Today, because you are finished with my look at the individual positions and who should be starting for the Chicago Cubs, I will give you my thoughts on what I feel would be the perfect line up to run out everyday. Thankfully this is made much easier because Cubs Manager Mike Quade and I are in full agreement on who should be playing everyday. The one thing we do not agree on, is how they should be lined up. So far in Spring Training, based on the line up that has been run out most often, Quade is looking at running out this line up.
Pitcher of the day,
While I agree with three of the nine spots in the line up, I feel that the others should be shuffled around for reasons that I am about to explain. In my mind, the line up should look like this.
Kosuke Fukudome: This one Quade has right. With his precise at the plate, there is no one better to hit lead off. What he lacks in batting average, which tends to be his main down fall with the fans, he makes up for in drawing walks. That is the main objective for any lead off hitter. Get on base for the big boppers behind you.
Geovany Soto: Cuttently, Quade has him batting seventh in the lineup. In my honest opinion, this is a big mistake. He is the teams best on base percentage guy and should be at the top of the line up batting second. Much like with Fukudome should be batting lead off, getting on base is the most important thing for your first and second hitters. The reason Soto should be hitting second, is because he does just that. Because he has a keen eye at the plate, and has a fair amount of power, pitchers will need to pitch to him very carefully if he is hitting second. They do not want to walk him, and give you best run producers a chance to drive him in, so they will have to throw him pitches to hit. Doing so could cost them dearly.
Aramis Ramirez: The Cubs need a power hitter in the three hole, and that just is not Marlon Byrd. These two men should be flipped in the order. History has shown that if there are men on base for Ramirez, that chances are he is going to drive them in. He is the Cubs best run producer, and has been for the past few years, and needs to bat in the first inning. With Fukudome and Soto hitting in front of him, he will typically always have someone on base for him to drive in.
Marlon Byrd: I know what you are thinking, if Byrd isn’t powerful enough to hit in the three spot, why hit him clean up? I think he should hit clean up for those exact reasons. He is a good line drive hitter and can move guys over and drive them in without the use of a home run. In some instances that is a better weapon than a home run hitter. He gives you a different aspect to think about. If Ramirez is unable to drive the previous guys in, Byrd almost certainly will. Besides, I feel that having power back to back is a waste and kind of is easier on the pitcher who does not need to chance his thought process when the batters change. You typically pitch all power hitters the same way.
Carlos Pena: He should be hitting fifth, exactly where Quade has him. Left handed power in this spot is very nice. A line drive hitter right in front of him could mean that there is typically someone on base for him to try and drive in. While his average has not been very good the past few years, he still has the power numbers to make him a big threat with men on base.
Alfonso Soriano: Once again, Quade gets the decision right to bat him here. While he is no longer the big 40 home run threat that he once was, he is still very capable of hitting at least 20 home runs. He will never have another good year of stealing bases either, which is why he is not batting higher in the line up. Because he still has some decent power, he still has to be considered a threat at the plate.
Blake Dewitt: He is not a strong hitter, and can occasionally draw a walk. I will not tiptoe around this guy at all, he is our weakest hitter. The reason I have him hitting seventh instead of eighth is because you do not want two easy outs back to back. Perhaps with another year of professional baseball under his belt he will be able to surprise us with something. Either way, I am not expecting much out of him. Only good thing I can say about him, is that he is better than Ryan Theriot because he can occasionally draw a walk.
Starlin Castro: The very reason Quade likes him hitting second is why he should be hitting eighth in the order. Someone who can hit at a high average at the bottom of the order is a good way to help turn the line up over and get back to the top of the order. If you have three low average guys at the bottom of the order (no Soto is not a low average hitter, but his power says he should be hitting higher) you will have three easy outs all in a row. That is something pitchers dream of, you are basically handing them an easy inning. Throwing a .300 hitter here helps keep the offense rolling. Add to the mix that he can draw a walk, which is a very important aspect for anyone who is going to hit in the eight hole. Pitchers will tend to pitch around this hitter in order to get to the easiest out in the line up, the pitcher. Yes, the pitcher is the easiest out even if we are talking about Carlos Zambrano. This guy needs to get on base for the pitcher to move over with a sacrifice bunt and to reset the line up.
A line up like this would give the Cubs the best chance to win on a daily basis. Granted, that is assuming everything works the way they should. While we may not have the most talented line up in baseball, I believe that you can still make noise if you put things in the proper order. Perhaps Quade’s line up is better than my purposed one.
After a bad case of the Mondays struck hard and fast, I am back to continue the look at the Chicago Cubs position by position. Today, we find ourselves at second base. I have to be honest here, the second baseman for the 2011 season, is our weakest spot in the lineup, and has been since Mark DeRosa was traded. To kill any debate before one is started, I am not saying the Cubs should not have traded DeRosa at all. Seriously, what has he done the past two years to make you wish he was still on the Cubs those two years? Absolutely nothing. So if you want to throw your two cents in about him, feel free. However do not be surprised if I do not agree with you.
Anyway, back on topic. Second base is an interesting position for the Cubs in 2011, because of how weak they are there. They do not have any standout candidate to pickup the job and claim second as their own. The two candidates for the position are Jeff Baker and Blake Dewitt, which is what makes today’s examination so interesting. What Cubs Manager Mike Quade should do with these two, is give them a straight lefty/right platoon. In this case, Dewitt would get the majority of the at bats because he is a left handed bat, and Baker could take over when there is a left hander on the mound. This fits in perfectly because he crushes lefties, and could easily slide in the leadoff spot on days he is starting.
When Dewitt came to the Cubs via a trade for Ryan Theriot, the comparisons began. To make a long story short, Dewitt is a younger and left handed version Theriot; he comes with a little less speed, a little more power, but he comes without the cool sounding last name or the Tooblans (Thrown Out On The Base paths Like A Nincompoop). Theriot was famous for them, and you could usually count on him to make at least one boneheaded base running mistake a ballgame. With Dewitt, you do not get that. He knows how to run the bases. One more quality that he brings to the Cubs that Theriot did not, was the ability to draw a walk once in a while. However, in an honest moment, he likely will not be the reason we will be winning many games this year.
Defensively, he is an upgrade over Theriot, but that is not a hard task to do. He may not drive in too many runs for the Cubs, but he will not allow too many to score because of a boneheaded defensive play.
With Baker filling in against the left handed pitchers, you will not miss a step offensively. For his career, he is hitting at a .350 average, and getting on base close to a .400 clip. Those are outstanding numbers, and using him properly against those left handers, and you could very well see him putting up some very impressive statistics, even for a part timer. He does not have much power, which might turn him off from some fans though.
I can not try to sugar coat this, overall, second base could very well be a complete disaster for the Cubs this year. As I mentioned, this is our biggest weakness going into the season. Do not expect much out of either of these two offensively.
We will be lucky if Dewitt hits .260 this year with around five or six homers and 50 RBI. Not great statistics, and on par with what Theriot was producing. The upside, as I mentioned, he will get on base at a higher rate than his predecessor and be on base more to get driven in. That could very well be the most important difference between the two. Dewitt will not be thrown out before the rest of the team has a chance to drive him in,
With Baker, if he only bats against the left handed pitchers as I hope, he could be in store for a good season of .280 ball with maybe three or four homers and about 30 some RBI.
Of course, both these statistics could be way off based on playing time, or better play at the plate. Hopefully I am wrong and both men have outstanding seasons and blow my predictions out of the water. I would not be disappointed to be wrong at all, in fact, I hope that I am.
That being said, I am getting prepared for a headache when we think about second base for the 2011 season.