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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Thursday, July 23, 2020

60 Second Season Preview

I had a dream last night that the Cubs won the World Series the year, and no one cared.  After they had won, I was trying to decide whether or not I should post something here about them winning even though I didn’t pay that much attention the season or playoffs.

Anyhow, the season starts tomorrow and there’s really no way to know what could happen on the field - or off the field and how that’ll affect the actual games.  I know that’s always true, but it feels more true this year.  60 games is a ridiculous sample, so there’s literally nothing in the realm of possibility that would surprise me - from best record in the league to last place in the division, it’s all on the table.  As we lamented all offseason, the Cubs did almost nothing to address the real problems with the roster that have existed ever since the 2016 season.  There’s no buzz or excitement for this team; the White Sox are the cool, young team with what feels like unlimited potential.  To be perfectly honest, I’m much more curious to see what guys like Robert and Jimenez and Anderson and Moancada do than just about anyone on the Cubs.

I expect the offense to continue to be hot and cold.  I’m especially high on Contreras’s bat this year (free fearless prediction: he leads the Cubs in OPS), and pretty pessimistic and just about everyone else.  I’m also pretty high and Hendricks and Darvish, but there isn’t a single other pitcher on the major league roster (other than maybe Duane Underwood, Jr) that I actually even want to watch pitch.  The rest of the division is as equally unappealing to me. 

That being said, I’m an addict, so I’m going to watch* just about every minute of this shitshow, and expect to ride the highs and lows all season long.  Hope all of you are staying healthy and safe.

*Not that the Cubs are making this easy, what with not being available on Comcast, Dish, or YouTubeTV.

Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 23, 2020 at 11:39 AM | 84 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 23, 2020 at 11:53 AM (#5964923)
This took more than 60 seconds to write, but not much.
   2. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 23, 2020 at 01:12 PM (#5964946)
Here's the official 30 man roster for the first 2 weeks:

Position players:
Willson Contreras
Victor Caratini
Josh Phegley
Anthony Rizzo
Nico Hoerner
Jason Kipnis
David Bote
Javy Báez
Kris Bryant
Albert Almora, Jr.
Kyle Schwarber
Ian Happ
Steven Souza, Jr.
Jason Heyward

Pitchers:
Yu Darvish
Kyle Hendricks
Jon Lester
Tyler Chatwood
Alec Mills (5th SP)
Craig Kimbrel
Jeremy Jeffress
Kyle Ryan
Rowan Wick
Dan Winkler
Dillon Maples
Brad Wieck
Casey Sadler
Duane Underwood, Jr.
Rex Brothers
James Norwood

Looks like Descalso to the 45 day IL (like the 60 day); he played yesterday and looked like he tweaked something. He also still completely sucks, so here's guessing we never see him play for the Cubs again. Taking a 3rd catcher makes sense, since I'd expect Caratini to see a lot to DH time (or Willson when Vic catches Darvish and others). I'd guess Nico and Kipnis are a pretty straight platoon at 2b, until one of the takes the job (or more likely, one loses it more). I've been discouraged by Heyward seemingly playing every day, even against LHP, but he should be a in a strict platoon at this point, too. I'd rather Happ played near every day, as I've completely given up on Almora every being a major league hitter.

On the pitching side, I hope Mills can stick, but who knows how long Quintana will be out (also on the IL). I'm surprised Maples made the cut; I've always liked him but he just never puts it together and with the new 3 batter rule we're going to get some real stinker outings from him (he's a guy I think you can tell from almost the first pitch whether he's gonna go full Marmol that day or not). Regardless, as the roster shrinks to eventually 26, those guys aren't going to be around long anyway.


Some more details on the roster moves, as the Cubs had to create 2 40 man roster spots (Descalso to the IL and Robel Garcia DFAd). The Cubs only have 23 guys in Sound Bend now, so they can add 7 more players there. I don't think that includes their 2nd rounder from this year (Callaway), who may even get a shot to pitch in the bigs this year.
   3. noiseboy Posted: July 23, 2020 at 01:37 PM (#5964955)
Announcement regarding Marquee Sports Network and Comcast scheduled tomorrow - hope Chicago area residents are able to see Opening Day game at Wrigley!
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2020 at 01:54 PM (#5964966)
That's a...lot of relievers.
   5. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 23, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5964976)
Fox Sports will use virtual fans in the stands for its MLB telecasts

Viewers who tune into Fox and Fox Sports 1 for the first Major League Baseball telecasts Saturday will be in for a bit of a surprise. The stadiums will be filled with yelling, cheering, booing fans who may even resurrect the wave.
The fans will not, however, be real.
Fox, bless its heart, is trying something different, using computer-generated spectators rather than cardboard cutouts of fans or empty seats covered with banners at a time when fans are prohibited from attending events because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Worse even than the dubbed crowd noise from yesterday's Rangers' game
   6. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 23, 2020 at 02:44 PM (#5964986)
Yes, it is. Eventually they'll lose 3 of them when the roster gets to 26. The good news is the 3 batter rule still applies.
   7. Meatwad Posted: July 24, 2020 at 02:06 AM (#5965195)
With expanded playoffs it will be hard for the cubs to not make the post season. I just hope they dont take that as a challenge.
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 24, 2020 at 02:10 AM (#5965197)
Yeah, the Cubs should have made the playoffs today.
   9. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 24, 2020 at 02:20 PM (#5965359)
Well, the Cubs have one of the easier schedules, but so do the Brewers/Cards/Reds. It's possible that both wild cards are from the same divison (i.e. 3rd/4th place teams), but has to be highly unlikely. The playoff odds are just silly to look at.
   10. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 24, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5965360)
   11. Meatwad Posted: July 25, 2020 at 12:13 AM (#5965567)
Well if Kyle keeps this up he just might be MVP and Cy Young. Hell of a way to start the season.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 25, 2020 at 12:50 AM (#5965570)
As a YouTube TV subscriber, I hear it was delightful.
   13. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 27, 2020 at 11:08 AM (#5966023)
I'm doing a free trial with Hulu live TV to watch the games, and man their interface SUCKS compared to YouTube TV. It's supposed to be the ad free version, but if I'm DVRing the game or just pause and come back, almost every single time I try to fastforward it still plays me 1 minute of commercials after you hit play. I even got caught in a couple loops yesterday and it kept playing that same 1 minute over and over again and I finally gave up and just went to live TV. That's not to mention the main menu and even getting to the live channels is way worse than any other streaming service.
   14. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 27, 2020 at 11:19 AM (#5966032)
Assorted thoughts after one weekend. All of these are going to be overreactions, but this is the season of overreaction because it's not long enough to probably react.

1. Bryant looks like ####. This is only worth mentioning because he skipped the last exhibition game with a sore back, and I'm concerned this means he's hurt. After 5+ years, it just appears he's a guy who gets banged up a lot, but always tries to play though it even though it appears it's hurting his production. He looked behind on everything all weekend and didn't hit anything hard at all (his one hit was a bloop where he was jammed). As opposed to Javy, who had a Javy type weekend but when he make contact, he was still scorching the ball.
2. Hendricks is awesome. That first game was just amazing to watch. His curveball looks really, really good.
3. Chatwood looked almost as good yesterday. His stuff really can be electric. The first walk was cause the ump squeezed him (2 clear strikes were called balls), but getting through 6 on 80ish pitches is a great sign.
4. It's obvious how much work Contreras has put in on the bullshit art of framing. He catches the ball differently, which he just had to do because I've never seen any catcher in my life turn so many strikes into balls.
5. No one pitched more than once, but no one from the pen really stood out. Everyone was bad Saturday, but even stuff wise, they all just seemed mediocre. That is, except for Maples. Now, he'll always be a guy who's either completely unhittable or who will walk everyone; he just happened to have his control in place this time. Ryan pitched well, but his velocity seemed way down.
6. Schwarber, Contreras, and Happ all look really locked in right now. Solid, consistent, hard contact almost every time up. Nico is on a fast track to be super overrated a la Ryan Theriot, but he does make a lot of contact.
7. 2 pretty bad defensive miscues of the lazy type this weekend - the blown rundown Saturday and the blown pickoff yesterday. Errors happen, and the Cubs had a ton last year, but it was the mental breakdowns most of last season that really annoyed me (and that I thought was one the things you could kinda hang on Maddon because he just didn't care about fundamentals). Those 2 were both bad signs, and from a team that for so many years really excelled in that area is still disappointing.
8. Heyward is still on the team.
   15. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 28, 2020 at 10:26 AM (#5966333)
Well, the bullpen continues to look like absolute ####, topped off with Kimbrel being the absolute worst of the group (but also the only one who got more rope than he should have). It's only been a few games, but none of the new/young guys have differentiated themselves - Sadler, Winkler, Rea, Tepera, Norwood, and Underwood all appear to be completely interchangable (at least one of those guys is a lefty, but I'm not sure which) with average stuff at best. Norwood throws the hardest (and is one of 2 I recognize*), but still only throws 97 which isn't that notable in today's bullpens. Maples is the one guy in the pen with stuff you can dream on, but he still has less control than my 6 year old. Jeffress has the veterany goodness, but his stuff seems about the same as the rest; he saved their bacon last night, so I have nothing bad to say about him today. Wick should have pitched more, and in a perfect world he would have gotten a higher leverage appearance but since it was his first game I understand why he was used when he was (and you shouldn't have really expected last night to have any high leverage chances).

As for Kimbrel, oh boy. Since he's the closer and making serious money, Ross left him in at least 2 batters too long last night. Up until that, it sure seemed like Ross was quick to yank guys after 3 batters it they were scuffling at all. Look at this #### though:
Sarah Langs @SlangsOnSports

Craig Kimbrel is the 1st pitcher to issue 4+ walks & a hit by pitch while recording 1 out or fewer since Ryan Dempster on April 28, 2011, also for the Cubs.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Kimbrel's 2020 debut included four walks, one hit by pitch and one out via grounder. The closer was pulled after throwing 34 pitches and allowing two runs. He threw 15 curveballs, and the Reds did not swing at any.


He was hitting 97, which I don't remember him really getting to last year (and loss of velocity was one of the things people pointed to for his struggles). But not one swing on that curve? He's either tipping it or it's just too obvious. Either way, that's a terrible sign for him ever being effective again.

*I now know Winkler as the guy with the super punchable face and dumb long hair.

---

So far, I've been impressed with the lineup choices so far, mainly sitting Heyward against a lefty (but leaving Schwarber in) and playing Nico more than Kipnis. Bryant got a HBP and BB yesterday, but still looks bad up there; he was also the first guy pulled when it looked like a blowout which supports my theory about his back. Maybe the leadoff spot is just cursed now (except for the Rizzo exception).
   16. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 28, 2020 at 04:48 PM (#5966466)
And tonight's a weird lineup, almost Maddonish, without Bryant. I'm just saying...

Rizzo
Caratini C
Javy
Schwarber
Happ
Heyward
Bote 3b
Kipnis DH
Nico

Mills

EDIT: They're saying Bryant has a minor left elbow issue. So not even his back. Hmmm
   17. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: July 28, 2020 at 09:46 PM (#5966528)
Hi, everyone.

I guess it's cool they're trying to give the season a go, but I'm just not really feeling it quite yet given the state of the world these days. With the Marlins already trying to ruin things, it also feels like maybe it would be foolish to get too invested in the season.

Even so, it looks like the Cubs so far have honed a game plan of scoring eight runs a game and holding on by the skin of their teeth.
   18. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 29, 2020 at 11:09 AM (#5966628)
There's a big part of me that feels the same way, and I thought I'd still feel that way once the season started. But then as soon as baseball was on TV, I was back in and it was like I never left. Maybe it's just a coping mechanism, though I realize how perilous this season really is and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if (when) it goes completely sideways.
   19. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: July 29, 2020 at 11:27 AM (#5966634)
He was hitting 97, which I don't remember him really getting to last year (and loss of velocity was one of the things people pointed to for his struggles). But not one swing on that curve? He's either tipping it or it's just too obvious. Either way, that's a terrible sign for him ever being effective again.

It amuses me that he pitched against his former team and they knew to just ignore his curve ball. If he can't throw it for strikes he should just stop throwing it.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 29, 2020 at 11:57 AM (#5966646)
It amuses me that he pitched against his former team and they knew to just ignore his curve ball.
Umm....
   21. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: July 29, 2020 at 08:26 PM (#5966763)
Craig Kimbrel will not be needed this evening.
   22. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: July 30, 2020 at 11:01 AM (#5966872)
Hendricks just left too many changeups up in the zone tonight. It happens, I guess. I also wasn't happy to see the IBB (after a 2-0 count, but still) in the 5th to get to Suarez.

OTOH, Rex Brothers is a guy who has pretty extreme splits, so with the 3 batter rule he was an odd choice to bring in with the chance he was gonna have to face a lefty-killer in Castellanos. To be fair to Ross, there really isn't an obviously better option in the pen there, they all kinda equally suck. Last night was the bad part of Maples, and it was obvious he had nothing almost from the first pitch, even though the defense let him down. That hurt, considering the Cubs offense still was able to do some damage late. Oh well.
   23. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 03, 2020 at 12:03 PM (#5967651)
Man, it's still so ####### hard to login here to post. Ugh.

---

Week 2 thoughts

1. Bryant still looks like ####, and now he's literally shitty.
2. Lester has looked decent through 2 starts. He's not really fooling guys, but he's mostly hitting his spots and not giving up hard contact. Smoke and mirrors, IOW, so it could all go sideways really fast.
3. Chatwood, OTOH, looks like the guy zonk wanted a couple of years ago. He actually looks better than that, his stuff is just filthy right now. Mills also had a decent first game. Darvish was much sharper his second time, but 2 great outings from Chatwood is something else (early lead for the Cubs in WAR something else).
4. Bullpen is still absolute ####, and the main reason the Cubs run diff is so mediocre. Still WAY too many walks - even yesterday when they didn't give up any runs they still walked multiple guys. After a couple appearances, Sadler has differentiated himself enough so that now I can recognize him; Jeffres has been really good and Wick still looks good. Ryan has been bad twice now, and the rest of the non-Kimbrels all probably suck.
5. What can be said about Kimbrel? After that first shitshow, this last one was probably more worrying:
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian
Five balls in play off Kimbrel in the 9th, with these exit velos:

101.8 mph (Bell)
102.6 mph (Moran)
104.7 mph (Reynolds)
104.9 mph (Polanco)
102.4 mph (Tucker)

Last three for outs. Cubs beat the Pirates, 6-3.


So, to recap, he can't trick anyone into swinging at pitches out of the zone or at his breaking stuff, and his fastball in the zone is getting absolutely clobbered. I'm not that smart, but I don't see even a hint of silver lining anywhere in there.
6. The Cubs have a much higher chance of making the playoffs now than when the season started (over 90%), but I'd also say the season has a much lower chance of finishing. So it's all even.
7. Yesterday was the first day without a HR for the offense, which overall has been good to great. If Bryant even gets straightened out, they'll be in great shape.
8. Heyward is washed, but at least he's not starting against lefties (including lefties being used only as openers). Not crazy about Phegley as the DH yesterday, but he was PH for as soon as the Pirates went to the pen.
9. I've completely given up hope on Almora ever doing anything offensively. He's still good defensively, so he's fine as a 5th OF.
   24. Zonk Would Do Not Much Different Posted: August 03, 2020 at 01:19 PM (#5967672)
I'm always right eventually... I miscalculated the need for a novel coronavirus to bring about the spin rate effects.

