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   1. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: September 29, 2016 at 11:24 AM (#5309837)
Also, since the Cubs don't know who they're playing yet, I can't really do any real research to write any sort of previews yet.
   2. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: September 29, 2016 at 04:00 PM (#5310072)
Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney 22m22 minutes ago
#Cubs say Jason Hammel has been pitching through elbow tightness and could have started if the team was still playing meaningful games.


He should probably rest that through October, just to be safe.

Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney 24m24 minutes ago
Jorge Soler has rejoined the team in Pittsburgh to work with #Cubs staff and see where he's at after getting two MRIs on his right side.


2 MRIs? Well, that's not exactly encouraging.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: September 29, 2016 at 07:39 PM (#5310181)
On #1: you also had Hammel griping about getting pulled early a couple of weeks ago ... then next start Joe left him in there to give up like 7-8 runs. Might have all been coincidental and meaningless but it didn't look good.

I think I agree with Montero. I find "scripting" the week to be quite bizarre. Limiting SPs, making sure your bullpen's not tired, giving some rest to starting position players is of course all standard but (a) he seems to be overdoing it a bit and (b) you don't have to "script" things to do that. And while I understand there is potential value in PT for (example) Almora to help decide if he's on the postseason roster, you also don't want to interrupt the "flow" of your regular lineups playing together. And with 4 days off before the series even begins, you don't really need to be providing extra rest now, you just need to avoid fatiguing anybody.

And on those lines, players like to win. And they don't like monkeying around and they don't like not giving their all. Baseball is a bit more relaxed about those sorts of things than a lot of sports -- everybody needs rest, 40-man rosters, etc. -- but it still rankles when you're not putting out "full effort."

Plus it seems to go against some of what the Cubs have been preaching all year. "Respect 90" would also seem to suggest "respect 162." Whether it makes much difference or not, Cub leadership has been pushing the "hustle" and "all for one" attitudes all year but now that they're in with the best record, it's become "we now want to maximize the probability of ..." Of course you do want to maximize those probabilities and the Cubs nerds have been maximizing probabilities all year long but they've also been selling the "intangible" side ... now they're not.

So as for "jinxes" -- the baseball gods do not take kindly to "we don't care if we win this game or not" ... unless it's the day after you clinched and everybody is hungover like proper ballplayers should be. But if you don't care if you win game #158, the baseball gods will become curious if you care about winning games #163 and beyond.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 29, 2016 at 07:43 PM (#5310184)
Health is an issue but this is why we have depth. Soler is nice to have but I'm not overly concerned if he's not available. Rondon is more of an issue but I'm probably more concerned that the Cubs will push him out there even though he's ineffective than the possibility of him missing at least the first series. Strop/Chapman with Wood available when needed is fine for the 8/9 and Wood/Grimm/Edwards/Montgomery are no worse than standard 6/7 options.
   5. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 29, 2016 at 08:29 PM (#5310194)
So as for "jinxes" -- the baseball gods do not take kindly to "we don't care if we win this game or not" ... unless it's the day after you clinched and everybody is hungover like proper ballplayers should be. But if you don't care if you win game #158, the baseball gods will become curious if you care about winning games #163 and beyond.


The Cubs are 8-4 since they clinched their division. I agree with some of the nits folks are picking - changing catchers mid-game probably is unnecessarily disruptive, pitching Chapman in a 12-2 game but not in a 6-4 game is weird, and tonight's lineup definitely raises an eyebrow or two (see my first comment in the Omnichatter). But they mostly are nits. I also kind of expect the regulars to play this weekend and for the Cubs to end up winning 103+ games, which would be fairly hard to criticize too harshly.
   6. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: September 30, 2016 at 09:53 AM (#5310416)
I think I agree with Montero. I find "scripting" the week to be quite bizarre. Limiting SPs, making sure your bullpen's not tired, giving some rest to starting position players is of course all standard but (a) he seems to be overdoing it a bit and (b) you don't have to "script" things to do that. And while I understand there is potential value in PT for (example) Almora to help decide if he's on the postseason roster, you also don't want to interrupt the "flow" of your regular lineups playing together. And with 4 days off before the series even begins, you don't really need to be providing extra rest now, you just need to avoid fatiguing anybody.

