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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Monday, April 23, 2018

Riding the Rails of Mediocrity

That was quite the scary moment yesterday when Bryant got hit.  So far, it’s all been good news, but I’ll be worried until he’s playing again.  It’s actually kind of crazy he’s already been hit by 7 pitches - he’s nowhere near as close to the plate as Rizzo. 

Encouraging
-Baez.  My goodness, what a fun ride this is right now.  .292/.363/.736.  Yes, it’s probably just a hot streak; yes, the OBP is a little inflated by the 4 early IBBs (his last non-IBB BB was 2 weeks ago).  What if it’s not just a hot streak though?  Is a .300/.330/.500 line for the year that outlandish or unlikely? 
-Schwarber.  Like Baez, he was scuffling a bit early on.  He’s now up to .293/.414/.552.  He’s barely playing against lefties (15 PA) and not hitting them at all (.083/.267/.167).  The early caveat always applies, but he’s striking out less and walking more. 
-Bryant.  Before he was beaned, he was still chugging along, yet to really hit his stride. 
-Almora.  He’s really taking this opportunity to play everyday and running with it.  He still swings at damn near everything, but for now he’s making contact.  And if his defense stays like this, he probably should be out there damn near every day.
-Contreras.  No homers yet, but I’ll take everything else and know those will come.
-Bullpen.  Sure, a few early hiccups for almost everyone, but I still feel pretty good when just about anyone (save Wilson) comes into the game. 


Worrying
-Rizzo.  Even after the DL stint, he’s still not right.  He tried bunting against the shift yesterday and didn’t bunt it hard enough.  Just one of those stretches for him - he’s getting tons of good run producing chances and failing.  He’ll come around.
-Russell.  He looked good early, but I don’t know what’s going on now.  He’s dramatically cut his K rate, but just isn’t hitting anything hard or far.  I think he’s seeing pitches better, but just isn’t hitting anything. 
-The entire rotation.  Nothing really looks right with any of them right now.  I actually thought Hendricks pitched really good Friday night, he just had a rough first and then was fine.  The bad inning must be contagious though.  There’s something to Darvish’s bad 5th innings though - maybe it’s just the 3rd time through thing, but I hate to go all meathead here but he does seem to be struggling mentally when something goes wrong.  Saturday, he walked the pitcher with 2 outs (and it seems like he’ll just occasionally lose a guy and walk them at 4 or 5 pitches nowhere close to strikes), and then he started throwing meatballs that got crushed.  I don’t want to overreact quite yet, but yeah, it’s worrying.  Quintana yesterday was bit by bad luck (and defense), but still had an inning where everyone just crushed everything. 
-Wilson.  I want him to figure out his control issues, he’d be such a great weapon if he can.
-Happ.  The Cubs are saying all the right things, and I think playing him less when they work with him makes sense.  I think I’ve been unpleasantly surprised how poor his arm really is.
-Maddon.  A couple games back, he overthought a couple ABs and cost the Cubs some good chances at scoring (let Heyward face a lefty, burned Almora without him hitting).  Then yesterday, he went crazy in the 6th, pinch hitting for a couple of batters leaving only Contreras on the bench.  In the long run, it didn’t matter, but it seemed odd at the time.  Is he trying too hard because the offense is inconsistent? 

Still don’t want to talk about it
-Heyward.  I will absolutely take the 108OPS+ out of him, and that’s still pretty sad.  I talked about his defense last time, and maybe yesterday was the sun, but we’re now at least at 4 plays he should have caught that turned into extra base hits.  That 108OPS+ only plays if he’s catching everything near him.

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 10:24 AM | 67 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 10:50 AM (#5658408)
Cubs have never been more than 1 game above or below .500 this year so far. This week is a little tougher - @CLE, MIL - so starting to pull away from .500 would be nice.
   2. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2018 at 02:44 PM (#5658584)
Cubs suck
   3. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 02:53 PM (#5658591)
Javy did not win player of the week. This is the first, and hopefully last, time I care about the Player of the Week award.
   4. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 03:17 PM (#5658614)
Maybe there's just something about Maddon and/or his spring trainings that lends itself to slow starts. Maddon teams the last 10+ years and (March)/April record with final win totals.

