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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Monday, April 02, 2018

What’s a sample size?

Way too early thoughts after a mostly boring and somewhat disappointing opening series…

Some of the biggest problems from last year’s team were on full display this series - lack of “situational hitting” and walking too many guys.  For the first one, from The Athletic:

the Cubs are now 1-for-14 at scoring a runner from third base with less than two outs. Even after scoring 19 runs over four games, they’re 7-for-47 with runners in scoring position and have stranded a remarkable 42 baserunners.

All this wouldn’t be as frustrating to watch if it weren’t a trend over the years. In 2015, the Cubs were 30th in baseball, getting a runner in from third with less than two outs just 40 percent of the time. In their World Series-winning campaign the next season, they upped that number to 50 percent, 14th in baseball. Last season, they dipped back down to 48 percent, falling to 26th in the game.

.

The silver lining there, of course, is that the Cubs are getting a ton of guys on base.  There’s just something in how they’re hitting with guys on that just isn’t working or just isn’t going their way.  I still expect most of that to even out. 

Russell has looked great so far at the plate - he’s gone the other way a couple of times, and he hasn’t been chasing bad pitches as much lately.  Zobrist looks like Zobrist from 2 years ago; I think it’s safe to say the wrist feels better as even his outs were loud ones.  Bryant has started out great, same with Schwarber.  Contreras has alternated good ABs with terrible ones (7ks in 17ABs).  Heyward’s numbers aren’t awful, but watching him hit still is.  Happ is completely lost right now (8ks in 13ABs), so is Baez. 

The bullpen has had to throw 24 innings through 4 games - 9 extra innings inflates that a little, but the rotation hasn’t been good yet.  Hendricks threw the best game so far, but he also didn’t really have control (3 walks - after only 2 in all of ST - and a hits batsman are quite out of character).  Darvish had good stuff, but wasn’t very efficient and really struggled finishing guys off.  Quintana just wasn’t himself either, and one bad inning (and a curious IBB) did him in.  Outside of CJ, everyone else in the pen has looked good.  It’s going to be a long year with Morrow and his availability; I understand and accept the fact that they want to baby him, but if he’s unavailable the day after throwing 2 pitches…in his defense, he did warm up like 3 or 4 times, but that’s on Joe to know better. 

158 to go…

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 10:28 AM | 72 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 10:55 AM (#5646748)
On the walk rate for the pitching staff, from that same Athletic piecece:
A group expected to miss plenty of bats this season with the additions of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood (and his elite spin rate curveball) has struck out just 14 percent of the batters it's faced while walking an unacceptable 12.9 percent.
   2. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 02, 2018 at 11:27 AM (#5646773)
Was at the Saturday and Sunday games. Both games were frustrating, especially Sunday. Through the first 4 innings, the Cubs were pounding the ball all over the park. Even the outs were loud. 6 hits, 2 walks through 5 and no runs. Then the Marlins, who didn't have a hit until the 5th, get a couple of seeing eye grounders/bloops, one blast, and it's 5-0. Quintana didn't pit that poorly, it's just that the Marlins bunched all their hits together and the Cubs spread them out perfectly. Heyward looked great, Happ looked awful. Darvish was unimpressive. Russell and Schwarber look to be taking a step forward, Baez a step back. Bryzzo is Bryzzo.

Marlins park is just awful. And not the park, the park is fine. The experience is awful.* I knew this going in. I expected the between inning music to be turned up to 11, but this time it was up to 13 or 14, and not just between innings, between batters, and sometimes between pitches. After Saturday's game I vowed that Sunday's would be my last visit ever unless they stop the assault on our eardrums. Sunday was a little better, more of what I was used to. Saturday was the first night game I had been to. Maybe it was normal for a night game. but looking around the crowd, most seemed to be my age +/- 10 years. Does management think that playing club music as loud as possible appeal to these people?

Anyway, if anyone is thinking of attending in the future, be forewarned, bring earplugs. It seems ridiculous, for a baseball game, but here we are.

* Plus, 2 beers and a bag of peanuts - $37
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 02, 2018 at 11:58 AM (#5646804)
Does management think that playing club music as loud as possible appeal to these people?
It's Miami. The entire city is a club.
   4. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:03 PM (#5646809)
I think I'd drop the "somewhat" qualifier.

It was a disappointing start... for everything that was promising, there was something else not so promising. I think Happ has gotten homer Happ(y) - fun as it was, maybe it would be best if he hadn't popped that first pitch of the season.

I agree with Misirlou on Heyward - early season illusion though it is, he's looked OK. Still does the weak grounder thing, but he actually hit a couple balls well - and if my memory is correct, a few inches here or there and he'd have a couple more doubles (and a gamewinner in the Friday game).
   5. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:07 PM (#5646815)
It's Miami. The entire city is a club.


Dolphins games are most definitely not like that.

And an amusing observation. About 50 times a game, they do a "Let's get LOUD MIAMI!!!" thing, and since there are so few fans, and ever fewer participating, the LOUD is entirely the sound system.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:11 PM (#5646825)
About 50 times a game, they do a "Let's get LOUD MIAMI!!!" thing, and since there are so few fans, and ever fewer participating, the LOUD is entirely the sound system.
Ugh. You have to wonder if at some point in the season they will realize that is just sad and stop doing it, but then again, you'd think that they would have known it going in.
   7. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:22 PM (#5646841)
Ugh. You have to wonder if at some point in the season they will realize that is just sad and stop doing it, but then again, you'd think that they would have known it going in.


Maybe they could tie Jeter to a post in the OF and have it work like a crowd noise meter, with an automated boot kicking him in the balls if the crowd noise reaches a certain level. I'd play along for something like that.
   8. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5646846)
I agree with Misirlou on Heyward - early season illusion though it is, he's looked OK. Still does the weak grounder thing, but he actually hit a couple balls well - and if my memory is correct, a few inches here or there and he'd have a couple more doubles (and a gamewinner in the Friday game).

Maybe he deserves a little credit, but not really. We've seen enough of these little indicators of life so many times before I'm not buying it until I absolutely have to. He's already made 2 catches that probably no one else would get in RF, and yes it was bad luck when he hit into that 3-2 inning ending DP, but he blew plenty of other RBI chances in his normal fashions that I'm not cutting him any slack.
   9. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:28 PM (#5646852)
Quintana didn't pit that poorly, it's just that the Marlins bunched all their hits together and the Cubs spread them out perfectly.

While the luck part is definitely true, only 2Ks and 4BBs made it clear he wasn't at his best stuffwise. Plus, he - just like Lester and Darvish - got way too nibbly with 2 strikes on batters. The zone was on the small side yesterday, but he didn't adjust; maybe that's on Caratini some, too (and that PB that allowed a run to score was a pathetic blocking attempt by Caratini).
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 02, 2018 at 12:33 PM (#5646860)
Maybe they could tie Jeter to a post in the OF and have it work like a crowd noise meter, with an automated boot kicking him in the balls if the crowd noise reaches a certain level. I'd play along for something like that.
Good idea. They could probably repurpose the home run sculpture for that. Couldn't be that difficult to rig up restraints and a kicking boot.
   11. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 02, 2018 at 01:35 PM (#5646960)
While the luck part is definitely true, only 2Ks and 4BBs made it clear he wasn't at his best stuffwise. Plus, he - just like Lester and Darvish - got way too nibbly with 2 strikes on batters. The zone was on the small side yesterday, but he didn't adjust; maybe that's on Caratini some, too (and that PB that allowed a run to score was a pathetic blocking attempt by Caratini).


I still think Contreras hyper-activity hurts his framing -- he gets way too jumpy back there and I think there were a fair number of instances where his jumpiness hurt... i.e., I think it hurts his framing on close pitches because when the pitcher misses his spots, he's all over the place. That, I think, gets it in the ump's mind that the pitcher isn't hitting his spots.
   12. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 01:49 PM (#5646982)
Sure, Contreras still has problems - he dropped a couple of pitches that were clear strikes and the ump called them balls (everyone focused on Strop's pitch right before the game tying hit Saturday, but Contreras dropped what should have been strike 3 a couple pitches earlier), but I think he's really toned all of that down this year so far. Maybe he had to because of the mound visit rules (which shockingly he hasn't come close to violating yet). That obviously wasn't Q's problem yesterday, but Caratini also doesn't look like a good pitch framer.

