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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Final Push

24 games to go.  Cubs still have 8 games left on this 23 straight day stretch, but only 2 more real road trips - DC this weekend and and Phoenix in a couple of weeks; the only other road games are today in Milwaukee and 3 at The Cell.  A 3 game lead is far from comfortable, especially after the way the last 2 games played out, but a win today and leaving with a 4 game lead with 23 left is still quite the enviable position. 

The Cubs went 18-10 in September, and are 10-4 in their last 14, but 2 back to back tough losses make it seem worse.  Of course, how they lost echo the problems they’ve had throughout the year.  The offense looked helpless against a couple of guys they look like they should beat up; add that to a pathetic bullpen collapse and tons of walks allowed and it adds up to losses that seem more predictive than their recent wins.  The unexpected part of yesterday’s loss was the way the defense looked absolutely pathetic.  A lot of that was Russell, and to be fair to him he’s pretty rusty and probably still hurt.  Without a rehab assignment, his only chance to play is up here.  He hasn’t looked anywhere near ready in the field or at the plate, but I understand they have to get him PT because it’s not really an option to leave him off the playoff roster (unless he’s more hurt than they’re letting on). 

I complained a bit in the game chatter about Contreras’s catching yesterday.  I understand and completely agree this is a non-problem if we had robot umps, but since that isn’t happening yet it’s becoming a pretty big concern for me.  It’s not just that he’s bad on getting close balls called as strikes, it’s that he gets so many close strikes - clear strikes - called as balls.  I feel like he’s actually gotten worse as the season has gone on; I know this is something they talked about a lot during spring training and how much he works on it, but game after game it’s contributing to higher pitch counts for so many different pitchers.  Then last night he had multiple passed balls where he tried to backhand or scoop a ball instead of blocking it.  He’s also still in his extended slump - .202/.298/.275 since 8/1.  The Cubs don’t have another option (though I do find it interesting Caratini has been catching Hamels quite a bit lately; last 4 starts), but he needs to get straightened out soon. 

It might be about time to assume Morrow isn’t coming back.  It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen anything on him, and even that was him still just throwing from flat ground.  With him out, the bullpen doesn’t feel anything like a strength.  While Strop has been good, he still has his moments - and it’s worth noting he’s been pretty invisible in the playoff mix the last few years.  Edwards is still very much a mess, and was a total mess last postseason.  Wilson has been a lot better this year, but there’s still a ton of risk with him.  Cishek looks to be in a bad stretch, or maybe he’s just tired.  Chavez has been amazing with the Cubs - 25.2IP, 1.05ERA, 31k/2bb - but he has a long enough history that I’m weary to think something special is going on. 

All that being said, the rotation has been very good lately.  Hamels looks like a legit ace again, Hendricks has regained his form, and neither Lester or Quintana are the worst 3/4 starters you’ll find on a playoff team.  The offense still hasn’t had more than a couple of games with the main regulars healthy - none if you want to include Murphy is this group because Heyward went out right before Bryant came back - but is still incredibly deep and dangerous.  In spite of last night, the Cubs still have a great defense (though again, Murphy hurts that) and are a great baserunning team.  So, I guess, buckle up and enjoy the ride? 

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 10:27 AM | 346 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 11:13 AM (#5738913)
Kintzler has been surprisingly terrible. Last year with Wilson, you could at least theoretically make the argument that going from a bad team to a good one and switching leagues maybe did him in (I'm not sure I agree, but you could make that argument). This year, Kintzler doesn't have those excuses - even if you call the Nats a bad team.

I understand Joe doesn't want to use the same guys every game, but I still can't comprehend why he went to Kintzler first to start the 5th in a 1 run game against the team right behind you in the standings. I think you're hoping for a few good innings there, so why not Chavez? Or de la Rosa (who absolutely pitched fine and was completely done in by bad luck, his defense, and Maples)? Hell, even the just activated Garcia maybe makes more sense if you're just concerned about innings - that might be interpreted as a white flag move too, but IOW how is Kintzler not already regulated to only mop up work?

Kintzler, Maples*, Duensing all in the same game just screams this one doesn't matter.

*I really, really am rooting for him to figure things out. That stuff is just so amazing. He hasn't figured it out yet though, and he may never. In the chatter I said he's got Juan Cruz+ stuff but a fraction of his control. I stand by that comp. I also really, really wanted Cruz to figure it out. Hell, he has Marmol's stuff and a fraction of his control.
   2. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:20 PM (#5738992)
This is awesome. Too bad he's still hurt.
   3. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:33 PM (#5739001)
Kintzler, Maples*, Duensing all in the same game just screams this one doesn't matter.


The problem was that Montgomery could only make it through four innings. Which sucks, but (a) Montgomery is still working his way back from an injury, and (b) Montgomery isn't going to start a playoff game anyway. But, at that point, you have to go to your bullpen in the fifth inning - well, when you do that you either have to overuse your core relievers - in the middle of a 23-days-with-no-off-days stretch - or you have to bring in somebody who's probably not very good.

With Kintzler and Duensing, yes, they suck this year (as Cubs) but they both have some history of cromulence in the not-so-distant past. With Maples, he clearly has the potential to have major-league stuff if he can master his control. Those are exactly the kinds of guys worth taking a look at there. Best case, one of them shows you the potential to be a contributor down the stretch.

Worst case - well, the worst case happened. Then again, the Cubs were trailing 2-1 when Montgomery left the game and they lost 11-1. In the grand scheme of things, an 11-1 loss counts the same as a 2-1 loss. Forget it and come back to fight another day.

Come playoff time, if one of the Cubs' starters gets knocked out after four innings, the first guy out of the bullpen will be Montgomery.
   4. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 04:11 PM (#5739144)
The problem was that Montgomery could only make it through four innings. Which sucks, but (a) Montgomery is still working his way back from an injury, and (b) Montgomery isn't going to start a playoff game anyway.

Montgomery wasn't his sharpest, but he wasn't *that* bad and his defense (and Contreras's catching) hurt him. He could have kept going, but Joe PH for his spot in the top the of the 5th - which is totally justified with the bigger bench. IOW, he wasn't pulled because he was ineffective as much as because Joe was worried about the offense and thought there were enough arms to get them through the game.

As for the playoff start part, there was a while there when he was going along just fine and Quintana was really struggling that I wondered if Monty should get a playoff start ahead of Q. I think that would be a mistake now, but I also could see how things the rest of this month could make it a decent idea.

With Kintzler and Duensing, yes, they suck this year (as Cubs) but they both have some history of cromulence in the not-so-distant past. With Maples, he clearly has the potential to have major-league stuff if he can master his control. Those are exactly the kinds of guys worth taking a look at there. Best case, one of them shows you the potential to be a contributor down the stretch.

OTOH, I'm just not on the same page here, at least not with Kintzler and Duensing. The way they both have been most recently pitching means that they shouldn't be in close games*. To be fair to Duensing, it wasn't that close when he came in so he's coming in at the right spot. If Kintzler wasn't already relegated to being a bad pitcher, last night would have been the final straw (actually, for both).

