Monday, August 22, 2011

Season 15 Previews: Chicago Cows

The Cows are in a tough spot, as they're a team on the rise but with two perpetually good teams ahead of them in their own division. Are they stuck in third place or can they take the next step?

Chicago Cows

Last season: 78-84 (3rd in NL East, missed playoffs)
Offense: 2nd in NL
Pitching: 13th in NL

Key additions: SS William Satou (trade from Oakland)
Key losses: P Tito Mercedes (FA-Salt Lake City)

Analysis: Offense isn't the problem at Wrigley. Young sluggers LF Hub Hamilton and 1B Jack Millard both followed up breakthrough seasons in Season 13 with similar big-time years in Season 14. Veteran IF Jacque Puffer chimed in with 25 HRs and 105 RBI, one of 5 guys with at least 20 homers. Hamilton, Puffer, and SS Jesus Espinosa all stole at least 30 bases, showing the diversity of the offense.

The pitching staff was what held this team back, and may do so again this season. Alex Bong and Yuniesky Solano are arguably the two most talented arms on this team and neither has yet put together a solid season (although they are 25 and 23, respectively, so it's not exactly time to give up on either of them). Jeremi Gant was the best starter last season, but he can't do it alone. Juan Cabrera will have to pitch a lot better than he did last season if Chicago wants to finish at .500, never mind sniff the playoffs. They've got some decent arms in the pen but must figure out the roles- unlike Washington, I'm not 100% confident in this squad to get it done. Knuckleballer Hack Gregerson couldn't handle the role last season.

Outlook: This has been a team on the rise in its first two seasons in Chicago, but unless Bong and Solano figure it out, they won't be much better than last season. They'll need some more pieces to be a playoff contender and the big question is whether those pieces are currently on their roster or not.

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