If you want to give the Cubs bonus points for responsibility -- the walk-off celebration done in socially distant fashion yesterday was cool...
   25. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 03, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5967709)
I'm having trouble getting too invested in anything going on knowing that the season seems like it could be on a brink of cancellation at any moment.
   26. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 04, 2020 at 12:16 PM (#5967853)
While I realize that this season could (will) go up in flames at any point, I still greatly appreciate the diversion. Honestly it's been a while since I've gotten too invested in any team or season that I'd really feel that disappointed if this season suddenly ended (I'm sure 2016 helped with that) though I'd still be absolutely ecstatic if the season finished and the Cubs won.

Mills looked outstanding last night, so much so that I'm almost hoping Quintana doesn't bump him from the rotation when he comes back. That's the short sample talking, but the stuff/poise/command seem like they might be something and he's also at least a really quick worker so I enjoy watching him pitch. I'm glad I called out Sadler as a guy before yesterday, as Ross seems to agree and gave him a big shot yesterday (though understandably still had a quick hook with him). Wick is still a guy, so it was nice to see him work cleanly and efficiently.

Signs of life from Bryant, which was good to see. But I've enjoyed Bote defensively lately, and at least 2 of those plays he made last night I don't see Kris making. Bummed Heyward got a start against a LHP though.
   27. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 04, 2020 at 12:33 PM (#5967859)
Oh, and why the #### is Marquee shoving a 3rd announcer down our throats during this games? I appreciated the occasional change of pace we got from Doug Glanville last year - an inning here and there - but this year we're getting Ryan Dempster (fine in small doses, but not nearly as clever as he thinks he is) and now last night Mark Grace (just awful, pointless, and completely without merit; he didn't say a single interesting thing, tried to parrot a couple good points from Len and JD, and is a total meathead).
   28. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 04, 2020 at 08:36 PM (#5967909)
Man, it's still so ####### hard to login here to post. Ugh.


Seconded. I've been trying all day. Took about 15 attempts. And now I have forgotten what I wanted to say. I will say that I agree that Mark Grace is worse than useless.
   29. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 04, 2020 at 11:09 PM (#5967934)
I wish Kimbrel were more concerned about covid and would just opt out.
   30. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 05, 2020 at 10:40 AM (#5967985)
So far the Cubs are a stark counter-example to the notion that teams that win a lot of close games must have good bullpens. They Cubs have won four 1 run games, and in 3 of them, the bullpen nearly blew big leads. They allowed an 8-0 lead become an 8-7 final, a 4-0 lead in the 9th become 4-3, and last night, allowing 2 in the 9th in a 5-4 win.
   31. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 05, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5967988)
Yep. So in a way they are overperforming their bullpen, but the offense, defense, and starting rotation have been great.

-Cubs are currently first in DRS; them and Dodgers are way ahead of everyone else and the Dodgers have played 1 more game than the Cubs. If there's one area you can point to where Ross has made a tangible impact, it's probably there. Cubs finished 22nd there last year - with essentially the same roster - Cubs were 6th, 5th, and 1st the previous 3 years. We've gotten a lot of "doing things the right way" and "putting in the work" type of quotes from Theo and Ross, and Maddon got a lot of criticism from Theo/etc for not harping on coaching or fundamentals. In fact, just yesterday Theo said about Ross:

“Yeah, I’ve never given up faith in our guys. I think when you refer to a sum-of-the-parts issue, as you say, it’s really about the group as a whole coming together and the environment. And have we been able to create an environment that can bring out the best in players and put them in a position to succeed, build connection between players and a sense of urgency, so to speak, so that, ultimately, we put our best foot forward as a team. And that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

“That’s an area where we collectively have fallen short, I think, the last couple years. I think we’ve had more talent than the results would indicate the last couple years. You know, that’s why there have been different attempts to change the environment. You guys that have followed the club have known that.

“This year, obviously, any time you bring in a new leader, there’s by definition a significant change in the environment. Joe had that affect when he got here in 2015. It was transformative, where it created an incredible environment, where our young players at the time could be themselves and develop more quickly than anyone had anticipated. And I give Joe all the credit in the world for that.

“And that’s the nature of change sometimes. I think with David Ross in place as a new leader, it’s been equally as transformative, just in a different way, where I think it’s brought guys together. It’s helped them rally around a common cause. I think everyone feels lucky to be here and together and want to make their mark playing together as a group and for Rossy.

“And so, I’ll give the players and Rossy a ton of credit for making the new environment that I think has brought out the best in all of us and in our identity.

“Yeah. His instincts as a player on when to call out a teammate and when to go out of his way to be there for him on the other hand were always great. He always knew whether it was time for the carrot or the stick. I think there’s always a question of how well that’ll translate as a manager, because the relationship is different. It’s just a different dynamic. There’s more instances when you have to call guys out. You can’t sort of wait until things are obvious sometimes.

“And he’s showing that same great feel, man. It’s been really impressive. Including, there are some things that, look, a baseball team, no matter how successful, always has lingering issues, right? Well, this guy needs to work on this. Or, this guy, sometimes he can be a bad teammate when he does this behavior and doesn’t even realize it. It’d be really great if we could get this guy to focus a little bit more, this guy to work a little bit harder. Let alone the front office. We’ve got tons of things we need to get better on.

“But, he has stepped in and helped address some things that have been lingering for years, you know? And to do that his first month on the job essentially, his first two weeks as a regular season manager, is just really impressive. It just shows he’s fearless. He’s alert, observant and has great emotional intelligence, kind of knowing when to step in to challenge a player and call him out, and knowing when to step in and offer a kind word and support and make it really clear that he’s got a player’s back.

“I think that’s a big part of being a leader and being a manager in the Major Leagues these days, and he’s just got really good feel for it. And he has not eased his way in. He’s on it in a very, very impressive way.”


Outside of the record and a few other things (defense, maybe baserunning, lineup, bullpen usage), most of the stuff that cost Maddon his job and got Ross his is stuff we'd never see. So there's obviously an incentive for Theo to talk about Ross this early on. As outsiders, we're guessing anyway. But I have liked most of what I've seen so far. Fewer crazy lineups, quicker hook with guys struggling pitching, stuff like that. Kimbrel has been the one guy given more rope than deserved, but last night Ross corrected that. Totally fair to give him a shot up 3 against the Royals and he was pulled after 3 guys. Now, maybe Ryan wouldn't have been my first choice, but it's a step in the right direction.

-Chatwood's performance is a popular subject. FG and Statcast on him.
   32. Zonk Would Do Not Much Different Posted: August 05, 2020 at 12:19 PM (#5967993)
Winning breeds good chemistry, granted --

But after 2 days and like 80 attempts of trying, Moses steals my Ross thunder... I think he's done an outstanding job - and the concerns I had about a recent teammate struggling to instill needed discipline is rapidly fading.

In the post-game press conferences I watch, all the guys talk about Covid responsibilities and whatnot... I still suspect this will come down to the remaining teams standing before the season gets wiped, but it speaks well to Ross and the players that they do seem to be doing all they can to at least keep playing as long as possible.

