Long ago, during the dark winter months without baseball, ESPN.com did a feature in which they went through the “best of” baseball. Best rotation, best bullpen, the whole thing. You might remember me critiquing some of these proclamations earlier (Angels’ outfield anyone?).
Anyway, Keesup and I were watching the Yankees last night when we fondly reminisced about ESPN’s assessment of the best lineups in baseball. Number one was the Mets, which is close to being right, so we gave them a pass for that. But number two was the Cubs:
The Cubs were last in the National League in on-base percentage (.319) and needed an overhaul after Dusty Baker’s club lost 96 games.
It’s good that they admitted how horrendous the Cubs were offensively last season. And it’s also good that they recognized that, to counteract said horrific offense, they need an overhaul. How did they do it?
They had an active offseason (committing to $300 million in contracts), including replacing Baker with Lou Piniella.
Their active offseason included re-signing Aramis Ramirez (who was on that league-worst offense last year), Mark DeRosa (career .331 OBP), and signing Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis (who are pitchers). We’ll get to the Soriano signing in a second. And also, the Cubs overhauled their offense by upgrading their managerial OBP from Baker’s dismal .289 to Piniella’s absurd .490. Well done, Cubs.
The biggest spending was for Alfonso Soriano, who will cost $136 million over seven years and should help improve their on-base percentage.
Alfonso Soriano has a career .325 OBP. His OBP last year was a career-high .351, which I will treat charitably and look at as a new, consistent plateau for Soriano. The man he’s replacing (Juan Pierre) has a career .330 OBP. So, at best, the Cubs are receiving a .021 boost. At worst, Soriano was a downgrade. Of course, ESPN could have improved its argument by choosing SLG or OPS, which take into account power. But they chose OBP as their indicator, which makes their reasoning incredibly questionable, if not ultimately wrong.
Aramis Ramirez was on that dismal offense last year, so that’s not convincing. Lee is an acceptable point.
So, to summarize, the Cubs’ offense will be the second best in baseball because:
- They spent a lot of money in the offseason
- They changed managers
- They got a centerfielder who gets on base at the same rate as the guy he’s replacing
- They have Aramis Ramirez, who was on that league-worst offense last year
- Derrek Lee will be healthy (this one is acceptable)
This will be enough to improve their offense from 28th in baseball (716 runs scored) to 2nd (870 runs scored). Got it.