The 2011 Major League Baseball season is finally here. I don't know about you, but I could only take so much more of debating whether Koyie Hill should be the back up catcher. In all likelihood, it's highly unlikely that his inclusion on the roster will make or break the Cubs chances in 2011.
The GROTA writers have spent painstaking hours trying to analyze the Cubs to death for the 2011 season, and this roundtable is the fruit of that labor. There were knock-down drag-out brawls, and Kurt and Rob debated whether the Cubs should force the owner of that one rooftop to bring back the Budweiser tarp. It was ugly, and if only I had turned on the video for that portion. Alas, we are only left with our transcribed notes and feelings as a new year takes hold and we enjoy at least a few hours in first place.
After the jump, GROTA goes step by step to breakdown this season.
First off, the staff will dive into some over/unders. Since we are always right, you might want to book a flight to Vegas and throw some money down on these futures (Just Saying).
Part I: Over/Unders
1. Carlos Zambrano 12 Wins / 1 Trip to Anger Management
Rob: I'm still not satisfied with the way we settled the Bud Roof. Rock/paper/scissors is no way to settle a corporate-level argument, because Kurt always throws "rock".
As for big Z, I will take the over for both. I mean, for all we know, not only does he attend Anger Management frequently, he very well may have a live-in "Life Coach". Technically, then, every time he engages the Life Coach in conversation is an Anger Management session. As for wins, I think 2011 will be a big one for him.
Kurt: Carlos Zambrano cannot be kept down. The man doesn't break, no matter how achy his arm is, no matter how brutal the media, no matter who turns against him. But I'm over making bold predictions about his wins total. That said, 12 seems like a no-brainer, so I vote Over.
Kyle: Over/under. As I've written before, I believe Mike Quade was hired as the next manager of the Cubs thanks in part to the success Carlos Zambrano had at the end of last season. Hopefully (pretty please) it will continue.
Chris: Big Z's days of being thought as a Cy Young pitcher are over, but I really think he puts it together this year and wins 16.
2. Matt Garza 3.75 ERA
AJ: Unfortunately I'll have to take the over here, and not just because of this spring. Garza's a fly ball pitcher, and at Wrigley fly balls often leave the park. When you think about Garza, think about Ted Lilly, who had a 3.96 ERA in his first two years with the Cubs.
Kurt: I believe a wise man once said - Spring Training Stats mean nothing. NOTHING!!! Garza is an interesting pitcher because he serves up lots of flyballs, and Wrigley Field is rumored to favor the hitter who can smack towering homeruns. But Garza is coming from the toughest division in baseball. Coupled with my ST MEANS NOTHING! mantra, then I will vote Under.
Kyle: Over, but still under 4.00. That's really nothing to complain about, right?
Chris: Like Kurt said, Spring stats don't mean anything, but I would like to see a few quality games from him. Then again, I feel like a 3.67 ERA is in his future.
3. Carlos Pena .240 Batting Average
Rob: under. But, if he hits 30 homers, and still posts a .360 OBP, we may not care what his batting average is when it is all said and done.
Kurt: Under. Way under.
Kyle: What Rob said. I want to see some dingers.
Chris: I probably set this number too high since it was about 40 points than he hit last year. Coming over to the National Leauge gives him a bump to .225, but he hits 37 HR's.
4. Koyie HIll .201 Batting Average
Kurt: Over. The dude almost lost three fingers. How one is related to the other is beyond me, but I felt the need to mention it.
Kyle: Over, way over. And by "way over," I mean .220.
Chris: I'm going under here and Koyie will be the roaving catching instructer by June (at least I hope). That being said, no team has ever missed the playoffs with a poor back up catcher.
5. Starlin Castro 27 Errors
Kurt: Over. By the end of the season, Starlin will be regulated to playing first base. (This is a joke, for those of you whose veins just exploded.)
Kyle: Under. I'll attribute most of Starlin's errors from last season to the holy-crap-I'm-playing-in-the-Bigs-and-I-can't-even-legally-buy-a-beer syndrome.
Chris: I'm going push here. He committed 27 last year, and I feel like that will be the number this year, but with many more chances. So that's an improvement.
6. Kerry Wood 3 Trips to the DL
Rob: under. I'm pulling for two short "blister trips" in 2011.
Kurt: Agreed with Rob.
