Pre-Season Predictions, Revisited

Remember that TCR Round-table at the very start of the Season, where the staff all made predictions on the upcoming season? Well, neither do I. Which is why I figured that with one-third of the season complete, it's time to look at some choice selections of the questions and our answers. There isn't a lot of new commentary, below, just an edited synopsis of our answers, and a few flags for the truly ridiculous predictions (mine on Todd Hollandsworth, anyone?) and the truly inspired (Rob's on Derrek Lee.) Sammy Sosa dominated this off-season. After much speculation, he was finally shipped off to Baltimore. Were the Cubs right to do so, did they get a good deal, and will they really be better off without him? Ruz They didn't get a good deal, but I think it might have been about as good a deal as was out there. John The Cubs didnít get anything like a good deal, and they'll be worse off without him. Rob My only issue with the deal was its timing. ... I think we'll be better this year - attributing it to getting rid of Sosa will be a stretch though. Transmission They were right to do it. Whether or not they got a good deal obviously depends on Jerry Hairston's year. The job of replacing Sosa in right field falls to Jeromy Burnitz. In left field, Moises Alou is gone and the position's up for grabs. Who should get the playing time in left, who will, and what are your expectations for our corner outfielders this year? Transmission I'm hoping that Hollandsworth has a Luis Gonzalez or Steve Finley type transformation in him ñ he's certainly as likely to do it as either of those guys were. I easily can imagine Hollandsworth putting up a 300/380/480 line. (wow, there's a painful prediction to remember) It's the 240/315/470 line from Burnitz that I dread. Given the holes in Hollandsworth's body and in Burnitz's swing, Dubois will get at least 300 at-bats. He can only hope that enough of them are in consecutive games that he gets a real opportunity to show what he can do (270/340/480). Rob I'd love to see Dubois get the playing time in left field but we'll have to see injuries to at least 2 of the 3 starting outfielders before that happens Unlike most folks I'm not that down on Burnitz. My guess is 250/330/520 with 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs. Ruz My expectations are about 280/350/470 from Holly, but in only about 300 at-bats. Dubois will struggle at the major league level but could, if given the chance, come around by the end of the year. John Dubois' strikeouts are increasingly worrying me, for they threaten to drag his average down. That said, Dubois' power is legitimate, and I think his patience is acceptable enough that he deserves a spot on the bench and regular playing time against left-handers (in both left and right field). His overall performance then, which I think will match Burnitz's, will be a bargain for the league minimum. My opinion of Hollandsworth has changed far too many times, but I think that for now he deserves the chance he's going to get to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. Aramis Ramirez last year had the best season by a Cubs third baseman since Ron Santo. Heís a free agent after 2005, and he still hasn't put pen to paper on a new deal. Will he stay or be off elsewhere? John That Ramirez hasn't yet signed a new contract is making me nervous, I have to admit. I hope he'll stay, but with negotiations taking so long, I fear the worst. Rob A four to five year deal between $10 and $11 million sounds about right. Ruz He'll stay. The Cubs will offer him $40m over four years or thereabouts and everyone will be happy. Transmission He'll stay. (Score one for TCR staff!) The bench will surely be better this year, right? Ruz Considering Macias and Perez are still on it, no. With Walker and Holly starting, there's no lefty power on the bench, either. I don't like it. Rob If our bench guys stay bench guys this year, we'll be okay. That said, I fully expect Hendry to go find an adequate left-handed bench bat before the season is over. John Dubois and Hairston will be good bench players, I think, but it's a real travesty that Hansen was cut. Overall, Dusty will have to squeeze these lemons hard to get much out of them. Transmission The bench will be better. As a whole, this year's bench has more OBP and more SLG with less speed, as I see it. On the pitching side of things, which number will be higher - Greg Maddux's wins or Mark Prior's starts? Which Kerry Wood will we see this year? And will Carlos Zambrano be better than all three? Transmission Prior's starts, and even though Maddux wins another 15 games, this contest wonít even be close. Weíll see the same Kerry wood we saw in 2001, 2002, and 2003 - healthy, an outspoken leader who can beat anyone in the game, but doesn't have the physical or mental control to dominate over 32 starts. Zambrano and Prior will become the best 1-2 combo in the game John Prior's starts. Remember Prior during the stretch run of 2003? I donít, obviously, but I hope I'll get soon be getting a nice long glimpse of just what he was like back then. And I canít wait. Zambrano and Wood wonít be better than Prior, but only because Prior will be that good. I expect Z to repeat, and Wood to break out. Rob It's a toss-up but I'll go with Prior's starts. I think we'll see the same Kerry we see every year, occasionally brilliant, usually solid, frustratingly wild, and with an ERA in the low 3.00s. Hopefully heíll top 15 wins just to get the monkey of his back. Zambrano will battle Prior for the top spot in the rotation. Ruz Prior's starts. We'll see the same Wood we always do, the one who's sometimes amazing and sometimes can't find the plate. Z will come into his own, but he'll be the second-best pitcher on the staff behind Prior. (Not so good for TCR, on this one...) The Cubs let Matt Clement walk over the winter, and the vagaries of the compensation system mean all they'll be getting from Boston is a late third round draft pick. With question marks over Prior and Wood's health this spring, will the Cubs live to regret this decision? Transmission Yes. Clement threw 188 inning last year of 3.68 ERA ball, and both those numbers were depressed by fatigue and injury at the end of the year. I can't fathom that the Cubs seriously thought they could replace that with Dempster, Rusch, Mitre or Guzman, so I have to assume that they thought paying off Sosa and bringing in Burnitz was of greater value and more feasible than keeping Clement. Personally, I disagree. Rob Having Clement around this year wouldn't have been so bad but a multi-year deal would have blocked some of the young studs coming up. It was an easy decision and Hendry was right to gamble that he can land an adequate 5th starter as a stop-gap for the season Ruz No. Clement will be good in Boston, but the money he ended up getting ($25.5m over three years) was too much for the Cubs to give him. Five good starters is a luxury not too many teams can afford, and I think the Cubs are going to be fine with their Four Aces and whoever's in the fifth spot. John The Cubs won't regret the decision. In fact, they'll probably live to savour staying out of this winter's free agent pitching market. The Cubs have a wealth of other pitching acceptable and far cheaper options. (Sorry, guys, but I need to gloat on this one. It still doesn't make up for my Hollandsworth prediction) About this time last year many thought the Cubs had finally put together a solid bullpen. Apparently not - Borowski wasn't the same, Hawkins wasn't the ideal replacement and Farnsworth wilted in the August heat. Will things be better this year? And who will end up with the most saves on the Cubs? Ruz Hawkins will be fine. A pitcher who can pitch well in the 8th inning can pitch well in the 9th inning, too, and Hawkins will end up doing an above-average job there. He'll have the most saves on the team. Transmission Things easily could easily fall from last year's not-so-lofty standards. I am really quite pessimistic here, and not because of Hawkins. It's what's in front of him. John The loss of Borowski will hurt. I'd feel more comfortable with Hawkins as a setup man, more because I want our best reliever pitching the high leverage innings than because of what happened last year. I'm probably Jon Leicester's biggest fan - I'd use him regularly as the first pitcher out of the bullpen. I feel reasonably comfortable with Wuertz too. Once Borowski returns, that's the excellent Hawkins and five pitchers Iím quite content with. Rob I expect the bullpen to be a little better this year. I certainly don't have any solid reason for this but it just can't be as excruciating as last year especially with Farnsworth gone (None of us saw the Hawkins implosion coming....) Will the Cubs have any legitimate hardware contenders (MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year)? Transmission If the Cubs can stay in contention until the final week, Ramirez will finish in the top five. If Nomar plays a full season, and I think he will, he's a top-five candidate too, regardless of the strength of the team. Left field is either going to produce a top-three finish in Comeback Player of the Year or Rookie of the Year. The only question is which one it will be, Hollandsworth or Dubois. Z two, Prior four in the Cy Young. Rob It's tempting to pick Aramis but he'll have a hard time just being the best third basemen in the league with Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus around. Nomar I think has the best shot at MVP, if for no other reason than that there isn't a shortstop in the NL even close with Renteria having left for the Red Sox. John Iím really optimistic when it comes to the three at the top of our rotation, and I think they'll all be there or there abouts in the Cy. Ruz I agree that Prior is a Cy Young candidate if he makes 30 starts. Last year Jim Hendry acquired Michael Barrett, who'd hit just .208 in 2003. He also picked up Glendon Rusch, he of the 6.42 ERA. Both though proved invaluable to the Cubs' cause, much to the surprise of a lot of people. Who, new or otherwise, can you envisage having the same surprise effect this year? Who do you suspect might break out this year, and who do you fear might disappoint? Ruz The surprise pickup of the winter might be Chad Fox. Rob Hollandsworth and Barrett are my two big fears just because last year was so out of whack with the rest of their careers. Rusch too. As for surprises, Burnitz, Patterson and Hairston top my list. Burnitz I believe will be a solid force in the middle of the lineup. I'll throw in Derrek Lee as well because the 40+ home run year we were expecting last year might arrive this time around. Transmission Hollandsworth for the breakout, Burnitz for the disappointment. John Chad Fox and Scott Williamson represent the Cub pickups of the off-season. Lee I agree could have the year some expected last year. (Ding! We have a winner, and it's Rob. Good call, Rob.) You probably don't need reminding, but the Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. What's the biggest reason Cubs fans should be hopeful that this, at long last, is the year? Ruz Prior, Zambrano, Maddux and Wood. Rob Youth. Of our projected everyday players, only Burnitz is on the wrong side of 35 and most are a quite a bit younger. Include the rest of the squad and you only add Maddux and Remlinger to the 35 and older club. The average age of the squad (roughly) is 29. There's potential for the team to collectively have career years and blow away the competition. The playoffs are mostly a roll of the dice, but two dominating pitchers can take you a long way, so as long as we have three, I'll always like our chances in the playoffs. Transmission They shouldn't be. Expectations just create anxiety. Enjoy the team for what it is - a talented team with some exciting players. John Chemistry. Let's face it, this off-season has been a purge of the supposed malcontents. If Hendry and Dusty are right, given that we won 89 games with all those terrible people in the organisation, I can't see how we can fail to win about 100 games this year and cruise to World Series glory on a wave of warm and fuzzy feelings. And the biggest reason they should think that once again, come October, it'll be "wait 'til next year"? John Chemisty. If Hendry and Baker are wrong, we're in trouble, because in getting rid of all those caricatures, they also reduced our talent base. Rob These are the Cubs and we are their fans. I think "wait 'til next year" were my first words. That and the apparent fragility of our starting staff, and if Nomar and Ramirez go down for any length of time, replaced by Neifi and Jose, we could go from the best infield in the league to far and away the worst. Ruz Priorís elbow, Zambrano's innings total, Maddux's age, and Wood's elbow. (Looking good on that call, Ruz. Sadly.) So, how many will the Cubs win this year? And how will it all end? Ruz I see the Cubs at 89-73, 2nd place in the Central, and in the wildcard hunt with the Padres and Phillies. Transmission 91 wins, and it ends not with a bang, but a whimper. Ice, not fire. John 92 wins, good enough only for second places in both the Central and the Wild Card races to the Cardinals and Phillies respectively. Wait ëTil Next Year. I hope Iím wrong. Rob I predict 95 wins then and a down to the wire race with the Cardinals for the division in which we ultimately triumph. predicting the playoffs is a fruitless endeavour, but I really like our chances of being there. (This, like many of the predictions, remains to be seen. I'll try to remember to revisit these predictions after the 2/3rds mark and at season's end.)
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Comments