Dealing with the pandemic in the best possible way is an obviously hellacious curve for every team and manager - but at least so far, Rossy has really excelled. I mean - Don Mattingly is no one's idea of a great manager, but he's a 10 year skipper over two teams... and his players are out clubbing while he appears to just letting Miguel Rojas handle that kind of stuff through group texts...
   33. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 05, 2020 at 01:05 PM (#5967999)
I think there's still a tiny bit of concern from me on the recent teammate thing. Was Kimbrel getting a longer rope because he was a former teammate, because of his huge contract, or because of the closer mystique? Like I said, he pulled him right away last night, but how many more chances does he get? Heyward has only started against 1 of 3 LH SP, but he probably shouldn't start against any; can Ross really keep him to a platoon player like he deserves? Lastly, what happens the first time Ross goes to pull Lester when he's struggling? Now, these are all relatively minor concerns, and the positives currently outweigh any of those, but those are the best examples that come to mind. I'm less concerned about how he deals with guys like Rizzo, Bryant, or Javy or even Hendricks though, as he was already clearly the grizzled vet when they came up and dealt with him.

I saw a reference that Kaplan said MLB called the Cubs to talk about their COVID protocols since they've done so well. There's also a lot of luck involved that they haven't had any players catch it. I still wish we'd see more mask usage in the dugout - especially guys not playing - and wasn't the whole point of putting tents in the stands so guys would spread out? The dugout is bigger, but still not that big for 30 players + all the coaches, etc.
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 05, 2020 at 01:27 PM (#5968006)
I mean - Don Mattingly is no one's idea of a great manager, but he's a 10 year skipper over two teams... and his players are out clubbing while he appears to just letting Miguel Rojas handle that kind of stuff through group texts...
Mattingly keeps signing contracts extensions with the Marlins. That’s a pretty clear indication that he checked out years ago.
   35. Zonk Would Do Not Much Different Posted: August 05, 2020 at 01:38 PM (#5968008)
Kimbrel and Ross were never teammates... Oops - unless they were in Boston.... Sorry... Nope... Oops again, they weren't teammates in Boston, but they were a long time ago in Atlanta... So never never never mind.
   36. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 05, 2020 at 05:34 PM (#5968049)
One of Ross's supposed duties last year as an "assistant to the GM" was scouting Kimbrel's workouts before the Cubs signed him. I remember them talking that up a lot, and the fact that Ross was there was Kimbrel was a rookie...actually, that's another reason that could make Ross overrate Kimbrel - his FA evaluation of him.

Regardless, I'm grasping for straws here as I really don't think it'll be a problem. Yet, Heyward is starting against a LHP again tonight* (and Souza isn't)...though he also has Nico in CF (Almora pretty much done as a starter, I'd reckon) so Bote can still be in the lineup at 2b.

BTW, saw a tweet about this, but Willson is leading all of MLB in hard hit ball % which matches up to the eye test (and which he was doing in the summer camp exhibition games). Glad to see him getting DH starts on nights Caratini catches.

*Happ hasn't started against a LHP yet, I don't think, which is fair, as he's better LH than RH, but I still would rather Happ RH against LHP than Heyward. And really, Souza is also clearly a platoon guy right now. Heyward's been fine defensively, but I don't recall anything extraordinary out there from him to explain that. If I'm gonna complain, I'm tired of Heyward hitting 6th...he's a perfect "2nd leadoff hitter" from the 9 hole. It's time to move Happ up (and maybe swap Javy and Willy in the lineup until Javy gets hot again).
   37. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 05, 2020 at 08:20 PM (#5968077)
Kimbrel obviously has been very bad, but I'll say this for Ross in handling him so far - he hasn't left him in long enough to blow a lead yet. He finished the game in which he gave up two solo homers with a five-run lead; apart from that, he's been yanked before actually blowing the save, and the rest of the 'pen managed to hang onto both games. I think a lot of managers would have given him a bit more rope as a "proven closer" and lost a game or two that the Cubs haven't (to this point, at least).
   38. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 06, 2020 at 12:00 PM (#5968151)
Sure, I mostly agree and am not really trying to overnitpick Ross, but the Cubs are extremely lucky he didn't blow a game. Part of that is when/how Ross has used him. (ftr, I'm posting the rest of this mainly for posterity when looking back at Kimbrel later in the year)

First game:
3 run lead, Kimbrel goes BB, wild pitch, groundout, BB, allowed SB, BB, HBP, BB; he left with bases loaded, 1 out in a 1 run lead. When he entered, Cubs had a 90% win exp; he left it was 45%. Thankfully, Jeffress struck the next guy out an didn't allow an inherited run to score. I think Ross let him go 2 batters too long here, but I excused it being first Kimbrel appearance, blah blah blah. Like I posted in 15, pitchers just aren't given that much rope...basically ever. First guy to do what he did in years.

Second game: 5 run lead, but he gave up 5 absolute rockets; luckily only 2 left the yard. IIRC, someone was warming up, but this would have been a special one had be been able to blow it.

Third game: He was only given 3 batters, got his first K of the year, but both his inherited runners scored (which isn't a surprise, leaving them on 2nd/3rd with only 1 out).

I think Ross deserves a lot of credit here, clearly shortening Kimbrel's leash each subsequent appearance. Based on how Maddon used him last year, Craig probably would have completely blown at least the first one, maybe that 3rd one, and probably at least one other game where Ross didn't even use him. I'd expect the next couple Kimbrel appearances to be in low leverage situations (or he could even get a phantom IL stint when the rosters go down to 28).
   39. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 06, 2020 at 12:05 PM (#5968153)
As for yesterday, it was nice seeing the offense tack on a bunch late and not having the bullpen give anything back. Honestly, I'm a little worried about the offense, as the Royals and Pirates have actually done a pretty good job pitching the Cubs lately; it's just that the Cubs starting pitching and defense has been so damn good it's carrying the team. Short season, so obviously I feel pretty good about where the team stands and anything can happen in this crazy expanded postseason, though it is notable that even though they're tied for the best record in the league, they have a very middling SRS (10th overall). I'd expect the offense and bullpen to pick up a little slack when the rotation regression starts.
   40. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 07, 2020 at 11:07 AM (#5968272)
Chatwood's regression last night was really ugly. Oddly enough, his problem was that he was throwing too many strikes. Every pitch he threw kept drifting back to the middle of the plate. After a couple of early bad luck/hits place through the shift, everything started to get clobbered. In retrospect, I would have liked a quicker hook, but the offense decided to no show as well so fair enough letting Chatwood absorb some innings. Unfortunately, Underwood looked just as bad, if not worse because his stuff was extremely pedestrian; he was a guy I had some hopes for, but his outings this year have been consistently underwhelming.

Interesting to see Kimbrel come in to a 12-0 game, but he did lower his ERA by only allowing 1 run. He's looking extremely toasty. (And he survived the roster cuts, as they sent down lefties Brothers - who was terrible - and Steele - who didn't get into a game; they need another lefty in the uberpen, will that end up being Quintana or Marquez?)
   41. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 10, 2020 at 08:09 PM (#5968926)
So do they ever get to play again or what?
   42. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 11, 2020 at 11:28 AM (#5969026)
Playing again tonight. And the Cubs catch a bit of a break, as the Indians now have had 2 SPs sent home for violating protocols (I don't think they would have faced Plesac, but now they miss Clevanger). Getting the games against the Cards rescheduled is going to be a pain in the ass, since the Cards are now up to 15 games postponed (and counting). There's basically no way the Cards will get in 60 games, so hopefully whatever the number is doesn't give them any sort of advantage.
   43. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 13, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5969401)
Going into the series, the Indians hadn't given up more than 4 runs in any game; the Cubs scored 7 in both. It was pretty impressive to watch the offense really make the Cleveland pitchers work hard. Lester and Hendricks both seemed to have it much easier (the "concerns" I have about the Cubs offense with guys like Bryant/Rizzo/Baez/Schwarber "struggling" pale in comparison to the "offense" the Indians get from their entire OF and C crew), and Ross seems to know and is confident in which guys in the pen he can trust in which situations. Winkler is a guy still on the border, but a 5 run lead is still a relatively safe time to experiment with the non-Kimbrels.

