It's simple: Cubs need more offense next year
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Cubs catcher Welington Castillo had a solid and productive season for the Cubs, who need more offensive spark from almost every position next season.
While the Cubs begin their search for a new manager, we'll take a look today at how each position stacked up during the 2013 season and what it might look like for 2014.
As far as the manager search goes, former Cubs catcher and current Yankees manager Joe Girardi seems the logical favorite for the Cubs to hire. However, he is under contract to the Yankees until the end of the month, and Girardi's agent was scheduled to meet with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Wednesday.
NLDS at a glance
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates 4 p.m. today (TBS)
About the Cardinals: They always find a way to get it done in St. Louis. The Cardinals have a relentless and balanced offensive attack. They can get you with Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig. Carpenter, Molina and Holliday figure to get MVP votes. Adam Wainwright, who pitches Game 1, won 19 games. The Cards (54-27 at home) have homefield advantage.
About the Pirates: There was no more thrilling scene than that at PNC Park Tuesday for the wild-card victory over the Reds. Former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd homered in the first postseason at-bat of his career. He had played in 1,250 regular-season games without having appeared in the playoffs, the seventh-longest streak among active players. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is the leading MVP candidate in the NL. The Pirates were third in the NL in ERA (3.26). The Pirates have not been to the postseason since 1992, but they showed no jitters Tuesday. We'll see if that changes in St. Louis.
Chicago connections of note: The Pirates have Byrd (Cubs) and Josh Harrison (Cubs).
Bruce Miles' prediction: Pirates in 5
Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:30 p.m. today (TBS)
About the Braves: They have the best home record in baseball (56-25), and that could spell the difference. The Braves have left second baseman Dan Uggla off the roster for this round. The Braves led the NL in ERA (3.18) and closer Craig Kimbrel led in saves (50). Chris Johnson (.321) and Freddie Freeman (.319) were 2-3 in the NL in batting average.
About the Dodgers: They came from 9½ games back in the NL West on June 21 to win the division by 11 games. Clayton Kershaw, who starts Game 1, is the likely NL Cy Young winner, and he'll also get MVP votes. The Dodgers got their big spark from outfielder Yasiel Puig, who came up during the season. Not surprisingly, the Dodgers were second to the Braves in ERA (3.25).
Chicago connections of note: The Dodgers have Carlos Marmol (Cubs), Ricky Nolasco (Cubs), Jerry Hairston Jr. (Cubs) and GM Ned Colletti (Cubs). The Braves have Scott Downs (Cubs), Paul Maholm (Cubs), Reed Johnson (Cubs), Kameron Loe (Cubs), Freddy Garcia (White Sox) and hitting coach Greg Walker (White Sox).
Bruce Miles' prediction: Braves in 5
Whoever manages the Cubs next year will need more offense around the diamond. For 2014, there figures to be at least one and perhaps more prospects from the Cubs' system playing every day.
We'll also use fangraphs.com to provide us for the wins above replacement player (WAR) for the key players at each spot.
Assuming Welington Castillo makes a full recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery, the Cubs have a solid player.
Castillo had a hitting line of .274/.349/.397 with 8 homers and 32 RBI. He also improved his game-calling and blocking skills behind the plate. He had a valuable mentor in backup Dioner Navarro, who hit .300 in 89 games with 13 homers.
Castillo will be the No. 1 guy next year. Navarro will become a free agent, and the Cubs should re-sign him.
Castillo's WAR checked in at 3.2; Navarro's was 1.7.
As is the case with Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo doesn't want to be known as the guy who got Dale Sveum fired. Yet the drop in some numbers for both Castro and Rizzo played a part in Sveum being axed.
Rizzo had a hitting line of .233/.323/.419 with 23 homers and 80 RBI. The Cubs like the home run and RBI totals, but Rizzo's on-base percentage dropped from .342 (in 87 big-league games) last year, and his batting average was down from .285.
We'll have a much better picture next year of what kind of player Rizzo will be. His WAR this year was 1.6, just a tick down from last year's 1.7
Darwin Barney deserves to repeat as the Gold Glove winner. Question is, does his offense or lack of it drag down his value too much?
That's something for the Cubs brass to decide. They'll likely tender Barney a contract for 2014, but with top prospect Javier Baez coming fast and possibly headed for second base, Barney's days as a starter are numbered.
His line was .208/.266/.303 with just 36 walks in 555 plate appearances. His WAR was only 0.4, or barely above replacement-player value.
Here's the interesting thing about third base for the Cubs this year: They got 30 home runs from their third basemen, fourth most in the major leagues behind Detroit (45), Pittsburgh (36) and Tampa Bay (33). In 2012, Cubs third basemen totaled 12 homers.
The Cubs used a mix that included Luis Valbuena, Cody Ransom, Donnie Murphy, Brent Lillibridge, Steve Clevenger and Alberto Gonzalez.
Murphy, a journeyman, came up from the minors in August and hit 11 home runs in 46 games. Valbuena had 12.
Valbuena pulled a WAR of 2.0, while Murphy was at 0.8.
The Cubs' third baseman of the future appears to be Kris Bryant. He made it to Class A Daytona this year after being drafted in June. The Cubs may have to piecemeal things with Valbuena and/or Murphy for at least part of one more year.
Castro has gone from a guy who put up 207 hits to lead the National League to a guy who had 163 this year, along with a hitting line of .245/.284/.347.
His walks total dropped from 36 last year to 30, and his strikeouts went up from 100 to 129. Castro did begin hitting the ball with more authority in the final month of the season.
According to fangraphs, his WAR dropped to a minus-0.1 from 3.1 last year. That's a staggering change.
Cubs brass expressed confidence Castro remains at short, even with Baez playing that position in the minors and charging hard. If a new manager and possibly a new hitting coach don't make a difference, the Cubs may need to look at other options.
The Cubs brought Junior Lake up from Class AAA Iowa after the all-star break, and he responded with 67 hits in 64 games to go with a line of .284/.332/.428 with 6 homers.
Lake, who is three days younger than Castro, is a raw talent with the potential for becoming a thrilling player. How much playing time he gets next season will depend on whether the Cubs acquire a veteran outfielder or two. Lake's WAR was 1.2.
After the trade of David DeJesus to Washington, the Cubs went with a rotation of Lake, Brian Bogusevic and Ryan Sweeney in center.
Lake did better in left field. Sweeney brought more speed and defense than Bogusevic. In a perfect world, both would be backup players if the Cubs can acquire a veteran to bide time until minor-league prospect Albert Almora is ready.
Sweeney had a 1.1 WAR, while Bogusevic was at 1.0.
Nate Schierholtz was the most pleasant surprise among position players.
Schierholtz enjoyed a career year with 21 homers and 68 RBI. He hit 20 of his homers against right-handed pitchers. He also did most of his damage in the first half of the season, and he hit just .177 in September.
The workmanlike Schierholtz has one more year of arbitration eligibility. He figures to be a regular against right-handed pitching next year. His WAR was 1.5.
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