*Joe tends to use different pitchers in games when the Cubs are winning than losing, but it doesn't always seem like the actual deficit matters as much as whether they're winning or now (IOW, a "bad" pitcher comes in during a loss whether it's a 1 run or 5 run deficit); Joe bringing in the "good" pitchers to protect large leads is pretty well documented.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 05, 2018 at 04:13 PM (#5739147)
*Joe tends to use different pitchers in games when the Cubs are winning than losing, but it doesn't always seem like the actual deficit matters as much as whether they're winning or now (IOW, a "bad" pitcher comes in during a loss whether it's a 1 run or 5 run deficit); Joe bringing in the "good" pitchers to protect large leads is pretty well documented.
Now that you mention it, I've noticed the same thing, and I do not like it.
   6. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 04:18 PM (#5739155)
Murphy
Baez
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Bryant 3b
Schwarber
Contreras
Quintana
Happ CF

Offense over defense today, and a nice 10 run outburst from them would be quite timely. Put Heyward in for Happ in CF, and you might have your playoff lineup (though I'd still mix it up and would rather this powerless Bryant at leadoff and just move everyone else done one spot).
   7. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 06:42 PM (#5739253)
Maddon said they're running out of time to get Morrow back onto the mound and into the closer's role. He said it's "not inaccurate" that they'll have to operate under the assumption he can't comeback and be full go this season.
   8. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 06, 2018 at 10:14 AM (#5739626)
The bullpen last night was very worrying. I think Maddon pulled Quintana at the right time - he got all the way through the lineup 3 times but was about to face Cain for the 4th time; Q has really horrible numbers 3rd time through (1.010 OPS against) and Maddon really couldn't push his luck any further.

It was interesting to see him go to Chavez there - with a 4 run lead - the day after being hesitant to bring him in down 1. This gets to my point in post 4, and something I'll watch more closely as the year goes on. Chavez of course isn't nearly as good as he's looked, so giving up a hit/HR there really shouldn't be surprising I guess.

Then in the 8th, he pulled Cishek after 2 quick outs to have Wilson act as a LOOGY. 2 run lead, and Cishek has been shaky lately, so I can understand the quick hook a little. But that made 2 straight innings pulling a pitcher with 2 outs and no one on which seems a little extreme. Strop was really shaky in the 9th - though he had 2 clear strikes at the bottom of the zone called balls against Shaw, but got out of it. I said in the chatter it doesn't seem like a bullpen that's good enough to win in October, especially as it's looking pretty unlikely Morrow will be back in time.
   9. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 06, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5739816)
Was looking at some statcast stuff today and am absolutely shocked to see that Almora is rated as a faster baserunner this year than everyone on the Cubs besides Javy and Bryant. He actually isn't that much faster than last year, but Happ is much, much slower (and Heyward just isn't as fast as I thought he was, though he's also been faster this year than last; Javy even is a little faster this year). Also, in case you couldn't tell, Murhpy is really f'in slow.

Almora is also now 6th in outs above average; last year he was 182nd.

Another data point that the Cubs might have something in Bote.
   10. Meatwad Posted: September 06, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5739964)
I finally pulled the trigger and got some tickets to a game this year. Feels weird that I have only seen them in ST so far. Going to the september 29th game against St Louis.
   11. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 06, 2018 at 03:10 PM (#5740062)
Cool. Unfortunately for you, I'm hopeful the game isn't that important to the Cubs. Though it would be fun if it's a knock out game that eliminates the Cards.

---

Murphy
Javy 3b
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Bryant LF
Almora
Contreras
Hendricks
Russell

Maddon said Schwarber tweaked his back last night when he was thrown out trying to get to 3rd (before his monster HR), so I'll guess tonight's night off is precautionary (or they don't like him matching up against Strasburg).
   12. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 06, 2018 at 06:28 PM (#5740193)
Morrow scheduled to throw off a mound on Sunday that could dictate if he meets target date to return Sept. 14-16. “I know there’s not much rime left.”

Admitted to some soreness and achiness last week but feels fine. Still hasn’t thrown off mound since Pittsburgh series nearly three weeks ago.
   13. Meatwad Posted: September 06, 2018 at 11:11 PM (#5740354)
I hope its a game that they knock the cards out of playoff potential.
Retro are going to be at this? And any others who are going?
   14. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 07, 2018 at 09:41 AM (#5740403)
I've got 2 more games but not that one. If it ends up being meaningless, which means tickets could be cheap, I might try and join you.

...

David Bote in 21 plate appearances this season in 9th inning or later:
.421/.476/1.053, 3 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI
#Cubs


Cisheck came in with the Cubs down 1, and he's on the good list, followed Rosario. So Joe went a little off book last night with his reliever usage (unless of course I'm imagining this usage pattern). Hendricks was good, not great, and his defense let him down a little but he couldn't pitch around it (first 3 runs were unearned, but it was the leadoff guy who got on via javys error). I'm still pretty comfortable with him in any playoff game, I think he's back at last years level (will have to post splits for him later at a computer).
   15. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 07, 2018 at 10:40 AM (#5740444)
Hendricks splits:
first 17 starts - 97IP, 4.27ERA, 72/30 K/BB, 16HR, .737OPS against
last 12 starts - 72.2IP, 2.97ERA, 69/10 K/BB, 5HR, .681OPS against

So, IP per start up, K rate way up, BB rate more than halved, HR rate way way down. There was plenty of talk around that time about some mechanical fixes he'd been working on, and I'd say they took.

Another thing I noticed:
Zobrist - .313/.388/.461
Bryant - .277/.380/.465

Also, Rizzo is right on Javy's heels for the OPS+ (128 to 126) and wRC (132 to 131) team leads.
   16. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 07, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5740641)
Bleacher Nation @BleacherNation 2h2 hours ago

My good gravy. Have you really looked at how hot Anthony Rizzo has been since ALL the way back to the All-Star break?

.360/.456/.640, 189 wRC+, 12.3% BB rate, 10.8% K rate, .279 ISO, 2 SB


---

Murphy
Baez SS
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Bryant CF!
Schwarber
Contreras
Lester
Bote

I really want to see them try Murphy somewhere besides leadoff

EDIT: Zobrist scratched for neck stiffness (hopefully minor)

Murphy
Baez SS
Rizzo
Bryant RF
Scwarber
Bote
Conteras
Lester
Happ CF
   17. Zonk is Just the Right Amount of Wrought Posted: September 07, 2018 at 04:23 PM (#5740647)
Didn't want to start noting it until they recovered from those two ugly Brewers games - but up 5 now in the loss column, seems reasonable to start noting that the magic number is 18.

I hope its a game that they knock the cards out of playoff potential.
Retro are going to be at this? And any others who are going?


I'd probably be a stubhub game time decision on going into the game - but I'd certainly be up for grabbing a beer regardless.
   18. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 08, 2018 at 05:08 PM (#5740960)
The rain delays yesterday and today, including the postpone last night after playing over an inning that doesn't count is less than ideal. Cubs didn't play but they were at the park the full time yesterday and get a DH today. Still no off day until next week. Laster now starts Monday, which means I'll be at his next 2 starts which is a horrible omen.
   19. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 09, 2018 at 01:47 PM (#5741241)
Long road trips can be tough, but man, this one has been brutal.

What's the consensus on Russell? The emergence of Baez has sort of taken the spotlight off Russell having another rough season. 2016 seemed like he was set to bust out, but it's been really nothing but disappointment from him since.
   20. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 09, 2018 at 04:48 PM (#5741319)
They end up going 5-5 on the trip. Not good, but could have been worse. Of course they really played awful some of those games, and had a couple winnable ones they blew. I'm sure this schedule is wearing on them. Doesn't get easier quite yet, 3 night games against MIL, fly to DC for a makeup Thursday (afternoon after night and travel, yuck), then fly back to Chicago for afternoon game Friday. That makes it scheduled games 30 straight days, with today the only one they didn't play anything. Brutal.

