Category: Dailies

The Cubs Feeling the Effects of Losing Two Pitchers

When Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells went down, each after their first starts of the season, there were some fans who shrugged off the injuries because they were only the four and five pitchers for the Chicago Cubs. After a combined five starts from their replacements, Casey Coleman and James Russell, I wonder if they are singing a different tune.

Since taking over for Cashner, Russell has made two starts himself, and to be honest there has not been anything good that has come out of either one of them. He has gone a total of 5.2 innings while giving up nine runs, eight of which were earned for an ERA of 13.85. Not good numbers for a starting pitcher, not even your number five pitcher. At least Cubs Manager Mike Quade realizes how bad Russell was, and is unlikely to give him another start. When your manager says that you should likely only be a situational pitcher, that means your starting days are over. The decision came two starts, and two losses might I add too late. The next time the Cubs need a number five pitcher, another roster move might be made.

Today, the Cubs demoted Jeff Stevens back to Triple A, and recalled Justin Berg. Next time Cashner’s spot in the rotation comes up, Berg or Russell could very well be sent back to Iowa for a replacement pitcher. Who that is at the moment I am not sure, but if I were to predict I would say Thomas Diamond might get recalled to fill the void. Is he a better option than Russell? Obviously he can not be any worst, so what more do you have to lose?

Coleman on the other hand, has at least had some success in his three starts, albeit only one of the three starts showed anything promising. In his three starts, Coleman has gone 13.1 innings allowing 11 runs for a 7.43 ERA. Not great, but considering there is a massive lack of options the Cubs may be stuck. Yesterday was obviously the worst outing of his short 2011 season. Six runs allowed with four walks in 2.2 innings is not a stat you want to see, ever.  The good thing, is that in his last start (the one before yesterday) he shined, at least as much as you can going 5.2 innings. He allowed only one run, while being effectively wild walking and striking out four. If push comes to shove (and we are in this desperate unfortunate situation) we can live with him for another start or two. Mainly because there likely isn’t another option in the minors.

I never thought that losing Carlos Silva, who left after refusing a minor league assignment, would come back to bite us. Granted, he is not a good pitcher, but he would have been a massive upgrade over Russell, and maybe a little better than Coleman. While that is not saying much, nor would that be all too hard to do, the Cubs need all the help they can get in the starting pitching department until Wells and Cashner get back. The minor league system is lacking Major League ready pitching, even though there are a few young minor league pitchers who have been touted as the next sure thing. Sadly, the group of young promising pitchers, which include Jay Jackson, are not ready for the majors or one of them would have been called up when either of the other two guys went down.

While they each only had one start, one time through the rotation, they had the best outing of anyone in the rotation. Losing both of them was a bigger blow than most people realized. As I mentioned when they went down, losing both of them is equal or worse to the St. Louis Cardinals losing their Ace, at least for the amount of time they would be missing. Losing your best pitcher and replacing him with your sixth best pitcher is a lot better than losing your fourth and fifth best pitchers and replacing them with your sixth and seventh best pitchers, one of whom should not even be in the majors, is a bigger blow. Argue that anyway you want to, but losing two is worse than losing one. Especially in the long run.

Tuesday would be the next time that the fifth start is to take the mound, the smart money is on Russell not making that start. Not sure who will, but you can bet that he will give the Cubs a better chance to win a game.


Pathetic Baseball Against a Pathetic Club

In what may have been the most pathetic display of baseball I have ever seen, and trust me there has been a lot over the years following the Chicago Cubs, the game they played Tuesday night against the Houston Astros may just take the cake. Nothing but lazy and sloppy defense came out of this game, and buried the Cubs in a 5-0 hole before the second inning was over. There is not one single player who is at fault, as a matter of fact there are several who helped doom the Cubs before you most people could find their seats.

Firstly, I never want to see James Russell ever pitch in a game for the Cubs again, much less start a game for them. Being placed on a 50 pitch count, the youngster making his first career start could not even get out of the second inning before reaching his limit, and allowed five runs to cross the plate. To think, we yell at Carlos Zambrano for being at 80 pitches in the fifth inning, that is nothing compared to the crapfest that Russell delivered to us. Perhaps he should be sent back down to the minors so that he can work on not only learning how to manage his pitch counts and work on not throwing more than 25 pitches per inning, but also working on throwing balls that are not hit as though they are on a batting tee.

