Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cubs Baseball 2007

With seven pitchers fighting for four spots, you would think the Cubs are in a great position to form a solid five. Then again, let's look at who coming February 15th by the stats of 2006.
These players include Carlos Zambrano, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Wade Miller, Mark Prior, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, and Ted Lily. Also waiting in the bullpen: Carlos Marmol, Juan Mateo, and the questionable Neal Cotts.
Carlos Zambrano is the Ace. In 2006, Big "Z" was 16-7, with an e.r.a. of 3.41. He had 33 starts and pitched 214 innings. 115 base on balls to 210 strikeouts. He gave up 162 hits, 91 runs(81 of them earned), and 20 home runs. He is our work horse. Seldom gets injured or complains of a sore arm. By the start of the season the Cubs payroll should be about 312 million dollars, after signing him to a one year deal. Holy Cow!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As of now, Ted Lily is my number two pitcher. He's really more of a three/four, but not here. In 2006 with the Blue Jays, Lily was 15-13 in 32 starts. He threw 181 innings with an e.r.a. of 4.31. 179 hits with 98 runs, 87 of them earned. His base on balls to strikeout ratio was 81-160. He gave up 28 home runs and could sky-rocket at the friendly confines.
So who are the third, fourth and fifth starters? This is what camp will determine. The next guy to pitch more than 150 innings is Jason Marquis, followed by Sean Marshall at 125 innings and then Rich Hill at 99. Prior and Miller hardly pitched, and Guzman was 0-6 in ten starts. All these guys e.r.a. was between 5 and 7.4, with Rich Hills' 4.17 being the best.
This is a mystery. Cubs gave up the most walks, but struck-out the most batters, and owned the third worst e.r.a. in the N.L. Nothing will get easier for these guys.
Right now you have to have Marquis and Marshall fight for the third spot. Rich Hill and Mark Prior will compete for the fourth spot, and Miller and Guzman get sent down to AAA, unless Guzman sits in the pen for a while, which should be unlikely.
Maybe Prior and Miller have a great spring training and we have little to worry about. Perhaps Rich Hill (who can finally locate his fastball), becomes an ace, getting to the 15 win mark. High hopes and optimism folks. That's all the Cub Fans have. This is the last year for Prior, Miller, and Marquis, if they can't stay on the field. I doubt very highly that Wade Miller is ready to pitch 150 plus innings anyway. Sean Marshall could be on his way to a trade if he becomes mediocre at best. Then the Cubs will have more time for Mateo, Marmol, and Guzman.
I'll talk about the bullpen in a later blog, probably by the weekend. There are only so many pitchers the Cubs will carry, so I expect 100% out of these guys to make the five. I see some spot starters for sure in that fifth spot. No way everybody succeeds or stays healthy.
It all starts this Thursday Cub Fans!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, right now, if I was Lou and Larry, the staff looks like this.
1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ted Lily
3. Rich Hill
4. Jason Marquis
5. Sean Marshall.

With more certainty, I would have Prior and Miller in, replacing Marshall and Marquis, but.............................................you know.

GO CUBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Jerious Norwood said...

Glad to see that you guys have come in off the ledge after the Superbowl. And in fine form too, looking forward to the warmth of spring with a little Cubbie talk. I must say though, I think people are underestimating the Cubs pitching staff at this point. Zambrano is clearly one of the top pitchers in the game. But after that, I don't think its falls off as much as people tend to think. Hill has always been considered to be a great prospect with a high ceiling. Yeah, he struggled in his first stints in the majors but he really turned it on last year and I think 12-15 wins is very possible. Also, in the National League Ted Lilly is easily a #2. Those numbers (good hits to innings pitched and strike outs) were posted in the AL east where he'd face the Yankees and Redsoxs on a regular basis. There's every reason to believe that his numbers will improve dramatically by switching leagues. And that's without even considering that Mark Prior has been pain free and throwing off a mound for months now. I know the conventional wisdom is that you can't count on him, and we haven't, but as a 3rd, 4th, or 5th starter he's an amazing option.

Jerious Norwood said...

By the way, here's what ESPN's baseball analyst Keith Law said about Ted Lily at the beginning of the winter:

Lilly is Barry Zito without the name recognition, and with a little more stuff. Lilly throws four pitches, with his fringe-average fastball (87-89 mph) probably his worst pitch. He has a plus curve, similar to Zito's in shape, with good depth and two-plane break. His changeup may be even better than his curve, because he maintains his arm speed extremely well and gets some fade on the pitch. He also throws a slider in the low 80s that, while inconsistent, is also plus at times, and on some nights it's his best secondary pitch.

On the downside, like Zito, Lilly has below-average control and is susceptible to the long ball. He'd be a much better fit in a bigger ballpark than Toronto's, which has tended to be homer-friendly over the past few years. He's also had minor arm trouble several times over the years, including a never-identified shoulder issue that cost him eight or nine starts in 2005 and caused him to post the worst ERA of his career. Durability is well-compensated in the free agent market, so Lilly won't see Zito dollars. But should he stay healthy, he's a good bet to outpitch Zito over the next three to four years.

Phil said...

That's encouraging.

My concern, with all things Cub related, is the coaches ability to develop the talent they have. For years, pitchers, and position players have improved very little. I like the talent, but can Rothschild help them get better?

Jerious Norwood said...

By the way, Peter Gammons in his latest Blog entry polled scouts on the top 12 breakout players during 2007:

7. Rich Hill, LHP, Chicago Cubs. Barry Zito II.

12. Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Florida. In some ways, it's a shame that the injuries to Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez may force him to close, but Nolasco is an All-Star talent, starting or relieving.

Obviously the Hill thing is great, but the fact that Nolasco made the list is pretty rough.

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