Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Predictions

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Friday Update (June 4, 2010)

Currently the Cubs are 24-29 and people are calling for the whole team to be flushed down the toilet. The peripherals suggest they should be more like 28-25. Here is how it breaks down:

The Cubs' Pythagorean Record is 25-28, one game better than their actual record. The Cubs' record in one run games is 8-12. They are the only team in the NL Central with a record below .500 in one run games. Yes that includes the Brewers.

The Cubs have underscored their linear weights by about 13 runs. They have a league average level offense that is currently 13th in actual runs scored. They should be closer to 8th. That is worth 2 wins.

Their current team ERA is 4.11 which is 10th in the NL. Their xFIP is 3.99, 3rd in the NL. The difference is small but it appears that most teams have an actual ERA much lower than their xFIP while the Cubs are one of the few teams where the opposite is true. I'm going to believe that the Cubs defense has been this bad and only give them 1 win for this.

This makes the Cubs a 28-25 team. If they had that record, I think the mood around here would be more hopeful.

I believe 2 things about this team. I believe they are better than they've shown and will go on a nice run at some point. I also believe they aren't a playoff team. I think given that they aren't a playoff team, losing like they have has an upside. It may force them to do things that losing teams need to do to improve their performance in the future while at the same time, the Cubs have a base in place to turn their team around in a year or two.

The poor season this year will mean the end of the Hendry/Piniella regime. If rumours are to be believed, it could also mean the trades of both Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee, and the move towards building the new Cubs. On top of this, the Cubs will have a better draft pick in the 2011 draft and the commencement of the future will begin.

I do not think we are there yet and I would be surprised if Lee was traded but although the Cubs are clearly underperformaning where they should be this year, I'd still like to see a mini fire sale occur.

If this offends anyone I'll take it down.

That is all.

Why oh Why (Game Recap: Pirates 4, Cubs 3)

Newsflash: The Cubs are playing terrible right now. But it just doesn't comport with the facts of this team in my eyes. I don't get it. Why are they losing?

Mostly, it's just bad luck. I know that seems like hyperbole but let's look at some basic information on the Cubs.

The Cubs, coming into today's game, were tied for 5th in the NL in runs scored but 7th in the NL in runs scored per game just above league average.

The pitching looks much worse as the Cubs came into today's game 11th in ERA. The runs scored/runs allowed results in a pythagorean won loss record of 17-19, 2 games better than the 15-21 record they had coming into today's game.

So they should be 2 games better just assuming the runs scored/runs allowed were fairer but even that isn't fair. The Cubs should have scored slightly more runs and should have allowed a ton less. They should be challenging the Cardinals right now.

The Cubs are 5th in the NL in wOBA and haven't been especially lucky offensively. They have a decent K rate, a decent walk rate and above average isolated power. Linear weights suggest they should have scored 181 runs this year, not 167.

To make matters worse, the Cubs are second in the NL in xFIP! Only the Padres are barely better. That is partly a sign that the Cubs defense is worse than expected but it's also a sign that they have been very very unlucky. The Cubs actual record this year should be closer to 22-14, not 15-21. Taking away 2 games for defense (which is probably too many) they still come into today's game at 20-16. Can you imagine how much different the tone would be on this site if the Cubs were actually doing that?

Now, two very annoying facts make all this data less relevant. The first is that the Cubs have buried themselves in a hole so deep that even if they played at this level the rest of the year, they probably wouldn't make the playoffs. The second is that they put up that record against less than stellar opposition. Still, it's a sign that things aren't completely what they seem.

If the Cubs were to play 20-16 baseball (.556) the rest of the season,  they would get to 85 wins. That might make them a contender for the NL wildcard. I thought they might be through but maybe not. They need to start showing results that live up to their peripherals but it's the underlying numbers that suggest many have given up a little too early here.

Over/Under - 87 Wins

In no way do I disagree with anything Kurt wrote on the last post.  In a year where very little was done in the offseason, save the removal of a soul-sucking parasitic tumor, we Cub fans are subject to a potent concentration of 'wait and see'.

Which, frankly, is the way it should be with so many players signed to long term expensive contracts.  In theory, at the time these contracts were initiated and signed, the player in question was at or near the top of his game,or at least, his usefulness to the Cubs, and for the 3, 4, or God help us, 8 years of the contract, this valuable, 8-figure-making hero of a man should be more than capable of helping us win.  Therefore, on a team with 8 men making more than $10 million in annual salary (including Jabba the Silva), you would assume you have 1/3rd of your roster of All-Star caliber.