2017: 13-11, 92
2016: 17-5, 103
2015: 12-8, 97
2014: 11-16, 77
2013: 12-14, 92
2012: 15-8, 90
2011: 15-12, 91
2010: 17-6, 96
2009: 9-14, 84
2008: 15-12, 97

   5. Brian C Posted: April 23, 2018 at 06:03 PM (#5658692)
Almora. He’s really taking this opportunity to play everyday and running with it. He still swings at damn near everything, but for now he’s making contact.

His K rate is down, sure, but it's not really just "for now" - Almora's always been a pretty decent contact guy. Last year, only Rizzo, Heyward, and Zobrist struck out on a lower percentage of their PAs on the team.

As for the rest, eh. If the starting pitching gets just a little better and the offense gets a little more consistent (not even better, just more consistent), then this is an easy 95-win team. If the starting pitching gets really good and the offense stays the same, they're an easy 95-win team. And if the offense gets a little more consistent and the starting pitching gets really good, they're pretty much invincible. As is, they're probably a little unlucky to be 10-9, but they're still obvious playoff contenders.

I guess my point is, with 19 games under their belts, they seem a lot closer to being an 12-7 type team than 8-11 type team. I feel like it'll work itself out.
   6. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 07:18 PM (#5658726)
While the rest of the team moved on, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell had to spend Sunday night in a Denver hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to something he ate on a postgame spread in the clubhouse.

Russell is allergic to shellfish, and thinks something had shrimp in it and was mistakenly labeled, he told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.


####### Denver man.
   7. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 23, 2018 at 07:21 PM (#5658727)
Brian - oh, I totally agree. I'm positive they've got a big rush somewhere in their near future. Too much talent.

As for almora, I phrased that poorly. How many of his hits this weekend were bloop shots? That, plus his less than stellar patience would seem to imply that his current hitting may not be sustainable. I'll take the good luck while we can though and do think he can be a decent batting average hitter.
   8. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 23, 2018 at 11:28 PM (#5658831)
Adding up post #4:
135-106 in Aprils (.562)

919 wins overall. So, I reckon that means a 919-700 record overall*. That's a winning percentage of ..... .568. Essentially identical to the April record. Post-April record: 784-594 (.569).

Not seeing much special about Maddon & April.

*(I know the Cubs had 161 decisions one year under him. I'm too lazy to check them all, so I'll assume 1619 games played over all).
   9. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:24 AM (#5658885)
-Baez. My goodness, what a fun ride this is right now. .292/.363/.736. Yes, it’s probably just a hot streak; yes, the OBP is a little inflated by the 4 early IBBs (his last non-IBB BB was 2 weeks ago). What if it’s not just a hot streak though? Is a .300/.330/.500 line for the year that outlandish or unlikely?

It's not what I would predict but it's possible. Sammy Sosa hit .300/.339/.545 in his age 25 season.

-Schwarber. Like Baez, he was scuffling a bit early on. He’s now up to .293/.414/.552. He’s barely playing against lefties (15 PA) and not hitting them at all (.083/.267/.167). The early caveat always applies, but he’s striking out less and walking more.

I would let him hone his craft a bit more against righties and ease him slowly into facing lefties.

The rotation is the biggest concern right now, but it's early.
   10. McCoy Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:27 AM (#5658891)
I don't see how Baez's OBP and SLG go down significantly and yet his BA would go up. I think .280 to .290ish is where he ends up if this is one of his good seasons with the bat. .320ish in OBP and .480 to .520 in SLG. Something like .280/.315/.480 to .290/.325/.520.
   11. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:28 AM (#5658892)
My favorite stat so far this season is Baez's ISO of .444. That easily leads MLB. Compare that to Joey Votto's current ISO of .013.

Yes folks, it's still April.
   12. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:53 AM (#5658912)
I don't see how Baez's OBP and SLG go down significantly and yet his BA would go up. I think .280 to .290ish is where he ends up if this is one of his good seasons with the bat. .320ish in OBP and .480 to .520 in SLG. Something like .280/.315/.480 to .290/.325/.520.

His career BABIP is .330, this year he's at .292. His slugging will come down because it's just not sustainable where it is, but some of those hits will still be there - they'll just be singles. Last year in the 2nd half he hit .291/.340/.511. He's changed some as a hitter since last year (as highlighted in that linked article), so I think some of those changes will stick. Working from that 2nd half last year, I bumped up the BA a little, dropped the OBP down (because he still got 8 IBB in the 2nd half, and unless he's hitting 8th he's just not going to get as many IBBs and I'm still not convinced he's going to take more BBs) and then overcorrected on the SLG because anything over .500 felt like wishcasting. Then again, if he slugs around .500 the rest of the year, he'll finish comfortably over that .500 mark.
   13. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:55 AM (#5658913)
Not seeing much special about Maddon & April.

