Cubs 2009 projections and thoughts

By Paul Schmidt

It’s a pretty remarkable thing that, as of the writing of these thoughts and musings leading into the 2009 season, less than 48 hours before the first pitch of the March to the World Series ™, and the Chicago Cubs’ pitching staff STILL isn’t set.
It must be by 2 PM on Sunday, so we will revisit the pitchers and my thoughts on the staff and their prospective performances this season in a little bit.

The offense, with my ultimately pessimistic thoughts, are as follows.

C – Geovany Soto  .300 batting average, 30 home runs, 87 runs batted in, .905 OPS (on base + slugging percentage)
This is a little bit higher than I’m seeing from most projection services, but based on the numbers I’ve seen from Geo in 2007 at AAA Iowa, and then in his rookie season last year, there’s certainly no reason to think that he would take a step back or even plateau at his numbers from last season.  After all, he’s only 26, and these numbers would put him at or near the top of pile of catchers.

1B – Derrek Lee .280 BA, 15 HR, 80 RBI, .825 OPS

These probably look a little low to a lot of people, but Lee’s 33, his stats have been slipping, and he’s become more and more of an injury risk since injuring his wrist.  IT should be noted that I’m only thinking in the range of 450 at bats for Lee, as well, with Micha Hoffpauir taking away some at bats and they try to keep Lee as fresh as possible. I do think that this will cause his OBP to spike over .400 for the season.

2B – Mike Fontenot .260 BA 10 HR, 65 RBI .750 OPS
The places we’ll miss Mark DeRosa, part one…I just am not confident in the every day capabilities of Little Babe Ruth.  Mike’s certainly a great clubhouse guy, and he’s an above average defender, and a double play combo that has played together as long as Fontenot and Theriot have just has to be great on defense.  However, he’s never played every day at the ML level, and there’s certainly going to be an adjustment period. On the plus side, it isn’t like Aaron Miles is a better option…..

3B – Aramis Ramirez .310 BA, 32 HR, 120 RBI, .880 OPS

The heart of the Cubs lineup, and the cleanup guy, and the most consistent hitter in the Cubs lineup the last 5 full seasons.   There’s no reason for change this season.

SS – Ryan Theriot .285 BA 2 HR 33 RBI .745 OPS
At this point, we know what Ryan Theriot is.  He’s draws some walks, steals some bases (but probably runs too often), and shows next to no power.  He’s got no upside that we don’t already know, and most likely trends downward this season, as his batting average on balls in play last season was nearly .340.  That is an abnormally high payoff on balls put in play, and surely means that his overall BA will drop this season, as a pretty high amount (read: lucky) return.



LF – Alfonso Soriano .297 BA 32 HR 103 RBI .810 OPS

It seems as though Alfonso, a player who had been largely durable for many seasons of his career appears to finally be healthy again this season, and I expect his numbers to return to something of the norm for him.  I’ve also got him penciled in for at least 30 steals this season, as I expect that he’ll be able to return to his normal patterns on the base paths.  Something that I think bears mentioning is that Soriano was so consistent in his number of games played and so durable for many years, and then these little nagging injuries started showing up. Groin pulls, and even more notably oblique strains are all characteristics of someone who…you guessed it…used steroids.  Now, perhaps Soriano is just getting older and a little more fragile. It certainly wouldn’t be unheard of.  It is odd that his is one name you just don’t hear thrown around in the steroids debate.

CF – Kosuke Fukudome .295 BA 14 HR 75 RBI .840 OPS
I’m of the opinion that Kosuke rebounds this season, and quite well – and it’s of the utmost importance to the Cubs season that he do it.  They need a great defender in the outfield, with Soriano in left and Milton “The DH” Bradley in RF.  They need a high OBP guy at the top of the lineup – and the one thing that Kosuke did do well last year was draw walks. AT any rate, maybe this is a pipe dream, but it takes into account how hard it is to adjust coming to America from Japan. The culture shock alone for the soft-spoken Fukudome would have made the whole process extremely difficult, not to mention being away from your family for so long.  Perhaps, in his second season here in the States, we’ll see him adjust better.

RF – Milton Bradley  .290 BA 12 HR 55 RBI .800 OPS (90 games played)
The place that the Cubs will miss Mark DeRosa, part 2.  Players who typically get injured don’t come to Chicago and get healthier.  They just don’t. There’s no way Bradley stays healthy long enough to make the contributions that the Cubs need him to.  He also is such a huge defensive liability that he won’t be out in the field very often late in games (at least, he really, really shouldn’t be). And from the standpoint of his injury history and his, ahem, temperamental nature is all the more reason that this signing was a huge, huge mistake.  I hope I’m wrong.  God, do I hope I’m wrong.

Cubs Spring Training Exchange

By Paul Schmidt and David K.

(PS) I know that it’s a little bit of a cliché, but I always love the beginning of Spring Training. It excites me.  Makes me giddy.  Puts a little hop in my step.

The funny thing is, for me, I swore it was going to take me a while to get over last season’s playoff defeat.  I swore that I wouldn’t recover until at LEAST the end of spring training, that I wouldn’t try to get tickets, etc.

As it was, I went to get my bracelet for tickets, I got up and called all morning and got on the internet all morning last Friday for tickets, and I’m getting that insane feeling that always occurs leading up to the season.

I guess my question is….is this normal?

(DK)  Absolutely.  It’s a rite of passage for any baseball fan to get jacked up for the start of Spring Training, even though I have always felt the whole excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting has been massively overrated.  Right now, my interest in the start of the baseball season is at an all-time low.

It is partially because I am so obsessed with college basketball that I don’t have the time or energy to start thinking about the start of the baseball season.  The other part is I am still suffering the hangover of the Cubs being swept out of the first round of the post-season for a second straight year.

(PS)  It’s that hangover that you speak of that I thought I wouldn’t be able to shake.  And I guess in some ways I haven’t – I won’t be watching any spring training this year, and I usually check some out. I am excited for BASEBALL –and I think that’s the distinction – but not quite as excited about the Cubs, necessarily.  Good to know, however, that I’m normal.  I can’t wait to tell my wife!

I thought this might be a fun exercise – give me the rotation and the lineup as you see it.


(DK) I enjoy fun exercises.

Rotation: Los, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marshall

Marshall is believed to have a leg up in the race for the 5th spot, ahead of Jeff Samardzija.  Hopefully Marshall ends up back in the bullpen when the Cubs acquire, oh, I don’t know… Jake Peavy?    Lilly gets the number three spot over Harden so that the Cubs don’t start lefties in back-to-back games.  Expect another short leash on Harden to keep him healthy throughout the season and rested for potential-October baseball.  I would not be surprised to see Samardzija replace Marshall at some point during the season, or for him to get a few spot starts when Lou wants to give Harden a rest.

Line-up:

SS Theriot

LF Soriano

1B D-Lee

3B Ramirez

RF Bradley

C Soto

CF Fukudome/ Reed Johnson

2B Miles/Fontenot

I would really love to see The Riot in the lead-off spot instead of Soriano.  The Riot hits for average, uses all fields, and does not swing out of his shoes every other pitch.  Plus, he actually takes pitches and doesn’t whiff on every sweeping curve ball low and away when he is down in the count.  Lou has made comments this Spring Training that he is contemplating moving Fonsie down in the line-up, but I guess we will have to wait and see if he pulls the trigger.

The other question I have is- do you put Bradley in the clean-up spot and move A-Ram to the five hole so you break up the four right-handed hitters you have at the top of the order?  It will also be interesting to see how Fukudome bounces back after an abysmal end to last season and if he will end up in a true platoon with Reed Johnson based on lefty/righty match-ups.

(PS) I actually would throw Milton into the cleanup spot, I like the idea of splitting up our big righty bats a little bit. I’d love to find a way to get Soto higher in the lineup too, but I can’t figure out exactly how we’ll do it.  I think that you pretty much nailed everything, but I’m predicting a bigger rebound from Fukudome this season, after a year of adjusting to American life, and the possibility of him leading off is pretty good.  I hope.

I also do agree with the rotation, but I hope that one point is wrong – For now, I want to see Szmardjizjaijajiazjia in the bullpen.  He still only has two pitches, and I know that that can be a detriment to any starter (you really have to have at least a third pitch to be effective).  Plus, the bullpen is already depleted and there’s a ton of question marks there.  Jeff S. is a little bit more of a sure thing as an end of game option.  And I do like that option.

Do we have any options in the minor leagues that you like for that spot, or for bullpen spots (a la Kevin Hart)?

I figure that now is NOT the time for regular season predictions, too much can happen in Spring Training.  And since so much can happen….how about five predictions for Spring Training?

(DK) 1. Micah Hoffpauir KILLS the ball.

2. We constantly hear about how great of a teammate Milton Bradley is, as he puts on his “good guy” persona to get people behind him..

3. Carlos Marmol wins the closer job as your boy Kevin Gregg struggles to find his groove.

4. 41 year old Mike Stanton makes the roster as a situational lefty out of the bullpen.

5. I don’t watch a single Spring Training game.

(PS) And we’ll definitely agree on 5….