The Cubs scored 148 fewer runs in 2009 than they did the previous season. Don't blame Wrigley Field: The park is hitter-friendly, especially from gap to gap and during the warmer months. It encourages home runs, singles and doubles, and its tiny foul territory in the outfield makes errant flyballs low-risk for batters.
Chicago stole just 56 bases, the fewest in the NL. The team lacked speed and still does. Manager Lou Piniella has typically had somewhat loose reins. Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome ran 16 times, but he was caught 10 times. Ryan Theriot attempted 31 swipes, though he, too, was caught 10 times. Anyone batting in the top two slots in Chicago's batting order has a chance to steal bases for Piniella's squad; having success is another matter.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Cubs did not lead the National League in strikeouts. Still, missing bats remains very much a part of the organizational philosophy.
Another important part of that philosophy is emphasis on keeping the ball on the ground. To that effect, groundball mavens John Grabow and Angel Guzman should be the team's backbone in the bullpen.
Piniella was as patient as he could possibly have been last season with Kevin Gregg. If his managerial record is any indication, Carlos Marmol will get the same extreme patience. Until last year, no Piniella-led team had produced two different players with double-digit saves since 1997.
The Cubs had so little continuity at second and third base in 2009, the exceptional defensive skills of Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Derrek Lee at first base had little room to shine. A healthy season for Aramis Ramirez would help remedy that problem. Second base remains a problem.
The outfield is vastly improved. Fukudome will move from center field, where he spent most of last season, over to right, where he spent the majority of 2008. The move is huge for him statistically. Marlon Byrd plays average defense in center, and if healthy, Alfonso Soriano has proven to be more than acceptable in left.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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