It worked out that way in 2008, in which we won 97 games.  Last year, when one of the 8 figure guys had a dislocated shoulder, another had knee surgery, a third had a desperately ill newborn, a fourth had both back problems and temper tantrums, a fifth ended up needing arm and knee surgery, and a sixth was a soul sucking leech...we won 83 games.

Kurt averaged the two outcomes together and set the over/under at 90.  I merely choose to set it at 87.  Because, even if Ramirez is healthy again, and Lilly does recover, and Z acts more adultlike simply due to age alone, and the drain on our economy as well as our oxygen supply, Milton Bradley, is gone from our existence...we still have the corpulent Carlos Silva taking up a roster spot that could be used by a Braden Looper or some other mediocre innings-eater that still would be better than Silva the Hutt.  That's worth three games right there.

you're a streaky home run machine, leading off! It makes no senseThen,of course, we have the Human Hitting Streak, the man who is more of a contradiction than the Scotch-Korean Starburst eater, the most well paid Cub and the actual heart and Key to the Chicago Cubs, #12 in your programs, and #5 in the most highly paid major league humans...

What is Alfonso Soriano bringing to work this year? 

It is funny...yes, I have come out here, repeatedly, in fact, over the past three years and railed on and on about Soriano's isolated style of play.  Some of you read that to mean I was saying he was 'selfish', which has led to the Goatriders meme of saying that "Soriano hit two selfish homers today" or something of that ilk. 

I do not believe that Soriano is a self absorbed player, as Sammy Sosa certainly was.  I don't think he goes back to the clubhouse between innings to check his stat sheet, and I don't think he mopes about an 0-for-4 when we win a game.  It is fact, though, that he has balked at times verbally at his manager's suggestion that his role or position should change.  So what, lots of guys do that.  It is also a fact that his production at the plate tends to trend downward when he does change his position or his place in the order. 

What is also clear, at least to me, that in the first two years of his tenure here, as the leadoff man for the Cubs, he did not operate at the plate in the manner of what I felt we truly needed.  He was a run producer, yes.  He hit a lot of home runs, and that produces runs.  More on that in a minute.  I think, though, what Jim Hendry was hoping to get was more of a Rickey Henderson-esque figure, someone who hits homers, yes, but at other times, draws walks, and otherwise gets on base, makes things happen on the basepaths, rattles pitchers, draws infielders out of position to make plays on stolen bases, etc.

To be fair, Soriano was never a plate discipline guy, so it was unrealistic to believe he would start once he came here. Also, his legs have failed him since he came here.  In fact, this time last year, it appeared his legs were as healthy as they had been since his last year with Washington, and I had predicted a banner year on the basepaths for him.  That worked out well.

What I was hoping for out of him, provided he was hitting leadoff for us, that he would become part of an integrated offense.  For example, if the eighth hitter got on, and the pitcher bunts him over to second, and Soriano comes to the plate, that he would keep the inning going around 40% or more of the time with some sort of base-advancing contribution, a hit, a walk, or a grounder to the right side, something to keep things going  to the heart of the order, where big innings with crooked numbers happen.

But, that isn't what his game is.  He IS hot or cold.  He is not a normal guy, he does not move the game along the basepaths.  No, he is a sixth hitter hitting leadoff, not a true two-outcome guy, but he is a guy who hits a ton of homers, strikes out a lot, and hits a lot of fly balls.  And when he is not going well, he kills rallies by the armfuls.

But why is he such a contradiction?  Because, when he is hot, and he was hot for most of 2007 and 2008, he hits LOTS of homers, which produces a lot of production, and frankly, won us a lot of games we had no business of winning. He is like a secret weapon, who actually isn't so secret.  I mean, if I had the choice of a ham-and-egger who hits singles a lot, and a guy who can mash, sure, gimme the mash.  We NEED the true Soriano, the one that can carry a team for 10 days or two weeks.  I always said he operated independently of the rest of the Cubs offense, and sometimes that has been good, particularly when he bails us out when nobody else is hitting. 

