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   1. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 09, 2007 at 08:32 PM (#2309660)
If you're going with Neal Cotts as your fifth starter, you have problems. Maybe Piniella is trying to relive some of the glory days in the 90s when he had three lefty starters. Really, I do wonder if the guy has a lefty fetish.
   2. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: March 09, 2007 at 08:53 PM (#2309681)
So our potential starters are Zambrano, Hill, Lilly, Marquis, Miller, Prior, Cotts, Marmol, and Marshall? Man, that offense had better be crushing the ball or we run the risk of another sub-.500 season.
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 09, 2007 at 09:21 PM (#2309704)
Is Hill in the rotation a given?
   4. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: March 09, 2007 at 09:40 PM (#2309724)
Happily, it's looking that way -- I haven't heard Cub brass equivocate on him in a while.

My guess is that Prior will get the first shot at the 5th starter, but a lot of that depends on if he improves through the spring. Jim Hendry was on WGN Radio last night and said that while Prior's start is absolutely not the kind of outing he'd be looking for on Opening Day, it is absolutely something from which to build.
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 09, 2007 at 09:54 PM (#2309739)
I'm surprised at the optimistic projections on Hill this year. Hopefully the ring true.
   6. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 09, 2007 at 10:10 PM (#2309744)
I'm surprised at the optimistic projections on Hill this year. Hopefully the ring true.

When you look at his minor league numbers, and what he did in the majors after his second call-up last season, the projections make sense. However, he's probably more likely to be terrible than anyone with that projection.
   7. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: March 09, 2007 at 11:32 PM (#2309781)
So our potential starters are Zambrano, Hill, Lilly, Marquis, Miller, Prior, Cotts, Marmol, and Marshall? Man, that offense had better be crushing the ball or we run the risk of another sub-.500 season.

Disagree. I think that looks like an above average staff. No one has a problem with Zambrano. Hill looked really good late last year and projects well this year. Lilly's coming from the hardest hitting division in baseball's tougher league to the weakest hitting division in the lesser league. Plus he's been a good pitcher for three of the last four years, and even in 2005 he was only bad for the first 2 months. How many teams have three starting pitchers that should be good?

The back end looks rough, but you'll be damned hard pressed to find too many staffs who don't have a rough backend. I like that they have quantity back there. I don't like the odds of Miller or Prior getting healthy or the odds of Marshall or Marmol to blossom, or the odds of Cotts or Marquis to be good . . . but I like the odds that one will be at least adequately substandard. They could easily have one end up considerably better than that. Then it's a crapshoot for the fifth slot.
   8. dcsmyth1 Posted: March 09, 2007 at 11:57 PM (#2309790)
I disagree with the Pie comment. Pie--right now, and considering both offense and defense--is probably a better ballplayer than Jones, Floyd, and Murton. The mistakes he would make due to rawness would be canceled out by the extra good things he does. It is not necessarily true that players learn better in the minors, once they reach a major league quality projected performance. I suspect that he would progress more on the Cubs, as a platoon regular and defensive substite OFer. The Cubs should be making a strong effort to trade either Jones or Floyd.
   9. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 10, 2007 at 01:06 AM (#2309808)
I think it's for the best that the Cubs keep Pie in the minors at least until early May. Still, I'm optimistic that Pie'll be good enough to force the Cubs hand regarding Murton/Jones/Floyd pretty quickly.
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 10, 2007 at 01:16 AM (#2309811)
I disagree with the Pie comment. Pie--right now, and considering both offense and defense--is probably a better ballplayer than Jones, Floyd, and Murton. The mistakes he would make due to rawness would be canceled out by the extra good things he does.

Like what? Pie's MLE last year was .249/.297/.382. Is he going to be that "extra good" defensively? I'm not sure I share your confidence.

The Cubs just finished running a player through the meat grinder who in many ways looked a lot like Pie. I agree about trying to trade Jones or Floyd, but I don't share your confidence about Pie at all.
   11. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 10, 2007 at 02:23 AM (#2309822)
Iowa's evidently a tough place to hit. PECOTA's MLE for Pie's 2006 is 276/327/438. With that and his awesome 2005 at AA as a baseline, Pie's 2007 50th percentile PECOTA projection is 283/336/467 (.271 Eqa). His defense probably makes him better than Floyd or Jones.

As for the PAtterson/Pie comp, their skillsets are similar, but Felix Pie has been a better minor league player. He's been a year younger than PAtterson was at each level and still has put up massively better OPSes.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2007 at 03:20 AM (#2309836)
So our potential starters are Zambrano, Hill, Lilly, Marquis, Miller, Prior, Cotts, Marmol, and Marshall? Man, that offense had better be crushing the ball or we run the risk of another sub-.500 season.

