Sunday, April 4, 2010

30 Clubs in 30 Days Recaps: Chicago Cubs

Happy Easter Sunday Cubs fans! Opening Day is tomorrow! Carlos Zambrano will take the hill as the Cubs take on the Braves with the first pitch at 3:10 CT. Tonight, don't miss WGN-TV's special "What it Means to be a Cub" show which starts at 8:00.

For now, we'll conclude our preview of the National League Central by recapping the Cubs episode of MLB Network's "30 Clubs in 30 Days".

Here are the links to the other recaps:

We do not have the Reds preview at this time, but maybe we can get that up by the time the Cubs play the Reds next weekend.

Now let's jump into the Cubs "30 in 30".

Host Greg Amsinger was joined by Dan Plesac and John Hart. Hart said that whatever could have went wrong did go wrong for this club last year. The Milton Bradley situation was a snap shot of their season. John thinks this team is built to win again. If they don't win, they'll be disappointed. Dan pointed out that last year they were in the race until they lost the one guy they coudn't (and still can't) afford to lose, Aramis Ramirez.


  • Carlos Silva, SP
  • Chad Tracy, 1B
  • Marlon Byrd, OF
  • Xavier Nady, OF


  • Rich Harden, SP
  • Neal Cotts, RP
  • Kevin Gregg, RP
  • Aaron Heilman, RP
  • Milton Bradley, OF
  • Reed Johnson, OF

Plesac thinks that Bradley was a bad fit for the Cubs. It just wasn't meant to be. The other subtraction that could help is Kevin Gregg. He didn't have the kind of year he needed to in 2009. Hart says that Carlos Silva is a veteran guy who could help this ballclub. John called Marlon Byrd "the exact opposite of Milton Bradley." He's a solid defender and a good baseball player.

Hazel Mae joined the guys from Mesa with interviews and reports. First, she was joined by Derrek Lee, the clubhouse leader:

  • Lee likes to lead by example.
  • He thinks that something just clicked in for him last year.
  • Derrek was able to drive some balls over the fence in 2009.
  • The Cubs have the team to get into the postseason.
  • He doesn't see it as pressure, Lee just likes to go out there and play the games.
  • D-Lee likes the way everyone is hungry and guys came into camp ready to go.

Dan thinks that Lee has some gas left in the tank. He's a guy who is hard to root against. Hart pointed out that Derrek does a lot of the little things, he doesn't just make a living off of slugging the ball out of the ballpark.

2009 Offensive Ranks

  • Runs: 707 (10th in NL)
  • Average: .255 (12th)
  • HR: 161 (5th)
  • OBP: .332 (9th)
  • SB: 56 (16th)
  • SLG%: .407 (8th)

Lou Piniella joined the guys:

  • Soriano will not be hitting lead-off this year. The Cubs have found a home for him in the six hole. Sori's been working hard with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
  • The Cubs have a healthy Aramis Ramirez and they need him to swing the bat.
  • Lou is happy with the good arms in the bullpen, but they are having to rely on a lot of young arms.
  • Last year the Cubs scored 148 runs less than they did in 2008. They are hoping to get 3/4 of those runs back.
  • Lou is hoping that Marmol will be successful as the Cubs full time closer.
  • Piniella thinks he's calmed down a heck of a lot. He has had a lot of managerial experience.
  • He is going to do the best job he can do for this organization and we'll see what happens.

Projected Lineup:

  • 1. Theriot, SS
  • 2. Kosuke, RF
  • 3. Lee, 1B
  • 4. Ramirez, 3B
  • 5. Byrd, CF
  • 6. Soriano, LF
  • 7. Fontenot, 2B
  • 8. Soto, C

Dan likes Ryan Theriot at the top of the lineup. He's not flashy, he makes all the plays, and he puts the ball in play. Fukudome hasn't lived up to what the Cubs thought they were getting. Ramirez is an "RBI machine" who hits good pitching. They need him in the lineup 150 days a year. Hart thinks Marlon can do a lot of things with the bat. John says that Soriano is the key guy with this club. Sori has a speed/power combo that is rare in the game today. Geovany Soto is better than he was last year.