Well, now he is down in the order, where hopefully his streakiness will be somewhat mitigated, and also hopefully a lot of his solo homers to begin games can take place with runners on base.  Also, hopefully, he is healthy enough to play the games, take good swings, hit homers, and not be too much of a tinker in left field. 

Whether you like it, or not, and honestly, I don't...but as Alfonso Soriano goes, so do the Cubs.  Which is probably fair, since he makes the most money.  And, since he's at 80 to 85% these days, I figure so are the Cubs.  So...87 wins, over/under.

UPDATE: look!  Good Soriano news!!

How do you feel about the 2010 season?

Predictions, Projections, and Psychotic Bloggers.  In the shortest month of the year, the month in which Pitchers and Catchers report, predictions, projections, and psychotic bloggers go together like peas-n-carrots, or pro athletes-n-Kardashians.

Like the rest of you, I've had a long, dreary winter to think about the State of the Cubs.  Actually, probably more than the rest of you, since I have been functioning as a ward of the state since New Years' Eve.  And what conclusion have I drawn with my massive chess club brain, and all the time I've had to sit here and compile? Well, in 50 words or less:

The soulless corporation sold the Cubs to actual people.  The new owners seem more interested in Wrigley Field than the Cubs.  Their biggest moves, so far, have been the wacky hire of an expensive coach, the trade of a discontented yet talented black guy, and the refurbishment of the bathrooms.  OMG!!  We have returned to the P. K. Wrigley era!!

I tell you kind people that I don't even have my sarcasm key held down as I type all this.  However, I understand the special financial circumstances the Ricketts are under at the present moment, and while I might and should expect them to chuck the general ledger aside and just Win, baby?  It appears that they are digging in for the long haul as owners.  It is clear that the Tom Ricketts does not share the same urgency for a winner as I do.  It is obvious that he and his family will not go broke by winning at all costs.  There seems to be a four-year period that they need to pay down a special loan that they hadn't counted on having to use when they first made the offer for the Cubs.

Just, coincidentally, this is about the same amount of time that the Cubs still need to pay Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano.  I suppose if I were the billionaire owners of the Cubs, and although I am a fan, I am not as overwrought as the guy writing on that blog.  And, if  I had several all-star ballplayers that I had to pay eight figure salaries to, I would expect the players to go out, and win, with minimal help from me.  And, when their contracts are finally paid off, and my special financial deal is finally satisfied, I will finally adopt the degree of urgency that the blogger has, and I will hire my own General Manager, and go after the players I really want, and win at all costs.

So, when all was said and done this winter, our roster is fairly static, so it ought to be fairly easy for us to Preview the 2010 Season, one Cub at a time!  We pretty much know who we have, and what we have, and between now and Opening Day in Atlanta, we're gonna pass our sweet-and-savory flavor along to you in single player slices.  So come back, early and often, because this is a fun time of the year - in fact, most years, it's the most fun time of the year.

Let's hope not, for 2010, though.

Cubs in first; but for how long?

The Cubs are in first! How lovely.

Considering the astounding number of talking heads and idiot columnists in the sports world these days, I'm kinda surprised no one wrote about this a few days back. The Cubs' sweep of the Reds was not an earth-shattering result, and did anyone really expect the Cardinals to beat the Phillies at home?

As a result, we get to have that, "If the season ended right now..." conversation as many times as we'd like today. Of course, we've still got more than one-third left of the season to play out before anything's decided. With that, I thought I'd take a look at both teams' upcoming schedules, to get a gauge on what's reasonable to expect going forward.

-----

The Cubs and Cards each close out the month of July with a four-gamer. Both teams are at home, but the quality of their opponents isn't quite equal.

The Cubs take on the Astros, a team that has somehow played its way into third place in the NL Central. It's true that the offense has some pretty huge holes in it throughout the line-up. However, as you'll see in the upcoming Series Preview, the Cubs have a couple of tough pitching match-ups ahead of them. Neither of the first two games (Z vs. Wandy, Demp vs. Oswalt) will be easy wins by any means. If the Cubs drop both, they'll need Randy Wells and Kevin Hart to pitch well against Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz to salvage a series split.

At the same time, it doesn't look like the Cardinals will have much of an advantage in any of their match-ups, either. Their series probables are: Wolf vs. Carpenter, Billingsley vs. Wainwright, Kershaw vs. somebody (TBA), and Kuroda vs. Lohse. If Carp and Wainwright go nuts, the Cards might get lucky with Lohse and take three of four. More likely, they'll split, or worse.

-----

It'll be important for the Cubs to pick up a game on their way into August, because it'll be a tough month to try to stay in the lead.

Generally, there's the issue of opponents' winning percentage. The Cards take on teams with a collective .449 winning percentage, while the Cubs take on a schedule with a .490 percentage.

There are a few key series that explain the difference in strength of schedule. The Cardinals have arguably one tough series, a three-gamer at Los Angeles. In contrast, the Cubs have three difficult series in August: four games of their own at Dodger Stadium, playing host for three games to the Phillies, and four games in Colorado against a surprisingly spunky Rockies team.

Pitching match-ups and reinforcements from the disabled list will hopefully give the Cubs the extra oomph they need to carry the division lead into September. In the meantime, it'll be important to take advantage of this next series, to try to get some breathing room before heading into August.

Go Cubs.

What Lou Wants, Lou Can't Have

In sports, the window closes.

Any team that decides to make a move for the championship will select a few key stars to lead their team for the foreseeable future. In Detroit, the Pistons had a solid starting five of Rip, Sheed, Chauncey, Ben and Prince for years. In Indianapolis, the Colts offense spent many years revolving around Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Eddgerin James.

The problem with the concept of the "core" is that, eventually, they get old. Just a couple years after winning it all, the Boston Celtics will have this problem, with KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all aging quickly (and three good knees between them). The Phoenix Suns' core of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Shawn Marion has already been dissolved, even without having won a championship.

In Chicago, the Cubs have their core. They've invested tens of millions of dollars in three position players that simply can't be moved. For the foreseeable future, third base belongs to Aramis Ramirez; Derrek Lee owns 1B; and Soriano gets left field. That's how it is.

The Cubs' offensive core has had their days. They tasted the postseason in 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately, those days were short. But more importantly, they happened--this team had its chance.

As our core ages, as Aramis' shoulder acts up, as Derrek's neck spasms continue to flare, as Soriano's quick hands start slowing down, we're beginning to notice a major flaw with the group. Fans are convinced, along with the team's manager, that this group needs a lefty power bat to win.

Unfortunately, there's no place to put that bat. We've decided on our core, and there really isn't a lot of wiggle room one way or the other.

Jim Hendry tried to fill the lefty power gap by signing players like Fukudome and Bradley. In doing so, I think Hendry was wise not to ignore one crucial element of the game--defense. The guys we've got are not oafs. Bradley's brain hasn't quite caught up to his legs yet, but the guy can still move around.

As an example, look at the top five lefty outfielders in slugging this season: Raul Ibanez, Brad Hawpe, Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, and Jonny Damon. Those guys will all most assuredly see a rapid decline in their defensive skills over the next one to three years, assuming of course that it hasn't happened already.

Basically what I'm saying is--if you're convinced that the Cubs need a left-handed power bat to win it all (and I'm almost convinced of the fact at this point), then you're going to have to wait until 2011, when Lee vacates his spot at first base, for a championship team on the North Side of Chicago.

Until then, perhaps you should advocate having the Cubs act as sellers in the trade market, to prepare them for their next run. At this point, I think that's the side I'm on.

How many times we wavin' the white "W" flag in 2009?

100+
20% (12 votes)
95-99
31% (18 votes)
90-94
39% (23 votes)
82-89
7% (4 votes)
75-81
0% (0 votes)
less than 75?
2% (1 vote)
way more than the Sox, for sure
2% (1 vote)
Total votes: 59

Extremely early roster thoughts: 2009 Edition

Despite the "predictions" tag I used, I'm not trying to be Goatstradamus here or anything.  I am not saying that this is what I expect to happen.  I'm not even saying that the guys who decide about things on these matters will agree with me.  But if today was opening day and in a moment of frantic desperation Jim Hendry called me up for advice, this is the Cubs team I'd trot out to face the league.


