Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Lineups

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Here comes the sun

Realistically speaking, with the pickup of Milton Bradley the Cubs have probably made their last huge addition to the team, barring a trade of some kind for a #5 starter - and we have to assume that Jake Peavy is probably a slimly acquirable option.

Already many of us Goat Riders have posted our lineup thoughts, so I figure what better way to start a Wednesday morning than to open the topic up to you, the reader.  So, if you could, please answer the following questions:

1. What do you think will be the best possible lineup?

2. If the Cubs don't add another pitcher to the team, which current Cub becomes the #5 starter next year?

3. Do you think the Cubs will land Peavy?

4. Does my ass look big in these pants?

I look forward to reading - and forcefully disputing - your opinions.

Another Olibagatory Post of Lineups, now with 50% more psychology!

So, Colin weighed in below with his thought on what the lineup *should* be, so I thought I would go ahead and suggest what I believe the lineup *will* be.  The lineup constructed below is based on a combination of indepth analysis, pop psychology, and Ovaltine.  So, without further delay:

  1. Alfonso Soriano
  2. Mike Fontenot
  3. Aramis Ramirez
  4. Milton Bradley
  5. Derrek Lee
  6. Geovany Soto
  7. Kosoke Fukudome
  8. Ryan Theriot

Not bad, eh?  Okay, so, my reasoning is as follows:

  • Piniella doesn't really give a damn who leads off.  He knows it doesn't matter, I know it doesn't matter and, deep down, you know it doesn't matter.  So, in the interest of nonscrewingwithsomethingthatworked, Soriano stays in the leadoff position.
  • I've looked deep into Piniella's eyes, past the optical nerve, and into his soul and I see that Pineila knows that Fontenot is the right choice for second.  I also saw that he wants the lefty high in the order as Piniella recognizes Fontenot's combination of patience and pop (and he really, really wants to mix up the lefties and righties).  I also saw a surprising number of puppies and kittens frolicking in a meadow.  I didn't expect that.
  • Here's where it gets tricky.  I think Piniella throws Aramis into the three hole and says "look, Lee's a great hitter but you've got to mix up the righties and lefties", which brings us to...
  • Bradley and Lee.  Seriously, these three could get flipped and flopped in almost any configuration and I woudn't be surprised.
  • Geo Soto, the easiest call in the lineup
  • Fukudome sent plenty of time in the seven hole and will likely continue to toil there.  I don't believe Piniella cares much for Fukudome's approach, but what can you do?
  • When Theriot wasn't in the two hole, he was in the 8th position.  Unless he bats Bradley third and move Theriot to second, this is where we find li'l Ryan.  And since I've already used my soul vision to determine where Fontenot hits, that just leaves Theriot here.

So there you have it.  Basesd on the projections Colin linked below and this tool, I've got the lineup at 5.2 runs.  Perhaps Colin could run it through his more sophisticated tool and we can see just what a difference the lineup will make.  My guess: almost none.

Congrates to Jim Hendry for, one again, getting the best player available.  It's nice to be a part of the new Chicago Cubs.

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 -
Carlos Zambrano
Ted Lilly
Ryan Dempster
Rich Harden

The Bullpen -
Angel Guzman
Michael Wuertz

Sean Marshall
Chad Gaudin
Neal Cotts
Kevin Gregg
Jeff Samardzija
Carlos Marmol

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.

The Marquis du Suck is NOT failing his physical

It appears that your 2009 Cubs lineup is, as follows:

CF  Johnson/Fooky

SS  The Riot

3B  Clutchy McClutcherson

RF  Life!  by Milton Bradley

LF  Sori (I dropped that fly ball, I'll do better next time)

1B DPLee

C  Rookie-of-the-year

2B Icanseefor Miles

P  Pitcher du-jour

Let's go get 'em!!!

Hypothetical about Bradley

While we wait to find out if Milton Bradley'll actually be a Cub, some Goat Readers have been debating his value compared with, say, Adam Dunn.  I don't really have time to dive into it right now, but I will point out something that Colin pointed out a few weeks back (Colin, forgive me if I am distorting your argument).

Basically, let's say that Milton Bradley lives up to his type and plays in 110 games next year, while Adam Dunn stays healthy and plays in 150.

Counting runs not scored because of superior defense along with their offensive totals, the overall production of Milton Bradley + the guy who starts the other 52 games should actually still be better than the production of Adam Dunn + the guy who starts the other 12 games.  Maybe it'll be a close thing, but having the ability to hit 40 homeruns and walk 100 times will only get you so far.