I disagree with this too. In fact, off the top of my head, I'm having a hard time thinking of a better NL rotation, at least potentially. Zambrano, Hill, Lilly is as good a 1-3 as one can reasonably expect in this day and age. Lord knows Prior and Miller's healths are questionable but they're both relatively young and both would have to lose a lot of talent to not be at least average starters when healthy.

Now none of us will ever be able to explain why the Cubs gave Marquis all that money (nor would we want to) and having given him all that money, obviously he's in the opening day rotation when healthy, but as 6th starter options, Marquis, Cotts, Marmol, Marshall are about as good as it gets (which isn't very) unless you've got a Philip Hughes lying around.

Anyway, it is possible that, when healthy, the Cubs rotation will feature 5 above-average starters. That's not likely to happen of course but how many other rotations in baseball have that upside. And let's be clear that that is a _realistic_ upside. The career ERA+s of the vets are:

Zambrano: 133
Prior: 122
Miller: 112
Lilly: 99 (but 120 and 109 in 2 of last 3 seasons)

Despite his lousy start, Hill ended up with a 111 ERA+ last year which, combined with his minor-league numbers the last few years is promising. Hell, even Marquis has been above-average 2 of the last 3 seasons (granted, that looks like luck). And Lilly is the oldest one at 31. Is there a more _talented_ staff in the NL?

Heck, look cross-town:

Buehrle: 121
Contreras: 107
Garland: 105
Vazquez: 104
????: ????

Those guys have been healthier but that's about it. And they weren't very good last year.

Other than the health of Miller and Prior, my biggest concern with these guys is the Cubs' defense. A CF who's never played the position, mediocre at best corner OFs, and maybe a good middle infield.

That's not to say there isn't huge risk with this rotation either. Miller & Prior could be too hurt. Hill could be a mirage. Lilly has been highly variable throughout his career. The other guys (besides Z) could post ERAs over 5.50. God forbid Z gets hurt.

But unless you have a minor-league full of prospects or a bejillion dollars (and good FA timing), you tend to have a choice between bland guys with good durability or talented guys with bad health histories for slots 2-4. At least the Cubs have some talented guys.
   13. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 10, 2007 at 03:23 AM (#2309838)
Pie has been a better player in the minors, this is true, and I think he's a better prospect for a number of reasons. However, we were talking about 2007, and I'm not sure what the basis is for calling a .283/.341/.451 in Iowa .283/.336/.467.
   14. noiseboy Posted: March 10, 2007 at 04:06 AM (#2309848)
ESPN.com is reporting that Rich Hill is a lock for the 4th starter spot in the rotation as of his game against the Padres yesterday.

Zambrano
Lilly
Marquis
Hill
????

I'd rather have Hill in the 3-spot, but Marquis has been looking good so far this spring, having worked on his mechanics.

Here's hoping Marquis has had an attitude adjustment and is going into this year with something to prove.

Pie is also looking good, but Floyd is going to be brought into some games sometime this weekend.
   15. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 10, 2007 at 07:01 AM (#2309882)
Pie has been a better player in the minors, this is true, and I think he's a better prospect for a number of reasons. However, we were talking about 2007, and I'm not sure what the basis is for calling a .283/.341/.451 in Iowa .283/.336/.467.


Right, we're talking about 2007. Which is why we need to look at Pie's numbers to come to an understanding of what we can expect instead of just assuming he's not ready or trusting Minor League Splits' dubious MLEs (not that I don't love that site).

First, technically PECOTA translates Pie's 283/.341/.451 in Iowa as .276/327/438. That's not really an absurd result if either 1) the difference between AAA and the majors is smaller than one expects OR 2) Iowa played as a pitcher's park. If the jump from the PCL to MLB were worth, say, a 10% decline in statistics, a park effect around .96 or so would probably explain why Pie's translation is so high.

Second, I don't know why people aren't higher on Puie after 2006. The league average OPS in the PCL last year was 758. Felix Pie's 792 was good for 36th place and translates to an OPS+ of 110. Ahead of him were only about a handful of prospects who were at least two yeats older (the exception being Adam Jones). The majority of the OPS leaders were bricked players like Scott Hairston, late bloomers like Termel Sledge and has-beens like Jack Cust.