SP
1. Carlos Zambrano
- Arm problems?  Inconsistent delivery?  Loss of "ace" status to Ryan Dempster last October?  Zambrano remains the best Big Game Pitcher the Cubs have.
2. Ryan Dempster - A 17-game winner and receiver of a large contract this past winter, Dempster probably won't have as good a 2009 but he should still be a reliable #2 starter.
3. Ted Lilly - The Ice Man has been worth every dollar of his contract so far.  Another 17-game-winner, Lilly just might be the best #3 pitcher in the NL.
4. Rich Harden - Call him the defacto 5th starter if you want, but it's an insult to his talent to even have him listed as the #4 guy.  If Harden had a healthy arm, he'd be a perennial Cy Young contender.  If he can be healthy enough to give the Cubs 25+ starts in 2009, then he'll be hands-down the best #4 pitcher in the game.
5. Jeff Samardzija - My first controversial pick!  Here's the logic: he's proven that, in a limited capacity, he can pitch effectively in the Major Leagues.  He's young, will certainly encounter growing pains, may get his ass handed to him from time to time, but pitching for an offensive juggernaut on a team with four other extremely talented guys in the rotation means that there is room to grow.  In other words, the Cubs can afford to allow the Shark to struggle.  And while he is unlikely to have the same impact as the '98 version of Kerry Wood, he just might be one of those feel-good stories that comes along every once in a while.


Note: The next section has been edited on account of how I forgot about Heilman.  Vizcaino has subsequently been moved to long relief and Heilman has been inserted into the MR role.  My official take is this: if Guzman gets "awarded" another option, let him start out in Iowa out of the rotation.  If he doesn't, then his fate will be determined by the guys who are gunning for the 5th spot of the rotation.  If Shark actually does win, Guz is done.  If Shark loses and starts his year in Iowa, then Guzman becomes the defacto Long Reliever, Vizcaino gets bumped back to Middle Relief, and all is well. 


The Bullpen
LR - Luis Vizcaino -
He's sort of the forgotten man on the Cubs pitching staff, at least by fans.  From 2004 to 2006, he was a reliable arm.  In '07 he was Howry-like, and in '08 he was even worse.  The good news is that he remains an effective strikeout pitcher (which tells us a little bit about his stuff).  The bad news is he gave up a Howry-load of homeruns in '08 (even though he was pitching in Colorado, but he gave up an even number of homers at home and on the road).  If he can rebound, he'll be a reliable arm.  If not, he'll just be another Gas Can.  But he won't be able to do too much damage as a long reliever if he's running on fumes.
LHMR - Neal Cotts - I don't like him.  Watching him pitch is a sweat-inducing experience.  Unfortunately he's entrenched and I doubt that any other lefty reliever can outperform him. 
RHMR - Aaron Heilman - He wants to start but he might not get the chance.  He's possibly good enough to serve in the setup role, perhaps even better than Gregg if he finds his groove again.  When you consider how unreliable the Cubs pen was after its three best pitchers, and you then look at this year's bunch, it's really Heilman who puts them over as having improved.  With him - and even with Cotts and Vizcaino occupying roster spots - the Cubs might be five strong out of the pen -- and that sort of thing can make a huge difference in the playoffs.
RHMR - Chad Gaudin - Gaudin wants to start.  Can't say I don't blame him.  In my pretend scenario, he lost the gig fair and square to Samardzija.  Last year as a Cub he was pretty good until he got hurt and was Piniella's whipping boy in the August 22nd game against the Nationals.  Based on his age and ability, I'd expect him to be reliable.
LHSU - Sean Marshall - Not that he's shown a ton of ability to be an Out pitcher, but between he and Cotts it's a no-brainer.  If Piniella needs a lefty in the 8th inning, Marshall will be his guy in '09 in this pretend scenario.
RHSU - Kevin Gregg - It's true - Carlos Marmol is better for this job.  For 2 years, Kevin Gregg has been a reliable-if-not-unimpressive closer.  If baseball was a computer game, I'd assign this gig to Marmol.  Since baseball is played by people with egos, it goes to Gregg.
CL - Carlos Marmol - The most dominating setup man of my lifetime has earned his shot to close.  I can't see why he'd fail.  Marmol shutting down the opposition in the 9th would be a refreshing change on the North Side.


The Regulars


C - Geovany Soto - In his second full season, I'd hope and expect Geo to have a year similar to that of many premier catchers in their second full years.  In his second year, Johnny Bench saw his OPS go up by almost 100 points.  Carlton Fisk saw his power numbers go up, but his AVG dropped by about .50 points.  Pudge Rodriguez's OPS went up by about 70 points.  Mike Piazza's numbers were almost identical.  Granted, none of that is at all relevant to Soto.  But I do not think he'll do worse, and based on his age he could do better. 


