StrategyFebruary 12, 2011

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs - 5 comments

By André Walker

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Finishing a dismal 5th (behind the Astros. The Astros!) and putting up their worst record since the Neifi Perez era, the North Siders had few bright spots last year. 2011 doesn’t look so rosy, either, especially with the suddenly tough NL Central competition. The veterans will only get older from here, and apart from Starlin Castro, the youth movement seems to be taking its sweet time to develop. In response, management made a few impact moves to gap the present and the future in acquiring Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood, and Matt Garza. But will the moves be enough for the Cubs organization to be Recalled to Life?

I promise this is the last year I open with Charles Dickens jokes.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.

The Starting Lineup

C Geovany Soto.280.393.4974717530322 
1B Carlos Pena.196.325.4076428840484w/TB
2B Blake DeWitt.261.336.373475523440w/2T
SS Starlin Castro.300.347.4085334110463 
3B Aramis Ramirez.241.294.4526125830465 
LF Alfonso Soriano.258.322.4966724795496 
CF Marlon Byrd.293.346.4298412665580 
RF Kosuke Fukudome.263.371.4394513447358 

Unsettled: Tyler Colvin’s role. Except for him, everyone’s position is set, there are no prospects on the horizon to push regulars out, and there are no likely trade candidates at this point. Colvin will push Fukudome and Soriano a few times a week again, plus late-inning pinch-hit duties against lefties. If manager Mike Quade thinks highly enough of him (after slugging .500 with a 31-HR pace in 2010, he should), and if he feels Pena can pull his weight as the lineup’s token lefty, then Colvin very well could end up overtaking the RF job. For now, though, don’t draft either one and keep an eye on the OF situation in Chicago to see if Colvin becomes the man in RF.

Target: Can I please say no one? None of them really stand out to me as draft-day values. Soto is injury-prone, Castro is overrated as a fantasy player, and pretty much everyone else is declining or boring. I guess for the sake of filling space, I could talk about Carlos Pena for a while. 2010 was aberrant for him in one major way that led to a decrease in overall production: his GB%. From ’07 to ’09, he posted the highest FB% (49.4%) and third-lowest GB% (33.0%) among all major leaguers, but last year for some reason (grudge against worms?) he turned in a GB% and FB% of 44.9% and 40.6%, respectively. This led to a .222 BABIP, which to an extent makes sense; he’s obviously not the fleetest of foot, so he can’t parlay a high ground ball rate into a high BABIP. But in 2011, he will change his home field from the lefty-punishing Tropicana to the lefty-friendly Wrigley. Perhaps this will motivate him to play to his skill set like before, and that could only lead to good things. After all, his walk rate and strikeout rate were almost identical, and his HR/FB rate remained elite (fourth in the league). I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up numbers similar to 2009. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that his 33-year-old body can’t handle hitting the way it used to. I’d gamble on Pena in the 12th round or later in 12-teamers, but not unless I have another option at 1B ready.

The Rotation

Ryan Dempster (R)15-123.851.3220886215.2 
Matt Garza (R)15-103.911.2515063204.2w/TB
Carlos Zambrano (R)11-63.331.4511769129.2 
Randy Wells (R)8-144.261.4014463194.1 
Carlos Silva (R)10-64.221.278024113.0 

Unsettled: The first three are definitely in, barring injury. However, Wells and Silva will have to earn their spots. They’ll be going up against sophomore fireballer Andrew Cashner, who struggled with control in the bullpen last year (4.97 BB/9). Cashner is still the exciting new guy in town and was ranked by many above Castro before 2010, though he was a reliever in college and seems to fit the bullpen prototype more than a starter. Also in the race are Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper, Casey Coleman, and James Russell. I’d make fun of them hard but I don’t want to eat crow like I had to do after laying into Carlos Silva last year. However, I can at least confidently advise you not to draft them. Ever. Not even if it was a Cubs-only league and you waited until the third round to draft a pitcher.

