I should have written this about ten days ago, but I didn’t so I’m going to do it now. Early season stats mean absolutely nothing to me so there’s no risk of them influencing this list.
10. Blake DeWitt
Why he’s here: The Cubs got Blake DeWitt from the Dodgers last summer in return for Ted Lilly. Lilly was a very good pitcher for the Cubs for 3+ seasons and with only two months remaining on his contract, the lefty simply didn’t have much value. The Cubs did get Blake DeWitt and a couple minor leaguers who may actually make an impact this season, but Cubs fans wanted more than DeWitt. It didn’t bother them so much last year since it was the end of the season, but with a full season ahead of him, an inability to high lefties or righties, Cubs fans will begin complaining about DeWitt since that’s all they got for Lilly.
Why he might not be here: The Cubs go to a strict DeWitt/Baker platoon and each of them performs better in that split statistic. The 2nd base job for the Cubs produces more than expected and people begin to forget about Mark DeRosa
Why he’s here: The lefty reliever had a breakout season last year, but he’s actually been quite good as a reliever for awhile now. He posted a 3.74 FIP in 2009 and his ERA as a reliever prior to 2010 was about 3.20. The reason Marshall’s not looked as good as those numbers is because of the starts he’s gotten in the big leagues. His FIP in 2010 was nearly 1 run less than his career FIP as a reliever. It was roughly 1.5 runs worse than his FIP in 2009. Marshall also picked up a modest two-year contract, but with the increased money and increased level of performance, expectations are really high.
Why he might not be here: Maybe he really improved that much. I won’t believe until I see it, but it’s always possible. His curveball is a lot of fun to watch even if Marshall is Trachsel-esque on the mound.
Why he’s here: Ridiculously good season in 2010 and that led to a three year contract. It’s almost impossible that Marmol will have another season as good as his 2010 season and the media and fans always compare players to the performance they posted the year they their contracts.
Why he might not be here: If he can show improved command and/or the offense performs better than expected, which would lead to a higher saves total. The media and fans love that.
7. Kerry Wood
Why he’s here: Yeah, all three of the relievers at the back end of the Cubs bullpen make the list and are right next to one another. Cubs fans remember 1998 Kerry Wood. Some also remember 2003 Wood and some also even remember 2008 Kerry Wood. Since he left the Cubs his numbers as a reliever have not been especially impressive (league average actually, which isn’t good for a reliever). His dominating 2008 as a reliever was helped out significantly by Wood walking 2 batters fewer per 9 innings. Since then the walks have increased to career high levels. His unsustainable home run rate in 2008 has also increased to his career average rate.
Why he might not be here: He struckout 20 batters in a game in 1998. Every single Cubs fans, even ones who weren’t yet alive, remember that game. He’s an icon in Chicago and he took $1.5 million to come back to Chicago when he could have earned millions more elsewhere. If he’s judged on his performance, Cubs fans will be disappointed. It’s likely one of those where fans end up being a bit of both and they’ll want the Cubs to re-sign him after the season is over.
6. Carlos Pena
Why he’s here: Coming off an awful season in Tampa Bay and joining a team in which the beat writers still think batting average is the tell-all statistic. Pena will hit for a low average. He’ll probably get on base and hit for some power too, but come August when fans take note of his .220ish batting average, the media and fans will wonder why on earth Jim Hendry signed a guy who hit below .200 last year.
Why he might not be here: Like Adam Dunn, Pena is more than capable of driving in a lot of runs and that’s another statistic that’s looked at too often as an evaluation tool. That will be hard to do since he doesn’t hit lefties especially well and unlike Dunn, isn’t going to hit in the middle of the order all the time. Against lefties, he’ll hit lower.
Why he’s here: It’s the final year of Fukudome’s 4-year, $42 million contract the Cubs and Fukudome signed following the 2007 season. It’s important to note in my opinion that at the time the media and fans were talking about how Fukudome was going to be the next Cubs superstar. That never made sense to me. Based on his stats in Japan and how other Japanes position players had performed, Fukudome was likely to be about an .800 OPS hitter. Maybe a bit lower or a bit higher. Certainly not bad, but not great. Fukudome got off to an outstanding start and by 2009 Cubs fans were ready to see him go. It’s likely to get uglier than ever this season.
Why he might not be here: So far Fukudome is playing primarily vs righties while Colvin is tasked with the difficult duty of hitting lefties. Fukudome has hit righties well in his career and it’s possible he puts up some big numbers this year in part time duty. Even if that happens, Cubs fans are still probably going to be disappointed in what they got out of Fukudome.
Why he’s here: Castro set the bar high last year. As a 20-year old he held his own in the big leagues and I think it was even reported over one million times that his batting average was over .300 when the season ended. That’s a flashy number for someone that age. Some of his other numbers weren’t nearly as impressive and he ended up being about league average based on wOBA, but batting average is still king. It’s hard to hit .300 in the big leagues and there’s a very good chance Castro’s sophomore season will be judged on his batting average.
Why he might not be here: Maybe he’s Tony Gwynn who never batted below .300. If Castro can maitain those averages, his defense will become less a focus than it has been.
3. Tyler Colvin
Why he’s here: The lefty slugger had a breakout season a year ago and flashed some legit power. He strikes out a lot and the fans hate strikeouts. He doesn’t get on base that much and his batting average is going to remain low. He’s no longer new to the media and fans so his flaws will stand out more this season.
Why he might not be here: He’s not Kosuke Fukudome.
Why he’s here: When you think back to the 2003 season the Cubs entered the season with a rotation of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Matt Clement, Shawn Estes and the young Carlos Zambrano. Entering 2004 fans referred to the Cubs rotation as Wood, Prior, Clement and Zambrano. After Clement left it was Wood, Prior and Zambrano. Zambrano fared better than expected for several seasons when he was considered either a back end of the rotation starter or a mid rotation one. Once Wood and Prior went down for good, Zambrano became the top of the rotation and that was during the awful 2006 Cubs season. Fans often talk about how Zambrano has never lived up to the hype. Zambrano was an afterthought in the Cubs rotation for several years and he never lived up to the hype? No, the hype never lived up to Carlos Zambrano. He can’t win with the fans and media. He’s a polarizing athlete and has had enough run-ins to more than wear out his welcome, if we was ever actually welcomed in the first place.
Why he might not be here: Zambrano becomes the so-called good-luck pitcher as the Cubs offense scores bundles with him on the mound. As a result he wins 17 or more games. If that happens, then all we’ll hear is about how the Cubs paid Zambrano $1 million per win so people are just less disappointed. There’s no winning for Zambrano. He ain’t Charlie Sheen.
1b. Mike Quade
Why he’s here: The team won a million games last season after he took over, but the only difference between the team before and during was Carlos Zambrano. The clubhouse chemistry was much talked about, but winning results in good clubhouse chemistry. As this team loses, that clubhouse chemistry gets worse. With a first year manager in the big leagues, it could get bad quickly and Quade may find himself unemployed by August. From the sounds of it, the chemistry may already be an issue and it’s only going to get worse.
Why he might not be here: The same Cubs who stood up for him after the season continue to stand up for him. Based on the history of sports, that’s not usually true, but the history of sports already ended so it doesn’t matter.
Why he’s here: He signed an 8-year, $136 million contract after the 2006 season.
Why he might not be here: