Thursday, February 5, 2009

Playing Time

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training a week from Friday and I'm pumped, so I thought this little YouTube Video would get you all in the mood as well.

With much of the Cubs off season wheeling and dealing appearing to be over, I thought I'd propose how and who should make up the rotation and starting lineup. Of course we have a considerable number of givens here, but even though these suggestions may only mean small incremental improvements in the teams performance, why shouldn't they be done? Don't we often throw shit at the TV when a player makes a bonehead play or a manager makes an ill advised pitching change?

Givens in the rotation are fairly easy baring any injuries as Big Z, Dempster, Lilly and Harden in no particular order mind you are your first 4 starters. The 5th starter seems to be an open competition with the most deserving based on past performance being Marshall. I know we've all read how Piniella likes having Marshall as a swing-man but is that really what's best for the rotation? Do the Cubs really need a LHP that is most likely their best 5th starter to be the long man out of the pen? It's not like Marshall is going to be the 8th inning LH specialist to get that one monster LHB out is he?

Marshall as the 5th starter gives the rotation 2 LH starters which also helps negate some of the more prolific balanced lineups like the Phillies. The argument that Harden won't make all of his starts doesn't hold water if you use another pitcher on a consistent basis in the rotation that isn't as good as Marshall does it? I don't know who Marshall has to blow to get in the rotation but unless he's a total bust this spring he helps the Cubs the most in the rotation.

The number of givens in the everyday lineup is also pretty much set with Soriano LF, Bradley RF, Ramirez 3B, Theriot SS, Fontenot 2B, Lee 1B and Soto C. Most of the early press has centered on the platooning of Fukudome and Johnson in CF and this is where I have some reservations.

Fukudome's preference and for that matter his best defensive position is RF. Now I couldn't give a shit about what Fukudome's preference is but when we expect that Bradley may need a platoon partner for possibly as many as 60 games, that is who Fukudome should be platooning with. Fukudome would have to show me that he could be more productive offensively than Gathright to play more than that, which he most assuredly will if he platoons with Johnson in CF.

Now Gathright is a light hitter but does a number of things a top of the order guy must do and this is my point. Moving Soriano out of the lead off spot will increase the teams production. Gathright has plenty of speed and knows how to get on base via the bunt. In 279 AB's last year he had 15 bunt hits and platooning him with Johnson who had over a 350OBP last year, will mean no disruption in the lineup to accommodate the lead off hitter.

No one would be happier than me if Fukudome could hit 280 and bang out 20HR's, but unless he can show he has abandoned the twirly bird AB's this spring, his offensive production won't be as valuable to the team as the superior CF'er Gathright would in the lead off spot. If Fukudome has a great spring then I'm fine with him platooning in CF but if he reverts back to the pirouetting style that he employed the second half of last season, he has no business getting over 100 starts.

We all realize that other starters will get a blow especially during those long summer stretches of no days off but one player who might have the most productive replacement from an offensive standpoint is D Lee. M Hoffpauir is certainly not the typical replacement type player as most replacement players provide good defense but usually very little offense, which is not the case with Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir doesn't bring a lot to the table defensively but 1B is his strongest position and would hurt the team less there. He also should get some starts in LF and both of these positions are the least challenging defensively.

We've all seen Lee isn't the same run producer he has been in the past and more time off could only help him. Soriano has had some leg issues the last two seasons and especially in those hamstring tightening cold spring months could sure use a day off now and then.

Anyway, I'm sure some of you might disagree with some of my evaluations but who and when you give days off to and the replacement Piniella uses when he does, can when added together get the most out the talent he has to work with.

Sorry but I just can't help myself, here is one more YouTube Video for you.


Fred Merkel said...

I sure hope we get our money's worth in RF, 78 million for Fukudome and Bradley. If Koskuke has a strong WBC and takes that to Arizona, maybe he can leadoff. If not, then maybe Miles or Johnson. Discipline at the plate must continue to be preached, make a pitcher work, drive up the pitch count! I'd go with Theriot-Bradley-Aramis-Soriano-Lee-Soto 2 thru 7 in the lineup. I have concerns over our bench strength, only Hoffpaur has pop, and we better pray Aramis doesn't tweak his hammy for a week or so cause we got nothin to back him up. Our starting pitching is strong, our entire staff is awesome. All in all, I think Hendry makes a few minor tweaks during the season. I strongly agree with Mr Cub, Ernie Banks, 2009 will be divine!!!

Klute said...

You're certainly are right about the excessive payroll in RF. The options Piniella has for the lead off spot beyond Soriano is suspect to be sure but I think we've all seen that Soriano doesn't run like he used to and if he could find an in house option that could do more than just carry a high OBP, Piniella would realize he could get more production for the lineup if Soriano was moved into the middle of the order.

Spring training will hopefully produce some clarity and I could care less who it is as long as they can work the count and do the little things a typical lead off man does.

Theriot and Gathright have the most speed, Johnson has average speed and Miles is a turtle. Power doesn't mean a damn in the leadoff spot so all of these guys qualify and the one of these players that does not win the lead off job should certainly hit out of the 8 hole.

If it breaks down that Gathright and Johnson do in fact platoon in CF, it provides Piniella with a seamless transition for the lineup so he doesn't have to change the the batting order anytime one substitutes for the other.

Klute said...

I think the object of having Fontenot starting is to hit him in the two hole, regardless of who leads off and possibly giving Miles some playing time at 2B since he's a switch hitter against LHSP.

Bradley or A-Ram could hit 3-4 in no particular order followed by any order of Lee & Soto Piniella wishes. If Soriano is moved down into the lineup, he's most likely hit 5th therefore moving Lee & Soto down a spot respectively. That puts Fukudome and Theriot/substitute at the bottom of the order and as I said in my post, if Fukudome is tearing it up in spring training, it only improves the lineup and allows Piniella even more options.

Fred Merkel said...

Theriot in the two hole worked last year, so I'd leave him there. But, I have to agree with ya, we'll get some clarity soon from Arizona. I'm very interested to see how Gathright and Miles are going to do as well as Heilman and Viscanio. I totally trust Lou and we'll be fine as long as we don't have any "Cubby occurances" in the Spring. Saw where Donkey Dunn signed with the Gnats and Abreu went on the cheap to the Angels. There's still alot of talent unsigned, but it seems like we're good for now.

Klute said...

Orlando Cabrerra is still unsigned and although he may be out of the Cubs price range at around $10M, prices for FA's are dropping like stones and you never know. Also the Pirates are still shopping J Wilson and his $7M contract, so you never know. I believe the Cubs are overlooking the importance of upgrading their weakest defensive position, the most defensively challenged position on the field except catcher, the SS.