To make things worse, our substitute pitcher on the night failed to cover first base on consecutive bunts to lead off the bottom of the first. I do not care who the base runner is, that is unacceptable, and should not be tolerated. If he is to stay with the major league roster, he better make sure to take bunting drills every day until he is able to get to first in time to field a throw.

The rest of the pitching was just as bad, however Jeff Samardzija was not great, but not bad at all coming out of the bullpen. He gave up two runs over three innings of work, and I will take that effort every time out of him. As much grief as I, and all Cub fans, give him, he deserves credit for a decent outing. Jeff Stevens and Marcus Mateao put up scoreless innings to help the Cubs as much as they could, but that is where all good things ended for the Cubs pitching staff. John Grabow came into the game and decided to take whatever doubt there was in the minds of the Astro fans that this game was still in jeopardy; as he usually does when he comes into a ball game.

Russell’s less than pathetic pitching was not helped by any of his outfielders, all three of them decided to take the night off from defense. We are used to seeing Alfonso Soriano drop the occasional fly ball or bobble a ball when he goes to make a play, so that is nothing new. However, not to be out done, both Marlin Byrd and Tyler Colvin got in on the act by misplaying the same ball that was bouncing to the wall. Colvin also allowed a ball to drop right in front of him later in the inning, when he could have likely made a sliding or a diving catch. If that were Soriano, he would have been barbequed for that lack of hustle, but hey fans love Colvin and Byrd so those two plays likely will not get a mention elsewhere. Add in Reed Johnson dropping the ball that was scorched to deep center and you have every single outfielder coming up short on fly balls. Johnson though, did have a very impressive effort on a fly ball to the following hitter, reminiscent to the remarkable catch he made against the Cincinnati Reds a few years back, which he just missed catching.

The outfield defense, or lack thereof, was not the end of the ugly defensive play in the first two innings. Everyone’s favorite new player, Darwin Barney, also had a brain cramp which allowed another runner to cross the plate. After Soriano bobbled the ball, he threw a strike to second base which helped get Bill Hall in a rundown between first and second. Granted, the base runner was out of the baseline (which the umpire completely missed) but the tag should have been applied before the runner from third was allowed to cross the plate. Or, if you are smart, you ignore the runner between first and second and throw to third or home to keep the other guy from scoring. I know he is young, but that is something that you should learn early on. Let’s not forget the two blunders in the eighth inning by Blake Dewitt. After Johnson dropped a deep fly ball, he threw a strike to Dewitt, who likewise dropped the ball. He also committed an error on a ball hit right to him. Another ugly defensive error to add to the mix.

The hitting has not been horrible, they did get a few good hits to land. The problem comes into play when you take into account that they had very little, if any, timely hitting. Even in the sixth inning when there were men on second and third with only one out, the Cubs could not even score a run as Hall caught a blooper hit off the bat of Soriano into “no mans land” which would have scored a run. Granted, Colvin actually got a hit, which was actually turned into a home run, but for the most part the hitting was perfectly pathetic. Another example would be Reed Johnson leading off the eighth inning with a double, only to be stranded with the next three men making outs. They showed some signs of life in the ninth getting the first two men on base, second and third with no outs, but could only muster a single run, not that I really expected them to actually score the 10 runs needed to tie the game.

To steal a line from one of my favorite baseball movies, “Bull Durham”, “this is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.” Sadly, the Cubs went 0-3 with this obvious concept of baseball. The pitching, the hitting and the defense all completely dropped the ball early on in today’s game, leaving the Cubs sitting behind the figurative eight ball.

With the Cubs having one more game against these Astros tomorrow, all we can do is hope and pray that Zambrano is on his game and can give this team some serious innings while twirling a gem. If we lose tomorrow, we are going to have a very ugly road trip as we head to Denver to face the Colorado Rockies for a series starting Friday. Even if we win tomorrow, we face the likelihood of ending a road trip with a record of 3-6 or 4-5. Not a good way to come home if you have any hopes of contending in your division.

After Nine Games, Frustration Boils Over For Both Players and Fans

I know the Chicago Cubs season is only nine games old, and we still have 153 to go, but there are already some things coming to be known about this team that I do not like whatsoever. You can tell me all you want that there is still plenty of time to turn things around (which is true) and that the season is still early (again, true) but that does not mean that you can not have things that you are not happy with, and things which must be improved if you plan on having any type of success at all.

