Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reporting day for pitchers and catchers: Is this 2006 or 2008 all over again?

So pitchers and catchers report today...and they will have their first workout tomorrow.

For a while now I have been trying to figure out what to expect from this team.  If you've been reading ACB, you will have seen any number of projections for the Cubs that have them placing anywhere from 1st all the way to 4th with them probably averaging around 3rd place.

I, personally, love looking at historical patterns to help me determine what my hopes for a season should be.

As far as recent history, the Cubs two most extreme seasons have been 2006 and 2008 and there are some very interesting parallels right now with this team and the teams from both of those seasons.

So let's look what is similar with both of those seasons.

First 2006:
  • We have a manager who is in the last year of his contract, and isn't willing to comment on his future.  In 2006, most people felt that Dusty Baker couldn't wait to get out of town, but he wasn't willing to resign and leave all that money sitting on the table.  It's very possible Lou Pineilla is feeling the same way...I hope not, but last year he appeared to be sick and tired of this Cubs manager crap. 
  • The team has a new center fielder who is supposed to put a spark the lineup.  Juan Pierre joined the team in 2006 to be the missing piece at the top of the lineup.  This year we have Marlon Byrd to help spark production in the middle of the lineup. Hopes for Pierre were way too high for his talent level.  The same might be true with Byrd.  Both players are very hard workers...but that doesn't necessarily equate to success.
  • A much maligned shortstop...can this team ever have a shortstop that we can love?  This is a pretty simple comparison...Ryan Theriot now...Ronny Cedeno in 2006.  Not much more to say about that.
  • We are coming off a year where the Cardinals won the division...and won the division by a wide margin.
  • We don't have a lot of confidence in our closer.  In the end, Ryan Dempster's numbers as closer were not too bad, but many fans were always looking for someone else to come in and take that role.  In 2006, Dempster was coming off a rather good season where he had 33 saves.  Marmol is coming off a season where he took over the closers role and did it well going 13 for 13 in save opportunities.  Both players tended to walk a few too many batters to make any of us comfortable.
  • Our hopes are being pinned on the come back of an injured pitcher.  2006 we thought Mark Prior was going to come back and be effective.  Oops.  Could we be looking at the same thing with Ted Lilly this season?  
  • Is Carlos Silva the next Jerome Williams?  What makes anyone think that this is going to end up any different.  Hopefully the Cubs will make up some injury for Silva to keep him on the DL like they did with Williams.
  • Derrek Lee is coming off a great season.  2006 resulted in Lee only getting 204 at-bats as he broke his wrist.  Lee is much older now and might be more fragile...I'm guessing we could be in for some similar disappointment.  
  • The stadium has undergone some noticeable renovation.   2006 was the first year of the new bleachers.  This year we have new bathrooms. 
Now 2008:
  • The same old, insane man is managing the team.  In fact, Lou might be even more insane this year.  Hopefully it will be the fun type of insane. 
  • The first baseman is the same.  Derrek Lee
  • The shortstop is the same. TOOTBLAN boy
  • The catcher is the same.  He's just a lot lighter.
  • The third baseman is the same.  A-Ram!
  • The left fielder is the same.  He just isn't batting leadoff.
  • The right fielder is the same.  K-Fuk.  Maybe he'll make the all-star team again this year.
  • Three (and possibly four) of the starting pitchers are the same.  Lilly, Zambrano and Dempster are all still here...and Marshall, who started 2008 as the #5 starter could win that role again. 
  • The Cubs raised ticket prices a lot.  My season ticket package went up over 20% in 2008...and was over that this season (before I got the upgrade). 
  • The 2010 center fielder is virtual identical as the 2008 second baseman offensively.

The things that really are different between those years and this year might in the end be what determines where this team will go.  This is Lou we are talking about, not Dusty. The truth is, this team is not nearly as bad as 2006...that Cubs team had a huge deficit in talent.  But this team is not nearly as good as the 2008 team.  Far too many of the key players on this team are likely past their prime including Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, and Marmol (ha!).

But you never know.