The Chicago Cubs have watched an interesting offseason. They saw Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols leave the National League all together. The Milwaukee Brewers were hit even harder when 2011 MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for PED’s in his system. Braun may be suspended for 50 games depending how his litigation and appeal battle go.
The Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein have told the Chicago Cubs fan base that it will take some time to make the Chicago Cubs a winner consistently. Well when two of your division rivals that made the playoffs in 2011, St. Louis and Milwaukee, both lose key players to free agency and possibly a suspension the Cubs can look at the team they have and say to themselves we can surprise a lot of people this season and win the division.
The Cincinnati Reds are going to be favored to win the National League Central Division because of their starting pitching and potent offense. Other than the Reds you can assume the Cardinals will take some major steps back even though they still have Lance Berkman and a strong pitching staff led by Chris Carpenter and a returning Adam Wainwright. The Pittsburgh Pirates showed some promise during the first half of 2011, but they are an up and coming team that won’t be a challenge for the division in 2012.
Theo Epstein should look at the 2012 season as an opportunity to see what he and his general manager Jed Hoyer can do to give the Chicago Cubs a shot at winning the Central Division. They should definitely part ways with Alfonso Soriano. Other than hitting home runs in bunches, he is a liability on the field.
With Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney leading the Cubs in a new direction in 2012 the Cubs have to improve on defense. The team as a whole gave up more errors that led to many games the Cubs lost. A lot of these errors can be blamed on youthfulness of some of the Cubs players. This year these same players will have another year with them which will bring maturity that they will need to put on the field to help make the Chicago Cubs more successful.
The Cubs starting pitching is not the best, but Matt Garza could win at least 20 games and keep opponents from scoring runs. The pitching staff will be a huge factor if the Cubs will even be in the hunt with the Reds for the division. Ryan Dempster will need to pile up innings and strike out hitters to complement Garza in the rotation. Randy Wells will have to rediscover the pitching he had that excited Cubs and their fans that thought he would be a regular in the Cubs starting rotation for years to come. The Cubs bringing in Paul Maholm and Travis Wood are upgrades from the pitchers the Cubs used last season when their starters went down with injuries.
This team the Chicago Cubs put on the field will be better than the 2011 team, but no one will expect the Cubs to make any significant jumps in the standings because the team as a whole is still raw. Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs themselves can use this in their favor and shock the National League and the rest of baseball by proving them all wrong and winning the Central Division in 2012.