The Chicago National League Ball Club

An objective look at the love of my life--the Chicago Cubs.


2005 Season Preview: Pitchers

Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that the Cubs' greatest strength is their pitching, specifically their starting rotation. Thanks to an injury bug that only seemed to plague the Cubs' most important players, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior combined for only 14 wins last season. That's 4 less than Prior had in 2003 by himself. If they run into injury problems again like they did in 2004, this could be another disappointing season. If the rotation avoids the DL, there's a very good chance the Cubs will advance into postseason baseball. Knock on Wood.

P//Mark Prior
As far as I'm concerned, Mark Prior is the key to this Cubs team. Say what you want about the closer role, the leadoff spot, the bullpen, whatever. I think if Prior can repeat the success he had in that memorable 2003 season, the Cubs will not only win their division but could possibly be the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. It's probably unfair to expect him to post a 2.43 ERA every year, but anything under 3.00 should be well within reach. For my money, Prior is the Cubs best player and needs to prove that he is one of the best pitchers in the game.

Keys to Success
The Real Mark Prior didn't consistently show up last year until his final three starts of the season when he threw 24 1/3 innings giving up 2 earned runs and striking out 30. That's Mark Prior. He said he altered his offseason workout routine in an attempt to avoid future injury problems. If he stays healthy, he will succeed.

Projected Stats
30 19 7 2.65 207.2

Can Kerry Wood finally win 20 games?

P//Kerry Wood
Ahhhh, Woody. When he's on his game, he may be the most dominant pitcher in baseball (ask Atlanta). But when he's falling behind in the count and walking guys, he's very beatable. Everyone knows he's got the stuff to win 20 games, yet he's never won more than 14. Will this be the year that Wood finally shows the world what he's really capable of? Or will it be another season that finds him spending significant time on the DL?

Keys to Success
Still only 27, Wood in reality is still learning how to pitch. His raw talent makes batters wet themselves, but unless he figures out how to implement those skills, it doesn't mean much. Keeping him on the mound all year is a good start, and with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the legendary Greg Maddux by his side, Wood needs to finally put together a Cy Young caliber season.

Projected Stats
29 17 11 3.14 197.1

P//Carlos Zambrano
"Z" was one of the few bright spots for the Cubs last year. The 23 year-old right hander from Venezuela recorded 16 wins and ended the season with a 2.75 ERA, fifth best in baseball. Though his immaturity surfaced a couple times, he often showed poise on the mound in moments of pressure. Some people have the guts to say that Zambrano actually has more talent than Wood and Prior. I will not comment either way, but NL hitters know they're in for a long day if they see big 38 take the mound.

Keys to Success
As long as the "Baby Bull" continues to mature and keep a cool head, there's no stopping him. When his ridiculous sinker is sinking, he's as tough as anyone in baseball. He's a legit Cy Young candidate already, finishing fifth in the 2004 voting. If Wood and Prior stay healthy, Z will have less pressure on his back. And that could make for a dominant season.

Projected Stats
30 18 9 2.55 206.1

P//Greg Maddux
It's amazing to think that if Maddux records 15 wins again this year, it will be his 18th consecutve season doing so. 18!! Though Maddux started out somewhat slowly and ended the season on a rough note, he won some big games for the Cubs. How much can be expected of him in '05? He'll be 39 in April and he's clearly not the Maddux of old. But in this rotation, he doesn't need to be. If Maddux throws another 200 innings and wins 15 games, I think the Cubs will be very happy to get that from a #4 starter.

Keys to Success
I feel weird trying to pinpoint 'keys to success' for a pitcher as storied and accomplished as Maddux. But I'll state the obvious. As long as he keeps movement on his pitches, he's still a very good pitcher. If his fastballs dont move, it's very possible they'll be launched 900 feet by a Pujols or a Rolen. Mix your velocity, make your pitches dance, and don't walk people. If he does that, 15 wins shouldn't be a problem.

Projected Stats
31 16 12 4.15 206.1

P//Glendon Rusch
The Cubs took a minor gamble last season in signing the left-handed Rusch, who had a less than impressive 1-12 record in 2003. But Rusch found some mojo and recorded 6 wins in 16 starts and compiled a very respectable 3.47 ERA. He appears to be the favorite to land the #5 spot in the starting rotation, and if he carries over the success he had in that role last season he could prove to be a huge asset to the Cubs staff.

Keys to Success
Does anyone know why the hell Rusch looked like Warren Spahn during parts of last year? This would be the key to success. If Rothschild found and corrected something in Rusch's mechanics last year it's very possible he could repeat his surprising success. But if he just flat out overachieved, we could be in for a rude awakening.