Currently, after dropping a series to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs stand with a record of 4-5. Thankfully, they are about to start a three game series with the bottom dwelling Houston Astros, a team which is a good bet to get back on the right track and to start some sort of a winning streak against. However, you could have very easily said the same thing about the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took the series from the Cubs to start the season. If they can not sweep this pathetically awful team, or at very least win the series, you might as well pack your bags and call the season over. Sorry for the negativity this early on, but like I said, there are just a few things which are grinding on my nerves.

First and foremost, is the starting pitching. Going into the season, the impression was that we had a pitching staff which had some really good potential. However, after nine games, the pitching staff has been anything but good, Outside of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, the other three pitchers have not been living up to expectations. Both Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have gotten smacked around pretty well their first two starts, and have both left much to be desired. Carlos Zambrano on the other hand, has not been bad, but has not been all that impressive. Sadly, the best two starts we have gotten this year comes from the two pitchers that we have just placed on the disabled list.

What is even more troubling, is new addition Garza is already not happy with our pitching coach Mark Riggins. Apparently now that we are out of the thin air of Arizona, which he blamed for his poor Spring Training, he needs a new target, and Riggins seems to be just that target. God forbid anyone ever takes responsibility for their own performance, There is always someone else that is responsible for your sucking. What I find funny, is that in his close to a decade with the Cubs, I do not remember one incident of a pitcher ever calling out Larry Rothschild for anything. Not Kerry Wood, not Carlos Zambrano, no one. But, that is another argument for another day, one not likely to be worth arguing because much like with Alfonso Soriano, Cub fans have already made up their mind on him and hate him, blaming him for all the woes of the pitching staff. But, I would just like to point out that in one off season he has appeared to have fixed A.J. Burnett, not an easy task.

Another thing that is completely ticking me off right now, is Marlon Byrd. I do not know what he was thinking yesterday, but why in the blue hell did he decide to steal second base with Aramis Ramirez up at the plate? That was likely one of the dumbest moves  that I have seen from the Cubs in a very long time, and believe me that is saying something. You could tell that he either misread a sign, or completely went on his own because of the swing Ramirez took on the pitch Byrd decided to run on. Ramirez tired to protect Byrd by at least making some contact, almost sacrificing himself in the process. So Byrd not only cost us a base runner and an out, but he cost Ramirez a strike. Thanks a lot Byrd!

What is worse, is his post game interview when he was questioned about his base running blunder. He could not admit fault, which I would completely accept, but instead he got snippy with the media and told them to “beat it”. Grow up Mr. Byrd, yes you are hitting but you have no speed and should not have ran, especially not in that situation.

The we have our golden child, Starlin Castro! I love this kid, and I am more excited about him than I am about anything we have had in a long time. He is phenomenal with the bat, and every time he steps up to the plate you are always feeling like he is going to get a hit. That is how impressive this kid is. He is going to be a star! The only problem is, he is a tremendous liability with the glove. He has tremendous range, and can get to just about any ball hit on his side of second base. He also feels that he can make every throw, which is both good and bad. He has a rocket for an arm, so he always feels like he can nail a runner at first. But he needs to learn when to make a throw and when he needs to just hold on to the ball. Add into the mix that he can not apparently take a throw from a catcher, as you could see by his getting drilled on a throw from Geovany Soto on Saturday. Yes, he is still young and can learn, and his limited time in the minors probably did not help his learning process, but he needs to improve, and fast.

Those are the three things that are irritating me early in the season, however there was one roster move which is seriously scaring me. That is the Cubs signing Ramon Ortiz to a minor league contract. The first question that should cross your mind here, is why. He is old, well past his prime and likely has less than nothing left in the tank. He was likely the only pitcher the Cubs could sign, due to the severely limited fund they have; especially since they had to pay Carlos Silva $11.5 Million to go away. But why sign  him?

I am afraid that I know why. Either Wells or Cashner will be missing some significant time, and the Cubs are not too enthusiastic about either Casey  Coleman (who got manhandled by the Brewers yesterday) or James Russell who will be starting on Tuesday against the Astros. Hopefully this is not the case and he is just here to fill a roster spot in Triple A. The Cubs say that the injuries of Wells and Cashner are minor, but we have heard that all before.

Alright, I have vented. I am ready for some more Cubs baseball! Going against the Astros should bring the Cubs some easy wins. Just as long as the pitching actually is clicking, but I will not hold my breath.

The Cubs Face the Brewers After a Disappointing Homestand

The first home stand of the year is over for the Chicago Cubs, and they stand with a record of 3-3. Considering we were playing the usual hapless Pittsburgh Pirates and the dismal Arizona Diamondbacks, this is a tremendous disappointment, if not  a total failure. However, if you take into account that the Pirates have also managed to win a series against the St. Louis Cardinals, you may not feel quite as bad about losing two of three to them. Perhaps the Pirates are this years San Francisco Giants; or perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals are also a bad team that happened to catch a Pirates team which has gotten off to a quick start! Either way, a home stand which leaves you at the .500 mark is very discouraging, especially when you take into account that you could very well be 4-2 if not for a blown save by Carlos Marmol.

Outside of the two starts by Ryan Dempster, the Cubs have gotten some pretty good pitching out of their starters. In fact, outside of Dempster, the rest of the starting staff has only given up eight runs in 24.1 innings, which is pretty damn good and should be more than enough to keep your ball club in the game. The problem was the offense did not do enough to help reel in the win.

There are a few Cubs who are hitting, in fact four of the seven normal every day starting position players  (Starlin Castro, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd) are hitting over .300, as are the two rotation second basemen, (Darwin Barney and Jeff Baker). Alfonso Soriano is hitting .278 but also has three home runs, more than every other Cubs player combined and leads the team in RBI with five. The offense is not great, but there are signs of life. They just need to work on the timeliness of their hits and showing patience. No great example of needing patience is when there were runners on first and third and one out and Byrd swung at the first pitch and grounded into a game ending double play with the tying run on third.

Adding onto the misery, is the lack of attendance for the Cubs early on in the season. A lot of people are blaming the bad weather for the lowest attendance figures Wrigley has seen in years. However, a more likely reason is that Cub fans are finally getting tired of showing up and filling the stadium for a non-contending team, whose prices are always on the rise and are sitting with the third highest average ticket price in all of baseball. That is the most likely reason, because whether or not there was poor weather, Wrigley was always close to a sellout.

The funny part of the low attendance numbers is the response from the Chicago White Sox fans, For years they ridiculed us for showing up and supporting a losing team. They told us to stay away and force ownership’s hand. Now that the fans are apparently following the advice of the south side fans, they are jumping all over us questioning our fan hood. As if they actually showed up and packed the house on a game by game basis. Apparently whatever we as fans do as far as attendance, we can not win in the eyes of the Sox fans. Not that I care what they think about our team or our fandom.

What makes the end of the home stand even worse, is the Cubs lost two of their starting pitchers for at least two weeks. Both Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells have been placed on the disabled list, crippling what was once a promising five man staff. Cashner was taken out of his start in the sixth inning  after walking his first batter. Turns out that he has a strain in his rotator cuff. Wells on the other hand, is the surprising injury. He has a right forearm strain, and did not start feeling the pain until a day or two after his start. While neither one of the injuries is thought to be serious, we have all heard that line before several times with several different pitchers. All we can do for the time being is cross our fingers and hope that this time they are just minor injuries which will keep them out for the minimum amount of time.

In their place, Casey Coleman is going to be called up to make the start on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers, who the Cubs will open a series with tonight. The other move, is thought to be having James Russell move into the rotation to make at least one start which means that Jeff Stevens will get called up to fill the void in the bullpen.

Despite what people think, this is a big loss even if we are only losing the number four and five guys for a start or two a piece. Granted, nothing as bad as losing your ace for a start or for the season, you can not  argue that this is a massive blow. Losing two starters for any period of time, only to have them replaced by two other pitchers who were not good enough to make the rotation is not a good way to start winning games. Essentially you are having your sixth and seventh best starters taking the mound for you, and that is not a good thing, not that I needed to tell you that.

If this lasts for any lengthy period of time, or worst case scenario the whole season, this is a bigger loss than what the Cardinals are facing with losing Adam Wainwright for the whole season. Yes, losing your four and five starters for the season is worse than losing an Ace for the season. Losing two starting pitchers is worse than losing one.

Anyway, the first road trip starts tonight with a series against the Brewers. The three starters for the Cubs will be Carlos Zambrano, followed by Matt Garza and then Coleman. Hopefully, after the off day, the Cubs are able to return to some sense of winning baseball and get back over the .500 mark this season, where they will hopefully be able to stay. A sweep of one of the teams predicted to finish ahead of us would be very nice, though I will be more than happy with just winning two of the three games in Wrigley North.

Spring Training Ends, Time For the Prediction

With Spring Training officially over, and the baseball season officially getting underway in two more days, the time has come for me to make my official prediction for the 2011 season for your Chicago Cubs. This year, I have had to spend a lot more time looking over our team, as well as the other teams in the division before I could come to a decision as to what exactly we could expect to see out of this years club.

Looking at our pitching staff, I truly believe that we have a very solid starting five. With the St. Louis Cardinals losing Adam Wainwright for the entire season, the Cubs may very well have the best 1-5 staff in the division. Even with Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals, the Cubs may still have that honor; even though Wainwright is the best pitcher in the division. If they are given anything close to what can be considered legitimate run support, they can carry us to a very respectable record. If you read my blog on the pitching staff, you would have seen that this starting staff has the ability to win 73 games, again, as long as the team’s offense gives any sense of run support. The one pitcher everything depends upon? Carlos Zambrano.

The normally hot headed Zambrano ended 2010 with a bang, going on a very impressive 8-0 run. So far in Spring Training he has looked like he has decided to continue to pitch with the same vigor and passion that he showed when he came back from his anger management sessions. He is the lynch pin of the entire pitching staff. If he has success, he will lead our team in wins (an arbitrary stat which should not determine who the best pitcher is) and be able to put this team on his back and help carry them to a division title.

Speaking of run support, the Cubs offense has the potential to be strong, as long as everyone plays up to expectations and to their ability. However, looking at some of the key players on offense, you have to wonder if that is indeed possible. Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano are who this team’s offense depends upon every year, no matter who else is on the team. The fate of the team, as long as they are members of the Cubs, will always depend on the success or failure of these two men. If you need any sense of proof of this, look no further than the past two seasons. Both players have both struggled to put up anything close to their career averages the past two years, and the Cubs turned in very disappointing seasons both times. Could this possibly be nothing more than a coincidence? Of course, baseball is filled with coincidences that people over analyze to death. However, I do not think that this is one that you can over look.

Both players have the ability to carry a team single handedly when they are in a groove. When he is on his game, there is no player better at the plate than Soriano, likewise with Ramirez when there are men on base. If these two are able to give us statistics similar to their  07 and 08 stats, the Cubs will be in great shape to make some noise in the division, and possibly make the playoffs.

If both the pitching and offense hold up the way they should be able to, then everything falls into the lap of the bullpen. Several analysts had given the Cubs high marks on the bullpen saying that they have a dominating bullpen, and maybe even of the best. Personally, I would not go that far, or even touch that statement. However, if we limit the bullpen to setup and closer, than yes, I feel we do have one of the best in the majors. With Kerry Wood, Shawn Marshall and the always exciting Carlos Marmol, there will not be very many games lost if you get them the ball with the lead.

One advantage the Cubs have this season, at least early on, is health. Every other team of significance in the National League Central can not say the same thing.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost Ace pitcher Wainwright for the season. The Cincinnati Reds are going to be starting the season without Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. The Milwaukee Brewers will be starting the season without their Ace Zack Greinke, who has a broken rib, and Shaun Marcum is having shoulder issues. To add on to the Brew Crew’s woes, they lost Corey Hart until at least April 6. The Cubs are the healthiest team starting the season, and that may very well play into their hands; at least if they are able to take advantage of the situation.

Well, the  time has come for my prediction for the season. As optimistic as I can sometimes be about how good the pitching is, and how strong the back end of the bullpen is, everything falls on just how good the team’s offense will be. Sadly, over the past two years, the offense has not given me any true reason to believe that they will be any better than they were last year. I know when I was looking over the individual position players I made some bold predications on what I would expect out of them, but that was based more so on what I thought they were still capable of doing, rather than what I truly thought they would do. As I said, the team and the offense will go only as far as Soriano and Ramirez takes them. Soriano and Ramirez are both getting old and have been injury plagued the past two years while their careers are in the decline. I will stand by what I said, if they are able to put up respectable numbers, the Cubs will be able to have great success. I am just not sure they are still capable of doing  so.

