Well, as Little Wayne, our negro friend with his curious pronunciation, ha ha ha, has pointed out, it's time for baseball's playoffs. Now now, I'm most certainly not "dissing" on Tiny Wayne, I'm certainly "down" with what's "groovy". But anywho, we move on to a preview of the Cubs playoff roster and their chances this October.
Carlos Zambrano, 18-13 3.95 ERA
After what was easily the most turbulent season of his sometime's outrageous career, Carlos can still look at his record and count himself among the best pitchers in the major leagues. The playoffs, however, are a whole different beast and this is Carlos' chance, once and for all to prove that he can control his emotions and pitch when it most counts, and if his last two regular season starts with the division on the line are any indication, I look to see Big Z come out guns blazing in this one. (Note: If Carlos should have one, or god forbid two, terrible starts, run. Run away as far and as fast as you can. He will not be satisfied until he has slaked his thirst for blood. If you cannot escape, find a way to insert Michael Barett between yourself and Carlos and hope that after devouring him, he takes a power nap and you can slip away in the darkness)
Ted Lilly, 15-8 3.83 ERA
Ted has been without a doubt the Cubs most reliable and consistent pitcher this year. Very rarely did he have a bad start two times in a row. I think the Zambrano-Lilly one-two punch may be the best in Cubs postseason history, including the 2003 Wood-Prior rotation. There's a very solid chance these two could combine to end this series in 4 games or less.
Rich Hill, 11-8 3.92 ERA
I once described Rich Hill as "having the competitive fire of lime jello". I stand by this statement, but found that when his curveball is working, opponents feel like they are trying to hit lime jello.It must have without a doubt been a very difficult decision for Lou to choose between Marquis and Hill as the 3rd starter for this series. I personally think he made the right choice. If Rich has his curveball working, then he pretty much completely neutralizes the Diamondbacks lefthanded hitters and can be as effective a starter as Zambrano or Lilly. The important thing, however, is for Lou to determine very early on in the game if Rich has his stuff, for if he doesn't, it immediately becomes batting practice for the Diamondbacks. With Marquis in reserve ready to step in quickly, Lou needs to be sure to have the quck hook with Rich.
Ryan Dempster, 2-7 4.73 ERA (Holy Fuck), 28/31 Saves/Opportunities
Alright, alright, say what you will about Ryan Dempster. We've all wanted to kill him at multiple points during the last two years. I believe after he gave up five runs in the 9th to lose to the Mets a few months ago I referred to him as "buttfuckingredassedclownmotherfuckingdempster". The simple fact is, however, the guy is 28 of 31 in save opportunities. So as long as Lou remembers this and doesn't put him into a tie game or a game the Cubs trail by one run, we stand a good chance of finishing these things. But if he blows one, ONE save in the postseason, I will personally lead you all in an angry mob to mutilate and kill him, and leave his head on a pike for all future closers to see.
Bob Howry, 6-7 3.32 ERA, 8/12 Saves/Opportunities
Bob has been the most consistently reliable member of the Cubs bullpen the past two years. Much of the pressure situations that he was once expected to handle have now been handed to Carlos Marmol, who has far more electric stuff, but if you need the full inning, if you need someone to get it to your closer, be he Dempster or Marmol, Bob is your guy.
Carlos "The Balls" Marmol, 5-1 1.43 ERA, 1/2 Saves/Opportunities
I'm just gonna say it. This kid fucking rocks. It always seems that the teams that always go on the hot run in the playoffs and end up the champions, have that one rookie phenom bullpen pitcher. The Angels a few years back had K-Rod, the White Sox had Jenks, the Cardinals had Wainwright, the Cubs have Marmol. I think he'll be key in this October, and I don't think he'll disappoint.
Michael Wuertz, 2-3 3.48 ERA.
Wuertz has never in his career seemed to be anything more than mediocre, his roles in the bullpen have shifted from long man to set up man to righty specialist, and now he tends to be the first guy out of the pen for Lou. While he's not the one I want on the mound with the bases loaded and Ryan Howard at the plate (I'm not predicting a Cubs-Phillies LCS, you superstitious fuckwads, but there's no more intimidating NL hitter in the playoffs this year), Wuertz will get some necessary outs this postseason.
Kevin Hart, 0-0 0.82 ERA
Hart was a September call-up and the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year, and pitched extremely well and earned himself a spot on the playoff roster. I think like Marmol he could turn out to be an unexpected hero for this bullpen if given the opportunity, and I think once we get rid of Dempster's ass we'll have two solid choices for a long term closer.
Scott Eyre, 2-1 4.13 ERA
Scott had a terrible first half. I mean god fucking awful. I mean 6.60 ERA awful. He has somehow rebounded with a 0.81 ERA second half, and yet I still find myself not trusting him. At all. Prove me wrong Scott, prove me wrong.
Jason Marquis, 12-8 4.60 ERA
I have, admittedly, never been a huge fan of Jason's. I called the 3 year, 21 million deal the Cubs gave him "the biggest fucking mistake this franchise could make, Jason fucking Marquis?!", but Jason has had a better season than anticipated and made for a serviceable fourth starter. As mentioned before, I am pleased with the decision to go with Hill over Marquis, leaving Marquis as a possible long relief man. Please don't let that happen.
Kerry Wood, 1-1 3.33 ERA
I keep having one dream every night since the Cubs clinched the Central. Its the last game of the World Series at Wrigley field. the Cubs have a 3 run lead going into the top of the 9th, and feeling juust secure enough with that lead, Lou puts in Kerry instead of Dempster or Marmol. And for one inning we see the Kerry Wood we always wanted to see and always hoped was still in there. At the end of that inning I see Kerry standing triumphant, his hands in the air as the team he's sacrificed so much for mobs him on the mound, and I see all the disappointments and the pain he and Cub fans have been through in his career melt away. Please Do let that happen.