Sweep the Brewers and it won't matter. Lose the series, and uh oh.
   21. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 09, 2018 at 04:59 PM (#5741324)
Morrow threw 25 pitches in light bullpen session
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 09, 2018 at 09:29 PM (#5741393)
Of course they really played awful some of those games, and had a couple winnable ones they blew.
That's the thing - I have a hard time having confidence in this team for the postseason because of how absolutely inept they are capable of being.
   23. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 09, 2018 at 10:35 PM (#5741420)
True. But that's also true of at least every other NL team and some of the AL ones.

The bullpen is a real Achilles heel. I think the defense will be fine, the rotation I feel better about, and the offense will be good.
   24. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 10, 2018 at 12:09 PM (#5741575)
What's the consensus on Russell? The emergence of Baez has sort of taken the spotlight off Russell having another rough season. 2016 seemed like he was set to bust out, but it's been really nothing but disappointment from him since.

There doesn't seem to be one, but it's getting harder and harder to see how his bat develops into a true plus. He is still only 24, so it's likely there still is development in there. His BB% rate is up a little this year (but not as high as 2016) and his K% is down (career low), which are good things. Like a number of other people, his power completely cratered. His BsR numbers are also a career best, but some of his defensive metrics are also down. The biggest other thing I see is that he's not pulling the ball like he used to (only 29% when he's always been above 40%), so I don't know if that means there's an approach reason for some of these changes and if they're related.

He's been banged up a lot - last year too - so maybe even the optimistic view that it's just injuries might imply he's an injury prone guy.

I think there's a chance the Cubs could try to move him this offseason, but I think Javy being able to play multiple spots is a good thing so you'd have to really be blown away by an offer, and considering he's at a low point in his value I'm not sure why a team would be that aggressive to target him. I'm fine approaching this offseason with him on the bench and being a defensive replacement (he is better than Javy at SS, and Murhpy is bad at 2b). Long term, I dunno.
   25. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 10, 2018 at 12:22 PM (#5741585)
BTW - there's a good chance the Cubs/Nats can't play in DC Thursday because of the Hurricane. It'd probably be nice to figure that out before the Cubs leave Chicago.
   26. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 10, 2018 at 12:52 PM (#5741599)
BTW - there's a good chance the Cubs/Nats can't play in DC Thursday because of the Hurricane. It'd probably be nice to figure that out before the Cubs leave Chicago.


Yeah, my brother lives in the area and he was telling me yesterday they're already prepping themselves to get hit.

Maybe depending on what happens in the series with the Brewers, they can deem whether or not it's wise to try to get that game in on Thursday.
   27. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 10, 2018 at 12:55 PM (#5741603)
Re: Russell - I guess, even if he's already topped out as a hitter, it's still hard to view the deal to get him as anything but a huge win for the Cubs. These past two seasons have been disappointing, but he was an essential component to the team's success in 2015-16.
   28. Quaker Posted: September 10, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5741606)
Interesting concept if you want to lock up rights to playoff tickets. $150-$200 + face value for World Series tix. Of course, if the Cubs don't make it, you're out the $150-$200.

https://www.shoowin.com/mlb/Chicago Cubs
   29. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 10, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5741695)
Murphy
Bryant LF
Rizzo
Baez 3b
Zobrist RF
Almora
Contreras
Lester
Russell

On paper, that lineup should hit Wade Miley, even if he's really a better pitcher this year. It's also a pretty decent defensive lineup behind Lester*. I apologize in advance if he continues his streak of shitting himself with me in attendance; he wasn't supposed to be starting tonight. The Good News about the makeup game Thursday is now I also won't see Lester on Sunday; the Bad News is that Scherzer would be in line to start Thursday's makeup. Talk about not catching a break - come on Davey, do your old club a solid here and have him start a different game.

*Bote at 3b might actually be better than Javy there, if only because he's had more reps (he's also really, really good on charging bunts, but so is Javy).
   30. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 10, 2018 at 04:42 PM (#5741741)
Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 5m5 minutes ago

Morrow said he feels fine, going to play catch now


I'm reading this like he's one of my kids talking to me - can't talk now, dad, going outside to play.
   31. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 10, 2018 at 04:51 PM (#5741753)
Re: Russell - I guess, even if he's already topped out as a hitter, it's still hard to view the deal to get him as anything but a huge win for the Cubs.

I try to treat defensive metrics with some dose of skepticism. However, Russell has been consistently, unfailingly, excellent. Even if he's a 90 OPS+ hitter (I think he will be better) he's a very valuable player. Even this year he's posted 0.7 WAA.

If the Cubs do trade him this offseason I think it would be selling low.
   32. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 10, 2018 at 06:12 PM (#5741841)
Cubs have shut Smyly down for the season. Want him to have a normal offseason after they ruled him out for postseason because he can't go back to back yet


Theo remains optimistic about Heyward and Morrow returning


The idea of heyward not returning hadn't crossed my mind until just then.

Theo says game on Thur is on for now but “common sense” should prevail. Would not get into contingencies


   33. Meatwad Posted: September 10, 2018 at 09:06 PM (#5741931)
Last time they wanted to cubs to fly into a hurricane it turned into a no hitter at miller park.
   34. McCoy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:33 AM (#5742045)
Cubs suck
   35. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:57 AM (#5742143)
I am not sure why Joe let Almora hit for himself against Jeffers - I'm not sure Happ would have had a better result but Almora is garbage right now (.230/.273/.291 since 7/1 and I don't think he's having goods ABs or hitting the ball hard either). Also, had Contreras not drawn that walk, TLS wouldn't have even PH. Had TLS reached, would Russell have hit for himself too (he was on deck); he's the only guy on the team hitting worse than Almora (maybe Contreras, but he actually looked decent last night).

After the game, Joe said Schwarber couldn't hit anyway, so he only was a decoy and wasn't going to hit no matter what. That would suck if he's out for any time now too.

Edwards came in when the game was tied, but Chavez/Cishek/Wilson all while the Cubs were losing. Maybe our RP usage theory was wrong.

Tonight kinda feels like a must win game, doesn't it?
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 11:08 AM (#5742150)
the offense will be good
What do you base this on, other than eternal optimism?
   37. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 11:41 AM (#5742175)
1st in the NL in BA, 1st in the NL in OPB, 4th in the NL in SLG, so 2nd in OPS. Also, first in the NL in runs and runs/game. I mean, I know we all love to nitpick, and things aren't always constant throughout the year, but big picture, it's at least a good offense.
   38. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: September 11, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5742181)
There's no way in hell they are playing in DC on Thursday night with a major hurricane slated to hit about 100 miles south of there 12 hours later. If for no other reason, the city won't let them.
   39. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5742186)
After Lester exited the game, the Cubs’ recent bullpen issues took center stage. Overall, the bullpen has been strong this season, but with Morrow down and Carl Edwards Jr. struggling, it’s become a question mark of late. The group has a 6.00 ERA in September and during their stretch of 23 games in 23 days, they have a 4.52 ERA, 20th in baseball during that span. But Maddon chose to go to Edwards, who had given up just one earned run in his last 14 outings, but had looked shaky as he struck out only eight and walked nine while pitching 11 innings during that stretch.

