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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Monday, June 11, 2018

Clicking

Although it was another poor weekend for the offense, it’s hard not to like how a lot of things are starting to look like they’re coming together for the Cubs right now.  This year’s team looks more like the 2016 version than the 2017 version, although there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned about the rotation.  We’re starting to see games where it’s one phase of the team that really shines - be it the defense or baserunning - in ways we really didn’t see last year.  So all in all, it’s hard to not be happy with how things sit today, even if there are still things that can be improved.  To the bullets

Encouraging

Rizzo - Since bottoming out on 4/30 at .149/.259/.189 with 15/4 K/BB, Rizzo is hitting .302/.388/.579 with 15/20 K/BB.  His seasons numbers still look off because of how bad that first month was, but he’s been outstanding for quite some time now.  He’s actually been the most consistent offensive player since he got past that back problem/whatever else was going on.
Contreras - He bottomed out on 5/7 at .230/.315/.354 (23/9 K/BB), but is hitting .344/.439/.578 since (19/14 K/BB).  That one great weekend against the Sox is still carrying a lot of water for him, since he hasn’t homered since 5/12. 
Almora - He didn’t start nearly as slow as Rizzo or Contreras, but since he’s been playing more regularly (though honestly he still should be playing more than he is) he’s been better; since May 9 (27 games played and 19 starts) he’s at .364/.418/.500 with 15/8 K/BB.
Zobrist - Since he came off the early DL stint (4/28), he’s at .280/.368/.424.  I’ve said it before, but I’m glad last year appears to be more of an injury than a cliff situation.
Lester - His FIP is continuing to drop after some initial concerns about his underlying stats.  In his last 8 games, he has a 1.63 ERA in 49 2/3 IP, with a 44/17 K/BB and only 4 HRs allowed.
Hendricks - His improvement hasn’t been as dramatic, but his last 8 starts (50 2/3 IP) have been a 3.38 ERA with 38/10 K/BB.  His problem this year is HRs though; 12 total and 7 in those last 8. 
Bullpen - There really isn’t anyone to single out either as an outlier, just about everyone has been really good lately.  Duensing has been charged with runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances, so maybe he’s a little shaky now.  Even Wilson has been good lately; since his Reds meltdown, he hasn’t allowed a run and has only allowed 3 hits with a 15/5 K/BB rate in 9 1/3 IP. 

Maybe concerning

Bryant - His last HR was on 5/14, and since then he’s hitting .322/.396/.400.  Outside of the lack of power (and the 25/10 K/BB), that’s fine; but he’s not going to win an MVP award by being a great singles hitter though.
Baez - It seems kinda silly to focus so much on the walk rate with him, although it’s obvious that’s the difference between him being Javy and being an All Star caliber player.  Since May 1st, he’s border on bad with the bat at .234/.242/.452, although the defense and magic are still there. 
Quintana - He just seems to be mixing bad starts with good ones, and for someone who seems to be considered pretty damn consistent, it’s out of character.  I think he’ll be fine and there’s plenty to like, and it’s not like there’s an obvious problem I can see. 

It is what it is

Heyward - .336/.361/.515 since the DL is real, but it’s just a matter of when it goes back to bad, not if.
Chatwood - He’s new to this bottom section, and there’s nothing really more to say about these walks.  They’re terrible, and the jump from last year is still inexplicable, but I’ve started expecting it from him.

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 11, 2018 at 06:03 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 11, 2018 at 06:53 AM (#5689438)
I guess I could also point out I'm a little worried about Happ's BA, though his OBP is obviously fine. Russell has been in and out, and banged up, but there's good signs there too. Schwarber is Schwarber.
   2. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 11, 2018 at 09:20 AM (#5689464)
I guess I could also point out I'm a little worried about Happ's BA, though his OBP is obviously fine.

