[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 69)
CONSIDER THIS A Modest Proposal ...
The Cubs are trying to threepeat in the NL Central without a solid centerfielder. Kosuke Fukudome (left) is the nominal starter, a 31-year-old rightfielder coming off a disappointing rookie year in which he was benched—and publicly criticized by manager Lou Piniella—during the playoffs. His platoon partner, Reed Johnson, 32, is a fourth outfielder by trade and better in the corners. Joey Gathright, who brings nothing but speed to the table, may end up playing more than he should simply because he's the only true centerfielder in the room. There are worse ideas than bringing back Jim Edmonds, whom the Cubs picked off the scrap heap last May but didn't re-sign after the season. Age has turned the onetime Gold Glove into a below-average defensive player, but he's a natural centerfielder and can still hit a little (.362 OBP, .521 slugging versus righties).
Consecutive seasons in which the Cubs' pitching staff has led the majors in strikeouts. Of the pitchers who threw at least 160 innings in 2008, two—Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly—were in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings. A full season from Rich Harden, who fanned 89 batters in 71 innings after being acquired mid-year from Oakland, only increases the likelihood that the Cubs will extend the streak to nine seasons.