Besides, answer me these two questions my friends:

1. With our without Bradley and Dunn, would you agree that the Cubs should be favored to win the NL Central and reach the playoffs?

2. If the Cubs are going to make the playoffs even without Bradley, does it matter if he's only healthy for, say, 66% of the season?

If the answer to #1 is "yes," and if the answer to #2 is "good point," then I will submit to you this...

Pound for pound, Bradley brings more to the team offensively and defensively when he's healthy.  If the Cubs are projected to be playoff bound anyway, then in my opinion Bradley's health is only really important for a maximum of 17 games, starting in early October -- and he'd be more likely to contribute to the Cubs winning 11 of those 17 games than Adam Dunn.

Just a thought for y'all.

My first Blog: Our team is fine right now... May need tweaking around deadline...

I will start by saying I think this is by far the best site on the net for Cubbie baseball discussion. I have learned so much about our system from top to bottom thanks to the blogs and discussion on goatriders. I have been telling all my fellow Cubbie Blue Bleeders about the site and they enjoy it as well. (OK did I suck up enough??") Here are just a few thoughts I've had concerning the team and the state we are in RIGHT NOW.

First the lineup as I see it right now:

1. Soriano

2. Fontenot

3. Lee (I still think he is a professional hitter at a high level )

4. Ramirez

5. Soto

6. Hoffpauir/Fukudome

7. Johnson/Fukudome

8. Theriot

9. Pitcher

Bench: Hoffpauir/Johnson/Fukudome, Bako, Cedeno, Miles, Gathright, Pie(I'm not giving up on a 24 year old with that much speed and talent, although it would be nice if someone could teach him to hit ML pitching.)

OK - Start to pick it apart. Not that different from last year, but we won 97 games. Another full year for Theriot, Fontenot, Soto. And maybe a full year for Soriano(healthy) and a better mechanically adjusted/americanized Fukudome makes the team stronger AS/IS.

Now if we sign THE LH RIGHT FIELDER EVERYONE THINKS WE NEED.

1. Soriano

2. Fukudome/Johnson (I think Fukudome could be the prototype #2 hitter. He definitely has control over the strike zone so he can take some pitches IF Soriano is healthy and could run again. I think he also understands the game and can move runners over and could post a solid OBP to set the table.

3. Ramirez

4. DUNN/Bradley  (Dunn is in caps because he is the superior, (although it sounds like all signs point to Milton "Mr. Congenialty/picture of health" Bradley, option. Dunn stays healthy, would be bouncing balls off buildings(when he hits it) and takes a ton of pitches, getting us into other teams bullpens early in the game.

5. Lee

6. Soto

7. Fontenot

8. Theriot

9. Picher

I love this lineup with Dunn. I guess I just don't want Bradley. I would give up the defenseand K's for the 40+ HR's and .380 OBP. The lineup would have great balance of Lefties and Righties and with Theriot and Fontenot at the back end if the pitchers could bunt that would set the table for Soriano.

PITCHING

Starters:

Zambrano

Harden

Dempster

Lilly

Marshall/Hill/Samardzija/Guzman (The best performer in the Spring)

I have not given up on Hill. He wouldn't bring much in trade right now. But he and a healthy Guzman both have the talent and pitches to be serviceable back end starters if they can solve their respective problems.

Bullpen: Marmol, Gregg, Cotts, Samardzija/Marshall/Hill/Guzman,Wuertz, Hart)

OK these are my thoughts in a nutshell. I think we are solid as we stand now and with a full year of experience in the Majors for (Soto, Theriot, Fontenot, Fukudome, Samardzija, Marmol) we will be even better this year. Of course everything hinges on health of key players: (SORIANO, Zambrano, HARDEN, Lee) I personally don't want to cripple an already weak farm to bring in Peavy or someone else. If we go get a rightfielder I pray it is Dunn. Expecting and paying Bradley for his POTENTIAL just seems to me like a VERY BAD IDEA. However it works out it will be fun to watch the CUBS ROLLER COASTER lead to a WORLD SERIES TITLE IN 2009!!!!

Matt in the Quad Cities

A long article on why Fontenot over DeRosa was the right way to go

It's been an interesting day in the Shout Box.  We've got a running debate on whether or not Cub fans should feel "safe" with Mike Fontenot replacing Mark DeRosa - assuming that Aaron Miles isn't the defacto starter.