On Aug. 1, Contreras went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. Since then he’s posted a 38 wRC+ and an .032 ISO with just three extra-base hits (all doubles). Almora has a 48 wRC+ since July 9 with just six extra-base hits. Since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 1, Russell has a .375 OPS with just three singles. And it wasn’t as if he was lighting the world on fire before that as he’s posted a 38 wRC+ since July 4. With the way that trio has performed at the plate of late, the Cubs essentially had four automatic outs at the bottom of the order on Monday night.

link
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 12:03 PM (#5742193)
things aren't always constant throughout the year
As the second paragraph in your post directly above indicates, I don't think you can just shrug things off as variance and look at the big picture when the offense is so completely lost at this stage of the year. There's a big difference between "in general, over the course of a full season, this is probably a good offense" and "this offense will be good from here on out."
   41. TomH Posted: September 11, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5742201)
The Cubs went 15-10 in July, and have been 22-15 in Aug/Sep. So if the offense is cold, there must be something hot in order to keep winning games, right? Or have the Cubs been winning primarily by close-game good fortune (that could be).
   42. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 01:09 PM (#5742231)
As the second paragraph in your post directly above indicates, I don't think you can just shrug things off as variance and look at the big picture when the offense is so completely lost at this stage of the year. There's a big difference between "in general, over the course of a full season, this is probably a good offense" and "this offense will be good from here on out."

I'm saying "they're a great offense, so they probably will be at least good from here on out." I don't think that's really that controversial*. As for the 2nd paragraph, it's highlighting a reason we shouldn't be surprised the offense wasn't good last night - the bottom half was about as bad on paper as possible, thus it sometimes leads to a good offense not having a good night, or just being inconsistent.

We've talked all year about whether or not there's an underlying reason or trend going on, but I've yet to really see anything conclusive in any way. So call it optimism if you must, but I think that's based more on facts than hope**

*They've compiled those numbers with a bunch of these guys struggling both now, and throughout the season. They're also replacing a lot of Russell ABs with Murphy ABs - which is an offensive upgrade, though not a defensive one
**The rotation is all hope here - I think there's good signs with Hamels and Hendricks, and less so with Quintana and Lester, but to think of them as an ok playoff rotation is based a lot more on prior year results and smaller sample sizes.
   43. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5742232)
Or have the Cubs been winning primarily by close-game good fortune (that could be).

Don't know the most up to date numbers, but for most of the year the Cubs have led baseball in comeback wins. The Cubs are 22-23 in 1 run games, which feels about right. Over the last month or so, I think they've lost more blowout games than they've won, but that's the opposite of the first half. So I wouldn't say they're getting by on good fortune, and you maybe could make the argument that overall this year they've been on the unlucky side.
   44. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 11, 2018 at 01:35 PM (#5742252)
I don't think you can just shrug things off as variance and look at the big picture when the offense is so completely lost at this stage of the year


I feel like this has been the Cubs' pattern all season: way more 1-run games than you'd expect from a team averaging 5 runs per-game, offset by perhaps more 8-10 run games at the other end. They're averaging 4.6 runs per game in September with games of 7, 8, 6, 6, and 5, the last three of those coming within the past week. It'd be nice to see a few more games where they score 8 or 10 or 12 and fewer games where they score 1 or 2. But, by and large, their September numbers look similar enough to their season-long numbers, that I think it's fair to judge them based on "the big picture".
   45. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 11, 2018 at 01:37 PM (#5742255)
So I wouldn't say they're getting by on good fortune, and you maybe could make the argument that overall this year they've been on the unlucky side.


The Cubs are dead-even vs. their Pythag for the season according to BB-Ref. Earlier in the season, they were under-performing vs. their Pythag, so it would seem to follow that they must have been over-performing vs. Pythag recently, but I don't recall the precise details and am too lazy to try to calculate the Cubs' Pythag over time.
   46. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:02 PM (#5742284)
way more 1-run games than you'd expect from a team averaging 5 runs per-game, offset by perhaps more 8-10 run games at the other end
So I guess I'm obviously reacting to the "way more 1-run [or 2-run] games" part. There are just way too many games that the offense never gives them a chance, and they don't have any world-beating pitchers to extract wins out of those games. Those are "offset" by the big-run games for the purposes of pythag and total offensive stats, but when you're down to a small number of remaining games, you can't just write off any substantive number by scoring 1 or 2 runs - let alone in the playoffs.
   47. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:41 PM (#5742357)
There are just way too many games that the offense never gives them a chance

Am I being too nitpicky if I say I disagree and say that they have had chances but failed? They were 0 for 5 (or 6, can't remember) last night with RISP, including the tying run on 2nd in the 9th. That's a thin difference between success and failure, sure, but are we to believe that isn't the case for every other team? You're in the game chatters, the Red Sox are going to win 110 games and do they seem any more confident in their team? Sale is hurt, none of them trust Kimbrel, and they're playing Brandon Phillips at 3b.

As for the part you're responding to: way more 1-run games than you'd expect from a team averaging 5 runs per-game, offset by perhaps more 8-10 run games at the other end - is that true? Are do they have a normal distribution of runs? I'm honestly asking, I don't know. This is from earlier this season, and I read/talked about it at the time, but I don't know if it's continued or not. Or is it actually an accurate predictor of future results? Is there a reason why it would even be the case in the first place beyond just luck or how's thing break?

The Cubs have had games, and recently, where they hit good pitchers just fine and where they can't hit bad pitchers. Which is more likely to be the case going forward? in the playoffs? How confident should I be in that? The Cubs were shut out twice each in the 2016 NLCS and WS but still won; is there something about their players that leads to those ups and downs?

But what I keep coming back to is which team in the NL is clearly better off or has fewer questions? There isn't one, at least IMO, so I can at least point to that, plus the talent and overall results, to say why I can still see the positive side.
   48. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:43 PM (#5742358)
Christopher Kamka @ckamka 29m29 minutes ago

Highest batting avg by a #Cubs player in age 37 or older season
(qualified seasons)

.388 Cap Anson (42) 1894
.342 Cap Anson (37) 1889
.335 Cap Anson (43) 1895
.331 Cap Anson (44) 1896
.314 BEN ZOBRIST (37) 2018
.314 Cap Anson (41) 1893
.312 Cap Anson (38) 1890

Christopher Kamka @ckamka 30m30 minutes ago

Highest batting avg by a #Cubs player in age 37 or older season
since 1901 (qualified seasons)

.314 BEN ZOBRIST (37) 2018
.293 Moisés Alou (37) 2004
.288 Hank Sauer (37) 1954
.279 Dode Paskert (38) 1920
.277 Andre Dawson (37) 1992
.273 Fred McGriff (38) 2002
   49. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:45 PM (#5742359)
Murphy
Bryant LF
Rizzo
Zobrist RF
Javy SS
TLS 3b
Caratini
Quintana
Happ CF
   50. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:51 PM (#5742368)
.388 Cap Anson (42) 1894
.342 Cap Anson (37) 1889
.335 Cap Anson (43) 1895
.331 Cap Anson (44) 1896
.314 BEN ZOBRIST (37) 2018
.314 Cap Anson (41) 1893
.312 Cap Anson (38) 1890
Clearly Thed must sign Zobrist to a 6-year extension at some point next year.
   51. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:54 PM (#5742373)
Nothing like being on a list with Cap Anson 6 times to reiterate how old Zo is now.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5742381)
Am I being too nitpicky if I say I disagree and say that they have had chances but failed?
At a micro level, I see your point, but I meant in the more macro sense of "given that level of offensive performance, the team had very little chance to win."

