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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Thoughts

I’m not really going to count the weeks, or post this regularly, so for now, it’s just some random thoughts.

Good
Bryant: Wasn’t the best weekend, but he’s really been good since that early slump (.336/.435/.609 from game 5 onward).  He made a key error the other night, but otherwise his defense also looks a lot better.  He’s exclusively played 3B - though he was scheduled to play RF before last night’s rainout.
Baez: He seems like one of those guys that’s just always going to be streaky.  He’s on a good streak now, and it’s always fun to think how good he can be if he can stay consistent.  I’m not sure he has that type of consistency in him though.
Almora: Really pushing for playing time, and he is having some great at-bats.  The defense, yet again, remains stellar.  He’s just a smart player, and considering he’s the youngest/least experienced, it’s great to see. 
Montero: I guess limited playing time/rest is good for him.  I noted in some thread he looks a little heavier/slower this year, but his bat looks good at the moment.  Teams really target him on the basepaths though.  His scoreless inning on the mound the other night was more entertaining than it should have been.
Jay: I like seeing him come into a game as a PH.  Consistent quality ABs, and hard to get out.  His defense in CF has left a bit to be desired though, and with Almora/Heyward hopefully he doesn’t see too many important innings out there.
Hendricks: He’s looked a lot better the last couple of starts.  He’s not perfect yet, but he’s getting closer
Davis/Edwards: Not more more to say about these guys.  They’ve been outstanding.

Bad (non-Heyward division)
Contreras: He’s really scuffling right now.  The defense is fine, but he seems pretty frustrated at the plate capped off by complaining to Joe West about a strike 3 right down the middle (West was terrible that game, but that was an obvious call).  He’s almost appearing in almost every game (I looked it up the other day, and I think there’s only 1 game he didn’t play at all and 1 more were he only hit), topped off by playing all 18 Sunday night.  I think he could use a few more breaks now and then, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Caratini appearance in the near future.
Russell: Started good, but is struggling again.  Defense is still good.
Schwarber: Looked a lot better Sunday night, at least early.  And that catch he made in extras is the type of play that makes me more comfortable talking about his defense as fine.  He broke right away, covered a ton of ground, and then made the nice dive (flop?) into the stands.  It’s the type of play a truly bad fielder can’t even make - and I’m not just talking about the end of the play.  Regardless, I think his offense has been talked about quite a bit.
Rizzo: Major slump, but we know he’ll bust out of it soon enough.
Lackey: Ugh
Anderson: Oof
Grimm: I’m not sure why Joe put him into a 1 run game Sunday, even trailing.  Giving up some runs seemed inevitable, and he wasn’t down in AAA long enough to “fix” whatever was wrong.  None of the good pitchers had pitched the day before, so I’m not sure what Joe was saving them for.  Yeah, it ended up going 18, but look how sharp the Davis/Edwards/Koji/Montgomery group was. 

Other
-They haven’t said yet, but I’d predict Butler takes Anderson’s spot in the rotation.  Either Florio (he was called up with Heyward on the DL) or Pena go right back down when they need him to start. 
-Sucks having to lose Szczur, but with Almora looking ready, there just isn’t any room for him.  I hate carrying so many pitchers, so once things settle down a bit, I think one of the extra relievers goes down for the previously mentioned Caratini.
-It’s a good thing the rest of the division is so mediocre that the Cubs have time to work through these problems.  There’s absolutely no reason to panic or anything, and I have to expect Theo/Jed are working/planning on that midseason SP acquisition.  They just have to wait for the bats to come around though, as there’s really nothing to do there.

Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 10:55 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:16 AM (#5451680)
Wanted to put something up yesterday, but was sick.
   2. Jose is El Absurd Bronson Y Pollo Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:20 AM (#5451687)
Almora: Really pushing for playing time, and he is having some great at-bats. The defense, yet again, remains stellar. He’s just a smart player, and considering he’s the youngest/least experienced, it’s great to see.


Almora was the guy who really opened my eyes in the Red Sox series. He doesn't seem to have any obvious weaknesses and your point about the great at bats was on display all weekend. By Sunday night I really didn't want to see him up there.
   3. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:27 AM (#5451694)
BBREF doesn't like his D. -1 in 144 innings, works out to -9 to -10 per full season. UZR/150 is the same.
   4. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:32 AM (#5451708)
Yeah, I'm not going to take a lot from those small samples at this point.
   5. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:49 AM (#5451728)
In that Schwarber article linked on the main page, this is Theo's quote on Schwarber's D:

“He’s underrated as an outfielder because he f----- up two balls against the Mets in the NLCS in 2015,” says Epstein. “Everyone saw those plays, and now they think he’s some kind of bumbling idiot in the outfield. And he’s not.”

