Last week Joe, Luke, and myself gave you all bold predictions to lookout for during the 2011 season. Well, the time has come to once again continue our Season Preview series. This week could very well be the meat and potatoes of our Season Preview series as Joe, Luke, and myself will all forecast the season for the Cubs. To make it easier to read, this post is split up between three pages. To go from page to page, just go to end of page 1 of this post and go to whatever page you desire. With that said, lets take a look at what the season has in store for the Chicago Cubs.
- Jordan’s Forecast
Out of all 30 major league baseball teams, the Cubs may be one of the most difficult teams to project for the 2011 season. On one hand I look at the top of their rotation combined with their bullpen and feel they should be right in the middle of playoff contention for the entire season. But on the other hand, I see an aging offense that may struggle to score enough runs to be considered a legitimate contender. For what it’s worth, projections from other media outlets have the Cubs winning anywhere between 70 to 88 games. That should be reason enough as to why there is so much uncertainty when it comes to how good the Cubs will be in 2011. Lets try and see if we can clear the picture up to see where exactly the Cubs will fall in 2011.
To begin, the Cubs could very well have one of the best rotations in the National League in 2011. Obviously most people tend to focus on the top end of the rotation that features Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza. But as I have stated before, Randy Wells should not be forgotten about in the Cubs’ rotation. If anything, you could argue that Randy Wells is the most important piece in the Cubs’ rotation. In fact if you were to go more in depth on Wells’ stats from last season, it would be fair to suggest that he had a better season than newly acquired Matt Garza.
Going back to Dempster, Zambrano and Garza those three will have to win around 45 to 50 games combined for the Cubs remain competitive for the entire season. Couple that with the idea that Randy Wells could win 10 to 15 games, and you could potentially be looking at 65 wins from just those four pitchers alone. That does not even take into account who the fifth starter will be, who will only be dependent on to win about 10 games.
Like the starting rotation, the Cubs’ bullpen will also be one of the strengths of the 2011 team. In fact, if all stay healthy the bullpen could be one of the best in the majors. Carlos Marmol has proven that he is one of the most dominant closers in the game today. To simply put it, he is un-hittable when everything is going right for him. The addition of Kerry Wood will also solidify the eighth inning spot for the Cubs, which was one of their biggest weaknesses at the start of last season. Not to mention that Sean Marshall, and a healthy John Grabow figure to give the Cubs a strong back end to their bullpen.
However, as good as the Cubs pitching staff has the potential to be this season is as equally bad as the Cubs offense has the potential to be this season. Looking up and down this lineup, it is hard for anyone to figure out how the Cubs’ will score runs this season. While most like to look at the second base platoon as being the Cubs biggest offensive concern, I think Carlos Pena is the biggest offensive concern. Throughout Spring Training, Pena has shown no attempt to try and beat the shift that teams put on him defensively and that is what attributed to the major league worst .196 average last season for Pena. Sure he has the potential to put up strong power numbers playing half his games at Wrigley Field, but we have already seen that player in Alfonso Soriano.
Speaking of Soriano, I actually think he will be one of the few bright spots in the Cubs lineup along with Aramis Ramirez. One bright spot the Cubs are hoping to have on offense this season is Tyler Colvin, but I have my concerns on whether or not Colvin can transition into being a successful middle of the order hitter.
But one young player that figures to receive the most attention on offense this season is Starlin Castro. Most tend to worry about rookies entering their second season, as we have heard of the hated sophomore slump. However, it does not appear that Castro will suffer from such a slump this season. If anything, Castro could very well be the only highlight offensively for the 2011 Cubs.
All in all the Cubs remind me the most of the 2010 San Diego Padres. Last season, the Padres had an excellent pitching staff that carried them to a 90 win season. But the Padres offensive struggles proved to be too much for the team to overcome, as they fell just short of making the playoffs. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cubs will be in contention this season–especially considering the recent injuries that have happened around the National League Central. But I do not think the Cubs will make the playoffs, as in my opinion they will finish around .50o.