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Do you believe in miracles? Here are 5 keys to a successful Cubs 2013 season

Do you believe in miracles? Here are 5 keys to a successful Cubs 2013 season

When I first looked at the picture above, I couldn't tell if these Cubs players were searching for something, gambling, or praying. Let's face it.  The Cubs will probably need to do all 3 this season.  The reality is that the organization really isn't about 2013.  Not as far as contending for any kind of title, anyway.  But strange things do happen in baseball -- maybe they'll find a missing piece or two, have some risks payoff, and get a lot of help from the baseball gods.

Instead of our 5 things to watch for, we give you 5 keys to the season.  The lineups are at the bottom of the article today and this will also serve as our Game Thread....

1. Pitching depth:  The Cubs addressed this in their offseason and that's a good thing.  The Cubs knew they'd have questions about Matt Garza and Scott Baker and so far, their worst fears have been realized.  Both players will start the season on the DL and will miss at least a month and a half.  To prepare, the Cubs stocked up on depth this season.  In addition to signing Baker, they've also picked up Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva.  Jackson was expected to be a mainstay and now the latter two are now assured a chance at proving their worth in the rotation to start the season.  Had they not had this depth, the Cubs would have had to have rolled the dice with as many as 4 unproven starters -- 5 if you aren't convinced Jeff Samardzija is the real deal yet.  As it is, the Cubs will have 5 starters who have at least experienced some success in their major league careers to try and hold the fort until Garza and Baker can return.

The Cubs also have a deeper bullpen this year whereas last year they had to rely on good, but erratic young arms in key spots.  This season the Cubs will have experienced veterans in the late innings: Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, Shawn Camp, and James Russell.  They could also be joined later in the year by Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva.  The younger, unproven arms such as Michael Bowden and Hector Rondon, will be the long/middle relievers and guys like Rafael Dolis, Lendy Castillo, and Brooks Raley will get much needed seasoning in the minors.  The Cubs also have hard-throwing relief prospects Trey McNutt, Marcus Hatley, and Tony Zych waiting in the wings.

2. Maximizing production with platoons:  To me, this has been obvious from the moment the Cubs signed OF'er Nate Schierholtz rather than pursuing big names like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher.  Instead of making long term investments on players who will be in their peak years while the Cubs rebuild, the Cubs opted to go with short term solutions on talented, but perhaps incomplete, players.  Schierholtz and Scott Hairston were once top prospects in their respective organizations but neither has lived up to expectations -- but each has shown some potential for productivity behind the numbers.  The Cubs hope getting Schierholtz out of AT&T and limiting exposure against LHP will maximize his production while Scott Hairston, who mashes LHP, can pick up the slack on short side of the platoon.  The Cubs are hoping from the same from Dave Sappelt in CF as he fills in for David DeJesus against the LHP that have been DDJ's nemesis over the past couple of years.  Manager Dale Sveum may well go with a 3rd platoon at 3B to start the season with Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge.  Individually, none of these players are expected to be stars or even average starters, but it's a case where the Cubs are betting that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.  Even the backup catchers could give Welington Castillo a few days off vs. the tougher RHPs.  Both Dioner Navarro (switch-hitter) and Steve Clevenger provide a LH bat for that scenario.

3. Breakout years by key players:  The Cubs have some intriguing young players who have not yet reached their peak years, led by All-Star SS Starlin Castro.  Castro has been working on two key weaknesses in the past couple of offseasons -- his defense and pitch selection at the plate.  There is definite improvement on defense, where Castro had a well above average UZR/150 between May and August, but he'll look to put in a more consistent, complete season defensively as his new and improved mechanics become more natural.  Castro has shown signs of a more disciplined approach late in the season and this spring. A great percentage of his OBP will always be generated by his ability to hit for average, but if Castro can supplement that with just a league average walk rate, he'll become much more valuable at the top of the order.  There is a chance that Castro develops more power as well as he continues to fill out physically and improve his approach.

Anthony Rizzo is another candidate to build on a solid season.  Rizzo has also made key adjustments in the past couple of offseasons and this year those things should become more natural to him as well, which hopefully leads to a more consistent season.  The Cubs are already relying on Rizzo to become their primary source of LH power in their lineup.  His approach at the plate as far as pitch selection and using all fields continues to evolve.  So has his defense, which has Gold Glove potential.

