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Monday, September 16, 2019

Approaching the Finish Line

Walks asked for an end-of-season thread, and here it is.

The weekend Pirates series was a red-hot mess: a sweep where the Cubs scored more runs (47) than in any three-game series in the modern era. They broke their all-time team record for HR in a season as well. But every rainbow has a brown lining: Anthony Rizzo turned his ankle yesterday, so his future at this point is unknown. An MRI is scheduled for today.

The Cubs have gained ground, now two back of the Cardinals in the NL Central, and one and a half back of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot. Seven of the remaining games are against the Cardinals, so the Cubs really have a chance to prove themselves here, one way or the other.

Enjoy it!

Andere Richtingen Posted: September 16, 2019 at 08:31 AM | 137 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 16, 2019 at 08:50 AM (#5879540)
I'm not an optimist like Moses, so I think the most likely outcome is that the Cubs end up with the second Wild Card spot. It would be really great to get that top spot and have home-field advantage.
   2. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 16, 2019 at 08:58 AM (#5879541)
Nico Hoerner has been quite a revelation.... Not sure how much stock we can put into a pair of HRs that come in such a weekend bludgeoning, but no matter how this season ends up - I starting to think 2B is solved for next year.
   3. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 16, 2019 at 09:10 AM (#5879542)
Of course, the Brewers have gotten similarly smoking hot since they lost Yelich, too (though, they were hot before that) - we can thank them for closing that gap to 2 games.

FWIW -

The Brewers have the easiest time of it remaining - 4 against the Padres and 3 against the Pirates at home, then closing out on the road against the Reds and the Rockies (3 a piece).

The Cubs start a 3 game set against the Reds tonight, followed by 4 against the Cards - which could settle the season... or leave us right where we are now... or see the damn Brewers take over the NLC. Then 3 each on the road in Pittsburgh and the 3 game finale in STL.

The Cardinals have three at home against the Nats and then 3 on the road against the DBacks sandwiched around the Cubs series.

   4. bunyon Posted: September 16, 2019 at 09:22 AM (#5879546)
The most likely outcome is definitely everything finishes as is. But that probably isn't a 50/50 chance. Just most likely. If the Brewers keep winning, they could easily pull even with the Cubs and Cards, if the latter go 4-3 (especially if it's 4-3 Cubs). Or, if one of the Cards and Cubs dominates their 7, the Brewers probably pass the dominated team.

Lots of churn yet to come.
   5. TomH Posted: September 16, 2019 at 10:14 AM (#5879560)
Who do the Cub fans root for, Nats-vs-Cards series on deck?

It looks like the preference would be a Nationals sweep, as that opens the door to a possible Cubbie Central Div title, but it could come back to haunt you....
   6. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 16, 2019 at 10:31 AM (#5879567)
I didn't realize until yesterday that the Brewers have such a soft schedule the rest of the way. I honestly, probably like many, assumed that Yelich going down pretty much wrote off the Brewers. But they've continued being red-hot and now they've got, on paper, by far the softest schedule the rest of the way among the Nationals, Cards, and Cubs. So I could easily see them slipping past both NL Central teams if they remain hot and the Cards/Cubs beat up each other over their seven remaining games.

Rizzo going down obviously is a huge blow with Baez already done for the regular season. This weekend was a lot of fun, but we obviously can't expect such an offensive barrage to continue. Add in that Lester and Hamels have both been terrible for a while, and it's going to be a white-knuckle ride to the finish line.

Cubs definitely have a shot at the division, though I would guess we'll have a better idea of that after the four-game set with St. Louis.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 16, 2019 at 10:35 AM (#5879571)
Who do the Cub fans root for, Nats-vs-Cards series on deck?

It looks like the preference would be a Nationals sweep, as that opens the door to a possible Cubbie Central Div title, but it could come back to haunt you....


You have to root for the Nats. The upside of Div. champ vs. WC is so much higher than just home field in the WC game.
   8. Charles S., looking 4 band-aids instead of dreams Posted: September 16, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5879575)
Right now the Brewers scare me the most. Their starting pitching is always a crapshoot, but they have 13 games left, all against bad teams. If they go 10-3 (a reasonable probability), that virtually guarantees them a playoff spot, and likely the division. I'm hoping for the Cubs to go 5-2 at home and 4-2 on the road the rest of the way, but at this point that's based on nothing but hope.
Also, TomH, what's the number one rule of National League baseball? When in doubt, root against the Cardinals.
   9. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 16, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5879601)
Yeah, I agree about the Brewers being in a good position to have a great finish based on the strength of schedule. On the other hand, you would think the effects of all of the injuries would come to roost, like starting right this minute. We will see.

One of the things that was remarkable to me about the Pirates last weekend was how they seem to have really checked out, even for a team that has no chance of doing anything. Their pitching has been truly terrible most of the year, but they seemed to be playing a pretty nihilistic game of baseball in that series.

The Reds still seem to be motivated and playing for keeps. The Cubs will be favored in each, but none of the three games are gimmes.

It would be nice to see the Cubs stay hot for the rest of this homestand, and have some momentum going into the last two series on the road. Right now they are at their high water mark in terms of games over .500 (13 over), but they're 51-50 over their last 101 games. They've been treading water for quite some time, and maybe they will show that they're better than that.
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5879605)
Nico Hoerner has been quite a revelation.... Not sure how much stock we can put into a pair of HRs that come in such a weekend bludgeoning, but no matter how this season ends up - I starting to think 2B is solved for next year.

He has a beautiful swing and a quick bat. But I will be fine seeing him develop as a high contact rate line drive hitter. I have a feeling that major league pitching will eventually identify his weaknesses if he keeps taking big home run cuts, and adjust accordingly.
   11. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5879637)
Good to see you again, Andere. Thanks for posting.

I will never fully understand this Brewers team. They're underwater in runs and 8 games over their Pythag. Yelich is too good for his absence to not make a difference. I also don't believe in or care how "hot" they are right now - I think following this fickle Cubs team should be more than enough to disabuse anyone of the notion being hot means anything. Their schedule really is cake though - however, the Rockies just took 2 of 3 from the Cards when the Cards came in hot and the Padres also haven't given up quite yet, same with the Reds; the Pirates have quit and I think Hurdle is just riding out the string.

Cubs did catch a break with the pitching matchups against the Reds this week - no Castillo as they put Gausman in tonight; but Suarez is on fire and may be the most ultimate Cubs killer active right now. Cards are getting Strasburg/Corbin/Scherzer in their series (plus Flaherty isn't going for them).

Even if Rizzo's injury comes back just a sprain, I doubt we see him again in the regular season; that plus Javy is asking almost too much of this team to overcome. In addition to Lester and Hamels struggles, Quintana has been dog #### his last 2 starts (though I might be inclined to give him a pass yesterday as his meltdown could have been mentally driven by Rizzo's injury).

All that being said, the Cubs have a really good chance here and they really do control their own destiny.

He has a beautiful swing and a quick bat. But I will be fine seeing him develop as a high contact rate line drive hitter. I have a feeling that major league pitching will eventually identify his weaknesses if he keeps taking big home run cuts, and adjust accordingly.

He's taken a couple of big swings - but those were in the right spots for those types of swings - so I honestly am not at all concerned about this with him. He's taken a lot more short ones that result in pretty weak contact, and he seems to try to go the other way quite a bit; IOW, I think he's going to be at the mercy of the BABIP gods because he doesn't have what looks like to be much natural power or a power swing.
   12. bunyon Posted: September 16, 2019 at 01:35 PM (#5879644)
Yelich is too good for his absence to not make a difference.

