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Chicago Cubs 2010 Season Preview

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JRJP

Born and raised on the northside of Chicago. Rogers Park is the neighborhood I call home and I work in Accounting around the north shore suburbs.

Written By: Mike Klotz, Posted By: JRJP

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It was around this time last year when I was excited for baseball to start despite my low expectations. My beloved Cubs, coming off back to back very disappointing playoff sweeps by the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers paired with a bevy of questionable moves by GM Jim Hendry--my outlook was somewhat subsided. Then the PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) projections came out. The baseball nerds rejoiced.  Cub fans rejoiced. Baseball Prospectus had the Cubs at 96 wins and dominating the division by 12 games. Too bad they actually had to play the games on the field, winning 83.

The proverbial baseball Nostradamus, PECOTA has returned with their predictions again for the 2010 season tabbing the Cubbies for 77 wins with a second place finish again. Now I am glad that they actually have to play the games on the field. In recent history, PECOTA has been way off in 2009, 2008 (predicted - 89 wins, won 97), and 2006 (predicted 85 wins, won 66). I expect the baseball psychics will be off again this season in regards to the Cubs.


Cubbie Projections

Looking at what happened last season, it doesn't take an expert to see why things went terribly wrong. Many of the Cub key performers spent significant time on the DL including: Ramirez (shoulder), Zambrano (fat), Soto (fat), Dempster (douchebaggery), Soriano (legs), and Lilly (knee).  You add Bradley in the mix, whom was not only a giant tool but couldn't play baseball very well. Along with several other players performing well under their season averages, the season was another disappointment.

Many of the problems that could be alleviated--were. There isn't much a GM can do about so many DL stints. A GM can do something about a bad right fielder though, bye bye Bradley, hello Marlon Byrd. Byrd should drive in more than 40 runs and be a good guy to deal with. Do not expect to hear Byrd call out fans, teammates, or throw balls in the stands with only two outs. The addition of Byrd also vastly improves the OF defense in both CF and RF. Placing Byrd in CF will move Kosuke Fukudome back to RF. Byrd is a better defensive CF than Fukudome and Kosuke is a much better fielder than Bradley in RF.

The gimpy Soriano has recently stated that his knees feel really well. He said that he has been running 100% in the field and about 85% around the bases and feels no pain. A healthy Soriano is vital to a successful Cubs season. As we saw in 2008, Soriano could carry the Cubs for weeks at a time. I know that he will never play up to the value of his contract but the Cubs need it to be a little closer to its value than it was last season when he was playing at the level of a replacement player. Soriano was putrid last season both at the plate and on the field. He had 11 errors in LF, and hit a line of .241/.303/.423. His .726 OPS was well below his .887 OPS in his first two seasons as a Cub.  I expect a healthier Soriano to produce a higher OPS this season and drive in more runs hitting 6th in the lineup.

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Zambrano and Soto left their previous, out of shape, fat selves at home in Latin America. The new and improved version of Soto has come to Arizona shedding 40 pounds of weight. He stayed off the weed, Doritos, pizza, and ice cream this season and stayed on the treadmill. According to scouts' early reports from camp, the weight cut hasn't affected his power. Last season, Fangraphs noted that Soto was one of the most unlucky players in MLB. His walk rate was higher, contact within the strike zone was higher, and his strikeout rate was slightly lower which would all suggest improved numbers. Soto's batting average on balls hit into play in 2008 was .337. In '09, his BABIP fell to .251. So it appears that Soto was fat AND unlucky last season. The being fat thing turned around, so hopefully the luck will soon follow.
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Zambrano, has cut some weight as well but mostly put on some muscle. Piniella said that he looked like a weight lifter when he showed up weeks early to camp. We can all hope that he has grown up a little bit this off season as too. Big Z getting into great shape in the offseason shows to me that he just might be growing up a little bit and may be ready to be the ace that he has longed claimed to be.

Let's hope Z throws out another ump this season

Offensively, this team reminds me very much of the 2008 Cubs that led the NL in runs scored. Essentially you have the same team, but we have replaced DeRosa with Byrd, who put up about the same numbers (Byrd - .820 OPS w/ TEX, .762 career & DeRosa .802 OPS w/ TEX, .767 career).

QUESTIONS (Pitching staff):
  • Who is going to fill the void left by the new Texas Ranger Rich Harden? Tom Gorzelanny/ full year from Randy Wells
  • Who is going to fill in for Ted Lilly while he is recovering from shoulder surgery?  Keep in mind that the Cubs can avoid a 5th starter for about 2 weeks due to days off early in the season. This may not be as big as a problem as it seems
  • Will the other rotund Carlos, Carlos Silva, continue to be fat and worthless?  Yes! He's terrible and tremendously out of shape
  • Can Marmol throw strikes and still remain unhittable?  Yes. I am looking for a big year from Marmol.
  • Who will be the right handed set up guy out of the pen?  I would assume that Caridad is the favorite of the candidates currently on the roster. I really want to see the Cubs make the rumored move for Luke Gregerson and his 11.9 Ks per 9 innings. I love power arms with swing and miss stuff late in the game.
  • Will Dempster jump over the dugout barrier and break his foot again? I would hope he learned something from that.

QUESTIONS (Other):

  • Will Lou come to his senses and hit Fukudome and his .375 OBP leadoff?  God I hope so.
  • Will the savior Starlin Castro rise from the minors to slay the goat? If he comes up from the minors to start at SS then things are probably going REALLY bad. Let's actually develop this kid in the minors unlike Paterson and Pie.

So I am sorry to the baseball nerds for questioning the PECOTA projections but I think that the Cubs are going to take this division. Their fat players showed up healthy and there is no way that Soriano, Soto, Ramirez, Lilly, and Dempster all spend significant time on the DL. Look for players to perform closer to their career averages.

PECOTA has the Cards taking the division with 86 wins. They must be banking on a full season from Chris Carpenter and Matt Holiday not to fall back to his outside of Coors Field numbers. I wouldn't bank on that! The Chicago Cubs take the NL Central with 90 wins.

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