Yeah, I did a little more with that after posting it. In 6 of those years, the April win% was less than the total for the year, and no, it doesn't show anything. I just saw a number of .500ish Aprils that still turned into 90+ wins.
   14. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 24, 2018 at 09:58 AM (#5658918)
I would let him hone his craft a bit more against righties and ease him slowly into facing lefties.

Agreed. But at some point, he'll have to start seeing some of them more. I just worry about him being too easily removed from a playoff game when a LOOGY comes in.

A couple more notes on him from here:

The left fielder has posted a 166 wRC+, he’s walking an incredible 17.1 percent of the time and he’s hitting for average as well (.293). This is the type of player Schwarber has always felt he could be, and while he may not maintain all of these numbers, it’s really encouraging to see the way he’s gone about putting together that statistical line.

Last season, Schwarber had 22 hits to left field and in 2015, he had 10. This year, he’s already at six. And when it comes to hitting the ball on the ground that way, he’s already got four. In 2015 and 2017, he combined for eight. If he can continue even close to this pace, teams are going to stop putting on such a dramatic shift against him and it’s going to open up more holes to his pull side.

According to FanGraphs' split tool, not only does Schwarber have six hits to left field, but he has five to center and six to right. He’s truly spraying the ball all over and the results have been spectacular. Certain players are starting to figure it out at the plate, and Schwarber is prime among them. That can’t be a good sign for opposing pitchers.


He's had quite a few loud outs into the shift that would be hits against something played straight up, so it'll be interesting to watch this as the year goes on. From what we've seen so far, teams really shift hard against quite a few of the Cubs hitters. It's always a fun contrast to see that with the Cubs not shifting that much.
   15. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 24, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5659125)
Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 18m18 minutes ago

Maddon says on his weekly radio show on WSCR that Bryant is "fine" but says it's "50-50" whether he starts tonight
   16. Brian C Posted: April 24, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5659214)
That sounds reasonable - I think he's the only regular who's started every game, so he was probably due for a day off sometime anyway. Might as well make it the game after getting beaned. Makes all kinds of sense.
   17. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 24, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5659219)
But we still assume he's hungover, right?
   18. Quaker Posted: April 25, 2018 at 02:34 AM (#5659697)
+31 in 20 games. Would put them on pace for roughly the same differential (+252) they had in 2016.
   19. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2018 at 09:55 AM (#5659772)
Yeah, they're blowing teams out just fine. Unlike 2016, they're not scoring almost as often as they're scoring 10. I do think consistency will come - the lineup is better this year than last. Once the SP gets going, they'll be more than fine.
   20. Zonk is a Doppleclapper Posted: April 25, 2018 at 10:17 AM (#5659792)
FINALLY! Two games over .500!

Despite my rather eeyore-esque (eeyorian?) proclamations, sure - I think they'll ultimately be fine, too.

It just bothers me that the April schedule was probably their easiest month and I wish they'd have made some early hay.
   21. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5659832)
The Cubs non-pitchers are currently hitting .274/.363/.463. It's kind of weird seeing so many guys hitting .300 or above. All while Rizzo is only at .170/.290/.226. To be clear, this is just a post of me admiring those numbers.
   22. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 25, 2018 at 01:41 PM (#5660032)
Agreed. But at some point, he'll have to start seeing some of them more. I just worry about him being too easily removed from a playoff game when a LOOGY comes in.

I think that's a process that should start now, and maybe it is starting. Schwarber still isn't starting against LHP but I think he isn't necessarily going to get pulled when one comes in (on Sunday he faced three different lefty relievers). Four of his 19 PAs against LHP have come in the last two games, where he was left in against a lefty, and he's grounded out twice, walked and struck out -- I'll take not hitting the ball hard over striking out four times.

Let him build a high level of confidence against RHP and slowly let that bleed over to facing LHP. Hopefully by August he's starting every day and chasing a 50 HR season.
   23. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5660329)
Bryant out again tonight.

Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma 42m42 minutes ago

It was essentially decided yesterday that KB wouldn't play today. They're giving him another day to be cautious and will continue to monitor the situation. No official change in his status as of yet.


