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Monday, March 19, 2018

2018 Fearless Prediction thread

Time for this year’s fearless predictions.  The season is starting earlier this year, so I won’t have time to do this after I get back from my spring training trip.  As usual, these probably will err on the side of blind optimism, but what fun is it to have a talented team where all you expect is under-performances?  On to the list of 25…

1. Willson Contreras will make his first of many All-Star appearances.  He probably would have a better shot of being voted in if the mound visit rule were enforced this year.
2. Speaking of, Contreras will receive the first formal punishment from MLB for violating the rule, probably an ejection or fine.  Most likely in early April.
3. Not only is Gimenez the backup catcher all season, the Cubs will trade Caratini before the trade deadline as part of a deal for a late inning RP. 
4. Bryant will have a monster year, taking home the MVP.  He will consolidate his gains from the last few seasons into a super fun line a la Harper in 2015, something like .320/.440/.630 with 40+ HRs.  I’m all in on KB this year.
5. Schwarber will hit at least .260.  I won’t predict the rest of his line, but he won’t lead the team in HRs (because Bryant will).
6. Rizzo will put up an eerily similar line to the last few years (with 32 HRs again), but it’ll be good enough for him to earn another Gold Glove.
7. Lester will very clearly be the Cubs 4th starter by the end of the year.  I expect him to bounceback some, but I also just expect the other guys to just be flat out better.
8. Quintana will be the clear ace and will be lined up to start game 1 of the playoffs.  He’ll also make the All Star team.
9. Morrow will be just fine as the closer, but will hit the DL twice. 
10. Wilson will be just good enough as the fill in closer, but it won’t be pretty (think Joe Borowski).
11. Edwards will spend some time in Iowa around mid-season to work on some things. 
12. Either Russell or Baez will take a step forward and win a Gold Glove; the other will be on the bench come playoff time. 
13. Either Happ or Almora will also need a quick trip to Iowa to straighten things out and get some more regular playing time; right now I’d favor Almora for the brief demotion.
14. Jason Heyward will suck and we will all hate him (hey, gotta take a gimme when it’s there).  He will not opt out. 
15. Montgomery will start at least 10 games this year.
16. Zobrist will have a nice bounce back year, partly due to more rest, but this will be his last decent season.
17. Hendricks will lead the team in ERA again, and finish top 5 in the NL ERA race.
18. Cishek will become the unofficial 8th inning guy and lead the relievers in IP (excluding Monty’s starts). 
19. Duensing will not make the playoff roster.  Maples will. 
20. Darvish will lead the team in wins and strikeouts.  He will be an All-Star “snub”. 
21. Maddon will sign a 3 year contract extension this year (his deal is up after next season), he’ll be the highest paid manager in baseball. 
22. In addition to Contreras and Quintana, the other Cubs All-Stars will be Bryant and Rizzo. 
23. The Cubs will not sign Harper or Machado this offseason, but will sign another decent sized contract (perhaps Blackmon or Pollock). 
24. Cubs will win 96 games and the division by 11 games over Milwaukee.  St. Louis will finish 3rd again. 
25. Cubs will win the NL Pennant. 

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 19, 2018 at 03:55 PM | 119 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:11 PM (#5645255)
By Gameday, Lester was barely over 90 with his fastball today, with no pitches at 92 or higher. That's... not good. Like, low end of what he was throwing last year.
   102. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5645258)
Sooooo... based on game 1 -

The offense looks as expected. Feels like they coulda/shoulda scored 15 today, but whatever - a few sharply hit balls fall in, blahblahblah... timely PH from TLS. 3 HRs. Heyward had a nice day at the plate - I think he'd have ended up with two well-hit doubles if not for that CI.

The bullpen obviously had a great opening day - can't complain about 5 2/3 scoreless... Cichek pitched out of a jam, everybody else - including Wilson - looked sharp. Bad lineup, but it's hard to find fault with today's effort.

The defense was... not so good. I don't think Contreras helped Lester - FFS, Willllly, settle down back there. It's hard to frame pitches with jumpy ADD. Obviously, Schwarbs did not cover himself in glory -- and other than a nice diving catch by Heyward, the D was pretty unimpressive. Not too worried about that, though.

