Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Positions the Cubs need to improve

Sure, Kerry Wood is coming back. Mark Prior is already back and pitching like the 2003 version of The Franchise. Carlos Zambrano is still a maniac, and Derrek Lee has already created this year's version of Cubbie Amnesia (Sammy Who?)

But I ask you: does anyone really think that this is a playoff team?

I think I usually sound pretty optimistic about the Cubs, mostly because I assume a glorious trade will take place that will get the Cubs into the playoffs. But a trade for who? From where?

Forget about looking at the players available - if there even are any. Let's just look at the Cubs and see the glaring holes which litter this team like empty 40's around Ronnie Woo's bed.

To start with, the Cubs desperately need a leadoff hitter, and it's going to have to be a guy who plays outfield.

As a team, the Cubs are batting .258 from the leadoff spot, with a .320 OBP. That just won't do. For comparrison's sake, the Chicago White Sox are batting, as a team, .289 from the leadoff spot with a .370 OBP. Just one reason as to why they're playing so great.

Also as a team, the Cubs are batting .265 in the #2 spot, with an anemic .302 OBP. That's just terrible - it's the sort of production you'd expect from a last place team like the Devil-Rays (who, ironically, are batting .295 from the #2 spot with an OBP of .357.)

It is of my opinion that the Cubs can fill the top of their order from within. In the past three seasons, Jerry Hairston Jr. has had an OBP of .341 from the leadoff spot, and this year, his OBP is .380. That's a damned sight better than .320. And Hairston should be able to play left field at least as adequately as Jason Dubois or Todd Hollandsworth. Why Dusty refuses to consider this option is mind-boggling.

Also in the past three years, Todd Walker has batted .295 with a a .347 OBP from the #2 spot in the lineup. This year he's only batting .265 there, but his OBP remains at .345 and you have to think he'd be a damned better choice than Neifi Perez.

Regardless, the #1 and #2 spots have failed to produce, and may ultimately be the reason Derrek Lee is denied a triple crown. Dusty needs to stop batting Corey, Neifi, and Hollandsworth in those positions. For a guy who's willing to consider a variety of options, he's way too hard-headed to consider Hairston/Walker, and that may be a reason the Cubs will have to look outside the organization to find a left fielder capable of leading off for the team. (Although rumor has it that the Cubs are interested in Moises Alou again... something that I think would ultimately be a mistake.)

Now then, what about the bench?

As a team, the Cubs are batting a terrible .222 off the bench, led mostly by Jose Macias. There are a lot of teams that do worse off the bench (like the White Sox and Cardinals), but there are teams that do a lot better, too. Like the Padres, who are batting .289 with a .397 OBP off the bench this year. The Cubs are hurting in this category, especially because Dusty has insisted on keeping twelve pitchers. The Cubs need to buckle down and find a good veteran bench player or two who could give the Cubs some clutch late inning hits. Again, I have no suggestions right now, but if you guys have any thoughts, you should definitely leave comments.

Next, we have to look at the bullpen. The bullpen has at times been immaculate, but generally speaking they've been about as reliable as a crackhead just out of rehab.

Leading the Cubs bullpen is Wil Ohman, who in 16.2 innings pitched has allowed a total of 4 earned runs for an ERA of 2.16. Rusch, Dempster, and Novoa have also provided sub-4 ERAs, although Glendon hasn't pitched there in a few months and Novoa is also pretty untrustworthy. Otherwise, the Cubs have given their trust to guys like Mike Wuertz (4.05 ERA), Todd Wellemeyer (4.74), Cliff Bartosh (5.49), Mike Remlinger (5.66), and Joe Borowski (6.55).

I think the Cubs could probably get by with Rusch, Ohman, Dempster, and Wuertz, but they might need to pull off a trade to land a couple of other prime relievers. I don't believe that Sergio Mitre is a viable choice - when he's on, he's fantastic, but when he's off, he's having a typical day, if you think about it. I also wouldn't trust Novoa to a full season. Maybe next year, but not just yet.

That leaves Scott Williamson, who was signed with the hopes of rehabbing his way back to the majors this year, but is apparently yet to throw an inning this season. In other words, the Cubs will need to look elsewhere to improve their pen, although I feel pretty safe with an 8th inning lead at this point. Again, I don't know who's available, but it should be Hendry's job to find adequate guys whose names aren't Matt Karchner or Felix Herredia.

