Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs

I did my full preview of the MLB season Here:, but there is much more to it than just the playoffs and awards...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be going through team by team and choosing the player most important to his team's success in 2011. This won't necessarily be the best player on the team, rather the one whose season is most important. This could be for the team's success or their development as a player.

Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham
In his first year in the league Beckham hit .270 with 14 home runs, 63 rbi's, and 28 doubles in just 103 games. He had been a stud in college, he led the nation in home runs and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes award in his senior year.

Beckham looked poised to come out in his second season and have a huge year for the White Sox. That didn't happen, he was hurt throughout the year, and when healthy he struggled to a .252 average with just 9 home runs, 49 rbi's and 25 doubles in 131 games. He was a huge disappointment to say the least. 

Even though Beckham struggled last season, Chicago was still just a few games away from making the playoffs. If he had been able to play better, it isn't too far fetched to think they could have caught the Twins. That's why this season I think he is the key.

If he is able to keep his spot in the lineup and play second base for 150 games, and play well he will be a boost for his team. He has the ability to be a 25+ home run guy this season, something that is huge from a relatively power thin position. 

For Beckham to turn things around he will need to get going early, last year he started slow and built no confidence. If he has a good first month he will know he is ready to play at the Major League level and that should be the medicine he needs for a breakout season.

Others considered: Carlos Quentin: he has some major power, he his 36 hrs in 130 games three years ago, the problem is he can't stay healthy. His most games played in a year:131, if he does stay healthy all season he could hit 30+ home runs again...Alexei Ramirez: No one is sure what kind of player he is, he looked like a decent power plus speed guy, but has not put the power together, nor the speed, maybe he is just average, but this year will tell us for sure...The pitching rotation: Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Peavy, Jackson; they all have the ability to be aces, but none of them has done it for long, Buehrle is the least ace-like, but his consistency will help atop this staff.

Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza
He is the new man in the rotation and was brought in to be a top of the rotation staple of the staff. The Cubs lack and semblance of an ace on their rotation, the closest they have is Ryan Dempster who sported a 3.85 ERA last season...Garza wasn't better with his 3.91 ERA.

While I see nothing that makes me think Garza will be much better than he was last season, his impact may be the simple ability to pitch 200 plus solid innings. If he is able to lower his ERA that would be icing on the cake, but his past doesn't show that happening.

His career ERA is 3.97, but that was mixed between the AL Central and East divisions, which hit quite better than any NL division. For Garza to step into th number 2 roll it could take some pressure off a shaky bottom half of the rotation.

Following Garza will be Zambano, Wells and Silva...Two old guys who are not all that great and a third year journeyman who is coming off two decent seasons for the Cubs. None of those guys has much upside at this point, but if they can hold down the bottom half of the rotation with Garza and Dempster leading the way, the Cubs could be a much improved team.

Garza needs to lower his home runs allowed this year, he's coming off two consecutive 25+ hrs allowed seasons. That may be a bi-product of being in the AL East, but if he wants to succeed he needs to keep the ball in the park. I think he will do that and will bolster the Cubs rotation.

Others considered: Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood: These two guys are supposed to be a sure thing at the end of games, but last season they struggled, that can't happen again if the Cubs want to win...Alfonso Soriano: He is old and has lost a lot of steps, but did stay healthy last season, if he can do that again the Cubs could benefit from his numbers...Aramis Ramirez: He has had a lot of trouble staying healthy in his career, but last season he still his 25 home runs, if he can be productive he could be a huge asset to the middle of the lineup.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves


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