Kyle: Over. Your powers are weak, old man.
Chris: Again, push seems like the right number.We know he's going to get hurt, but lets hope it's not a big injury.
7. Cubs Rotation Changes 3
Rob: over. Injuries to a rotation are a way of life. If you don't count DL trips, then perhaps under. All depends on Cashner.
Kyle: Got to be over.
Chris: I hope that it's under, because that means everyone is doing their job and the Cubs are winning.
8. Tyler Colvin 19 HR
AJ: Over. The kid has power, and one way or another he'll get his at-bats.
Kurt: Maybe if Soriano takes his annual trip to the Dl. Otherwise, there's little room for a young, talented slugging outfielder on the Cubs.
Kyle: Over. There should be plenty of PT for Colvin between left field, right field and first base.
Chris: Colvin reminds me a lot of Jeff Francoeur. He came up and played well, but didn't walk much. The league will figure him out if his eye doesn't improve. That being said, 22 HRs could easily happen this year.
9. Kosuke Fukudome .370 OBP
Rob: Under. I think the Fooker has his best season under Quade, because I think Fooky will appreciate a man with a plan. But .370 is awfully rich.
Kyle: He's done it two of his three seasons with the Cubs, so over.
Chris: The pressure is finally off and I see a .275/.380 slash line for Kosuke.
10. Aramis Ramirez 27 HR
AJ: Under. I just don't know if he can stay healthy for an entire season anymore.
Rob: Under. Even if he stays "healthy", I think his best days are behind him. He is quite brave, but he has visually deteriorated, and I don't think you can chalk it all up to his shoulder.
Kurt: Over. Aramis has something to prove this year. Granted, what he's looking to prove may be that he's a washed up cock fighter... (heh)
Kyle: Under, but hey, remember when we ripped off Pittsburgh for this guy? Good times.
Chris: Any way we can trade Ramirez back to the Pirates for Pedro Alverez? Seems like a fair deal to me. Ramirez in a contract year hits 29 HR with a .295 batting average, I hope.
Part II: Expectations
1. What should we expect from the Cubs in 2011?
Rob: expect nothing. Be pleasantly surprised. That has been my mantra for years, and it helps me stay sane.
Chris: Like Rob, I really don't have high expectations for this club. I remember leaving Atlanta last year after the opening series thinking it was going to be a long season. At least this year we get the Pirates. That being said, losing two of three would be a kick in the gut even for a team with little expectations of winning it all.
Kurt: I expect to be entertained!! Fortunately for the Cubs, like many fans out there I have a sadistic sense of humor! In seriousness, who knows? Contrary to the naysayings of some, baseball is an unpredictable sport in which really shitty teams can reach the post season, and really good teams can fade to obscurity despite all odds.
Kyle: I like to set reasonable goals, so I'll be happy if the Cubs finish third in the division. If that happens, it means they had a better season than the Reds, Brewers or Cardinals. I can live with that for now.
2. Do you think the Cubs are heading in the right direction?
Kurt: Nobody anxious to answer this one? I think that the Cubs have no direction except "stay afloat." This will be the case until Jim Hendry gets
fired promoted out of the GM's job.
Kyle: Yes, but with reservations. I like what's going on in the minors and the way the Cubs are setting up to make a big move in free agency this offseason, but I don't believe Quade or Hendry can take this team to a championship. So maybe my answer is no? I don't know.
3. What are your impressions of Mike Quade so far?
Rob: After 12+ years of "star" managers who don't quite put the effort in, it has been nice to see a guy who puts in the effort. I think the players appreciate it. For now. We need to see how he reacts to adversity before we label him a major league manager.
Chris: I posted the video the other day of Quade's rant after Silva's comments about his release. I love it. I think Quade knows this is his shot, and he's going to play the best guys. Will it work? Only time will tell, but I think he's probably the right guy for this team.
Kyle: As a journalist, I love Quade's loquacious attitude and the way he can fill up a reporter's notebook. So he's got that going for him.
4. Who is the team MVP?
AJ: You've already heard me say it but I'll say it again: I think it's Randy Wells. He could be this team's ace. We need good stuff from all our starters, but if Wells can be yet another 200 inning, 3.50 ERA guy? Plus Demp, Garz, and Z? Watch out.