---

Today is back to the opening day lineup. I hope this "leadoff thing" that happened to Schwarber last year isn't happening to Happ. I might be wrong, but I think Happ has taken a huge swing at every single first pitch he's seen, with obviously worse results than the first one. I think the only other AB where he wasn't a mess was the walk he drew - and that still involved him climbing out of an early hole in the count.
   13. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 02, 2018 at 02:22 PM (#5647026)
I might be wrong, but I think Happ has taken a huge swing at every single first pitch he's seen,


That's what I saw on Saturday. I couldn't believe how ugly his ABs were.
   14. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 04:13 PM (#5647114)
Update: Happ took the first pitch he saw, belt high off the plate. He made up for it, by swinging violently through the 2nd pitch he saw. It was the only pitch he swung at though, as he worked a 6 pitch walk.

   15. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 04:30 PM (#5647131)
Welcome to the Cubs, Chatwood; go ahead and walk the first guy (EDIT - first 2 guys) you face.

Maybe it's the camera angle, but he doesn't look like he's 6' tall. Also, the #21 jersey makes me think of Jason Marquis; let's hope that, plus both pitching for the Cubs and Rockies, and being a decent hitting/fielding pitcher, and the high socks, are the only similarities...

EDIT 2: He walked Billy Hamilton in the 2nd. Not helping the ol' pitch count here either.

EDIT 3: 4 walks early in the 5th. Twice walked both guys in front of Votto. And wiggled out of it both times.
   16. McCoy Posted: April 02, 2018 at 04:51 PM (#5647151)
Heyward's slide single might be the first time I've ever seen anyone do that and get called safe. In trying to decide whether or not he could have run through it and be called safe I do notice that while his hands hit the dirt before the bag they do so rather close to the bag so it throws the whole thing into a bit of an unsolved mystery for me.
   17. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 04:57 PM (#5647158)
Schwarber did the same thing later that game (I think it was the same game), and also was safe. I think both of them may have run into the defender had they tried to run though, so maybe they do slow down if they tried to run through. I tend to agree diving/sliding into first is dumb unless you're trying to avoid a tag.

---

Another K for Happ, this one looking on a borderline pitch. Contreras also struck out his first AB.

EDIT: Another K for Happ, also looking.
   18. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 05:31 PM (#5647181)
zonk, the Pirates are running away with the division! Ready to concede you were wrong on that one yet?
   19. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 02, 2018 at 06:14 PM (#5647209)
It's early, and relievers are fickle, but I think the Cubs fixed Justin Wilson. Well, he's at least less broken.
   20. Brian C Posted: April 02, 2018 at 06:18 PM (#5647211)
On the bright side, it's really nice to feel good about Justin Wilson coming into a game.

ETA: you know, what Moses said.
   21. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 10:23 AM (#5647428)
After Sunday's shutout you could at least say the Cubs hit the ball hard. Yesterday, nothing really positive to take away from the offense.
   22. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 03, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5647430)
I'm glad to see people as willing to support Wilson based on a small sample size as they were to proclaim him broken under the same condition.

In 3.2 IP this season he's dropped his career ERA as a Cub nearly a full run, to a non-terrible 4.22. Career FIP as a Cub is 3.39.
   23. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 10:43 AM (#5647434)
   24. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 10:48 AM (#5647436)
I'm glad to see people as willing to support Wilson based on a small sample size as they were to proclaim him broken under the same condition.

Snark aside, there just was something clearly wrong with him last year that was obvious every time he was out there - he had no command, virtually every pitch was nowhere near the catcher's target, etc. He was rightfully left off the NLCS roster, after being given plenty of low leverage chances to end the season, so it's not like we were seeing something that wasn't also obvious to the coaching staff. The fact that it only started when he got here gave me hope that it was fixable. That was hopefully the aberration, and the guy he's looked like this year, including ST, is more in line with the guy the Cubs traded for.
   25. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 03, 2018 at 10:58 AM (#5647441)
It's early, and relievers are fickle, but I think the Cubs fixed Justin Wilson. Well, he's at least less broken.


Good!

When the inevitable fire sale begins next week, maybe he can fetch a lottery ticket...
   26. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 03, 2018 at 11:17 AM (#5647454)
For anyone interested, here's a post about the minor league rosters.