I call BS here. See my Maddon quote above. If they decided yesterday he wasn't going to play the next 2 days, I could see not rushing out to say that. I could also see Maddon playing up the possibility of him playing yesterday (though I can't give a good reason why). I mean, I'm just saying I wonder if he does have concussion symptoms and they don't want to talk about it.

EDIT: Here's another Maddon quote from yesterday:
"I think he's fine," manager Joe Maddon had said before Tuesday's game. "He just has to work through some things."
   24. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 25, 2018 at 04:50 PM (#5660348)
And the dream of having all 5 first rounders in the starting lineup remains elusive. It's unlikely that Schwarber will ever catch again, certainly not as a starter. Joe apparently doesn't want Happ at 2nd any more, and an OF of Schwarber, Almora, and Happ is also doubtful, that leaves games in AL parks, where the starter is a RHP. They have 3 games at KC, 2 at DET, and 3 at CHW. So 8 more chances this year, plus WS road games.
   25. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 25, 2018 at 06:32 PM (#5660430)
#Cubs are still monitoring Kris Bryant, who is supposed to see team doctor tomorrow in Chicago and might return to lineup that night in a best-case scenario. Joe Maddon: “I really anticipate good soon. If anything went the other way, I think we’d be surprised.”
   26. Zonk is a Doppleclapper Posted: April 25, 2018 at 06:35 PM (#5660432)
So help me... I will burn German Marquez to the ground.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: April 25, 2018 at 07:45 PM (#5660473)
Overall, the Cubs already had a healthy lead in R/G in the NL before the 10 runs at Cleveland. Before yesterday (so I assume unchanged/improved), Cub hitters had the 3rd lowest K-rate in the NL.

-Baez. My goodness, what a fun ride this is right now. .292/.363/.736. Yes, it’s probably just a hot streak; yes, the OBP is a little inflated by the 4 early IBBs (his last non-IBB BB was 2 weeks ago). What if it’s not just a hot streak though? Is a .300/.330/.500 line for the year that outlandish or unlikely?

I mentioned in a newsstand thread that I am seeing some signs of Sosa 98. Not that I expect 60 HR but just in being a bit more patient. Sosa's K-rate didn't really go down in his peak years but all of us in real time were noting that he was flailing at genuine crappy pitches a lot less often, going the other way more often ... and of course once the HRs started to pile up, pitchers were much more careful with him.

Putting Baez #2 in the order could be huge (assuming Bryant returns). The walks won't come even if the HRs do because nobody wants to put him on in front of Bryant and Rizzo but that also means that if he can lay off most of those really bad pitches, they're going to have to throw him stuff he can hit. There have never been any issues with the quality of Javy's contact. Early yet and in the midst of a super hot streak but his K-rate is down quite a bit so far this year (29% career, 21% this year ... that's the same sort of change we saw Bryant pull off).

-Schwarber. Like Baez, he was scuffling a bit early on. He’s now up to .293/.414/.552. He’s barely playing against lefties (15 PA) and not hitting them at all (.083/.267/.167). The early caveat always applies, but he’s striking out less and walking more.

FWIW, Baez has only 25 PA against LHP so they haven't exactly hidden Schwarber yet. Joe also rarely (ever?) PHs for him against LHR ... unless of course it sets up the inning to bring Heyward to bat against LHP with the game on the line. :-)

-Almora. He’s really taking this opportunity to play everyday and running with it. He still swings at damn near everything, but for now he’s making contact. And if his defense stays like this, he probably should be out there damn near every day.

Yeah, this has been big and the defense has been excellent. Although I don't expect Joe to change his ways (and I'm not sure he should), a prime defensive CF gives him more latitude to sit Heyward's bat.

Nitpick on Joe: When LaStella starts (only 4 times so far), I will never understand why he's not in the lead-off spot. That's exactly the kind of hitter he is. And against RHP (only time LaStella starts unless it's a real emergency), it avoids the 3 RHB at the top (A/B/B). Even last night L/B/R/C/S/R/H/A looks much better and has L-R balance all the way through. Or swap Almora and Heyward or Almora and Russell.
   28. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 26, 2018 at 10:11 AM (#5660896)
Nitpick on Joe: When LaStella starts (only 4 times so far), I will never understand why he's not in the lead-off spot. That's exactly the kind of hitter he is. And against RHP (only time LaStella starts unless it's a real emergency), it avoids the 3 RHB at the top (A/B/B). Even last night L/B/R/C/S/R/H/A looks much better and has L-R balance all the way through. Or swap Almora and Heyward or Almora and Russell.