Kurt: Carlos Silva gets my vote. Think of the value that he has given the team by flaming out so early. Had he kept his head down and pitched just a little better, we might have to contend with him in a few weeks ... when games actually count for something.
Kyle: Starlin Castro is this team's best player, but Geo Soto is the MVP. If he excels (and stays healthy) in the sixth spot, Carlos Pena will certainly benefit from the protection. If he excels (and stays healthy) on defense, he keeps Koyie Hill out of the lineup.
Chris: This is an interesting idea, but I hope one of the vets exceeps expectations and becomes the MVP. That way the Cubs are in the playoff hunt. If it were Soro or Castro then it becomes harder to compete, because those other guys should put up bigger numbers.
5. Who is the team goat?
Rob: I have heard that Grabow smells like a goat. Maybe it is just his breath. Come to think of it, I'll stick with the $4 million reliever.
Chris: I have to disagree with Rob here, because I think Grabow will actually be decent this year. Team GOAT for 2011: Marlon Byrd. I just don't think he can keep his production up, because de doesn't walk much. His stats last year weren't great, but he played hard. I could easlily see some injuries derail his season, and him hitting under .250.
Kyle: Soriano. I heard he was getting booed in spring training. That's real bad news for him. With so many young, exciting outfielders in the organization, he will be the ire of our discontent.
6. Who is the first to hit the DL?
Rob: you would think it would be one of the old, brittle Dominicans: Soriano or Ramirez. It will probably be Marlon Byrd and his newly toned and taut Conte-muscles.
Chris: I'm going with Kerry Wood and the blisters.
Kyle: Reed Johnson. Crash and burn...into an outfield wall.
7. Rank the NL Central
Rob: Bad. Poor. Weak. Bad. Lame. Bad. Teams in order of how concerned I am of them: Deadbirds. Dusties. Brewers. Asstrolls. Pissburgh.
Kyle: Cards, Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Pirates. I'm not buying what they're selling in Milwaukee.
Chris: Well, just juding by yesterday we can count out the Cardinals and Brewers, who both blew saves. They're done for. I think the Pirates make a splash to the tune of 74 wins, while the Reds repeat, but the Cubs will be right there.
8. Who is the first to be traded?
AJ: Blake DeWitt?
Chris: This is always an interesting question to me. We have contract guys like Aramis Ramirez that could be very tempting, but I'm pretty sure Ramirez has 10/5 rights. Even Derrek Lee eventually took a trade, but if the Cubs are clearly out of it by the All-Star break look for Aramis to be dealt.
Kyle: No one on the major league club. The Cubs will be in it until the trade deadline and will look to move prospects. Maybe Beef or McNutt?
9. Will Jim Hendry be back next season?
Rob: I am going to say yes. He certainly is enjoying the confidence of his ownership, since he was allowed to cut Silva the Hutt. Hendry Haters may hold onto the hope that perhaps the Silva move was the rope that Ricketts will hang him on. Depends how much into conspiracy theories you are
Chris: The only way I see Hendry not coming back is if the Cubs totally fail and lose close to 100 games. This team should still compete, probably not win, but compete with with the NL Central. Hendry hired Quade, he traded for Garza and was able to cut Silva, so this should give him a little time. But if the Cubs fall on their faces and nobody shows up to the ballpark, then Ricketts will be forced to make a move.
Kyle: Hendry, Quade, Zambrano. Their fates are tied together, so they have through the 2012 season to prove they belong, then the world comes to an end.
10. How many Cub blogs will focus on lower attendence this year? Why?
Rob: those blogs based closer to the city, ergo more concerned with finances will most definitely focus on it. Chuck will be all over it, as will the new "Obstructed View".
Kyle: We know Bleed Cubbie Blue is obsessed with spring training attendance, so that makes one. And we know Desipio is obsessed with prodding BCB, so that makes two.
Part III: Final Thoughts
AJ: I expect 81-81. But if we stay healthy, we could reach the high eighties in wins. And that's usually enough to win this excuse of a division.
Rob: I figured 83 wins to be the midpoint of several likely scenarios. The division will not require 90 wins. Make of that what you will.
Kyle: How many wins does it take to get to the center of the division? 81? 82? ah-83?...83.
Chris: 81-83 wins seems to be the right idea, so the division would really need to come back down for the Cubs to contend. I could see it with all the teams have decent years.