Catcher- Geovany Soto, .389, 3 hrs, 8 rbi.
Lou surprised a lot of people by announcing Geovany would be the starter for game one, rather than the more experienced Jason Kendall. I personally applaud this movie as Soto has shown great game managing skills, a fantastic bat, and brings an energy to the catching position the Cubs haven't known in years. Good call, Lou, I think the kid will make it pay off.
1st Base- Derrek Lee, .317, 22hrs, 82 rbi.
After a slow first half power-wise, Derrek rebounded in the second half to hit 16 homers in the second half and over the last month or so has finally begun to look like the superstar of 2005. As much as Derrek denies it, I really do believe recovery from his wrist injury took longer than he thought it would, and once it finally did strengthen up he was able to turn with power on those inside pitches and crush them like he used to do. One thing that never wavered with Derrek is the fact that he is the undeniable leader of this team, and has consistently played with passion, class, and skill and I look forward to seeing him lead this team in the playoffs. I can only say that in comparison of this team with the previous two Cubs playoff teams, I feel a lot better with Derrek Lee as the leader than I did with Sammy Sosa.
2nd Base- Mark DeRosa, .293, 10 hrs, 72 rbi.
I was pretty damn sure I wasn't going to like Mark DeRosa. I was positive his 2006 season with the Rangers was a fluke and the Cubs would end up paying a guy 12 million to hit .260. But damn was I wrong. Mark has probably been one of the smartest free agent signings in Cub history. The man has played 1st, 2nd, 3rd, SS, and the outfield and has played like a natural at all of them, while providing consistently dependable offense all season. I don't think its a stretch to imagine Mark turning out to be a surprise MVP for the Cubs in this year's playoffs, as he just seems to be that kind of clutch player.
SS- Ryan Theriot, .266, 3 hrs, 45 rbi, 28 stolen bases.
Show me a Cub fan that doesn't like Ryan Theriot, and I will show you a man who needs a swift kick in the nuts. Were his numbers all that spectacular? No. But Ryan was, as anyone who watched the Cubs this year will tell you, responsible for starting damn near every Cubs rally of the season. The kid never quits, on anything from running out a routine groundout or chasing a pop up into th stands, he just plays the game the way it ought to played.
3B- Aramis Ramirez, .310, 26 hrs, 101 rbi.
Proving that a good manager can get the best out of his players, Aramis shed many of the labels that people had used to criticize his game in previous years this season. He hustled, he shored up his defense tremendously, enough that if he doesn't win the gold glove he got jobbed, hit in April and May, hit in the clutch, and played through the various injuries that probably would have kept him on the bench under Dusty Baker's watch. Get's my vote for team MVP this year, with the signature moment of the season up to this point undoubtedly being his walkoff homer against Milwaukee.
RF- Cliff Floyd, .284, 9hrs, 45 rbi.
Another smart signing by Jim Hendry, Cliff has been great as a starting outfielder when healthy and not forced to deal with the tragic event of the death of his father, and plays with what seems like real joy for his home town team. Its a shame that he lost his father after signing with the Cubs so he could be closer to home, but since then he has played with real purpose and drive, and hopefully he can make this even more of a storybook October for Chicago.
CF- Jacque Jones, .285, 5hrs, 66 rbi.
Jacque rebounded somewhat from a terrible first half to have a decent overall season, but yeah, I do still fucking hate Jacque Jones, unlike some gullible assfaces who contend we wouldn't be in the playoffs without him (yeah, I'm looking at you iggins!, put down his baseball card and pull your pants up). But, given that this is the playoffs and I'm trying to be optimistic, I'll give him a halfhearted gesture. His defense in centerfield isn't terrible (like his defense in rightfield is).
LF- Alfonso Soriano, .299, 33 hrs, 70 rbi.
A player who can be extremely frustrating from time to time when he swings from his ass on every single pitch, but also is most likely the most exciting player the Cubs have had since Sosa was still young and not a muscle-bound monstrosity. Nothing fires up this team more than an Alfonso leadoff homer, and hopefully we'll see plenty of those the next few weeks.
C- Jason Kendall, .242, 3 hrs, 41 rbi.
I thought the trade for Kendall was a good trade at the time, and I still do. With the development of Soto, Kendall makes a perfectly reliable veteran backup catcher and should be invaluable during the playoffs.
1B/OF- Daryle Ward, .327, 3 hrs, 19 rbi
Its true that I mostly love Daryle Ward because he reminds me of all the happy memories of Randall Simon from the 2003 playoffs, but also because he's a damn good pinch hitter and a very likeable guy, possibly Lou's greatest weapon off the bench.
2B- Mike Fontenot, .278, 3 hrs, 29 rbi.
Has really cooled down since a very hot start after his call up in June, but remains a viable option off the bench as a pinch hitter/runner/defensive replacement. Like Theriot he plays with hustle and grit and should make one or two key plays for the team in the playoffs.
OF-Felix Pie, .215, 2 hrs, 15 rbi
He's not Corey Patterson, he's not Corey Patterson, he's not Corey Patterson.. Pie most likely won't be Lou's first, second, or third choice for a pinch hitter, but there's no denying he's the best defensive outfielder on the team and could be very key in the late innings of close games.
OF- Matt Murton, .281, 8 hrs, 22 rbi
After struggling in the first half and being sent down, Matt has played his tail off since his call up, hitting .310 in the second half, with some extremely clutch pinch hits. He will be the first option off the bench against lefties and will probably get a start at some point.
My Prediction- This team is solid from top to bottom, and is a better team than their 85 wins indicate. I'm not really ready to say World Series Champions, and there's no real reason to, but I can only say this team should go deep into the playofs, and if they don't, someone must pay.