Cubs

What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?

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What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 6:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. They circled the board where the lineup was supposed to be posted and saw empty white space. It frustrated them last year, not knowing if or where theyd play while trying to get ready for a game.

This is not to say that Lou Piniella didnt know what he was doing or that Mike Quade has all the answers.

Piniella won more than 1,800 games and a World Series during a managing career that should land him in the Hall of Fame. Quade is only running his first big-league camp.

But you could see the differences on Friday as bench coach Pat Listach struggled to find room on a clubhouse door to tape up yet another piece of paper. He had lineups for the first three exhibition games before the Cubs had completely moved out of Fitch Park.

Heres what it looks like for Sundays Cactus League opener, down the street at HoHoKam Park against the Oakland As:

1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Blake DeWitt, 2B
9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Replace Zambrano with Ryan Dempster and that could be your lineup on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

Next to each name in parentheses was the player who would substitute in next. The sheet also noted that there will be a two at-bat minimum and a five-inning maximum. An organization man, Quade is all about the details.

Rod Blagojevich once sent Piniella his lineup suggestions, and Quade understands that he will constantly be second-guessed.

Everybody thinks they can manage, Quade said. Im a fan. I look at other clubs and go: How come that guys hitting there?

The manager will defer to veterans, locking in Ramirez as the cleanup hitter. He still views Fukudome as the best leadoff option if the matchups are right that day.

I dont hate it, Fukudome said with a smile to a Japanese reporter.

For now Quade is looking beyond Fukudomes .193 average from the No. 1 spot last season. Quade thinks of Fukudome as someone who sees a lot of pitches and has posted good on-base percentages across his first three seasons: .359; .375; and .371.

Ultimately, the lineup combinations and the final scores wont really matter across the next month. But Quade is particularly interested in seeing new pieces like Pena and Matt Garza up close, as well as rising prospects Trey McNutt and Brett Jackson. How he interacts with them does count.

Players are obsessed with routine. They live in a bubble where everything is taken care of for them. A pair of pants fell out of one players bag as he walked out of the clubhouse Friday afternoon and he barely broke stride.

Veteran move, he said. Watch this.

He tossed the pants into a laundry cart, cracking up a few reporters and a team official.

Quade wants to simplify things for his players and let them know where they stand. He is prepared, but this didnt keep him up at night. He didnt spend his offseason in Florida staring out into the Gulf of Mexico and picturing his lineup.

If I find myself in the middle of a bunch of trout or redfish someday and all of a sudden Im thinking about whos my third-hole hitter, Ill kill myself, Quade said. Theres plenty of time for that. Theres all sorts of things that will become clear later. And why in the world get locked in too early when theres so much that can change?

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs' all-time saves leader Lee Smith elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

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AP

Cubs' all-time saves leader Lee Smith elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Lee Smith is headed to Cooperstown.

Smith, the Cubs' all-time saves leader, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday night. 

Smith, 61, pitched in 18 MLB seasons, eight with the Cubs. He posted a 3.03 ERA in 1,022 career games, saving 478 games. At the time of his retirement, Smith was was MLB's all-time saves leader, though he now ranks third behind Mariano Rivera (652 saves) and Trevor Hoffman (601).

After spending the first eight seasons of his career (1980-87) with the Cubs, Smith went on to pitch for the Red Sox (1988-1990), Cardinals (1990-93), Yankees (1993), Orioles (1994), Angels (1995-96), Reds (1996) and Expos (1997). He is a six-time All-Star, making the team with the Cubs twice (1983, 1987). 

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If Bryce Harper wants to live up to his upcoming mega-deal, here's how he can improve

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USA Today

If Bryce Harper wants to live up to his upcoming mega-deal, here's how he can improve

Someone, somewhere, sometime soon is going to give Bryce Harper a *lot* of money. 

Whoever decides to pay Harper $330-350 million over the next 6-8 years will also look for a *lot* of return on investment, which stands to reason. Gone are the days of 10-12 guys getting massive, above-value contracts per offseason. Love it or hate it, fiscal prudency is all the rage in baseball, and teams are going to look long and hard before handing out the type of contracts that they were throwing left and right only half a decade ago. 

Because Harper exsists in the 1% of pro baseball players that are still going to get nine-digit contract offers, whichever fanbase he ends up playing in front of for 82 games a year will dissect his performance in a way that few players before him have experienced. Want to get Cubs' or Yankees' or Phillies' or Mystery Teams' fans off your back? Here's what Harper can improve upon during the first year of his new deal. 

Strike out less 

It's the goal of every pro baseball not named Mookie Betts or Jose Ramirez to cut down on the strikeouts, and while may be obvious to point out that it'd be nice if Harper K'd less, it should be noted that Harper was especially free-swinging last season. His K% was all the way up at 24.3 percent, his highest since 2014. He had 169 strikeouts in 2018, which is far and away his worst season in that regards. Ironically enough, his next-worst season was the 2015 campaign, when he notced 131. He also notched the MVP that season, so. 

Power hitters are going to strike out, especially in the increasingly-infamous Three True Outcome era. Minus a radical change to plate approach -- which NO team that's about to give someone 300 million dollars wants to hear about -- Harper's strikeout percentage is always going to sit in the low-20s.  With that said, there's a big difference between 20-21% and 24%, as you know, and only two hitters with higher wRC+'s than Harper also had higher K% -- Paul Goldschmidt and Brandon Nimmo. Even getting back close to his career average (21.2%) would be a win for him next year. 

Get better on the bases again  

Harper's bat grants him baserunning leniency, but it'd be nice if he got back at least not having a negative impact on the basepaths. According to FanGraph's baserunning metrics, it's been two years since Harper's been worth even one run on the bases. In his first five years with the Nationals, he was worth at least two runs four times - and even got above three twice. How active Harper is on the basepaths has a lot to do with whoever's his manager next summer, but he has the speed to at least be a plus runner. Does he need to haul down the line to beat out a grounder to 2nd in a late-August game in Texas? No. But considering only eight guys got on base more often than Harper did last year, it'd be nice to see him take some more chances with all the opportunities he's given. 

Get luckier 

This one only kind of counts, because obviously Harper has no ability to control the type of luck he gets. A lot of Harper's bizarre 2018 season stems from the fact that he was historically unlucky, especially in the first half of the year. His .226 BABIP during that stretch was 18th-worst in all of baseball, putting him with the likes of Texas' Joey Gallo and Baltimore's Chris Davis. He posted a .378 BABIP in the 2nd half, which is even better than his career average (.318). Not convinced yet? Harper hit .249, slugged .496 and posted a .376 wOBA. Per Baseball Savant, his expected results in those categories were .270, .506, and .398, respectively. He was a much better hitter last season than he gets credit for, and suffered because of a prolonged slump that looked bad in all the wrong categories. Even being a smidge more lucky over the first eight weeks of next year will go a long way.