Monday, April 06, 2009

Batter up: Chicago Cubs

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team who you know fully well won't win. In honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things tangentially about each Major League Baseball team. At bat: The Chicago Cubs.
  1. Baseball Prospectus 2009's leaderboards see Rich Harden of Victoria, B.C., leading the majors in ERA (3.04), WHIP (1.12) and strikeouts (235).

  2. Canadian insult: Ryan Dempster can go do his impression of Will Ferrell doin' an impression of Harry Caray out in the middle of a mosquito-infested lake, eh.

    Dempster and his spouse, Jennifer, were expecting a baby (a girl who was born last Thursday), so it's understandable that he demurred from playing for Team Canada at the WBC (although someone should have told the guy in Montreal who wrote, "Dempster must think those millionaire hockey players in the NHL who always seem to jump at the opportunity to represent Canada are crazy." There's still one living Montreal Maroon.)

    Dempster also just put up Triple Crown stats of 17-6 and a 2.96 ERA with 187 strikeouts, a once-a-career season, so one can understand why he wouldn't want change his routine. Granted, liking sports is not about being rational.

  3. Sometimes it is this simple: The Cubbies led the National League in on-base (.354) and slugging percentage (.443) last year before adding Milton Bradley's big bat.

  4. Their outlook summed up in one line from an Apatow movie: "Try some wrong, dog." It's a good group of complementary players, with catcher Geovany Soto as the one legit star at the eight everyday spots.

  5. It's tempting to think ace Carlos Zambrano spoke for more than a few players when he wished the Cubs would get a new stadium. The place is 95 years old, for pete's sake.

  6. The Cubs don't have a ton of depth in their farm system, raising the question of what they would give the Padres for Jake Peavy.

  7. Harden has a rep as damaged goods. The Beep notes that Cubs manager Lou Piniella has a track record with brilliant-but-brittle pitchers. Jose Rijo had his three best seasons with Piniella in Cincinnati from 1990-92, averaging 204 innings a season with a 2.59 ERA and 1.107 WHIP.

  8. Carlos Marmol has been the closer-elect for a while. Kevin Gregg, who saved 29 games for Florida last season, has been installed as closer.

  9. You'll grow sick of hearing that leftfielder Alfonso Soriano went 3-for-28 in the playoffs the past two seasons. The sample sizes in the post-season are too small to really form firm conclusions.

  10. Milton Bradley, who's 31, wasn't born the last time a Cubs had a 30-homer season from a left-handed hitter. That streak likely continues unless you believe Kosuke Fukudome has some latent home-run tendencies.

    Bradley is more dangerous from the right side, but going with Fukudome in right field again is the equivalent of bringing Zambuca to a party. Fukudome's passable in centrefield if there's no one better.

  11. Neal Cotts is the only left-hander in the bullpen. Marmol is pretty tough on all hitters, though.

  12. Neither second baseman Mike Fontenot nor shortstop Ryan Theriot is up to playing every day, but they can be on the Bobby Hebert All-Stars every day (that's American athletes with French-sounding names; they won a College World Series title together at Louisiana State).

  13. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez make for a decent set of corner infielders. It's still hard to believe Lee once had 99 extra-base hits in a season.

  14. Minor League Ball says the Cubs have "no one with impact hitting potential at the higher levels" of the minor leagues. There goes another destination for Roy Halladay.

  15. Theodore Lilly is a good glue guy as the fourth starter, 200 innings a season, ERA in the high 3s or low 4s. Sweet liquor eases the pain of the year when he was the lone Jay selected for the all-star game, even if he and I share a birthday.

  16. Former Jay Reed Johnson, according to a panel of Jays Talk callers, has been voted the greatest baseball player of all time. He wasn't a league-average hitter last season. He didn't have a 50% success rate as a base stealer (5-for-11) and he only hit six home runs all season while playing at Wrigley Field, but he's a white guy who always looks like he's trying really hard.

    We dare not think of the bitterness that will happen if the Cubbies make the World Series.

  17. True to form, the Chicago writers are already up in arms over Fukudome starting in centrefield over Johnson: "Forget the idea of a platoon unless Johnson shows one is necessary."Johnson has a career on-base-plus-slugging of .712 vs. right-handers. What more does he have to do to show it's necessary?

  18. The Cubs are 163-128 (.560) since June 1, 2007. Keep in mind that includes the oh-fer in the playoffs.

  19. It's fake baseball, so it shouldn't really be annoying, but National League teams shouldn't get use a DH whenever they pretty much feel like it during spring training games. They get to have it both ways: More swings for their players before the season starts, less swings for the AL teams' guys once the season starts. Screw them.

  20. Kris Pollina was the only one out of Baseball Daily Digest's 11 prognosticators who doesn't have the Cubbies making their third straight playoff appearance (which would be unprecedented for a Chicago baseball team).

  21. Good trivia question for the year 2025: Utilityman Aaron Miles got the first hit in the new Yankee Stadium.

  22. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija gave up football to focus on baseball, but as long as he's in same city as the NFL's Bears, he's the best wide receiver in town. (Yes, Samardzija is in Triple-A.)

    (This what happens when you cheer for the Vikings and they don't get Jay Cutler. You have to compliment a Notre Dame guy to zing the Bears.)

  23. Great Bermanesque nickname suggestion, which best of all, did not come from Chris Berman: Bleed Cubbie Blue has come up with Starlin "Vocal Band" Castro.

    The Cubs do play the most afternoon games of any major-league team.

  24. Pedro Martínez's career 4.12 ERA at Wrigley Field is the worst for any part where he's pitched at least 50 innings. That might come up later this season — or not.

  25. One reason not to replace Wrigley that no one thought of: There is the risk future generations might not get the part in The Blues Brothers when Dan Aykroyd's character listed his address as 1060 West Addison St.


Dennis Prouse said...

The Cubs to get a new stadium? Neate, I am surprised at you. I thought you were a purist. Wrigley is an icon. Bad enough that they mowed down Yankee Stadium to make a replica - now you want them to do the same to Wrigley? I know I am likely in the minority, but I love divey, old school stadiums and arenas.

Oh, and as for Jay Cutler, the Bears can have him, especially at that price. They grossly overpaid for him. The Vikings should simply wait on Cleveland, who will be anxious to unload one of either Quinn or Anderson fairly soon. The asking price will be much, much lower, and I think both could be better performers than Cutler. Let's see how well Cutler plays with no receivers, and a leaky offensive line. I would laugh my butt off if the Neckbeard puts up better numbers in Denver than Cutler does in Chicago, a distinct possibility.

sager said...

Nah, they don't need to replace Wrigley, I'm just saying I bet more players than let on would rather play in a modern facility, i.e., with larger locker rooms and such.

BSomeone else can make the joke that Brady Quinn's fanbase thinks he would look fabulous in Minnesota's purple compared to Cleveland orange and brown.