A brief look at an opponent we play over the next two weeks.
Dates we play them: 6/16-6/18 @ Wrigley, 6/26-6/28 at home
Offense: A potential batting order and lineup: Alfonso Soriano-LF, Mike Fontenot-3B, Milton Bradley-RF, Derrek Lee-1B, Geovany Soto-C, Kosuke Fukudome-CF, Ryan Theriot-SS, Aaron Miles-2B Bench: Reed Johnson-CF, Bobby Scales-IF
Alfonso Soriano, he of the .327 career OBP and .515 career SLG is still leading off. This has always baffled me. I know he is more comfortable batting lead-off (or something), but those numbers scream that he should be further down in the lineup. AlSo has been in a bit of a slump this month (and season). While the potentially 33 year old may be slipping a bit due to old age, it's more than likely that this slump is BABIP-related, as he is .054 points below his career norm (this will be a common theme today). The $136 million-man will be playing for the Cubs until 2014, because no team is going to want to pick that contract up in a trade (he also has a full NTC). But he seems like such a nice guy. Mike Fontenot should not be a starter. His career splits show he shouldn't be seeing to many lefties, but the shoulder injury to Aramis Ramirez has pushed him into that role. UZR has him looking not-so-hot at the hot corner, as he should be playing second base. And now, Milton Bradley. Milton is known as a crazy person throughout baseball, and deservedly so. That's not why signing the 31 year old to a three year deal was a bad idea. The fact that he is a DH now being expected to play rightfield at Wrigely is. The man is a butcher in the field and trotting him out there everyday is going to lead to him being hurt. He hasn't played in more than 126 games since 2004. He needs his BABIP to swing back (.070 below career norm) or those fans will eat him alive. To say that Derrek Lee really hasn't been the same since his wrist injury back in 2006 wouldn't exactly be fair. It seems more accurate to say that may have knocked him back to Earth. His 2005 season was unholy. Lee continues to provide an above-average bat and glove at first, but don't expect him to stay up north past 2010, when his contract runs out. He is one of the only Cubs' hitters actually hitting like he should so far this season, so if anyone does significant damage from their lineup this week, my money is on him.
Last season's NL RotY, Geovany Soto has had a rough season so far. His power numbers have been way down, most likely due to an early-season injury. All of his secondary numbers except ISO say he should start bouncing back. Here's hoping it takes another two weeks. The forgiveness for Fukudome's mid-season collapse last year kind of surprises me. Yeah, he's doing great right now, but he did the same thing last year in the first half. I'm not saying he'll collapse again after the ASB, but I wouldn't be shocked by it either. The object of every female Cubs fan I know's affection, Ryan Theriot, is hitting way down in the order this season. I think it's safe to call Theriot a grinder, as he hits for no power, steals bases (badly as of late), and plays above-average defense. Essentially, he is an infield version of pre-groin injury Scott Podsednik, with less speed. Aaron Miles has been so bad this year that he makes our troubles at second base pale in comparison. How badly do you think they wish they still has Mark DeRosa?
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Carlos Zambrano-RHP, Ted Lilly-LHP, Ryan Dempster-RHP, Rich Harden-RHP, Randy Wells-RHP and Kevin Gregg-RHP
We all know Carlos Zambrano by now. He's an above-average right-hander who strikes out a ton of guys, but walks about half as many every year. He is also the only player in the major leagues who can give Milton Bradley a run for his money as craziest bastard out there. He is mainly a fastball and slider guy, but also uses a cutter and a split-finger as well. Ted Lilly is having a career-year (150 ERA+). The good news for him is he has lowered his walk rate. The bad news is his K rate dropped as well and his opponents' BABIP is .032 below his average. Will he continue to have a good year? Probably. Will it be as good as it has been? Probably not. The Cubs gave Ryan Dempster a Mark Buehrle-esque contract this off-season just before the market crapped out despite the fact that last season was only his second above average season as a starter this decade. He's been good so far, but he is yet another over-30 player with a back-loaded contract, which is starting to make the Cubs look like the Yankees of a few years ago (not the WS winning ones though). Ryan Dempster also had an altercation with the Gatorade machine, leading upper management to remove it from the dugout. Perhaps they would be interested in a different sports drink? Rich Harden has shown signs of humanity this season, allowing two less homeruns so far in about 100 less innings. He's still got his good stuff and is still as fragile as the old people in the Life Alert ads, but maybe the NL is adjusting to him (though it could just be bad luck). Randy Wells will be our doom. He is a slow-throwing righty we've never seen before, which is bad enough for us. The fact that he has been dominating the NL in his 42.1 innings so far is even worse. Kevin Gregg isn't that great of a closer. He gets a lot of strikeouts, be he walks his fair share of guys and is giving up homers at an alarming rate this season.
Outlook: The Cubs are in win-now mode. The farm is barren and their starting lineup only has one guy under 29. While they aren't hitting like they were last year, they should still have a solid lineup once they regress to the mean and their pitching has been top notch so far. But I like us, and seeing as I can't bring myself to pick them to win the season series, my bottom line is us winning it 4-2.