I've been thinking about this and - I think - I have this right:

Let's say Yelich is 10 WAR. That's over 162 games. So, over 12 games, it isn't even a full win.

I mean, sure, no team wants to lose a great player at this point. But 12 games is too small a sample for it to mean a whole lot. Teams don't go from .700 to .300 on the basis of any one player.

Before yesterday, that was bad news for the Brewers but the same applies to Rizzo, so good news.
   13. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5879660)
I don't disagree, but I also don't think this Brewers team - without Yelich - should go 10-3 or 9-4, whatever. With him, they're a sub-.500 pythag team. All I'm saying is that even considering their SOS, they're still a very flawed team and now they're even more flawed. It's just another way of saying I don't care how "hot" they are and I don't think that hotness should continue.

   14. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 16, 2019 at 02:04 PM (#5879669)
   15. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 02:11 PM (#5879675)
So instead of 14 games, the Cubs should only be 8 ahead of the Brewers. So yeah, MIL looks a little better that way, but still should be under .500.

Should is a relative term here and I'm not really using it with any level of certainty.
   16. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 16, 2019 at 02:40 PM (#5879690)
Good to see you again, Andere. Thanks for posting.

Good to be back. I've just been too busy -- I'm watching/listening to the games but getting deep into it hasn't been possible.

I will never fully understand this Brewers team. They're underwater in runs and 8 games over their Pythag. Yelich is too good for his absence to not make a difference.

Brewers record in one-run games: 26-15 (.634)
Brewers record in blowouts: 15-22 (.405)

Cubs record in one-run games: 19-22 (.463)
Cubs record in blowouts: 30-16 (.652)

One might be tempted to assign part of this to the Brewers' stronger relief pitching, but in terms of WAR, the Brewers are at 3.5 (10th in MLB) and the Cubs at 2.1 (19th). For starting pitching, the Cubs are at 13.7 (9th) and the Brewers at 7.5 (21st). The Brewers have a better bullpen and they rely on it more -- this gives them opportunities to win close games, but it puts them in a position to be blown out more.

Then there's the home/road record thing. The Cubs are underperforming their Pythagorean by four wins, but that's all happening on the road. At home, they are overperforming by about 2.5 games, and underperforming by about 7 games on the road.

He's taken a couple of big swings - but those were in the right spots for those types of swings - so I honestly am not at all concerned about this with him.

I'm not concerned about it, I just don't think this is what we can expect from him going forward. I do think he could show more power than he has shown in the minors, but I think an optimistic projection is an everyday player who might regularly give you HR totals in the teens. He's a contact guy who so far has not drawn a lot of walks -- that's fine, but it's not something that usually goes along with being a big swinger. But he may change his approach. I did not expect him to be as big a guy as he is -- he's listed at 5'11"/200, which would make him Ian Happ-like.


   17. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 16, 2019 at 03:15 PM (#5879713)
The Crew is definitely a weird team. Bad with runners on base in terms of just base hits. The OPS is middle of the pack but the batting average is bottom 3 in MLB. Walks and dingers where maybe some singles would do more good. The defense is nowhere as good as last season. Grandal and Moose took off hitting for like 6 weeks but are hitting again.

Who the #### knows. But the Brewers are playing relevant baseball with two weeks left so I am ok with that.
   18. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 04:08 PM (#5879730)
Tonight’s Cubs 9...

1. Zobrist 2B
2. Castellanos RF
3. Bryant 3B
4. Schwarber LF
5. Contreras C
6. Caratini 1B
7. Heyward CF
8. Hoerner SS
9. Hamels SP

Expecting to have an update on Anthony Rizzo (right ankle) before tonight’s game. Stay tuned.


Bryant was NL player of the week
   19. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 16, 2019 at 04:09 PM (#5879731)
Then there's the home/road record thing. The Cubs are underperforming their Pythagorean by four wins, but that's all happening on the road. At home, they are overperforming by about 2.5 games, and underperforming by about 7 games on the road.

Pythag isn't the best tool for home/road splits, because the home team's scoring is artificially suppressed in wins (either they don't bat in the bottom of the ninth and they're short an inning in which they might have scored more, or they walk off and an inning in which they scored at least one run is cut off before it otherwise would have been). So "overperform at home, underperform on the road" is a normal thing for Pythag.
   20. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 04:57 PM (#5879758)
Cubs: MRI revealed that Anthony Rizzo has lateral right ankle sprain. No surgery needed. Rizzo will wear a boot for 5-7 days. Timeline for return will be assessed after being re-evaluated after immobilization period.

More soon on Cubs.com.


Probably best case.

Kimbrel scheduled to do a 12-15 pitch live BP tomorrow


Moving targets again.
   21. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 05:03 PM (#5879759)
So "overperform at home, underperform on the road" is a normal thing for Pythag.

sure, but not usually to this extreme.
   22. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 16, 2019 at 11:33 PM (#5879850)
The Cubs are hitting .553 with RISP on this homestand (21-for-38) with 28 two-out RBI in the 4 games.

Hitting .393 overall while averaging 13.8 runs/game on the homestand.


That's some mad regression.
   23. Brian C Posted: September 16, 2019 at 11:36 PM (#5879853)
Yeah but only 8 runs tonight. It's like, they can't even buy any consistency at the plate.
   24. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 16, 2019 at 11:58 PM (#5879861)
So everyone keeps pace, except the Nationals. Cubs a half game out from the 1st Wild Card. Obviously the division would be great to win, but given the way they've played this year, it cannot be understated how big it would be for them to have the top Wild Card slot rather than the second.

With this four-game outburst, they've actually improved to the second best run differential in the NL.
   25. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 17, 2019 at 09:08 AM (#5879898)
If they're going to start scoring consistently, I suppose this is a great time to start...
   26. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 09:36 AM (#5879909)
Maddon said postgame that Brandon Kintzler is dealing with a mild left oblique issue. Has been throwing, but not ready to return to games yet.


Monday's showing lowered the Cubs' bullpen ERA to a NL-leading 2.32 for September. That comes after the group had a 4.12 relief ERA on the year entering the final month. Heading into Monday, the 'pen had 11.02 strikeouts per nine innings in September, compared to 8.77 the rest of the year. The strikeout rate was up to 29.2 percent this month (vs. 22.7 percent in the previous five months).

Besides Wick, Ryan and Cishek, not to mention Tyler Chatwood earning more crucial moments, it has been Chicago's crop of September additions who have played a large role, too. Mills, Brad Wieck, Duane Underwood Jr., James Norwood and Danny Hultzen have combined for a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings on the month.


Rizzo's knee scooter that he's using was all decked out in post game. Once we wrapped up talking to Castellanos, we heard a honking noise. Rizzo scooted by with streamers and a basket full of goodies on the scooter


   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 17, 2019 at 09:40 AM (#5879912)
Obviously the division would be great to win, but given the way they've played this year, it cannot be understated how big it would be for them to have the top Wild Card slot rather than the second.

I doubt this home-road weirdness is at all predictive of a WC game.
   28. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5879943)
No, I don't either. But it's not like we're talking about anything rational here as there's no explanation for how extreme those splits have been. If it came down to a WC game, Hendricks is probably the Cubs best bet and he has even more extreme home/road splits this year (which also may not really be predictive) so that's more than enough reason on its own to prefer it to be at Wrigley.
   29. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 17, 2019 at 10:43 AM (#5879944)
Rizzo's knee scooter that he's using was all decked out in post game. Once we wrapped up talking to Castellanos, we heard a honking noise. Rizzo scooted by with streamers and a basket full of goodies on the scooter

I would really like for Rizzo to spend the entirety of his career with the Cubs.