The argument against Fontenot can be summarized as this:

1. He's only ever been a pinch hitter/occasional starter, and his good numbers come from one good streak
2. If he was actually any good, he would have been a highly-toted prospect and he would have started last year
3. He's neither going to be as good offensively or defensively as DeRosa

I'm going to systematically address all of these points now.

1. He's only ever been a pinch hitter/occasional starter, and his good numbers come from one good streak. You know who else that used to be true of?  Mark DeRosa.  DeRo was 31 years old before he played a season in which he saw more than 309 at bats.  In 1,123 at bats as a pinch hitter/occasional starter, DeRosa had a lifetime batting average of .262, and he'd hit 25 homeruns.

Do you know why he's done so much better as a starter since then?  It's partly because it's really hard to have good hitting numbers while playing as a pinch hitter/occasional starter. This argument is bunk for that reason alone.  If Fontenot has managed to put up not just acceptable but flat-out good numbers, it's a testament to his ability.

As for this "one good streak" line of logic ... Fontenot was solid in all of 2008.  He had an OPS higher than .786 in every month but April.  He had a Pre All Star batting average of only .266, but his OPS in that time was still .864 - better than DeRosa's over the span of the season - and he just got better after the break.

2. If he was actually any good, he would have been a highly-toted prospect and he would have started last year. Actually, Fontenot was a first round draft pick - they don't get much higher-toted than that - who was traded to the Cubs as a 24-year-old.  He actually made his debut in 2005, where noted prospect-lover Dusty Baker only gave him 2 at bats before he was banished back to the minors until Lou Piniella came along.

Before he earned his way onto the 2007 team, the Cubs signed Mark DeRosa to a 3-year deal to mostly play the position that Fontenot calls his own.  In other words, he wouldn't have started because before he had the chance to prove himself, the Cubs had already filled his position with a very able veteran player.

However I need to point out that this argument comes from somebody who also wrote, "I don't follow hype, only performance."  This is ironic in two ways.  First, he'd already argued that the evidence against Fontenot as a starter ignores his performance as a major leaguer and stems from how Fontenot wasn't "hyped" - he was apparently not a hightly-toted prospect.  Second, the same reader feels that Felix Pie - a well-hyped former top center field prospect - should get to replace the outstanding production of Jim Edmonds/Reed Johnson despite the fact that Pie is a career .223 hitter in 260 major league at bats.  But apparently it should be easier to put up better production when you've only had 200 or 300 career at bats, since you're "only" playing as a pinch hitter/occasional starter.  I'm just pointing out the flaws in logic.

3. He's neither going to be as good offensively or defensively as DeRosa

In his career, Fontenot has seen 479 at bats - the equivilent of just under a full season.  He's a .290 hitter, with an OBP of .369 and an OPS of .826.  He's hit 34 doubles, 5 triples, 12 homeruns, and he's stolen 7 bases.

Let's ignore DeRosa's career offensive numbers and give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let's say that DeRo puts up the average of his past 3 years, despite the fact that he'll be 34 years old and may be at the beginning of a decline.  This is what he'd look like:

566 plate appearances - 509 AB, .291 AVG, 33 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 57 BB, 4 SB, .368 OBP, .821 OPS.

In 566 plate appearances, Fontenot projects to the following based on his career numbers:

505 AB, .290 AVG, 36 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 61 BB, 7 SB, .369 OBP, .826 OPS.

In other words, they would be very similar offensively, except Fontenot is 6 years younger and bats left handed.  But what about defensively?  To best determine this figure, let's consult Fangraphs and the UZR150.  UZR150 refers to the "ultimate zone rating" and it calculates the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs and error runs combined per 150 defensive games.

According to Fangraphs, DeRosa's UZR150 at second base last year was -3.2.  Fontenot's was 12.4 - a difference of 15.6.  It's conceivable that Fontenot won't have an UZR150 that high as a full-time starter, but Fangraphics writer David Golebiewski paints Fontenot "pessimistically" at half that total.

Therefore, it's pretty easy to conclude that while Fontenot may not match DeRosa's numbers offensively next year, it would hardly be a stretch of the imagination to think he's capable.  What's more, Fontenot is defensively superior.