Target: All those guys I just made fun of. No, but seriously, go for Ryan Dempster. It took him ten long years, but he finally racked up 200 K’s again. Since ’08, his WAR has been the 14th best among pitchers and he’s quietly had the third-best slider in the league. His strikeout numbers have been very good, if not great. You want some more? His BB rate is manageable, and he limits fly balls, which is always a plus in Wrigley. Despite the consistently great results, he hasn’t strayed from the 11th-12th round in most leagues because he doesn’t excel in any single category except the always underappreciated strikeout rate. Experts (by which I mean me) call this “the Ted Lilly Effect”. Still, he’s 34 years old, so don’t reach.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Carlos Marmol (R)382.551.191385277.2 
Kerry Wood (R)83.131.39492946.0 

Chasing Saves: Sixteen strikeouts per nine innings. Can I get a “What?” Marmol was ridiculous before, but he turned the concept of ridiculous on its head in 2010, then gave it a wedgie for good measure. My favorite statistic: opposing batters made contact with 325 pitches, and he faced 332 batters over the course of the season. That means that, on average, his opponents made contact with less than one pitch per at-bat! Marmol is probably the most electrifying player in baseball right now (with apologies to Stephen Strasburg) and there is no way he loses the closer’s role barring a total meltdown. And keep in mind, he’s probably the only pitcher in history for whom 6 BB/9 is considered more than acceptable, so he’d probably have to walk more than one batter per inning to worry anyone. But enough gushing about Marmol (well, not really, but it’s 1:50 AM and I have sleep to catch up on). For those of you in holds leagues, Wood would be a nice pickup since he figures to hold on to the setup role all year. His only threat is Cashner, but if Cashner were to succeed, Quade would probably stick him into the rotation. Plus, you can get decent to good ratios and good strikeouts out of him.

Final Thoughts

The addition of Pena and Garza, plus a full season of Starlin Castro, figure to net the Cubs a couple more wins this year. However, the aging Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Marlon Byrd, as well as the not-very-talented pretty much everyone else, will most likely prevent the Cubs from competing for the division title against the youthful Reds/Brewers and the ever-dangerous Cardinals. I’d advise Cubs fans to temper that seemingly eternal optimism, because by the end of the year, you may be tempted to jump into The Frozen Deep.

Check back tomorrow for our look at the Cincinnati Reds.

André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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5 Responses to “30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs”

  1. User avatar AquaMan2342 says:

    Pena won’t be facing nearly the amount of lefties that he was facing in the AL East this year either. I think he’s due for a solid rebound this year and I was satisfied with where I got him in our mock draft.

  2. How can you be so sure he won’t face as many LHP? The NL Central isn’t devoid of LHP.

  3. I was thinking about writing that he won’t face as many elite lefties like Sabathia and Lester and maybe fewer lefties overall but I also didn’t feel like collecting all the data lol

  4. User avatar Scooter1027 says:

    I don’t know about total number of lefties, but I agree with NT that the quality of left-handed starters in the NL Central is lacking. To my knowledge, those pitchers would be:

    Cincinnati : Travis Wood
    Houston : Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Ryan Rowland-Smith
    Milwaukee : Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson
    Pittsburgh : Paul Maholm
    St. Louis : Jaime Garcia

    Again, I don’t know about the sheer # of ABs vs. lefties, and I’m not including relievers here, but that’s not a real terrific group of lefty starters. No Sabathia or Lester types there.

  5. User avatar AquaMan2342 says:

    From Nate Ravitz on ESPN: “Tampa Bay Rays, as a team had 32% of their ABs vs. lefties last year, fourth most in the majors. Chicago Cubs (Pena’s new team) at 28% and middle of the pack.”

    Not really sure if the NL Central gained any lefty arms….don’t think so though. For a guy with drastic splits like Pena, this should have some effect on his numbers.


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