That's pretty much all I've been saying since then. He's far from graceful and is never going to threaten gold glove, but he's just not a disaster.
   6. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 02:29 PM (#5451920)
Tommy Birch‏ @TommyBirch 4h4 hours ago
Looks like Jeimer Candelario won't be available for today's I-#Cubs game. Chicago can add another player today and he could be it. #MiLB


Haven't seen anything official, but he might be the 26th guy tonight. With a huge pen right now, he could even stay up and one of the many other RP could go back to Iowa.

EDIT: Kasper just confirmed on air.
   7. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 02:31 PM (#5451923)
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2017 at 03:01 PM (#5451960)
Wanted to put something up yesterday, but was sick.

Bullsh*t. You were out drinking with Matt Harvey, weren't you?
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2017 at 03:03 PM (#5451963)
EDIT: Nevermind. Thought #3 was referring to Schwarber rather than Almora.
   10. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 03:32 PM (#5452009)
Tommy Birch‏ @TommyBirch 6m6 minutes ago
Victor Caratini, who had a 4-hit game last night, has a 4-hit game today after ripping a double into the game. He's 4-4 today. #Cubs #MiLB
   11. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 09, 2017 at 03:33 PM (#5452011)
Bullsh*t. You were out drinking with Matt Harvey, weren't you?

Irrelevant. I told my boss where I was.
   12. Ardo Posted: May 09, 2017 at 11:44 PM (#5452438)
I can't stand John Lackey, but he pitched his a* off tonight. What a time for seven shutout innings.
   13. Brian C Posted: May 10, 2017 at 01:02 AM (#5452473)
Had the game-winning RBI, too! Dude played hero tonight, that's for sure.
   14. Voodoo Posted: May 10, 2017 at 01:15 AM (#5452478)
#slumpbuster
   15. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 10, 2017 at 06:46 PM (#5453105)
It's official, the Eddie Butler era begins Friday.
   16. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: May 11, 2017 at 11:50 AM (#5453469)
Currently the Cubs are tied for the most errors made in the NL. They have the most unearned runs allowed. Their offense has the most runners let on base.
   17. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 11, 2017 at 12:28 PM (#5453497)
I think both the errors and RISP are things that aren't worth worrying about and they'll take care of themselves.

I'm much, much, much more worried about the starting pitching. Hendricks looked good again yesterday, so I'm mostly ok with him and Lester. I'm neutral to slightly concerned on Arrieta (and don't trust him), but am on full alert with Lackey and Anderson (if he even comes back).

I'm starting to worry about both Schwarber's and Contreras's bats. Neither have been able to adjust yet to how they're being pitched. I'm a little concerned about Contreras's defense (or real struggle with controlling WPs), but not at all with Schwarber's. Russell and Rizzo have both struggled and adjusted before, so I'm confident they will again.

   18. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: May 11, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5453519)
Arrieta was just a guy in the back half of last year. He looks like a guy with a brilliant but all-too-brief prime.

Hendricks, Lester, & Lackey are all down form last year, but all around what is reasonable for them.

Errors aren't a big deal - but the club also has a below average Defensive Effeciency; this a year after scoring a historic number in that stat. Yeah, they'll get better. But also: what the hell? Can't blame it all on Schwarber.
   19. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 11, 2017 at 02:02 PM (#5453595)
I maintain Schwarber is fine out there, and will so publicly as often as needed. I think Zobrist has been really bad*, wherever he's played, but that overall the OF of Schwarber/Heyward/Zobrist is worse, maybe even significantly so, than any OF configuration we saw last year. Jay also looks stretched in CF, to me, and I know the numbers aren't crazy about Almora yet.

The IF has been good, in some cases better than last year (Bryant looks better, but as noted, Zobrist worse). I think/feel/can be proven wrong it's just the pitching is flat out giving up harder hit balls and have been a little unlucky on softly hit ones.