Kimbrel scheduled to do a 12-15 pitch live BP tomorrow

I'm not sure if Kimbrel rejoining the Cubs this year is good or bad.
   30. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:00 AM (#5879952)
I would really like for Rizzo to spend the entirety of his career with the Cubs.


It wouldn't be a bad idea to start talking to him about an extension... The Cubs still have two no-brainer team options left (16.5 for 2020 and 2021)... what's reasonable? Paul Goldscmidt extended with the Cards for 5 years at 26m pa. Rip up the two option years and 10/220?

Sorry to report that in my OOTP universe, I'm (likely) going to have let him walk... He won the MVP in 2020 (9.3 WAR!) - and while he returned to earth in 2021, he's looking for 5/220 and I'm just not going to sign anyone to a 44m pa contract... I'll keep in touch and if he'll do something closer to 30m, maybe we can make it work.
   31. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5879957)
Wait, you want to sign him through his age 40 season right now? I want him to stick around his full career, too, but that seems to be a bit too long at this time. I'm fine rounding up his 2 extension years if you can tack on some more years at the end, but 4 or 5 seems like the longest you'll really want to go.

10/220 for Javy makes more sense. Those are the 2 guys the Cubs really should be trying to keep and lock down - and I suspect they are (like I said last thread, both have reiterated multiple times this year they want to be here forever).
   32. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:17 AM (#5879959)
No, if they ripped up the options - 10 years would take him to age 38....
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5879964)
It wouldn't be a bad idea to start talking to him about an extension... The Cubs still have two no-brainer team options left (16.5 for 2020 and 2021)... what's reasonable? Paul Goldscmidt extended with the Cards for 5 years at 26m pa. Rip up the two option years and 10/220?

I'd pretty much never re-up a 30 y.o. early. Too much can go wrong for a ballplayer in his early 30's. I don't want the Yankees to extend Judge, and he's only 27.5. Early extensions are for guys in their early 20s.
   34. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5879965)
I'm not sure if Kimbrel rejoining the Cubs this year is good or bad.

I'll say good, but not for the obvious reason. Since Joe is a pretty strict closer modernist, it allows him to use better relievers in potentially higher leverage situations.

I guess a lot is still up in the air with how healthy guys are and who will be available for a theoretical playoff roster, so it's too hard to predict quite yet how many RP they'll take (and that would be different in a WC game anyway). But the only locks right now are Wick, Ryan, Cishek, Kintzler, and Phelps (just based on his usage, I think Joe would take him). I'd expect whichever of the SP that doesn't make the rotation (right now, that's Hamels but a stubble hair over Lester) and probably Chatwood based on how decent he's been lately. That leaves either 1 or 2 slots and there is an obvious guy right now for that/those spot(s). Maybe Wieck for a true LOOGY role, maybe Strop if Joe trusts him (and I think I'd rather Kimbrel than Strop still at this point).
   35. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:27 AM (#5879966)
No, if they ripped up the options - 10 years would take him to age 38....

He's 30 as of last month. 30+10=40. I guess that means his age 39 season, which he turns 40 during.
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 17, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5879975)
I would really like for Rizzo to spend the entirety of his career with the Cubs.
Too late for that.
   37. bunyon Posted: September 17, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5879980)
With two team options, there is no hurry. See how he does these next years. Or at least next year. The Cubs are rich enough to afford him if he's awesome. If he's not...
   38. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 03:36 PM (#5880101)
Zobrist
Castellanos
Bryant
Schwarber
Contreras 1b
Caratini C
Heyward
NICO
Darvish

Makes sense to keep Darvish throwing to Caratini, and they get to keep Contreras's bat in the lineup. Contreras hasn't played much 1b, and hasn't started there since 2017, but with Darvish being such a K pitcher I guess tonight's as good a time to try it.
   39. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 17, 2019 at 04:00 PM (#5880110)
Counsell has played Grandal at first and somehow the ball keeps finding him so that Yaz can #### up a play. So good luck with the catcher playing at first to get a bat in the lineup thing. Has sucked for the Crew
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 17, 2019 at 04:17 PM (#5880117)
Have we reached the point of the season where Grandal loses his physical ability to catch a thrown baseball?
   41. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 17, 2019 at 04:19 PM (#5880118)
Well, Caratini is the normal backup 1b so he plays there a bunch. Also, both him and Contreras played other positions before they converted to catcher and have played elsewhere this year - Caratini has also seen time at 3b and Contreras in the OF, both RF and LF - but yeah, 1b is relatively new for Willy. Rizzo is a plus at 1b, so regardless of who is there it's a drop-off defensively.
   42. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 17, 2019 at 04:53 PM (#5880130)
40-Really have to give it up for Yaz because Pineapple went out with a concussion and Grandal has caught every game for the last two weeks. Last day off was 9/4. 12 straight games catching which seems pretty insane to me.
   43. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: September 17, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5880136)
Betcha wish you had the slowly degrading husk of Jonathon Lucroy!
   44. Walt Davis Posted: September 18, 2019 at 12:49 AM (#5880306)
Now we're looking at half-month bullpen splits? :-) FWIW, while the AAA corps have done well, and sometimes in tough spots, 11 of 16 games this month have been decided by 4+ (usually +) runs one way or the other. Cubs are now 1-4 in the "close" ones this Sept although, other than arguably the 3-2 loss to Milw, none of those are really the pen's fault. Just noting that this excellent performance has mostly been in low-leverage, a good chunk in true garbage time. Still the kids are mighty fine even in the close ones. That 3-2 loss in Milw was Ryan, Phelps and Kintzler charged with runs; in the 9-8 loss at SD, it was Kintzler and Cishek.

On the who to root for thing -- I think that's a tough question. Came up the other night when Braun hit the slam to beat the Cards. Len and JD were clearly rooting for the Brewers. Me I wasn't so sure that 3 games back of the Cards but 2 ahead of the Brewers wouldn't be better. Tough call -- obviously can't win the series if we don't make the post-season but of course winning the division is a substantial step closer to winning the series. Still here we are today tied with the Brewers again, still 2 back of the Cards and 1.5 behind the Nats.

Our dilemma ends tomorrow since none of the teams we're mixed up with play each other (and of course we play the Cards ourselves).

The remaining schedule makes the Brewers' chances excellent at this point. If we beat up on the Cards or vice versa, the Brewers probably pass the loser into the 2nd WC. If it's roughly even between us and Cards, they likely won't lose ground on either and probably gain because of their schedule. The Nats also have a fairly tough schedule (3 easy with Miami but then 5 with Phils, including a DH, and 3 with Cle). Nothing unfair about that, just means the Brewers have played a tougher schedule to this point.
   45. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5880365)
Now we're looking at half-month bullpen splits? :-) FWIW, while the AAA corps have done well, and sometimes in tough spots, 11 of 16 games this month have been decided by 4+ (usually +) runs one way or the other. Cubs are now 1-4 in the "close" ones this Sept although, other than arguably the 3-2 loss to Milw, none of those are really the pen's fault. Just noting that this excellent performance has mostly been in low-leverage, a good chunk in true garbage time. Still the kids are mighty fine even in the close ones. That 3-2 loss in Milw was Ryan, Phelps and Kintzler charged with runs; in the 9-8 loss at SD, it was Kintzler and Cishek.

