2009 Chicago Cubs Team Preview

2009 Chicago Cubs Team Preview
by Badger of Predictem.com

The Chicago Cubs and their fans believed and prayed the Cubbies would finally end their 100-year championship drought in 2008, but those
dreams faded quickly when the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers swept them
in the first-round of the National League Divisional playoffs.

The Cubbies basically ran the table start-to-finish in the NL Central
during regular season, clinching it by 7.5 games ahead of the
Brewers. Their 97-64 record was the best record in the National
League last season, but it wasnt enough to get them past their
ghosts of years past in the playoffs.

Despite being one of the best teams on the field last year, the Cubs had a higher than usual amount of player turnover in the offseason. The Cubs allowed free agent closer Kerry Wood to walk and traded away
a plethora of contributors (Mark DeRosa, Felix Pie, Michael Wuertz)
to get a bunch of new faces (Milton Bradley, Kevin Gregg, Aaron
Heilman) in order to try and change things for what they hope is a
better chance at a title in 2009.

2009 World Series Odds 7-to-1
2009 NL Pennant Odds 3-to-1
2009 NL Central Division Odds -1.6-to-1

(All of the listed odds are those currently offered at Sportsbook.com)

With all of the moves general manager Jim Hendry made in the
offseason, the Cubs are an extremely different team on the field in
2009. Theyre still real good, but there are a few question marks
that could make or break the season.

Offense Left fielder Alfonso Soriano was quoted during the
offseason as being open to moving out of the leadoff role, so look
for the Cubs to give shortstop Ryan Theriot (.387 OBA, 85 R, 22 SB) a
chance at the role in Spring Training. If it works, it means the Cubs
would have Soriano (29 HR, 75 RBI), first baseman Derek Lee (20 HR,
90 RBI) and third baseman Aramis Ramirez (27 HR, 111 RBI) hitting two-
three-four in the lineup. Which you would agree aint too shabby.


Free agent right fielder Milton Bradley was brought in to provide
protection behind Ramirez in the order, but Bradley represents a huge
“if” for the Cubs in 2009. If hes the player he was in Texas last
summer (.321 BA, .436 OBP, 22 HR, 77 RBI), then it will make the Cubs
offense much better then the one that scored 855 runs, the 5th-
highest total in MLB last year. Last year was his most healthy year
since 2004, playing in 126 games, but he is injury-prone and theres
always the extra baggage of his ego that you must take into

Trading DeRosa means that journeyman Aaron Miles and utility man Mike Fontenot will compete for the job at second base, but neither of them
will be able to replace the one-two punch the Cubs had with DeRosa
rookie of the year catcher Geovay Soto at the bottom of the order.
The Cubs will also be going with a platoon of Reed Johnson and the
disappointing Kosuke Fukudome in centerfield.

Pitching The Cubs rotation is arguably the best in the National
League. The Cubs top four starters consisting of Carlos Zambrano, Ted
Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden is simply unmatched in the NL
Central, if not all of the NL.

Lilly and Dempster each won 17 games last season, and when combined with the staff ace Zambrano (14 wins), they helped the Cubs win 48
games in 2008. Harden, who won five of his 12 starts as a Cub after
the trade last season, started the same amounts games in 08, 25, as
he did his previous three year combined, so theres always the worry
of injury with Harden.

Former Notre Dame two-sport star Jeff Samardzija, lefty Sean Marshall, veteran righty Jon Leiber and former Met castoff Heilman
will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but you can expect
the losers to remain in the bullpen.

Bullpen Gregg was brought in from Florida to provide insurance if
Carlos Marmol fails as the new Cubs closer. Marmol has been more or
less groomed for the role the past few seasons (7 saves in 9
opportunities in 08), and this is the year the Cubs will ask him to
sink or swim. Marmol and his electric slider make him the ideal type
of pitcher to close games (i.e. a strikeout pitcher -114 k in 87 IP),
so the Cubs brought in Gregg to hedge their bet.

Gregg did have 29 saves as a Marlin last year, but he also blew nine
saves, which is why moving him to the 8th inning could prove to be a
coup for the Cubs.

Chad Gaudin (also came in Harden trade), Chad Fox and Luis Vizcaino
offer right-handed depth in the bullpen, while Neal Cotts (and
possibly Marshall if he loses the 5th-starter derby) provides a lefty
(ies) for situational baseball in the late innings.

Gambling Review/Preview

The Cubs and their 97 wins made them one of the best teams to wager on in 2008, with a nice +1545 finish in the money, the 5th-best tally
in all of baseball. Most of that money was won at Wrigley Field,
where they went 55-26 (+1148) and they also played over the total
with an 81-74 record for 08.

Dempster alone accounted for most of the money, as his breakthrough
season helped the Cubs win 22 of his 33 starts and would have
profited you a cool +789 if you would have wagered on all 33 of them.
Lilly was nearly as good (22 of 34 starts) netting +693, Harden was a
combined +868 (9-4 in Oakland, 9-3 with Cubs), and Zambrano wasnt
chopped liver either (20 of 30, +506), giving the Cubs four pitchers
in the top-40 of the money list last season.

Theres no doubt they are hands down the favorite in the NL Central,
and if you want to bet on that future youll have to eat some chalk,
as they are -1.6 to 1 odds at Sportsbook.com). Youll get better bang
for your buck by wagering on the 3-to-1 odds as NL pennant winners, a
bet with a legitimate chance to cash in my opinion.

Theres no doubt that one year the Cubs decade-long World Series
curse will end, but something tells me this is not the year. If you
are a true believer, at 7-to-1 youll get better odds than most of
the top teams in MLB, making them a good option as a short in a short-
medium-long approach to futures betting.