Yeah, this is a good point. Zobrist is similar to LaStella, and Zo obviously isn't Joe's first choice to lead off either, but Zo's done it although only after other guys have tried and failed. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because LaStella is more likely to make contact and Joe would rather have that bat in a spot where they're likely driving in runs. Partly, because hitting with RISP has been such a consistent problem with this team Joe's entire tenure (it's almost all they talked about with the Chili Davis hiring). It's why Zobrist hits 4th or 5th so much, and why LaStella was hitting in between Contreras and Schwarber these 2 DH games in Cleveland when Bryant was out.

FWIW, Baez has only 25 PA against LHP so they haven't exactly hidden Schwarber yet. Joe also rarely (ever?) PHs for him against LHR ... unless of course it sets up the inning to bring Heyward to bat against LHP with the game on the line. :-)

Fair enough. Schwarber has sat against most LHP SP so far (though not all, it seems like more than Heyward has sat). But yes, he's been staying in against the RP.
   29. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 26, 2018 at 10:14 AM (#5660899)
I am starting to get a little more than concerned with Russell. I have a feeling that if Zobrist was healthy, we might see Russell getting more time off (Javy SS, Zo 2B). It still might have happened in Cleveland if Bryant also wasn't out.
   30. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 26, 2018 at 12:07 PM (#5661063)
Kris Bryant is scheduled to see Dr. Stephen Adams on Thursday in Chicago and a best-case scenario might be the team physician clearing him to be in the lineup that night against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. A Cubs official said the former NL MVP has not been put into Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol after getting drilled in the head with a pitch on Sunday at Coors Field.


Is he having vision problems? Headaches? A busted nose? Nightmares? A bruised ego?
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 26, 2018 at 12:58 PM (#5661114)
Is he having vision problems? Headaches? A busted nose? Nightmares? A bruised ego?
Still hungover.
   32. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 26, 2018 at 03:36 PM (#5661273)
Still no KB. Night off for Willson.

Almora
Schwarber
Baez
Rizzo
LaStella
Caratini
Russell
Heyward
Hendricks
   33. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 27, 2018 at 09:33 AM (#5661520)
Hendricks was awesome last night. Actually, he was awesome most of the Rockies game save the first inning. Lester pitched his best game of the year the other night in Cleveland, though the homers hurt (only 1 was a really bad pitch though, IMO).
   34. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 27, 2018 at 11:01 AM (#5661563)
Oof, this is a pretty piss poor lineup for my first game at Wrigley this year

Almora
Baez
Rizzo
Contreras
Bote
Happ
Russell
Heyward
Darvish

Not sure why you'd play Heyward against a LHP ahead of Schwarber with Bryant still out, but here we are.

So I'm not crazy to be thinking the Cubs are hiding something about Bryant at this point, right?
   35. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 27, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5661571)
So I'm not crazy to be thinking the Cubs are hiding something about Bryant at this point, right?
Kris Bryant's head has fallen off.
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 27, 2018 at 11:11 AM (#5661572)
Looking down that list of names, I was like, "Bote batting 5th? WTF?" But then looking at the names below his, "OK, yeah, I guess I see it."
   37. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 27, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5661619)
All the beat writers are saying Bryant is fine and should be in the lineup tomorrow. So I guess we'll see.

Zobrist also supposed to come off the DL tomorrow.
   38. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 28, 2018 at 11:45 AM (#5662199)
Both guys back today.

Kris Bryant would not divulge any problems he had after getting hit . He did say he listened to Doctors before returning


Kris Bryant: "I needed to take it seriously and not try to go out there and be Mr. Tough Man and play. You get hit again and you never know what happens. Our training staff and our doctors handled it really well. As frustrating as it can be...it's really the smart thing to do."


Why is everyone scared to say concussion?
   39. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 28, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5662206)
Kris Bryant: "It's making sure that I get to see my kids grow up and stuff like that, because any time you're talking about your brain, a lot can go wrong if it happens again. I was just listening to the team doctor."


Kris Bryant declined to say if he suffered a concussion in Colorado: "I'm not going to get into any of that. I'm not a doctor. I'm a baseball player."
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2018 at 12:39 PM (#5662217)
Yeah, that's bizarre. He sounds like a politician.
   41. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5662824)
And the rotation has finally started pulling their wait. 27IP, 0 ER in the Brewers series. Basically every pitcher had their best start this last time through the rotation. Kinda hid the fact the Cubs only scored 9 runs in the 4 games. Cubs have already shut out the Brewers 5 times this year, that's ridiculous.

