We all knew that the methods the Superfriends were employing to build up the overall strength of the entire Cubs organization was going to get ugly at the major league level. Theo and Jed came in and immediately started implementing a long term strategy, which in many cases, was very damaging to the short term quality of the team. We get it. We joke about guys like Jason Berkin and Brooks Raley going to the mound every fifth day because, frankly, what else can you do? But behind the snark, I think most of us get it. At least most of us in this corner of the interwebs.
So the Cubs lost 101 games, and even though most people were slightly surprised at reaching the 100 loss mark (I wasn't), at some point the difference between 95 losses and 100 really doesn't matter. We all knew it would be bad, the only question was exactly how bad they would be.
So now we are on to Year Two of the Superfriends. Organizationally, they are healthier. They now have a few impact level prospects floating around in the lower levels of the system from Hendry's last draft. Plus Jed & Theo added a few nice players through their own draft and trades of Maholm, Dempster and others. This will be a really good year to go check out some Kane County Cougars games. But on the major league roster, we're looking at 100 losses again.
I know that the roster as comprised now will be vastly different than the roster with which they break camp, but this team is bad and I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where they cobble together anything better than a 95 loss team without some serious luck. In reality, it might be worse than last year. Seriously.
The whole reason there was debate about whether the Cubs would reach 100 losses or not last year was due to a stretch from June 25 to July 30 where they went 18-10, mostly due to some pretty good pitching from their rotation. It is no accident that after the Cubs traded away Maholm and Dempster, plus lost Garza to injury that they ran off a record of 18-42 after the trade deadline. That's a .300 winning percentage. That's not even a great batting average. Now heading into 2013, what can we expect from the Cubs pitching staff?
Jeff Samardzija almost has to be considered the ace just because we're pretty sure he can stay healthy and now we have almost a whole season of him being pretty good at pitching to comfort our fears that he'll suddenly revert to the Jeff Samardzija we all laughed at for wanting to be a starter while walking everyone in the ballpark. So that right there doesn't bode real well. A former punchline (who we still aren't 100% certain isn't riding some flukey run of luck) is now the Cubs ace.
We have no damn idea what to expect from Matt Garza and neither does anybody else in the world. That means we can't really book him as the guy that Hendry traded for or anything even close, and it also means that if he's traded it will be for pennies on the dollar. If Jed can swing a trade for an impact level young arm in return for Garza this off-season, we should probably just start building his statue in the McDonald's parking lot right now.
So we get to the third spot and we're at Travis Wood. Travis Wood was barely worth the fifth starter spot last year and he is clearly the Cubs #3 at the moment. These are not good signs, people.
Maybe this wouldn't all sound so bad if we thought there was a chance in hell the Cubs could score runs occasionally, but they can't. Even with a full year of Rizzo, a rejuvenated Soriano (and who is actually taking bets that he continues at last year's pace?), and Castro, the lineup is a god-awful mess. When Ian Stewart is quickly becoming the Cubs best hope to produce anything at third base for the second year in a row, things are bad. When people float rumors of Shane Victorino as a potential option in centerfield and people get excited about it, things are bad.
The hope on the horizon in the minors is still Brett Jackson. There really isn't anybody of note behind him that can come in and make a difference. And forget Vitters. Just forget Vitters. He's so done that I think Gary Scott is actually a better solution after spending the last 20 years selling real estate than Josh Vitters is. My dead cat has just as much chance of being the Cubs' third baseman of the future as Josh Vitters does.
So have the Cubs hit rock bottom? Given the state of their roster and their seeming unwillingness to spend even a little short-term money to help prop up the collapse on the major league level, I just don't see how they can improve on last year's results. Maybe they spread the losing around a little more, that 18-10 stretch is going to be hard to duplicate. You'd think the 18-42 would be hard to duplicate and it will be, but not as tough as you'd think. The Cubs were 24-48 before June 25 for a .333 win percentage and that was with them at full strength. Without that 18-10 stretch, the Cubs played .320 baseball for 134 games. That is a 110 loss pace and probably closer to what this team's true capabilties were, especially at the end.
So I'm putting in my early prediction now. The Cubs will lose 105 games in 2013.
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