2015 Chicago Baseball Outlook
Chicago has been a big focus point on the baseball world this offseason. With what started at the Winter meetings, there have been major acquisitions on both sides of town. But before I get into that, let’s look back at how abysmal last year was for both teams.
Let’s start with the White Sox. Despite having the Rookie of the Year, powerful Jose Abreu who crushed 36 homers and drove in 107 runs in his first season in the big leagues, he was really the only bright spot for a team that struggled throughout the season and failed to get to 75 wins on the season. They finished the year with a record of 73-89 and they look to improve on that record by atleast 10 wins this year. I’m not a fan of the Sox at all, but with the additions they made I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished about .500 in 2015.
The Cubs actually finished with the exact same record last year as the White Sox, finishing their 2014 campaign 73-89. There were a few bright spots on this Cubs team. Anthony Rizzo had a bounce back season for a team who were near the bottom of the Majors in every major offensive category. They were 26th in runs scored, 27th in batting average, 28th in on base percentage and then a decent 14th in Slugging Percentage. Rizzo crushed 32 homers, but drove in only 78 runs which actually led the team. Shortstop Starlin Castro led the team with a .292 batting average. Near the end of a season that saw many minor league call ups, this young team finally started showing some spark and promise for years to come. Then came this off-season where major changes occurred on the North Side.
As far as additions go, they start with the signing of two key pitchers. The Sox managed to pull off a trade with the Oakland Athletics for right hander Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija. Cubs fans probably aren’t pleased that their teams ex-pitcher will be baring the White and Black this year. Samardzija will be the number two starter behind ace Chris Sale, forming a very formidable 1, 2 punch for the sox who needed that second pitcher behind Sale. John Danks, Jose Quintana will also be middle to back of the rotation guys in 2015. Another weakness that the White Sox had last year and that ended up costing them a good handful of games was their bullpen. They addressed and solidified that this off season as well. They signed Setup man Zach Duke to a contract, but the biggest addition was to the back end of the pen. They stepped in front of the Yankees bidding and signed righty flamethrower David Robertson. If he can stay healthy and consistent, he’ll be closing games on the South Side for years to come.
The Sox also were able to bring back second baseman Gordon Beckham after a 2014 season out with the Angels. They signed first baseman/DH Adam Laroche to replace veteran and now retired Paul Konerko, who actually I had the privilege of going to Paul Konerko night where the ball club honored him. They also added a couple key outfielders in Free Agents Emilio Bonafacio who actually had a really good 2014 season across town for the Cubs last year before they dealt him to the Braves at the trade deadline and Left Fielder Melky Cabrera.
With all these additions to the White Sox team this offseason I see them vastly improving over last year and finishing above .500. My prediction for the year, 85-77.
If that wasn’t impressive enough for the city of Chicago. There were even bigger additions on the North Side. Starting with the firing of Manager Rick Renteria. The Cubs staff interviewed and hired established and proven winner, Joe Maddon to replace Renteria. Theo Epstein and Co. didn’t stop there. They went to the Winter Meetings and landed Free Agent Southpaw, Jon Lester, winning a bidding war for the lefty between themselves, the Red Sox and Giants. Lester joins and now headlines a pitching staff that showed signs of brilliance last year. Jake Arrieta who many thought if they didn’t get Lester would have been the #1 starter for the Cubs this season. But now the youngster, will be #2 behind the dominant ace.
Last season, Jake Arrieta finished the season 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA and 167 strikeouts. he flirted with a few no-hitters in the process and if he continues his dominance in 2015, behind Lester he’ll have great success. I like Jon Lester’s move to the National League and Wrigley Field that is a hitter’s friendly park. Jon went 16-11 in 2014 with a 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts. That my friends is a workhorse.
Other additions the Cubs made came at the catcher position. They signed Lester’s “personal” catcher David Ross, who caught Lester’s games in Boston and they also signed Miguel Montero. They brought back starting pitcher Jason Hammel who they traded away to Oakland in the Jeff Samardjiza deal. They also traded for Utility Man Dexter Fowler and signed another utility man in Chris Denorfia.
With the strong foundation of Cubs talent the Cubs had at the end of last season and the rumor that phenom third baseman Kris Bryant will be up by mid-May, I see bright things for the Cubs this season. They could win 90 if the team stays healthy. My prediction, 87-75 and possibly a wild card.