Series Preview #3: The State of the Cubs with View From the Bleachers

 

Brewers

vs.  Cubs  
3-4 (4th place, NL Central)

3-3 (3rd place, NL Central)

GAME 1: April 8, 2011 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: WMLW; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 2
: April 9, 2011 @ 6:10 p.m. CDT

(TV: FS-Wisconsin and MLB Network; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 3: April 10, 2011 @ 1:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin and Telemundo; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

Miller Park   Milwaukee, Wisconsin

SBN Coverage: Cubs vs Brewers coverage

A View from the Other Dugout: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Game 1 Randy Wolf (0-1, 13.50) vs. Carlos Zambrano (0-0, 4.50)
vs. Cubs (0-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers (0-0, 0.00)
Game 2 Chris Narveson (0-0, 0.00) vs.   Matt Garza (0-0, 3.86)
vs. Cubs (0-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers (0-0, 0.00)
Game 3 Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 1.20) vs. TBA
vs. Cubs (0-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers ----

 

This week, I had the opportunity to get in touch with Joe Aiello from View From the Bleachers, and he was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions about the Cubs.  I also answered some questions of his, which you can see on VFtB at 4:00.

Noah: Many baseball bloggers and pundits are projecting the Cubs on par with or at least very close to the NL Central "big three"--the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds.  Do you see the Cubs at that level, and what will be the key to a potential run at a division title for the team?

Joe:  I don’t think I’d put them there right now, but I certainly don’t think that anyone in the division is head and shoulders above anyone else. Overall it’s a pretty mediocre division. If I had to put the Cubs ahead of one of those three it would be the Brewers. For the Cubs to have a chance at winning this division, they’re going to have to get more production a health from Aramis Ramirez than they did last year. He’s the key to the whole puzzle because he’s our best hitter in the lineup. If he can excel then it takes an enormous amount of pressure off of everyone else.

Follow the jump for more!

Noah: Aramis Ramirez is in his age 33 season and is coming off his worst offensive year since 2002.  In addition, he's missed significant time due to injury the past couple seasons.  With a return to form, Ramirez seems to be the best offensive player the Cubs have.  Is there any chance that he goes back to being 2004-2008 A-Ram?

Joe: Wow, I guess I should have read question # 2 before answering the first one. You’re exactly right. I think Ramirez was hurt last year in the beginning of the season. He denied that his hand was bothering him enough to affect his hitting, but we never saw a slump that pronounced and prolonged by him since he came over from the Pirates. All signs point to him being healthy in 2011. If that’s the case, I think the odds are in his favor to return to being an upper echelon third baseman in this league. Obviously age is beginning to catch up with him, but he’s also playing in a contract year.

Noah: Staying on the topic of the Cubs offense, where exactly is it supposed to come from?  Even with a healthy and productive Ramirez, it seems like they have several role hitters, but nobody that can truly carry the team.

Joe:  The problem is that we have a lot of guys that tend to be very streaky. To say that we have no one capable of carrying the team isn’t correct. We do have those guys, they just don’t seem to want to do it. Alfonso Soriano can go through stretches where he is locked into a zone and can’t be stopped. The problem is when he comes out of that zone, he’s as close to awful as you can get. Let’s not forget that in 2007 and 2008, Carlos Pena garnered some MVP votes. He’s capable of being a big bat to carry a team, but has seen a pretty sharp decline. Hopefully the change of scenery and the one year contract for him will be the ticket. The biggest run producer in this lineup is going to be Starlin Castro. He’s going to be the catalyst that makes the offense run. Keep a close eye on him. You’ll enjoy what you see.

Noah: Tyler Colvin came on pretty strong last season with 20 HR and a .500 SLG%, though his OBP was just .314.  How good of a player can he be and would you prefer he be starting in the outfield permanently in 2011?

Joe: Tyler has been one of my favorite players in the system since we drafted him out of Clemson. He’s always been looked at as the guy the Cubs drafted in a spot they shouldn’t have just so they’d have money to use in the 5th round to throw at Jeff Samardzija. He was considered an overdraft all throughout his time in the minors, but impressed enough last spring to make the team. Once he got consistent at bats he showed the power potential. The biggest issue with Tyler is his propensity to expand the zone. If he can continue to develop the plate discipline (which people go back and forth on if it can be learned) he can be a very good OF in this league. Unfortunately the OF situation is a crowded one and that has forced him to fight for time anywhere he can get it, including at first base. I’d like to see him get at least three starts a week to keep him from rotting on the bench.

Noah: Matt Garza and Shaun Marcum both were traded from the AL East to the Cubs and Brewers, respectively.  Which pitcher do you think will be more successful both this season and in the future?

JoeGarza, and it’s not even close. He’s got electric stuff, as evidenced by his 12 K’s in his first start. That’s not to say that Marcum isn’t a good pitcher, but I think Garza has a lot higher ceiling because of his stuff and his age. I’m penciling in 16+ wins this year for Garza with an ERA in the high 2’s or low 3’s. I don’t see Marcum ever putting up those numbers.

 

Thanks again, Joe!

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