As continually harped in the chatter, though... Lester... ####### Lester. That was just a terrible start. Maybe better D bails him out to get him through 5, but I wouldn't count on it. He sucked. Badly. Terribly. I'm trying hard not to freak out after one start - but Lester really needs to show something next week. Otherwise, I might be officially Concerned.
   103. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:24 PM (#5645260)
By Gameday, Lester was barely over 90 with his fastball today, with no pitches at 92 or higher. That's... not good. Like, low end of what he was throwing last year.


I watched most of the game on TV - and he was just not good.

Other than a few, isolated sequences - his line was probably BETTER than he pitched. His command sucked, too. He nibbled. He couldn't throw strikes when he needed to. Even Bour and Dietrich - the two LHBs - were teeing him up. In fact, the 2nd time he faced Bour (and K'd him) - I think it was more a matter of Bour not being anything more than a meh hitter - but not being fooled at all and pretty much getting ahead of himself thinking he was in for some BP.

Lester looked really, really, really bad. He wasn't fooling anyone and to the extent he ever had anyone off balance, it was purely because the (crappy, not-at-all-selective) Marlins lineup seemed to get a bit over anxious believing they were at a BP buffet.
   104. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:28 PM (#5645262)
My Official Concern has not expired from last season.
   105. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: March 29, 2018 at 09:42 PM (#5645374)
It's not unusual for velocity to be a bit low in March, right?
   106. Brian C Posted: March 30, 2018 at 12:15 AM (#5645405)
I'm trying hard not to freak out after one start

You don't seem to be trying very hard...

To me, he looked more or less like what Lester occasionally looks like when he decides he's getting squeezed and he's afraid of his defense. The one-two punch of Russell's error and Schwarber's misadventure with two outs in the first, along with a few borderline ball calls, looked like it got in his head. Because Lester is, after all, kind of a headcase and prone to headcase stuff. And after that, he started nibbling all over the place and generally looked like he was pouting. After the first inning (I think) the camera even caught him chatting with the ump after the third out.

But you're right that he looked pretty bad. Didn't seem all that much out of character to me, but still I guess that there's little doubt that 2018 Pouty Lester is worse than 2016 Pouty Lester. At any rate, we'll see how things go from here. I've got 3-4 more starts before I'm really concerned, though.
   107. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: March 30, 2018 at 09:58 AM (#5645478)
You don't seem to be trying very hard...


Oh, I'm trying REALLY hard.... it's just... hard!

Anyway, in random transaction news -- the Cubs just claimed Corey Mazzoni off waivers from the Dodgers... which is notable only because Mazzoni was claimed by the Dodgers from the Cubs a few weeks ago. I guess MLB is going full OOTP.
   108. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 10:34 AM (#5645519)
I saw a couple of Lester's ST starts on TV and he looked the same, in the sense that was nibbling and over-reliant on generous strike calls. I don't think his stuff is really fooling many guys anymore. So yeah, he'll have games when he pitches better, but this is pretty much what we're going to get from him.

---

I think I've been pretty consistent here on my faith in Schwarber's defense not being comically bad. Yes, there's the occasional real bad play and the more frequent "why didn't he get to that one", but yesterday was the first time in a long time I've really felt like he was a complete disaster. You could see how the misplays bothered him in later plays. I do find it interesting that Maddon put Almora in LF, and not CF while shifting Happ to LF, when going for the defensive replacement.

I saw quite a few people RT this into my timeline:

Joe Sheehan @joe_sheehan 21h21 hours ago

I don't care what Schwarber might hit. Albert Almora is the more valuable player. Get over your crush, #cubs, and play the best players.


Does anyone think that the Cubs are playing someone they really think is a lesser player because they like him? I think it is fair to accuse them of expecting too much out of him, but actually making their team worse for some reason is a step too far.
   109. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: March 30, 2018 at 11:17 AM (#5645581)
Schwarbers bad defense didn't help him, but Lester wasn't making it through 5 innings even with half a dozen Almoras in the OF.

