It was another strong week for the Cubs as they finished the season by taking three of four in San Diego followed by two of three against the Astros in Houston. It was the pitching that carried them this week: they allowed just 12 runs in the seven games. The Cubs finished the season 24-13 under Quade, and the strong finish left them just one game shy of fourth place in the Central (so close!).
Did the team's sudden turnaround earn Quade the nod as 2011 Cubs manager? What about Sandberg as manager and Quade as his bench coach? With the season officially in the books, we've got lots of time to discuss Hendry's offseason plans and the future of the franchise. But for now, the final awards of 2010:
Ryno of the Week: Take a look at this line: 14.2 IP, o ER, 2 H, 25 K
That's Carlos Marmol's September. Oh, and he was 13/13 in saves during the month as well. Just to make sure you took that all in: He allowed two hits in September, struck out 25, did not allow a run, and converted 13 straight saves. That's not fair. It ain't right. National League hitters could sue on the grounds that Marmol's pitching is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. He was 4/4 in the season's final week and converted his last 17 straight to finish the season.
Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt
Goat of the Week: It was a bad year all around and a bad final week for Xavier Nady. He went 6-for-23 last week with seven strikeouts, and batted just .256 (.306 OBP) with six home runs and 33 RBI in 317 AB this season.
Dishonorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome
Lets start with the positives. Hendry signed two of our three best starting pitchers through free agency, and both have wildly exceeded our expectations. Terrible Ted Lilly has been worth 10 WAR since he began his Cubs career in 2007. For comparison's sake, Yovani Gallardo has only been worth 5.5 WAR over the same period of time. Ted has been very, very good.
Ryan Dempster has been even better. In the two seasons since he returned to the rotation, Dempster has been an ace. He's put up 8.7 WAR in that time period, and was able to accumulate 3.6 WAR last season even though he missed a month of the season with a broken toe. Since he joined the rotation, Ryan Dempster has been the Cubs best pitcher.
That's about the extent of the positives. Here are the negatives, in lazy list form: Alfonso Soriano @ 8 years, $136 million with a no trade clause. Kosuke Fukudome @ 4 years, $48 million with a no trade clause. Milton Bradley @ 3 years, $30 million. Jacque Jones @ 3 years, $15 million. Jason Marquis @ 3 years, $21 million. Bob Howry @ 3 years, $12 million. Aaron Miles @ 2 years, $5 million. John Grabow @ 2 years, $7 million. Etc.... These players have a ton in common. Most were coming off a career year. (Jones is a notable exception.) Most did not contribute enough WAR to justify their salaries. All were seemingly signed for too many years. The Cubs roster has been an elephant's graveyard of declining players being paid a ton of money for their past contributions to other teams.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Most MLB team's have gotten smarter about keeping their young, high WAR players away from free agency. The majority of players who reach free agency are players that their original teams didn't deem worth extending, because their likely salaries would exceed their likely contributions. In short, free agency isn't a smart way to try and build a ballclub. Jim Hendry has spent a lot of money in free agency and usually hasn't gotten his money worth. The bad, long term contracts on this Cubs squad have hamstrung him in his efforts to improve the team going forward. The Cubs are older, maddeningly mediocre, and expensive. This team won't contend in 2010, and it won't contend in 2011 either. Because of his nasty habit of making it rain on every flavor of the week free agent who comes a knockin, Hendry should be fired.
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Just when we think that the offense is a shell, the Cubs delivered an epic opening day victory against Doug Davis and the Brewers. But before we get too excited -- it was Doug Davis. And the Brewers. Just sayin'.
Offensively, the Cubs took the game thanks in part to a solid, all-around thrashing of Doug. Ryan Theriot finished the day with a hit and a walk. Marlon Byrd went 3 for 5, raising his AVG to .208. Aramis Ramirez delivered his second homerun of the season in the 4th, a 2 run shot that more-than put the game out of reach. Even Alfonso Soriano collected 2 hits behind Xavier Nady, who went 2 for 4 with a 2 out, 3-run homerun in the 3rd inning.
All told, the Cubs collected 13 hits en route to a massacre at Wrigley. Not that Ryan Dempster didn't try his best to cost the team the game.
Clownsevelt managed to pitch into the 7th, but he gave up 5 earned runs and walked 4 in the process. He was mostly effective at maintaining control of the Brewers, except for when Ryan Braun faced him. Braun was responsible for 4 of Milwaukee's 5 runs. Dempster Pwnage. He was effectively relieved by James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, and Carlos Marmol (yes, that's right, Jeffy Spellcheck himself pitched and pitched well).
The Cubs have tomorrow off before resuming play against the Brewers on Wednesday. Look on the bright side, Goat Readers, Chicago is now 3-4.
That's partly because Marlon Byrd is, historically, not a super hitter, and partly because Xavier Nady has, in contrast, shown an ability to swing the bat. Over an eight year career, Byrd has 60 home runs; from 2006 to 2008, Nady hit 62.
That last year was the best of Nady's career. He hit 25 jacks, and managed a .305 batting average in the meantime. His .357 on base percentage and .510 slugging percentage were both solid.
Unfortunately, 2009 did not go as well. An elbow injury all but eliminated the entire season for him.
So now that he's back, what can we expect? Probably something less like the 2008 Nady, and something more like the 2006-2007 version: a homerun per 25 plate appearances (so maybe 12-15 in the amount of action he'll see), a .280 average, and some passable corner outfield defense.
A fine fourth outfielder indeed -- if his elbow heals up.