The Coors Effect

January 26, 2010 7:35 PM

2010 Preview Series: Chicago Cubs

Cubs celebrating.jpgWhile the Coors Effect is, always has been, and always will be a Rockies-focused blog, the Rockies don't play in a vacuum.  Entering the season, it's important to know just what is going on with the rest of the teams in the majors; hence, we're going to take a day to preview each of the other 29 teams in the league.  Don't worry -- we'll keep up with any Rockies-related news during this time.

The last few years, Cubs fans have entered every season thinking this is the year they'll finally break through and win the World Series.  2009 was one of those years, but it didn't happen, largely because of injuries.  Aramis Ramirez only played in 82 games, and Alfonso Soriano played in 117 (and wasn't the same player when he was "healthy," as injuries clearly robbed a lot of his ability.)  Milton Bradley played in 124 games and ultimately wound up out of town after going berserk over the last few weeks of the season.

This season?  The Cubs have a pretty solid offensive core, assuming a return to form by both Ramirez and Soriano, paired with the always-dangerous Derrek Lee.  The Cubs added Marlon Byrd to offset the loss of Bradley; Byrd is a late-bloomer who's coming off three straight years of above-average offensive production (after being a part-time player for most of his career.)  With Byrd likely to play in center, the Cubs will move Kosuke Fukudome to right, a place where his bat is even less acceptable.

The Cubs do have some issues up the middle.  At short, Ryan Theriot will be as good as a rather empty BA will take him; Theriot draws walks, but doesn't hit for power, and any drop in his BA (he's currently a lifetime .288 hitter) will make him basically useless at the plate.  At second, the Cubs have a choice between offensively-challenged Mike Fontenot and defensively-challenged former Rockie Jeff Baker.  The smart money is on something of a platoon, as the lefty-hitting Fontenot put up a ghastly .553 OPS versus LHP in 2009.  Behind the plate is Geovany Soto, who followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008 with an awful 2009.  Soto should settle in somewhere between the .868 OPS he put up in the former year and the .702 of the latter year, and be at the very least an acceptable offensive catcher.

The pitching staff should be solid, led at the top by the enigmatic Carlos Zambrano, who has the talent to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Ted Lilly is a strong number two, while Ryan Dempster proved that his 2008 season wasn't a fluke.  Randy Wells had the best ERA of any Cubs starter in 2009, though the smart money is on him coming back down to earth in 2010.  Tom Gorzelanny should at least be serviceable as a fifth starter, something that can't be said for Carlos Silva, acquired in the trade that sent Milton Bradley out of town.

Carlos Marmol's horrific control will have Cubs fans sweating the ninth inning, though he clearly has the stuff to be a closer.  The rest of the bullpen is decent, but not great.

The short news is that 2010 probably won't be the Cubs' year.  Too many of the hitters are on the wrong side of 30 to expect a great deal of improvement on offense, even if having Ramirez and Soriano back and healthy will improve the offense by itself.  And while the Cubs have the makings of a solid starting rotation, will the bullpen be good enough to protect leads?

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