Welington Castillo is being given a leadership role this season behind the plate and he has worked hard to be able to handle that great responsibility.  His defense is far ahead of where it was 2 years ago and his ability to call a game is light years better.  Castillo has the natural tools to be a force behind the plate.  He is agile and moves well while possessing a cannon for an arm, able to throw lasers to 2nd base even from his knees.  At the plate, Castillo's pitch selection has also improved though he is extremely aggressive in the strike zone,  where he frequently sells out for power.  This likely means he won't hit for a high average though it also means a lot of hard contact, which may lead to high BABIPs despite his glacial speed from home to first.  As long as he provides plus defense and game management behind the plate, however, the Cubs will settle for a decent OBP with solid to plus pop from a catcher.

Another player who may be in line for a breakout is pitcher Travis Wood.  He's had a good spring but has shown flashes of being an above average pitcher throughout his young career.  It's been a matter of consistency with his command.  Wood cannot afford to fall behind hitters or leave the ball up in the zone.  He seems to be figuring that out and has improved his approach on the mound.  He has the athleticism to develop plus command to support that improved approach and if he does, he average stuff will play up enough so that he can be a long term asset in the rotation.

4. Midseason minor league boost:  The Cubs top ceiling talent is at the lower level of the minors but they do have some potental starters and role players at the upper levels.  Brett Jackson is the top among those and he has worked hard to fix the holes in his swing.  The early results are promising but Jackson will have to prove it's for real at Iowa to start the season.  Jackson could solve the Cubs CF question by midseason as a player who can upgrade defense, speed, and power at the position.  He also handles lefties well enough to play everyday.  But his potential to be that kind of asset all rests on his ability to make more consistent contact.

Junior Lake and Logan Watkins are both dynamic, athletic players who can add speed, energy, and versatility to a team that is somewhat one dimensional roster-wise.  They may not project as starters, especially right away, but they could make impacts as situational players early on.  With 3B still open at the MLB level, Josh Vitters gets another opportunity as well as Lake will start the season on the DL.

As mentioned earlier, the bullpen could well get a dose of power arms sometime this season.

5. Luck:  All of the above can make the Cubs a better team than expected but it likely won't be enough.  There is one element that can give them an additional boost and that is the element of luck.  Sometimes the ball bounces your way and on rare occasion, it can last for an entire season.  We've seen it happen with Cubs past teams and with surprises like Oakland and Baltimore last season.  This is the part of your season that no computer projection can account for and unfortunately, it's one the Cubs will be relying heavily on this season.  The future plan is to remove as much luck from the equation as possible but the Cubs are nowhere near that right now.

In the news today...

  • Sveum has announced some roster decisions and Brent Lillibridge an Michael Bowden are now locks.  But if you read our Opening Day Roster piece, you probably already knew that.
  • Here is an interesting article on minor league ballpark effects by Baseball America.  Iowa is near the bottom as far as average runs in the PCL but would rank 2nd in the IL, the other AAA league.  On the other hand, Tennessee is the biggest hitters park in the AA Southern League.  Daytona is also one of the better hitter parks in the FSL, but that leagues' offensive numbers pale in comparison to those put up in the rival California League.   And the low A ball team should see virtually no changes from moving to Peoria to Kane County, both stadiums are near the bottom for offensive numbers and have very similar statistics.

Today's Lineups

Vs. the Dodgers at 3 pm CT today.  Audio on MLB.com

Note: Jody Davis will join Mick Gillespie in the booth today.

  1. Barney 2B
  2. Castro SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Hairston LF
  5. Sappelt CF
  6. Castillo C
  7. Lillibridge 3B
  8. Bogusevic RF
  9. Feldman P

Vs. the Mariners at 9 pm CT tonight.  The game will be on WGN radio and you can also catch live video of the game on MLB.com.  I'm going to do both.

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Valbuena 3B
  3. Schierholtz RF
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Navarro C
  6. Baez SS
  7. Nelson 1B
  8. Gonzalez 2B
  9. Samardzija P

 

 

 

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  • What the hell are they doing in that pic? If I had to take a guess, I'd say they are shooting dice. I'll take that as a sign that I should place on bet on the Cubs. 80-1 to win the World Series. 40-1 for NL Pennant. Powerball didn't work out, maybe this will...

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Haha! I was wondering the same thing. Looks to me like some had cards in their hands. I'm not much of a card player but it looks like they may have thrown one on the ground and one player is pointing at it.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    You might want to save your money for Powerball.