1B - Derrek Lee - If they made a movie about Lee's life at this moment, maybe they'd call it The Slow Decline.  I'd still expect Derrek to be a reliable bat in the lineup and glove in the field, although he was defensively shaky in '08.


2B - Mike Fontenot - Bats lefty?  Check.  Good pop to his swing?  Check.  Gritty?  Check.  Shawty has played well and I expect that he will earn his way to the starting role come April. 


SS - Ryan Theriot - I believe that Theriot will probably produce numbers somewhere between his '07 and '08 output.  That would land him at a .287 AVG, 25 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers, and about a 75% base stealing success percentage.  Oh, and his OPS would be at .358.  Actually that about puts him right where he'd need to be to leadoff.  More on that later.


3B - Aramis Ramirez - I don't think Ramirez will hit 38+ homeruns again, as he appears to have elected not to go the Sammy Sosa route in terms of career progression.  But at 30, he is still well within the window of legitimate Massive Production.  If A-Ram has the kind of year he is capable of, then the Cubs opponents will weep.


Lf - Alfonso Soriano - This guy is bound to stay healthy sooner or later, right?  I mean, he was never injury prone before he began dodging Wrigley Field potholes, so we may have a healthy '09 to look forward to for Sori.  Imagine the kind of runs the Cubs would score if he was smashing the ball with regularity all season long.


CF - Kosuke Fukudome - Before he came to Chicago and tried to bring back the twist, Fukudome was a pure hitter of science and grace.  Call me crazy, but I believe he could return to form.  Maybe he'll never be a hitter of Matsui/Ichiro proportions, but if he can actively increase his offensive output in 2009 then the Cubs will have a phenomenal lineup.


RF - Milton Bradley - Crazy Milton had the best OPS in baseball last year.  He walks a ton.  He hits the ball a ton.  He gets injured a ton.  He hasn't had a healthy year since 2004.  Maybe he's due?


Bench


C - Paul Bako - What does Paul Bako have in common with only two Cubs on the current roster?  He's played for the Cubs when they won playoff games and a playoff series.  Not that it means much.  I can't believe he'll live up to the work of Henry Blanco, but as a backup how much will it matter?


IF - Aaron Miles - He's replacing the versatility of Mark DeRosa without the actual hitting ability.  He's spent time playing every position but catcher and first base, and while he's not a homerun hitter, Miles does get his fair share of singles.  If he can match his career averages of .289 in a limited capacity, then he might be extremely valuable in 2009.


IF - Luis Rivas - Based on their current available players, the unlikelihood of pursuing another Nomar, and their undeniable need for another infielder who can play shortstop, it's pretty hard to deny that Rivas will break camp with the Cubs in April.  He's offensively about as exciting as Neifi Perez was in his heyday, but as long as he isn't as stupid with the glove as Ronny Cedeno was, I can't see him being any worse.


OF - Reed Johnson - Reed Johnson is one of the best bargains Jim Hendry has acquired in recent years.  Picked up off the scrapheap after back surgery, Reed delivered unto the Cubs a great performance in 2008.  Based on his consistency (apart from the year of the back surgery), it's safe to bet that Reed will see more at bats than any other backup outfielder in 2009, and he should do well there.


OF - So Taguchi - Probably the second most controversal "choice" I've made, this selection is where Childhood Dreams go to die.  Micah Hoffpauir turns 29 in a week or so and had a great month with the Cubs last year.  Joey Gathright is a 27-year-old bases-stealing fool.  Taguchi can converse fluently in Kosuke Fukudome's native tongue.  I love Hoffpauir, but I don't think it's realistic that he will be a successful major leaguer.  I've made this point before, so here it is again: if he's as good as you think he is, then how come he's on the bubble with the Cubs and not a single Major League GM has attempted to acquire him?  Don't you think a tight-budgeted team would spring at the chance to acquire a guy who - according to you - will outperform Derrek Lee and his 12 million dollar 2009 contract?  Sorry, just thought I'd point that out.  Anyway, probably Gathright is the better choice, although both he and Taguchi both suck fairly badly.  There are really only two things working in So's favor - a) he could be a friend for Fukudome, and b) he bats righty, and the Cubs have a lot of lefty bench bats. 


