For Cubs, offense a question mark
Soto, Soriano must have productive years for North Siders' success
If the Cubs are able to score that many runs, the division race could be a lot more interesting than it was after August 2009, when the North Siders were passed by the St. Louis Cardinals on their way to a division title.
The return of Aramis Ramirez is probably the most important key to increased run production for the 2010 Cubs. Ramirez played in only 81 games last year due to injury, and assuming he's healthy this season, an extra 50 runs produced by the Cubs' All-Star third baseman should be an easy matter while he hits in the four hole.
Kosuke Fukodome's .375 on-base percentage in 2009 was eight points higher than his career mark. Both Theriot and Fukodome must cut down on their strikeouts -- 100 strikeouts for leadoff and No. 2 hitters is unacceptable. If they can possibly get on base and cut down their strikeouts, both could score 90 runs, which would be a sufficient amount for a very good offense.
Two wild cards that might make run production a little easier for Piniella's team is the aforementioned Nady and spring training sensation Tyler Colvin. Nady has big-time home run and RBI potential if the Cubs' management can get him enough playing time while he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Colvin has been the wonder child of spring training, and he may create a pleasant problem for Piniella, who has promised to get him into the starting lineup at least two or three times a week. Colvin's left-handed RBI-producing bat is something that's been sorely missing in the Cubs' lineup since Jim Edmonds was on the team in 2008. Colvin also puts pressure on Soriano and Fukodome to produce or possibly sit.
Cubs' offensive strengths: Start with Jaramillo, whose teachings should keep players like Soriano, Soto and Fukodome away from any extended slumps. This team is also loaded with good right-handed hitting all the way through the lineup. The addition of Nady makes it even more potent.
Cubs' offensive weaknesses: Left-handed hitting and speed are noted weaknesses for this team. If Colvin can crack the regular lineup, the Cubs' balance of left-handed and right-handed hitters could be dramatically improved.
Cubs Win! Cubs Win! The lineup produces 850 runs; Theriot and Fukodome score 100 runs apiece.
Cubs Lose! Cubs Lose! A dearth of left-handed hitting continues to plague the offense. The Cubs once again are a station-to-station baserunning team that finishes last in the National League in stolen bases for the second year in a row.
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