Iowa will be a lot better once Happ rejoins them.

In all seriousness, though - I do like both the Tennessee and Myrtle Beach rotations quite a bit. The K rate is putrid - but Bryan Hudson quietly had a nice year at SB last season. For a kid that big who supposedly needed all kinds of mechanical adjustments, I'd like to place longshot bet his K rate takes a jump and he sniffs prospect lists. South Bend has some interesting arms, too.

Not a lot to love in the field, though... I don't think I could name 5 games I ever expect to see at Wrigley (excepting injury duty by the 30something journeymen). I've decided against adopting Chesney Young as my irrational super-utility crush. Ademan is a legit prospect - but he's no Torres so I'm not sure why the Cubs are jumping him to high A so quickly... he wasn't getting the bat knocked out his hands in his brief SB trial last year (showed some decent power for his age, in particular), but I think I'd have given him a full year at SB. There's no rush. Other than that? Kevonte Mitchell looks like yet another toolsy OF bust - perhaps joined by DJ Wilson if he doesn't turn it on, too. I remember Miguel Amaya was relatively high profile INTL FA a few years back, but not a lot promising in that Eugene slash line.

Given the young lineup pretty much set everywhere - the 180 on system strength isn't unexpected and probably proper... though, I'd still like one of the pitchers - Lange? Alzolay? Maybe Clifton gets back on track? A sleeper like ALbertos or Hudson? to bust out in a big way.
   27. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5647464)
Considering the Cubs put him on the 40 man, I'd bet on seeing Bote in the majors at some point this season, maybe just as an injury fill in, but he'll be here.
   28. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 03, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5647516)
Snark aside, there just was something clearly wrong with him last year that was obvious every time he was out there - he had no command, virtually every pitch was nowhere near the catcher's target, etc.

Fair enough: 19 BB in 17.2 IP is wrong. But it was still a small stretch, during which his velocity and movement were fine. As you say, he just completely lost his command.

At the same time, while I haven't seen every pitch he's thrown in the last five games, he hasn't struck me as the second coming of Dennis Eckersley either. He has thrown some great pitches though, which was also true last year.
   29. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 03, 2018 at 01:55 PM (#5647546)
The sort of record nobody has heard of until someone mentions it, but the Cubs set a record for Ks through the first 5 games of the season (58).

I am restarting a new OOTP19 season and firing Chili Davis - his specialty as a hitting coach in OOTP is hilariously "contact"....
   30. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:00 PM (#5647551)
he hasn't struck me as the second coming of Dennis Eckersley either
Well, the first coming of Dennis Eckersley didn't do much for the Cubs either.
   31. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5647561)
At the same time, while I haven't seen every pitch he's thrown in the last five games, he hasn't struck me as the second coming of Dennis Eckersley either. He has thrown some great pitches though, which was also true last year.

I don't think any of us implied that was he anything that special, but that hopefully he was a guy you could have pitch out of the pen and expect a cromulent performance.
   32. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:13 PM (#5647567)
Well, the first coming of Dennis Eckersley didn't do much for the Cubs either.


That's not really fair - better than 10 WAR over his less than three years with the Cubs. Not his fault the Cubs traded him for peanuts - and did so precisely as they were also trading Lee Smith to bring in a cavalcade of Fail to the 9th inning.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:22 PM (#5647573)
Funny, I just looked it up and came to the same conclusion. I apologize, Dennis Eckersley.
   34. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5647577)
It's OK - Eck was still drinking pretty hard in those days, so he doesn't precisely recall whether he was any good either.
   35. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 03, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5647578)
Cubs facing a lefty tonight - if the game happens* - and we have our first major mixup to the lineup:

Zobrist LF
Bryant
Rizzo
Contreras
Russell
Almora
Baez
Heyward
Lester

Schwarber's first day off comes against a lefty, which is fine, but I'd still rather Heyward be treated as the platoon guy, not to mention keeping Happ in the order (though he's struggled enough that I'm most fine taking it slow with him). I really just am sick of watching Heyward "hit", though I guess this is probably the Cubs best defensive lineup** (and Lester is probably the guy who needs it most).