Of course. :)

How about this:
The relievers have allowed just three runs in their last 25 1/3 innings. They lead all of baseball with a second-half bullpen ERA of 3.46 and they’re sixth overall on the year with a 3.89 ERA. The ERA has gone down to 2.32 in September.

That success comes with Pedro Strop being relegated to mop-up duty and Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek and Craig Kimbrel combining to throw just 7 2/3 innings thus far in September. And they’ve given up seven runs.

So how have the Cubs done it? There are some unexpected names delivering in big ways. And while relievers are generally considered the most volatile group from year-to-year in baseball, this success isn’t completely random.


This is about the pitch lab again, and talks about how they've worked with Ryan, Wick, and Wieck and the changes they've all made and seen.

---

It's hard to get *too* upset about last night, even though it was another missed opportunity to gain on the Cards. Gray has been about as good as any NL pitcher in the 2nd half (I think I heard Len and JD say he either broke or tied a record on Nolan Ryan's last night with the most consecutive starts giving up 6 or less hits - I'm sure there was an inning/start qualifier but not sure and can't remember the exact thing). Outside of the first 4 batters, Darvish really was absolutely great again last night (sure, he scuffled a little that last inning too).
   46. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5880368)
I posted this all the way back on the 10th:
I don't want to say the Cubs should sweep the Padres, but they definitely could and absolutely have to win 2 of the next 3. I wouldn't predict the Cards to sweep the Rockies, but the Rockies have been bad lately so I'll say STL goes 2-1 there. Cubs should/could win 4 or 5 of 6 at home against PIT/CIN and the Cards could go 3-3 in their 6 against much tougher teams (though they are at home). So there's definitely an opportunity to be even within 2 by next week if things go right.

I just don't trust Lester or Hamels enough to predict things go that well, and they're starting 4 combined games in the next 9 before we see the Cards. But, 7-2 in the next 9 and I'll be ready to think the Cards have a real fight on their hands. I don't expect it, but still hope for it.


Cubs are 5-3 and Cards are 3-5, so Cubs have gone +2. Of course, I didn't count on the Brewers going 7-1 and gaining on both of us. I continued doubting the Brewers at my own peril, but they surely are in an amazing spot to not just take over the WC but steal the division unless one of either the Cubs or Cards completely dominate the other.

I still think it was right to cheer for MIL over STL, just like I'm cheering for WSH over STL. A perfect day today would be a Cubs win/Cards&Brewers; loss/Nats win. The Brewers are going to lose, they just have to.

FG playoff odds have the division 50.6% STL/30.4% CHC/12.9% MIL and WC as 25.7% STL/33.4% CHC/42.3% MIL/95.1% WSH. I guess that feels about right.
   47. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2019 at 01:21 PM (#5880415)
Whatever intangible reasons the Cubs might have had for putting Addison Russell on the concussion injured list Sunday, they gained one clear tangible advantage:

They avoided paying him a $100,000 contract bonus by assuring at least seven inactive days during the expanded-roster period that otherwise made the transaction moot.

Whether it ultimately amounts to a parting shot for the former All-Star shortstop depends on whether he’s swept up in the roster changes many expect to be made after the season.

---

And it might yet lead to a union grievance on his behalf. The short-term injured lists rarely are used in September because no roster advantage is gained when all members of the 40-man roster are eligible, except in some strategic cases.

---

After the IL move was made Sunday (backdated the maximum three days to Thursday), Cubs officials said it was about fully respecting and adhering to the protocol.

But nothing in the concussion rules mandated in the collective-bargaining agreement required the move, and Major League Baseball wasn’t involved in compelling it or otherwise suggesting it.


Wittenmeyer strongly implies the motive may be financial, but I sure have a hard time believing that over $100k (and whatever tiny amount they save on the luxury tax). I wish teams - in all sports - treated concussions seriously but that would be a new development for the Cubs (the Bryant beaning last year).
   48. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 18, 2019 at 01:31 PM (#5880419)
Will the adversity that Addison Russell, protagonist, have to overcome ever end??
   49. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2019 at 03:25 PM (#5880484)
Same lineup as yesterday, except Contreras and Caratini swap defensive positions. And a much worse SP.

Cubs really should clobber Mahle though.
   50. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: September 18, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5880491)
Too late for that.

Oh. Yeah. Damn it.

Cubs really should clobber Mahle though.

Now you've done it.
   51. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 18, 2019 at 09:13 PM (#5880574)
Updates from Maddon:

• Kimbrel doing well. On target for activation in coming days (likely Thursday or Friday)
• Russell still in concussion protocol, but going through full pregame workout today
   52. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 19, 2019 at 08:41 AM (#5880636)
Wittenmeyer strongly implies the motive may be financial, but I sure have a hard time believing that over $100k (and whatever tiny amount they save on the luxury tax). I wish teams - in all sports - treated concussions seriously but that would be a new development for the Cubs (the Bryant beaning last year).

It's complete nonsense. A team with a payroll like the Cubs' isn't going to nickel and dime a player on $100K, definitely not when they are in a playoff run and their star shortstop is on the IL. I wouldn't necessarily dismiss potential other ulterior motives, but this one ain't it.
   53. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 19, 2019 at 09:01 AM (#5880637)
So here we are: Cardinals series. Do or die, pretty much. Even against the shambles of the Pirates in the following series, and the Cardinals having to go west to play the D-backs, I think they need to go at least 3-1 on this trip to avoid slipping into elimination.

Matchups for the series:

Thurs: Hendricks vs. Flaherty (I just took the Cubs at more or less even money in my fake gambling league -- Fivethirtyeight has the Cubs as 51% favorites)
Fri: Quintana vs. Wacha (538 has the Cubs at 55% (about -136))
Sat: Hamels vs. Hudson (538 has the Cubs at 53% (about -116) -- they do not adjust much if at all based on recent pitcher trends, so I expect the Vegas odds to favor the Cardinals)
Sun: Darvish vs. Mikolas (56%, about -141)


   54. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5880682)
Last night was pretty disappointing. Anything can happen, but there's nothing in Mahle's recent history to suggest that he should have frustrated the Cubs offense that much. He wasn't striking guys out, but they just weren't hitting him that hard. The baserunning left something to be desired - but it also was the reason they got their first run. But one ####### hit off that guy? Pathetic. It was a game where it was pretty obvious the Cubs were down 2 All-Star bats.

As for the pitching, Lester was better but he wasn't really that good. I think he was lucky to only give up the 1 run - he was giving up more hard hit balls than Mahle. I understand Maddon wanting to give Strop a chance to earn a spot back, and it was the bottom of the Reds lineup - but it was the 7th inning of a tie game. Strop shouldn't be anywhere near that unless he absolutely has to be. Strop only pitched once in those 4 blowouts this weekend/Monday - that's when he should be seeing time. I think Norwood got screwed by the inconsistent strike zone - that 4 pitch walk to VanMeter could have easily been a strike out - and Maddon has been giving him some chances I think to take a postseason bullpen slot. I would have liked to see more Underwood in general - he hadn't pitched in a week. Maddon got away with bringing in Holland to face Votto. But the biggest mistake - if there really was one - was not double switching in Chatwood because his spot in the order was due up 3rd. Being able to only use him for 1 inning was less than ideal. Now, maybe the Cubs want him available for multiple games in the Cards series and thus wanted him only to pitch 1 inning (and he was hitting 99, probably because he knew he was only gonna pitch that inning), but considering it was a tied game late I think you have to expect someone will have to go more than 1 or else you're pitching guys who haven't pitched in a while.