Besides yesterday, what else would you classify as overdoing it? Pulling Montero mid-game is the only other thing I can think of.

I totally understand where Montero is coming from, so that's not my problem. My bigger problem is him (and Jake) feeling the need to complain publicly. This means either, they voiced their concern to Joe and he either didn't care or didn't address the concerns enough for them. I would think Montero's been around long enough to realize there isn't a whole lot of value to publicly second guessing your manager.

pitching Chapman in a 12-2 game but not in a 6-4 game is weird

No, it's not. The score is irrelevant. What matters is the relievers have days they know they're pitching and can prepare thusly, and other days when they know they're not so they can take at least a mental break.
   7. Voodoo Posted: September 30, 2016 at 11:03 AM (#5310467)
Hammel scratched from final start with elbow tightness. Jake Buchanan (who?) draws the start instead.
   8. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 30, 2016 at 11:23 AM (#5310488)
No, it's not. The score is irrelevant. What matters is the relievers have days they know they're pitching and can prepare thusly, and other days when they know they're not so they can take at least a mental break.

I really don't want to second guess Joe Maddon here, but why not just give players the mental breaks? Every day, players prepare like they always prepare, but over the ten days or so since the Cubs clinched everything, on any given day you tell this guy and that guy they can go commando under your uniform tomorrow and have the day off. I think roles are over-rated, and Maddon has been very successful in ignoring an over-emphasis on highly specialized roles, but I am not comfortable with fostering a mentality that treats these games like exhibition games.

But they mostly are nits. I also kind of expect the regulars to play this weekend and for the Cubs to end up winning 103+ games, which would be fairly hard to criticize too harshly.

This. We have two starters trying to establish themselves in the Cy Young race going Saturday and Sunday. Whatever heebie-jeebies the team might have picked up in these weird games so far this week and into tonight, they should be shaken off this weekend. Even if the Cubs have a terrible weekend, the four days off should be a positive.
   9. Covfefe Posted: September 30, 2016 at 11:37 AM (#5310504)
I suspect the whole team is just antsy...

Perhaps that's the big challenge Joe needs to meet - managing the clubhouse during what it is essentially a ~3 week hurry up and wait period.

It's gotta be just hell... waiting... and waiting... As others have noted, the Cubs are playing quite well - so it's not like the problems are manifesting in results... but I doubt there's a single guy in the clubhouse who wouldn't vote yes if the Cubs were given the opportunity to start the NLDS tonight.
   10. Brian C Posted: September 30, 2016 at 01:05 PM (#5310576)
I suspect the whole team is just antsy...

Perhaps that's the big challenge Joe needs to meet - managing the clubhouse during what it is essentially a ~3 week hurry up and wait period.

Pretty much my feeling as well. It's gotta be kind of a weird situation to be in, to both keep your competitive edge and to be sensible about the actual stakes of these games.
   11. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: September 30, 2016 at 03:11 PM (#5310714)
I really don't want to second guess Joe Maddon here, but why not just give players the mental breaks? Every day, players prepare like they always prepare, but over the ten days or so since the Cubs clinched everything, on any given day you tell this guy and that guy they can go commando under your uniform tomorrow and have the day off.

I'm confused...you seem to be agreeing with me? That's essentially what he did on the day Chapman didn't come in during a save situation (and he came in for a non-save one because it was a scheduled day for him to throw).

It's gotta be just hell... waiting... and waiting... As others have noted, the Cubs are playing quite well - so it's not like the problems are manifesting in results... but I doubt there's a single guy in the clubhouse who wouldn't vote yes if the Cubs were given the opportunity to start the NLDS tonight.