I'm (more than) a little worried about his K rate, which was already quite high last year (31.1%), and is now at 40%. To put that in perspective, last season Schwarber had a 31% K rate. Pro-rating to 600 PAs, Happ is on track to strike out 200 times -- not that he's likely to get to 600 PAs under those circumstances.

And before somebody says it, I understand that the cost of a K versus other outs is marginal -- high K rates are a sign of a problem, not a symptom. And that problem is the league knows Ian Happ will swing at a forehead-height fastball.

Heyward - // since the DL is real, but it’s just a matter of when it goes back to bad, not if.

This may be true, but his K rate is down -- that may be attributable to adjustments in his swing or something, but he's also hitting the ball in the air more. His BABIP is up but not absurdly so (.292). I am happy for him to be something other than an automatic out.

Chatwood - He’s new to this bottom section, and there’s nothing really more to say about these walks. They’re terrible, and the jump from last year is still inexplicable, but I’ve started expecting it from him.

He's always been like this (lousy command, but his stuff is often good enough to make up for it), and while his current walk rate is ridiculous, it's not shocking based on his overall track record, which is merely bad. The overall result has been okay but it's hard to imagine him walking a man an inning the entire season.

Lester - His FIP is continuing to drop after some initial concerns about his underlying stats. In his last 8 games, he has a 1.63 ERA in 49 2/3 IP, with a 44/17 K/BB and only 4 HRs allowed.

My concern with Lester remains velocity, which has been pretty decent lately. It's still down from 2016, but he knows how to pitch with a 92 mph fastball, but it doesn't really work when his fastball is at 90-91. My real fear is wearing him out as the season progresses. Anyway, so far he's been classic Lester, tricking hitters into making bad contact/striking out.
   3. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 11, 2018 at 09:44 AM (#5689472)
Heyward - // since the DL is real, but it’s just a matter of when it goes back to bad, not if.

Meant to fill that in before I posted, oops. Didn't realize it until you quoted it.

I'm (more than) a little worried about his K rate, which was already quite high last year (31.1%), and is now at 40%. To put that in perspective, last season Schwarber had a 31% K rate. Pro-rating to 600 PAs, Happ is on track to strike out 200 times -- not that he's likely to get to 600 PAs under those circumstances.

After he lost the full time job, he had a stretch in there where he cut down on them some, but it's gone back up. Slicing and dicing his season*, you've got 25Ks in his first 49 ABs (.202/.264/.367)...actually, it's really hard to find any stretch where he's not consistently striking out. It's just that even when he seems to be going good - like since his great weekend in Cinci - his line is so weird: .213/.448/.511 with 22/20 K/BB ratio in 67PAs. Even if you took away the 6IBBs, that's just hard to do; either he's striking out or he's on base (he also is in a bit of a homerless stretch with his last one coming in the 9th as a PH in a blowout loss to the Indians on 5/22).

*Which there really isn't a reason to do that I can think of, but I do remember reading (and maybe even posting) about his K rate declining somewhere in the middle there even though I can't really find where it is.

while his current walk rate is ridiculous, it's not shocking based on his overall track record, which is merely bad

I dunno; his BB/9 last year was a career high 4.69 and this year he's at 8.64. I would consider that increase shocking. But also nearly impossible.
   4. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 11, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5689512)
Without a doubt it's a personal record for Chatwood to give up 56 walks in 58 IP, but he's had stretches like this. Last year in a stretch of five starts he gave up 22 walks in 21 IP, after which he was DL'd and taken out of the rotation for a couple of weeks. That was when Colorado's season was starting to fall apart. I think what's shocking is that Maddon is giving him an opportunity to stay in these games where he's walking everybody. They're paying him a lot of money and the Cubs are 6-6 in his starts, so they likely have some patience left.