Couple random notes:
Marquee Sports Network @WatchMarquee

We learned Kyle Hendricks threw 41 changeups today, 35 of which were strikes

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Nice note from the @WatchMarquee broadcast: Kyle Hendricks threw 18 consecutive strikes at one point tonight. Began with Lindor in 1st and ran through Zimmer in the 3rd. Details: 7 four-seamers, 7 changeups, 2 sinkers, 2 curves; 6 called, 5 swinging, 4 in play, 3 foul.

Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales

Third start Hendricks hasn't walked a batter. Votto (intentional walk) was last batter to receive free pass vs. Hendricks on 7/29.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Cubs' rotation now has a 2.65 ERA and .203 opponents' average (66-325) with 75 K, 17 BB and five homers allowed in 88.1 IP through 15 games this year.


Also, since there's no minor league season this year, it's hard tracking how anyone not on the roster is doing, even the guys in South Bend. We'll probably see pieces like this one during the year, so I'll link them when I see them. But here's the Cubs AAA manager talking about the prospects in SB (from last week).
   44. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 13, 2020 at 03:38 PM (#5969454)
Schwarber didn't play yesterday because his knee was sore after a HBP the night before, but he PH. He wasn't originally in the lineup today either (against a LHP), but Bryant was a late scratch with finger and wrist soreness (which seemed to occur on a diving catch attempt; he did hit a HR after that play).
   45. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: August 13, 2020 at 04:10 PM (#5969461)
I haven't had much to say on the Cubs this year other than I hope Ian Happ is the real deal and that the David Ross era has started with a bang.

If the bullpen could just stop sucking so badly I could get a little optimistic.
   46. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 16, 2020 at 05:20 PM (#5969982)
I've not really been able to see more than an inning or two. This weekend was deflating, but overall, how's everything looking to those who are actually getting to watch these fellas?
   47. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 17, 2020 at 10:56 AM (#5970023)
Fairly promising, actually. The starting pitching has been really good - Lester got hit around a little yesterday, but he looks like he's settled nicely into his crafty lefty phase; Darvish is continuing the progress he made 2nd half of last year; Hendricks is Hendricks; Chatwood's stuff has been awesome to watch - even though he got rocked the last start and is now on the IL; Mills seems like a perfectly cromulent 5th starter. There's some highlights in the pen - Wick still looks really solid, Sadler looks like a guy, Tepera looks like he might be a guy, Jeffress was a very solid scrap heap pickup. It's still way too soon, but Kimbrel has even looked like a different pitcher his last 2 appearances; my hopes aren't super high there, but hopefully he's at least serviceable.

The biggest differences from last year to this to me have been the defense - which is yet again, very very good - and Ian Happ. Happ looked good at the end of the year last year, and he's carried it into this year. He's made actual progress where he needed to, and he looks like an actual plus bat out there now. The offense has been fine to good, even with Bryant/Baez looking like utter #### and Rizzo/Schwarber slumping (Contreras started on fire, but he's also had a really rough week or so now); Kipnis has been another great scrap heap pickup and Heyward is in one of his current not-terrible phases.

It's probably just confirmation bias talking, but I also think Ross has made a notable difference. The lineups and bullpen choices just make more sense.

---

This weekend was especially frustrating, since it was 3 straight 1 loss games where the Cubs had a lead and the bullpen takes the loss (well, I guess Mills lost the first one) *and* the offense had chances late but couldn't capitalize. Basically the way every loss felt the previous season and a half. They'll be fine, especially when the big guys start hitting.
   48. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: August 17, 2020 at 12:37 PM (#5970053)
FWIW the home plate umpire Baker was terrible yesterday. Didn't call strikes at the top of the zone until about the 8th inning and then sporadically in the last two innings. Why some set of fans believe in the human element back there is a puzzle to me but ok. Anyway, just an observation. And think most of the home plate umpiring has been worse than usual this abbreviated which I presume is due to so many subs plus these guys not getting any real practice. Still sucks though
   49. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 17, 2020 at 12:53 PM (#5970060)
Oh, definitely. He was frustrating for both pitchers all day. It doesn't help that he called out Bote on a full count pitch that should have been a ball (though closish, it wasn't consistent with his zone that day) and then what should have been ball 4 to Nico (on a pitch WAY up) ruined that at bat as Nico didn't take another pitch (many of which could have also been ball 4). 2 should have been walks hurt.
   50. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 17, 2020 at 03:25 PM (#5970100)
2 doubleheaders this week, with 2 SP on the IL (Q and Chatwood) makes things a little complicated for the Cubs. Good thing they're only 7 inning games, so hopefully Hendricks goes all 7 in game 1 today.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian
Ross: RHP Tyson Miller will start Game 2 for the Cubs.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian
Ross says Alzolay took a ball off his forearm a few days ago, complicating the Cubs' rotation depth situation. But said Miller has been throwing the ball well at the South Bend site.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Alzolay's injury isn't considered serious. Day to day with a contusion. Still potentially in the mix for a start with Cubs Wednesday in 2nd doubleheader with Cards this series.

Alzolay not even making the major league portion of the summer camp was a little worrying, as I still have some hope for him. I hope we do get to see him Wednesday, that'd be a nice treat. Mills is scheduled to start the other game (they haven't said whether he's going in game 1 or game 2).

---

Ross went all in on righties for the first game against a LHP, and it's not a pretty lineup at all. In fact, it probably brings up my top concern with Ross so far:
1. Bryant LF
2. Rizzo 1B
3. Baez SS
4. Contreras C
5. Bote 3B
6. Souza RF
7. Phegley DH
8. Almora CF
9. Hoerner 2B

What's with the apparent love for Josh f'in Phegley? Does Ross see himself in him or something? This is his 2nd start at DH* (WHY????) and he's PH a couple of times for a lefty hitter (including for Kipnis against Hader the other day). I get playing the percentages, but this guy really isn't an actual bat so why is he being treated as one? Caratini and Happ aren't as good vs LHP as RHP, but in general I'd still rather see them than Phegley. Now, 2 games and a few PH isn't that big a deal in a normal year, but prorated for this short season...

*To be fair to Ross, he immediately PH for Phegley when a RHP entered the game, so I assume that's also the plan today.
   51. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 18, 2020 at 04:40 PM (#5970384)
A couple of thoughts/comments sort of carried over from last night's game chatter. By only Ks and infield pop-ups from Bryant, I just meant his contact is way down and he's not hitting anything hard anymore - even his hits are mostly of the bloop/drop in variety. I stand by my analogy from there: "He seems to get hurt a lot, but not always go on the injured list hurt and he just sucks thru those minor injuries. He's like a luxury vehicle that is just perfect when everything is going well, but one scratch on the bumper and the car won't start."

Javy is a guy who tends to run really hot and really cold; he's in what's a fairly long cold stretch for him. So is Contreras, and Schwarber is teetering there as well. Those 3, plus KB, in the top 5 are doing this on the year:
KB: .177/.271/.323 20/6 K/BB
Javy: .200/.244/.363 28/3 K/BB
Schwarber: .227/.354/.409 29/12 K/BB - you'll take that BB rate, and maybe he'll never be a high average guy, but the power still needs to go up a lot.
Contreras: .231/.338/.415 27/6 K/BB - he started so, so hot.