Lineup and unscientific projections:


Taking this scenario a step further, below is how I'd bat 'em and how I think they might do (if the stars align correctly)


1. Ryan Theriot - .285 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 SB, 5 CS
2. Mike Fontenot - .285 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 2B, 15 HR, 5-10 SB
3. Aramis Ramirez - .300 AVG, .370 OBP, 40 2B, 35 HR
4. Milton Bradley - .300 AVG, .400 OBP, 40 2B, 25 HR
5. Alfonso Soriano - .285 AVG, .340 OBP, 40 2B, 40 HR, 20 SB
6. Derrek Lee - .290 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 2B, 20 HR
7. Geovany Soto - .280 AVG, .340 OBP, 30 2B, 25 HR
8. Kosuke Fukudome - .280 AVG, .360 OBP, 30 2B, 10-15 HR, 10-15 SB


That would be potent.  It's also surely on the high side a little but don't forget, we are blogging from pretend land today.


Anyway, I like this team.  I like the roster.  The rotation is solid, the bullpen isn't weak, the lineup is amazing (and probably could score the most runs in all of baseball), and there is enough depth for me to not feel too worried about potential injuries.

Where I am coming from...

I'm from Maine, Red Sox country.  But, until I went to college, I only got to see the Cubs because they played day games (thank you WGN) and no one else in my family liked baseball.  Therefore, I am the most hated type of fan -- the sports bigamist.  I am a Cubs fan first and a Red Sox fan second.

Let's just say that in 2003, I was in a very uncomfortable position.  I cannot begin to describe the pain I felt that year.  To this day, if I ever see Alex Gonzalez I will kick him in the nuts.  I don't even care if I get the right Alex Gonzalez, I just want to kick some nuts.

Currently, I live in DC where one Aaron Boone played this year.  I boooood him incessantly whenever his name was called.  Of course, I also boooood Christian Laetner when he played for the Wiz, but I digress....

This Cubs team needs to take on the attitude of the 2004 Red Sox, in that they approached the last four games of the ALCS as a series of one-game playoffs.  They did not go into Game 4 thinking, "We need to win four games!!!"  They went into that game thinking, "We need to win one game."

I think that this Cubs team, as well as last years', has been going into EVERY game of every postseason series thinking, "We need to win this series...NOW!!!"  Obviously, that is not possible, and that vein of thinking will ultimately lead to failure.

Part of the reason this team was so successful during the regular season was due to their ability to put the previous day's game behind them.  If they come out flat Saturday (defensively and/or offensively), then theirs is a problem with motivation and coaching.  If they come out hot and still are unable to capitalize, then the fates are conspiring against them and there is nothing can be done.

This does NOT mean I believe in curses -- like I said before, I am also a Red Sox fan -- I know of which I speak.  So can it.  Shit happens.

Were the Cubs the better team in 84?  Yes.  In '89?  Meh.  In '98?  No.  In '03?  Even.  In '07?  Statistically, yes -- by the math the D-bags should never have been that good.  This year?  Yes (hell, the Cardinals were better than the Dodgers).  Will the Cubs buck up and show it?  Remains to be seen.

Now, I'm not dumb enough to say, "The Cubs will win on Saturday!"  But, I will say that, despite Kuroda's insane K/BB ratio (nearly 3:1) over 183.1 innings pitched, the Cubs actually have the advantage.  They are the better team.  They won 97 games in the toughest division in the NL.

Rich Harden was a combined 10-2, with 34 earned runs over 148 innings pitched, for an ERA of 2.07.  In the NL, he went 5-1, with 14 earned runs over 71 innings pitched, for an ERA of 1.77.  Obviously, this guy is our Ace and unquestionably the man we want in this position.  Let's just hope that the defense can hold up behind him.

Science willing, the Cubs will get to game four.  If so, Ted Lilly's record was 17-9, as well as 10-4 on the road, with an ERA of 4.09 (3.77 away from Wrigley).  Not to mention his 2.875 strikeout to walk ratio, all gives me hope of returning the series to the Friendly Confines and Dempster showing why he won 14 games there.

Let me close with this: I know it sounds corny, and I know it sounds insanely stupid.  But, if the Cubs (and the fans) would just address the series as a bunch of one-game series instead of trying to win it all on every swing, all will be OK.  The pitchers are sound; overall, the defense is sound; the batting is usually sound.  Just go out there and do what we all know you can do.

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