i like the idea - we should do this with everybody's predictions: sports commentators, news analysts, politicians - i bet they wouldn't be even as close as you guys were.

At the 1/3 point in the aeason (54 games), here are the Cubs team & individual numbers prorated over a full season. I am prorating Walker, Dubois, and Hairston as "everyday" players, and figuring (hoping) that Peior & Wood will return at mid-season:

FINAL RECORD:
Cubs: 87-75 (tied for 1st in the Wild Card)

TEAM BATTING:
6th most runs scored
#1 in slugging
Most HRs (prorated to 210 HR)
5th most SB
Fewest number of GIDP (Grounded into DP)
12th in OBP
Dead last in walks

PITCHING:
4th fewest runs allowed
Most strikeouts

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Derrek Lee:
51 HR
153 RBI
380/407/710 (1.110 OPS)
132 R
45 2B
27 SB (3 CS)
99 BB
114 K
(MVP, TRIPLE CROWN, and GOLD GLOVE)

Aramis Ramirez:
33 HR
84 RBI
271/336/510 (846 OPS)
87 R
39 2B
57 BB
81 K
12 ERRORS

Neifi Perez:
21 HR
78 RBI
318/341/482 (823 OPS)
78 R
27 2B
12 SB (3 CS)
18 BB
51 K
15 ERRORS

