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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roster Spot #7-P-Rich Hill #53
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left

Does he look kinda frightened to you? Me too.

When I previewed the Cubs before last season, I derided Rich Hill as having "the competitive fire of lime jello", and really I still stand by that statement. Rich has a 12-6 curveball and a 90s fastball that could really make him among the most dominant lefties in baseball, and the second coming of early 2000s Barry Zito, and yet he's never really cashed it in in 2 1/2 major league seasons. After a 5 game stretch in last March/April where he went 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, and an August/September stretch in 2006 where he went 6-3 with a 2.92, Rich has never posted an ERA below 3.99 in any of the other months. of his major league career. In 2005 and the first half of 2006 Rich failed to transfer his splendid 3.43 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 626 minor league strikeouts to the majors, as he went 0-6 in his first 16 major league games (10 starts) with an ERA of 9.25. Simply put, he couldn't control that dazzling curveball at the major league level. Rich finally put it together in August of that year and went on that dominating August/September run, had a great 2007 spring training in which he didn't walk a batter, then had that great run to start the season, after which his monthly totals for 2007 tell the maddening story of his inconsistency:

May: 1-3, 4.66 ERA June:1-1, 4.32
July: 1-1, 3.96
August: 2-1, 3.99
Sept./October: 3-1 5.08

Which left Rich with following line for 2007

32 games, 32 GS,195.0 innings, 11-8, 3.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 183 strikeouts, 63 walks.

Numbers which are solid for a man's first full major league season (and to be fair, Rich could have won far more games, but the team only supported him with 3.42 runs per game in his starts, which was the lowest support for any Cubs starter last year), but don't really tell the whole story of the often dominating, often disappointing Rich Hill. This spring Rich has struggled with his command and is 0-1 with a 6.11 ERA and 15 walks in 17.1 innings. That's not good, though he did a bit better today as he gave up only 2 runs, struck out 6, and walked 1 in his last spring start.

Rich is here at the number 7 spot solely due to his tremendous talent and potential and his importance to the 2007 Cubs. I believe that Rich may just be the player who will be most responsible for this team going forward this year. If Rich cashes in on his potential and wins around 15 games, the Cubs become, I believe, the best pitching team in the majors. If he falls short once more, than they'll be lucky to scratch out a playoff berth, just like last year.

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