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Mark Prior Is Key To The Chicago Cubs Season

Posted by sportsmaven on February 27, 2007

I’ve been holding off on writing posts on spring training baseball, mainly because I believe the early part of spring training is mostly eventless and I don’t want to write on eventless matters just to fill space (of course Kerry Wood changed that a bit for the Chicago Cubs this spring) and that everyone is an eternal optimist (especially Cubs fans) when it comes to the first week of spring training, so I didn’t want to take that approach either. After careful and plentiful reading about the Chicago Cubs chances in 2007, my thought is that the success of this season comes down to the effectiveness of the Cubs starting pitching, and the effectiveness of Cubs starting rotation is dependent on essentially one person, RHP Mark Prior. Given that it is difficult to put the burden of team success on any one individual, if every other player on the Cubs performs in the manner in which he is capable of performing, success is really dependent on the wildest of all wildcards, the most unknown of the unknowns, Mark Prior.

Mark Prior in Spring Training
(AP photo by Morry Gash)

Mark Prior can be anywhere from the #2 starter to the #5 starter, to no place on the team, that’s how wide a gap his potential has for this coming season. If Prior pitches closer to his 2003 form, where he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, the Cubs would have a very solid top of the rotation in RHP Carlos Zambrano who is a leading Cy Young Award candidate and a good bet to post his first 20 win season of his career. Oh, by the way, he is in a contract year, if he needs any extra motivation. Slide in a continually improving LHP Rich Hill, who I think is the sleeper of this staff and LHP Ted Lilly, the top 4 starters look very solid. Mix in a rehabilitated RHP Jason Marquis and this appears to be a rotation that has great potential. The Cubs have improved the offensive production of their everyday lineup and their bench looks deep and strong, the Cubs bullpen looks outstanding with the addition of LHP Neal Cotts, and RHP Kerry Wood (who could be the best 50 pitch pitcher in MLB this season) and a rejuvinated and motivated closer Ryan Dempster, so we’re back to where we started….the potential of the starting pitching lies with the right arm (or the right shoulder) of Mark Prior. Prior is scheduled to pitch the second or third Cactus League outing of his entire life on March 5th, so for me, that is when this Cubs season starts.

2 Responses to “Mark Prior Is Key To The Chicago Cubs Season”

  1. Kirk, I was waiting for today to write back a comment, as Mark Prior pitched his first Cactus League outing today and got bombed. Most got bombed because of his inability to throw strikes. I don’t want to be too hard on him since it’s still early in spring training, but the Cubs definitely have to be concerned. A dominant Mark Prior makes everyone in the rotation better. A less than dominant or no Prior hurts the rotation, as the middle/bottom of the rotation need to carry more of the load and those guys could be exposed. Like I said, it’s still early, but we need all the pitching we can get.

  2. Kirk Bostwick said

    I agree with this assessment somewhat. I think they would be more dominant if Prior could recapture his 2003 form this season. I also wouldn’t rule them out if he’s injured, because I think another part of the equation is how these new arrivals help. They certainly have a lot of depth at starting pitching, now we’ll get to see what the quality of that depth is. Prior would definitely take a lot of pressure off of Lilly, Marquis, etc. by being what Mark Prior can be…dominant. But the X factor is his health, and regaining his mojo. Recently I was reading a message board that insinuated that Prior was soft…they even called him a #ussy. It’s interesting how one pitcher, Big Z, can handle the load put on his body and not really be worse for the wear, but then you have the two that used to be the aces with nagging injuries. I think it’s unfair to call someone a name or brand them because their body breaks down. How do you really know how your body will react to the stresses of a sport until you go through it? There are no guarantees. Look, we are all disappointed at what has been. All you can do at this point is be hopeful for what will be, and wish them well. They’ve both been through a lot and deserve a break from injuries.

    I think the offense will rake…no question, but as they say, it’s pitching and defense that wins championships, so hopefully we have some guys step up in both respects so we don’t have to scrore 7 runs a game to win.

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