  • Good stuff John! I noticed no mention of Vitters. Have you given up on him, for this year anyways?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    My hopes are fading, but I probably should have included him anyway ;) He will always have natural hitting ability, it's just a matter of him making use of it. I think Lake has passed him up though, and he is going to have to unblock that obstacle with a great start while Lake recovers.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    And thanks Hoosier. I just added a blurb on Vitters.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We need him to establish that Bat at the MLB level so he has SOME value to someone..... Although, "IF" he can become just an average defender and play the 4 corners, and hit like he's capable of... He'd be worth keeping as a role/bench player.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think he's a role player because he'll hit enough to make a roster somewhere, probably in the AL.

  • One has a cell phone in his hands.

  • Good eye!

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    Other than I think you should have listed "Luck" at the very top, I find nothing to disagree with here. Good job!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Haha! Thanks. That definitely is the biggest factor, no doubt about it.

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    Even if all 5 of these things come true, I still don't think the Cubs can be a real threat. There was a sliver of a chance that the Cubs could surprise, but losing both Garza and Baker for an extended period of time essentially killed that for me. At this point all I can really hope for is breakout seasons from Castro, Rizzo, Samardzija and Castillo. Then at the trade deadline pray the Cubs trade everybody except their core for more good young prospets. Unfortuantely, that seems to be the outlook of the Cubs this season.

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    Didn't mean to sound like a downer on the article John. It was really well done! Want to make sure you didn't take this comment as a shot at you.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Thanks...I know what you meant. Certainly a long shot even if the first 4 times all go as planned. They'll need an unusual amount of luck to be in contention.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    It's a long shot, no doubt. Like #5 implies, they're going to need just about every break to go their way.

  • John, nice article. The optimist in me, usually can grasp a hold of these straws and run with it, but I can't do that two years in a row...especially after last year. I think the FO really wants to keep the win total in the low 70s (or lower), secure a top-10 pick in '14 and continue the trend of turning short term assets into long term ones. This is a good year to suck, since I will be in Afghanistan soon. Keep up the good work.

  • In reply to RayA:

    Thanks Ray. I think this is going to be the last year the Cubs are going to go strictly with flyer types. I think they're just buying time and hoping things work against all odds -- and yes, I don't think they'll be crushed if they get another top 10 pick.

    And thanks for serving. Very much appreciated.

  • The Cubs luck can't be much worse this year. Last year all their catchers were injured, releavers tanked, 3B injured, and our crnter fielder didn't show up. Who could have guessed all of that? Better luck alone should be worth 10 victories.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I thought about things like that. The Cubs have had nothing but bad luck so far -- they're bound to have a few things bounce their way! At least I hope so.

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    I think the best the Cubs can hope to do is to not finish last in the division, and given the stage in the rebuild process they presently are in and the rules that limit their ability to acquire top amateur talent, I'm not sure we should wish for that. If this club manages not to lose 100 games, still gets a top 10 pick in the 2014 draft, manages to get something of greater value than a compensatory pick for its veterans who don't figure into its future before the trade deadline and sees its young players get better, I will consider it a successful season.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed. Great points.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you John. Great minds do tend to think alike. BTW, did you see what Callis had to say about Kris Bryant in his chat session yesterday?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I did. And I tend to agree though I know Kevin feels differently. I don't think he's good enough on ceiling to be a 2nd pick but I do think he's in that group of top 7 guys.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm conflicted about it for sure. I don't know if Bryant is everything Kevin cracks him up to be, but I agree he might be the safest bet in the draft, and I know the history of pitchers drafted in the first round. There might not be a bigger craps shoot than taking a pitcher in the first round. Kevin is right. There will be pitchers further down in this draft with a ton of upside that won't cost near what Appel and Manaea will in bonus money. The bonus money alone is almost enough to make me say that, if they decide to go pitching with the second overall pick, they should go with Gray.

    I really don't think Houston will take Appel or Manaea. I think they'll do exactly what they did last year and take the best player who will save them money. So I think Benson or Gray could go first overall.

    The case for Appel is compelling as well though. If he stays healthy his floor is the highest or any pitcher in the draft, and his upside might just be Justin Verlander, but he is a bigger gamble.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Appel has been my guy from the start. There tends to be better luck with the pitchers at the very top so I'm hopeful. It's early but the pitchers taken at the top of the last two drafts are still top prospects. I think you take the risk simply because the two most talented players in the draft may be Appel and Manaea, with Gray having a chance to enter the conversation later.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I don't know, but I don't see the Brew crew as being all that great this year. One top notch starter isn't going to make you a playoff team, and I wonder if Corey Harts injuries are going to hurt his O production this year. I don't see the Brew crew as that much better than the Cubs.

