Friday, August 14, 2009

Cubs Throw Season in the Dumpster

If the Cubs wanted to fork over $13 million a year for an innings eating pitcher who would never give his team a chance to win, but would certainly soak up extra innings, then the Ryan Dempster signing can be called a success. Dempster usually goes 6 innings, faces a 3-2 count seemingly every batter, and ends up giving about 5-6 runs up. Fine if you are Livan Hernandez and getting $3 million a year to do just that for some borderline contender (this year Mets, last year Twins), but not fine if you are in the first year of a four year deal that is worth more than $50 million.

Yesterday's 6-1 loss to the Phillies was more than likely the straw that broke the back of the 2009 Chicago Cubs. A pathetic offense wasted 2 months of brilliant starting pitching, it all came together for the second half of July, then fell apart these past two weeks. I still refuse to use injuries as an excuse, because the payroll this team has should insulate it from having too much drop off when a few players get hurt.

Still the Cubs and all Cubs fans are starting to understand the value of Carlos Zambrano. We already knew the value of Aramis Ramirez, but this season reinforced that along with how much this team need Alfonso Soriano to be good at baseball. Honestly those three are the keys to the Cubs being good as presently constructed. Zambrano is the staff ace, and his precense in the rotation every five days makes everything easier on the rest of the staff. For all the joking around I do about Ted Lilly here, he is probably at the same status as Z in that regard.

The loss of Mark DeRosa probably wouldn't have mattered much had Ramirez never been hurt, or had Cubs management allowed Jake Fox to learn third base quicker. The day Ramirez went down Fox asked the AAA manager if he could start playing third, he was told no. He kept asking and kept being told no. DeRosa isn't the answer at second base though because if you think about it he probably wouldn't have played much second. Milton Bradley spent a good portion of April injured, and then Aramis went down.

The story of the season is under performance. Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and Kosuke Fukudome are doing all they can in all areas of the game. Fukudome remains a streak hitter, but his OBP never really slumps which is why people don't see his streaks as much as Alfonso Soriano's. Speaking of Soriano, he leads the under performance train. His 90 OPS+ this season isn't very good at all. I'm probably Soriano's biggest defender, but I think I have a rational head about things, and I'll admit Soriano has been a big disappointment this season. His contract is large, but the Cubs can live with it as long as he is productive. Just like I wouldn't have a problem with Dempster's contract being a bit too much if he did more than just eat innings.

Then we get to Geovany Soto. Last season's ROY and that latest Cubs rookie to go from boy wonder to disappointment. He came to camp overweight, went away to the WBC where he smoked pot and got fatter, and then returned to be a strikeout machine that has little power and rather than being a run producing offensive contributor, he is a rally killer that takes the occasional walk. Any hope the Cubs have of making a run lies in the hands of Soto and Soriano. This isn't a Cubs team suffering from injuries to key players, its a team that is basically without 3 of its top 4 run producing players. Soriano and Soto have killed more rallies this season than they have helped, and its the ultimate downfall for the 2009 Cubs.

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