Right, it's been like a month since they've played a game with anything really on the line. Others definitely counted, but there was such a cushy lead....I'm sure the players don't think of it that way, but I sure do.
   12. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: September 30, 2016 at 03:16 PM (#5310722)
Maddon said it was a predetermined move to give the rookie Contreras an inning with Arrieta in case that combination is together in a postseason contest. Arrieta wound up giving up three more runs in the fifth.

"They all knew what was going to happen before that game," Maddon said Thursday afternoon. "There were no surprises. And there's been no surprises."

But that's not what Arrieta indicated earlier in the day during his own radio show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

"Going into the game, I was really unaware we were going to go with a catching change," Arrieta said.

Maddon shot back in his take on Arrieta's night, in which he gave up a season-high 10 hits.

"I don't think it was attributable to a spring training attitude as much as the Pirates had a good approach last night," Maddon said.


Well, even if Maddon did say, obviously Jake wasn't on the same page. Or he's just making excuses for being rocked.

"It would be nice to have the starters out there doing their thing," Russell said. "People getting rest is OK and giving the bench guys a chance to see how they handle the pressure is good, too."

When informed some players were griping about the atmosphere that Maddon laid out to them after they clinched a playoff spot, the manager had an answer ready to go.


Ok, fine, but obviously the team isn't on the same page here.

"The relief pitchers are still going to be choreographed," Maddon said. "The team on the field, guys [will get] three to four at-bats. It's still going to be scripted."


We'll see. This is most likely much ado about nothing, just bad timing, I hope.
   13. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 30, 2016 at 05:18 PM (#5310828)
I'm confused...you seem to be agreeing with me? That's essentially what he did on the day Chapman didn't come in during a save situation (and he came in for a non-save one because it was a scheduled day for him to throw).

Overall I think I agree with you more than I disagree, but my gut feeling is that it's better for Maddon not to script the relievers. Erring on the side of giving relievers (and other players) more true days off and letting them know ahead of time is one thing, but otherwise play the games as they develop and use players as they would normally be used.
   14. Brian C Posted: September 30, 2016 at 05:42 PM (#5310841)
Ok, fine, but obviously the team isn't on the same page here.

Maybe. That quote by Russell doesn't mean much to me - it's essentially saying "I like playing but there's more going on, that's life".

My gut feeling is that, on the whole, players aren't 100% thrilled with the situation, naturally they want to play and aren't conditioned to just stop thinking conditionally. But also I'd guess that the media's making it out to be more than it is. Phrases like "players were griping" and "Maddon shot back" are editorial in nature - they imply conflict, whether or not any actually exists, and to me are giveaways that they're trying to build the drama. This is pretty much the Chicago media's standard M.O. anyway.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: September 30, 2016 at 07:40 PM (#5310884)
What would I have done differently? Maybe nothing -- there's an obvious logic to what Maddon's doing. The question is whether it's disruptive in preparatory sense or disruptive in a team attitude/motivation sense. As I noted, the Cubs have been stressing the motivational side of the game all year (at least in their media persona) so to openly pull back is just weird.

As to lineups ... over the last 2 weeks, 4 starts for Kawasaki who's never seeing a playoff roster (I hope), 4 for Almora, 3 for Szczur ... Bryant 2 days off in the last 3 (after none) ... yesterday's spring training lineup of Fedorowicz/Baez/Kawa/LaStella/Russell/Contreras/Almora/Szczur with Zas as the SP.

Looking at it, it's primarily just been these last few games. In the last homestand, he used standard lineups, maybe as a "reward" to fans and players.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: October 04, 2016 at 02:34 AM (#5312758)
Hmmm ... new GC thread won't let me post so I'll try rambling on here. If that gets fixed, somebody can copy/past this over if they want. From that post, reasons for pessimism:

1. Bottom of the lineup. I’ve heard a couple of analysts talk about this, and it can be overstated, but if the Cubs are running out Heyward/Coghlan Montero in the 6/7/8 spots, it may make things easier on the other team. By the times the Cubs are facing the LOOGY brigades, the Cubs should have the ability to PH to get matchups they like. But I do fear what happens if guys like Bryant or Rizzo struggle at all and where the offense comes from. This is not a problem that is unique to the Cubs, and outside of Boston, every team has a weaker part that can be exploitable.