Still though, Cubs could have done more offensively and didn't. Bryant looked bad again the last couple of games - how long does the benefit of the cortisone shot last anyway?
   55. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 10:51 AM (#5880691)
As for the Cards series, Flahery has been a legit ace this year. He has back to back rough starts against OAK/SEA end of June/beginning of July 9 (11ER in 9.1IP), but in the 13 games since he's gone 84.1IP, 1.07ERA (11R, 10ER), 105/20 k/bb, 44H, 5HR, and batters are hitting .152/.218/.238 against him. Cubs have faced him 4 times this year, and the Cubs/Cards have split those games (he won the 2 in STL, lost the 2 here) but 3 were early in the year before he turned into THIS. Luckily, Hendricks has been just about that good at home this year, so I'm glad those two are matching up. I'll be there tonight.

Hudson has also been good lately, but Wacha and Mikolas are clear steps down from them. I hope Quintana can figure his #### out, but I don't have a lot of hope for Hamels this year (he probably just needs time to get healthy).

Even going 2-2 might be enough to put the Cubs behind the Brewers (who finish their series against the Padres today, and then play 3 against the corpse of the Pirates). 3-1 and the Cubs are 1 back, sweep and they're up 1.
   56. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 02:36 PM (#5880809)
Same lineup again, which is really the best it can be:

Zobrist
Castellanos
Bryant
Schwarber
Contreras C
Caratini 1b
Heyward
NICO
Hendricks

Cards isn't posted yet.
   57. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 05:10 PM (#5880880)
Things like this and this:

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Dating back to Sept. 2 (sans Kimbrel period), the Cubs' bullpen has ranked 1st in the Majors in ERA (2.12), opponents' average (.182), opponents' OPS (.553) and ground-ball percentage (56.9%).


feel like they're trying to convince themselves as much as us, the reader, that the Cubs pen hasn't been as bad as it feels lately. SSS and all, but the pen is unquestionably less bad that earlier this year.
   58. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5880885)
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Kintzler (left oblique) threw a 15-pitch bullpen Wednesday, scheduled for full bullpen on Friday. Hopes to be available for games again by Sunday. With off-day Monday, possible Cubs wait until Tuesday.


That's been another moving target injury, but weirder since he was hurt for a little while before they even said so. September rosters, I guess.

Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma

Hamels dealing with left shoulder fatigue. Mills will go tomorrow, Q on Saturday, Darvish Sunday. Expectation is Hamels will get back in rotation at some point during road trip.


I think skipping Hamels, especially since he clearly isn't 100%, is probably the right move. I do find it interesting they're giving Q an extra day. I'd assume Chatwood has to be ready to go multiple innings tomorrow, and we will see a bunch of guys (so hopefully Kyle goes deep tonight).

Jordan Bastian @MLBastian

Kimbrel going through pregame routine. Possible he’ll be activated pregame, but no announcement yet.


I picture his pregame routine as practicing his stupid bent over stance in a mirror.
   59. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 05:21 PM (#5880887)
Sahadev Sharma @sahadevsharma

Javy cleared for light baseball activity. T work and the like. Pinch-running is on the table as soon as tonight. He has a protective mitt for his hand. Will be evaluated daily.


Oh, now that's an interesting twist. OTOH, he did get hurt on the basepaths, but probably can wear a big enough glove that it shouldn't be an issue.
   60. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 05:28 PM (#5880891)
Kimbrel is active.
   61. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 19, 2019 at 05:45 PM (#5880894)
I picture his pregame routine as practicing his stupid bent over stance in a mirror.
And then brushing his beard exactly 100 times while counting out loud.
   62. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 06:17 PM (#5880901)
I dunno, that beard doesn't exactly screamed combed to me.
   63. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 06:48 PM (#5880909)
At the game, Rizzo is on the field running and warming up.
   64. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2019 at 10:20 PM (#5881023)
Just to be clear, I wasn't trying to downplay the generally strong relief pitching we've gotten lately. But a lot of the games have been blow-outs one way or the other so some chunk of that pitching has been garbage time with its larger strike zones, less nibbling, aggressive batters and (esp in Sept) heavy scrub substitution. But of course 3 runs in 25+ innings is good no matter the opponents or the score.
   65. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 19, 2019 at 11:44 PM (#5881106)
There's no shame in getting shut down by a guy on as dominant of a run as Flaherty is on now. There's shame in giving up a bunch of ropes to the bottom of the other team's lineup (and their washed up scrubs), to unforced defensive miscues, and unforced outs on the basepaths.

I honest to goodness have no complaints with Maddons pitching decisions tonight - maybe he should have pulled Kyle sooner, maybe - and it's a shame Kyle didn't have it today. I didn't hate the kimbrel move either, assuming Wick was down today. We can't know if Rizzo being pulled early was pre-planned or overcautious, but I didn't like that. Joe managed the pinch runners/hitters like it was an elimination game late, and that was the right thing too.

The Cubs played some pretty big "inspirational" bullets tonight with Rizzo and Baez. It wasn't enough. It's now extremely unlikely the Cubs win the division and only slightly less unlikely they sneak into a WC spot (and even if they do, it'll be a brief visit to October).

This is a flawed team. But one that still should be good enough to win so many of these games they've blown lately. They continue to make bad mistakes, ones that they didn't use to make, and somehow are still less than the sum of their parts. It wasnt the case late last year, but there is no question this is a team choking or folding under pressure or whatever cliche you want you use. I said in the chatter that teams bad at the fundamentals usually blame the manager, and in this case since they used to be good at it, I lay some to a good amount of that on Joe as well. I agree the FO has mixed in way too many stinker moves among the brilliant ones and overall are in the red the last 3+ years.

I think there's still a good team in here somewhere, one that with the right moves can be a great team again. I'm not convinced they have to do something drastic, but they can't just go for a few cosmetic moves again. I don't know if this FO can do that or not, but I'm not convinced they can't. I'm much more sure Joe isn't gonna get anything more out of this group, and it's easier to replace him than half the roster and FO. He did a great job for a good amount of time, and he's still a good manager overall. I just don't think he's the guy that can reverse this trend with this group. All the credit in the world for what he did, especially 2015&2016;. Now though, I think it's time to move on. I don't think I've come to this point rashly, and it's not an overreaction to tonight. I have been leaning that way though, so maybe there is some confirmation bias. I don't begrudge anyone whose argument is look at where the Cubs are and what Joe had done, my only counter is there's little to nothing you can point to the last 1.5 years or so to say he clearly is still doing a good job. There's always extenuating circumstances, but I don't think anything the last couple playoff pushes are things that should have sunk the Cubs as much as they have. I'll readily admit the odds of the next guy clearly being better than Joe aren't great, but Joe ain't Joe anymore and perhaps a guy close enough in overall managing skill can still be better for this team and get more out of them.
   66. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 20, 2019 at 12:22 AM (#5881111)
Craig Kimbrel ####### sucks.
   67. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: September 20, 2019 at 11:07 AM (#5881171)
Because I felt like it, I looked up pitcher run support for the five main Cub starters on the season. Here's some stuff I found:

Run support for the pitchers:
5.90 R/G: Jon Lester (177/30)
5.90 R/G: Jose Quintana (171/29)
5.04 R/G: Cole Hamels (131/26)
4.57 R/G: Yu Darvish (137/30)
3.97 R/G: Kyle Hendricks (115/82)

Until very recently, the Cubs were averaging just 3.00 runs per game for Hendricks - but in his last five starts they've scored 10, 5, 10, 14, and 4 runs.