Considering that Fontenot is much younger, far less expensive, bats left handed, and has shown the capacity to produce at the major league level, then dealing DeRosa and letting Fontenot start is a no-brainer even if money wasn't the impetus of the trade. The Cubs are now more likely to upgrade in RF - and Bradley would be a great upgrade - and be a damaging team offensively next season. It's pretty hard to question this line of logic, at least on my end.  Let's see how far the logic gets stretched, though, should this debate continue.

Miles into the fray

Goat Friend Paul Sullivan made a very interesting remark about Aaron Miles in an article today.  I'll extrapolate so you don't have to go find it.  He wrote, "Holy crap, this guy is a light-hitting second baseman who sucks balls!" Clearly, Sullivan is looking to get fired from the Tribune before they crash in a ball of flames from being in tons of debt.

No, actually he wrote that Jim Hendry may or may not be considering the possibility that "Miles would replace Alfonso Soriano as leadoff man, though it gives Piniella the option to change."

I apparently have garnered a reputation as not being a "stat man."  This reputation probably stems from my belief that if statistics and projections were the end-all be-all, then we wouldn't need to actually play the games; instead we could just run a simulation that would play the game for us.  However, statistics are a great indication of the likelihood of future success - although they fail to project accurately just often enough to be annoying.  If Miles's history means anything, then I can only hope that either a) Paul Sullivan was writing about some other journo's question to Hendry regarding the leadoff possibility or b) Sully was drunk writing before he sent that article off to press. 

Miles is a career .289 hitter coming off of a season in which he batted .317.  His OBP last year was .355, but in his career it's a meager .329.  In fact, Miles has never drawn more than 38 walks in a single season.

Two other things should be considered.  In the past 3 seasons, Miles has had 230 at bats from the #1 spot in the batting order, where he batted .230 with an OBP of .265 and an OPS of .578.

However, in the past 3 seasons, Miles has actually led off an inning 313 times.  In those 313 at bats, he's got a .316 AVG with an OBP of .357.  But I will submit to you, the faithful Goat Reader, that a guy who has only had one season in which he hit 20 or more doubles, and only one season in which he has stolen more than 4 bases, and only one season in which he has had an OPS higher than .697, is a player who belongs in the everyday Cubs lineup about as much as Mickey Effin' Mouse does.

I hope with total sincerity that Miles is used correctly next year.  That's not as a leadoff hitter; it's not even as a starting second baseman batting 8th - or 9th, as he was used at times by LaRussa - but instead as a crafty bench star who can keep an inning alive with a slap single and can play almost any position on the diamond.

But if he starts, and especially if he leads off, then the Cubs will be playing a lot of games in 2009 at a disadvantage.  They have better options, and Lou is smart enough to know that.  Let's just praise Allah that Piniella doesn't automatically play his veterans with the bigger contracts.

Kurt's special Cubs roster scenarios post

Editor/Writer's Note - In an earlier post today, Rob made a very eloquent point when he wrote "Where's the funny?"  Sometimes it's hard to forget that I am but a simple blogger, and not an expert baseball analyst.  So, I will make an effort to remember the funny - or at least my bizarre, humorless brand of it - in the future.

I posted an article the other day in which I proposed the two likeliest lineups if the Cubs entered April with their current roster.  Since I'm off work early, I figured I'd take another crack at it and look at a few possible hypothetical moves the Cubs could perhaps theoretically potentially make, maybe.  Let's revisit the two of recent debate first:

Option the First - Cubs stand pat

I'm on record as not being a fan of this option.  This option puts DeRosa in RF, it puts Fontenot at 2B, and it makes the Cubs a worse team offensively than they were last year.  I'm basing this statement on two facts - the surprising offensive boon of Reed/Edmonds in center won't be back, and DeRosa is more likely to put up similar numbers to Fontenot than he is to duplicate '08's offensive bounty. And let's not even get started on the likelihood that meh-diocre shortstop Ryan Theriot is likely to return to earth in a ball of of screaming fire.  (Yes, I know, fire doesn't actually scream, but when things fall to earth from the heavens they do make a kind of noise that mimics how most women sound when they see me nekkid for the first time.)

Option the Second - Cubs sign Dunn, and either start in in LF (moving Soriano to RF) or in RF

I am on record here saying that I find this option to be better than the first one.  I'll clarify a bit and say that it's still pretty shizz-itty.  As Maddog and others have so aptly pointed out, Dunn is the defensive equivilent of a box, while he is the offensive equivilent of a boom.  (I guess that makes him a boxboom or something.)  Smarter people than me have pointed out that his defensive shortcomings completely defeat his offensive gains, and lamer people than me have voiced unequivocal support for Dunn even over a better option like Milton Bradley.

Nobody's really given me a direct answer, but I admit I don't know everything - or even much, really - and I'm wondering why Soriano would be a bad choice in RF.  While it's true that he drops too many easy fly balls, I would think that he'd adjust to playing RF in Wrigley before too long and his arm is so plus that it tricks pregnancy tests.  But if Sori would be defensively atrocious in RF, and if Dunn would be defensively attrocious in LF, while I still think* the net gain of runs would be higher than Option The First, this is still not what you'd call a good option.  While it's really not my money, it's probably not the optimal way to spend 12 or more million a year.  Let's explore other ideas.

(*I could be wrong about that, and some people would be happy to tell you just how wrong I am.  But I ask you, if I'm so wrong, doesn't it eventually become a double negative, therefore making me right?  Smoke that one in your pipe, pal!)

Option the Third - Cubs sign Bradley to play RF, and either deal DeRo or keep him at second

Now we're cooking with napalm.  Bradley may not have the healthiest body, but neither did Andre Dawson.  He may not have the best attitude, but neither did Dave Kingman.  He may not have the ... well, that's pretty much where the may nots stop.  Bradley hits the ball with anger, he's defensively decent when healthy, and he is a switch hitter.  He is without a doubt a superior option to Adam Dunn.  Note to those who disagree with this irrefutable fact: it doesn't matter how epic a homerun he hits, nor does it matter what crazy OPS he has, Adam Dunn's game is so one-dimensional that if it turned sideways he could slide through the cracks of a closed door.  I'm just sayin'.

As for DeRosa, I'm not opposed to the Cubs trading him but I'd be less inclined if they sign Bradley for one simple reason: insurance.  Bradley has a potential to injure, and if he goes down then DeRosa would almost certainly be an adequate replacement in the outfield.  However, one reason to advocate a trade - Fontenot is a much cheaper lefty option with the potential to put up similar numbers to DeRosa.

Option the Fourth - Cubs sign Bobby Abreu to play RF, and either deal DeRo or keep him at second

This is also a better option than Dunn.  I've been pretty well opposed to signing Abreu because he's old, his numbers are on the decline, and he's not a defensive juggernaut.  However, if he'd entertain a shorter contract, he probably has a few good years left in him and might be worth pursuing, and chances are he won't cost any more than Dunn would.  I'd say this isn't as good an option as #3, but if the Cubs did indeed sign Bobby Abs, then I'd be more welcoming to a DeRosa trade.

Besides, if Abreu - or for that matter Dunn or Bradley - was in the lineup with Fontenot, then the Cubs could basically try a batting order consisting of...

1. Theriot, R
2. Fontenot, L
3. Ramirez, R
4. Bradley/Dunn/Abreu, S/L
5. Soriano, R
6. Lee, R
7. Soto, R
8. Fukudome, L

Or even ...

1. Fontenot, L
2. Lee, R
3. Bradley/Dunn/Abreu S/L
4. Ramirez, R
5. Soriano, R
6. Soto, R
7. Fukudome, L
8. Theriot, R

It would be just a little more evenly distributed of a lineup, one which would give me warm and fuzzy feelings in my stomach as the Cubs approached October as an offensive juggernaut bound to win the World Series.

Option the Fifth - Hendry makes a trade for a yet-to-be-determined RFer who bats lefty

Possibly the most likely option.  If the Cubs are playing on a shoe-stringed budget, then this might be their only path to improvement.  Chances are, this theoretical guy would have the ability to put up similar numbers to DeRosa in '08 and the Cubs could then focus on moving DeRo for some bullpen help while trying desperately to make ammends to the Cub Fan Nation for letting Kerry Wood sign with Cleveland.  Jim Hendry, I'll never forgive you unless you buy me a car, or at least pay off my student loans.

Conclusion

Last week when things got obnoxiously serious, I was painted into a corner of Dunn Defense.  Although I said "he's not my first choice," I still became a Dunn apologist and nobody seemed to bother to ask "if he's not your first pick, then who is?"