  • Re: Pitching depth. I've seen Feldman pitch this spring and I have real concerns about his ability to give the Cubs quality starts. His pitch-to-contact ratio is high and he needs a big ballpark in order to be successful.

  • In reply to ZonaMan:

    He improved on his ability to miss bats last season. Whether that was a fluke or a change in trend remains to be seen, but I'm not going to take too much stock in what happens with veterans in the spring.

  • In reply to ZonaMan:

    Feldman did win 17 games in 2009, pitchin g half his games in that pitchers nightmare, the ballpark in Arlington. He seems to have streaks where he throws well(he did win 5 in a row last year at one point), but he has problems with consistency.

  • John, what do you make of them pulling Javy Baez from minor league camp to play tonight?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Now that is interesting. Particularly since AZ-Phil lists Baez an Soler at AA Tennessee, and Vogelbach at A+ Daytona. Maybe the cubs think they are ready for fast tracking these guys after all.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    why not they all are showing accelerated growth and plain mashing the ball, loosen the reigns a bit and let the kids abilities decide how fast they move. Baez could play this year . Sure He would have rough stretches but on a 100 loss team does that matter as long as no long term damage is done to his confidence, know Javiers makeup I dont think anything could break that kids confidence. He is plain too good .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    You can't play guys who haven't had even a full year at A ball in the majors. Spring Training stats are basically worthless. Veterans are never as bad as they look in ST and rookies are never as good. It's nice that they are having success statistically, but the more important thing is getting experience and having the MLB coaches get to see them and work with them. They aren't facing true breaking balls (because of the weather) or even facing pitchers with scouting reports in ST. They both likely won't see their first glimpse of MLB until late 2014 at the earliest, and they shouldn't, they aren't ready no matter what they hit in ST.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    please read my comment again, it says let the players abilities decide how fast they move. I said Baez could play this year ability wise .

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Hitting is confidence. A true measure of success is how one responds to failure. Baez hasn't failed yet, Id rather have him learn the mental game in the minors. Even moreso with Soler, since hes been away from any real competition for an extended period of time.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    To improve Baez and Soled need to be challenged so they may start at A, but move to AA and beyond quickly. Obviously, both are special talents and use to being the best players on the field. Baez has more than held his own at the fall league and ST.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    if my comment was read and not reacted to it clearly states let the players abilities dictate how fast they move . Like most jobs actually . Baez has the ability to hold his own now i am convinced but I know the Cubs will bring them along at the FOs pace and not the wishes of the players or fans.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I meant my comment to be more in agreement with your point not in question of it.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    AZ Phil lists Baez and Soler at AA Tennessee because those are the rosters they have been assigned to -- but AZ Phil has said that he expects both of them to start the season at A+ Daytona and Vogelbach to play at Kane County. Minor leaguers are commonly assigned to the roster of the minor league club one or sometimes two or more levels above where they will start the season. There will be massive movement among the minor league rosters before their seasons actually start. Note how many players are assigned to each minor league teams' roster -- Iowa has 34 (+4 inactive), Tennessee has 36 (+4 inactive), Daytona has 33 (+2 inactive), etc. All of those rosters are much larger than they are allowed to carry in the regular season (I believe AAA has a 24 roster limit, AA has a 25 roster limit, etc.). All of the surplus players are going to have to filter down to the lower levels (or be released) as the cuts are made to bring each MiL team down to the regular season limits.

    Bottom line is that Baez and Soler are most probably starting in Daytona, despite the "roster" that they currently appear on.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Those rosters are as fluid as the MLB roster. They're not meant to be taken as set in stone just like opening the season on the 40 man MLB roster doesn't mean you'll open in the big leagues.

    Prospects -- even elite ones, rarely skip high A ball and go straight to AA. The jump to AA may be the biggest in baseball -- including the jump to the majors.

    Baez and Soler will almost certainly start in the FSL (High Class A league) and have a chance to work themselves to AA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Lets not forget, Baez didn't exactly start out well last year in Daytona. Lets see what he does with some decent weather and consistent ABs. Im betting his high A #s will eventually be similar to his numbers at Peoria last year. The kid is a talent.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Just that they need bodies and they really don't have a backup SS anyway. It tells me Starlin Castro is going to play a heck of a lot of games this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That was kind of my point. Didn't mean to start the Javy Baez for opening day roster debate. You (and Javy) know how I feel about his talents.