2. Middle relief. Rondon isn’t right, so that just means there’s a little less certainty when Maddon goes to the pen. There’s a lot of options down there, but every individual person has their own questions and none have been consistent reliable all season. Again, middle relief is usually the weakest part of every team, and I like the Cubs’ pen more than any other NL playoff team. So here’s just hoping Joe pushing the right buttons, but that he can go to the pen when/if the starters should be pulled.

3. Randomness of the playoffs. This is not meant to imply the Cubs “should” win, or if they lose it’s simply because the playoffs are a crapshoot. The Cubs have the best odds, and I’d rather this roster than any other, but things happen in short series. Here’s hoping luck is on their side for once.

4. Jinxes/Weight of expectations.


I'm not that concerned about #1. Heyward's been a disaster and probably will continue to be ... and as stated elsewhere, I wish Joe would put him 8th or 9th. But whether it's Wrigley or the Cub coaches or just random luck, Coghlan has over 1000 PA of 118 OPS+ for us and a good performance for us this year, I'm not worried. Bat-wise, Baez is probably as or more likely to be a complete short-series bust -- he could easily go Soriano 2003 ALCS at any point. Montero's been drawing a good number of walks and hitting a good number of HRs lately. Anyway, a weak bottom of the lineup is one of the prices we pay for pushing Bryant up to #2.

I'm more concerned about #2. Strop/Rondon/Chapman looked like it was going to be pretty awesome. Rondon had not just been good but had been one of the 10-20 best relievers in the game so paired with Chapman, that was gonna be awesome. He now seems completely broken with a post-ASB line of 316/357/570, 7 runs in his last 2.2 IP, and a roughly league-average K-rate. I don't know if he should even be on the roster, I certainly don't want to see him late in a close game. Hopefully I'm just over-reacting to a bad stretch.

I know that essentially leaves us where we were before trading for Chapman -- Strop in the 8th and hoping some combo of Cahill, Wood, Grimm, Edwards, Montgomery can hold down the 6th and 7th. Not the end of the world ... just more walks and HRs than I like to see and those can kill you in the playoffs. That weakness in the middle might also push Joe to stay a bit too long with Arrieta, Lackey and Hendricks.

Partially related to #1, I notice that Russell's weird weakness against LHP seemed to disappear in the 2nd half. For the season he hit 223/333/468 with 9 HR in 162 PA. That's still not amazing but it's better than his RHP split and it's more than enough power to scare teams late in a game. Zobrist also hits LHP better than RHP so Rizzo will get the one-out LOOGY treatment. With the RHBs on the bench to hit for Montero/Coghlan/Heyward, I'm not overly worried about LOOGy issues.

The relatively low BA and high Ks scare me a bit about an offensive slump but I under-rate this offense. They had a 107 OPS+ and the Dodgers/Nats are down at 98 and the Giants/Mets down at 94. The Giants are doing a bit of a Royals/Angels impersonation -- #4 in BA, easily the fewest Ks -- but that BA is only 2 points higher than the Cubs. So among NL playoff teams, the Cubs are tied #2 in BA, #1 in OBP by a good bit, #1 in SLG barely and #1 in ISO barely. So other than maybe the Giants' contact ability, the Cubs' offense looks no more slump-prone than the others.

I suppose I worry a bit that a good part of what made the Cubs such a good regular season team was depth (rotation and position) but that usually doesn't play that big of a role in the postseason.
   17. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: October 04, 2016 at 12:09 PM (#5313022)
If you're the last poster in one thread, it sometimes doesn't let you post in the other. Which doesn't make sense. So try now...

(which means I can't post in the other thread now after making this post)

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