Jason Dubois:
18 HR
74 RBI
265/318/500 (818 OPS)
44 R
33 2B
22 BB
136 K

Jeromy Burnitz:
24 HR
99 RBI
261/309/450 (759 OPS)
84 R
36 2B
6 3B
9 SB (6 CS)
48 BB
117 K

Todd Walker:
16 HR
56 RBI
294/357/529 (886 OPS)
56 R
32 2B
8 3B
8 SB (0 CS)
40 BB
32 K

Michael Barrett:
15 HR
69 RBI
275/313/451 (764 OPS)
45 R
30 2B
21 BB
48 K

Corey Patterson:
30 HR
57 RBI
267/303/438 (741 OPS)
90 R
18 2B
21 SB (6 CS)
33 BB
147 K

Jerry Hairston, Jr:
3 HR
18 RBI
272/374/367 (741 OPS)
72 R
33 2B
15 SB (18 CS)
51 BB
60 K
15 ERRORS

INDIVIDUAL PITCHING:
Glendon Rusch: 15-3 1.96
Carlos Zambrano: 12-12 3.22 - 228 IP - 204 K
Greg Maddux: 12-9 4.12 - 223 IP - 36 BB/135 K
Mark Prior: 12-3 2.93 - 175 IP - 186 K
Kerry Wood: 5-5 6.15 - 118 IP - 150 K
Michael Wuertz 12-6 3.81

Some ex-Cubs prorated out over a full season (presuming Sosa stays healthy for the rest of the season):

Moises Alou:
36 HR
94 RBI
301/416/571 (987 OPS)
92 R
22 BB
94 BB
25 K

Sammy Sosa:
16 HR
63 RBI
242/320/403 (723 OPS)
59 R
25 2B
4 3B
4 SB
59 BB
85 K

Mark Grudzielanek:
9 HR
69 RBI
325/368/464 (832 OPS)
93 R
42 2B
6 3B
9 SB

Matt Clement:
18-0 3.17
230 IP
219 H
87 BB
174 K
9 HR

Andy Sisco:
3-3 2.53
78 G
96 IP
63 H
51 BB
117 K
9 HR

Kyle Farnsworth:
3-3 2.66
75 G
71 IP
60 H
27 BB
87 K
3 HR

LaTroy Hawkins
3-15 4.71
69 G
63 IP
60 H
27 BB
42 K
15 HR

Kent Mercker:
3-3 2.19
87 G
74 IP
75 H
21 BB
39 K
3 HR

I've always loved playing with pro-rated seasons, Phil. The thought of Clement going 18-0 or Rusch with an ERA under 2 for the season always gives me a happy grin.....

Who will be sent down for Remmy today??? It is said he will be activated before today's game.

I'll get on that, manny.

In the meantime, I DID have a prediction that is really impressive, and I almost forgot!

I emailed a friend of mine before the season started, and boldly predicted that every single team in the NL East would finish with a win total in the 80s.

This has never happened in any division since realignment into six divisions, but my friend was thoroughly unimpressed with a prediction of uniform mediocrity. My friend also doesn't know the difference between natural variation and a brick.

Iím glad you decided to do this sorta ìyear in retrospectî now instead of a couple of weeks ago. That would have been painful and depressing.

Oh, and I like the idea of Lee joining Yaz! as the only player to win the tripple crown and a gold glove in the same year.

Who will be sent down for Remmy today??? It is said he will be activated before today's game.

My money is on Novoa.

I noticed something remarkable above...Moises Alou has struck out only 7 times so far this year (in 133 ABs)!! He's never really been a "free-swinger", but this pace is still remarkable.

I really wish the Cubs had picked up Alou's option. He is exactly what we could of used in LF. I understand it would of been a lot of money, but his stats so far show it would of been worth it.

FWIW: Offensive/Defensive Breakdown:

Scored 3 or fewer: 22 games (5-17).

Scored 4: 12 games (9-3).

Scored 5 or more: 21 games (16-5).

Yielded 5 or more: 24 games (7-17).

Yielded 4: 6 games (0-6).

Yielded 3 or fewer: 25 games (23-2!!!).

(Yielded less than 3 in 16 games (15-1).)

Well, like most people, I predicted before the year that the Cubs would be 30-25 after 55 games, that Derrek Lee would be leading the league in all 3 Triple Crown categories, and that Neifi Perez would be our second most valuable position player.

Sadly, I also predicted that Jason Dubois would have 6 homers by this time. But he only has 5. I don't know what I was thinking.

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