Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The On Notice Board: Cubs Second Half

Back in March, on the cusp of a hope-filled 2008 season, I put the following Cubs players, anatomies and concepts "On Notice":

Now that we're at the All-Star break, it's time to review these and create a new list for the second half of the season.

Kerry Wood's arm. So far so good there. He has a 3.02 ERA, 24 saves and 55 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.

The new Japanese guy. We learned it's pronounced KOHS-kay Foo-koo-DOH-may. And early on, he was pretty good, with more walks than strikeouts and making the cover of Sports Illustrated. But in the last month or so, pitchers have started to figure him out. The swing where he contorts like a drunk Sig Ep doing flagpole spins has increased in frequency. Kosuke needs to counter-adjust to the adjustments pitchers have made, quit swinging for the fence (homers are cool, but the corkscrew swing-and-miss is not) and go back to the patient, .400 OBP Kosuke we remember from April.

Hank White. Hank White is the Americanized nickname for Henry Blanco (get it?) popularized by Bob Brenly. Now, when I did this board in March, I assumed that Blanco was our catcher since Jason Kendall walked away. Since I'd missed the 2007 season and didn't really know what was going on, I was unfamiliar with this kid named Geovany Soto. So what did Soto do in the first half?
  • .288 average
  • 16 HRs (one shy of team leader Ramirez)
  • 56 RBIs (tied for second on the team)
  • first rookie catcher to start the All-Star Game for the National League.
So, Hank White: you are officially off the board. Congratulations.

Lou's temper. Lou Piniella went apeshit in May 2007, sparking the Cubs out of a slump and into an amazing run to the title. This year's club, as defending champ, shouldn't have needed such hysterics. Lou's tantrum took the attention off the underperforming and put it on himself. Luckily, the team has exceeded expectations, and such subertuge hasn't been necessary. But Lou: keep it in check.

D. Lee. D. Lee has had rough stretches over the past couple years, partially due to stuff he can't control (collision at first base, daughter got sick). And while he hasn't been super homerun star guy, he's been quite solid: .306 average, 15 HRs, 56 RBIs, 117 hits (most on team), .506 slugging. If Soto, Ramirez, Kosuke and Soriano (when around) continue to hit, it keeps the pressure off D. Lee from being the guy who HAS TO hit the home run, as opposed to ONE OF THE GUYS who can knock in the runner on second.

The bullpen. This made the board more on reputation, not knowing who was going to be in the pen. As a Leiber Believer I'm proud to say that Liebs has been the consummate pro out of the pen, compiling a 2.30 ERA in April and 1.64 in June as a reliever, even though he should have been named a starter. Guys like Howry and Marmol have been excellent at times. Wood as mentioned has 24 saves.

The curse. Aaah, well, so far so good. Moving on.

All other parts of K. Wood. Clearly I was concerned about his health. And, yes well, this one kept Wood out of the All-Star game: a blister.

A lot can change in three months, and therefore here's the "On Notice" for the second half:

The analysis:

Hendry's deals. He brought in top talent like Kosuke, Soriano and Harden. Is that going to be enough to win the pennant? I'm mildly concerned about the division (see below), but that's not the goal. This assemblage of talent should be looking bigger than the NL Central they won last year.

Soriano's health. For $136 million, I was hoping we were getting somebody who could play 150-160 games a year. Through the first 95, he's played in 51. (For comparison: Lee 94, Kosuke 90, Ramirez 88, Soto 88. Hell even newcomer Jim Edmonds has played 44 as a Cub, 70 total.) We need more from him.

Soto's stamina. I hope this kid blows the door off every record he can. He deserves it. But Lou needs to rest him appropriately, play Hank White as needed in day games after night games, inevitable rainout makeups that eat an off day, etc. It serves no one for Soto to be a one-half hit wonder.

Harden. Why was Billy Beane so eager to deal this guy? Is he an injury waiting to happen?

The Curse (again). It's not going off the board til there's reason to take it off the board.

Central contenders. Much as I'd like to see the Cards and the Brew Crew fade into obscurity, we can't guarantee it will happen. (We were in Wisconsin over the weekend, and we had a chance to watch/listen to a little Brewer baseball. They are still a fine team, and they have great radio announcers in Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker and Jim "I Sound Exactly Like Bob Uecker" Powell.

AAA Kids. Much like Jim Hendry's dealmaking, the Cubs are going to need help in September, as regulars need a breather. I'm looking at you, Felix Pie, and Rich Hill, if you ever find the strike zone. Maybe Shark will be asked to come up and eat some innings out of the pen. I'd prefer to see him as a starter in 2009, but I trust Hendry to do what's right with the young arms. Jose Ascanio, save some bullets from that arm of yours til the late summer.

Ronnie Wickers. Just stay the hell away, and keep your mouth shut. Thank you.

The stats can be found here, although they will change come Friday, so here's a screen grab for all of posterity (click on the image for larger version).

No comments: