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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happ

I refuse to use a Happ-y pun in the title. 

It’s too early to assume that Happ has solidified a role on the team.  However, seeing as he’s at least pretty close to ready, it’s probably worth thinking about how the Cubs could arrange playing time to get him enough ABs and not hinder his development.  If he’s going to stay up, he should be playing regularly.  The good thing is that he’s able to play a bunch of positions - he’s already spent time in all 3 OF spots.  So who loses ABs to Happ?

Zobrist
Maddon has already talked about Happ being in the same mold as Zobrist.  Zobrist is a bit different of a hitter than almost everyone else in the lineup, and it’s too early to say whether Happ can replicate Zobrist’s approach or results.  I’m been harping on Zobrist all year, but he’s likely to hit better.  Though he is older, so more regularly scheduled rest is probably a good thing for Zobrist.  Moving him around also helps, but he’s probably still starting at least 4 days a week, at least this season.

Heyward
I’m still sick of talking about his bat, but now that we’re well over a year of this decreased offensive player how more rope is left?  Happ isn’t the same caliber defender as Heyward in either RF or CF, and Heyward probably isn’t tradable unless the Cubs swallowed a ton of that contract.  At a minimum, Heyward probably should never start against lefties, so it might make sense to consider a straight-up CF platoon with him and Almora in CF, with Heyward also getting defensive or PR reps late in games.

Baez
HIs defensive numbers aren’t nearly as sparkling as last year, and he’s making a lot of errors.  His bat is streaky, but he’s a valuable player.  He had a big platoon split last year, but hasn’t hit lefties at all this year.  He could settle into more of a backup role as well, and move around the field more like he did last year.

LaStella
I really like LaStella as a bench bat, but if all of the guys above are losing PT, they can mash together plenty of PH ABs to make up for LaStella’s loss.  TLS doesn’t offer much defensively, or at least not as much as everyone else.  He would probably lose his roster spot, or at least it’d be the easiest spot to take (Candelario likely goes down first when Heyward’s off the DL). 

Schwarber
The elephant in the room, and I intentionally mentioned him last.  Theo spoke out in favor of him yesterday, and specifically said they weren’t considering sending him back down.  However, the way things are now, maybe some time in AAA would be best for him to fix whatever is wrong and get some mojo back.  Happ just be penciled into LF and probably hit anywhere in the order. 

I didn’t single out Almora, since he’s already pretty much a part time guy, but I think he should keep his spot as the only true CF left on the roster.  I think if a move had to be made today - or in the next couple if Heyward is ready - I would think very long and hard about giving Schwarber some time in Iowa.  For all we know, Happ could just go back down or end up being moved in a trade later this year.  I think Joe could figure out a way to get everyone enough ABs if he took a little time away from everyone, so we’ll see where this ends up.

Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 17, 2017 at 01:50 PM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 17, 2017 at 02:09 PM (#5457580)
I know I'm jumping the gun, and maybe the most likely is really Happ going back to AAA.
   2. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 17, 2017 at 03:29 PM (#5457679)
He's hitting cleanup and playing CF again today. Jay starting in RF, which is interesting, but I think Jay isn't a good CFer anymore. That's not a good defensive OF (Schwarber in LF) for Hendricks...
   3. Jeff Francoeur's OPS Posted: May 17, 2017 at 06:19 PM (#5457875)
Heyward has one XBH if you drop that short-lived hot streak. Sad!
   4. Brian C Posted: May 17, 2017 at 06:29 PM (#5457882)
I'd just send Happ back down. Hot start, sure, but we've seen this a hundred times before - guy starts hot in the bigs but the league figures him out quick and his numbers come back down to earth as quickly as they shot up in the first place. No reason to think he's any different.
   5. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 17, 2017 at 07:43 PM (#5457958)
I said that's most likely, I'm wondering what happens if he continues to hot whole the rest of the offense stays ice cold.

...

