I declare the Cubs season dead if there are on going problems with Ted Lilly this season. Statistically speaking Lilly has been the overall ace of the Cubs staff since joining the club in 2007. With Lilly now reporting a sore knee on top of the shoulder surgery he is already recovering from, this could be another long season for my nerves.
Last year I began my transformation into the Super Anti-Fan as I call him, or Randy Quaid in Major League 1 & 2 for fans of the films. Driven mad by two consecutive seasons of playoff gag-fests, the lackadaisical antics which flourished at Wrigley Field last summer found me as
addicted to watching the Cubs as ever, but finding joy in all of their blunders and no hope even in their victories.
If Lilly goes down, or his return is delayed, for any lengthy amount of time, this could incur mass amounts of spreading hysteria amongst the Cubby loyalists. How can anyone have faith in Big Z to substantiate himself as the standout ace on this staff? Some people say that his "stuff" is enough alone to prove this. While he certainly has the best "stuff" out of anyone on the starting staff, he is behind Lilly in almost every major pitching stat since the two have been teammates.
Look at this comparison compiled from stats available at cubs.com:
GS 95 W44 L26 ERA 3.67 IP 588.2 BB 155 K509
GS 92 W41 L26 ERA 3.88 IP 574.1 BB 251 K459
That totals to 3 more wins, and ERA .21 lower, 14.1 more innings pitched, 101 fewer walks and 50 more strikeouts for Ted Lilly. Granted these numbers are close, but with Lilly leading in every one of these categories, how can Zambrano be considered the Cubs ace?
Even if all does work out well-- Lilly come back in mid-April healthy, Big Z figures out how to drink water, Dempster regains his 2008 form, and Randy Wells continues the pace he set for himself last year-- even if all of this does work out, do you as a Cub fan really believe that this team can and will succeed in the playoffs? No matter what the Cubs do in the regular season, all that matters is making and advancing deep into the playoffs.
Last year's disappointments should not lower our expectations as fans. Last year sucked because none of us wanted to settle for anything less than winning the World Series, so a two-games-above-.500 team felt like a last place loser. One extra off season changes nothing: winning the World Series is the only successful outcome for this franchise, new owner or not, and it will be a lot harder for the Cubs to do so without their ace; Ted Lilly.