Goatriders of the Apocalypse

We Pick Three, Pt. 3

The Garza trade gave us something to blog about, but from here on out it might be entirely up to us to think of things to write as we trudge through January and February, waiting for pitchers and catchers to report.

Here's one idea: pick three Cub players you expect to improve in 2011 relative to the prior year, and three others that might, for lack of a better word, "unimprove."

AJ's picks

Most likely to improve:

1. Aramis Ramirez: This is mostly based on health. As I mentioned in the Shout Box, Aramis was worth -1.1 wins over a replacement player in the first two months of the 2010 season. In 2008, he was worth more than 2 wins. There's one way the Cubs could gain three games in the standings early on: Aramis hits, and does so from day one.

2. Matt Garza: I don't think this was the time to empty out the farm system for an SP2; I'm not sure the 2010 Cubs were, as Hendy argued, a few moves away from winning a championship. That said, would you rather pitch against the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles (who suck at pitching, but can hit plenty) and their designated hitters, or the Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Astros and Pirates? Of course, there are plenty of quality hitters in the NL Central (about two per team by my count), but there's really no comparison between the two divisions.

3. Andrew Cashner: Of the three young "Killer C's" (?), I think Cashner stands the best chance of improving. Colvin's lack of on-base ability will catch up to him next season, and while Castro's glove should improve, I can't imagine him actually hitting better than he did last year. But Cashner's contribution to the Cubs will grow next season, either as a starter, or as a more experienced major league reliever.

Most likely to unimprove:

1. Marlon Byrd: An all-star last year, Byrd had been worth close to replacement level over the course of his entire career previous to his joining the Cubs. He could still be an above-average player, but he was on a hot streak for 162 games last year.

2. Alfonso Soriano: One of last year's most frequently used picks for "Surprise of the Year" was, "Alfonso Soriano will not suck as much as you expect him to." And indeed, he went from essentially a replacement level player in 2009 to a 3-win guy in 2010. Similar to Byrd, Soriano could contribute in a positive way to the 2011 Cubs, but at age 35, it will likely be in a slightly-less positive fashion than the year before.

3. Tyler Colvin: Here's a link to Tyler Colvin's slugging percentage over the course of 2010. If he can't hit above .260 and he can't draw a bunch of walks, he'll have to rely on his power to continue to earn a spot in the starting lineup. Of note, however: he had an above-average wOBA against lefties last season.

FROM WEDNESDAY: Whaddayathink, Kyle?

Most likely to improve:

1. Carlos Pena: Can it get worse than batting .196? Yes, yes it can. Will it? Sweet fancy Moses, it better not.

2. Carlos Zambrano: Mike Quade and Z are both under contract through the 2012 season with third-year options. It seems their fates are tied together like star-crossed lovers or "Biggest Loser: Couples" contestants. I'm a Quade fan, so I got to believe Zambrano will improve under his stewardship. 

3. Andrew Cashner and/or Jeff Samardzija: With Lou gone, no one will be yelling at the young pitchers to get off the lawn. Some real instruction from the coaching staff might, you know, help.

Most likely to unimprove:
1. Marlon Byrd: At 32 years old, it's difficult to believe Byrd will be able to replicate his All-Star season. Also, everyone knows the racist Cubs fans will finally break his will to play hard.

2. Kosuke Fukudome: Fukudome finished with his highest batting average and home run total since joining the Cubs. Hey Boston, sounds pretty good, right? 

3. John Grabow: It's hard for a guy who only appeared in 28 games last season to get worse. Ladies and gentlemen, John Grabow.

FROM TUESDAY: Rob, what say you?

Most likely to Improve:

1) Zambrano - I am going to go out on a limb and declare that his latest "change" is somewhat long-lasting in nature.  As his career winds towards the end of his current contract, I think he is going to concentrate more and suck less, in a ploy for another huge deal.

2) Soto - check the posts - I never said he was a bad ballplayer.  I said he was a bad guy for spending the whole offseason after his ROY year lying around, eating and smoking dope.  I think he did learn his lesson, and I expect him to continue his improvement from last year.

3) Jeff Baker - had a hard time coming up with a third name.  I think somehow he ends up taking most of the AB at 2nd this year, perhaps because Blake Dewitt doesn't.