Candelario down for Pierce Johnson.
   6. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: May 17, 2017 at 10:49 PM (#5458095)
I’m still sick of talking about his bat, but now that we’re well over a year of this decreased offensive player how more rope is left?


Heyward has not hit a double yet this year. Sure he's got 3 homers and a triple, but no doubles; how weird is that? Other then that one week or so he must just not be hitting the ball hard at all(I do not watch any Cub games except for highlights). Can a Cub fan enlighten me?
He's like the anti-Trout who seemingly hits the ball hard every single time.

He's also been caught stealing twice...in 3 attempts. I know people go on about his baserunning but if you're not on base that much and running into outs..that's not good.
   7. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 17, 2017 at 11:38 PM (#5458117)
I love what I've seen so far, but I think Happ's biggest value to the Cubs right now might be as the centerpiece of a trade for a starting pitcher.
   8. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 18, 2017 at 08:00 AM (#5458177)
Sure, and showing what he has already can only help his trade value. However, there's also a part of me that thinks it'd be better to trade Jimenez than Happ if only because Happ can help this year and next, while Eloy is still a few years away (and projects to the higher ceiling). Again, glad I'm not the one that has to make that decision.
   9. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 18, 2017 at 08:02 AM (#5458179)
Other then that one week or so he must just not be hitting the ball hard at all(I do not watch any Cub games except for highlights). Can a Cub fan enlighten me?

I think he's already hit more hard hit balls this year than all of last year. Pretty much everything last year was weak contact, and while he's still far, far, far from consistent, his "new swing" has made the contact he does have harder. He still rolls over ways to many pitches that lead to weak 4-3s.

Speaking of, he's in South Bend today for a rehab start. They didn't say how long that rehab stint would be.
   10. dejarouehg Posted: May 18, 2017 at 08:32 AM (#5458196)
I love what I've seen so far, but I think Happ's biggest value to the Cubs right now might be as the centerpiece of a trade for a starting pitcher.
I'd substitute Baez for Happ. The hitch in that swing is such that I think it will impede hitting on this level.

I'd just send Happ back down. Hot start, sure, but we've seen this a hundred times before - guy starts hot in the bigs but the league figures him out quick
Saw him at South Bend in late 2015. Nothing stood out about him except that he was the prospect and one of the few Cubs not to hit in the game. That's baseball.

Now, I think he is the real deal. He finds a spot in my line-up 5 days a week and he should be allowed to fight through the inevitable slump, similar to the patience the Cubs are showing with Schwarber - granted, Happ doesn't have that level of equity.
   11. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 18, 2017 at 05:57 PM (#5458932)
Sahadev Sharma‏ @sahadevsharma 11m11 minutes ago

Reporter tells Maddon that Ian Happ is really making it tough on him. "Is it tough or easy?" Maddon asks.


Single, double, BB today. If Maddon likes him...
   12. Ardo Posted: May 18, 2017 at 06:44 PM (#5458962)
Theo really needs to put on his thinking (trading?!) cap. Leaving aside the two catchers and Bryzzo, you have five position player spots per game.

IF only: Russell, Baez, Candelario, La Stella
Flex: Zobrist, Happ
OF only: Schwarber, Almora, Jay, Heyward

That's too many. Schwarber looks really expendable, professions of faith notwithstanding...
   13. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 18, 2017 at 08:16 PM (#5459009)
I'd substitute Baez for Happ. The hitch in that swing is such that I think it will impede hitting on this level.


The right answer obviously depends on what's coming back the other way.

But the one downside to trading away Baez is that of the players listed in #12, only two of them can play a major-league caliber shortstop - Russell and Baez. If you trade away Baez, you're either running the risk of having to put Zobrist or Bryant at shortstop in an emergency, or you're going to have to carry a utility infielder (is Kawasaki still around?). But even if you don't actually play Kawasaki except in emergencies (which runs the risk of burning out Russell), he's taking up a roster spot, so you haven't cleared out the position-player jam as much as you might have liked.
   14. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 19, 2017 at 11:28 AM (#5459258)
That's too many. Schwarber looks really expendable, professions of faith notwithstanding...

I mean, I guess that's one possible conclusion. But he's not worth trading unless you're getting tons of value, and that probably isn't happening until he starts hitting again. Take off LaStella and Candelario, and then it's just making the PT work (which is doable, IMO, especially if you're willing to keep Heyward as a bench guy).
   15. Brian C Posted: May 19, 2017 at 11:33 AM (#5459265)
Meanwhile, before the season started, who had this weekend with the Brewers circled as an important series? Yet here we are.
   16. dejarouehg Posted: May 19, 2017 at 11:39 AM (#5459270)
one downside to trading away Baez is that of the players listed in #12, only two of them can play a major-league caliber shortstop - Russell and Baez
I think the risk of stop-gap at SS pales in comparison to the need for SP, which I believe Baez+ (or Schwarber) can bring back. Shades of Mickey Stanley?
   17. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 20, 2017 at 12:33 PM (#5460010)
@sahadevsharma: Cubs game postponed, no makeup date. No roster moves official, but La Stella and Pierce weren't in clubhouse and Dylan Floro was spotted.


So Happ is sticking around. He was scheduled to play CF and hit 5th.

Interestingly​ enough, zobrist was hitting leadoff, schwarber 2, Bryant 3, Rizzo 4.
   18. JimMusComp likes Billy Eppler.... Posted: May 20, 2017 at 01:03 PM (#5460023)
I think he's already hit more hard hit balls this year than all of last year. Pretty much everything last year was weak contact, and while he's still far, far, far from consistent, his "new swing" has made the contact he does have harder. He still rolls over ways to many pitches that lead to weak 4-3s.


This is what happened to Darin Erstad after 2000. He started rolling over on pitches he used poke to LF or LCF for singles/doubles. There were literally hundreds of 4-3 and 4-6-3 ground outs from 2001 until his retirement. It was something you could count on....

But, he stepped up in the 2002 postseason big time, so there is always that.
   19. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 22, 2017 at 09:48 AM (#5460763)
That was a good week, especially for the offense. Happ fits in nicely in the middle there, but just about everyone had good ABs yesterday - even the outs were loud. And Heyward got his first double of the year!

Floro is not goodo. I assume he's on his way back to Iowao, probably for Pena or Grimm.
   20. Covfefe Posted: May 22, 2017 at 10:33 AM (#5460788)
If push comes to shove and someone has to go for a SP -- I really do think I'd rather part with Baez or even (god help me) Schwarbs than Happ.

That said, barring something like Teheran or Quintana -- which I don't know that Baez or Schwarbs would be enough to warrant, even just anchoring a bigger package -- I'd rather look further down the line and get an innings mop rental that I could someone like Candy could fetch.

BTW -- a quick update on my two guys...

Trevor Clifton continues to look fine at AA -- up to 3-2/2.42 (44 IP, 36 hits, 2 HRs, 16 BBs, 36 Ks) -- yes, yes... a 7.5 K/9 isn't all that impressive, but it's better than Hendricks at AA at an older age. I'd also point out that since the last update -- while he K'd just 2 in 6 2/3 IP in his last start, he logged 7 Ks in 6 innings in his two prior starts.

Dylan Cease, meanwhile, continues to K the world (14.3 per 9) and excel at South Bend. Even the walks - still high (4.8 per 9) - are creeping down, just 1 BB in each of his last 3 starts. However, he left his last start early - turned his ankle covering 3B - and got put on the DL... no news on whether it was just precautionary and he'll just miss a start or two or something more.

   21. Brian C Posted: May 22, 2017 at 03:11 PM (#5461065)
It was good to see Arrieta have a really good start yesterday. Only one walk, no homers allowed, just one run. His pitch count got a little away from him, but the Brewers are a good offense, so it's hard to hold that against him.

He's now only allowed 2 homers in his last four starts.

Trevor Clifton continues to look fine at AA -- up to 3-2/2.42 (44 IP, 36 hits, 2 HRs, 16 BBs, 36 Ks) -- yes, yes... a 7.5 K/9 isn't all that impressive, but it's better than Hendricks at AA at an older age.

But Hendricks wasn't walking anyone back then! Which was the only reason anyone thought Hendricks was interesting in the first place. And even then no one thought of him as much of a prospect, IIRC ... just interesting.

   22. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 22, 2017 at 04:47 PM (#5461161)
@MDGonzales: Rosscup up, Floro optioned, 40-man move TBD


Twist.
   23. Brian C Posted: May 22, 2017 at 09:41 PM (#5461298)
Jake Buchanan DFA'd to make room for Rosscup
   24. Quaker Posted: May 23, 2017 at 09:26 AM (#5461390)
Why are ppl so into Teheran? His xFIP is over 5 as is his ERA in the early going. Last year's ERA was good, but that was nearly a full point lower than his xFIP.

Cubs have 4 starters between 21st and 40th among qualifiers in the Majors in xFIP, which isn't terrible. If they can just get someone not to throw up all over himself every fifth day, I think they'll be fine. It's unlikely their #1 is going to match up with most of the other playoff teams' ace--Lester is good but he's not Sale/Scherzer/Kershaw level--but the same thing was true last year and it worked out okay.
   25. Covfefe Posted: May 23, 2017 at 09:46 AM (#5461397)
Why are ppl so into Teheran? His xFIP is over 5 as is his ERA in the early going. Last year's ERA was good, but that was nearly a full point lower than his xFIP.


Well, historically -- Teheran has always outpitched his FIP... Assuming the Cubs defense stops being not the Cubs defense, I think that's a a point in his favor.

Beyond that, though -- I'll admit that I just think he feels like a guy that a better team + Bosio can turn back into the 2013-2014 variant.
   26. Covfefe Posted: May 23, 2017 at 10:00 AM (#5461405)
Trevor Clifton continues to look fine at AA -- up to 3-2/2.42 (44 IP, 36 hits, 2 HRs, 16 BBs, 36 Ks) -- yes, yes... a 7.5 K/9 isn't all that impressive, but it's better than Hendricks at AA at an older age.

But Hendricks wasn't walking anyone back then! Which was the only reason anyone thought Hendricks was interesting in the first place. And even then no one thought of him as much of a prospect, IIRC ... just interesting.


Well - I'll grant... I'm not John Sickels, but I was on the Hendricks bandwagon before his half-season that people thought was just another W-inflated Kyle (of the Hendricks rather than Kendrick variety). Granted, I'm probably the chief prospect fluffer 'round these parts.

I'd just emphasize that Clifton is doing a year younger than Kyle -- and it's still early -- his boxes are looking stronger and stronger. The comparison probably isn't fair to either of them - I'll grant - Clifton has better pure stuff, Hendricks better command. Hendricks keeps the ball on the ground - Clifton is neutral to moderate FB. etc...

If I had to peg Clifton, I think he'll end up being a nice little Matt Clement...
   27. Brian C Posted: May 23, 2017 at 03:42 PM (#5461777)
I'd just emphasize that Clifton is doing a year younger than Kyle -- and it's still early -- his boxes are looking stronger and stronger.

No, they're not really. You're just saying that because you decided to ignore his last start and focus exclusively on the two before that. In his last three starts - the ones you mentioned above - he's put 10 men on by BB or HBP and struck out 16 in 18.2 IP.

That's not going to get it done. Once he reaches a level where hitters go deep more often he's toast with those numbers - and those are the numbers that you say indicate he's getting "stronger and stronger"! Right.

Again, the league is averaging 8.5 K/9. A full K/9 more than Clifton. He may turn out to be something but it's not going to happen without huge improvement. He's been hit lucky, end of story.

If I had to peg Clifton, I think he'll end up being a nice little Matt Clement...

Well, when Clement hit the Southern League at 22, he K'd 9.4 per 9, versus 6.9 for the league overall.

Clifton looks closer to a righty version of Steve Smyth than Matt Clement.
   28. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 23, 2017 at 04:03 PM (#5461799)
@MDGonzales: Pena up, Rosscup optioned


Ha.
   29. Brian C Posted: May 23, 2017 at 04:48 PM (#5461868)
I wonder why you'd go through the trouble of adding Rosscup to the 40-man just to send him down after one game.
   30. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 24, 2017 at 10:17 AM (#5462176)
I'd guess Rosscup will get another shot, probably once Duensing is launched into the sun (though to be fair to Duensing, he hasn't been *that* bad). Plus, they only had to DFA Jake Buchanan, and were he needed again something has gone really wrong.
   31. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 24, 2017 at 10:29 AM (#5462182)
though to be fair to Duensing, he hasn't been *that* bad)


124 ERA+, FIP better than ERA. I'd say he's been pretty decent. Better than Strop or Rondon so far.
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 24, 2017 at 10:38 AM (#5462190)
I wonder why you'd go through the trouble of adding Rosscup to the 40-man just to send him down after one game.

Just one drink from your loving Rosscup.
   33. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 24, 2017 at 12:59 PM (#5462323)
124 ERA+, FIP better than ERA. I'd say he's been pretty decent. Better than Strop or Rondon so far.

Usage and leverage matter too. I also think he's been pretty lucky in terms of inherited runners scoring (or so I think, but haven't confirmed). That's not to defend Strop or Rondon, who both have had some really bad moments.
   34. Brian C Posted: May 24, 2017 at 03:24 PM (#5462478)
Duensing has bequeathed 4 runners and 2 have scored, but he's prevented all 6 runners he's inherited from scoring. That's a point in his favor. Strop's allowed 7 of 13 inherited runners to score, worst on the team.

Duensing looked terrible his first few outings and I wanted him gone, but since then - specifically, starting with his fourth appearance - he's been a fine low-leverage reliever. It's not that he hasn't been *that* bad, it's that he really hasn't been bad at all. As long as he's pitching like this he has a role on the team.
   35. Ardo Posted: May 25, 2017 at 11:36 PM (#5463428)
First place! Yeah baby!

I had hoped for an 8-2 record on the home stand. Lo and behold, they go 7-2 with the rain-out. Froze my posterior off last night, but it was well worth it.

Lester and Hendricks look like a #1 and #2 again, Butler (though he will always have command issues) is a fine fifth starter, and the bullpen continues to excel.

Dave Cameron suggested on FanGraphs that the Cubs trade Russell, whom he thinks is never going to be an elite hitter, for pitching and go with a Baez/Happ double-play tandem long-term. I liked the idea; do others?
   36. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2017 at 11:41 PM (#5463434)
Dave Cameron suggested on FanGraphs that the Cubs trade Russell, whom he thinks is never going to be an elite hitter, for pitching and go with a Baez/Happ double-play tandem long-term. I liked the idea; do others?


I might, but when it comes to Cameron, I invoke the George Kostanza rule.
   37. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2017 at 11:45 PM (#5463438)
Dave Cameron suggested on FanGraphs that the Cubs trade Russell, whom he thinks is never going to be an elite hitter, for pitching and go with a Baez/Happ double-play tandem long-term. I liked the idea; do others?


I might, but when it comes to Cameron, I invoke the George Kostanza rule.
   38. Walt Davis Posted: May 26, 2017 at 12:56 AM (#5463482)
As always, depends what we get, but not in favor of trading Russell or Baez. Russell may never be more than a defensive whiz but he is a defensive whiz ... and he's credited with .5 WAA already this year despite a 66 OPS+. He doesn't need to hit to be worthwhile ... and the Cubs should be able to carry 1 or 2 empty bats. And of course he's still only 23. Larkin put up a 76 OPS+ in his age 23 season. Not that I ever expect him to become a Larkin-style hitter ... but Jose Valentin had barely made the majors by 23 and put up OPS+ of 90 and 76 at 24-25. For 22-23, JJ Hardy had a 84 OPS+ ... then put up 8 WAR in 2 years, then stunk for 2 years, then put up 14.5 WAR in 4 years. Maybe Russell will never be more than Andrelton Simmons plus 15 HRs and minus 10 Rfield per year ... I can live with that.