Here's hoping yesterday's good day for Russell was the start of him hitting better. Rizzo isn't showing a whole lot of signs right now, but I'm more confident in him.
   42. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 30, 2018 at 11:07 AM (#5662826)
I can accept the current offense if the pitching staff is serious about not giving up any runs for the rest of the year.
   43. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5662937)
Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 12m12 minutes ago

Elias: Cubs' 5 shutouts of Brewers in April marks 3rd time in MLB history that a team has blanked an opponent 5 times in a calendar month. Last team was Washington Senators vs. Cleveland Naps in August of 1910
   44. McCoy Posted: April 30, 2018 at 01:44 PM (#5662991)
The Cubs . . . don't suck as much as of late.
   45. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2018 at 04:57 PM (#5663142)
Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 56s56 seconds ago

Maddon: as long as Almora Jr., Baez get on base with regularity for Bryant, Rizzo, etc., they can stay 1-2 “as long as they want to.”


Almora is only hitting .250/.314/.313 his last 8 games, so I think the really great start has sort of masked his struggles lately. That's not horrible, and it's cherry picked (starts the day after his big 4 hit game in the Rockies blowout), but most of it came during his big hitting streak that was getting plenty of attention.

He's playing a bit more against RHP too, but the splits aren't pretty - .255/.296/.294 vs RHP but .381/.458/.762 vs LHP (all but 2 of his Ks are against RHP). His defense more than makes up for it, and at the risk of worrying too much about batting order, he probably shouldn't be at leadoff against righties.
   46. bfan Posted: April 30, 2018 at 05:03 PM (#5663147)
Basically every pitcher had their best start this last time through the rotation.


was there someone missing from the Brewers line-up of any merit? They scored 2 runs in 4 games, which is pretty awful.
   47. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5663158)
Thames is on the DL. He wouldn't have started against Quintana, but could have the other 3. Yelich missed the first Cubs/Brewers series. Then again, the Brewers have scored 0,5,2,0,0,2,0,0 runs in the 8 games against the Cubs this season. For the Cubs, Rizzo missed almost the whole first series and Bryant and Zobrist missed half this series, but neither team was/is significantly undermanned. I guess that 8 game winning streak the Brewers had coming in was buoyed by the wins coming against CIN/MIA/KCR (though they did better against those teams than the Cubs so far).
   48. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 30, 2018 at 09:14 PM (#5663262)
#Cubs starting pitching last 5 games:
0.00 ERA (3 unearned runs), 32.2 IP, 16 Hits, 9 BB, 29 K, 0.765 WHIP
   49. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2018 at 10:34 AM (#5663545)
Christopher Kamka @ckamka 12h12 hours ago

#Cubs last 5 games:
Thursday: 1-0 win
Friday: 3-2 win
Saturday: 3-0 win
Sunday: 2-0 win
Tonight: 3-2 win

5 straight games with 3 or fewer runs... but all wins!
First time Cubs have ever done it.
First time any team has done it since Brewers August 13-17, 2011

Christopher Kamka @ckamka 12h12 hours ago

#Cubs this season when scoring 3 or fewer runs
Last 5 games: 5-0
Prior to that: 1-8

Christopher Kamka @ckamka 12h12 hours ago

#Cubs this season:
- 3 games with 12+ runs scored
- one 5-game winning streak with 12 TOTAL runs scored


Also:

On the other side of the ball, Alzolay (2-1) was on cruise control. The right-hander brought a no-hitter into the sixth, when Adalberto Mondesi beat out an infield single to short with one out. The native of Venezuela then induced an inning-ending double play and struck out the side on 11 pitches in his final frame. Alzolay finished with two walks and tied his season-high six punchouts over seven scoreless frames.

"I felt like everything worked together for me. I had all of my pitches going. I was able to pound to the zone by moving my fastball around -- left to right and also up and down -- and mix in my changeup and my breaking ball was perfect," said Alzolay, whose heater sits in the mid-90s but can be ramped up to 98 mph when he reaches back.

"I made my pitch on that hit [from Mondesi], he just got the bat on it and he's really fast. The ball got to the shortstop and he made a good throw to first, but it was too late. That's just baseball. After that, I knew I was on a pitch count. I wanted to be out there for as long as possible, so I just thought, 'Get a double play here and get out of this.' In the seventh, I just went right after guys."

In his Iowa debut on April 20, Alzolay also took a no-hit bid into the sixth against Nashville. That was broken up by a leadoff home run by B.J. Boyd. In that start, he did not return to the mound for the seventh.
   50. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5663554)
I'd like to think Rizzo just had his worst ever month with the Cubs, but I don't know for sure: .149/.259/.189, good for a 25OPS+. His only XBH was the HR on opening day. He's only walked 4 times and struck out 15 - the surest sign he's really struggling and not just unlucky. The 7 HBP are inflating the OBP, but he's always going to get hit a bunch.
   51. Zonk is a Doppleclapper Posted: May 01, 2018 at 12:38 PM (#5663668)
Did anyone note that the Cubs are first place?

Because it feels like it should be noted that we're finally back in 1st place.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 01, 2018 at 12:46 PM (#5663678)
The 7 HBP are inflating the OBP, but he's always going to get hit a bunch.
They say speed never goes in a slump - neither does standing half an inch off the plate.
   53. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2018 at 01:09 PM (#5663699)
Did anyone note that the Cubs are first place?

Because it feels like it should be noted that we're finally back in 1st place.


“It’s where we belong,” Albert Almora Jr. said after another spectacular night in center field. “We’re just playing Cub baseball right now and we’ve yet to explode-explode the way we can and we’re still in first. It’s where we belong.”
   54. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2018 at 01:19 PM (#5663711)
And Epstein, who knows how to paint a picture, reiterated something his manager Joe Maddon told reporters about a possible turning point in the season.

On April 16 and 18, the Cubs and Cardinals were postponed for wintry weather at Wrigley Field, giving the players some time to work in the cages with Davis and his assistant Haines. On April 19, they beat St. Louis 8-5.

“I think that was the day we had a big increase in buy-in and team-wide offensive approach,” Epstein said. “Since then we’ve got to lead the league in opposite field hits.”

He’s right. From April 19 through Monday’s win, the Cubs have 70 hits going to center field or opposite field, the most in baseball, according to FanGraphs. Those hits have resulted in a baseball-high 38 RBIs, an NL-best 151 wRC+ and .363 BABIP.

Take out the center field hits and the Cubs are still tops in baseball with 34 hits, first in the NL with 16 RBIs and a 192 wRC+ and second to the Rockies with a .421 BABIP.
   55. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 01, 2018 at 03:10 PM (#5663780)
Joe might have been drunk when making tonight's lineup - though I do appreciate the reasoning behind Rizzo's spot

Rizzo
Bryant
Zobrist
Russell
Schwarber
Caratini
Heyward
Happ
Hendricks
   56. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 09:49 AM (#5664285)
14 runs in the last 7 games. Of course, there's that flukey 5 game winning streak in the middle of that.

Last night was somewhat disappointing because of the weather conditions and the fact the Cubs had just knocked around Gray, but in all honestly Gray was really impressive last night. So was Hendricks, but a lot like Lester last week the close HRs were the difference. Also, it was really just the first 2 batters last night, continuing a trend (2 times makes a trend, right?) where it seems like his control is a little iffy early and then he settles down.

None of those 4 HRs would have gone out this past weekend - the Blackmon one was the best hit but it still just cleared the wall in CF - which is just a thing that happens sometimes, I guess.

But really, the overall numbers on the offense aren’t so bad, there’s just been zero consistency. The Cubs are second in the National League with 4.96 runs per game, but they’ve scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their 27 games played.
   57. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 09:50 AM (#5664287)
Same article, more on Rizzo:

In March and April, Rizzo saw 67.7 percent “hard” pitches, according to Pitch Info. That would be the highest percentage of those pitches — four-seamers, two-seamers and cutters — he’s ever seen in a single month in his career. From 2014-2017, Rizzo hit .263 with a .523 slugging on four-seamers, .331 with a .632 slugging against two-seamers and .331 with a .478 slugging against cutters. Those numbers are down to .143 and .250 off four-seamers, .250 and .250 against two-seamers and .167 and .167 off cutters. He’s supposed to mash hard pitches and he’s just not doing it.
   58. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 02, 2018 at 11:00 AM (#5664358)
Not catching up to heat leads me to believe his back issue is not fully resolved or he hasn't gotten compensating for it out of his head.
   59. Zonk is a Doppleclapper Posted: May 02, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5664374)
But really, the overall numbers on the offense aren’t so bad, there’s just been zero consistency. The Cubs are second in the National League with 4.96 runs per game, but they’ve scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their 27 games played.


My guess is that an offense built like the Cubs - lots of HRs, a couple guys who will walk a ton but also a couple who avoid ball four like the plague, plus all the high K guys - is always going to show such inconsistency. What they really lack are a couple of high contact 280 hitters - i.e., a TLS-type starter -- who can always be counted on to put the ball in play. Maybe Almora can turn into that.

I think this is one of the reasons Joe loves lineup tinkering - to get the most out of such an offense, you really need to lean on hot guys and try to hide guys struggling.
   60. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 12:05 PM (#5664432)
My guess is that an offense built like the Cubs - lots of HRs, a couple guys who will walk a ton but also a couple who avoid ball four like the plague, plus all the high K guys - is always going to show such inconsistency.

Oddly enough, the Cubs are currently 11th in the NL in HRs (24th MLB) and 13th in BBs (20th MLB), but 3rd in BA (10th). So while the theory carries a little weight in my mind - especially when talking about last year - it really doesn't explain this year.

What they really lack are a couple of high contact 280 hitters - i.e., a TLS-type starter -- who can always be counted on to put the ball in play. Maybe Almora can turn into that.

You're talking about a healthy Zobrist.
   61. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 01:36 PM (#5664534)
Sports Info Solutions @SportsInfo_SIS 20m20 minutes ago

It's still early, but we're on pact for a lot more defensive shifts this season than we've ever had before.

Teams driving this number up include:

Royals
Twins
Braves

and others ...


Len Kasper @LenKasper 39m39 minutes ago

Per @StatsBySTATS, @cubs have shifted 27x TOTAL all season, by far fewest in MLB. KC has employed 520, the most. Only 5 teams have shifted fewer than 100x. So industry is zigging & Cubs are zagging. Cubs 5th in MLB in defensive efficiency so it’s working. (Thx @baseball_ref)


I've harped on the defense a bit this year - some of those are just errors, others are dropped balls by Heyward that weren't counted as errors - but even with Happ in CF and Scwharber in LF the defense has still been good.

I have noticed the more extreme shifts this year that Bryant, for one, is facing. Rizzo keeps finding the shift, but he's at the point where he's a finding a glove no matter where it's positioned.
   62. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 01:59 PM (#5664559)
Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs: One thing I understand about Heyward is that his 2018 numbers aren't spectacular. There's no sense in pretending they are. He has been about an average hitter, which, granted, is still a step up from what Heyward was in 2016 and 2017.

But here, Statcast can come in extra handy. By average exit velocity off the bat, Heyward this year has hit the ball as hard as he did back in 2015. And there's a metric out there called expected slugging percentage, which calculates an SLG estimate based on someone's actual batted balls. Heyward in 2016: .348. Heyward in 2017: .392. Heyward in 2018: .515. The strong conclusion here is that Heyward has been hitting the ball just fine in the early going, but he has simply hit into some bad luck. It happens. His hard-hit rate is up. And, for that matter, Heyward has been hitting more balls in the air. It doesn't help him much to put the ball on the ground.

Even when Heyward was struggling, he put the bat on the ball. He drew his walks. His discipline wasn't a problem. It was his swing that might have been overcomplicated. The early results now are very encouraging. Heyward has the results of an average hitter. But he now has the profile of someone even better than that.


...
   63. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 02, 2018 at 04:18 PM (#5664743)
There appears to be some push in the media asking if Happ should get sent down, a la Schwarber last year. Joe had to comment on it today, and all the writers must smell blood because it's not just a couple of guys pushing it. Levine goes so far as to say the Cubs are looking for a veteran backup OF, someone like Bourjos.
   64. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 03, 2018 at 04:59 PM (#5665656)
Dillon Maples just struck out the side in the 9th for the @IowaCubs. Hit 99 mph on the radar gun twice. Maples has now struck out 19 batters in 8.1 innings this season. That's 20.5 strikeouts per nine innings.


   65. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 03, 2018 at 05:26 PM (#5665694)
...and 7.6 walks per 9 IP.

I enjoyed most of the Carlos Marmol experience.
   66. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 07, 2018 at 09:05 AM (#5667652)
So last night's loss is definitely the biggest gut-punch this season. May it retain that status through October.
   67. McCoy Posted: May 07, 2018 at 09:31 AM (#5667666)
Cubs suck.

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