Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Vindication from Last Year's Predictions...

I was perusing some of our archives to determine how accurately our forecasts for this year turned out, and I came across our Roundtable questions here, and here.

With the Cubs finishing fourth in the division, my extreme pre-season skepticism about this team has been fully vindicated. Here are a few of the prescient opinions offered before a pitch was ever thrown this season:

On January 30th, I made the following comments with regard to assigning a grade to the off-season moves made by the Cubs:

1) What grade would you assign to the Off-season moves of the three teams most people project to contend in the NL Central this year (Cubs, Cards, Astros) and why?


CUBS: (C-) I have to agree with Graham from A Cub Fan Rants, and so I assign the Cubs a grade of C-. Signing Nomar was key of course and should be regarded as an obvious upgrade from the unrighteous Gonzalez/Martinez/Ordonez/Macias platoon that Dusty had going last year. Having Walker for the full year should be an improvement as well at 2nd. However, lest we forget, this is a team that finished third in the central last year and the blame for this cannot be squarely laid on the injury bug’s shoulders. Offensive production was the absolute number one problem of this team (exhibit A: Matt Clement’s 3.68 ERA coupled with his 9-13 record; Exhibit B: a frustrating propensity to lose games where the opponent scored more than 4 runs as pointed out so well by Steve Stone; Exhibit C: a dismal record in 1-run games). As most of you know who actually watched or listened to the games last season, it seemed as if we were often hopelessly lost in a dry and desolate desert looking desperately for some oasis of relief in the form of some walks, hits, and advanced runners – phenomena that were sadly absent for much of the season. So while the addition of Nomar for the entire season (assuming he stays healthy) is an obvious plus, the loss of the team’s leading RBI, run, and HR leader has yet to be adequately filled. This was a team that needed to be looking to upgrade offensively as the number #1 off season priority – and not only have they not upgraded, they may even have slightly regressed in this category. Added to all of this is the fact that the team’s second greatest weakness (i.e., a questionable bullpen) has not been addressed either. With no clear closer or consistently capable middle or late relievers, no offensive upgrades, and the loss of the #1 RBI, run, and HR producer - this is a team that looks like a slightly worse version of last year’s squad! Unless Hendry goes out and does what he is supposed to do (i.e., upgrade offensively by going after Magg$) this team gets a C- for a lackluster off-season. HOWEVER – I wrote all of this before the Sosa trade – and if the Cubs don’t spin off these prospects they acquired for Sosa (and they’ll probably have to include some others) for a big bat like Aubrey Huff - or unless they sign Magglio – they get an F! If they actually do the unthinkable and pick up Jeromy Burnitz they get an F-! I am disgusted with this trade as it now stands - and they better have something else in the works or this offseason will have gone from being merely sub-standard to an absolute disaster!

From that same post:

4) Who will be the closer for 2005?

CHRIS: Predicting Baker’s moves is as much of a science as reading tea leaves. I’d like to see what Dempster has or anyone other than Hawkins actually. Hawkins is an excellent set-up man (he’s probably the best pitcher in the bullpen), but when you stick him in the closers role you not only lose a top tier set-up man, but you get a moderately bad closer to boot – no thank you. Let’s see what Dempster can do, or try Leicester for heavens sake. If Borowski got back on the juice (this is a suspicion of mine) and can get his fastball to crack 90 MPH again - stick him back in there – otherwise I don’t want him anywhere near the mound in tight games. Heck, Id even be willing to give the Farns a shot during Spring Training and if he excels (which would absolutely shock me) - give him the job. However, my pessimism concerning Baker leads me to suspect that Hawkins will fill the role once again and, therefore, not only will we not have a closer, but we will struggle in middle and late relief as well.

And then finally, these comments from February 7th, which turned out to be spot-on:

And in case you missed it - Bill has a very insightful comparison to what has happened to the Cubs from 2003-2005 and what happened to them in 1969-1971. You should definitely check it out.

I think his analysis is spot-on and it portends ominously for this current Cubs lineup. As it currently stands - I believe that this team will finish third in the division (and that's assuming no injuries).

Now, perhaps that dire prediction places me in Al Yellon's "screamer" category - which is fine, I suppose. If the alternative is coming across as a paid shill for the Tribune, then I'll take the "screamer" label any day.

If you want to live in fantasy land, there are blogs that will cater to your desire for delusions.

If you want reality - you know where to come.