Honestly, I don't know for sure about the underlying data and whether or not they actually do have a disproportionate number of low-scoring games in the context of their overall offense. It sure seems like they do, but sure, that could be confirmation bias. But if it is really a thing, I think we're well past the point of chalking it up to randomness and saying it has no predictive value.

Point taken re: the Red Sox fans, although when you think about it, they're concerned that their team is looking a lot more like the Cubs, which shouldn't really be reassuring:

"Sale is hurt" = Sox rotation now looks more like the Cubs', who don't have any starter anywhere near as good as Sale
"None of them trust Kimbrel" = they feel the same way about their bullpen as Cubs fans do. But hey, at least Kimbrel is still able to pitch. Our guy apparently passed away in the middle of June or something.
"They're playing Brandon Phillips at 3B" = their third baseman is a guy who, over the last 5 seasons, has had about the same OPS+ as the Cubs as a team since August 1.

I haven't really done a side-by-side comparison with the other NL teams, but yes, I'm sure they have question marks and weaknesses. But to feel confident at this point, I would want the Cubs to have fewer of those than the other guys.
   53. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:08 PM (#5742382)
As for the part you're responding to: way more 1-run games than you'd expect from a team averaging 5 runs per-game, offset by perhaps more 8-10 run games at the other end - is that true? Are do they have a normal distribution of runs? I'm honestly asking, I don't know.


Okay, I made the original claim so I thought I'd look it up. The top 4 teams in the NL in runs per game are pretty closely bunched between 4.73 (Dodgers) and 4.79 (Cubs) with Colorado and Atlanta in between. So I pulled down the game-by-game results for these four teams and here's what I found. Just FYI, the Braves and Dodgers have played one more game than the Cubs and Rockies.

The Cubs have the most shutouts of the four teams, having been shut out nine times. The other three teams have all been shut out seven times.
The Cubs have scored exactly one run WAY more often than the other three. The Cubs have scored exactly one run 22 times. The Rockies have done so 5 times, the Braves 13 times, and the Dodgers 16 times.

Adding those together, the Cubs have scored no more than one run 31 times vs. 12, 20, and 23 for the Rockies, Braves, and Dodgers, respectively.

The Cubs have scored exactly 2, 4, and 5 runs fewer than any of the other three teams. Throwing in 3 (where all four teams have between 18 and 20 games), games with 2 - 5 runs scored break down as 59 for the Cubs, 86 for the Rockies, 81 for the Braves, and 75 for the Rockies.

Offsetting that, the Cubs have the most games among these teams with exactly 7 runs scored (12), exactly 8 runs scored (11), exactly 9 runs scored (actually, 3 of the 4 teams have exactly 5 such games) and 10 or more runs scored (16).

Totaling those up, total games scoring 7 or more runs: the Cubs have 44, the Rockies have 31, the Braves have 38, and the Dodgers have 37.

Finally, if you want to get fancy and try to condense this into a single number. The standard deviation of the Cubs' runs scored is 3.62; for the Rockies, it's 3.04; for the Braves, it's 3.20; for the Dodgers, it's 3.56.

So, yeah, it looks like the Cubs are more likely to have low run-scoring games than the other teams in the NL with similar "big picture" offensive numbers.
   54. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:23 PM (#5742391)
Thanks, Kiko. The weird part is that's a pattern I would expect from a home run dependent team, not a team like the Cubs who have been hitting for average and getting on base.
   55. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:33 PM (#5742399)
Second that thanks. I thought the same thing, Pops. The Cubs were much more dependent on the HR last year than this, and we did talk about it then too. Is it something to do with the types of players the Cubs have? Their experience? Wrigley Field? Why is it a thing?
   56. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5742420)
Thirded on the thanks to Kiko. The theory I'm currently pulling out of my ass to explain it is that, being an OBP/AVG driven team, they're relying on multiple events to score runs, and therefore multiple players to have a good day on any given day. You get a handful of guys having down years, or down months, or even down days, and the whole edifice crumbles and there's no one who can singlehandedly pick up the slack.

It's the intra-offense version of the same dynamic as between the offense and the pitchers, where they don't have any pitchers who are singlehandedly good enough to win reliably when the offense only gives them 2 or 3 runs.

Having freshly extracted that theory from my ass, I will now pass it around for comment.
   57. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5742423)
Wrigley Field?


Maybe the wind plays a part in that the Cubs alternate between essentially playing their home games in an extreme pitchers' park or an extreme hitters' park depending on how the wind is blowing?

Honestly, the one that surprised me was the Rockies. I would have expected them to have the widest spread because they're basically playing half of their games in a 5-6 run environment and half their games in more like a 2-3 run environment, especially when you factor in home-field advantage (i.e., the Rockies should score a LOT fewer runs on the road, both because the road parks are much lower-scoring AND because you'd expect the Rockies, like any other team, to just score fewer runs on the road than at home). And yet, the Rockies actually have the smallest standard deviation of the four teams.
   58. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:53 PM (#5742425)
Then again, weren't they a lot more HR-dependent last year and still the same feast or famine results?
   59. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 05:36 PM (#5742451)
The theory I'm currently pulling out of my ass to explain it is that, being an OBP/AVG driven team, they're relying on multiple events to score runs, and therefore multiple players to have a good day on any given day. You get a handful of guys having down years, or down months, or even down days, and the whole edifice crumbles and there's no one who can singlehandedly pick up the slack.

I wonder if bad offenses then have similar, or worse, distributions than the Cubs. The Rockies are an interesting example though - context neutral, they're probably more like an average, or bad, offense, right? They only have 4 guys with OPS+ above 100 (5 if you count Dahl in his 195 PA): Arrenado 132, Story 126, Blackmon 112, and Cargo 103; LeMahieu is at 97, then every other regular is below 90. That really isn't much different than the Cubs honestly (Rizzo, Baez, Schwarber, Bryant, Zobrist all comfortably above average; Happ/Contreras average; Heyward/Almora/Russell/etc comfortably below (Murphy would make a 6th guy in the first group). Actually, I have no idea how the Rockies have a much more consistent offense.

Could it be the Cubs have an easier lineup to pitch to, like there are certain pitch types that give everyone across the board similar issues? It's not just quality of pitcher - like I said they can be good or bad against good or bad pitchers. Are the Cubs hitters just streakier than the average hitter - both the good and the bad hitters on the team?
   60. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:01 PM (#5742460)
Hmmm...some thoughts off the top of my head while looking into the numbers:

Rockies overall are at .255/.320/.434 for 90 OPS+ (.263/.328/.449, 95 for non-pitchers)
Cubs overall are at .262/.338/.419 for 97 OPS+ (.271/.349/.436, 104 for non-pitchers)

So that would fit my ass theory quite well. Cubs offense is better overall, but Rockies are significantly better in terms of SLG.

In terms of the individual players, Arenado/Story have been a little bit better than Rizzo/Baez (132/126 vs. 126/123), but maybe more importantly have been much better overall in the SLG department thanks to Rizzo's bad first half (.548/.559 vs. .563/.481).