So, where does that leave us? In my estimation, in order to be a really competitive baseball team the rest of the season, the Cubs will need an improved left fielder (leadoff hitter), at least one new bench player (preferrably one who can play the infield), and one or two reliable relievers.

Who thinks this can be done in time? Anyone?

Tom

The thing is, don't the Cubs know these things? I mean, if I hear another caller on the Score say that Corey Patterson shouldn't hit leadoff or that the Cubs as a team need to look for more base hits and fewer home runs, and that Macias should be taken out behind the barn and shot . . .
What the hell do we know that Hendry and Dusty don't? How many major league games have we managed? How many multi-million dollar contracts have we negotiated?
I'm right there with you on all of these points, but I'm starting to realize the silliness in us trying to tell them how to run the Cubs.
Sorry. I shouldn't rant here. I'll save it for ASWTC.

kurt

The problem is, I believe Dusty Baker is an idiot. So, I believe the Cubs SHOULD know better but don't.

I know I wouldn't be as good a manager as Baker, or as good a GM as Hendry, but God, they could make our lives easier!

Jason

well, at least wilson is now gone and Ronny Cedeno will be manning our bench. That means that you have your new bench player who can play the infield. I think hairston anywhere in the lineup is a disaster, only b/c he looks like alou running the bases occasionally and his fielding gaffs give up almost as many runs as he generates...

kurt

Hairston in CF is bad, but I have to believe he'd be better than Dubois defensively in left. He's not the smartest baserunner, but he still gets on base in the leadoff spot by about 80 points more than our next best choice... even if he gets thrown out more than he should, he'd still be on base more than our other choices.

James

the answer for our bench is Todd Hollandsworth and Scott Williamson recently began his rehab effort down in the AZL. He's pitched 3.1 innings so far, striking out three, while giving up only one hit in two innings in his last effort on Sunday.

James

btw... I'm starting to warm to the idea of Preston Wilson. IF healthy, his bat would provide protection for Aramis and allow Dusty to move Walker up to second. I've never heard anything negative about his defense, so he can take over for Corey.

We could keep Corey and have him spell Hairston in left and Burnitz in right occasionally, or we could include him in the trade for Wilson. I'm ok with trading Mitre and Corey for Wilson (with the Rockies picking up a hefty portion of his contract), but I'm not okay with giving up Ronny Cedeno. That would be a no no, because Cedeno is ready next year.

If we're trading Cedeno, it's for something much more sure than Wilson.

If the Rockies want to include Brian Fuentes in the deal, they can have almost anything they want.

If Nomar comes back healthy soon, this team might not have to make an improvement offensively and focus their resources on some bullpen help like Fuentes.

1. Hairston lf
2. Garciaparra ss
3. Lee 1b
4. Burnitz rf
5. Ramirez 3b
6. Walker 2b
7. Barrett c
8. Patterson cf

Speaking of Cedeno, I'm seeing that the Cubs just recalled him and outrighted the plague on all our houses.

Jason R.

(not to be confused with the above Jason)

Even when Hairston gets in there, he does't lead off. Baker puts him in the 8th spot! the 8th?!?!

So Walker and Haiston hit 6th and 8th repectively while Patterson and Perez take the first two slots. Generally lineup construction is overrated, but this is almost the worst possible lineup you could put out there given these 8 players.

JOJO

how can the cubs not know these things? easily.think about it:
how much intellectual power does it take to be a basaball player? or a great baseball player?

if you guessed "not much or less" then you guessed right.these are guys that spend most of their time doing nothing, in the company of people who piss on their hands instead of in the toilet (or the dugout). how many of us would agree to such a job even if we got payed for it?

since most mangers are former ballplayers - you see where that leaves us.

i bet you that phil jackson would never ever manage a baseball team this badly.

morpheus

I think that ERA can be a misleading statistic for a reliever. Will Ohman certainly has not led the bullpen this year; he tends to not get ERs because he comes in with runners on base already and gives them up.

Anyway, I think that the rest is spot-on. Either trade for a real leadoff hitter or put someone there with a good OBP. Here's an idea: Hairston or Walker leading off & playing 2B, then Cedeno batting second and playing short, moving Neifi to the bench where he belongs. High OBP at the top is the optimal way to arrange your lineup, period.

And, of course, several boards have brought up the subject of keeping Cedeno at short and putting Nomar in LF when he returns, a move that I would be in favor of, for sure. He can't be worse defensively than either Hollandsworth or Dubois, and he is much better offensively than either...

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