If you are reading this title, your heart probably sank and it has shattered all the chances of the Cubs making it to the World Series. Put away those tissues and turn that frown around because good old Zambrano is not hurt, but in perfect health. But will he stay that way? Below, I have posted my top ten predictions on what will happen during the Cubs season. If any of these do happen you wish would not happen, please do no send me hate mail. Enjoy!
(1) Carlos Zambrano will get injured.
Ever since the Dusty Baker era in 2003, Zambrano has become a work horse by pitching over 200 innings each year. That includes his whopping total of 216.1 innings last year. To add to that, Zambrano has averaged 107.9 pitches per game since 2003. This will eventually catch up to this 26 year old. His arm is bound to give in soon, and when it does, the Cubs will not know what to do.
(2) Ted Lilly will become a Cy Young Award Candidate
For some of you, this may be a stretch. Stretch your eyes open a little more and you will see the possibility of Ted Lilly winning the Cy Young Award. Ted Lilly has commanding stuff, especially his curve ball. With his combination of the fastball, change up, and curve ball, he is just a nasty pitcher. After watching him pitch last year, he was probably one of the most overlooked pitchers. In his first year in the National League, he went 15-8. Lilly would have at least 18 wins if it wasn't for the bullpen blowing the lead in one run games. His transition to the National League was remarkable, where many ex-American League pitchers have thrived here. In the National League, his ERA was down, his walks were down, and his strike outs were up. In the American league, his ERA averaged 4.35 and walked at least 70 batters every year. He will only get better in the National League. I predict 18-20 wins for Lilly.
(3) Soto will win Rookie of the Year
Yes, I am jumping on the Soto train. He is a dynamic player who is probably one of the best prospects since Mark Prior to emerge from the Cubs farm system. When the Cubs traded away Jason Kendall during the offseason, it signaled that Soto will be the starting catcher for the 2008 season. After Soto was named the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player by batting .353, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 109 RBI's, he showed he was ready for the Big Show. In only 18 games in the majors last year he batted .389, with 21 hits, 6 doubles, 3 home runs and 8 RBI's. He even was starting catcher in the playoffs for the Cubs against the Diamondbacks and solidified Lou's decision by hitting a two run homer. He is the real deal. He will live up to the hype by batting .320, hitting 23 homer runs, and driving in 90.
(4) Ryan Dempster or Jason Marquis will be traded
One of them has to go. Who will it be? That is hard to say. After Marquis had a brilliant first half last season, he stumbled in the second half and he is now fighting for his job to stay in the rotation. After Dempster had an inconsistent year as the Cubs closer, he was bumped from his old job and his now trying to win a spot in the rotation also. There are two opening spots open, but it will not go to both of them. The Cubs signed Jon Lieber to a one year deal and it was not just for him to work out in spring training. Jon Lieber will be in the rotation no matter what. He does not need to worry about Marquis or Dempster. Whoever does not get the final spot in the rotation, will be traded. They will not go to the bullpen because they are not needed there. I see Dempster winning the spot because Lou would not have forced Dempster to switch if he was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation.
(5) Pie will be sent down to minors
This should not really be a prediction because this should not come to anybodys surprise that Pie will struggle again this year. He has looked uncomfortably at times against these major league pitchers and having him spend time with Soriano in spring training will not help his swing. He will continue to struggle and will become the new image of Corey Patterson. Expect Cubs to make a trade for Marlon Byrd during All-Star break or calling up Sam Fuld.
(6) Kerry Wood will win Comeback Player of The Year
After struggling to get the injuries last year and the year before, Cubs officials are saying Wood is as healthy as ever. Pinella even noticed how remarkable Wood's velocity and control is starting to look this year. There is something left in Wood and the Cubs must know it if they have not given up on this kid. A once starter that will now be the Cubs closer, even though it is yet to be decided in Spring Training, he will become one of the most dominating closers in Cubs history. His has the pitches and the potential to close out at least 45 games and have an ERA of 2.50. It will be a different transition for him, but he probably owes it to the fans and the organization for not giving up on him.
(7) Carlos Marmol will be a one year Wonder
After having a sensation season in 2007 with an ERA of 1.43 in 69.1 innings pitch, you can throw all of that out the window. He will not be as dominating as he was last year. The reason he was making hitters sit right back on their seat last year was because most of the National League has never seen his stuff. Players started to hate facing him, that was until August and September began. Players began to figure out Marmols stuff and some began to notice he was tipping some of his pitches. Do you remember that one game in which the Cubs had to win to ensure they were going to the playoffs and they were facing the Marlins? Do you remember Marmol pitching in the 8th inning with the Cubs up 4-3 and Marlins 7,8,9 hitters were up and he gave up two runs which made us all dizzy because we thought the Cubs were not going to make the playoffs? Speaking of playoffs, the Diamondbacks easily figured Marmol out. In the first game, he gave up two runs and the second game he gave up one run. His playoff line was this: 3 hits, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, ERA of 9, and threw a grand total of 68 pitches in two games. That is a lot of pitches for just three innings. Expect the same trend in 2008 when his ERA skyrockets to 4.50 and gives up 20 home runs.
After a druken display of nudity while running on the baseball field during a Cubs game, he will be banned for life to a Cubs game. About time, I am all Wooed out.
(9) Lee and Ramirez will combine for over 50 home runs and over 200 RBI's
After a season of power drought, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramriez will combine for over 50 home runs and over 200 RBI's. After Lee just hit 22 home runs last season, he will find his stroke again like he did during the 2005 season where he hit 46 home runs. You have to give Lee the benefit of the doubt. He was returning from a serious wrist injury that sidelined him for most of the 2006 season. His wrist was not fully recovered last year which resulted in the decline of home runs. Ramirez lead the team with 26 home runs and lead the team with 106 RBI's. It was a power drought for Ramirez also in a career where he has averaged at least 35 home runs. Through out the whole season last year, Ramirez was battling injuries with his hamstring and his knee.
(10) Cubs will reach the 100 year mark and will not win the World Series
This is the prediction that will make most Cubs fans moan. How fitting it would be for the Cubs to win the World Series to end its 99 year curse. For those of you who do not know, the Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and if they do not win it this year, it will be the 100th year they have not won the World Series. I just do not see the Cubs winning this year because of this anniversary coming up. They do not have a 3rd or 5th starter which will hurt the Cubs more than we think it will. They do not have a center fielder who will come to bat in key situations and come through. They have Felix Pie AKA Corey Patterson. They are in one of the weakest divisons and will not be tested before they are in the playoffs. They do not have a dependable lineup that will hit everyday. They showed us this last year when the hitting went bad, it stayed bad, for a very long time. And, they are not the New York Mets. After aquiring Johan Santana, they have become World Series contenders and I do not see the Cubs marching pass them in the playoffs. After their historic collapse from grace, the Mets are out for blood.
I'm already waiting for next year.