Most likely to unimprove:

1) Castro - after the success he had as a 20 year old last year, how many of us truly think he is going to spend this off-season honing his craft, instead of going out and celebrating?  If he does?  Then he may end up as one of the Greats.  What are the chances of that?  A Cub?  

2) Colvin - has huge holes in his swing, needs plate discipline to avoid becoming Micah Hofpauir's teammate in Hiroshima.

3) Wells - I was very disappointed that he turned out to be yet another Chicago-nightlife-lover. 

Three to improve: Matt Garza:

Three to improve:

Matt Garza: He's moving from the AL East to the NL Central. Need I say more?

Geovany Soto: One more step into his prime. He's learned what happens when he screws up and won't let it happen again

John Grabow: He can't be any worse...

Three to decline

Carlos Marmol: He won't be more ineffective exactly, but the K numbers will come down, and probably the saves too.

Sean Marshall: There's just so much unpredictability with bullpen pitchers. I think he continues to be one of the elite lefty set-up men in the NL, but there's no way his FIP stays as low as it was last year (2.28)

Marlon Byrd: He's a year older. I don't think he'll be bad, and he'll likely earn the money owed to him in his contract (5.5M). However, I could see him losing the CenterField job to Brett Jackson late in the year if the Cubs fall out of the race.

One comment on Grabow: yes he

One comment on Grabow: yes he can.

The fact that Grabow didnt

The fact that Grabow didnt really pitch for the Cubs last year was in fact an improvement. If he throws for a full season it could get a lot worse.

Three Up: Aramis

Three Up:

Aramis Ramirez:
He's theoretically healthy again, which should make an enormous difference. This isn't the same Ramirez that mollwhopped NL pitching for years, but he should still be able to hit. The glovework won't be pretty.

Carlos Pena:
He posted a .222 BABIP last year, almost 60 points below his career average. I expect Pena to earn his contract, and more.

Starlin Castro:
I love this guy, and I don't see why he shouldn't show improvement the second time through.

Three Down:

Matt Garza:
Most people see a move to the National League. I see a guy whose ERA was more than a half run lower than his xFIP. He did that playing for Tampa, with one of the best defenses in baseball. The Cubs are not strong defenders. I'm still really mad about this trade.

Jeff Samardzija:
Might this be the year the Cubs cut their losses and remove this clown from the 40 man roster?

Tyler Colvin:
I dearly hope I'm wrong about Colvin, but he's going to need to show real improvement in plate discipline if he wants a long career starting in a major league outfield.

For what it's worth, Garza's

For what it's worth, Garza's ERA has consistently been lower than his xFIP every year, much like Matt Cain.

Love your three to improve picks, especially Ramirez; he was worth -1.1 WAR through May last year! I also don't think Colvin will one day magically become able to draw walks on a consistent basis.

Pick 3

Improve:

Randy Wells. Wells is on the chopping block so to speak and he knows it. His most recent interview showed his acknowledgement that his lack of effort will get him bumped from the maajor league roster that he had worked so hard to reach.

Aramis Ramirez. This guy has been a professional hitter for his career. His defense is slipping to say the least but a healthy thumb and this guy will begin to rake again.

Carlos Pena. Just taking Adrian Beltre as a comp, a Boras client on a one year deal looking to reestablish himself will get back around to his career average mark (albeit it is still not a great career average it will be an improvement nonetheless).

Unimprove:

Kosuke Fukudome. As bad as we rip on Fuku he actually had the best year in his short major league career. I feel this came from selected playing time. If he sees regular time look for his numbers to drop.

Starlin Castro. I hate the soph slump theory but, as others have pointed out it is going to be difficult to replicate the hitting show he put on as a rookie.

Carlos Silva. Silva was awful in the second half and his injuries were prevelant once again. However, he did give us an 8-0 start. This time out I look for second half numbers projected over the course of a full season, a definite unimprovement.

The Fail Whale has to be the

The Fail Whale has to be the sleeper pick of this exercise thus far. No way in hell Silva performs next year the way he did in the first half of 2010. Rothschild is gone (don't underestimate Larry's ability to help Carlos focus on hitting the bottom of the K-zone with sinkers), and Silva just isn't very good. There will be a reckoning from Silva the Hutt, and we'll all wish that Hendry had flipped him to the Royals last June.

Yeah for real where have we

Yeah for real where have we all been on Silva? He was stupid good in the first half of last year.

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