All told, I'll maintain the following view point: sitting on one's laurels is not good, because one rarely gets the chance to stand up.  But all told, Dunn is for Dopes.  I suspect and maintain that he'll be a plus compared to any DeRosa other than the '08 model - even when you take into account that he plays the outfield like it's littered with banana peels - but that doesn't make him the best option for the Cubs.   Instead, pursue Milton Bradley.  Chase Abreu.  Swing an Epic Trade that will cause many Cub fans to shiz their piz's.  (Hint: piz in this case = pants.)  But please, whatever happens, do not stand pat.  I'd like to see an even better Cubs team in 2009 than what we saw in 2008, because all good teams - even when they have a solid nucleus of players - has an expiration date, and there is no promise that the 2010 Cubs will be in position to do anything but suck.

New lineup thoughts for the new year

I've been thinking about the questions I recently asked in a different post - if the Cubs move DeRosa to RF, stick Fontenot at 2B, and rely on FukuReedome in center, what does the lineup look like next year?

Like always in these scenarios, I'll present you with two lineups - the one I would choose, and the one Lou will likely go with.  Here's Lou's first:

LF Alfonso Soriano R
SS Ryan Theriot R
1B Derrek Lee R
3B Aramis Ramirez R
RF Mark DeRosa R
C Geovany Soto R
2B Mike Fontenot L
CF Fukudome-Johnson L/R

On paper, it's not the worst lineup in the world, although it's not as good as last year's team and it's no more balanced than last year's.  Maybe Lou would trade Fontenot and Theriot in the lineup to better balance things out, maybe not.

If I were making the lineup, I'd be more inclined to go this route ...

SS Ryan Theriot - I wouldn't expect a .307 AVG out of him again, but in 1,264 career at bats he now has a batting average of .290 and an OBP of .362.  If he can avoid getting caught stealing at such a horrible ratio, he's probably a good option to bat leadoff.

2B Mike Fontenot - In a different world, I'd put DeRosa in this spot because he really puts up ideal #2 hitter numbers, but then again I think Fontenot is capable of matching DeRo's offensive output next year anyway, and he's the ever-alusive lefty.  He also is a career .290 hitter with an OBP of .369.  He may be capable of stealing 10+ bases in a season and he should be good for 30-40 doubles and 10-15 homeruns ... assuming he's not a fluke.

3B Aramis Ramirez - He should've batted 3rd all of last year, too.  Ramirez - who drew 24 more walks than he'd ever drawn before - hits the ball hard, he hits it often, he doesn't strike out a lot, and he's capable of having a good OBP.  He's the best option on the entire team at this point.

LF Alfonso Soriano - They say he's not able to handle change, I say he'll just have to suck it up and live with it.  Soriano might start the year in a slump, but he'll get comfortable eventually and if he can finish the year healthy, he's got the ability to hit 40+ homeruns as the team's cleanup hitter.

C Geovany Soto - I don't know what to expect from Geo next year, but as he will be 26 his numbers should be on the rise.  If he can even only match last year's production, then he's probably a better choice to protect Soriano than Lee.

1B Derrek Lee - I'm not as down on Lee as some people became during the course of the past season, but I don't think he's got the stroke to bat third anymore.  If he can even only come near last year's performance - 20 homers, a .291 AVG, a .361 OBP, an .821 OPS - then he'd fit in fine batting 6th.

RF Mark DeRosa - Actually this is the first time I'm torn.  I'd almost rather insert Fukudome here if only to create the illusion of a more balanced lineup, but DeRosa is likely to put up a better offensive production than Kosuke, and even Reed Johnson.

CF Fuku-Johnson - Hey, you never know, Fukudome just might emerge as an offensive threat in 2009.  If he does, then the Cubs have a solid-if-somewhat-problematic lineup next year.  And even if he doesn't, they'll still probably be one of the 5 best in the league.

All things considered, on paper it's not a bad lineup.  Everybody but Theriot is capable of hitting at least 12 homers, everybody but Fukudome is likely to bat .275 or better, and the 3-5 guys can hit the ball a ton, just like you want.

The issue here is the same one from last year - it's not a well-balanced lineup.  It would be nice to have an offensively damaging left-handed batter in the cleanup spot, for example. But from Games 1 to 162, the Cubs could definitely find themselves playoff bound with this lineup.  And once they get into the playoffs ... well, it's a crapshoot, right?

I guess my only problem with the team as it's built now is that it's just not better than last year's squad, and last year's Cubs didn't win.  To me, the objective is to win the World Series ... if you fail, tinker a little, make some changes, you don't have to blow it all up!!! but I'd definitely like to have seen the Cubs do more than maintain the status quo.

Maybe they won't do that.  Maybe they'll be fine with what they've got.  It's a possibility, anyway.

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