If someone wants to make the case for Almora over Schwarber, I would wait until a game where Almora's glove would have made a bigger difference than Schwarber's bat. Yesterday wasn't it.
   110. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 11:28 AM (#5645603)
I think at best Schwarber's bat was equal to his defense yesterday, but you can probably blame him for at least 2 runs (the first triple would have definitely been an out and he scored, so that's one; I'd have to go through the PBP to see if those later runs still score or not without his shenanigans).

That being said, I still want him in LF damn near everyday, so I'm not trying to make the argument for Almora (or Zobrist) over him.
   111. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 30, 2018 at 11:59 AM (#5645652)
It's not unusual for velocity to be a bit low in March, right?

Possibly, but not even hitting 92? In his first start in 2016 he was consistently hitting 92-93. All of last year his velocity was down -- with the overall good ST numbers I had hoped his velocity was on the rebound.
   112. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 12:24 PM (#5645688)
BTW, Fukudome - still playing.
   113. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 12:30 PM (#5645697)
In today's chatter, I mentioned that I would rather see Heyward sit vs LHP than Schwarber, at least early in the year (and against worse teams), just to see if he's making any improvement vs them. I'm curious to see when both Almora and Happ play who plays CF, if yesterday's defensive subbing was any indication Joe wants Happ to exclusively be a CF (they noted he intentionally didn't play any 2b in spring).

Since Joe likes to play everyone, I almost want to predict Almora gets CF today (and leadoff) against the lefty, with Schwarber in LF and Zobrist in RF. I also mentioned I wonder if Caratini will be Hendricks's personal catcher (Kyle also got Willson right off the bat, and they've said Willson is always catching Lester and Darvish). With those assumptions, I'll predict a lineup today of:

Almora CF
Bryant
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Schwarber
Russell
Caratini
Baez*
Hendricks

*Joe said he liked Baez hitting 8th, so I think he'll be there for a while, but you could in theory flip him and Caratini.
   114. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: March 30, 2018 at 02:02 PM (#5645806)
Almora CF
Bryant
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Schwarber

Russell
Caratini
Baez*
Hendricks

I sure hope this isn't the lineup. I see Almora and Happ as must-starts in the outfield against lefties. They're likely the top 2 hitters and 2 of the top 3 defenders among the available options. Playing Schwarber over Happ against LHP should be punishable as managerial malpractice, even more so after yesterday's misadventures. Zobrist also really struggled against lefties last year (.553 OPS), and while I'm somewhat hopeful that was a fluke, I can't justify batting him cleanup. Assuming Caratini is catching, I'll go with this:

Almora
Bryant
Rizzo
Russell
Happ
Baez
Zobrist
Caratini
Hendricks
   115. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: March 30, 2018 at 02:42 PM (#5645843)
Joe Sheehan @joe_sheehan 21h21 hours ago

I don't care what Schwarber might hit. Albert Almora is the more valuable player. Get over your crush, #cubs, and play the best players.


What Schwarber might hit seems pretty relevant to comparative value.
   116. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: March 30, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5645855)
Zobrist also really struggled against lefties last year (.553 OPS), and while I'm somewhat hopeful that was a fluke, I can't justify batting him cleanup. Assuming Caratini is catching, I'll go with this:


I think it's fair to expect that it was a fluke - prior to 2017, while he doesn't have pronounced splits, he was measurably better against LHP. The splits actually got more pronounced as he got older - until last year when everything did a hard reverse.

In any case, Zo had a wrist problem for a good chunk of last year that actually prevented him from switch-hitting for a good chunk of the season -- I remember there were occasions where the pitcher would have dictated he should have batty lefty, but couldn't. Most prominently, it really sapped his power -- it was all exit velocity/ISO/etc that just really, really cratered against LHP -- I think it was right wrist.
   117. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 03:13 PM (#5645865)
Right, zonk. I don't think there's any reason yet to think Zobrist is done against lefties based on last year's splits (now, he could be closer to done overall, just due to age and whatnot). I don't know that I personally would hit him there, but we do know how much Joe like him in that spot, and even last year when he struggled he still was usually top 5 in the lineup somewhere.

Joe has pretty much said whenever Happ plays, he'll hit leadoff, which I agree with. Like I said, the reason I'd put Schwarber out there still - or at least think Joe will - is because Joe usually lets guys play after bad days like that. Also, it's still early, and everyone always plays, so perhaps it's too soon to pull out the big accusatory guns.

   118. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 30, 2018 at 03:15 PM (#5645867)
During that post, the old twitter machine updated and spits out this lineup:

Almora
Bryant
Rizzo
Contreras
Schwarber
Russell
Zobrist (RF)
Baez
Hendricks

So I overthought Joe by sitting Willson in game 2. I also didn't look at the off day schedule, but this means Willson probably gets Sunday off.
   119. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: April 02, 2018 at 11:08 AM (#5646761)
Can we freak out?

Because that was a shitty, shitty series. For a while Sunday, I figured "OK, well... 3 of 4 on the road to start"... Then Quintana caught whatever infected Darvish and Lester.

Not a good start to the season. A very frustrating start -- bad starts except for Hendricks (and 5 innings of Quintana). I suppose that at least the bullpen certainly had its moments (except for Morrow). Some guys hit the ball hard, but the Cubs couldn't string much together. The defense had some real lapses, virtually undoing some nice plays in the other direction.

Ugh.

The good news - I completed my 2018 OOTP19 playthrough... 103 wins and WS champs, beating the Yankees in 7. The Dodgers broke the regular season record with 118 wins - but got shocked by a not-very-good Giants team (83-79, no other NL team besides the surprising top WC Mets 96-66 was over .500, pushing the Nats 99-63 to the last week of the season). Swept the Nats in the 1st round, would have swept the Giants if not for my own boneheaded managing, then a tight WS - I almost blew a 3-1 series lead - before trouncing the Yankees in game 7.

Contreras had a monster 2nd half again, finishing at 294/371/524 (5.5 WAR, 28 HR/99 RBI). Bryant did NOT have a good second half - still finished at 280/365/510 (36/97, 5.9 WAR). Rizzo hit only 240, but with 94 BBs and his usual 32 HRs was fine. Baez was streaky and ultimately disappointing (239/270/391), which really hurt because Zobrist completely fell apart. For a while, I was playing Happ at 2B (using Teoscar Hernandez, who I picked up from the Jays, in RF with Almora/Schwarbs in the OF - he had a nice year at 275/327/472 with 13 HRs). Russell, though, had a nice bounceback (261/317/469 3.9 WAR). Happ and Almora were an awesome platoon in the 1st half, but they also struggled a bit in August/September (finishing at 269/333/439 and 248/271/390)... though, Happ hit a walkoff homer to beat the Giants 1-0 in the NLCS finale. Schwarbs hit 31 HRs and finished at 263/354/486 (2.4 WAR). Unhappiness aside, Hanley Rameriz from the Heyward swap actually proved useful - even occasionally spelling Rizzo at 1B/Schwarber in LF against LHP - hitting 15 HRs in just 200 PAs.

The pitching held up - it was 2016 all over again, as everyone stayed healthy. Quintana finished 18-10 (3.23), Darvish 18-5 (2.91, 211 Ks in 191 IP) - both tying for the MLB lead in Ws. Lester finished 16-7, 3.08. Hendricks never got going, though - 12-12, 4.71... Chatwood tired in the 2nd half to finish at 12-11, 4.44. The bullpen was lights out thanks to Justin Wilson (31 SVs, 2.11; 2nd to Kenley Janssen in reliever of the year voting) and Edwards (6-1, 6 SVs, 1.51 ERA -- 105 Ks in 65 IP). Morrow was disappointing - he finally got healthy and stopped sucking in the 2nd half, but 9 SVs and 4.01 ERA wasn't stellar. However, I made a deadline deal for the Royal's Kelvin Herrera to shore things up. Another summer deal for DBacks Jared Miller (2.54 ERA, 71 Ks in 51 IP) helped, while Duensing was great as LOOGY. With Miller, Duensing, and Wilson - I also swapped Montgomery to the O's for Dylan Bundy and Bundy was outstanding in a long relief role.

No hardware for anyone - Darvish finished 3rd in CYA voting (Syndegaard won it). Bryant and Contreras way down the MVP leaderboards - Corey Seager (8.9 WAR!) won the MVP. No gold gloves and only Contreras won a silver slugger. Oh, except your humble servant Zonk - who was the NL manager of the year.

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