Adjust for park and league average (using the 101 three-year pitching park factor at B-Ref), here's how their run support shakes out, compared to league average (stats centered at 100 like OPS+ or ERA+):
122 Jon Lester
122 Jose Quintana
104 Cole Hamels
94 Yu Darvish
82 Kyle Hendricks

Man, that is not good run support at all for Hendricks.

Looking at the details, the Cubs have scored 0-3 runs in a majority of Kyle's starts (16 out of 29). Meanwhile, they've scored more than six runs just three times - all in his last handful of starts.

Yu's run support looks different. The Cubs continually give him 4-5 runs a game (13 times in 30 starts). But they've only given him double-digit run support once. Mind you, the club has scored at least ten runs in a game 21 times.

Quintana has been on the mound in seven games where the Cubs scored at least 10 runs. Kind of a lot.

Helping Lester is that the Cubs rarely have bad offensive outings when he starts. Shut out once. Held to run one only once. Just three times held to two runs. They're as likely to scored eight or more runs for him as three or less (8 times both ways).

Cole Hamels has suffered through the most shutouts (3), and only Hendricks has more times on the mound when the Cubs score just one run (5 for Hendricks, 4 for Hamels). The team as a whole has scored 0-1 runs 20 times - 7 times with Hamels starting and 6 times with Hendricks on the mound. But otherwise they've been decent scoring runs for Hamels.
   68. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 20, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5881179)
For the record, even if I'm saying I'd rather the Cubs moved on from Joe, I'm not completely opposed to them keeping him. But in that case, there would need to be some more serious roster reshuffling, because running back largely the same group with him is going to get us the same results.

...

Today's Cubs 9...

1. Rizzo 1B
2. Castellanos RF
3. Bryant 3B
4. Schwarber LF
5. Contreras C
6. Bote 2B
7. Heyward CF
8. Hoerner SS
9. Mills SP
   69. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 20, 2019 at 06:16 PM (#5881378)





fin




   70. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 20, 2019 at 06:18 PM (#5881382)
Cubs picked a bad time to play like they're on the road.

It's probably best this way. Division was looking like a longshot, but today pretty much clinched it. I have zero faith in them to even make the WC game now that they're two back of a team that's got a soft final week of the season.

It'll be an interesting off-season.
   71. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2019 at 07:47 PM (#5881392)
FWIW, bWAA now puts the Cubs with the best pen in the NL, in fact the only above-average pen in the NL, with 1.5 bWAA. StL is second at zero. That 1.5 bWAA puts them just behind Tex for the MLB lead. Cub pitching overall 2nd in the NL. Of course by WAA, Cubs and Nats are in a tight race for 2nd-best team in the NL so apparently actual wins still matter!

It does show Theo's dilemma. By WAA this is a 90+ win team; by pythag it's a 90+ win team. On paper, he did his job; on paper, the players kinda did their job too -- just not always at the right times. Positionally the Cubs are only weak at 2B (where Hoerner might be a solution) and CF. The only FA resembling a CF is 36-year-old Brett Gardner. Bryant has only been decidely solid this year (Cubs 6th best at 3B) after last year's not so great so maybe if we can flip him for an actual CF solution then sign Rendon/Donaldson???? (Bryant's last 2 arb years are probably gonna cost $37 so it's not clear why a team would give us a starting CF for that rather than grab Donaldson themselves.)

If we believe in Bryant, it might be a good time to test Boras's competence and approach Bryant with an extension. The days when he could count on getting at least $200 M as a free agent are gone whether he and Boras are ready to accept that or not. Rfield is even giving negative ratings at 3B now (UZR and TZ average though). Obviously a couple of big years would put him back on that track but he's also another injury-plagued season away from real uncertainty.
   72. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 20, 2019 at 11:26 PM (#5881448)
Ready for my crazy suggestion? Mookie. Crazy for a bunch of reasons, like the red Sox shouldn't trade him, probably won't, and they don't need a 3b (but could play Bryant in LF or 1b). Not crazy cause they get 2 years of KB for one of Mookie (obviously the Cubs have to break the bank to keep him).

You want really, really crazy? Throw in Heyward and Price. Heyward is signed for one more year, but less overall (so helps them get under the tax, if that's a goal for them). Then go for Donaldson, resign Castellanos once his market stalls out, and profit.

I also highly doubt Donaldson is leaving ATL, but the Sox aren't gonna trade Mookie either and I said it was crazy right off the bat.

Again, admittedly this is insane, and it helps the Cubs more than the Sox and I can't begin to think of how fair the trade is or if other prospects have to be involved or if the value is really even there for either team. It's a big trade to make mainly for the sake of making a big deal. Sox fans would be way more upset than we would. But think of how many problems that solves for the Cubs...
   73. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 20, 2019 at 11:31 PM (#5881449)
That's the tough part. It's not a bad team, but there's just something about the lineup that hasn't consistently clicked for a season and a half now. I really hate to sound old fashioned, but I do wonder sometimes if the Cubs are a bit too one-dimensional offensively. You've got a lot of powerful swing and miss types. And that's fine when things are going well, but when you just need a hit or even a ball in the air, it can be maddening.
   74. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 20, 2019 at 11:33 PM (#5881450)
I really like Bryant, but if the Cubs felt inclined to make a big trade this off-season, he's probably the one I'd be least upset to see go. He seems injury-prone and is a deceptively streaky hitter.
   75. Brian C Posted: September 21, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5881488)
I don't begrudge anyone whose argument is look at where the Cubs are and what Joe had done, my only counter is there's little to nothing you can point to the last 1.5 years or so to say he clearly is still doing a good job.

FWIW, bWAA now puts the Cubs with the best pen in the NL, in fact the only above-average pen in the NL, with 1.5 bWAA.


   76. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 21, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5881506)
Guys! I have news! Just FYI...you know that Cap’n Nemo’s sub shop on Ashland that we talk about from time to time, wondering how it has stayed open all these years when there is literally never anyone in there, to the point that we’ve speculated that it’s a Mafia front?

Guess what? It closed.
   77. Brian C Posted: September 21, 2019 at 12:08 PM (#5881514)
I ate there once or twice. I didn't know it was A Thing. I wonder if the one here in Rogers Park is still open.
   78. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: September 21, 2019 at 01:45 PM (#5881547)
Here's a counterpoint: You could just say that this season's failings are just bad luck and randomness rather than a flawed design. Right now, they are six games below their pythag. Is that a sign of the way the teams's designed? Well, they were one game over their pythag last year and one game under it in 2017.

Purely by pythag record, the Cubs are the 2nd best team in the NL right now - OK, in a virtual dead heat with the Nats and Cards and Braves (.571 vs. .570 vs. .568 vs. .565). As it happens, the Cubs are the worst pythag underachieves in the NL this year - their .532 winning percentage is 39 points below their current pythag winning percentage). And you know who is the biggest pythag overachiever? The Brewers (.545 actual vs. .492 pythag). If just one of those things isn't true, the Cubs are in the playoffs this year. I posted earlier on this page how the Cubs were giving far less run support for Hendrcicks & Darvish than any of their other starters. That's just plain random. And switching run support around could quite conceivably give the team more wins.

Yeah, I'd much rather be the Astros or Dodgers where you dominate all year and just waltz into the postseason -- just like the 2016 Cubs did - but this is team that on paper is a 90-win club. And in previous years, their actual record largely matched their pythag record. (If anyone cards, over Maddon's entire tenure, the Cubs are three games under their pythag: 469-331 vs. 472-328).