Based on all these considerations and his defense, I think the odds are very good that Pie could be a positive contributor to the 2007 Cubs. If he spends most of this year with Iowa, I'd guess that he'd grow about as one would expect a 22 year old to grow and put up a PCL OPS in the 830-850 range.
   16. Spahn Insane Posted: March 10, 2007 at 08:41 AM (#2309889)
There is no way in hell Rich Hill doesn't open the season in the rotation.
   17. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: March 10, 2007 at 05:28 PM (#2309966)
   18. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: March 10, 2007 at 05:32 PM (#2309967)
Another confirmation on Hill -- he's the 4th starter, with Marquis pencilled in as 5th. The 3rd starter is to be determined.
   19. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: March 10, 2007 at 05:33 PM (#2309968)
In fact, off the top of my head, I'm having a hard time thinking of a better NL rotation, at least potentially.

I immediately think of 3 better NL rotations:

Dodgers - Schmidt, Lowe, Penny, Wolf, Billingsley/Kuo
Phillies - Myers, Hamels, Garcia, Moyer, Lieber/Eaton
Brewers - Sheets, Bush, Suppan, Capuano, Vargas/Villanueva

The 1-3 spots for the Cubs are fairly comparable to these other rotations, but the 4/5 (and 6 when necessary) listed above are better bets in terms of performance and durability. That said, after the luck the Cubs had with the rotation last year, you might think that they're due some good fortune in the form of Prior or Miller re-establishing himself as an above-average starter and staying away from the DL. I think our expectations should be significantly lower, but such an occurrence could certainly put the rotation among the best in the league.
   20. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: March 10, 2007 at 06:54 PM (#2309989)
With Hill now officially a starter, my expectations for the starting staff go up a great deal. My biggest fear is that we'd come out of camp with Zambrano-Lily-Miller-Prior-Marquis as our rotation because Hendry couldn't justify not using a "proven starter". Then it might come up that Hill be passed over when someone goes down because he wasn't on that person's same schedule.

The news about Theriot would inspire me more if we didn't have DeRosa on a 3 year contract or if he wasn't another middle infielder.
   21. Spahn Insane Posted: March 10, 2007 at 07:24 PM (#2310002)
I'm not at all impressed with the Brewer rotation, other than Sheets and Capuano. That Philly rotation could be good, but it's at least as iffy as the Cubs'. Even if Billingsley is an asset right away, I think Randy Wolf's toast. I suppose their rotation's better than the Cubs' on balance, but none of those Dandy lists are particularly impressive. Not that the Cubs' is, either, of course.
   22. Spahn Insane Posted: March 10, 2007 at 07:30 PM (#2310004)
Incidentally, I think dJf should get one of those Jim Anchower hats.

Or perhaps the Herbert Kornfeld glasses. That'd put a whole new spin on the blog. Just as long as it's not Smoove B.
   23. Bunny Vincennes Posted: March 10, 2007 at 07:40 PM (#2310006)
Maybe its because I saw the Brewers a lot last year, but I probably think more highly of their prospective rotation (and that team in general) than most.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2007 at 07:48 PM (#2310009)
I'd thought of LA but forgotten about Lowe. I'd put that one a bit ahead of the Cubs on some scale that combines "likely" and "potential." I don't put the Phillies rotation in the same class as the Cubs in terms of talent/potential, but those 6 are probably a better bet to combine for about 950 IP of good overall pitching. The Brewers? Sheets is potentially a god. Capuano and Bush (a 166/38 K/BB -- he's been taking lessons from Sheets obviously) have pitched better than I realized. I'll give them the nod too.

About those Brewers -- it's really hard to be a bad pitcher if your K/BB is 3 or higher and Sheets, Bush, and Capuano are all good shots to do that. That latter two both give up a good number of HR, but I can live with that.
   25. Bunny Vincennes Posted: March 10, 2007 at 08:10 PM (#2310015)
I'm very high on the Capuano/Bush combination, Walt.
   26. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 10, 2007 at 09:07 PM (#2310033)
Another confirmation on Hill -- he's the 4th starter, with Marquis pencilled in as 5th. The 3rd starter is to be determined.

They choose the 4th anf 5th starters, but haven't yet determined the third starter? That's nonsense.
   27. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 10, 2007 at 10:11 PM (#2310039)
It's probably because if Prior makes the rotation they want to call him the third starter. Of course, it also means that if Cotts makes it instead, he's the third starter . . .
   28. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 10, 2007 at 10:21 PM (#2310040)
They choose the 4th anf 5th starters, but haven't yet determined the third starter? That's nonsense.

Yeah, that's an odd numbering system. I think Vaux's got it right, they don't want to insult Mark Prior by calling him their #5 starter. Or maybe they don't want to insult Cubs fans by calling Jason Marquis anything more than a #5 starter. By two weeks into the season, the number designations don't matter anyway.

That said, I think right now Rich Hill is probably the Cubs' #2 starter.
   29. Famous Original Joe C Posted: March 10, 2007 at 10:41 PM (#2310047)
The Jim Anchower Catch-All Column

Nice touch, djf.

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