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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 Season Predictions

I suck at these, but they’re always fun to revisit after the season to get an idea of my state of mind from Spring Training.

1. Bryant will finish top 3 in the MVP voting.  I’ve been saying for years he was going to put together a truly monster season, and he looked on his way last year before his shoulder injury.  I’m talking something .300+/.420/.600.
2. Rizzo’s 5 year OPS+ stops, and he rebounds to a 140ish OPS+ this year (IOW, staying healthy)
3. Baez will keep most of his gains from last year, will actually increase his BB% (40BB, not including IBB), but won’t be as lucky as last year so some might think he’s regressed.
4. Schwarber will hit .250 vs LHP.
5. Almora will start more games than Heyward.
6. Russell will not finish the year with the Cubs.
7. Contreras will be an All-Star again (and deservedly so).
8. Caratini will finish with a higher OPS than Heyward.
9. Zobrist will retire after the season.
10. Quintana will have his best season in a Cubs uniform this year.
11. Hendricks and Darvish will very clearly be the Cubs 2 best SPs. 
12. Montgomery+other SP not currently in rotation will start more games than Lester.
13. The closer at the end of the season is not currently on the Cubs 25 man roster (but might be in their system already)
14. Morrow will appear in more games than Cishek.
15. Last year the Cubs used 28 different pitchers; this year, they’ll use more.  EDIT: 28 includes 5 position players, so 23 pitchers.  I’ll change this to more than 23 pitchers pitching.
16. Happ will have more PAs than Zobrist.
17. The Cubs will add a starting position player before the trading deadline. 
18. As part of the deal for that new position player starter, the Cubs will deal someone that is currently on the 25 man roster.
19. Cubs will finish top 2 in the NL in runs.
20. Cubs will somehow finish in the top 5 in the NL in ERA.
21. Chatwood will not finish the year with the Cubs.
22. The Cubs will be in 3rd place at some point as late as June.
23. The Cubs win their division by 5+ games.
24. The Cubs make another deep playoff run.
25. Joe Maddon will not be the manager in 2020.

Let’s say 94 wins.  Add your win total predictions, plus any other bold ones to this thread.

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: March 27, 2019 at 04:56 PM | 163 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:18 AM (#5834395)
Interestingly, the Cubs are 12-9 now in Chatwood starts since signing him. They're 19-19 in Montgomery starts since he came to the Cubs, on teams that've obviously been way better than .500 overall. Not saying that Chatwood has winning magic or anything like that, just that Monty doesn't actually give them a lot of value in a starting role other than "someone has to do it." A pre-2018 Chatwood, if he can perform at that level, probably gives them roughly the same thing Monty does.

I'm not going to argue the point that much, because I totally agree with this:

I don't feel like either one is a good option, honestly.

And if someone values Monty enough as a starter, have at it. I think the Cubs can be fine with the other LOOGY-type RP, also, so he wouldn't be a huge loss if the Cubs are comfortable with the spot starter options (I'm not).

But...

While Monty wasn't great as a SP last year, he was still clearly significantly better than Chatwood (5-5, 3.69ERA, 2.5 K/BB vs 4-6, 5.16ERA, 0.93 K/BB) - and in his defense, last year was the first time he was a SP for an extended period and not going back and forth from the pen to the rotation. For me, last year's performance for both carries a helluva lot more weight than what either guy did pre-2018, especially Chatwood. I also completely dismiss the 12-9 argument - Cubs went 10-9 in Monty starts last year; most were in the 2nd half with the MIA offense that scored 1.9 runs/game in those 9 losses. The Cubs averaged 7 runs a game in the 12 games the Cubs won in Chatwood's starts.
   102. Meatwad Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:38 AM (#5834407)
Looks like the bnsf line would be best but its an hour or so each way might be easier to just drive. On the plus side it was a free ticket and even better its in section 18.
   103. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:53 AM (#5834413)
While Monty wasn't great as a SP last year, he was still clearly significantly better than Chatwood (5-5, 3.69ERA, 2.5 K/BB vs 4-6, 5.16ERA, 0.93 K/BB) - and in his defense, last year was the first time he was a SP for an extended period and not going back and forth from the pen to the rotation. For me, last year's performance for both carries a helluva lot more weight than what either guy did pre-2018, especially Chatwood. I also completely dismiss the 12-9 argument - Cubs went 10-9 in Monty starts last year; most were in the 2nd half with the MIA offense that scored 1.9 runs/game in those 9 losses. The Cubs averaged 7 runs a game in the 12 games the Cubs won in Chatwood's starts.

Well, sure. The 12-9 thing isn't even an "argument", really, it's just a curiosity. Obviously the Cubs can win with either guy if they're scoring a bunch of runs and will struggle to win with either if they're not.

I'm still not sure how much stock I put in Chatwood's 2018. Pitchers bounce back from bad years all the time, although of course he doesn't have all that great of a level to bounce back to. Obviously I wouldn't suggest that he's some kind of hidden ace, just needing the right circumstances to unleash his secret powers, like pre-Cubs Arrieta or something. But I don't think a low-end-of-cromulence season would be all that surprising either. I guess all I mean is that if they trade one and give the other 15 starts this season, I'd expect the Cubs' overall record to be pretty much the same regardless of which one was dealt and which was kept.

Also, full disclosure - I'm still mad at Montgomery for pitching like ass and breaking my in-person 11-game winning streak last year. Chatwood, on the other hand, was excellent when I went on Sunday. And I ask you, what more do I need to make up my mind?
   104. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5834416)
Meatwad, best of luck. Getting to Wrigley from the far burbs on a weeknight sounds like hell to me, wish I had some suggestions to help out.
   105. Meatwad Posted: April 23, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5834428)
It would be easier to be coming from south bend! I figure going into the city is a hell of a lot easier than leaving it at that time would be but once near wrigley will be hell. Finding parking should be interesting.
   106. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 11:31 AM (#5834433)
Somewhat outside-the-box, but maybe you could try parking at the 35th/Archer station on the Orange Line. It's right off the Stevenson, there's a park-and-ride lot, and the CTA trip to Wrigley from there would be fairly easy.
   107. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5834436)
If you're driving, park west of the stadium if you don't want to pay for it. I don't know if the parking permit zones have changed, but anything west of Lincoln I think should be fair game. So around Paulina/Addison there's usually some places you can park. Then it's a medium to shortish walk east to the stadium. That's what I do (or hop on the brown line at Addison, transfer to red at Belmont - walking is quicker, but less fun for a 7 year old).
   108. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 11:33 AM (#5834437)
Also, full disclosure - I'm still mad at Montgomery for pitching like ass and breaking my in-person 11-game winning streak last year. Chatwood, on the other hand, was excellent when I went on Sunday. And I ask you, what more do I need to make up my mind?

That's how I feel about Lester, no need to say anything else.
   109. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 23, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5834439)
Getting to Wrigley from the far burbs on a weeknight sounds like hell to me, wish I had some suggestions to help out.


When I lived in Schaumburg is was a piece of cake. I lived within walking distance of a Metra station, then a short walk from Union Station to a red line stop.
   110. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5834482)
That's how I feel about Lester, no need to say anything else.

I'm 3-0 in Lester starts. Surprisingly to me, I haven't seen anyone else on the current staff more than once. They won the starts I've seen by Hendricks, Quintana, and Chatwood, and lost the starts by Montgomery and Darvish.

I might need to double-check my log. I can't believe I've only seen Hendricks once, although in the last few years I've racked up quite the murderers row of randos - Rodrigo Lopez, Chris Rusin, Justin Germano, Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman, Tom Gorzelanny, Clayton Richard, Brett Anderson....
   111. Meatwad Posted: April 23, 2019 at 01:32 PM (#5834485)
Brian parking at 35th/archer will work perfect my hotel is right next to 55 so easy on for me.
   112. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 04:21 PM (#5834558)
Barf:

Russell says he talks with his counselor at least two times a week. He says he believes this time away from the mainstream baseball world has been perhaps the best thing that could happen to him.

“I feel like overcoming this challenge has made me much more self-aware,’’ Russell says. “It has taught me to slow things down, reflect, and be a better person. It’s given me a lot of insight on what kind of person I am, and what my goals are moving forward. I can sit back and play baseball, and still reflect and be thankful for the life I live.

“We live and we learn. We’re not going to do things right the first time every single time. I know I didn’t. But the big thing is keep pushing things forward and keep that positive energy going.’’

Russell has since apologized to his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy. She endured physical, mental and emotional abuse during their two-year marriage, she said, which ended in divorce in August.

Russell has three children under the age of 4 with three women from his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., and says he’s learning to be a better partner and father.


That bolded phrase really bugs me; I am on the outside here and don't see the day to day, but I still am not seeing a lot of remorse or even understanding of what happened here. It's like he's saying it's a challenge for him, something that happened to him.

When Woods won the Masters two weeks ago, 11 years after winning his last major tournament, it was as if his transgressions – the cheating on his wife and womanizing – had been forgotten. So many people soaked up the euphoria as Woods hugged his son.

“It was such a huge inspiration seeing him win,’’ Russell says. “All of the stuff he’s been through, the injuries as well, all of the critics and media, and I didn’t really ever see him ever lose his composure.

“It speaks how focused he is on his goals and how he can block things out that really don’t matter. He just went about his business the same way.

"I want to be that person."


---

Tommy Birch @TommyBirch 22m22 minutes ago

I can confirm Addison Russell is joining the Iowa #Cubs tomorrow.


From the story again:

Russell will be eligible to play his first major-league game on May 3, when the Cubs face the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. It'll be Russell's first major-league appearance since Sept. 19, 2018.

“It’s going to hit me,’’ Russell says. "It's going to hit me hard."


My cynical side is nodding, knowing this was all inevitable as long as he checked off every thing on his to do list.
   113. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 04:49 PM (#5834581)
I missed that Rosario was sent down for Mills, but Rosario is back up as Bote is on paternity leave list. Sounds like Lester will be off IL and starting Thursday, and Montgomery made his rehab start so he could also be back soon.
   114. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 04:49 PM (#5834582)
Cool, Meatwad, hope it works out for you.
   115. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 23, 2019 at 04:50 PM (#5834584)
What happens when Russell comes back? Does he go to short and Baez move back to 2B? Is he still the better defender at SS? What happens to Descalso, not to mention Zobrist? Does Russell get traded for a bag of beans ala Castro?
   116. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 05:07 PM (#5834591)
Zagunis back to AAA is the first and most obvious move. There's a small chance that happens before when all the pitchers/Bote come back.

Kinda feels like Heyward is starting pretty regularly in CF these days, so Almora isn't really losing any more PT with this. He'll get starts against LHP and be a defensive replacement. I think I'd be shocked if he were demoted.

Schwarber continues to struggle, I wonder if him getting sent down again is a possibility. I'd guess no, but he'll probably continue to be a straight platoon guy in LF, with Bryant starting there against LHP.

I bet it spells the end of Zobrist in the IF, except for late game switches, etc. He'll start mostly in RF, with Bryant over there on the regular days off he gets (in some cases, it'll be Heyward vs a LHP; Zo won't start 3 days in a row and probably not day game after night game).

I don't think Russell will be handed the starting SS job right off the bat. But he probably does start the majority of time there. Javy plays more 3b again on days Descalso plays.

I think the only guys who will remain regulars are Rizzo, Bryant and Javy (well, and Contreras until he breaks down again and/or Caratini comes back), with the latter 2 moving regularly between 3 spots. Heyward gets the next most starts, then the Zobrist/Descalso/Bote/Russell group all probably get about the same number of starts, with Almora and the backup C the least. I think I'd agree with that approach. I assume there'll be more advanced scouting/platoon type info used to make the specific day to day decisions. Splitting up the PT is something Joe is pretty good at, even if it isn't always obvious at the time.
   117. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 23, 2019 at 05:26 PM (#5834602)
What happens when Russell comes back? Does he go to short and Baez move back to 2B? Is he still the better defender at SS? What happens to Descalso, not to mention Zobrist? Does Russell get traded for a bag of beans ala Castro?


Even trying to set aside the whole "I'd rather not root for a domestic abuser on my favorite team", I'm not entirely sure that Russell deserves to make the Cubs' 25-man roster on merit. I guess over Zagunis as Moses suggests in #116, but the Cubs seem pretty well covered in the middle infield already with Baez, Bote, Descalso, and Zobrist. If Baez were to get hurt, I don't know that I'd want any of those other guys starting at shortstop regularly, but I don't think it's a big deal to have your injury-replacement everyday SS playing at AAA. But admittedly, that's probably clouded somewhat by the opening clause of this paragraph.
   118. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 05:44 PM (#5834610)
You can definitely make the argument his bat would make him eligible for regular playing time in AAA. He still appears to have a floor of around 2 WAR just on his defense though; unlike Happ and Schwarber who need to be hitting to be useful. The Cubs IF defense is probably better with him at SS and Javy at either 2b or 3b than just about any other combo with the existing players.

It's early, but Zo's lack of power (he doesn't have an XBH yet - neither does Almora) is concerning to me. If both of those guys are on the team, they're better off with Russell being the regular and Zo the backup. I don't really know what I think about Descalso's defense yet, but right now I'd say him and Bote should remain ahead of Russell. It's harder to carry multiple offensive zeroes (or near-zeroes) in the lineup regularly, but Russell's defense puts him on the short list of guys who could/potentially should play every day regardless of what he's hitting.

I guess this is a long way of saying I could see them keeping Russell in AAA until his bat shows it should be up, but I remain highly skeptical that he won't be on the 25 man the second he's eligible.
   119. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2019 at 05:53 PM (#5834611)
Even trying to set aside the whole "I'd rather not root for a domestic abuser on my favorite team", I'm not entirely sure that Russell deserves to make the Cubs' 25-man roster on merit. I guess over Zagunis as Moses suggests in #116, but the Cubs seem pretty well covered in the middle infield already with Baez, Bote, Descalso, and Zobrist.

Well ... look, I like Bote as much as the next guy, and Zobrist has earned the benefit of the doubt despite struggling in ways that are extremely concerning for a player his age. But there's no argument for Descalso over Russell. Even last year, when Russell was sort of terrible, he still posted 2.0 bWAR. Descalso for his entire career has 1.9 bWAR, and most of that was last year (1.1).

Russell is an extremely gifted defensive shortstop who is occasionally useful with the bat. Descalso is a throwback to the Jim Hendry era.
   120. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 23, 2019 at 06:01 PM (#5834613)
We live and we learn.
Russell has three children under the age of 4 with three women from his hometown of Pensacola, Fla.
Do we?

I'm just really not looking forward to seeing him get a big standing ovation when he first comes to bat at Wrigley.
   121. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2019 at 06:08 PM (#5834616)
I'm just really not looking forward to seeing him get a big standing ovation when he first comes to bat at Wrigley.

Same. I probably will just skip that game to be safe.
   122. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:13 PM (#5834693)
Does Russell get traded for a bag of beans ala Castro?

Adam Warren had a rotten half-season with the Cubs, but aside from that he's been a good pitcher for essentially his entire MLB career. He's a lot more than a bag of beans.
   123. Meatwad Posted: April 24, 2019 at 12:20 AM (#5834755)
Thanks for the advice Brian, worked great for me. Nice to see the cubs get runs early and not waste the great early at bats. On a side note it seems azteca de ora (cant spell) seems to have improved the food. Top notch dinner before the game.
   124. Brian C Posted: April 24, 2019 at 09:05 AM (#5834791)
Nice, glad that worked out for you!
   125. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 24, 2019 at 04:03 PM (#5834959)
Bote back, Mills down.

Schwarber 5th again today. I'm not exactly sure why, especially after a week when he appeared to be benched (though no one said anything), and he hasn't hit #### since he's been playing again.
   126. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 24, 2019 at 05:04 PM (#5835006)
I understand why the Cubs will keep giving him chances with the current outfield situation. I don't understand why he's hitting in the middle of the order. Oh well, I guess if you buy that batting order doesn't matter much you can argue there's some kind of psychological benefit for Kyle.

Once Russell returns I hope the Cubs find a way to keep Bote in the lineup over Kyle (if it comes down to that choice).
   127. Meatwad Posted: April 24, 2019 at 11:48 PM (#5835147)
I know its a hot month and all but if Heyward is anywhere close to this the rest of the season thats a huge boost to the line up. Bryant seemed to hit better today or at least fewer pop ups. No idea what to think of almora but atleast he can play defense at a premium position.
   128. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5835233)
Something I hadn't even considered in all this Russell discussion is whether the Cubs would just leave Javy at SS and have Russell play 2b. I think the obvious priority is to do whatever it they can to keep Javy happy/comfortable/hot/totally awesome, but at the same time I don't know if that means asking him where he prefers to play or not.

Once Russell returns I hope the Cubs find a way to keep Bote in the lineup over Kyle (if it comes down to that choice).

Yeah, a platoon makes sense, but Bote offers the positive defense.

Speaking of, at some point, if Schwarber isn't hitting, you just have to ride with Almora instead (also not hitting, but gives you the plus defense). I'm very disappointed in myself on completely buying into the Schwarber hype, but also more disappointed this is how his career has turned out. I never know how much to put into the whole "fresh start" narrative, but maybe he is someone who would benefit from playing somewhere with less attention/baggage/hype/etc. Too bad he's not worth very much in a trade.
   129. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 01:14 PM (#5835289)
Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma 23m23 minutes ago

Maddon said that no decisions have been made just yet, but they've started to discuss how to handle Addison Russell's potential return. They will have him play some second in Iowa and will consider many factors when deciding where he plays upon his return.


There you go

Chicago Cubs @Cubs 24m24 minutes ago

The #Cubs today activated LHP Jon Lester off of the 10-day IL. LHP Tim Collins was optioned to @IowaCubs following last night’s game.



EDIT:
Bruce Levine @MLBBruceLevine 11m11 minutes ago

Theo Epstein said it’s not automatic that Addison Russell returns after 7 minor league games . Cubs still hold minor league options on Russell.


Joe sure seems to be talking about Russell as if he'll be back as soon as he'll eligible. But Joe's not the one that has to worry about perception.
   130. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5835302)
We all knew Contreras would start today with Lester pitching, even in a day game after night game. And no one really wants to see Taylor Davis start a game. But when does Willson get a rest? His bat, combined with a bunch of other guys hitting, makes it hard for the offense if he's out.

He's started every game since Caratini has been hurt, and has caught every inning but 1 (he was pulled before the 9th of the 6-0 loss to the DBacks this weekend). He's appeared in 21 of the Cubs' 22 games, starting 19 of them (the 2 he didn't start, he still caught after PH or double switching in). He's only 6th in innings caught, but everyone ahead of him has had more team games (Yadi, Realmuto, Grandal, Navarez, Maldonado). I think it was a failure of the FO that they couldn't get a veteran catcher on minor league deal, even if it was a show of faith in Caratini.
   131. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5835311)
The Cubs just tweeted out Javy's splits, highlighting that he has a 1.417OPS on 0-2 counts (his HR last night was 0-2). I also forgot to post this the other night:

Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma Apr 23

Also, that's another hit on a pitch way out of the zone for Javy. That's six hits on what Statcast defines as "waste" or "chase" on the year. Next closest is Rafael Devers with four.


   132. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 25, 2019 at 02:00 PM (#5835313)
Steve Clevenger is available. Racist, but available
   133. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 25, 2019 at 02:21 PM (#5835323)
OK, how many Cubs backup catchers can we name off the top of our heads?

Chris Gimenez
Rene Rivera
Alex Avila
Dioner Navarro
Steve Clevenger
David Ross
Koyie Hill
Steve Federowicz
Henry Blanco
Paul Bako
Steve Lake
Steve Christmas (!!)
Damon Berryhill
Hector Villanueva
   134. Brian C Posted: April 25, 2019 at 02:36 PM (#5835333)
I feel like you skipped the 90s and Aughts almost altogether there, but I'm having a hard time thinking of more.

Erik Pappas
Tyler Houston
Robert Machado

That's all I got.
   135. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 03:19 PM (#5835352)
Steve Federowicz

And his brother, Tim.

   136. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2019 at 04:49 PM (#5835421)
Christopher Kamka @ckamka 53m53 minutes ago

#Cubs starting pitching last 12 games:
1.68 ERA, 75.0 IP, 21 BB, 82 K, 0.920 WHIP


Didn't comment on it last night, but Hamels 6 BBs last night actually didn't bother me that much. He was close, and the Dodgers don't chase. It wasn't ideal, and Joe did leave him in a batter or two too long.
   137. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 26, 2019 at 09:31 AM (#5835573)
LaStella already has 7 HRs for the Angels?!?!?!?! He had 9 total in his 4 years here.
   138. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 28, 2019 at 03:05 PM (#5836119)
Mills came up for Rosario Friday, but probably goes down soon when Monty is back. We got the full Mills experience too.

...

A pretty incredible thing happened with the Cubs lineup today. Joe Maddon determines who's playing in each series before it begins and tells the players ahead of time. David Bote was not supposed to be playing today but after hitting 2 long home runs on Saturday, the player who was supposed to play — very likely its Ben Zobrist — went to Maddon, along with other vets, and said Bote should be in there. He's batting fifth and Zobrist is sitting.


I mean this whole series lineup thing never made sense.
   139. Brian C Posted: April 28, 2019 at 09:50 PM (#5836203)
That Cubs game today was certainly a thing.
   140. Spahn Insane Posted: April 29, 2019 at 09:18 AM (#5836258)
Looking at TLS's bbref page...I didn't know he went to Coastal Carolina. Had I known he was a Chanticleer, I probably would've appreciated him more.

Only 0.5 WAR so far despite the hot start with the bat (he's got more homers than Trout!), with -0.3 dWAR. As we all knew, he's not much in the field.
   141. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 29, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5836294)
That Cubs game today was certainly a thing.

The offense had been doing a good job of capitalizing on those chances, but yesterday's performance was maddening. Q was really good, and his mistakes cost him. The pen was also pretty good, for the most part.
   142. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2019 at 06:15 PM (#5836893)
   143. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2019 at 08:21 PM (#5836934)
Ian Happ over his last 10 games (43 PAs):

.265/.419/.471
21% BB
14% K


...

Since April 7 – the day after the Cubs significantly shook up the early-season bullpen by optioning Carl Edwards Jr. and placing Mike Montgomery on the Injured List – the Cubs bullpen has a 2.00 ERA. That mark is THE BEST IN BASEBALL BY 0.38 RUNS, AND THERE IS ONLY ONE OTHER TEAM UNDER 3.00! Did I type that loudly enough?

Oh, also … THEY HAVE THE BEST FIP IN BASEBALL DURING THAT STRETCH, TOO. I AM TYPING LOTS OF THINGS LOUDLY.

Interestingly, the primary way the Cubs are pulling this off is by holding down home runs to an extreme extent – not a bad trick in an offensive environment where home runs are exploding and everyone is trying to hit them. The Cubs bullpen’s groundball rate since April 7 is an unthinkably high 53.5%, nearly SIX PERCENTAGE POINTS HIGHER than the next team in baseball.


SSS alert

...

Cubs to option Addison Russell to Triple-A come Friday, per Theo.
   144. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5837115)
“The decision to option him is clearly a baseball decision,” Epstein said. “I don’t want that to be misconstrued. Of course, there are other considerations. By indicating a willingness to bring him back to the big leagues when he’s ready from a baseball standpoint, that doesn’t mean that he’s sort of at the finish line of his work off the field. I said the other day and I stand by it, there’s really no finish line. It’s a long-term process of the work he’s putting in to grow as a person.”

“I do think it’s appropriate to note that there has been progress,” Epstein said. “Even as there’s a tremendous amount of work ahead of him, he’s put a lot of work in. As he needed to. Talking to him and more importantly, talking to the people in his life, they noticed improvements in the way he’s handling himself in important situations. Improvements in the relationships, the way he’s functioning as a father and a partner. I think those are all good signs.”


This feels a little mixed messagey from Theo. By letting him go to AAA for "rehab" or whatever they're calling it as soon as he was eligible, was kind of a sign that the org is saying he's done everything they've asked of him. I get the point Theo's try to make that it's not like he's cured or fixed or anything, but at the same time he can't really say it's purely a baseball decision and there are other considerations. I do wonder if Theo's having second thoughts on keeping him around.

Brandon Morrow, who had a setback on his recovery from an elbow injury earlier in the month, will go on the 60-day injured list to make room for Russell. The Cubs will have to make another 40-man decision when minor-leaguer Oscar De La Cruz is reinstated from a PED suspension.

Morrow had an Symvisc injection in his elbow Monday, a joint lubricant to help the healing. He’ll be shut down for two to three weeks before restarting his throwing program. Epstein didn’t give a timetable for his return, but assuming no more setbacks, a realistic goal may not be until late June or in July and the All-Star break.


Blech
   145. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 01, 2019 at 11:08 AM (#5837130)
assuming no more setbacks
I assume he's banned from wearing pants for the next couple months.
   146. Zonk Totally Exonerated by Total BS Posted: May 01, 2019 at 11:13 AM (#5837133)
Assuming I win the lottery with a ticket I have not purchased, I look forward to this being my last day of working.
   147. Spahn Insane Posted: May 01, 2019 at 12:19 PM (#5837183)
Morrow has thrown his last pitch in a Cub uniform.
   148. Zonk Totally Exonerated by Total BS Posted: May 01, 2019 at 12:49 PM (#5837204)
Hey, they were 30 - almost 31! - very fine innings.... Very expensive, but very good!
   149. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 01, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5837208)
I do wonder if Theo's having second thoughts on keeping him around.

I'm not sure these would be second thoughts. If the Cubs are going to trade him it's in their interest to stand behind him and improve his image to the extent possible.

Although if that's the case I am surprised that Bote hasn't gotten more time at second base.
   150. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2019 at 01:25 PM (#5837218)
I think if Almora or Schwarber were hitting anything, we'd be seeing him more there.
   151. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2019 at 06:10 PM (#5837381)
Given how much we've talked about the pitching improving after that first week+ (maybe mainly me, but still), plus how much we've talked about Heyward, just wanted to point out since his 2HR game (4/6), he's hitting .278/.429/.407, with a 14/11 BB/K ration. I refused, and still refuse, to think the power is real. However, that version of Heyward is still a huge plus, and that's probably the guy who should be hitting leadoff. I only point that out because his overall numbers have been slowly declining, but mostly because I was shocked to see that he's only tied for 7th on the Cubs in bWAR (with Bote and Quintana), with Rizzo and Bryant both finally passing him.

Javy is on pace for a 10 bWAR season. I wonder if he needs a day off, or if he'll even get one before Russell comes back. He had 5 non-IBB BBs in March/April (2 IBB), which very well might be a career high month for him, but I'm not checking (he had 21 all last season, so he's slowly upping that rate).

   152. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2019 at 01:41 PM (#5837637)
After yesterday's laugher, the Cubs now have the 2nd best run diff (+38), behind only the Rays (+40) who have played 2 more games than the Cubs; Cards and Dodgers are right behind the Cubs at +36, but both have played at least 2 more games than the Cubs.

Cubs are first in the NL in R/G (3rd overall) and 2nd overall in OBP. Even after that horrific opening road trip, the Cubs are up to 13th in fewest RA/G (FIP is also 13th); overall they're still walking too many guys (3rd highest BB9).

Lester was amazing yesterday, and was really good in his first start off the IL. It's early, but his FIP is over a full run lower than last year, plus his K% is up, BB% and H% both way down - he's basically 2016 Lester so far. IOW, this looks like less of a mirage than last year. Quintana also has appeared to turn back into what he was when the Cubs traded for him, and Hamels has not turned back into a pumpkin. It's probably too much to ask for both Hendricks and Darvish to go back to themselves; it does look like Hendricks' underlying numbers are fine, but his BABIP is out of this world at .405 so I'm guessing he's been a little unlucky (though to my eye, he had been giving up more hard contact, similar to early last year) and he'll eventually be fine.
   153. Brian C Posted: May 02, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5837645)
Also, they've played 11 straight games against teams with a winning record and gone 8-3. After the swept the Marlins, the general feeling seemed to be, well, they had just finished up a soft part in their schedule. But they've kept playing well even when the schedule got tougher.

I wasn't hugely concerned by the poor opening road trip, but I'm still kinda surprised by how thorough the turnaround has been. Since their home opener, they've been straight-up dominant.

Gotta beat the Cards now, though. ####'s about to get real.
   154. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2019 at 02:01 PM (#5837654)
I know the M's and DBacks have been fine so far, but no one really expected either to be any good this year/they both made tons of rebuilding moves. I expect both are going to end up below .500, so no one will really look back and think of this week as a hard stretch, at least not how we might be now. Doesn't take a ton away from how well the Cubs are playing top to bottom (they could probably stand to have fewer errors, but the defense has been good overall).
   155. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 02, 2019 at 02:10 PM (#5837658)
I have complete faith in Hendricks. I wish I had any faith at all in Darvish right now. He doesn't look like he's anywhere close to figuring out his command.

But I would be quite happy with only one starting pitcher foundering this year. The Cubs carry a lot of risk in that rotation.
   156. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2019 at 04:12 PM (#5837719)
To be clear, I completely agree with you, Pops, and it's what I was trying to get at in my last post.

---

Michael Cerami @Michael_Cerami 2h2 hours ago

Since his 3 strikeout game on April 18th, Ian Happ was 10 walks (20.8BB%) and just 6 strikeouts (12.5K%) in 48 plate appearances.

He's slashing .237/.396/.421.

An unusually low BABIP is suppressing that batting average, if you're wondering. He's clearly seeing the ball well.

Michael Cerami @Michael_Cerami 2h2 hours ago

Of course, Happ has sorta always seen the ball well. Pitch recognition wasn't really the issue, contact was. We don't have as much insight into more specific data right now, but I'll take that 12.5% strikeout rate over ~50 plate appearances as a very good sign.

Michael Cerami @Michael_Cerami 2h2 hours ago

With a more normal BABIP, I think his overall production would look a heckuva lot better. A few more weeks with no strikeouts and that good of zone management and we might have Happ back up in Chicago.

Alex Cohen @voiceofcohen 2h2 hours ago

Furthermore: Happ has not struck out in his last 27 plate appearances. Last strikeout was 4/26 against NAS.


At some point, it might make more sense for him to be on the roster than Zagunis, but of course, you don't have to worry about getting Zagunis ABs. I think Descalso is also probably better off in more limited doses.

---

Javy is awesome.

---

We got the good Maples last night, the kind that really makes me dream on him as a dominating closer.
   157. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 02, 2019 at 04:26 PM (#5837724)
It is amazing how far Javy has come from the guy who was making 40+ errors a year in the minors and then striking out in almost half of his PAs after his callup.

It is almost unbelievable that a guy so prone to mistakes has become maybe the headiest player in MLB.
   158. Brian C Posted: May 02, 2019 at 04:27 PM (#5837726)
My feeling on Zagunis is that he basically adds nothing except a warm body. He can take a walk (or at least he could in the minors), but he strikes out too much for someone with limited power, so he's not a great option as a pinch-hitter. And he's flat unplayable in the field. The sooner the Cubs can get an upgrade for the bench, the better.
   159. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 02, 2019 at 04:43 PM (#5837732)
We got the good Maples last night, the kind that really makes me dream on him as a dominating closer.


I saw that tweet last night. My favorite is the third pitch, where not only the batter flinches but so does Contreras as he's catching the ball.
   160. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2019 at 05:28 PM (#5837743)
Contreras just flat out missed catching a few other pitches of Maples.

I just love the swing and reaction from EE on the last one that strikes him out. The first pitch of the AB totally ruined the rest of the AB, he had no chance.
   161. Meatwad Posted: May 04, 2019 at 11:53 PM (#5838491)
I expect the cubs to be in first place when they meet the brewers friday even if they lose tomorrow. 4 against the marlins should be easy killing for them.
   162. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 05, 2019 at 01:11 AM (#5838503)
The Cubs allowed 71 runs in their first 10 games. They then allowed 56 in the next 20.
   163. Walt Davis Posted: May 06, 2019 at 03:46 AM (#5838673)
Now first in MLB in run differential and the teams that are close have more games in hand.

The games in hand thing worries me a bit. This happened last year too and we ended up with that 1 day off in 1.5 months (or whatever it was) to end the season. Brewers and Dodgers both have 5 (!) games in hand on the Cubs, Cards 3. Have we had more rainouts than I realize?

On Schwarber ... while I was certainly hoping and really expecting something better than this, I hate to say I told you so ... OK "speculated a reasonably high probability of ..." Still, I think this is mostly just a bit of a slump and the power will bounce back. I have kinda suggested all along that he and the Cubs should embrace his TTO nature rather than continuing to think he's supposed to be some sort of LD machine. This year he's hitting way too many GB although this is partially balanced by a lower pop-up rate. His defense has also been fine this year (and Rfield and Statcast agree) although in limited opportunities. I certainly would not have guessed that Joey Gallo would be the more consistent player but here we are.

Still, if anybody is gonna be the next David Ortiz or at least Oscar Gamble, Schwarber seems a pretty good bet. (Jesus the game has changed -- Gamble BBd more than he Kd.)

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