    So have they seen enough of Gonzalez & Maysonet to know they aren't in real consideration for the final spot(s) on the 25 man? Which essentially means Castro plays every day and we shift Barney/Vlbuena to SS if (god forbid) something happens to Castro.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think they're huge long shots but they'll probably keep one at AAA, my guess is Gonzalez. But if there is a long term injury to Castro, I think Cubs are looking at a top 5 pick again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Even w/o an injury to Castro, a top 5 pick is a possibility...

    But like some others have said, as long as our youngsters show improvement and we accumulate more talent/core pieces... the season w/b a success.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed that's a possibility.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Castro has said he wants to play all 162 games this year. Wonder if he will think that way by Sept 1.

  • Actually, the true reality is that none of the games have been played yet and anything can happen. No use trying to face a "made-up" reality. And being a true fan of the Cubs. You cans make me either. I'll face reality when it is actually here.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Nobody knows for certain what will happen, but talent plays a key role. The Cubs are a bit short as it looks right now. That could change if some players break out -- and I'm optimistic as always, but we'll have to wait and see...and hope.

  • Meant can't not cans.

  • The thing about Matt Garza is that yes, he has the latissimus injury and it's good they shut him down before a serious injury occurred, but he still hasn't proven that his elbow is sound. I mean, they found fluid just above the elbow last summer on the MRI which is scary and no matter how he says it feels, until he pitches in a few games, we will not begin to know the answer to that.

  • In reply to shalin:

    That's true. That was the case before Garza hurt his lat and it will remain the case until he proves it's healthy on the mound

  • I'm hoping Mr. Luck can play third base. That should help, Otherwise when is the earliest you can start your firesale for veterans? Until then and the minor league draft may not be much to get too excited about with this lineup. Some good trades would liven things up.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Earliest you can start for this team is as soon as they get an acceptable offer. That hasn't been the case so far.

  • Well, spring training is almost over and I can't remember a year when the press and the Cubbies weren't hopeful with some young players really looking good and at least one phenom. I can't wait for the season to start, not so much on the major league level except for Rizzo and Castro, but in the middle to upper minor leagues where our potential major league stars will be playing. It's a long season, but it might be hard for these young players to maintain that label because so many fall by the wayside. That's just the nature of the beast and the way it is because only a few can be stars in the bigs. So, with that in mind and all the hype, we just hope that Baez, Soler, Almora maintain, which means that Baez and Soler hit over .300 with 20 to 25 total dingers at Daytona or higher, while Almora hits at least .320 at Kane County from mid-June till the end of the season in the easy Midwest league. I mean even Corey Patterson hit .320 right out of high school in his very first year of pro ball in the Midwest league, but started his descent at double AA the following year with a lot more strikeouts and much lower batting average as he saw baseballs travel at a higher velocity, greater range of speeds, and with more movement, but still stay in the strike zone. Future major league stars dominate in the minors and stand out like a sore thumbs, no excuses, no if, ands, or buts. This time last year we were all excited about Brett Jackson, but now we are hoping he can be an average major league player which seems in doubt.

  • In reply to shalin:

    My personal name to watc h is Vogelbomb. I saw him in AZ last year, and I think this kid can put up .900 type OPS even in the pitching dominated MWL. Wouldn't be that surprised to see him end up in High A before the season is over.

  • Great read again today John!

    I suppose you wanted to focus on players but I think #6 could have been the coaching staff. Will Sveum improve as a second year manager? Can Rowson keep the guys focused on their at bats? etc.

    Anyhow maybe that's another story you have in the works ;-)

    Cheers!

  • In reply to svelocity:

    Thanks -- and that's a good one. I'll say that's #6 -- the ability of the coaching staff to maximize the talent on the roster.

  • This goes a little further in depth regarding park factors and/or results over the last five years. It's from my favorite baseball simulation game, as it's more based around stats and smart GM moves than great graphics.

    They also give any game in their library free to active duty US Armed Forces members, so that's pretty awesome:

    http://www.sportsmogul.com/files/2013_milb_park_factors.pdf

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Thanks Jim! Looks like some great reasons to check that out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I just found it fascinating to see all the park factors relative to one another, especially on things like triples, which a park can honestly have more of an impact on than most would give credit for.

    Of course, any ballpark that has Billy Hamilton playing in it sees that triple chance skyrocket.