Also his K-rate has gone from 28.5% to 22.5% to 19.5% so far this year. The problem is his FBs aren't going over the wall. Come summer he'll probably be fine. Might want to do something about that 254 BABIP I suppose. :-)
   39. Voodoo Posted: May 26, 2017 at 10:37 AM (#5463564)
Dave Cameron suggested on FanGraphs that the Cubs trade Russell, whom he thinks is never going to be an elite hitter, for pitching and go with a Baez/Happ double-play tandem long-term. I liked the idea; do others?


I hate it. Worst idea ever.
   40. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 26, 2017 at 12:28 PM (#5463679)
Yeah, I don't like the idea of trading Russell either.

Bryant is probably the only true untouchable, but I think Rizzo and Russell are the next step below. To consider trading Russell, it has to be for one of the very top aces (it would cost more than just him), like the Sale/Scherzer level. Maybe I'm wrong, but for instance, I wouldn't trade him straight up for Quintana.

I know I'd be a terrible GM, because recency bias is such a problem for me. I've also been conditioned to value (overvalue?) versatility, which would mean that right at this moment, I think I'd be more open to trading Schwarber. The way the Cubs have talked about Schwarber means they probably value him higher, and in a way they've made it really hard to sell trading him to the public.

I'm also hesitant to just look at the team and say that anyone is expendable or replaceable. There's overlap, but there aren't any bottlenecks (unless the Cubs really see Happ as a fulltime CF, which would make Almora expendable).

   41. Brian C Posted: May 26, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5463693)
Dave Cameron suggested on FanGraphs that the Cubs trade Russell, whom he thinks is never going to be an elite hitter, for pitching and go with a Baez/Happ double-play tandem long-term.

This is ridiculous Shiny-New-Toyism. Happ is up! He's started well! Sell on everyone else!!!!!

Come on. Russell's an elite defensive SS and as noted by Walt above, he's valuable even when he's not hitting. Or more to the point, he's valuable even when he's hitting like ####. Can we say the same thing for Happ?

Meanwhile, since his first three games turned everyone's irrational exuberance all the way up to 11, Happ is hitting a pretty normal .259/.355/.444, which seems like a halfway decent and perhaps even slightly optimistic projection for what we'll get from him the rest of the year. He's a promising prospect but not THAT promising. It's far from clear that he could handle 2B in the medium to long term anyway.

Frankly I don't see how his 11 games in the majors would change the Cubs' thinking on anything so far.
   42. Brian C Posted: May 26, 2017 at 01:04 PM (#5463699)
And while I'm on the subject, who is this "pitching" that Russell's going to bring back? Russell's accumulated 8.7 WAR in barely more than 2 seasons worth of games. Even hitting like he is, he's on pace for somewhere between 3-4 WAR this year. Who's he going to bring back that's worth giving that up, especially given the hit in defense that this mystery pitcher will be facing?

This whole idea is ludicrous. Why don't we just trade Bryant for pitching too? At least that way, Baez can play third and the defense sorta holds up.
   43. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 26, 2017 at 07:09 PM (#5463911)
Schwarber on the bench again against a LHP. At least for now Joe is acknowledging his platoon split.
   44. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 30, 2017 at 02:21 PM (#5465424)
First NL @esurance #ASG ballot update:
1B Rizzo
2B Murphy
SS Seager
3B Bryant
C Posey
OF Harper, Blackmon, Heyward


Who the #### is voting for Heyward???
   45. Covfefe Posted: May 30, 2017 at 02:27 PM (#5465434)
Who the #### is voting for Heyward???


People hoping against hope that adding another couple ASGs to his resume will convince him to exercise that opt-out after next season.

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