We certainly agree that this is not sustainable.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 11, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5689552)
I am happy for him to be something other than an automatic out.
Heyward's OPS+ is up to 98 as of today. I think he's been this close to 100 as a Cub once before, but it's looking like there is a real possibility that he spends at least one day as an average offensive player in a Cubs uniform. That's...something.
   6. Zonk cooks his superfish with raisins Posted: June 11, 2018 at 11:19 AM (#5689559)
Heyward's OPS+ is up to 98 as of today. I think he's been this close to 100 as a Cub once before, but it's looking like there is a real possibility that he spends at least one day as an average offensive player in a Cubs uniform. That's...something.


It's like trying to pet a terrified rabbit... I'm trying to figure out whether the best answer is to be really quiet, say soothing things, or otherwise not frighten him back down into the rabbit hole of suck.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 11, 2018 at 11:22 AM (#5689564)
It's like trying to pet a terrified rabbit... I'm trying to figure out whether the best answer is to be really quiet, say soothing things, or otherwise not frighten him back down into the rabbit hole of suck.
This is excellently true.
   8. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 11, 2018 at 04:31 PM (#5689874)
Alex Cohen 3h3 hours ago

#Cubs fans -- time to keep an eye @IowaCubs RHP Dillon Maples, who struck out the side in order in the 7th inning for his 4th save of the season in Game 1 of today's DH. Last 6 outings for Maples: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 13 K, 0 BB. Now 36 strikeouts in 20.2 IP this season. #EverybodyIn


He still had 19BBs (and 33Ks) in 19.2IP coming into today. So he was uberChatwoody until this small stretch.
   9. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 11, 2018 at 04:33 PM (#5689878)
Today's lineup (I enjoy seeing this weeks after the games are over) against a RHP

Almora
Heyward
Bryant
Rizzo
Contreras
Schwarber
Baez
Russell
Quintana
   10. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: June 11, 2018 at 05:43 PM (#5689890)
He still had 19BBs (and 33Ks) in 19.2IP coming into today. So he was uberChatwoody until this small stretch.

13 Ks and 0 BBs is impressive in any stretch.
   11. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 11, 2018 at 08:13 PM (#5689951)
It's like trying to pet a terrified rabbit... I'm trying to figure out whether the best answer is to be really quiet, say soothing things, or otherwise not frighten him back down into the rabbit hole of suck.
Well, he got a hit in his first AB...do we say anything?
   12. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 11, 2018 at 08:31 PM (#5689959)
13 Ks and 0 BBs is impressive in any stretch.

The Ks part is. In terms of the walks, it will be awhile before I'm willing to overlook the preceding 259 career innings where he posted a 5.8 BB/9IP.
   13. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 03:19 AM (#5690124)
Site was briefly down here yesterday before I went to sleep (here being Poland), so I couldn't post the Mazzoni for Bass roster swap. Bass was another guy that got talked up a little in ST (only other guy talked about yet to make an appearance is Simmons), but once again I'm a little surprised it wasn't Hancock again. Also, outside of that great game in Queens, Ferrell isn't really seem to be as good as someone like Hancock. Bass wasn't on the 40 man, so Butler moved to the 60 day DL (and there hasn't been a peep about his status or him rehabbing, which is a little odd).

Rosario appears to be something beyond just useful though, even if his K and BB rates aren't quite pretty. Though SSS for both sides.
   14. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 03:26 AM (#5690125)
...oh, and back in first place, with best record in the NL.

And this Heyward thing is still happening, huh?

Daren Willman @darenw 4h4 hours ago

Jason Heyward's hard hit % by season:
2018 42.6%
2017 30.9%
2016 30.9%
2015 36.3%
   15. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 04:35 AM (#5690128)
This is all from an article after Sunday's game (Athletic):

The pitching staff has a 3.21 ERA, second-best in baseball behind the Houston Astros’ 2.93. But Cubs pitchers lead all of baseball with an 11.3 percent walk rate and they’re striking out just 22.9 percent, which is middle of the pack.

