Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 NL Central Preview: Chicago Cubs

Everyone heckles the Cubs
Despite packing in the fans last year (the Cubs held the tenth spot in overall attendance rankings) the Cubs managed to fall 36 games behind the first-place Reds, finishing fifth in the NL Central standings. WIll the bleacher bums have something to cheer about in 2013 or will they heckle their own team worse than the two old men in the balcony on the Muppets?

Although Spring Training has only just begun, the bad luck for the Cubbies seems to be in Chicago already: yesterday, Matt Garza had to bow out of his throwing session early with a mild lat strain. The Reds offense did not face Garza last year as his season ended in July due to injury, so we can only speculate how he will fare against Reds’ bats. Official Cubs reports seem optimistic about yesterday’s incident, but their fragile rotation can’t handle any injuries: Scott Baker, returning from Tommy John surgery is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, leaving Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman and former Red, Travis Wood in the rotation. From last year, Samardzija and Wood are the only returning starters. The Cubs worked hard in the offseason to improve their rotation, and will look to Edwin Jackson for consistency. As a National, Jackson made two starts against the Reds in 2012, earning a W in one. 

Notable Additions: SP Edwin Jackson (FA), SP Scott Baker (FA), SP Scott Feldman (FA), SP Carlos Villanueva (FA), RP Kyuji Fujikawa (FA), RP Hisanori Takahashi (FA), OF Scott Hairston (FA), OF Nate Schierholtz (FA), IF/OF Brent Lillibridge (FA), C Dioner Navarro (FA), RP Dontrelle Willis (FA), 

Notable Losses: 1B Bryan LaHair (Release), SP Chris Volstad (Waivers), SP Randy Wells (FA)

Manager: Dale Sveum

2012 Payroll: $88,197,033

2012 Average Home Attendance: 35,589 (86.5%)
2012 Records:
Overall: 61-101
Home: 38-43
Road: 23-58
Versus NLC: 23-43

Notable 2012 stat rankings:

Runs: 28th 
Batting Average: 26th
On Base: 29th
Slugging Percentage: 27th

2013 projected lineup:

OF David DeJesus
OF Nate Schierholtz
1B Anthony Rizzo 
OF Alfonso Soriano
SS Starlin Castro
3B Ian Stewart
C  Welington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney

2013 projected rotation:

Matt Garza
Jeff Samardzija
Edwin Jackson
Travis Wood
Carlos Villanueva
Scott Baker

Best case scenario: Chairperson Ricketts gets good news from the city about the $300 million renovation to Wrigley he proposed in January. The renovation begins and continues ahead of schedule.  The rotation does not endure any injuries or poor performances, and instead is strong and steady. Baker comes back early in the season, allowing for more depth in the rotation, as well. Darwin Barney actually plays like he deserves the Gold Glove over Brandon Phillips, and becomes a slugging sensation. All around, Cubs fans are hopeful and the team makes it into the postseason.

Worst case scenario: Renovation debates go long into the season, preventing any major work from being completed. Despite the money spent acquiring new pitchers, the rotation is inconsistent and weak. Baker comes back but makes no positive impact on the rotation. Garza suffers more minor injuries, leaving fans (and teammates) praying that he gets sent away in some haphazard trade. Position players, with no one but Soriano to look to for leadership, never seem to play as a cohesive team. Again, the Cubs fall behind early, and end up last in the division, missing the playoffs by a longshot. 

NL Central preview schedule:

Yesterday: Pittsburgh Pirates
Today: Chicago Cubs
Wednesday: Mulwaukee Brewers
Thursday: St. Louis Cardinals
Friday: Preseason All-NL Central Team

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