NL Central Preview
having one of the best-run organizations in the game in the Cardinals, the
game's best player in Albert Pujols, its best ballpark in Wrigley Field, and
its best running joke in Ed Wade's reliever fetish, the NL Central retains a
quality best described as "meh." Perhaps it's just because a six-team division
will always include some teams having a bad year, but the Central has lost the
identity it had a decade ago, when the Cardinals and Astros would regularly
provide in-season - and postseason - drama. Perhaps a resurgence in Cincinnati,
and one beginning in Pittsburgh, will change things.
supposed to be a good team for a long time, a mini-dynasty in the making just a
few years ago? Now the Cubs just look old. It is hard to see where the Cubs are
sure to be better in 2010 than they were in 2009, and easy to see where they
may be worse.
Those Are ACT Scores.
The 2010 baseball ages of the Cubs' projected Opening Day lineup, starting
behind the plate: 27, 34, 30, 30, 32, 34, 32, 33. The 27-year-old hit
.218/.321/.381 in an injury-plagued sophomore season. Think Jeff Baker will
play some second base? OK, drop the third number to 29. This is one of the
oldest teams in baseball, and simply from an actuarial standpoint, it's hard to
project them to improve upon last year's 707 runs scored. Replacing Milton
Bradley with Marlon Byrd is a lateral move. Derrek Lee was quietly
outstanding a year ago, with a 972 OPS that will be hard to match. The team is
banking on better health from Lee, Aramis Ramirez and a bounceback by Alfonso
Soriano, which is wishcasting. Players get less productive and more frequently
injured with age. It's not that the Cubs couldn't be better in '10, it's just
unlikely. There's fantasy production here; just no value: there are few players
likely to out-produce the price or round in which you have to take them.
Mark Grace. In an
18-team keeper league, I ended up with Starlin Castro for $4 mostly
because I didn't want someone else getting him. The team is probably going to
have to play for 2011 and beyond, anyway. I liked it at the time, although I
find myself now wondering about the player's future. It's not that Castro isn't
talented; it's that his organization isn't. The last time the Cubs developed a
star non-pitcher was Mark Grace, more than 20 years ago. Their best
position-player success stories since then are Joe Girardi, Corey Patterson and
Ryan Theriot. Perhaps Castro can rise above that history, but until he does,
you have to be a little concerned that he's going to be ridden off the rails.
Want. You can't be
a high-leverage pitcher if you walk nearly a man an inning, so until Carlos
Marmol stops doing that, he can be on someone else's roster. It is unlikely
that he'll be allowed to hold the closer job anyway without improvement in that
area, so you can't even hold your nose and take the saves. The Cubs' pen around
Marmol is just awful, which means that they could have trouble keeping the team
ahead, further limiting Marmol's save opportunities.
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