Everyone around here realizes that there's a randomness to a team's performance. Sometimes it's just a fluke or one of those things. But it's always hard to see your own team as one of those teams. When you watch them day-in and day-out, you notice every little thing. You see them every damn day. There's a saying I like to apply to many aspects in life: can't see the forest through the trees. The experience of the fan is very much a tree-centric way of looking at a time, which means it's so easy to overlook the forest-view.

Having said that, I'm not entirely sure I believe this post I'm typing. I've got this sense all along that this Cubs team is underachieving. I've gotten a sense that maybe they do need to do something drastic. But, looking at the numbers .... well, wouldn't that be a classic overreaction?

Actual problems I can see needing to be addressed: The biggest problem I see hurting the Cubs right now is half of the rotation isn't good. Lester has been a frequent disaster over the last three months. Hamels often makes me yearn for Lester. And Quintana has an ERA of 4.90 over his last 15 starts. Before they trade someone from their core, the team needs to improve their starting rotation.

Second, the offense is streaky. Actually, I'd really like to crunch the numbers on that to make sure it's true for the 2019 team. But I did that for the 2018 club last year and they did have too many 0-2 run games for a club that scored as many runs as they did. I get the feeling that's true this year as well, but that's just an assumption.

Having said all that, I'm still not fully opposed to trading Bryant - but I can very easily see it turn out to be a massive overreaction to a year where random run fluxuation kept them out. My main concern with Bryant is injuries. That really brought him down last year. And this year he has a slash line of .246/.321/.446 over his last 47 games with 55 Ks in 175 AB. Hey, some guys get injured. Some guys have multiple years of injuries and recover. But it's worrisome.
   79. Red Voodooin Posted: September 21, 2019 at 07:46 PM (#5881749)
The Maddon situation conversation should maybe be put on ice for a minute. The Cubs have just had their aorta ripped out of them the last few days. That was an historic string of agonizing (tough-luck?) losses. I don't think what has transpired in the last couple days is germane to that other conversation, and we can debate that after the Cubs are eliminated, because we're not ####### done yet.
   80. cardsfanboy Posted: September 21, 2019 at 08:22 PM (#5881757)
Having said that, I'm not entirely sure I believe this post I'm typing. I've got this sense all along that this Cubs team is underachieving. I've gotten a sense that maybe they do need to do something drastic. But, looking at the numbers .... well, wouldn't that be a classic overreaction?


I don't mean to be intruding on a Cubs specific section of this site, but I absolutely have to agree that the Cubs are underachieving... I'm a die hard Cardinal fan and look at the Cardinals in the best possible viewpoint, but going into the season, there was hope for my team, but it was going to be an uphill battle, and the team had to potentially over achieve to do it... ultimately though I don't think the Cardinals or the Brewers are over achieving... the Cubs have just underperformed expectations... due to injury or bad luck it doesn't matter, they just didn't play to the way that they should have... I assumed it was going to take 94 or more wins to win this division, and the Cardinals "might" do that, but it's not really necessary
   81. Red Voodooin Posted: September 21, 2019 at 08:34 PM (#5881758)
Particularly because of what I wrote in 79, and also because #### you. #### YOU
   82. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: September 21, 2019 at 08:38 PM (#5881759)
ultimately though I don't think the Cardinals or the Brewers are over achieving

The Cards? Nah, they're not overachieving.

The Brewers? They've allowed more runs than they've scored and are headed for the postseason.
   83. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2019 at 03:40 AM (#5881810)
Well the recent debacle is about being 0-6 in 1-run games in Sept, including 4 in our last 4 games, all at home, 3 against the Cards. And while it's certianly not the pen's fault, that includes 2 walk-off losses on the road, 2 10th inning losses at home and today's 9th inning blown save. (And the blame is spread around Kintzler, Norwood, Cishek, Kimbrel twice). That's half of our seasonal pythag under-performance right there.

Last year I thought lots of folks were over-reacting to what was a fluke bad finish. I wasn't particularly worried coming into this year. But this is two years in a row now. I'll admit, I don't have an explanation so I can't say what to fix beyond the obvious and useless suggestions of magically fix 2B, CF, acquire a couple of SPs without restricting future acquisitions.
   84. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 22, 2019 at 04:16 PM (#5881906)
Bryant going down on that double play just seems like the cherry on top for this horrific week.

I guess if nothing else, we should be happy that Yu Darvish has done such a 180 and gone from a tedious, walk-giving pitcher who couldn't make it through five innings to the strikeout, pinpoint-control hurler he's been for the last several months.
   85. Brian C Posted: September 22, 2019 at 05:14 PM (#5881935)
Yeah, the irony is that the Darvish signing has been probably the biggest mark against the front office for a lot of people, but he's been one of the biggest contributors during the second half of the season.
   86. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 22, 2019 at 07:44 PM (#5881992)
I do apologize for requesting this new thread, as it things have taken a definite turn for the worse since its creation.
   87. bunyon Posted: September 22, 2019 at 09:20 PM (#5882011)
Well there you go. Have Jim delete this thread and every other going back to, say, August 2016. Pick it up from there. Probisolved.
   88. Meatwad Posted: September 22, 2019 at 09:26 PM (#5882013)
Well this is a shitty way to go out. Looks like I will also tune out the playoffs.
   89. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2019 at 10:04 PM (#5882024)
The Brewers? They've allowed more runs than they've scored and are headed for the postseason.

Well, they've got 3 against the Reds and 3 @ Rox left so, by season's end, they'll probably have a solid +100 run differential. :-)
   90. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2019 at 10:16 PM (#5882026)
Anyway, we have to win all 6 remaining to have any vague chance here. That would at least require both the Nats and Brewers to play 500.
   91. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2019 at 10:49 PM (#5882035)
REVIEWING:

Really good news: The return of Willson's bat; Yu finding the strike zone (now if he can work on HRs)

Maybe really good news: Hoerner has looked good, maybe he's ready.** Schwarber's 2nd half (268/352/624) and vastly better performance against LHP (240/319/471 on the season) might mean something has clicked.*** Rowan Wick probably won't repeat 0 HRs in 33 IP but, in today's environment, 0 HRs in 33 IP is unlikely to be total fluke ... but of course any reliever may be no more than a flash in the pan.

Good enough news: Bote looks like a solid bench player. Caratini's bat arrived. Heyward's bat may have stabilized around "not embarrassing anymore." Ryan, Mills and a couple of other relievers have done better than I expected. Chatwood may be useful (in the mix for 5th starter). Russell didn't perform so well that anybody would be tempted to keep him around.

Holding steady enough: Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, Hendricks.

Not looking good but still too soon to say: Q, Kimbrel, Lester (given his age, this is about what you expect just not as spread out as usual)

Ugh: Almora, Happ, Descalso.

Doesn't really matter because they're FAs: Hamels, Castellanos, Zo, Morrow, Strop, Cishek, Kintzler, Phelps, Holland, Lucroy.****

Did you know we have an option on Descalso for 2021?

** 3 HRs in 294 AA PAs, 3 in 56 MLB PAs ... can't be the ball.

*** Historically I wouldn't put a lot of faith in a half-season ... and I still don't put a lot of faith but I put more than I used to. The game is clearly somewhat in transition with launch angles and video and god knows what else. I think we've seen enough examples the last several years -- JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, Max Muncy, Yelich -- of guys who were looking like average-good hitters breaking out into massive, sustained power jumps that I can't discount the possibility as much as I used to.