  • Good analysis on contention possibilities, John. However, I am not looking for them to contend this year, but to IMPROVE.
    Do you think a similar piece, one that gauges improvement levels or goals for 2013, would work? Thanks.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    That's a good idea for a follow-up article.

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    The Cubs have a middling rotation, a middling bullpen, and a bottom-third offense. It all adds up to 75-ish wins; more than last year, but not enough to contend.

    Everything would have to go right for us to contend. Baseball being baseball, however, some things are going to go wrong, starting with the injuries to Matt Garza and Scott Baker. For us to have a chance, Garza had to be 2011 Garza; he won't be.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yeah I think the Garza & Baker situations pretty ruled out any hope of luck for this year....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's what;s projected and most likely, no doubt. It's not impossible they can add, say, 10 wins to your projection, but I do agree the odds are very much against that. There's soooo many things that have to go right for that to happen.

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    According to cubs.com, this dude is now with the Cubs: http://www.thinkbluela.com/index.php/2012/07/13/down-on-the-farm-angelo-songcos-long-road-back/

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    In reply to João Lucas:

    Well, that can't be right because I see he's playing right now for the Dodgers against the Cubs! Some intern must be messing with that transactions page...

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Anyone else remember when Colletti was an intern with the Cubs? Now he's out of his element as a supposed GM

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Haha! I was very confused when I read that!

  • Going into spring training, I felt like the Cubs had an outside chance of being somewhat successful if Ian Stewart could provide a surprise year at the plate. (Assuming Castro, Rizzo, and Soriano all hit as good or better as last year.) Unfortunately, all of Stewart's injury problems this spring make it look like it's really unlikely that it will come together.

    Their rotation and bullpen are improved, although the news about Baker is discouraging. But i just don't think the Cubs will hit enough this year.

  • John, no mention of Vizcaino. What's his status? Will he be starting the season in AAA and be a possible late call up as well?

  • In reply to lokeey:

    I think he'll pitch but I don't think he'll make an impact this year. I look at him more as a potential impact guy for 2014.

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    John, you were mentioned prominently in a Hardball Times article on Shark:

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/why-i-was-wrong-about-jeff-samardzija-first-draft/

    I would read it, the author says you were right and he was wrong......

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Ha! That's awesome. Very nice. Thanks for the link.

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    John,

    Great article. I'm especially in agreement about the platoon situation. If Sappelt and DeJesus can produce at an .800 OPS clip and Schierholtz/Hairston do the same, the Cubs will be competitive.

    Along those same lines, I tried to find minor league splits for Junior Lake and couldn't find them. Would you have access to those numbers? Vitters too for that matter? I'm curious to see if one of them bashes lefties. Lillibridge, by the way has good numbers against lefties.

    So, with a advanced defensive schemes, offensive platooning and yes some big time luck-maybe we surprise some people.

    Lastly- any Nick Struck love? I figured he'd be our 7th or 8th starter.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Thanks Dale. I just have notes from last year but you can generally get them from MILB.com under the individual player profiles. Vitters, in particular, hit lefties much better than righties. Unfortunately, I think they only use the last team they played for, which in Vitters case was Chicago.

  • I remember when people laughed at me here when I said Cubs will win 88 games this season......

    I don't think the Reds or Cardinals are that good this year.....I still believe Cubs can sneak in as the 5th team for the Playoffs.

    Cubs can be in the Playoffs if......

    T. Wood, Jackson & Samardzija win over 16 games each.....
    Rizzo, Castro, Soriano are in the top three in hitting....
    Marmol is "lights out" every time he comes in....
    the Bench becomes the surprise stars....
    Middle relievers keeps us in games......

    Cubs will SUCK if.......

    Cubs Video Man has to lay down bunts in July.....
    Rizzo is back in Iowa by June.....
    Castro chokes on sun flower seeds and hits the DL for 60 days...
    Theo signs Carlos Zambrano......
    Lendy Castillo is your closer.

    What are the Cubs doing in that pitcher?......there are dimes on the floor used as infield players..........they are studying infield positions in certain bunting scenarios.

  • Cubs contend in 2013? Unlikely, but they do seem to be trying the Oakland As approach to winning through platooning. Heres what id like to see(1) Travis Wood, become Ted Lilly 2.0(2) Wellington Castillo , duplicate Carlos Ruiz(3)Feldman remember what you did correctly in 2009(3) Nate/Hairston produce 25/90 between them(4) Fonzie needs to stay healthy and produce at least career avg numbers(5) Baker and Garza must be healthy and produce at slightly above career norms.

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