*I see a tweet showing 94% chance of rain tonight, so...
**Happ hasn't played a ton of LF, so for now I'll give Zo a very slight defensive edge there.
   36. SouthSideRyan Posted: April 03, 2018 at 03:03 PM (#5647607)
That K "record" is skewed just a bit by the Cubs playing 6 games worth of baseball in their first 5 games.
   37. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 03, 2018 at 04:37 PM (#5647649)
*I see a tweet showing 94% chance of rain tonight, so...

I would expect a delay but it's a pretty fast moving line of rain -- there might be a window to get this one in.
   38. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 04, 2018 at 09:40 AM (#5647874)
Two days in a row of no baseball after less than a week SUCKS.

That said, it's nice to have a complete reset for the bullpen, which has thrown more innings than the starters so far.
   39. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 04, 2018 at 09:52 AM (#5647882)
No kidding. I guess we should count ourselves lucky the Cubs didn't have any scheduled off days during the first series.
   40. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 04, 2018 at 10:18 AM (#5647896)
Details on the pitching so far:

Starters:

25.2 IP, 26 H, 17 R, 16 ER, 1 HR, 18 BB, 3 HBP, 17 K -- 5.62 ERA

Relievers:

26.0 IP, 17 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 10 BB, 1 HBP, 23 K -- 0.69 ERA
   41. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 04, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5647899)
Wait. Both the Cubs and Reds have an open date today, but rather than make up yesterday's game today, they are going to play a double header in May?
   42. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 04, 2018 at 10:50 AM (#5647914)
Wait. Both the Cubs and Reds have an open date today, but rather than make up yesterday's game today, they are going to play a double header in May?

On a Saturday in May, which will greatly improve attendance.
   43. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 04, 2018 at 11:01 AM (#5647920)
The Cubs don't have a ton of off-days this month in the schedule (4/10, 4/19), plus they've just spent a month+ in Arizona, then a week in FL, I'm sure they're just happy to get home (I'm assuming they came back to Chicago yesterday and will bus up to Mil either later today or tomorrow). I could see why the Cubs players wouldn't want to give that day up so early in the year.

I don't know whether the weather is like in Cinci today either, but it'll probably be better in May.
   44. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 04, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5647922)
On a Saturday in May, which will greatly improve attendance.


The Cubs don't have a ton of off-days this month in the schedule (4/10, 4/19), plus they've just spent a month+ in Arizona, then a week in FL, I'm sure they're just happy to get home (I'm assuming they came back to Chicago yesterday and will bus up to Mil either later today or tomorrow). I could see why the Cubs players wouldn't want to give that day up so early in the year.

I don't know whether the weather is like in Cinci today either, but it'll probably be better in May.


I can't argue with any of that. I was just under the impression that the reason for more off days in April was to facilitate make ups, but that's probably 1970s thinking.
   45. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 04, 2018 at 11:38 AM (#5647938)
That's still probably partially true as I'm sure the reason the Cubs have 4/10 off is if the weather cancels the opener on 4/9 (which could happen!). I am surprised they scheduled a doubleheader and didn't pick a different off day, since there are more of those this year. Perhaps the players prefer that.
   46. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 04, 2018 at 11:46 AM (#5647945)
I am surprised they scheduled a doubleheader and didn't pick a different off day, since there are more of those this year. Perhaps the players prefer that.


The Monday after the DH, both the Cubs and Reds have an off day. And neither team is traveling very far for their Tuesday series, the Cubs come home, the Reds stay home.
   47. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 04, 2018 at 11:53 AM (#5647951)
What's worse - spending 5 or 6 extra hours at work on a day you'd already be there or come in on your off day (for a normal days work)? Considering it's baseball, I think I'd prefer the former. My real job - maybe quitting would be a better option.
   48. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 04, 2018 at 12:52 PM (#5648009)
And weather in Cincinnati today is going to be pretty bad. Right now it's 37F and windy ("feels like" 28F). There would be no one there.

Me, I will be in the seat of Clark County, Nevada for the double-header, so I am happy with this solution.