The Cubs need Tyler Chatwood to find the strike zone much more often. If you remove his unacceptable 20.7 percent walk rate, the Cubs, as a staff, drop to third in baseball with a 10.1 percent walk rate.


So while there are still other guys walking too many people (Wilson - though he has been better lately, Duensing, Cishek), it's still crazy to see how much Chatwood impacts that ranking.

---

Also, Baez hitting leadoff didn't fix him - and since Bryant* still hasn't homered, it didn't fix him either; time for a new trick, Joe:

Báez is out of sorts. On Sunday, he saw 16 pitches in four plate appearances. Only four of those were in the zone, and only one really over the heart of the plate (which he put in play and reached on an error). Of the 12 pitches he saw out of the zone, he swung at eight of them. He also managed to take two strikes.


So it was good to see (in the boxscore) him get a couple hits and a walk yesterday.

I also see (in the highlights) that Willson just missed a HR, well robbed of one.

Since that week when the Cubs cleaned up against the Miami Marlins and White Sox, they have a .141 ISO, 23rd in baseball. This team was built around offense, a slugging group that was expected to mature this season into a combination of power, patience and a skillset that would allow them to use the whole field and put the ball in play when the situation dictated it. They’re doing nearly all of those things, but in an era where power is at an all-time high, the Cubs are suddenly lacking in it.


The Cubs have been very good in this stretch. If they can add the power to everything else that's working...

*Bryant's BA is now down to .286, Heyward is up to .281. What a crazy world (plus Bryant had his first GIDP of the year). Plus:

For the season, Bryant has a 116 wRC+ against righties. His overall numbers are elevated by the fact that he has an insane 266 wRC+ facing lefties. Those numbers against righties, while not bad, aren’t very Bryant-like. Jason Heyward, who is having a nice bounce-back year, has a 125 wRC+ against righties.


Again, doesn't include yesterday's game.

---

the Cubs’ defense right now, which leads baseball with a .738 defensive efficiency, is keeping the staff’s BABIP to a league-best .262. The defense is getting help from the pitchers, who are allowing a 19.9 percent soft-contact rate, fourth-best in baseball.


FG's defense stats don't really like Rizzo or Baez (or really Heyward) this year, but really likes Almora and Russell (it's higher on Schwarber than Heyward).
   16. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 04:40 AM (#5690129)
FG updated their prospect rankings. Both Ademan and Alzolay were honorable mentions before (they only ranked a 100) and here they're at 104 and 116. Although:

Tommy Birch @TommyBirch 7:37 PM - Jun 11, 2018

#Cubs top prospect Adbert Alzolay not expected to return from the disabled list until after the All-Star break. An update on his progress: http://dmreg.co/2JEVoeb


Bummer. From the link:

Despite the inconsistencies, Madison said Alzolay had been knocking on the door of his first big-league promotion before landing on the disabled list.

“He’s so close to the big leagues and helping if there was a need,” Madison said. “So, definitely disappointing, but he’s going to work his butt off and do everything he can to get back and get back to being 100 percent. Hopefully we can get past this and not have to worry about these types of things anymore."
   17. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 05:11 AM (#5690130)
I feel like I need a little more info/context here, but it does line up with what I think - teams shift too aggressively against the Cubs.
   18. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 06:50 AM (#5690136)
WTF - right now all of my comments are showing up as [ Ignored Comment ], but I am not ignoring myself.

Testing. EDIT: Now they're not. Anyone else that happen to them yet? I emailed Jim about 10 times for the login problem, with nothing changing, so hopefully that was just a weird glitch.
   19. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 09:05 AM (#5690192)
Reading this and now I'm disappointed the Pirates have gone hunting after Rizzo yet. I mean, how'd they not hit him already:

“That’s how the game is played,” Musgrove said of retaliating. “You’re willing to go out and hit somebody, you’ve got to be willing to deal with might come with that, putting the leadoff runner on base, especially late in the game like that. You don’t want to start a rally.”


