Me and some other Cubs enthusiasts from BleacherReport.com started a roundtable for the Chicago Cubs, here is what we came up with for the first edition.
1. How long do you think Alfonso Soriano’s hot streak is going to last and do you think that he will fall out of favor with the Cubs faithful when he starts to struggle again?
Sam Wenk: Alfonso Soriano will never be consistently hot or consistently cold. He has and always will be a streaky hitter who can carry his team and also burden them. If he were to fall into a really cold streak, for example, something lasting longer than a month, then he might fall out of favor a little. However, Soriano is currently leading all outfielders in All-Star voting, despite his up-and-down season, so he still is popular nationally. If you’re a Cubs fan, you know by now what Soriano is and what he isn’t. You just hope his thermometer is more hot than cold.
Bobby Pimentel: Well, it’s hard to predict how long his hot streak is going to continue. Personally, I don’t even think he is on a hot streak anymore. Many people fail to see that Soriano is actually a good contributor. He only has 10 hitless games so far this year, 5 of which came before he got injured in April. Since May 1 Soriano has 5 hitless games (2 at-bats or more), compare that to Lee who has 9, Ramirez who has 8 and Fukudome who has 14. Granted, they all draw more walks. But it is something to pay attention to. Soriano does have even streaks where he does produce very well, and people should know that. But given that he can have the best week in baseball one week and the worst another week, it does frustrate fans. But I honestly don’t think signing Soriano was a bad move, he is a great player. I also think that he has a different demeanor than Sammy Sosa. Thus I think Cubs fans won’t turn on Soriano, even though they might voice their displeasure when he struggles. But that’s what real fans should do.
Bob Warja: I don’t know that he’s truly in what I’d call a true hot streak, but he’s hitting well. I think that as long as he’s healthy he will hit. I’m more concerned that his health won’t hold up, especially his legs. And yes, as I pointed out in my article comparing him to Sammy Sosa, fans love to build up their star atheletes, then we love to tear them down. It’s very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society we live in. And anything Soriano does this year, good or bad, will be magnified because so many Cubs fans believe this is our year.
Tyler Huen: I think the “hot streak” is permananent. I don’t think he’ll continue hitting 13 home runs per month, but he won’t slow down much. Look for him to continue hitting about .290 for the year, striking out once per game, and knocking in about 85 runs this year and stealing about 25 bases. He is too good of a hitter to “struggle” for a long period. Cubs faithful needs to make sure not to jump on his back once he goes 0-10 in a couple games. He is a career proven streaky hitter. He’ll hit 10 home runs in two weeks, and not get one for two weeks.
Joe Willett: Soriano may have been really hot lately, but his up and down play makes me worried that he can’t be as dependable of a leadoff hitter as Pinella seems to think he is. I think Soriano should bat second. I really haven’t seen this put as an option, but think, instead of a leadoff homerun, the first batter can get on and then Soriano can belt one out to an early 2-0 lead. That is the way to start a game and I think Soriano can really play his best there.
2. Do you think the Cubs have what it takes with the current roster to make it to the World Series?
Sam: No, and here’s why. In the playoff, the name of the game is pitching. The Cubs other than Carlos Zambrano have no starter who they can count on dominating a game. In a short series, who is going to lock up that crucial Game 2? Ted Lilly? Ryan Dempster? One would hope so, but you just can’t say for sure. Looking at the other NL teams likely to be in playoff contention, the Diamondbacks seem to be the standard to win in a short series. They have three legitimate starters that can be counted on to win: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Randy Johnson. The Mets too are built for post-season success with a potential playoff rotation of Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana and Oliver Perez. If the Cubs can trade one of their extra outfielders (Felix Pie, Matt Murton come to mind) for a proven starter, than I believe they will have the final piece of the puzzle to not only reach the World Series, but win it.
Bobby P: Well, as far as the lineup goes, it is one of the absolute best in baseball. I don’t like that Lee doesn’t seem to be able to get his average back above .300 though, hopefully it’s just a funk. If Lee gets it together, I dare say that this is THE best lineup in baseball. Starting pitching is as different story. They need to make a trade for a pitching ace around the deadline for them to have a legitimate chance at breaking the World Series drought. The only reason they would even reach a World Series with their current rotation is if they go on an improbable run like the Rockies last year. But let’s not forget that the Rockies also got dominated by the Red Sox and got swept. They need another high-caliber starting pitcher to stand a chance against Arizona, Philadelphia, New York, etc.
Bob W: No. I think they need to add a starting pitcher. I’m still concerned about Arizona. They beat us three straight last year and added Dan Haren to their rotation. We added Fukudome. I don’t think that’s enough.