   49. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 05, 2018 at 09:41 AM (#5648503)
FWIW -

The Cubs released a couple guys that popped up in years past discussions --

Carson Sands was one of the troika of injury/signability grabs the Cubs made in 2014 (along with Justin Steele and Dylan Cease). I don't recall whether Sands was pure signability or injury (he got a very much overslot bonus), but he did have TJS (again?) a couple years back and just never recovered. Flailed away terribly and was/is probably cooked. Still, as a HS draftee (he's just 23) and a LHP, I imagine someone might give him another shot...

The guy I'm sorry to see go is Dave Berg - soft-tossing submariner... set the NCAA Div 1 saves record (as a walk-on at UCLA, IIRC) but was never much of a prospect because he struggles to throw in the mid-80s. I had dreams of him having a Quisenberry - or at least, Mark Eichhorn - little run, but alas... Good control wasn't good enough - and gave up far too many HRs for a guy of his sort.
   50. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 05, 2018 at 10:38 AM (#5648533)
The guy I'm sorry to see go is Dave Berg - soft-tossing submariner... set the NCAA Div 1 saves record (as a walk-on at UCLA, IIRC) but was never much of a prospect because he struggles to throw in the mid-80s. I had dreams of him having a Quisenberry - or at least, Mark Eichhorn - little run, but alas... Good control wasn't good enough - and gave up far too many HRs for a guy of his sort.

I don't think much of his pitching, but I do look forward to his upcoming Mad Magazine spread, "The Lighter Side of Middle Relief."
   51. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 05, 2018 at 10:49 AM (#5648539)
I don't think much of his pitching, but I do look forward to his upcoming Mad Magazine spread, "The Lighter Side of Middle Relief."


See?

Imagine all the fun possibilities!
   52. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 05, 2018 at 04:42 PM (#5648893)
I kinda like tonight's lineup against a lhp, especially with Lester on the mound:

Happ lf
Zobrist rf
Bryant
Rizzo
Contreras
Almora
Russell
Baez
   53. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 06, 2018 at 09:36 AM (#5649202)
So unlike last Thursday, Lester hit 92 last night. Once.

But as we saw last season, Lester is capable of pitching a great game if he has command of his location and mixes his curveball in to offset the fastball. The question is whether he can do this consistently, and his success depends on it, I think.
   54. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:20 AM (#5649251)
Yep, exactly right. His command was spot on - only 1 BB (and no BB from the pen either!). I expect we'll see a mix of both types of Lester this year, and probably even within games. So hopefully we get more of the good than the bad.

Outside of Happ (4Ks in 6ABs, putting him at 14Ks in 22ABs), the strikeouts also were under control (Lester struck out 2x, the rest of the team 3 times).

So last night was one of those nights where everything was at its best - even the defense - and it was rightfully an easy win. More of that please.
   55. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5649253)
Boy, I bet all those Lester doubters with their concerns feel silly today :-)
   56. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5649258)
It'd be nice if Rizzo snapped out of his slump. Contreras did last night - his only out was a long fly ball that died just in front of the 400 sign in dead CF. Russell just looks like a different player at the plate right now, it's very heartening to see. It's also good to see Zobrist appears to have 2 healthy wrists again.
   57. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:35 AM (#5649259)
“Much better finish on his pitches,” Maddon said. “That's the best way I can describe it to you.”

“It was good, a lot of awkward swings, lot of swings and misses, that's always a good telltale,” Lester said. “My cutter was pretty good. I was able to throw it to both sides of the plate, keep them off-balance and get early contact. That's always good.”


Like I said, it just seems like he was hitting the spots that he missed last week.
   58. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5649268)
I guess with just 6 games under the belt, it's not unusual to have radically different feelings about the team's direction after one game... but man... what a difference a day makes.

FWIW, I know it was garbage time, but as noted in the chatter, I thought Butler looked sharp in his mopup inning, too. Who knows, maybe he could pull a Monty and settle into a nifty slice of long relief value.
   59. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 11:55 AM (#5649271)
He's got the arm/velocity for a reliever. So if he can focus on just a couple of pitches and perfect them, sure, he could be a passable reliever. I don't think his fastball is that great - pretty flat, IMO - so he might have just a brief window of effectiveness there (a la Grimm or Ramirez).
   60. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5649387)
#1 on this list really surprises me. Seriously, I can think of 2 for him this year (last night's HR and the bases loaded DP he hit into in MIA).
   61. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5649414)
I'm guessing the Ks are the reason for this lineup move:

