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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Over/under: Wins for Cubs

By David Schoenfield

Four teams to go in our over/under polling. Today: the Chicago Cubs. New front office, new manager ... a lot of the same players.

In 2011, the Cubs went 71-901, right around their projected record of 70 wins. They scored 654 runs, eighth in the National League. They allowed 756, 14th in the league.

The big improvement will have to come from a rotation that posted the worst ERA in the NL at 4.79. Not surprisingly, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer worked to bring in some starters with only Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster assured of rotation spots. Carlos Zambrano is gone and Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez are likely headed to the bullpen or waiver wire. Look for newcomers Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad plus converted reliever Jeff Samardzija to begin as the five starters, with Travis Wood, another offseason acquisition, in the pen. If the Cubs can find two decent starters from this foursome then it's a good sign for 2012 ... and the future.

On offense the Cubs lose their best hitter from 2011 in Aramis Ramirez and their second-best on-base guy in Carlos Pena. David DeJesus, Rockies washout Ian Stewart and Triple-A vet Bryan LaHair step in as regulars, but outside of Starlin Castro there isn't a sure thing in the lineup.

The over/under is 74 wins. Baby steps.