GROTA Round Table: 2010 Predictions, Part 1
First, we'd like to welcome to you our new writing crew, Mike Wilkinson, Phil Kallas, and Peter Alford, who will be blogging regularly on the site as Probationary Junior Members (known better as Probies). Apart from being the first three (of many) to respond to my call for writers, all are talented, experienced Cub fans who have terrific opinions, a working sense of humor, and, equally important, good grammar skills.
I sent an EMail to those three, as well as our current stable of active writers (Rob, AJ, and Byron), asking them to discuss their thoughts on the 2010 season. Little did I realize the epic length of the answers they'd all send back. Thus, the 2010 Round Table will be broken up into parts ... many, many parts. Maybe five or six. I don't even know yet. It's really effin' big.
Nevertheless, here's part one. You are welcome to tell us how crazy we are (or aren't) in the comments. Enjoy.
1. 90 wins
Rob - I am (for once) guardedly optimistic for 2010. I have confidence that, barring injury, 24 of our 25 roster players will perform as well or better than expected. I like our pitching staff, I think our defense will be improved with Byrd in CF and the Fooker in RF. Nevertheless, I think this equates to 87-88 wins, so under.
Yarbage - I know Kurt and I are usually pegged as the optimists here at GROTA, but I really believe this team will play much better than last year. Everything that could go wrong last year, did. So, the baseball world should balance out and the Cubs will be better in 2010. People forget that the Cubs were tied for first in August, before the thin bench finally gave way and Milton Bradley’s cancer spread throughout the clubhouse (I swear it’s the only time I will mention MB the rest of this post). So, I’ll go with the over, and I expect us to win around 92 this year. Hopefully, the Cardinals come back to earth a little bit and that should be enough for a playoff spot in 2010.
Byron - As I mentioned last month, it's been a long time since I've been this pessimistic about the team. Our starting rotation looks like those that contained Steve Trachsel, Frank Castillo, and "hinged" on whether Jim Bullinger was going to have a good year. I'd have set the bar at 85, and still taken the under.
Mike - Under. Way under. I'm honestly thinking .500 should be a reasonable goal. Too many things could go wrong here. Shaky bullpen, shaky back of the rotation, Soriano, the black hole in RF, etc. etc. The only thing that makes me think more would be the weak division, as I think Pittsburgh and Houston are going to be brutal. But even then, 85 would be a good #. No way we win 90.
Peter - Under. As much as I want to be optimistic, I am a bit guarded about my Cubs projections this year. I see them falling just short of 90 with something around 88-89 wins. I expect better-than-projected seasons for most of the starting position players barring any major injuries. The starting 4 of Big Z, Dempster, Wells, and Lilly is a solid bunch and will perform well, even with Lilly expected to miss time. Regardless of how well I think the starters and starting rotation will fare, I believe the bullpen will have some growing pains to start the season. Outside of Marmol, the pen lacks identity and solidify roles. Throughout the season, those roles will be carved out, but I think we might be in for a bit of a rocky ride until that happens.
AJ - Under, by one. Gains over last year's win total will be driven by improved offense at C, 3B, and LF. There's also plenty of room to improve at 2B, CF, and RF, and while I'm not expecting it to happen I wouldn't be surprised if the hitting was better from those spots too. Pitching should be about the same.
Phil - I think if all of the answers to the questions surrounding the 2010 Cubs are "No major injuries and a metric ton of career high numbers", sure they can finish with over 90 wins. Sorry fellow Cubs fans, I don't see that happening. 85-88 wins is my prediction, and in the Central that may be enough.
Kurt - Under. As much as I want the Cubs to be a great team, I forsee bullpen implosions on a regular basis. I think the Cubs will be among league leaders in offensive production and blown leads after the 6th inning.
2. Ryan Dempster, 15 wins
Rob - That ain't bad. That's spot on as far as I am concerned. Can I say push?
Yarbage - Dempster intrigues me on many levels. Other than Ted Lilly, Dempster has been one player that Jim Hendry has gotten value out of on the free agent market. We all cringed a little when he moved to the rotation, but Dempster has thrown 400 innings in the last two years. Last year, he missed two starts and still had 11 wins. I think Dempster wins 17 this year, so it is the over.
Byron - Bitch, please!!! Under.
Mike - I'd guess under. He won 17 2 yrs ago, but that was 2 yrs ago..no guarantee he stays healthy as he stares down age 33. I'd love it, but i dont see it happening on a .500 team.
Peter - If I'm in Vegas I don't put money on this one way or another. My instinct says it'd be a push. Over the past two seasons, Demp has thrown 406 2/3 innings for the ballclub and is only one year removed from a 17 win season. My gut says the home runs allowed go down from last year, the K/9 rate stays about the same and so do the walks allowed and Demp walks away with 15 wins on the dot.
AJ - Over, by just a couple. I really like his ability to get strikeouts, and I think he'll be better this year now that his family affairs are more in order.
Phil - Well, who is the real Ryan Dempster, talent wise? Is it the one that had his best year in the last year of his last contract with the Cubs, or is it last years bad luck Dempster? Ryan's last two years have in a way defined the last two years of the Cubs, and I think what he does will go a long way in deciding what the Cubs do this year. I'll go ahead and say under, but barely. 14 wins for our favorite Canadian Prankster.
Kurt - Under, but barely. With respect to Byron, Dempster is going to pitch well this year, but it will be a scenario of too many blown leads. I do think that, wins and losses aside, he'll have an ERA in the mid 3's again -- which is really all you can ask for from any pitcher these days.
Stay tuned for the next exciting installment, where we discuss the likely success of Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, and number of ejections that we can expect from Lou Piniella.