**** Depending on price and other moves, I wouldn't mind having Castellanos back (*** could apply to him as well). Even with a limited bench, the Cubs managed to carry LaStella for most of two seasons pretty much just for PH -- and if this was 1974, Zo would be looking forward to a few more seasons as a PH specialist. I'd be happy to have Cishek or Kintzler back on the right contracts. I don't know what to say about Strop other than obviously, at a minimum, I'd need to feel certain he is 100% healthy (or as healthy as a long-serving reliever can be).
   92. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 23, 2019 at 01:42 AM (#5882066)
One of the more disappointing aspects of them likely missing October is that I cannot think of a better deadline pick-up, results-wise, for the Cubs than Castellanos. He's been a treat to watch.
   93. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 23, 2019 at 10:58 AM (#5882155)
Not much to say after that weekend. I don't think I could have imagined a worse outcome - 5 straight 1 run losses is just too unreal to believe. The way they lost each of them, too, was just different enough to maximize the annoyance. Plus whatever the #### magic the Brewers have.

I really am not quite rational enough to discuss too much of the next moves or what I think the Cubs should do - beyond the Maddon thing. I agree with most of Walt's post 91 (I'd say Javy keeping most of his gains from last year as another good news one; I really was he'd take a much larger step back, but considering he could arguably get the Gold Glove at SS while still hitting, I'm ecstatic).
   94. Andere Richtingen Posted: September 23, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5882210)
I do apologize for requesting this new thread, as it things have taken a definite turn for the worse since its creation.

Thanks for volunteering to be the scapegoat, but you will have to get in line!

While the last four games were, quite possibly, the worst four-game series I can recall, and the timing could not be worse...

The Cardinals have played .662 ball in the second half. 16-9 in July, 18-9 in August, and 14-8 so far in September. They are killing it.

The Brewers have only played .600 ball in the second half, but they are 17-4 in September.

The Cubs were four over .500 in the first half, and they sit at four over .500 so far in the second half.

So...

The drama of the Weekend from Hell aside, the Cardinals and Brewers both turned their seasons around in dramatic fashion, while the Cubs played four and a half straight months of .500 baseball since early May. I think the Cubs being where they are in the standings is a lot more about what those teams did in recent months than it is about what the Cubs did in the last four days.

I too will refrain for now from thinking about how the Cubs are going to plan for next year and beyond, with the exception of saying that they clearly need to make some changes for both the short- and long-term.



   95. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 24, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5882762)
They could at least play out the final week with a shred of dignity. As demoralizing as last week was, tonight has been flat out embarrassing with dog-#### situational hitting, atrocious defense and some god-awful pitching.
   96. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 24, 2019 at 10:18 PM (#5882772)
Hendricks looked so damn good for so long, then a couple bloop hits and everyone gave up. He pitched around some bad errors early, but that was it.

This was a pretty pathetic performance for a few that wasn't officially eliminated yet, but they played like there were. Elimination number is 1.
   97. Walt Davis Posted: September 25, 2019 at 12:04 AM (#5882794)
(I'd say Javy keeping most of his gains from last year as another good news one; I really was he'd take a much larger step back, but considering he could arguably get the Gold Glove at SS while still hitting, I'm ecstatic

I think I was debating where to put him ... then forgot about him. I'd say his defense at SS was really good news for sure. I wasn't expecting him to be THAT good there -- at 2B/3B sure but at SS I was gonna be happy with 0 to +5. The offense though was a somewhat bigger drop-off than I was expecting -- 23 Rbat to 6 -- and is somewhere in between 2017 and 2018. It all adds up to 5 WAR which is really good news, it was just done in a different way than I expected so I guess I'm still a bit wary.

In a way, that's part of why I'm so bummed. Before the season (or early in it), in some thread in newsstand I think, I posted what I hoped for from the 2019 Cubs. I think Moses (somebody) seconded it. It was a pretty humble list all things considered. I don't remember all of them but I'm pretty sure 5 of them were "Javy retains most of what he gained," "Willson bounces back," "Bryant bounces back," "Lester/Hamels aren't terrible," and "Almora is OK." I got 3.5-4 of those depending on how big a bounce back I really expected from Bryant. So I got most of what I hoped for and we're still at least 10 wins short of last year and missing the playoffs.

So I go down the b-r page, starting with position players

as good as (realistically) hoped: Willson, Javy, Heyward, Bote, Caratini, (Castellanos), (Hoerner)
as or better than expected: Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber
eek: Russell, Almora, Happ
Mulligan: Zo

pitching:

as good as hoped: Darvish, Hendricks, Hamels (yes he fell apart but 114 ERA+ in 26 starts, I'll take it), Cishek, Ryan, Kintzler, Chatwood, ("the kids")
as or better than expected: Lester
not so bad: Quintana
eek: Pretty much everybody else who took the mound

That all adds up to Walt getting better than he deserved -- yet still here we ard. Granted, Chatwood is a bit of a cheat. He's "as good as hoped" this year because he was "eek plus" last year. I'd have been happy with 50-60 innings of non-terrible mop-up duty.

Which I guess brings me to "what were we thinking?" The following is generally true of any team but, as it turned out, it was a season we couldn't afford this sort of thing:

Descalso, CarGo, et al: -2.4 WAR, 440 PA (doesn't include Almora)
Those other pitchers: -1.9 WAR, 145 IP (Strop was actually replacement level)

As I said, not a big deal as these things go. The top number is pretty ignorable since nobody but Descalso will be back (and might well be cut in the spring). The bottom number is a bit more disturbing as it has Kimbrel and a few other guys (Monty, Edwards, Brach) who were not emergency replacements. Only Kimbrel is back but if they can't keep Edwards and Monty useful, we do have to worry about "the kids."
   98. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 25, 2019 at 12:43 AM (#5882814)
It wasn't a long run, but I totally forgot Carlos Gonzalez: Chicago Cub was even a thing.

Also wanna suggest that Darvish has to be better than hoped. Between how he looked last year and the injuries, I wasn't expecting much from him this year. His first couple months were somehow still falling short of those expectations. But over the last three (four?) months, he really became a different pitcher and an actual treat to watch.
   99. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 25, 2019 at 10:21 AM (#5882878)
How bad did you expect Lester to be? He's been pretty terrible this year.
   100. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 25, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5882939)
Hamels final numbers will look fine, but he was better than hoped pre-injury/first half and then eek post-injury/late. In fact, him/Lester/Quintana being eek late might be the single biggest factor in this collapse; there's obviously multiple factors, including injuries, etc, but I might argue those 3 and the ripple effects of their struggles were the biggest, maybe even easily the biggest.

Every year I predict Bryant will have another monster year - one that could even be better than his 2016. He's started both this and last year on that track, and then fell apart. So I'm putting him closer to eek than the top bucket. I'd actually add an underperformance bucket between 'not so bad' and 'eek' and that's solidly where Bryant falls. Most likely it's injuries, but after his first 3 years (bWARs of 6.1, 7.4, 6.1) I don't think it's unreasonable to expect him to be at least a 5 bWAR player, instead he's gone 1.9 and 3.5. That's a disappointment for me.

Actually, the Cubs look like they won't have a single 5 bWAR player this year (Javy is at 4.9 currently, Hendricks is 2nd at 4; I'm not about to mix WAR streams, but this article has a chart showing how many 2 fWAR players teams have. Only the Twins (12) and Yankees (11) have more than the Cubs 10 (actually, fWAR likes Bryant a whole lot more than bWAR - 4.9, and he's the high on the Cubs). We talk about depth as a problem (2b and CF were black holes most of the season for instance), but is top line talent also a problem?
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