Thankfully, Rizzo (16/16 K/BB) is getting on base a ton, Happ has been extremely solid (and homered yesterday as a righty - just let him play everyday), and Heyward and Kipnis are both contributing. Nico has been really bad - .196/.269/.239 - so much so I wonder if he'd be better off in South Bend (he'd surely be back in AAA in a normal year) and let Kipnis/Bote straight up platoon at 2b.

---

More on the overall hitting:
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Cubs slashed .256/.360/.489 in the first 8 games of this season. In next 12 games, including Game 1 today [yesterday], have slashed .216/.314/.352.

K rate from 25.7% to 29.3% in those two stretches. Walk rate also up: 10% to 11.1%.


Sharma going into a lot of detail here (Athletic $), and I recommend reading that.

---

Sounds like Quintana might be close to coming back. I'm not exactly excited about that, but he's still a useful pitcher.

Bryant gets another day off today, with Happ sliding into leadoff. EDIT: He got a shot in his wrist (cortisone?) and won't play the next couple of days.
   52. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 19, 2020 at 02:25 PM (#5970586)
Nico playing 3b first game today. Which, yikes. He's never played third before and imo he has a pretty below average arm for SS.

Alzolay starts game 2.
   53. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 19, 2020 at 08:01 PM (#5970693)
Alzolay looked great tonight, even better than that line implies. The run was completely unearned, as it was a easy groundout Bote just airmailed but Rizzo still should have caught.

Winkler and Ryan both have really struggled - so has Mills the last couple of starts - and Alzolay probably deserves to stay up ahead of one (or all) of them. Cubs don't need a 5th starter for a week or so, but could try and stay with 5 guys for a while...plus Quintana will be back soon. Don't want to get ahead of myself here, but that's a good problem to have I think. Really though, I think Alzolay, if healthy, is one of the 5 best starters the Cubs have.

As I type this, Jeffress blows the save and what should have been a win for Adbert...

...and Kimbrel looks unhittable getting the save (with Bote being clutch again). He was hitting 98/99 and throwing the curve for a strike. 3Ks and 1 HBP. Nasty.
   54. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 22, 2020 at 07:46 PM (#5971537)
Bryant to IL with the wrist and finger issue from his dive last week.

No obvious person to bring up, they already called up hernan Perez and his no-bat.
   55. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 24, 2020 at 11:39 AM (#5971832)
Cubs eventually called up Ian Miller, who basically should pinch run every game.

I'm not surprised Bryant didn't go on the IL right away, but it's something the Cubs should probably know about him by now. He'll play through obvious injuries with obviously disastrous results.

The last 11ish days have been pretty frustrating, and more in line with the team I think I expected coming into the season . all or nothing offense (with mostly nothing), Lester getting bombed, and the bullpen shaky, but Darvish dominating.

As a team, the Cubs are hitting (with NL ranks in parentheses) .224 (13th) / .333 (3rd) / .396 (10th); last year it was .260 (7th) / .340 (4th) / .469 (4th). As has been mentioned over and over and over, the Cubs shouldn't be this bad on offense, but with all the big bats slumping, they're getting nothing done. The clutch hitting (.546 OPS late & close) and hitting with RISP (.731 OPS) are notable things again, and hitting with the bases loaded is especially baffling: .182/.211/.182 in 38PAs with 14Ks/1BB/1HBP/6SF/6GIDP. Pathetic.

Wick finally had a bad outing Saturday, and gave up his first HR as a Cub. Kimbrel came in with a 1 run lead in the 8th yesterday and top of the order up (so highest leverage spot) and quickly struck the first 2 guys out, making them look bad. Then he started nibbling and the Sox stopped swinging and he gave up 2 walks. To Ross's credit, he pulled Kimbrel right after that (right move) and Jeffress got out of it (he's not let any inherited runners score); then Jeffress struggled in the 9th but Ross let him barely escape.

The schedule and results so far are very much in the Cubs favor, so they're in the catbird seat for winning the division. They look a lot like a paper tiger if the offense doesn't bust out soon; in a short playoff series, with 2 aces and a handful of ok bullpen arms* is enough to win a short series or two, but not be a serious contender.

*Sadler has too many walks on his ledger, but he's a guy, so are Tepera/Jeffress/Wick. I now have some hope for Kimbrel, seeing how he's made real strides in season, hopefully by end of year he's back to a guy even if he'll never be THE GUY again. Trading deadline is right around the corner, and we know how much Thed love their middle reliever trades, though I'm sure they can't add a penny to the budget and it's not worth giving up any real prospect currency (and maybe someone like Rea is already as good as what they'd get). I am wondering/hopeful if the Cubs decide to give either Marquez or Carraway** a shot in the bigs this year to be a shutdown reliever type since they don't have any decent lefty options (they both have the stuff but definitely lack the polish or experience); I still hope Alzolay gets a couple more starts, though whoever doesn't end up starting among the Chatwood/Quintana/Mills/Alzolay group could also be an effective MR in a short series.

**Athletic: "The Cubs do not view Brailyn Marquez and Burl Carraway as realistic options to help the major-league team this season. Marquez is 21 years old and has never pitched above the A-ball level. Carraway is 21 years old and threw 51 1/3 innings across three seasons at Dallas Baptist University before getting drafted two months ago. The Cubs have been patient with those talented lefties at the South Bend training site, focusing on player development and their long-term growth as pitchers instead of letting them loose.


EDIT: Chatwood will start tomorrow, and Quintana will be in the bullpen. I'm fine with this for now.
   56. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 25, 2020 at 07:59 PM (#5972158)
So much for Chatwood being good.
   57. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 26, 2020 at 11:42 AM (#5972248)
Well, he was never going to be as good as he looked the first few starts. But it was his first appearance off the IL. The bad news is that last night Chatwood was the combo of bad Chatwood from 2018 (lack of control/walking everyone) and bad Chatwood from right before the IL (everything getting hit hard as ####). Quintana looked pretty good the first 3 innings he threw, then he ran out of gas. At least in the short time, I'm fine with the Cubs just piggy backing those 2 guys, doesn't matter to me which starts and which relieves; with the DH Saturday, I'd much love see Azlolay get one of those starts rather than one of these guys come back early (since neither threw that many pitches yesterday).

My real problem with last night though was once again the offense. What a pathetic performance.
   58. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 26, 2020 at 12:31 PM (#5972264)
Taking a small detour into fantasyland at the Athletic today...(this is not me asking zonk for an update on his ootp franchise)

Sharma with a "what if" piece on if the Cubs had been sellers in 2017 and not buyers - so more than just the Quintana deal.
Bowden on suggested trades for the NL Central. Don't click even if you pay for it, because this is just too funny:
Trade pitching prospects Brailyn Marquez and Kohl Franklin and catching prospect Miguel Amaya to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for left-handed closer Josh Hader.
   59. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 26, 2020 at 09:47 PM (#5972452)
This bullpen is ####### trash.
   60. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 27, 2020 at 12:05 PM (#5972639)
All bullpens are trash, in one way or another. When your 2 best relievers both suck the same night, well, that's a problem. In Wick's case, this is 2 bad outings in a row, so I'm a little more worried. Hit luck also was not on the Cubs' side this series (stupid huge ballpark and Rizzo's 424ft fly out). Lester was better, which is something, I guess.
   61. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 31, 2020 at 10:51 AM (#5973333)
Some bullet thoughts after this weekend:
-I was one of the people noting Kimbrel looked better, but that doesn't mean I want him trying to save a 1 run game. I've been complimenting Ross all year on his quick hook (oddly enough, except for Kimbrel's first few appearances), but Ross ###### up by letting Kimbrel throw to 7 guys. I mean, he let him walk 3 guys and throw 3 wild pitches. That loss is on Ross, IMO. Having said that, I know he was in a hard spot, since Jeffress pitched in game 1 (so probably wasn't available) and he'd already used Tepera and Wick (though I would have let Alzolay throw more than 1 inning). But come on, he should have been pulled at least after giving up the tying single (I wouldn't have been surprised were he pulled before that, since he walked 2 of the first 3).