Unless everything clicks for this team, and the ball bounces our way just about every time, I can not see the Cubs doing any better than 85-77 and finishing in third place.

The Bullpen Takes Shape

The bullpen for the Chicago Cubs is finally set. With the departure of Carlos Silva, better late than never, the team opted to go with Marcos Mateo to round out the middle relief portion of the pen. With seven pitchers in the Cubs pen, they are prepared to go into battle, and believe they have more than enough to sustain any lead which is handed to them, or to keep the game within reach if a starting pitcher is pulled with the Cubs trailing. In case you missed the official announcement as far as who is in the pen, allow me to fill you in.

Outside of the newest addition of Mateo, the Cubs will also be taking left handed pitchers James Russell, John Grabow and Shawn Marshall. The other three men in the pen will be right handed pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood and of course Carlos Marmol. This may not be the most talented bullpen in the league, but they are not the worst bullpen either.

Obviously, as with every team, there are pitchers in the pen which the fans are less than pleased to see making the cut. You do not have to take too long to think about who those pitchers are for the Cubs. Take a few seconds to think about that, and come back. I will start with those three.

I am not sure which pitcher is the least desired of the bunch, but I will start with Grabow; only because he comes first alphabetically. When he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009, he did not do a bad job at all. A very respectable stat line backs that up. The problem comes into play with Cubs General Manager extending his contract, and paying him more than he was worth. Nothing was more evident of that than his poor performances in the 2010 season, which you might be able to write off to his being injured most of the year. Right now though, he appears healthy so there are no more excuses. If he pitches well as he did in 2009, he will be a nice addition to the pen. However if his performance mirrors last season, then the Cubs will be in trouble.

Russell is likely the most tolerable pitcher of the three less desirables, only because he is young and still has a chance to rebound from his first year, which was not that great. Being the third left handed pitcher in the pen, he is likely to be a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). Put in to get one tough left hander out. Perhaps if he succeeds as a LOOGY, he may be used for full innings at some point this season. Regardless, in his second season, first full season, he may not have much of an impact if he is used for one batter a game. He might be the most irreverent pitcher in the pen, unless Grabow gets injured again.

Then we have Samardzija, who appears to be the bane of all Cub fan’s existence. He has yet to live up to expectations, even though he has had his moments where he has looked like everything we have been hoping for. However, those moments of greatness have been too far and few between. Perhaps this year, which is his final guaranteed year, he may finally be close to figuring things out, and become a real major league pitcher. The Cubs have not done anything to help him out on his quest though. They rushed him through the system, and threw him from bullpen to rotation and back again so many times that his head is likely still spinning. Not to defend his defaulting talent, but pitchers are creatures of habit and like to know what their role is. If you are constantly changing what they are supposed to do, you would be hard pressed to fully blame him for his failures.

Mateo is a flame thrower, and could really help the ball club by blowing people away. Not much is known about him, nor how he will convert to the big league level, but looking at his skill set, he could turn into another solid setup man in the near future.

With Marshall, you have a pitcher that many fans would love too see be given a full year to prove himself in the starting rotation. However, I feel he is best served in the bullpen; ironically he seems to agree. In a recent interview on 670 The Score, he mentioned that he actually likes pitching in the bullpen better because he doesn’t have to use all of his pitches, and has no need to set up various pitches for later use.  If he continues to have his great success in the bullpen, then our left handed setup portion of the pen will be well taken care of.

Then we have long time fan favorite, and returning Cub, Wood. Many fans will say that the team made a massive mistake allowing him to leave in free agency two years ago. That is a mistake that was rectified this year when he came back to the Cubs at a massive discount. If he pitches as well for the Cubs as he did for the New York Yankees last year, the Cubs will have no problem getting the ball to Marmol in the ninth.

Finally, we have the strike out and walk machine  himself. As I noted in a previous blog about him after he got his contract extension, he is the most inconsistent pitcher in baseball of the past four years. That being said, no one strikes more fear into batters than he does, and he does not allow people to get hits off of him. If he didn’t walk the world every other time out, or hit at least one batter an inning, he would be unstoppable. If the ball gets to him, your chances are high that the game is all but over. He may give you a heart attack every time out, but he gets the job done.

