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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.

Cubs Preview 3/25/08- The Aww F*&k... Reed Johnson? Special Edition

Alright, the Cubs signed Reed Johnson the former Blue Jays center fielder today to a one year deal. This means that neither Mike Fontenot or Sam Fuld will make the team out of spring training. Also Scott Eyre is injured, which means that Sean Marshall will likely make the team in the bullpen for at least the first week or so of the season. So for those of you keeping score with the previews, and I KNOW there's many of you, do the following:

1. At 25, drop both Fontenot and Fuld.

2. At 23, move Cedeno from 23 to 25.

3. Insert Reed Johnson at 23.

4. At 19, just pretend Scott Eyre doesn't exist till he comes back. When he does, it may still be necessary to close your eyes and pretend he doesn't exist whenever he pitches.

5. Sean Marshall AND Kevin Hart both made the team, so at 24, keep Marshall, and temporarily make Hart your 19.

6. Cry for Matt Murton, cry, cry, cry.

So here's addendum Roster Spot 23-

CF- Reed Johnson #9
Ht: 5'10'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Who signed me? The Cubs? Don't they have Matt Murton? That poor S.O.B.

Matt Murton lovers, look away. For here is the man who just took away Matt's final chance of starting anything anywhere. Reed was just signed to a one year deal today by the Cubs, in need of a right handed hitting center fielder who can take over for Felix against lefties, as Felix hit .111 against lefties last year. Really, though, you had to sign a guy who hit .236 last year, has a bad back, and couldn't beat out an aging Shannon Stewart? Think about this, you have two fast, strong armed corner outfielders in Soriano and Fukudome. You can't just prop Murton up in center field and hope they cover for him? Or put Fukakke in center and Murton in right? Apparently not. You need Reed F*&king Johnson.
Alright. Let's be positive about this. In 2006, his last season before the back injury Reed hit .319 with a .390 OBP. That's good. Exceptionally so. He did hit .325 last season vs. left handers, and in his career hits .308 with a .371 OBP against them. He has a 1.000 fielding percentage in 64 career starts in center field, and has 35 career outfield assists. That is far, far better than Matt Murton. Plus he does remove any fear Cubs fans may have had of ever having to see Ronny Cedeno play center field.

So....Reed Johnson. I'm still not f*&king buying it.