-Jose Martinez is a fine enough pickup, especially since it meant DFA Phegley (who really hadn't caught much and was getting too many ABs IMO). I think you still might want Contreras to DH on Caratini catching days (with the occasional day off), but it probably means less Caratini at DH (since he hasn't really hit all year), though Martinez really is a platoon guy almost exclusively. The fact that the Cubs don't have a better option in the high minors (just any old righty bat would do) is still a pretty big black mark against this FO.

-Who would have imagined the offense being carried this year by Happ (.294/.417/.624) and Heyward (.286/.402/.560)? I'm now officially worried about both Baez and Contreras; Javy looked like he was coming around in Detroit but his ABs in Cinci were almost all terrible and Contreras looks like a version of Javy that'll take a walk.

-How ####### awesome has Darvish been? Man, he's just awesome right now.

-I'm guessing Chatwood probably goes back on the IL, and I'd like to see Quintana/Alzolay piggy back each other, like Q was doing with Chatwood these starts. Q has looked decent, but also had tired rather quickly both outings.
   62. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 31, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5973342)
In the Cinci series, the Cubs got 25 hits in 4 games, and 14 of them were HR. For the year, the Cubs BA on non-HR ABs is .187. I don't know how that compares to individual teams, but the NL average is .214.
   63. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 31, 2020 at 11:23 AM (#5973345)
They've been a TTO team without the HRs, until that series. They were due.
   64. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 31, 2020 at 11:28 AM (#5973347)
OK, the Reds are .176, so not the worst.
   65. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 31, 2020 at 05:12 PM (#5973443)
Not that we expected the Cubs to do anything notable (or add any money to their budget), but they did get a few more spare parts in addition to Jose Martinez. Got Cameron Maybin from Detroit - either they've giving up on Almora this year (though Maybin really isn't a real CF anymore) or Souza won't be back anytime soon; veteran bench piece who likely doesn't make any real difference. Got lefty RP Josh Osich from the Red Sox - looks basically like a LOOGY in a non-LOOGY world, best case he's a little better than Kyle Ryan. Lastly, got injured lefty RP Andrew Chafin from the DBacks - he look better than Ryan/Osich, but was not good this year (which maybe was because he was hurt?).

A big big of meh, which is kinda what this team deserves.
   66. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: August 31, 2020 at 10:15 PM (#5973555)
Here are the official moves: Cubs get Cameron Maybin for Zack Short, Andrew Chafin and cash for a PTBN/cash. Josh Osich for PTBN/cash consideration. Hernán Pérez and Ian Miller DFA'd. 60-man at 58, roster at 26 (3 on IL, 3 yet to report).

Albert Almora will be optioned to the alternate site

Hoyer: Bryant and Souza on target to be back from IL "fairly soon." It's "not out of the picture" that one or both could be back as soon as Tuesday, but nothing official yet on that front.

Hoyer: "Largely good news" on Chatwood's right elbow MRI, but he will be headed to the injured list. Hope is he could be back this season, but it's a big TBD.
   67. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 01, 2020 at 04:11 PM (#5973707)
Tony Andracki @TonyAndracki23

Cubs officially activate Kris Bryant and Steven Souza Jr. off the IL.

Martinez, Maybin, Osich added to the 28-man roster.

Almora to South Bend, Chatwood to 10-day IL (right forearm strain), Sadler DFA'd.


I'd called out Sadler a couple of times in this thread, but I might have just been fooled by a couple decent moments. Him and Winkler have been basically the same guy, but Winkler has a more annoying face and hair so I rather he was the one to go. Kinda surprised Underwood has stuck around - being out of options helps, but he's also been much better his last handful of appearances. Rea's stuff has been nice, and he has options so that says a lot that he wasn't sent down to keep Sadler.
   68. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 02, 2020 at 10:33 AM (#5973846)
Cubs won, so that's good. But I have no idea why Ross brought in Winkler last night with a 1 run lead when all of the "good" relievers were available; hell, he brought in Wick to finish that very inning. Then again, Wick hasn't exactly been super sharp lately.

He also let Lester stay in the game WAY too long, which is something that he'd been good at recently. I understand him letting Lester go out to start the 6th, but someone should have been ready to go right away. Instead, he let Lester get an out, then go single/walk/double/single/double with 3 runs scoring (and leaving guys on 2nd/3rd). We're talking about the Pirates offense here, that's hard to do.
   69. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 02, 2020 at 05:58 PM (#5973946)
Quintana back to the IL, with lat tightness. Bummer, just as he was coming back to the rotation. Guess this means I'll get my Alzolay wish; though with another DH Saturday he was probably already gonna start one of them. Now they might need to do a bullpen day.
   70. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 03, 2020 at 02:22 PM (#5974279)
Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma

Ian Miller and Josh Phegley clear waivers and are assigned to South Bend. A.J. Ramos and Cody Allen released, 60-man at 59


They're just churning through the retreads over here, though I had though Ramos might have had a chance to stick. Reds recently released Pedro Strop, so wonder if he's next on the carousal.
   71. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 06, 2020 at 08:01 PM (#5974784)
Ooo Jon Lester looking pretty mediocre again tonight.
   72. Meatwad Posted: September 06, 2020 at 10:59 PM (#5974834)
Only 3 rubs and the wind was blowing out over 15mph. The last 2 days the cubs have not looked good at all.
   73. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 08, 2020 at 11:27 AM (#5975044)
Lester looks done to me:
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Jon Lester had a 1.06 ERA in his 1st three starts this season. Allowed a .117/.197/.200 opponents' slash with 1 HRA in 17 IP.

In the 5 starts since then... 9.26 ERA, .367/.405/.688 opponents' slash with 8 HRA in 23.1 IP.


Since I've been dumping all the transactions here, I think it's interesting the Cubs DFA'd Souza in between DH games, but he looked pretty worthless this year so far. Bunch of other fringe moves, but the notable one is the Cubs did sign Pedro Strop to the minor league camp. I'll be surprised if we don't see him at some point this year.

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

A flurry of Cubs moves...

• OF Billy Hamilton claimed off waivers from Mets. Has yet to report to MLB team.
• INF Ildemaro Vargas added to active roster.
• LHP Matt Dermody optioned and subsequently DFA'd.
• Pedro Strop Minors deal official. Reports to South Bend.More...
• RHP Duncan Robinson added to 60-man pool. Reporting to South Bend.
• C Jose Lobaton released.

Got all that?

Cubs 60-man pool stands at 59 players.


Alzolay was fine - not great, but serviceable - and his defense blew it for him and he fell apart. He's staying in the rotation now, and considering how done Lester looks and how terrible Mills has been, hopefully he figures it out quickly.

---

The offense this season has broken me. Ian Happ is leading all of baseball in wRC+ this year (tied with Tatis at 181) and Jason Heyward is easily having a career year hitting and the offense is still utter ####. The bullshit with the bases loaded just highlights the absurdity of it (yes, sample size, blah blah blah). I don't know how the Cubs don't make some sort of drastic move (aka trading Bryant) after this season because they just can't roll it back with this group. They just can't. And the rotation is gonna need at least 2, maybe 3, new guys next year and there's only one internal good option (Alzolay).
   74. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 08, 2020 at 05:36 PM (#5975113)
Cubs have called up Billy Hamilton and optioned Jose Martinez.

