|Anything Goes: Woe Be with the Cubs|
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on July 01, 2009
The wonderful resource Baseball-Reference lists the Cubsâ€™ 2009 defensive alignment as follows (based off most Plate Appearances played at a particular position, and with OPS+ in parentheses beside the name):
First Base, Derrek Lee (116)
Second Base, Aaron Miles (30)
Third Base, Mike Fontenot (71)
Short Stop, Ryan Theriot (96)
Left Field, Alfonso Soriano (85)
Center Field, Kosuke Fukudome (107)
Right Field, Milton Bradley (89)
Folks, no team with six of their eight non-pitcher batters with an under-100 OPS+ is competing.Â Just not happening.Â But letâ€™s remember, Aramis Ramirez will be back soon, and heâ€™s a marked improvement over whatever Mike Fontenot claims to be.Â (No offense, Mike, but it doesnâ€™t appear you are a regular starter in the Majors.)Â Also, I doubt Soto will continue to stink, and Soriano ought to pick up some batting average.
But what about Milton Bradley?Â I donâ€™t know if Jim Hendry realized this, but the Cubs already had two big bowls of crazy in the dugout last year, those being manager Lou Piniella and â€˜aceâ€™ Carlos Zambrano.Â I realize that Bradley is a great hitter, but he had an undeniable career year in 2008, and the Cubs pounced.Â Heâ€™s regressing to the mean, but by no means is he a below average hitter.
I donâ€™t often write about chemistry in baseball, because thereâ€™s evidence that itâ€™s irrelevant.Â How many fights did the 1977 Yankees get into?Â Enough to win a championship.Â The Bronx Zoo wasnâ€™t just a nickname, folks, those players were all crazy and Billy Martin was the fuse.
Itâ€™s not necessarily the craziness, but the accountability.Â I thought it was funny when Piniella tossed Bradley out of the game for throwing a tantrum.Â Hello Kettle, meet Pot.Â Can Piniella honestly sit in front of reporters and speak about being mature and calm, when heâ€™s liable to run onto the field during a game, kick some dirt on another grown man and maybe, if heâ€™s feeling frisky, just rip a base out from the ground and fling it a couple feet?
Moving on, back to my specialty, the on-field performance.Â Weâ€™ve discussed the hitting, and itâ€™s not pretty.Â But the pitching isnâ€™t great either.
Letâ€™s ignore the numbers for a second.Â Only one of these pitchers has true dominance potential, and thatâ€™s Rich Harden, and heâ€™s never going to be around for the dance.Â Is it Carlos Zambrano?Â You canâ€™t ignore the walk totals or the meltdowns.Â Ryan Dempster is a LAIM.Â Ted Lilly is a fine mid-rotation starter, but not an ace.
It appears the Cubs lack a shutdown starter.Â Look at their competition for the NL pennant this year.Â Weâ€™ve got the Dodgers and Chad Billingsley, whoâ€™d easily be the best pitcher in Cubbie blue.Â The Mets have Johan Santana, the Phillies have Cole Hamels.Â The Brewers have Yovani Gallardo, who is secretly having a monster year.Â Even the somewhat hapless Reds have Johnny Cueto (all BABIP related jokes aside).Â
The bullpen isnâ€™t bad, though.Â If you can find some junk to place around Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg, youâ€™ll be fine.
But will the Cubs as a whole be fine?Â The offense will improve...but how much?Â The pitching probably is what it is.Â
Right now, June 30th, the Cubs are still my pick to win the NL Central, but thatâ€™s got a lot more to do with the crappiness of the division than the quality of the North-Siders.
It might be 101 years, Cub fans.