting all the arbitration eligible guys. There’s no bail out for Bradley coming.

Not to depress you, but it doesn’t look much better for 2011. Only $96mil committed, but that doesn’t include Lee or Lilly, both of which the Cubs would want to keep and may even extend this off season.

How to build a team; Ricketts noted repeatedly that the Cubs spent the 3rd most on payroll, so money isn’t the issue. Instead, he said “The way you consistently make the playoffs is to have the right player-development process, to have the right guys drafting the right talented kids and the right coaches and scouts working together to see them be productive at the major-league level.”

If this is actually the way they go, and they start pouring more money in to the draft and the minor league system, the franchise is a lot better off.

Jim Hendry has a free roll this year, but Ricketts was very clear that they’d reevaluate things after the system. Two straight playoffs appearances buys you some time, but maybe not more than that.

the Triangle building!: Did this talk in 2005? Maybe before? And how many sketches have we seen already? Lost track of all this, except for the part where I’m completely tired of hearing about it. Which is OK, because I think there’s actually going to be some thing building in that lot next year. The overall plan seems to improve the stadium, but try to generate more revenue outside of it.

I wish I could find the quote for this one, just to have it later when it becomes necessary to have proof that they actually said it, but I believe what I read was the Cubs would work on a plan over the next year, and build in the ’11-12 off season. I wish it could happen sooner, or that stuff like moving offices out of the stadium to clear more room for the players could happen right away, but I think I’ll settle for having some progress.

Items that aren’t happening

Naming rights to the stadium were pretty definitely shot down. As were other big ideas people had been dreaming up – no moving for a year to redo the stadium, no jumbotron on a rooftop. They’re going to keep Wrigley as it, just make it look more presentable.

The one notable thing not mentioned: the stake in Comcast Sports Net. That whole deal has seemed wrong from the start; it makes everyone feel good to split that equally when it was created, but it’s always been clear the Cubs were adding much more than 1/4th of the value. The Cubs could support their own channel, and it fits with the model of making more money by looking to extend the reach of the franchise. That situation, or their radio/TV deals with WGN, didn’t seem to come up in any discussion.

Signs he’s got a sane head

It wasn’t just saying there’s no curse, and that people who believe in a curse will be moved to a less cursed them, though that’s nice. It’s reading that he used to be in fantasy baseball leagues, that he’s read Bill James Abstracts, and that he seems to be in line with the Billy Beane playoffs belief: “The reason the team has never won the World Series is they were either bad teams that played up to expectations or they were good teams that had bad luck in the playoffs. the end, that’s what it comes down to. To make it any bigger than that, is doing a disservice to the players who are here today and the coaches, and it’s just foolishness.” And still, he’s pretty clear he’s staying out of the way of the baseball ops, leading them to prove or disprove their own abilities without interference.

This is a guy who knows what he’s doing, and cares enough about the team to make it work. In the middle years of this decade, the Tribune made an honest effort to improve the team, to take the blame off themselves for not winning a World Series. Not quite sure that was true the last couple years, where the fortunes of team seemed to support the rest of the corporation, but I think it’s going to be very true from here on out. That’s all I want from an owner.

10 good things for the Cubs in 2009

Oct
07

Because the only thing I love more than being a cynic is being a contrarian. In no order.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
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