The complicated way to look at the lineup
I'm covering territory already looked at by Goat Reader Harry Caray and Goat Rider Colin* but I just can't help myself. At the end of March, Lou and Jim are going to have some decisions to make as the Cubs are looking exceptionally deep right now in almost all facets. Let's take a look at how things might look (with players who are on the bubble in italics)
(*in my defense, I wrote this last night before bed, which means that technically speaking, in a roundabout way, I sort of beat Colin to the punch)
The Rotation -
The Bullpen -
The Starting Lineup -
SS Ryan Theriot RHB
2B Mike Fontenot LHB
3B Aramis Ramirez RHB
RF Milton Bradley SH
LF Alfonso Soriano RHB
1B Derrek Lee RHB
C Geovany Soto RHB
CF Kosuke Fukudome LHB
The Bench -
IF/OF Micah Hoffpauir LHB
CF Felix Pie LHB
IF Ronny Cedeno RHB
IF/OF Aaron Miles SH
OF Reed Johnson RHB
OF Joey Gathright LHB
C Paul Bako LHB
That's 27 players for 25 positions, and it seems likely at a glance that The Hoff and Pie are the odd men out. Let's also not forget that the Cubs may or may not be in the running for Jake Peavy.
Let's note as well that my ideal lineup is different than Colin's. He's right that Fukudome might be a better leadoff hitter, but I can't see batting D-Lee #2 for a bunch of reasons.
Anyway, the question is this - how does the 09 Cubs compare offensively with the 08 model?
Well, it's a little bit complicated. Milton Bradley is the new right fielder, but he's not replacing the numbers of Fukudome - he's essentially replacing the stats of Jim Edmonds. Fontenot is straight up replacing the offense of DeRosa. But you can't just look at their runs scored and runs driven in, or their OPS, if you want to calculate whether or not they'll be an upgrade. Defensively, Fukudome is a better CFer than the limited-ranged Edmonds, but Bradley's worse than Fukudome was in RF. Fontenot is projected to be a better defender than DeRo.
But that still doesn't answer the question. We also have to consider the other players on the team - who's likely to have as good a year offensively? Or a better year? Or a worse one?
I think it's fair to say that Soto, Soriano, and yes, Fukudome will put up better numbers in '09 than they did in '08 for various reasons. Soto is still at the age where he should actually improve as a hitter, assuming he doesn't suffer from a sophomore slide. Soriano missed considerable time last year and we can't assume he'll get hurt for a third year in a row. And Fukudome - if he gets in shape and figures out his hitting mechanics - should have a better second season in my opinion. Hopefully.
The players I'd expect to put up similar numbers to last year are Lee and Ramirez - Derrek looks like he's on the decline, but I don't think he'll drop off a cliff next year though he might hit more doubles and fewer homers. Aramis may put up better numbers, but he'll at least probably stay consistent.
I suspect Theriot will struggle to match '08's stats, although if he reverts to his career average he won't have that much of a drop-off. As for Fontenot, while I don't think he's going to match DeRosa's output in '08, all indications - except for the contrary opinion of a reader who at this point is just being ornary - are that he should put up good numbers and probably better numbers than DeRosa will in Cleveland in '09. And Bradley, if he stays healthy - and maybe even if he doesn't - will likely outproduce Edmonds of '08.
Of course, it's all tremendous speculation at this point, but one thing the Cubs managed to do is dramatically improve the balance of their lineup. Next year's squad will not be as righty heavy - 3 of the 8 starters can swing the bat from the left hand side, while almost every bench player will also be able to bat lefty.
Therefore, I'd have to say that while the '09 Cubs may not surpass the '08 squad offensively, they should come very close to the same totals while being far better balanced for an October run. This team should make for an interesting season.