In Season 5 the Gangsters made the leap to the playoffs with 88 wins (+17 from the year before), however last year was a disappointment in falling back to only 84 wins and and falling 5 games short of the playoffs. They’re hoping to get back to the playoffs with some improvements from some of the youngsters, as not many offseason changes were made.
#1 – James Pong – After a much hyped int’l signing and a few minor league seasons he finally had some production to match. In his first full season he went 18-9 (2 CG’s), making 32 starts (1 relief appearance) and logging 222 IP’s and took control of the rotation and became Chicago’s ACE. Whats really scary is that at 22 he still has plenty of room for improvement.
#2 – Louie Valenzuela – Louie set a career high in wins last year going 13-9, and breaking 200 IP’s for the 3rd time in 6 years (229.1 IP). He has made a few trips to the DL in his career, but has always managed to take the hill between 28 and 33 times so he can be depended on, although he is now on the wrong side of 30. With a little bit better and fielding he could reach 15 wins this year.
#3 – Bruce Ligtenberg – Big Bruce is the elder statesman of the rotation, and except for a freak season 2 (when current managment was not in control) he has made at least 30 starts each year. Last year he went 9-10 w/ 4.19 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, and while those aren’t spectacular #s on their own one must factor in that he played his home games at Wrigley. He is in his last year of his contract and the Gangsters have made no attempt to sign him beyond this year, and have in fact shopped him on numerous occasions without any luck. They’re hoping to get him healthy all year and that playing for potentially his last contract will motivate him and get them 10-15 wins. It should also be noted that he slots into the #3 slot so that they don’t have 2 lefties in a row.
#4 – T.J. Byrne – T.J. had an up and down season last year. He went 9-12 w/ 4.20 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 233 IP and took to the hill 34 times. He is not afraid to take the ball, but he definitely tired down the stretch. He was their best starter in the 1st half. He gets pushed back to the 4 slot to break up the 2 lefties, but could easily be the #1 or #2 by the end of the year as he is only 23 and still improving.
#5 – Bonk Matthews – Bonk had dislocated his shoulder last year and was never right, yet still managed to go 10-8 albeit with 4.48 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in only 138 IP. He is only expected to be the #5, and could be pushed out of that role soon from some minor leaugers(see below). However, they’ll gladly take the #’s he posted 2 years ago (13-9, 177 IP, 4.41 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) out of the #5 spot.
Joseph Sakamoto – “Sak” has been surprisingly effective the last 2 seasons as the longman, and will remain there unless bumped to Mop up role.
Jose Cervantes – Cervantes was acquired during the playoff run of Season 5 to steady the ship and close out games. He saved 31 games last year, but blew 11 too. They have a lot riding on him returning to form as an elite closer, although they did go out and get a veteran arm to help in case he falters.
Matty Palmeiro – The aformentioned veteran arm, Palmeiro was acquired for a mid level prospect because they were willing to absorb all his salary. He has been amazingly consistent although some are worried this is the year that age (38) catches up to him. Chicago hopes he can hold it off for 1 more year.
Deivi Rosa – Starts the year in the show after pitching solidly in his major league debut last season.
Cesar Baez – Baez pitched well in his first 2 seasons in the majors and fell apart last year, even being farmed out for a while. He’s now out of options and Chicago hopes he falls more in line with his career line.
Terrence James – James made his debut last season and pitched well, but it was in only 5.2 Innings. He probably has the shortest leash among all the pitchers and they won’t hesitate to expose him to waivers should he not pitch well.
Ivan Rosado – This lefty has been solid yet unspectacular in his Major League career and will once again be moved around the pen and placed into whatever the situation requires of him.
Down on the Farm
Sammy Cedeno – Could be called up if any injuries or ineffectiveness plague the Gangster rotation. Will be 1st called due to being on the 40 Man roster.
Jose Puente – Was breezing thru AA last year until he had surgery. Could see action if he gets back to where he was, but will be given a long time to recover.
Gene Green – The first option should Chicago need a reliever. Has had mixed results in 2 previous stints with the club.