*All relative, btw, so I don't know if I'd say Zobrist in RF has been worse than Schwarber in LF, but in terms of plays I think they should be making but aren't, Zobrist has been worse (IOW, he's gotten to fewer balls, including cutting off ones that turn into extra base hits, than Schwarber).
   20. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 11, 2017 at 02:03 PM (#5453596)
Grimm demoted for Butler. Almost surprised it wasn't Pena, but Pena's been ok. Also makes me once again question why Maddon went to Grimm first on Sunday night in a 1 run game (and that was his only appearance in his week back up)...
   21. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 12, 2017 at 05:17 PM (#5454497)
@darenw: Since the start of 2016 Carl Edwards Jr has the best fastball by BAA (.127, 18 for 118) & 5th best curveball (5 for 50, .100). He's awesome
   22. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 13, 2017 at 12:56 PM (#5454747)
Pretty good first start for Butler. He was throwing 97 with movement. The secondary pitches weren't really memorable. His command of the fastball was spotty, but only 1 walk after a two walk first.

Health is becoming an issue. Bryant scratched right before the game and is out today (sick), Jay left with back spasms, and Russell can only PH. Oddly enough, they could use Szczur right now.
   23. Meatwad Posted: May 13, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5454754)
they might be calling up Happ today, have an open spot on the 40 man roster.
   24. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 13, 2017 at 02:14 PM (#5454767)
Happ is up, hitting 2nd and playing rf. Zobrist also banged up, but haven't seen who is down or on the DL.
   25. Meatwad Posted: May 13, 2017 at 02:32 PM (#5454778)
pena went down
   26. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 15, 2017 at 10:50 AM (#5455458)
I don't really feel like writing a whole new post, but I've finally begun to feel frustrated with this team. Virtually every single hitter is doing worse than last year* and every SP is worse than last year. There's regression, there's luck evening out, and then there's this. Whether the cause can be blamed on the defense or age or bad luck (really, I feel like there's just been a ton of bad luck, especially hitting with RISP) or whatever other bullshit narrative you prefer (miles/injuries, hangover, pressure, complacency, etc), it just is ####### annoying. I still don't think there's much that needs to change - I'm all aboard a trade for some sort of SP - and it's a shame it's overshadowing how great the bullpen has been (of course, in the few instances where the bullpen has had a hiccup, it's still ended in a loss because of something else going wrong too).

Thankfully the division is still gettable. I'm not at all convinced in the Cardinals, and the season will catch up with the Reds and Brewers. Since I'm an optimist at heart, I'll continue to enjoy the good things. I talked about it in ST, but Ian Happ sure *looks* like a helluva player; he's got a beautiful compact swing, a fairly advanced approach, and that magical versatility Joe loves (he hasn't been challenged much in the OF so far, though he did turn a fairly routine catch into an adventure yesterday in RF).

*Not counting Jay or Almora, since both are essentially new and in Schwarber's case, he obviously worse than 2015; going by OPS+, Bryant is exactly the same, Heyward is better but still well below his career (and all the way down to 87), and both LaStella/Montero are doing better but in limited roles.
   27. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 15, 2017 at 11:17 AM (#5455496)
Seconded. They've now played nearly 1/4 of the season at about the same level as the skid going into the All-Star break last year.
   28. Sweet Posted: May 15, 2017 at 12:10 PM (#5455546)
I'm not happy either, and there are real reasons to be concerned, but there's still plenty of time to get back on track. For context, some stretches last year:

17-20 from June 1st through the All-Star Break (the worst stretch from last year of equal length to the number of games played so far this year)

28-28 from May 11th through the ASB (more than a third of the season playing .500 ball)
   29. Brian C Posted: May 15, 2017 at 01:20 PM (#5455623)
It's strange how closely this team is tracking the Blackhawks' run so far:

1) Breakout season with unexpected run to conference finals
2) Championship run the next year
3) Hangover season to follow that up

Of course, the Cubs haven't had to deal with the personnel turnover that teams deal with in the NHL, although I think that effect was overstated in the Hawks' case anyway. And at any rate, the trajectory so far is identical.
   30. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: May 16, 2017 at 04:23 PM (#5456751)
Who would have guessed at the beginning of the year we'd see this lineup:

Schwarber LF
Bryant RF
Rizzo 1b
Happ CF
Candelario 3b
Russell SS
Contreras C
Lackey P
Baez 2b

Or that it, for the most part, makes sense with how everyone is performing?

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