For me, and most likely everyone else, the key to the bullpen is the back end. With Wood and Marshall in the set up roles, you will not see many leads evaporate before closer Marmol has the opportunity to lock down the save. In many ways, the setup pitchers are more valuable to a team than the closer, and the Cubs may very well have two of the best. If they perform as well as they have done in years past, these three could turn every outing into a three inning affair.

With the Cubs starters slated to get 73 wins, at least in my starting pitchers thread, the bullpen will need to win at least 15 games in order for the Cubs to be a viable contender for this season. Bullpen wins and losses are very hard to predict, so I will not even try. I will just repeat that they will need to be responsible for at least 15 wins, and that is to only have a shot to compete. The pen has holes that will have to be over come, but the back end is more than enough to give you hope.

Andrew Cashner Rounds Out Cubs Starting Staff

With a week left until opening day, the Chicago Cubs have finally announced their full five man starting rotation. The top three have been known since training camp opened. Opening day starter Ryan Dempster will be followed by Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza. Even though the official announcement only came a week ago, every knew that Randy Wells belonged as the teams fourth starter, and the fact that he had to compete for the job was a complete joke. The fifth and final starting pitching job, a battle between youngster Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva has finally been decided; and the winner is Cashner . What this means, is I can finally finish my look at the 2012 ball club.

With Cashner beating out Silva or the fifth starting job, two birds were just killed. One on hand, the Cubs get to begin to build towards the future and use  Cashner to develop at the big league level. On the other hand, the have a young pitcher  with some upside in Cashner starting over Silva, whose better days are far behind him. This was the best possible move the ball club could make for both the present and the future. The Cubs are finally doing something that actually makes sense.

Today, we look at the starting pitching staff for the 2012 club and what I feel we can expect from them for the year to come.

With the Cubs tabbing Dempster to be the opening day starter, the team is already on the right path to having a successful season. Nothing against Zambrano, but over the years he has had some of his worst starts in his career on opening day. You do not need to go back much further than last years exploding disaster to get a good idea of how this usually go for him. Whether he is too amped up or not, I can not tell you, but Zambrano on opening day does not usually work out.

Looking at Dempster, he has been our most consistent pitcher over the past few years, which is probably why he will get the honor. There is no reason to believe that the trend for him will not continue Figure a good record of 16-10 with an ERA around 3.45

Zambrano, I think is the key to the whole rotation even though he is not labeled as the “ace” of the staff. However, he is still likely our best starter and might very well show that this year. The move to take him out of the opening day starters gig is more of a change of trends than a slap in his face.  I see him having one of the best years of his career. I can easily see him putting up a 17-12 record and an ERA close to 3.65.

New comer Garza is switching leagues, going from the American to the National, which should help him out. However, he is also going from a pitcher friendly park to one that favors the hitters. Normally, I would give a pitcher a boost in his statistics with a switch like this, but in Garza’s case, I am not sure I can see that. For Garza, I would not be surprised to see a record of 12-10 with an Era around 4.00.

With Wells, the man who was made to compete for a job when he should not have had to, I expect a nice year from him. He has shown to have the ability to pitch well in big situations, but has never been able to get decent run support from him team. Both years as a starter, he should have won high totals, but was never able to do so because the Cubs could not score for him. I think that this is the year that all changes. Wells could very well put up a record of 16-11 with an ERA close to 3.25 earning him the recognition he truly deserves.

Finally, we have Cashner who is the wildcard in this lineup. We do not have any idea what to expect out of him, so making a predication for him would make little to no sense. But when have I ever let that stop me from doing anything? Cashner will have a shaky record of 12-11. His ERA will likely be near the low 4s. Not to spectacular, but that will be a start for him. We are better off by far having him than Silva though, no matter how well Cashner does.

By my count, the Cubs starters will be responsible for 73 wins and 54 losses, which is not all together a bad thing. That will be 19 games over .500. If they work out the way I think they could, the Cubs might have a legit shot of making some noise in the division. That means that 35 games will be decided by the bullpen, which just so happens to be the last positional blog I will be doing this spring. That one will be up tomorrow.