Zobrist RF
Bryant
Rizzo
Contreras
Schwarber
Russell
Heyward CF
Baez
Hendricks
   62. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 03:34 PM (#5649415)
This is a good way to visualize Lester's success last night, and probably exactly what Maddon meant in his quote.
   63. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: April 06, 2018 at 05:58 PM (#5649446)
Rizzo scratched tonight due to back tightness. Caratini at 1b now (Schwarber 3rd in order).
   64. McCoy Posted: April 07, 2018 at 08:52 AM (#5649661)
Certainly a different start to the season than last year.
   65. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 09, 2018 at 09:42 AM (#5650158)
Taking 3 of 4 from what should be the chief NLC pursuer in their home park?

Things suddenly look a lot different than they did a week ago...
   66. Voodoo Posted: April 09, 2018 at 11:44 AM (#5650237)
Yeah and a 5-4 record on major road trip to start the year seems solid, though we might have dreamed for better considering Marlins and Reds ... but record aside there have been enough bright spots all around to feel cautiously optimistic going forward. Russell is quietly looking pretty good at the plate, Bryant is getting on at .500 clip, all the starters have at least one solid outing under their belt. Sure wish Schwarbs would start hitting, though. I'm worried he's gonna go into a mental tailspin like last year if he doesn't have a hot streak soon.
   67. Walt Davis Posted: April 09, 2018 at 06:49 PM (#5650456)
I'm not sure we can expect a lot more out of Schwarber. He's a TTO guy no matter how much the Cubs seem to think he should be a line drive machine. I do try to keep in mind that he's still only got about 800 PA so everything is still a small sample size. But looking at his profile, ratios, etc. he looks like any of dozens of similar hitters of the last decade and the only place that screams "flukey bad" is the 258 career BABIP. But these are the types of hitters that can have terrible BABIPs (Dunn 286 career, 260 the last 4 years; McGwire 255 career; K Davis 279). Obviously getting his BABIP up to a standard 300ish would be a big improvement to his BA and that could happen.

As I said only 800 PAs and not enough this year to make any difference but I'm increasingly convinced that 240/340/480 is Kyle's upside (basically his career ratios with a 300 BABIP). To be substantially better than that, he probably needs to improve his K-rate substantially without killing his ratios (a la Bryant... more walks than Ks so far this year).
   68. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: April 09, 2018 at 07:49 PM (#5650498)
Hard work only gets you so far, but I still lean on the idea that Schwarbs is an incredibly hard worker. He's been overcoming his supposed ceiling all his life - basically begging his way onto a middling college program (who made their first CWS with him leading it)... considered a bit of a reach when the Cubs drafted him, then blasting away at minor league pitching... worries he'd get eaten up by MLB pitching, then having a fairly impressive rookie campaign... supposedly done for the 2016, then the glorious comeback in the WS.

The fairy dust finally seems to run out in 2017 - but he was pretty good once he came back up... and then he really slims down this offseason - not easy to do with his body type, as he's always been a pretty blocky guy.

I can completely understand why the Cubs brass likes him so much and has considered him untouchable. Fortunately, I learned to trust them on Baez - who I was ready to trade before his value hit zero.... so I'm OK rooting (hoping?) for the imagined upside along with them.

Of course, there's only so much work one can do to hit good MLB catching consistently.
   69. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 09, 2018 at 08:14 PM (#5650507)
Of course, there's only so much work one can do to hit good MLB catching consistently.
I mean, I hate Willson's mound visits as much or more than the next guy, but I'm not sure the solution is to hit him consistently.
   70. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 10, 2018 at 12:11 PM (#5650788)
Rizzo to 10 day DL for his back problems. No word on who's coming up. My guess would be Giminez, with Caratini being the regular 1B.
   71. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: April 10, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5650790)
addendum to 70:

The Cubs selected the contract of infielder/outfielder Efren Navarro from Triple-A Iowa to fill Rizzo's roster spot. Navarro, 31, has played parts of five Major League seasons with the Angels and Tigers.
   72. Meatwad Posted: April 10, 2018 at 07:26 PM (#5651146)
Bad news zonk, Brendon Little didnt make it out of the first inning in tonights start.

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