Descending from there as far as the regulars, we have Blackmon (.493) vs. Schwarber (.471); CarGo (.472) vs. Bryant (.467) and LeMahieu (.451) vs. Zobrist (.459). So a lot of the Rockies' advantage in slugging has come from having more power from their top 3 power hitters. There might be something there.

   61. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:06 PM (#5742466)
Bruce Levine @MLBBruceLevine 2m2 minutes ago

Cub updates - Schwarber out with back issue . Morrow will try to throw again tomorrow . Lester said he will be ready for next start. Maddon said he will get Carl Edwards right back on the mound . No update on Heyward return .


Also sounds like Scherzer won't start Thursday - if that game happens - it'll be Montgomery vs Ross. Maybe Davey is doing us a favor.
   62. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:37 PM (#5742507)
Also sounds like Scherzer won't start Thursday - if that game happens


Move it to Milwaukee.
   63. Meatwad Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:26 PM (#5742646)
Or they could just not play at all.
   64. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 12, 2018 at 09:34 AM (#5742799)
This does not look promising for Thursday's game.
   65. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 12, 2018 at 10:30 AM (#5742835)
Are they waiting until the last possible minute to move or reschedule the game? I'm guessing the Cubs would leave straight from the game tonight to the airport, so that's the absolute latest they can move it without risking the Cubs going to DC for nothing.

They probably decide to make a change at 10pm tonight.
   66. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 12, 2018 at 10:34 AM (#5742839)
Posted this in the chatter yesterday, but worth highlighting:

Christopher Kamka @ckamka 12h12 hours ago

José Quintana last 5 starts:
1.84 ERA, 29.1 IP, 21 Hits, 10 BB, 25 K, 0 HR, 1.057 WHIP

10 career starts vs Brewers
1.60 ERA, 67.1 IP, 40 Hits, 15 BB, 63 K, 5 HR, 0.817 WHIP
#Cubs


Based on the way everyone is pitching now, Lester is clearly the Cubs 4th starter (at best; Monty has also been decent). Rotation for the playoffs is looking more gooder lately.

Also, this is a neat little bit of trivia:

Christopher Kamka @ckamka 12h12 hours ago

#Cubs shut out the #Brewers for the 6th time this season (in 18 meetings)

It's the Cubs' most shutout wins against a single opponent in a season since 1928 when they shut the Reds out 7 times (in 22 meetings, and one of the shutouts was a 6-inning game)
   67. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 12, 2018 at 05:14 PM (#5743129)
Bruce Levine @MLBBruceLevine 50s51 seconds ago

Brandon Morrow threw 35 pitches today . There is still discomfort but he said it doesn’t feel bad. Recovery mode has improved .told me a sim game should be next. He hit 90 MPH at one point .


Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 6m6 minutes ago

Morrow: “I’ll be pitching in games.” 35 pitches, recovery period more pain free, aiming for White Sox series


Not exactly super promising, but I assume it's a process to get any sort of velocity back. Only 90 though?
   68. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 12, 2018 at 05:36 PM (#5743143)
Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma 8m8 minutes ago

Yu Darvish got a second opinion and underwent an arthroscopic debridement today. He's expected to be ready to go for spring training in 2019.


I honestly can't remember the last time I've thought about Darvish.
   69. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 12, 2018 at 06:59 PM (#5743181)
The Cubs are in discussions with the City of Chicago to move the starting time of Friday's game against the Reds at Wrigley Field from 1:20 p.m. to 7:05 p.m.
   70. Meatwad Posted: September 12, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5743243)
Just confirmed and accounced.
   71. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 13, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5743710)
Rizzo is 0 for his last 18, you know what that means:

Rizzo
Bryant RF
Murphy
Javy 3b
Caratini
Bote LF
Russell
Montgomery
Happ CF

That OF defense is a little scary, though I assume Bote can do anything.

Kiko asked in the chatter last night how Contreras ended up in LF, and there's a couple reasons. One, Schwarber is hurt and unavailable. I think Joe kinda likes Caratini's ABs lately (as do I), so he wanted to keep him in the lineup. I assume Happ was being saved for a PH appearance (as was Bote) that never presented itself. I have no problem with Contreras in LF, he's fine there, but now knowing that Bote can play there changes things. I wouldn't have criticized it last night, but I am today.
   72. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 13, 2018 at 02:33 PM (#5743735)
So, does anybody know if the entire Cubs' roster is flying to Washington for today's game? It'd be harder to justify with just the one-game lead in the Central, but given that they're playing in Chicago both yesterday and tomorrow, I would have been tempted to tell a bunch of guys who look like they could use a day off here to stay home, watch the game on TV if they feel like it, but don't bother making this trip. I'd probably be inclined to do that for Contreras, probably Edwards, Cishek, maybe Chavez, certainly all of the non-Montgomery starters, anybody who's physically unable to play (Schwarber, Heyward, Rosario if his two innings yesterday rule him out for today) and I would have thought about doing it for Rizzo, Murphy, and Baez.
   73. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 13, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5743736)
Given that the offense usually doesn't even bother to show up at Wrigley these days, I can't imagine it making the trip to D.C.
   74. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 13, 2018 at 02:44 PM (#5743749)
I only remember reading about Schwarber and whoever is starting tomorrow not making the trip. Not sure about anyone else.

I'd probably be inclined to do that for Contreras, probably Edwards, Cishek, maybe Chavez, certainly all of the non-Montgomery starters, anybody who's physically unable to play (Schwarber, Heyward, Rosario if his two innings yesterday rule him out for today) and I would have thought about doing it for Rizzo, Murphy, and Baez.

You realize even with the expanded roster the Cubs don't have many guys on the bench? They called up 2 hitters when the rosters expanded* - Bryant and Davis, with Heyward going on the DL and Schwarber hurt. I think if you left all those guys home, they'd have no PHs.

*That, btw, is a roster contruction/player development criticism. Zagunis is on the 40 and made an appearance this year, but they moved him to the 60 day DL to add one of the pitchers (Garcia, maybe?).
   75. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 13, 2018 at 02:49 PM (#5743758)
Yeah, well, maybe I went a bit overboard. That'd leave a starting line-up of

C Caratini
1B Bryant
2B LaStella
3B Bote
SS Russell
LF Happ
CF Almora
RF Zobrist

(feel free to re-arrange these guys' defensive positions)

You'd have Taylor Davis as a backup catcher. And ... hmm ... am I forgetting somebody? Surely I'm forgetting someone. Oh, Terrence Gore! Plenty of pinch hitters available on the bench!

But, okay, fair enough. Bring along Rizzo and re-arrange the infield to put LaStella on the bench, too, if you insist.
   76. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 13, 2018 at 08:24 PM (#5744031)
That was the worst game that Maddon has managed in a Cubs uniform. Easily, IMO. An incomplete list of mistakes, feel free to add anything I'm missing in my rage posting

1. Let Happ try and steal 2nd with 2 outs and Bryant up.
2. Letting Montgomery hit for himself leading off in the 5th, but immediately pulling him in the bottom half after the leadoff guy reached.
3. Bringing Edwards in with a 1 run lead in the 7th. Even with the bottom of the order and with accepting that Joe wants to work him back before the playoffs, you just have to give him a few days after another bad appearance yesterday, and the time before, and the time before that, and etc etc
4. Only using Wilson for 1/3 of an inning - maybe he can't go back out after breaks, but he keeps doing this and wasting the guy who's the 2nd best reliever now on small appearances.
5. PHing Contreras for Caratini. That's an arguable preference, and I don't want to have too much of a recency bias, but Contreras has been *worthless* for months now and he's not any less likely to K or hit into a DP. That ignores the fact that either Zobrist or TLS would be a better option there - bases loaded 1 out, Willy K's.
6. Compounded that mistake by hitting Zo for Bote. Again, if you're going to use Zo, use him a batter sooner. Not sure why you're in a hurry to get Bote out even if he hasn't hit well lately, this isn't a mistake in and of itself but just compounded the previous ones.
7. Since he pulled Bote and now Contreras has to catch, he has to put Gore in LF - this leads to him getting a bat later in a key spot. This was an avoidable mistake if he didn't take out Caratini or hit for Bote. He probably didn't want Zo to play today, which makes number 6 a mistake since it meant you were stuck with either Gore in the OF or someone else like Murphy out there or Davis catching.
8. Putting Duensing in a tied game. Him and Kintzler are both as bad as possible, and he got lucky that Soto hit it too hard he couldn't get under it at all. At least he pulled him after 1/3.
9. The big one - letting Strop hit for himself and letting him swing away. No one could have predicted an injury, but it was already risky because that means Strop would be going 2.2 innings today and he's never done that. Plus, the whole not adding on and not using TLS at all.

Joe has confirmed it's Strop's hammy and he's probably out for some time now. That win wasn't worth Strop.
   77. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 13, 2018 at 09:14 PM (#5744087)
This would be a nice weekend for the Cubs' starting pitchers to all go 7 or 8 innings deep every game (and, needless to say, this would be an excellent weekend for Joe Maddon to sit his ####### ass down and let his starting pitchers go 7 or 8 innings deep every game) and for the Cubs' offense to put up a few 8- and 10-run games. Edwards could really use a long weekend off and it's probably not ideal to try to do that with Strop on the shelf.

Hopefully, Strop's a quick healer. After what's happened this season with Darvish, Morrow, Bryant, heck, even Heyward now (I feel like he should have been back by now, shouldn't he?), it feels like the Cubs are due for a guy to come back from injury quicker than expected.
   78. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 13, 2018 at 09:53 PM (#5744109)
This would be a nice weekend for the Cubs' starting pitchers to all go 7 or 8 innings deep every game (and, needless to say, this would be an excellent weekend for Joe Maddon to sit his ####### ass down and let his starting pitchers go 7 or 8 innings deep every game)

Lester has 5 starts of exactly 7 innings this year, none longer, in 29 appearances. Quintana has 28 appearances, 3 starts of exactly 7 innings and none longer. Hamels has two 7's plus the team's only complete game in 2018 since coming over, plus three more 7's and a 7.1 when he was with Texas (28 total starts for him as well).

So yeah, it'll depend heavily on Maddon keeping them in. (If it helps, one of Quintana's 7-inning outings plus the Hamels CG did come against the Reds.)
   79. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 13, 2018 at 10:51 PM (#5744142)
The Tribune quotes Strop saying best-case scenario is two weeks - which would be the final weekend of the regular season. I suppose the optimist in me would suggest that Strop's and Morrow's pitching arms should be well rested for a deep playoff run.
   80. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 14, 2018 at 03:34 AM (#5744170)
And not that it matters now, but the Strop injury doesn't feel as catastrophic if the Cubs can eek out two series wins against the Brewers.

It's kind of astonishing how virtually everything since Labor Day has been a mess.
   81. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 14, 2018 at 06:40 PM (#5744637)
MRI for Strop reveals a moderate left hamstring strain. That rules him out for the rest of the regular season. He'll be re-evaluated after that.


Again, #### you, Joe. I haven't yet heard his bullshit justifying that move, but I can hear it in my head.

....

Rizzo
Bryant LF
Zobrist RF
Murphy
Javy ss
Caratini (he's Hamels catcher, but still noteworthy he's starting 2 days in a row)
Bote
Hamels
Happ CF

I like that one. Schwarber and heyward were running pregame, whatever that means.

...

Brandon Morrow will be throwing a sim game on Saturday


Fingers crossed

   82. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 14, 2018 at 09:13 PM (#5744682)
Staying with the 2004 theme, I recall a home series against the Reds in the final week of the season that all but sealed the Cubs' fate at making the playoffs. Let's home this series goes better.
   83. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 15, 2018 at 03:19 AM (#5744770)
What similarities does this team really have with the 2004 team? Besides wearing the same jersey, that is. I get, to a certain extent, the overwhelming dread and pessimism that people get following any team, not just Cubs specific. At the same time, I honestly don't understand how anyone can watch what this team has done the last 3+ years and still think things like "Remember 14 years ago when you had a joke of a franchise run by a bunch of mouthbreathers and a bunch of jackass players who were scared of their shadow blah blah blah".

There's a part of me here that's playing a bit of a character - the over the top, nothing can ever go wrong optimist. But in all honesty, what's the fun in following a team that you just constantly expect to fail? We are in the middle of the best Cubs run since our great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents, depending on how old you are (looking at you, Spahn). This should be fun - and we know they're making the playoffs. Anyone who's met me in person knows it's not like I just let the losses roll off me, but at the same time, why wouldn't you expect it to work out for this team? What has anyone on this team done to make you think they're pulling a choke job? And you know what, even if they do - and they won't - 2016 still happened and we're on a 3 straight NLCS streak. I mean, punch yourself in the face if that doesn't send chills down your spine. And they have the best record in the NL again! Come on, this is the stuff of our childhood fantasies.

Maybe this is over the top, maybe I'm letting real #### bleed into my fandom again, but I mean, come on! This is ####### awesome, and it's not ending this year. Nit pick this team to death, they've done it before, and the talent is there to do it again.

Yes, I'm drunk, and it's my birthday, what's your point?
   84. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 15, 2018 at 03:23 AM (#5744771)
If anyone is gonna be at the game Sunday, or around beforehand, let me know.
   85. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 15, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5744863)
I don't disagree with you, Moses, and I'm not as pessimistic about this team as I come across on here. 2016 legitimately calmed me a lot in real life as far as baseball goes. It's still annoying to see them lose, mess up, whatever, but it's not like before 2016.

And credit where it's due: Day to day, this team feels like it's underachieved a bit just based on a lot of guys having down/quiet years. But then you look and they're still in first with two weeks to play and hold the best record in the NL. And I can't help but think about how that shows the depth the team has and its ability to not fold in the face of bad breaks, injuries, etc. It's a stark contrast from the Dusty teams where it often felt like the team's lack of success was always heavily attributed to one or two guys (usually Wood and Prior) being hurt.

I mean, ####, the Cubs are where they are despite having been without a healthy Bryant pretty much all season; without their closer; with down seasons from Contreras and Russell; with their bullpen issues, and first half starting rotation tribulations.

Yes, I complain a lot. But don't fret, the rarity of what the Cubs are doing relative to the franchise's history is not lost on me.
   86. Meatwad Posted: September 16, 2018 at 01:47 PM (#5745060)
Cubs brought Heyward back from the DL.
Todays line up
Rizzo 1b
Happ lf
Zobrist rf
Murphey 2b
Caratini c
Bote 3b
Russell ss
Quintana p
Almora cf
   87. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2018 at 12:22 PM (#5745575)
In spite of my never ending optimism is the Cubs' offense, they still haven't put it all together yet. The pieces are still there, and as guys keep coming back, they're getting closer. I just know that they're going to have a stretch where it all clicks and the offense looks unstoppable.

Heyward will probably be eased back in, and while he's not really a fix, he's another guy who does things a little differently and that probably won't hurt. Schwarber isn't traveling with the team to AZ - but they say that's just cause they want him to keep resting his back and it sounds like he'll be DHing this weekend. Bryant is showing some signs of life - he's hit the ball hard now, just not far yet. Murphy is slumping, Javy is in a mini-slump, but when everyone is available this weekend - that plus the shitty pitching - I expect some real noise from the offense then.

Now, some notes/numbers:

At 4.68, they’ve dropped to fifth in the NL in runs per game, behind the Dodgers, Braves, Rockies and Nationals. Before the All-Star break, the Cubs had averaged 5.12 runs per game. In the 56 games since, they’re at a tick below four runs per game. With the talent they have, it’s all pretty shocking to see.


The rotation seems to be fixed now, at least:

José Quintana went out and threw five innings, striking out seven and walking three while allowing just two runs. He didn’t have his best stuff and gave up two solo homers, but he did enough to give his team a chance to win. With 15 swings and misses over 98 pitches — a few of the eight hits he gave up were of the bloop variety — I think you’ll take that result. That’s now a 2.10 ERA over his past six starts. Jon Lester is at a 1.73 ERA over his last six. Kyle Hendricks has a 3.10 ERA over his last 13 starts. And in nine starts with the Cubs, Cole Hamels has a 1.57 ERA.


Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales 2h2 hours ago

Since Aug. 16, Cubs pitchers have major league leading 2.85 ERA in 30 games. Cubs starters lead the majors with a 2.61 ERA in this span (Mets second at 2.66). Cubs relievers rank third in the N.L. with a 3.22 ERA in this span.
   88. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2018 at 05:30 PM (#5745919)
Almora
Bryant LF
Rizzo
Javy 2b
Zobrist RF
Contreras
Bote 3b
Hendricks
Russell

That's a whole lot of not hitting 6-1 in the lineup. Against a really good lefty.
   89. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 12:29 AM (#5746248)
#Cubs starting pitching: 2.53 ERA last 31 games (best in MLB)

Hamels last 9 starts: 1.57 ERA
Lester last 6 starts: 1.73 ERA
Hendricks last 6 starts: 1.63 ERA
Quintana last 6 starts: 2.10 ERA
   90. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 12:11 PM (#5746486)
Hendricks had it going, as he induced a swing rate of 58 percent, the highest in two seasons for him. Also, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, his 25 first-pitch strikes were the second most of his career. And his changeup was devastating, as he struck out seven Diamondbacks on that pitch alone.


It's hard to overstate how good Hendricks looked last night.
   91. Spahn Insane Posted: September 18, 2018 at 12:40 PM (#5746522)
It's hard to overstate how good Hendricks looked last night.

Indeed. I haven't seen him look that good since the LCS clincher in 2016, and it's not like he's sucked in the meantime.

The rotation rounding into form like this is an encouraging sign. If the offense gets into a more consistent gear, this team might actually do something in the postseason.

The bullpen situation is iffy, but I'm strangely unconcerned about it. Plus, a team winning a WS title with Jesse Chavez as one of its nominal closers would be goofy and fun.
   92. Brian C Posted: September 18, 2018 at 04:05 PM (#5746774)
Here are some mostly-but-not-entirely meaningless stats - the number of starts each Cubs' pitcher has had a positive WPA (out of total), followed by the team's W-L record in those games:

Hendricks 19/31 (11-8)
Lester 20/30 (17-3)
Quintana 17/29 (14-3)
Chatwood 8/20 (5-3)
Montgomery 10/16 (6-4)
Hamels 8/9 (7-1)
Darvish 4/8 (4-0)
Farrell 0/2
Mills 1/2 (1-0)
Underwood 1/1 (0-1)
Garcia 0/1
Tseng 0/1

Simply put, when the Cubs get a positive contribution from their starters, they almost always win. Except when Hendricks pitches ... then it's a bit more of a crapshoot.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it was nice to see him get some good luck with the late offense last night.
   93. Zonk is Just the Right Amount of Wrought Posted: September 18, 2018 at 04:15 PM (#5746789)
Just looking ahead potential matchups --

The Braves are sub-.500 against LHP (21-23). The Brewers are a bit over (21-19).

The Rockies and Cards are pretty much a wash (32-26 and 24-19 respectively).

The DBacks are 27-25.

The Dodgers look like the toughest in the NL - 34-24.

Just in case folks want to adjust their scoreboard rooting interests appropriately.
   94. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 05:54 PM (#5746862)
Murphy
Bryant 3b
Rizzo
Javy SS
Zobrist LF
Contereras
Heyward
Montgomery
Happ CF
   95. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 06:02 PM (#5746870)
I think the Brewers and Dodgers are the most dangerous teams, because they're the better teams. The Dodgers have plenty of questions, but they're the scariest team top to bottom.

On paper, the Brewers rotation is a step below the Dodgers, and I think the Brewers are a better defensive/baserunning team; they also have a superior bullpen. The Dodgers rotation is better top to bottom, and they have a scarier offense when you just look at the lineups (not that the Brewers offense isn't good).

I think the Braves and Cards are comparable to each other; both have some really good talent in each area, but also more question marks/holes than MIL/LAD. The Rockies are the least threatening - and even more so if Story is done for the year - and the DBacks are just about out of the picture.

I don't think I have a clear preference beyond the Rockies would appear to be the easiest matchup, though I would admittedly hate losing to the Cardinals the most.

I also think the Cubs *should* win the NL, and should beat any of those teams.
   96. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 07:34 PM (#5746928)
Theo says Brandon Morrow's season is over.


####
   97. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2018 at 08:13 PM (#5746958)
Theo identified a June 2 game v Mets that set Morrow back. He wasn’t sched to pitch but game went 14 innings. Said next year he told Morrow that when he’s down for the day he’s going to tell him to come to the park without his spikes. Was not kidding.


Seriously wtf
   98. Man o' Schwar Posted: September 18, 2018 at 08:28 PM (#5746967)
On paper, the Brewers rotation is a step below the Dodgers, and I think the Brewers are a better defensive/baserunning team; they also have a superior bullpen.

I would be afraid that Josh Hader could turn into Andrew Miller of 2016 - seemingly 2 innings per game of shutdown relief.

I don't want to play the Brewers. I'd rather play the Dodgers. I don't know what to think about the Braves - will their young players wilt in the playoff pressure? Sure hasn't seemed like it so far this year.

I'd like to see the Rockies win the West, the Dodgers knock out the Brewers in the WC game, and then the Dodgers beat the Braves while the Cubs beat the Rockies.
   99. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 18, 2018 at 08:29 PM (#5746969)
Theo identified a June 2 game v Mets that set Morrow back. He wasn’t sched to pitch but game went 14 innings. Said next year he told Morrow that when he’s down for the day he’s going to tell him to come to the park without his spikes. Was not kidding.
Yeah, this is definitely the kind of reliever you sign for big $. FFS.
   100. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 18, 2018 at 08:31 PM (#5746970)
I would be afraid that Josh Hader could turn into Andrew Miller of 2016
"Now, with extra racism and homophobia!"
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