The Cubs open the season on April 1st against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's one of those years when a lot of us don't expect much from our team. And perhaps that bodes well for the Cubs - it's in years like this that no one is expecting much that the Cubs tend to do better.
The key for them is their pitchers. I mean, we know what we're getting with Dempster and with Randy Wells. I feel that both of them will do what they are capable of. Wells could be one of the better 4th starters in the league, and Dempster, while he is the opening day pitcher, is really more of a middle of the rotation type on a really good team.
That's where Dempster may end up, because there are two higher end talents in this rotation - Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza. Both have the arms and the "stuff" to be top of the rotation types. Ideally they would be one and two in a good rotation. If they pitch up to their capabilities, and keep their heads in the game, they'll help make up a very good rotation.
The fifth starter appears to be Andrew Cashner, a young guy who was a number 1 draft pick of the Cubs only a few years back. He's got "stuff" and talent, too, and could pitch like a top of the rotation guy. Trouble is, as a virtual rookie, he is a question mark and could easily go the other way, too. In that case, I do believe the Cubs have options with several young players who showed that they could pitch in the majors last year.
The Cubs' bullpen should be okay, with Marmol, Wood and Marshall holding down the back end, and Samarzidja, Grabow and one other (Looper? Wellemayer?) filling out the pen. Bullpens are always a bit of a crapshoot, but the Cubs look solid enough there. Offensively, there are questions. But if Soriano can come back toward his career norms, Ramirez can bounce back in a contract year, and Pena can do something other than what he did last year and play good defense, they should be fine. I'm good with Soto, Castro, Colvin and Barney/Baker (at second), and Byrd in CF for now. Should be okay. We'll see what happens.
The Bulls got beat by the Sixers, then dominated the T-wolves last night. Boozer had a great game without Noah on the floor, and after the game, Rose mentioned (in response to a question from a reporter) that he notices Boozer to be more aggressive when Noah isn't on the floor. It's a dilemma that the Bulls will need to figure out. We know Boozer isn't the greatest defensive power forward; he needs to be solid on the offensive end. It'd be nice if the Bulls could work it out over the course of the next couple weeks, before the playoffs. Noah, though, looks like he might be out for another couple games.
Maybe the answer is to play Noah with the second unit? Or Boozer with the second unit? Start him, play him for 3 minutes, sit him for Gibson, then bring him back in when Noah goes out. Play him with Thomas or Asik. Gibson is better defensively, but does not offer the offensive weapons that Boozer offers. The Bulls back in the Jordan years always used to try to establish the post game right off the bat, whether it was Cartwright or Longley starting. Maybe the reverse needs to be done. Pull Noah after a few minutes, and establish Boozer in the post right away. Then bring Noah in with the second unit. I don't know...
Anyway, it looks like the Bulls stand a real chance of going far in the playoffs. I'm totally rooting for them!!!