Tyler: Yes. They have what it takes to make it to the World Series. They have a great 1,2,3 punch in pitching with Big Z, Lilly, and Dempster. If Marquis, Gallagher, Marshall, and Lieber can hold down the 4,5 spots then they will be solid. Relief wise they are stacked. Best 8th and 9th inning set up in the NL. The offensive lineup is the best in baseball by far this year. To win the World Series, they just need to keep playing well and remain confident once they start a losing skid. I would like to see one more big starting arm to ensure success though.
Joe: I think the Cubs have the offense to make it all the way, but the starting pitching needs to be tweaked a little so that they can be more ready when they are in a long playoff series.
3. Do you think the Cubs are going to make a major move some time this season or are they going to stick with the current roster?
Sam: Knowing the way Jim Hendry operates, I believe a move is on the horizon. Hendry never has traded for that major-name player, usually choosing the safer route by adding veteran guys who add depth. If players such as Rich Harden, Matt Holliday and C.C. Sabathia are out there for the taking, Hendry should at least gouge some interest.
Bobby P: Despite my dislike of this front office, I don’t bel
ieve they are stupid enough not to make a move. Lou must realize by now that they need another starting pitcher, and the front office should understand that too. My guess is that they will bring in a big name pitcher around the trade deadline. Maybe the likes of Erik Bedard, C.C. Sabathia, John Garland, Pedro Martinez (if the Mets implode), maybe even Ben Sheet who is in the last year of his contract. There are many options and the Cubs can easily part with Cedeno, Fontenot, Kevin Hart and other young talent without hurting this team this year.
Bob W. Yes, I think Jim Hendry goes out and acquires a pitcher.
Tyler: Barring an injury, no. The reason the team is so hot this year is familiarity with eachother and Lou’s coaching style. Why bring in an outsider that could be a plague on an already awesome team?
Joe: I think that they need to pull the trigger on the Brian Roberts situation. We haven’t heard the last of him, why not end the story and make the trade eventually. I also think that the Cubs need another solid pitcher. We don’t need to go for an ace, just somebody that can keep a sub-four ERA and log a lot of innings to keep our bullpen ready for later in a playoff series. I think the Cubs should go after Aaron Harang, of the Cincinnati Reds. He may be 2-8 but his ERA is 3.86 and he hasn’t had an ERA over four for the last four seasons.
4. The biggest downfall for the Cubs has been pitching, are there going to be any changes to the rotation through trades or minor league players?
Sam: The Cubs need one more proven starter and one more veteran bullpen pitcher to sustain their success. Health will play a major role in determining how much movement is required, but as of now, I don’t see them making many changes simply because this team was built with pitching depth before the season began. If you have to, why not call up a young player like Kevin Hart, who emerged as a quality bullpen arm last season despite being a rookie.
Bobby P: As much as Sean Gallagher has given me hope for the future, I don’t really think he is ready for the playoffs. I doubt we have many options on a minor league level too. Rich Hill needs to prove he can come back and be a good pitcher, not just a capable one. With the internal pitching problems, I would have to say that there is going to be a change via a trade. At least I hope so. Whoever the Cubs sign (should be an ace or a legitimate no. 2 starter), it should be someone who can takes some of the pressure off Zambrano in the no. 2 spot in the rotation.
Bob W: See above. Also, I hope that Rich Hill can come back and still contribute this season before it’s over.
Tyler: I look for the final rotation to be like this: Big Z, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall, and Gallagher.
Joe: If the trade I had proposed were to happen, I would love to see a rotation of Zambrano, Harang, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall/Gallagher/Hill/Lieber, whoever shows up the most to take the fifth spot.
5. What do you think the final record of the Cubs is going to be this season?
Sam: If the Cubs say healthy and their star players can continue to perform to their ability, the Cubs should finish with a record of 100 – 62. I know that seems like a high win total, but don’t forget, this team has the best record in baseball right now, so the sky is the limit.
Bobby: I’m thinking mid-90′s in wins if they continue the way they’ve been playing lately. Probably 95-67 or 94-68, somewhere in that region. I think they are good enough to win 100 games, but pitching will stop that from happening. Besides, I’m only concerned about winning the division, which 90+ wins should almost guarantee. The question is whether it’ll be enough for best in the NL, which is something the Cubs should strive for given how good they’ve been at Wrigley this year.
Bob W: 93-69, 1st place in the NL Central.
Tyler: I think the Cubs will win the NL Central, finish with the best record in baseball with about 95 wins, make the World Series and beat the Red Sox in 6 games. How is that for a prediction? This team is too good not to end me, my grandpa, and great grand parent’s misery.
Joe: Somewhere in the mid-90’s in wins. Maybe 96-66, 1st in the NL Central for sure.