THE 2014 CUBS ARE IN FOR A LONG SEASON
March 18, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Cubs fans will show up to Wrigley Field as the always do in 2014 and will leave with the same motto they have used for years, “wait until next year”. This Cubs team will lose 90 games again this season under new Manager Rick Renteria. The Cubs are only hoping to be competitive.
Four years of last place baseball and 375 losses have caused the Cubs to lose touch with the top teams in the division and it won’t be easy closing ground on the likes of St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Most of Chicago’s talent is in the minors and not ready to play in the Windy City and the front office didn’t spend much money on free agents.
If the Cubs are planning on making any headway, it must start with their pitching. Chicago invested $52 million in Edwin Jackson and watched him go 8-18 with an ERA of 4.98. Jackson’s biggest problem is his lack of consistency. Travis Wood was frustrated by the lack of offense posting a 9-12 record with an ERA of 3.11. Jeff Samardzija is the Cubs’ most talented starter and finished 8-13 with an ERA of 4.34. Samardzija will be a free-agent in 2015 and that makes him good trade bait for the Cubs’ future. Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta showed signs of promise and will get every chance to prove themselves this spring and early in the season. Arrieta has an excellent fastball and two breaking pitches but his lack of consistency may hurt his chances of staying in the rotation.
Chicago’s new closer will be Jose Veras, who has seen his share of ups and downs. Veras went from Houston to Detroit and finally Chicago, where he converted 21 of 25 save opportunities. When Veras is successful, his curve and change can be un-hittable. Pedro Strop was acquired from Baltimore in the Scott Feldman trade and was impressive in 37 games. Strop posted a 2.83 ERA and had 42 strikeouts in 35 innings. Strop will be the right-handed set-up man and will be joined by lefty James Russell, who appeared in 74 games in 2013. Carlos Villanueva will be used as a long reliever and part-time starter. Also in the mix will be Blake Parker, Wesley Wright and Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Welington Castillo has emerged as the Cubs everyday catcher but they know he needs to improve in many areas of his game. Castillo drove in only 32 runs in 113 games, committed 10 errors and threw out only 29.5% of base stealers. He also struck-out 97 times in 380 AB’s. The Cubs lost Dioner Navarro to free-agency so the back-up duties will go to George Kottaras.
Anthony Rizzo entered 2013 with high expectations and he struggled. Rizzo did hit 23 HR’s and drove in 80, but he struck out 127 times and had an OPS of .742. SS Starlin Castro plays like he has made the Hall-of-Fame already. In other words, he doesn’t play hard all the time and it shows (.245 BA, 129 K’s and an unbelievable .284 OPS and 22 errors). Castro has seen his career backslide since he had 207 hits in 2011. Chicago will look to Darwin Barney at 2B. Barney is excellent defensively but is an offensive liability (.208 BA, .569 OPS). If Barney’s bat doesn’t come around look for Logan Watkins to get more AB’s. Donnie Murphy may also get more playing time after hitting 11 HR’s in 149 AB’s. Luis Valbuena will be a valuable hitter from the left side.
The Cubs had one reliable outfielder in 2013, Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz had 32 doubles and 21 HR’s in 116 games in RF. His batting average (.251) and on-base percentage (.301) will need to improve. Junior Lake took over in leftfield after the Cubs traded Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus. Lake is a former shortstop who must be more patient at the plate but he has great speed in center. Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano will platoon in leftfield. Ruggiano will being some pop in the line-up after hitting 18 HR’s in Miami last season.
GM Theo Epstein certainly has his work cut out for him. This team still has a lot of work to do in its complete overhaul. The only reason to watch the Cubs this season is to see how many games they will lose.