Dumbasses.
   20. Zonk cooks his superfish with raisins Posted: June 12, 2018 at 09:10 AM (#5690196)
WTF - right now all of my comments are showing up as [ Ignored Comment ], but I am not ignoring myself.


Your first comment originally showed up as [Ignored Comment] for me when you started the new thread... I thought you were joking - though it shows up now.

I think there's only one answer: Gonfalon Cubs is haunted. Or maybe Heyward's suck has left his body and inhabited it. If the latter, I vote we just bear with it.
   21. Charles S. is a big fan of Outerbridge Horsey Posted: June 12, 2018 at 10:23 AM (#5690261)
I think there's only one answer:
The other possibility is that one of Moses' previous BTF handles has taken over part of his brain and is at war with the current Moses.
   22. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: June 12, 2018 at 10:45 AM (#5690286)
I think Heyward's recent success broke BBREF. They still haven't updated from last nights games. Sean must be frantically wrestling with the database algorithm to make it put a 3 digit number under his OPS+ against all logic.
   23. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 12, 2018 at 10:47 AM (#5690288)
Heh, I noticed that too, Miserlou.
   24. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 12, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5690322)
I think Heyward's recent success broke BBREF. They still haven't updated from last nights games. Sean must be frantically wrestling with the database algorithm to make it put a 3 digit number under his OPS+ against all logic.


Fangraphs has updated and Heyward has a wRC+ of 106! The only Cub with more than 69 plate appearances this season and a wRC+ below 100 is Addison Russell at 93 - which is probably above average for a shortstop, certainly for a shortstop who fields as well as Russell - in fact, Fangraphs shows Russell at -1.8 Batting runs but +1.9 baserunning runs, so he's basically average offensively even before the positional adjustment (+2.3). The Cubs' only offensive hole appears to be backup catcher!
   25. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: June 12, 2018 at 03:11 PM (#5690559)
BBREF STILL hasn't updated the Cubs page. it's got to be Heyward related.

edit: or net neutrality related.
   26. Brian C Posted: June 12, 2018 at 04:46 PM (#5690678)
It's updated now.

We're exactly 7/18 of the way through the season, so here are some leaders in Cubs counting stats (and next closest follower):

RBI: Baez, Rizzo - 46 (Bryant - 29)
R: Baez - 37 (Bryant, Almora - 36)
PA: Bryant - 270 (Rizzo - 246)
H: Bryant - 65 (Almora - 60)
HR: Baez - 14 (Rizzo, Schwarber - 11)

W: Lester - 7 (Quintana - 6)
L: Hendricks - 6 (Quintana, Chatwood - 4)
G: Cishek - 31 (Duensing - 29)
IP: Hendricks - 77.2 (Lester - 77.0)
K: Quintana - 70 (Lester - 66)

So the question is, who would we predict to be leading at the end of the season? My picks:

RBI: Rizzo
R: Bryant
PA: Bryant
H: Bryant
HR: Rizzo

W: Lester
L: Quintana
G: Cishek
IP: Quintana
K: Quintana

Hendricks has had just brutal luck, by the way, with those losses - he has 4 losses in games when he had a positive WPA.
   27. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 12, 2018 at 05:00 PM (#5690690)
Psst!

Hey guys...

Guys...
   28. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 13, 2018 at 03:55 AM (#5691005)
Looks like this was a good game for me to not have seen.
   29. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 13, 2018 at 07:02 AM (#5691013)
BB-ref updated on time today, and Heyward back to 100OPS+. Which again, is still a miracle.
   30. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 13, 2018 at 09:06 AM (#5691045)
Chicago Cubs @Cubs 5m5 minutes ago

Wishing a happy birthday to #Cubs all-time holds leader, @pstrop46! #EverybodyIn


Cubs. All. Time. Holds. Leader.
   31. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 13, 2018 at 09:35 AM (#5691063)
BB-ref updated on time today, and Heyward back to 100OPS+. Which again, is still a miracle.

Not sure about OPS+, but his OPS of .751 is right around high water marks he hit mid-season last year. I think this feels different because he's been pretty clutch, and of course, he's hit .338/.366/.506 in the last four weeks. I don't think he's had a month like this in his time as a Cub, so maybe there's your miracle.
   32. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 13, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5691245)
Getaway day lineup, plus the slumping Bryant gets time to rest his hangover.

Zobrist 2b
Heyward
TLS 3b
Rizzo
Happ CF
Schwarber
Baez SS
Gimenez
Montgomery
   33. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2018 at 10:29 PM (#5691789)
Cubs. All. Time. Holds. Leader.

I think I stumbled across this in the offseason when he was still second but clearly on his way to the top.
   34. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 14, 2018 at 04:57 AM (#5691869)
Yikes, seems like the offense usually gives us warning signs that it's about to stall, but the Cubs still squeak out a couple of wins before it totally shuts down. The 5 run 11th the other day may have been a brief hiccup of life before the shut down the last 2 days. They of course had plenty of chances yesterday, but...

From during the game:
Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma 13h13 hours ago

Since Kris Bryant's last home run on May 14, the Cubs as a team have a .134 ISO, 26th in baseball. So more of those doubles by Javy and the like would be welcome for this group.


I'm also not completely sure what to make of Montgomery's success as a starter

Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 12h12 hours ago

Montgomery in four starts this season 1.14 ERA. In his last 11 starts 1.99 ERA.


And while I appreciate the idea that Maddon wanted to give Bryant the entire day off, Gimenez hitting in the 9th was just....
   35. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 14, 2018 at 06:59 AM (#5691879)
####, I'm ignoring myself again....

Anyway
Prior to the game, Maddon said he was looking to give the scuffling Bryant two consecutive days off with an off-day looming Thursday.

“I was trying to,” Maddon said of Bryant after the loss. “I was gonna use him the next time through if it got to it. His spot may have come back around, he’d have been the last guy on the bench and I would have used him. I just thought, under the circumstances, let the guys play.”

The fact that Maddon didn’t rule out using Bryant at a later point essentially means he was saving the former MVP for a moment that never arrived. It’s like saving your closer for a save that never materializes. If you don’t get that run, there’s no point in saving the player.

“That’s easy to say,” Maddon said when asked if he was tempted to use Bryant. “He’s been struggling a lot. Theoretically, it sounds wonderful. I thought Gimenez had some good swings today, [Javy] Báez hit the ball hard, Willson [Contreras] had some good hacks also. It’s an easy dialogue to try and conjure up, but I really was trying to give him the day off.”


Dammit, Joe.
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 14, 2018 at 09:06 AM (#5691905)
If you don’t get that run, there’s no point in saving the player.

“That’s easy to say,” Maddon said when asked if he was tempted to use Bryant.
Things that are true are easy to say, Joe. Please be better than Buck Showalter.

   37. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 14, 2018 at 09:22 AM (#5691917)
   38. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 15, 2018 at 09:04 AM (#5692637)
Dillon Maples has been good. Real good.


Last 8 games: 8.0 IP | 3H | 2BB | 16K

More game notes>>atmlb.com/2JN01GH pic.twitter.com/Xdc9xDiAUl
   39. Walt Davis Posted: June 15, 2018 at 09:38 PM (#5693167)
Hey Moses, Jason Heyward bobblehead day on Monday! Time to brush up on your voodoo.
   40. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 16, 2018 at 01:37 PM (#5693391)
He got a day off against a thought yesterday?!?! I don't understand what Joe's thought processes are this year.

Was nice to see a number of HR droughts end last night. Lester is on quite the role, so much for me claiming he'll be the Cubs 4th best starter this year.

Alzolay has been shut down for the year. That's a real bummer.

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