Monday, May 18, 2009

Fukudome's Future and the Bullpen Situation

I've avoided talking about it for a while because Kosuke Fukudome has been pretty awesome this season, but we all know that he did this same thing last season and then fell off. So is he just a six-week wonder again or is he for real this time? Lets look at the numbers and see.

His power is essentially equal to what it was through the same amount of games last season. He had 14 extra base hits in his first 36 games last season as well. Along with 15 RBI in 2008 and 17 this season. His OPS was .892 at this time last season, which is really good, but not as good as his .989 OPS this season. That 100 point increase comes from a few more homers and a couple more walks. That combined with a few days off has given Fukudome an even better start to 2009. The starts are almost identical, so will the rest of the season also be identical?

I think so to an extent. People still have their Fukudome excuses at the ready, including a new one about his surgically repaired elbow giving him problems last year. The same new country, new baby, new league crap also gets floated around, and I still don't buy it. That doesn't mean he will be as bad as least season, but I still think he settles around .275 with about 12 homers and a .775 OPS which means he will be a league average center fielder. His defense in center has really improved, to the point where he is only a -.02 UZR. Again league average- not worth anything close to $12 million a year, but whatever.

I'm thrilled with Fukudome's hot start and I really hope he can continue to be a hitting star this season, but I have serious doubts. People have gotten suckered into the same six week stretch again, I'll remain the lone guy who remains a skeptic. I sure do hope I'm wrong.

The bullpen is the mess that may ultimately cost the Cubs this season. Too many walks which means Lou likes them less and means that Lou will use Carlos Marmol more. That makes Marmol less effective as well. Fortunately I have some positive bullpen thoughts today. 

Marmol is still the teams most reliable reliever even if he is so inconsistent. His last time out he was real good and his control improved. Walks have been his enemy this season and his great stuff has gotten him out of most of the jams.

Kevin Gregg is going to have meltdowns like Saturday a couple times a month. He just isn't very good. A stretch of shutting down the game will be followed with a stretch of suck. As long as he remains the closer it isn't a major concern.

Angel Guzman has really been good lately. He seems to trust his stuff and is throwing lots of strikes which is producing lots of outs. I've always been optimistic about Guzman in the pen and I remain upbeat about his season and future. 

Jose Ascaino is the new addition from AAA after everyone's favorite Notre Dame alum proved to need a lot more time in AAA. He didn't do so hot on Sunday at first, but he settled down and got outs. Just keep doing that and he can be a serviceable middle relief man. 

Those four will hopefully remain solid options the entire season. Now we must move to the two negative spots. Neal Cotts and David Patton. One sucks and is only around because he throws lefty and the other sucks and is only around because he is a Rule V pick. With the emergence of Randy Wells as a solid starter the Cubs have some options that should eliminate one of these bums from the team. Either Wells remains a starter and Sean Marshall goes to the bullpen- which means Cotts can go far far away; or Marshall keeps starting and Wells takes over for Patton who is returned to the Rockies A-ball team. 

Marshall should remain a starter because it maximizes his value and he is pretty good at it. Wells has had a good start, but a spot in the bullpen probably protects Wells from having his stuff figured out as quickly.

Ted takes the mound against the struggling Cardinals tomorrow night in St. Louis. Dumpster will try and ruin Chris Carpenter's return on Wednesday, and Marshall will face Wainwright on Thursday. The only favors the Cubs in the first game, but Carpenter is pitching his first game back and could just as easily leave the game in the second inning as he could pitch a complete game shutout. Wainwright was awesome his last start (I was there- the Brewers got dominated by him with the exception of one pitch). Hopefully Marshall can keep the Cubs matchup close. 

I'm thinking two of three, but knowing the Cubs they will only get one of these games.

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