Projected Stats
28 11 10 4.35 175.2

Justifiably, this is a question mark for the Cubs. It appears that GM Jim Hendry is done making deals and feels comfortable with either Ryan Dempster or Joe Borowski in the closer's role. Personally, I'd rather see Dempster get the spot over JoBo. Even when Borowski was shutting guys down in 2003 I never fully trusted him and I'd feel better having him as just another bullpen arm. And as far as Dempster goes, I think people often forget that the best closers rarely take a conventional road to get there. Eric Gagne started out with the Dodgers as a very mediocre starter before becoming the most dominant closer in baseball. I'm not saying Dempster will become the next Gagne, but I think it's a little ignorant to say that he can't become a good closer.

Latroy Hawkins should feel back at home in the set-up role, assuming Dusty puts him there. As the closer by default, he blew several key save opportunities last season and threw temper tantrums like a toddler. Hopefully, a return to his natural spot in the pen will cut down on his embarassing behavior.

Mike Remlinger, Todd Wellemeyer, Jon Leicester, Mike Wuertz, and newcomers Chad Fox and Stephen Randolph will all be in the mix this year and could form a better than average pen if used correctly. Should be an interesting year for the bullpen.

Next post: Previewing the bench


2005 Season Preview: Outfield

This preview will be a little harder to write than the infield preview because there are a few major questions concerning the Cubs' outfielders. But I'll take a crack at it anyway. Remember, objective with a positive slant.


RF//Jeromy Burnitz
After the Sammy Sosa trade appeared to be imminent, rumors were flying about possibilities for Sosa's replacement in right field. Magglio Ordonez and Aubrey Huff were the names that generated the most excitement but there were obstacles to acquiring either player. So the Cubs did the least exciting thing possible and signed the aging Jeromy Burnitz. The longtime Cub killer had a revitalized season of offensive potency last year with the Rockies, but playing your home games at Coors Field will tend to do that.

Keys to Success
Burnitz will have to somewhat adjust his offensive approach if he's going to have any success hitting at Wrigley Field. This isn't Colorado, where a pop-up to the catcher suddenly finds itself sailing over the left field fence. Burnitz has always swung from his heels, but he'll need to figure out how to use the Wrigley dimensions to his advantage. Good luck Jeromy.

Projected Stats
145 26 93 .267 .345

CF//Corey Patterson
No one has ever doubted Patterson's skills and raw athleticism. He's turning into an elite defensive center fielder and is learning to use his physical gifts as he continues to figure out the game of baseball. His production at the plate will be vital to the Cubs offensive attack this year.

Keys to Success
Confidence. When Patterson plays as well as he knows he can, he creates big problems for opposing teams. A confident Patterson is far more patient at the plate and lets the game come to him, to use an old cliche. He's still only 25 and very impressionable. If he can revert back to the way he played in the first half of 2003, he could single-handedly change the look of the Cubs lineup.

Projected Stats
154 22 64 .285 .360

OF//Jerry Hairston, Jr.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert on Jerry Hairston but I can tell you what I know. He's a speedy, solid contact hitter who has potential to be the Cubs' leadoff man. He's a natural second basemen, but with that spot already occupied by Todd Walker the only real options for Hairston are left field or the bench. If he impresses the Cubs at Spring Training, he might get a shot to start and bring his skills to the top of the lineup.

Keys to Success
Hairston has been somewhat injury prone over the past few seasons but is effective when he's on the field. Until it's established what Hairston's role will be, it's hard to determine what needs to happen in order for him to be successful. If he's productive at the plate, they'll need to get him some at-bats. Some argue he's not an every day player, some argue that he's the leadoff hitter that the Cubs need. Stay tuned.

Projected Stats
85 3 26 .282 .360

Can Todd Hollandsworth be the super sub he was last year? Mmmmmm....super sub

OF//Todd Hollandsworth
For someone who only played in 57 games last year, Hollandsworth sure became a fan favorite. He was having one of the better seasons in his career before a leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. Hollandsworth excelled as a spot starter in the outfield and had a lovely OBP of .392 when he went down in late June. It's been said that he wants to play every day but Cubs management is understandably cautious about handing him the left field spot.

Keys to Success
Hollandsworth needs to be utilized correctly and that's up to Hard Bake. He was a weapon off the bench last year and could be more valuable there than in the every day lineup. But if he continues to hit the way he did last year, and there is no guarantee that he will, Dusty will likely feel the pressure to let him start consistently.

Projected Stats
89 11 45 .276 .365

OF//Jason Dubois
With Baker's reputation for playing veterans over rookies, it might be hard to get Dubois the at-bats he needs to establish himself as an everyday player...if he can even be one. He had a great year at the plate last season in Triple-A but some wonder if he'll ever be a serviceable major leaguer. Time will tell.