Marlon Byrd talked with Hazel:

  • Milton told Marlon to just enjoy his time in Chicago.
  • Right now Byrd feels like Chicago is a great fit for him.
  • Rudy has made the transition to a new club easier.
  • Marlon doesn't feel like he has anything to prove. He knows he can hit, even outside of Texas.

Hart thinks that players believe in Rudy. He has a very good philosophy.

2009 Pitching Ranks:

  • Wins: 62 (6th in NL)
  • ERA: 3.71 (5th)
  • Opp. Avg: .252 (3rd)
  • Quality Starts: 94 (2nd)
  • Strikeouts: 839 (2nd)

Carlos Zambrano joined Hazel:

  • Cubs fans will see a new look Big Z in 2010. The biggest change is that he will keep his emotions in check.
  • Now that his daughter in 9 years old, he does not want her to see him do crazy things.
  • Zambrano has gone back to the basics of pitching. He will keep throwing his four pitches.

Projected Rotation:

  • Zambrano
  • Dempster
  • Wells
  • Gorzelanny
  • Silva

Looking at the top two, Z and Demp are a pretty good one, two punch. Plesac thinks that Ryan flies under the radar. He has great location of his fastball and does a good job commanding his split finger pitch. Randy Wells is built for innings and really emerged as a nice middle of the rotation starter last year. When the Cubs get Ted Lilly back they'll have a good lefty in the rotation.

  • Jeff Samardzija, RHP
  • Sean Marshall, LHP
  • Justin Berg, RHP
  • Esmalin Caridad, RHP
  • John Grabow, LHP
  • James Russell, LHP
  • Carlos Marmol, RHP- Closer

When Marmol is good, he's really good. When he's bad, he has a hard time finding the strike zone. In the first half of 2008, he was one of the best setup men in the league. This bullpen is revamped and very young. Hart says that Caridad has power stuff. Grabow is a veteran guy who can help the young guys. Samardzija came to Spring Training hoping to land a spot in the rotation, but he can still help the bullpen.

The farm system is solid, but they are a little thin at the top. They've traded guys away to get some big league talent, but they do a great job internationally. They do have some good young players. Here are the top ten:

  • Chris Carpenter, RHP
  • Andrew Cashner, RHP
  • Starlin Castro, SS
  • Tyler Colvin, OF
  • Ryan Flahery, 2B
  • Bradon Guyer, OF
  • Brett Jackson, OF
  • Jay Jackson, RHP
  • Hak-Ju Lee, SS
  • Josh Vitters, 3B

Lee is a guy that can do some things and looks like he could help this club at some point. Josh Vitters is a corner infielder with some pop. The guy that John Hart thinks will step up is Starlin Castro. He can do a lot of things.

Jeff Samardzija joined Hazel Mae:

  • Samardzija is excited to end up with the big league club. This is a team that he watched for a long time growing up.
  • He and Lou talked about the team situation and decided that Jeff fits best in the bullpen.
  • The 2009 season didn't go the way Jeff wanted it to, so he went to Mexico where he ended the year on a positve note. He was able to work on a couple of things in winter ball.
  • The MPL closed the gap from the offseason to Spring Training.

The Cubs All-Time Home Grown Team:

  • 3B- Santo
  • SS- Banks
  • 2B- Herman
  • 1B- Palmeiro
  • C- Hartnett
  • LF-Carter
  • CF- Brock
  • RF- Williams
  • SP- Maddux
  • RP- Lee Smith

Dan thinks this is a very impressive list. With this collection of players, it's hard to believe they haven't won the World Series. Plesac's argument is that Mark Grace should be on the All Time Home Grown club.

Billy Williams chatted with Hazel:

  • Williams' role is to give "a little teaching about hitting" and about playing the game of baseball in Spring Training.
  • He thinks he stays young by hanging around the young people in camp.
  • Guys like to pick Billy's brain about hitting.
  • It's refreshing to see a kid like Tyler Colvin on the verge of trying to make a ballclub. He is going to be a good player.

Baseball Prospectus Projection: 79-83, 8 GB, second in NL Central

Dan Plesac thinks the Cubs will finish 3rd because of the inexperience in the bullpen.

John Hart has St. Lou over Lou. He predicts that they'll finsh second.

Dan thanks Alfonso will have 30-35 homers. Hart agrees that he can bounce back with 35 dingers!

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