There isn't much time to make decisions on who can help and who can't, but Martinez hasn't hit a lick in his few chances. OTOH, Heyward is out of the lineup again today so I'm guessing this is more an immediate need for another player than can cover CF (technically, Nico also can). We know Hamilton can't hit at all, so if the Cubs use him as a super sub and defensive replacement, it's probably worth more than the RH half of a DH platoon.
   75. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 12, 2020 at 07:34 PM (#5976057)
So has the bottom already dropped out of Javy Baez' offensive game?
   76. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 14, 2020 at 11:14 AM (#5976307)
No, Javy is the same he always is, he's just in a longer down stretch.

To be honest, I much more concerned about Rizzo. And Bryant.
   77. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 23, 2020 at 10:06 PM (#5978372)
God this offense is bad.
   78. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 24, 2020 at 11:37 AM (#5978456)
It's bad in ways that really don't make much sense. There has to be something mental going on, because the number of hittable pitches everyone is missing is just mind boggling. Yeah, good to great pitchers can make it harder, but the number of absolute shitty pitchers that are having easy success is mind boggling. When they actually do hit the ball hard, it's not in the air so there aren't any homers and they're turning into outs more often than not.

The way it looks now, I'd be surprised if the Cubs scored more than 1 run in any single playoff game.

I know it's a weird year and all, but this is just a continuation of the offensive problems that have plagued the Cubs since at least late 2018 when Theo said the offense was broken. It's virtually all the same guys, and it's all the same problems. I was pretty adamantly opposed to trading guys last offseason just for the sake of trading them, but now it looks like that might have been a mistake. No one is going to give up anything of value for any of these Cubs hitters coming off this year+ and with only 1 year left until FA. We're basically stuck with this same core next year no matter what.

And the fact that I find myself annoyed by these guys after 2016 makes me even more upset. While obviously a lot went right that year to make them as good as they were, that really shouldn't have been the high point for all of them. That doesn't mean the team should have won 100 games every year but I hate the fact that I feel much more fond and positive towards Dexter Fowler than Kris Bryant is maddening.
   79. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 24, 2020 at 03:46 PM (#5978552)
And the fact that I find myself annoyed by these guys after 2016 makes me even more upset. While obviously a lot went right that year to make them as good as they were, that really shouldn't have been the high point for all of them. That doesn't mean the team should have won 100 games every year but I hate the fact that I feel much more fond and positive towards Dexter Fowler than Kris Bryant is maddening.


Yes. Flags fly forever and we're living through a time when getting worked up over baseball seems more shallow than usual, but man. Seeing 2016 be the peak for a lot of these guys has been a little disappointing. I didn't necessarily think they would be perennial World Series participants, but it feels like a missed opportunity that the window is just about shut on these guys and it looks like even matching 2017 is a pipe dream.
   80. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 24, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5978556)
I am less fatalistic about Bryant and Rizzo. I am mystified by Schwarber's career. He posted a 130 OPS+ in a half season at age 22 in 2015 and came back for the WS in 2016 hitting out of his mind in a tiny sample. I really thought he was going to be a masher and the Cubs wouldn't have even entertained the idea of him playing in the WS that year if they didn't think so too.
   81. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 24, 2020 at 04:53 PM (#5978560)
Schwarber was great in the 2nd half last year - even better than Castellanos. I thought he had finally turned the corner. I think the skills are still there, and maybe it takes him going somewhere else and being a full time DH for it to click. I dunno, but I'm already resigned to it happening.

I only mentioned worrying about Rizzo because now he's past 30 and the back problems keep happening. And only in the context compared to Javy. I'm more willing to write off the weirdness of this year for Javy than others, even though he doesn't have injury excuses like Bryant (he was just as terrible before his first bruise this year) and Rizzo; and unlike Schwarber Javy still have lots of value when not hitting.
   82. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 25, 2020 at 12:27 PM (#5978716)
"Fun" reading by Sharma (Athletic$) on the Cubs offense:

It’s one thing to talk about their struggles, but to visually see how they’re at or near some of the worst moments of their careers really hammers home the point. Bryant has had two stretches worse than this over his career — in his rookie season and right after his knee injury last year. Báez has had two stretches this year worse than any other since early in 2016. Rizzo has had two stretches worse than this in his entire Cubs career, the last also coming in early 2016. And Schwarber is having the worst stretch of his entire career, which includes him being demoted midway through 2017 due to his struggles at the plate. It’s remarkable that all of them, all at once, are at or near the very worst stretches of their entire careers.

Only a few weeks ago, Ian Happ was being mentioned as a potential MVP candidate. Now he’s also in one of the worst offensive stretches of his big-league career. Even Jason Heyward, perhaps the Cubs’ most consistent offensive performer this season, is on a bit of a downward trend.

So while it’s easy to wave away the Cubs’ offensive problems as the same old issues — too much swing-and-miss, a lack of contact, an inability to come up with the big hit — it’s not as simple as that. Not only are those same issues biting the team, but some of their most productive players over the last three seasons all going into the tank at the exact same time.

And the resulting numbers are rather ugly.

Through Aug. 1, the Cubs led baseball with a 129 wRC+. It was a nice week to start the season and it looked like the starting pitching and offense would carry the club. Despite some bumps, the pitching has mostly continued to be strong. But the offense? As Joe Maddon would say, “Woof!” From Aug. 2 on, the Cubs are 27th in baseball with an 86 wRC+. Again, that doesn’t include Thursday’s dismal performance. Teams that have been better than the Cubs during that stretch include the Orioles, Royals, Tigers and Mariners.

But after blasting six homers in their final August game, the Cubs have been sapped of all their slugging in September. Their 14 homers and .111 ISO in the month are last in baseball during that span. Add in that their walk rate has been trending down as well — 8.5 percent this month, 19th in baseball — and these offensive woes should be expected.

One reason the Cubs’ slugging isn’t where it should be is their inability to do damage off fastballs in the zone. From 2017-2019, according to Statcast, the Cubs were 10th in baseball with a .528 slugging percentage on fastballs in the zone.
In 2020, that number has dropped to .461, 26th in the game. In September, they’re dead last in baseball with an impotent .379 slugging on those pitches. For perspective, the Braves, statistically the best offense in baseball this season, have a .705 slugging percentage on fastballs in the zone in September.


That's enough, I'm gonna puke.
   83. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: September 28, 2020 at 12:21 PM (#5979377)
Well, they won the division. The matchup with the Marlins in the WC round is about as favorable as it can get for them.

Darvish could (should?) win the Cy Young (1st in NL in FWAR at 3.0), but no one else on the team will get any serious award votes (maybe Heyward or Happ way downballot of MVP and maybe Ross will get MOY votes). It's a completely forgettable year for quite a few players, but some positives to build on for next year:

1. Between Mills/Azolay, the Cubs probably filled on slot in their rotation. I think assuming both in there full year is a stretch, so they need to add at least 2 SP in FA or trade.
2. Happ is a clear everyday OF. If you can get a better CF, do it and put him in LF but I can live with him in CF if the 4th OF is a good defender.
3. Ross seems up to the task.

Everything else is probably a question mark. The bullpen is always a question mark, even if there were some positives there this year. Next year is the last year on the team for so many guys (including Theo), so this offseason could really go any direction and I wouldn't be surprised.

Regardless, I'll enjoy these stupid playoffs - well, maybe enjoy isn't the right word, but I'll be watching and hoping for some real luck because that's what they need to win more than 2 games.
   84. McCoy Posted: September 28, 2020 at 01:01 PM (#5979382)
Who knows what is going to happen this year in the playoffs. They certainly don't seem like a team that is going to get through all these rounds and win it all but someone has to and it's probably not the Dodgers.

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