A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Offense: A potential lineup: Ryan Theriot-2B, Jeff Baker-3B, Derrek Lee-1B, Marlon Byrd-CF, Xavier Nady-DH, Alfonso Soriano-LF, Geovany Soto-C, Kosuke Fukudome-RF, Starlin Castro-SS. Bench: Tyler Colvin-OF, Koyie Hill-C.
Oh hi there other mediocre and disappointing Chicago baseball team. How are you? Mediocre and disappointing, you say? Neat. And I know we're playing NL ball this weekend, but I included the DH for the 3 games we'll play at the end of the month. Paralleling our own idea of having a fast guy with a less than stellar on-base percentage, the Cubs throw out Ryan Theriot. Theriot has been bad this season (.289 wOBA), and a large part of this is his ever declining walk-percentage (4.1%). He's good defensively at second, but unless he starts drawing walks again he'll never be more than an average player. But he does have this creepy bobblehead coming out this season. The man the Cubs traded to get Jeff Baker is named Alberto Alburquerque. That is the most interesting thing about Jeff Baker. Baker is a utility man filling in for the injured and ineffective Aramis Ramirez. The righty doesn't do anything particularly well. Remember how Derrek Lee bounced back last year to have a nice 5.3 WAR season. Ignore it. He has become a mere shadow of what he used to be. He's projected to have his worst wOBA since we were all terrified of Y2K. His speed and power seem to have left him, but his above-average defense still remains. Marlon Byrd is the other new Chicago centerfielder who happens to be killing it. His fielding has been great and he's enjoying the best power output of his career by far (.217 ISO). His career low walk rate of 3% is concerning, but he seems to be doing just fine without free passes. Expect a slight decline in his slash-line, but not too much. He was a great free agent pick-up.
Xavier Nady is my guess to be at DH. Either him or Tyler Colvin. But for simplicity, I'm going with Nady. Xavier is an alright bench player, but can't quite hack it as an everyday player. He is a good example of a replacement level player. Alfonso Soriano has somehow found a way to stave off becoming the worst contract in baseball for at least another season. His BABIP, ISO, and BB% should all come down. Still, this should be his best season since he first came to the North Side. Geovany Soto is also enjoying a nice bounceback season. He seems determined to prove that last season was the fluke, and not his impressive 2008 breakout campaign. If he can keep this BB% up (18.8, and he probably won't), he could turn into one of the top National League catchers. Kosuke Fukudome continues to look like an expensive mistake, with the cost rising again next year. Thanks for helping us dodge that bullet, Hendry. He walks and strikes out a good deal, but this current spike in power screams unsustainable. Expect a repeat of last season, but at a higher price. Starlin Castro had nothing left to prove in the minors, posting a .990 OPS to start the season. The Anointed One hasn't quite hacked it in the bigs (.299 wOBA and 7 errors), but he's still only 20 so it remains way too early to panic. That being said, I'm not worried about him this season.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Ryan Dempster-RHP, Ted Lilly-LHP, Randy Wells-RHP, Carlos Silva-RHP, Carlos Zambrano-RHP, and Carlos Marmol-RHP.
I'll be honest, I never thought Ryan Dempster would turn out to be worth his contract. He keeps cutting his walk rate down, but his BABIP is .051 points lower than normal. While that goes up his HR/9 should come down, so it will pretty much even out. He throws a low-90s fastball, a slider, and a split-finger fastball. His slider is his best pitch. Ted Lilly has been scuffling. Unfortunately, we don't get to see him this weekend. The worst part about his mediocre FIP (4.35) is that this is happening while he has a BABIP .045 points below his career norm. Regression is going to suck for this southpaw. He throws what is currently a mid-80s fastball, a good slider, an alright change, and the occasional curveball. And now for the trio we face this series. Randy Wells has been the opposite of Ted Lilly so far. His BABIP is abnormally high and his peripherals suggest that he should end up with numbers very similar to what he did last season, with slight improvement. He throws a high-80s fastball, a good slider, and a sub-par changeup. Apparently all it took to make Carlos Silva into a decent pitcher was a trip to the Senior Circuit. He's striking out hitters at a better rate than ever before while walking fewer than usual. His BABIP will jump up eventually and people will stop being completely amazed by his miracle turnaround. And bringing up the rear is former effective starter, Carlos Zambrano. After a relatively unsuccessful trip to the bullpen, Big Z has been sent to the ass-end of the rotation. His BABIP is astronomical and his BB% is higher than usual, so in theory he should return to normal eventually. The $18 million fifth starter throws a low-90s fastball, a splitter, a slider, and a cutter. Despite a ridiculous BABIP (.341), Marmol has been incredibly effective this season. When he's not walking the world (5.33 BB%). There is no way his K% stays at 17 either. Think 13% max. He throws a great slider and a mid-90s fastball. Both are plus pitches.
Outlook: What happens when two equally-matched crappy teams meet to play for a made-up trophy sponsored by the least popular company in the country currently? Apathy. Sox take series 4-2.