Keys to Success
When Dubois gets the chance to play, he needs to take full advantage of it and prove he belongs. He'll soon be 26 so it's not like scouts are drooling of what he can be if he develops. His time is now.

Projected Stats
56 6 37 .272 .324

Next post: Previewing the Pitching


2005 Season Preview: Infield

Ahh, Spring Training. Is there anything more wonderful in this fair land of ours? Is there anything you'd rather hear in the middle of February than "pitchers and catchers reporting"? Our favorite baseball team re-emerges at the time of year we need them to most. My friends, it's time for baseball again.

The Cubs go into this spring with a handful of question marks at some key positions. Is Ryan Dempster the closer? Where will Jerry Hairston play? Can Corey Patterson fulfill the leadoff duties?

Instead of writing my season preview in one post, I thought I'd break it down into Infield, Outfield, Pitching, and Bench. I will be objective with an optimistic slant. If you don't like it, I've got a few 'sites' for ya.


1B//Derrek Lee
Lee started to wear down towards the end of last season thanks to playing in all but one game of the 2004 campaign. He spent the majority of the season hitting in the .290-.300 range and should stay there throughout 2005 assuming he gets a little more rest when needed.

Keys to Success
Dusty Baker needs to find the right spot in the lineup for Lee. His high strikeout rate makes him a risky 2 hitter but his speed would be an asset to the top of the lineup. As of now, he's probably the number 5 hitter.

Projected Stats
155 34 103 .298 .370

2B//Todd Walker
Walker's numbers will probably see a boost from last season as he becomes the Cubs' everyday second basemen. Though not a superb defensive player, Walker proved more than adequate last year and the notoriously tall infield grass at Wrigley doesn't hurt.

Keys to Success
I think the addition of Nomar Garciaparra was one of the best things that could have happened to Walker. Both will be playing full time together just as they did in 2003 and combined for 41HR and 190RBI for the Boston Red Sox. Also, I think Todd's a better player in knee socks.

Projected Stats
150 15 70 .285 .350

3B//Aramis Ramirez
All due respect to Nomar, Ramirez is the Cubs' most potent offensive weapon. He's only 26 years old and on his way to becoming one of the premiere third basemen in baseball. The Cubs coaching staff has worked with him to improve his defense and he's showing to be a quick study. Acquiring Ramirez could prove to be the best move on Jim Hendry's tenure as the Cubs' General Manager.

Keys to Success
He's got a world of talent and it's up to the Cubs coaching staff to continue to help him get better. His matured plate approach last season led to a career high in walks and OBP and he needs to continue to show discipline in the batter's box. I think he might be the most fun Cub to watch.

Projected Stats
150 35 115 .318 .385

Nomar looks to rebound after an injury-plagued 2004

SS//Nomar Garciaparra
Maybe the best thing about Nomar playing for the Cubs this year is that he's got something to prove. He's exactly the type of hitter the Cubs need in the 3 hole and will likely see a lot of fastballs if he's hitting in front of Ramirez...which is good because Nomar's a fastball hitter.

Keys to Success
No secrets here--Nomar needs to stay healthy. If he can stay on the field for 150+ games this year he should be hitting ropes into the right and left center field gaps. This is his year to prove that he's still one of the elite shortstops in baseball.

Projected Stats
152 21 104 .322 .380

C//Michael Barrett
Steve Stone recently said Michael Barrett is the player the Cubs can least afford to lose for a significant amount of time. Barrett anchors the Cubs infield and has shown signs of taking ownership in the clubhouse. This is one player Cubs fans wanna see repeat his 2004 performance.

Keys to Success
Barrett will likely have the unpleasant duty of hitting in the 8th spot for the vast majority of his games, though last year he seemed to thrive no matter where he hit in the lineup. The bigger issue will be whether or not Barrett's defense continues to improve as he begins his second full season behind the plate. Spring Training will be important as he continues to learn how to catch one of the more difficult rotations to handle in all of baseball.

Projected Stats
133 14 58 .282 .350

Next post: Previewing the outfield

A Little Positivity

The Cubs need Mark Prior to be the REAL Mark Prior

A lot of writers and 'experts' have been all over the map with trying to predict what the 2005 Cubs will accomplish...or not accomplish. Some have said they're a long shot for the playoffs because they've lost a lot of offense. Others, like this article, claim that a healthy starting rotation will propel them to a division title and maybe more. Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News predicts the Cubs to face the Yankees in the World Series.

Now of course I'd rather a writer tell me that the Cubs will be in the Fall Classic instead of watching it on TV like they did in '04. But predictions mean NOTHING. The 2004 Cubs were a huge favorite to go to the World Series and they didn't even make the playoffs.

Baseball is unpredictable. But it's still fun to read up on what the new Cubs will look like and gather your own conclusions about how they'll perform in 2005.


Great Article on the Cubs' 2004 Cancers

Rick Morrissey wrote an article about the players who caused distractions in the 2004 Cubs clubhouse. I couldn't agree with him more.

On another note, Steve Stone has signed on to be the leading baseball analyst for The Score. This is another piece of news that makes me very happy and I heard him in his new role for the first time today. Boers and Bernstein were talking to him about the Kyle Farnsworth trade and Stone offered his usual brilliant insight. I can't tell you how much I love the Boers and Bernstein + Stone dynamic. That's pretty much my three favorite Chicago sports personalities talking about my favorite sport. It's a thing of dreams.


No More Farnsy!

ESPN Radio 1000 is reporting that the Cubs have traded reliever Kyle Farnsworth to the Detroit Tigers for 3 minor leaguers.

What does this mean? Jim Hendry is possibly freeing up some money to pursue another relief pitcher. Octavio Dotel is the name that's been speculated in recent weeks.

The Farns has tremendous potential, but it was clear that he needed a change of scenery. Good move in my opinion.


Maggs Signs With Tigers

The offseason is fastly coming to an end and the Cubs did not sign any big name outfielder.

This, I dont like.

Going into early November I figured we'd get one of the big 3...Carlos Beltran, J.D. Drew, or Magglio Ordonez.

And here we are, a week into February and we're left with nothing.

The thing is, I understand the Cubs' hesitation to throw a ton of money at any of these guys.

Carlos Beltran, an extremely gifted player, saw his stock soar because he had one of the best postseasons of recent memory. If he doesn't jack 8 playoff HR, I really don't think he gets the 7yr/$120 million that the Mets gave him. He's a great player, but there is such a thing as overspending. And overspending was the hallmark of the Mets offseason.

J.D. Drew was the first of the big three to sign, inking a 5 year/$55 million contract with the LA Dodgers. The problem with signing Drew to a 5 year contract is that he's been injury prone since he came into the league. 2004 was the first season that he played over 140 games...and he's 29 years old. No one has doubted his talent, but his knack for finding the disabled list makes him a risky signing. I would love to have him, but I can see why the Cubs didn't break the bank.

Then there's Maggs. After seeing Terrell Owen's Super Bowl performance I'm having visions of Ordonez chasing down fly balls, breaking up double plays, and launching 460 ft. home runs. 5 years for $75 million is a lot of coin to spend on a player who waited this long before he even worked out for a team. Detroit overspent for Ordonez simply because there were no other legitimate offers on the table. To offer $15 million when you're the only serious bidder doesn't seem prudent. But, they have their guy so we'll see how he performs.

What's even more fun is that all 3 of the guys are represented by uberagent Scott Boras.

So, Beltran is a Met, Drew is a Dodger, and Maggs is a Tiger.

Instead, we got Jeromy Burnitz.



Is there a better place on the planet?


Farnsworth on the trading block?

There's an article in today's Chicago Sun-Times that suggests the Cubs are very interested in trading reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Sun-Times writer Mike Kiley goes on to say that a number of teams, including the Atlanta Braves, would have high interest in the Farns.

It's scary to think of Farnsworth in another uniform if someone can figure out how to harness his talent. But if he continues to implode the way he did in 2004, good riddance Kyle.

Drink Up!

Cubs fans, if ever there was a time to drink the blue Kool-Aid, this appears to be it. Check out some Jeromy Burnitz highlights at the Rockies' official website. Because, in the words of Conan, "when all else fails, there's always delusion."

::glug glug glug::


My Inaugural Post

The newest Chicago Cub

I need a place to sound off on my Chicago Cubs, so this will be the place from now on. It probably won't be updated as often as my other blog, but I will do my best to comment on the drama that is the Cubbies.

Today marked the end of an era...Sammy Sosa is no longer a Chicago Cub. I blogged about this before, so I don't feel the need to do it again. Goodbye Sammy.

The newest Cubs are Jerry Hairston and Jeromy Burnitz. Obviously, Hairston is not a surprise because we've known for almost a week that he'd be the main player in the Sosa trade. But Burnitz is a little weird...

I'll try to be positive here. Burnitz is left handed, a solid defensive player, and a better teammate than Sosa. I don't quite understand why he was signed though. He's not young and his numbers from 2004 were inflated from playing his home games in Coors Field.

If Burnitz is our big acquisition, I am not impressed. But if he is just the second in a series of moves (Sosa being the first) and Jim Hendry has more up his sleeve I can live with that. The outfield is getting crowded as it is, so I'm wondering how that situation will be resolved.

I will say that I will be very skeptical going into Opening Day with an outfield of Hairston, Corey Patterson, and Burnitz. Hairston is a nice little player but often gets hurt. Patterson is young and very talented, but inconsistent. And Burnitz is getting long in the tooth.

Let the drama begin.
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