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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Finally

The Cubs have finally made one of the more obvious and inevitable moves with their roster this season.  No, not that one, the other one.  Tim Federowicz isn’t on the team anymore.  He’s been replaced as the third catcher by Willson Contreras, arguably the Cubs best prospect.  Contreras had absolutely dominated AAA this year, hitting .350/.439/.591, with only 32Ks in 239PAs.  His bat appears the be the real deal.  The only thing that was holding him back was the Cubs’ belief that he needed more work on managing the game, including pitch framing.  Well, calling him up to the bigs to be around Ross and Montero is probably the best way for him to learn how to do that now.  Now is a great time for him to learn, and if he picks it up, there’s nothing Montero or Ross are doing or can do to keep him from having the job fulltime when the fall rolls around.  I’m ecstatic that the Cubs have continued to be aggressive with promoting guys even with the expected contention.  This exciting season just got a little more exciting.

Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:12 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:18 PM (#5244939)
Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 23m23 minutes ago
#Cubs' plan is for Contreras to gain experience, adjust to MLB environment, learn from Montero, Ross. Will be third catcher for now.
   2. Meatwad Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:23 PM (#5244943)
posted this awesome news in the dugout and chatter. very excited.
   3. Spahn Insane Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:27 PM (#5244952)
Fantastic...I'll get to catch Almora and Contreras this weekend.

I assumed the other obvious thing was what this was about, but this is more exciting (and really, the other thing has to happen in a matter of days, doesn't it?).
   4. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:32 PM (#5244960)
There isn't an obvious replacement in AAA for Richard - I mean, I think we all agree Edwards or Patton couldn't be any worse, and Concepcion would be an interesting risk but those walk totals are scary. I really think the Cubs want another lefty arm though. We'll see. I said in the other thread that they could get both a lower level LOOGY-type guy (don't get caught up on the first 'O') and a higher profile arm. There's no rush, even if the bullpen wasn't lights out this week.
   5. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:42 PM (#5244971)
The Cubs did pick up Brian Matusz off waivers...

Though, I see he actually got released by Atlanta, not Baltimore - so I'm guessing he's probably cooked.

Still, Matusz was very good from 2013-2015 and has very pronounced LOOGY splits.

From what I've read - it was a back injury, not something arm/shoulder/elbow related - that has wrecked his season thus far, so who knows?

My guess is that if he can get righted at Iowa, he's the next pitcher.

I wonder if Federowicz will be claimed...
   6. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 16, 2016 at 01:53 PM (#5244990)
Any sense on how frequently Contreras is likely to play? It looks like Federowicz caught a grand total of 4 innings after Montero came off the DL. One would presume they plan to play Contreras more than that. Maybe go w/ what had been the Schwarber plan of having Contreras being one guy's personal catcher (I think the plan was for Schwarber to catch Hammel; I've also heard multiple people talk about how Hendricks is the easiest Cubs pitcher to catch because of his control). Maybe scale Ross back to 3rd catcher / Lester's personal catcher and work Contreras in as the short side of a platoon (actually, I don't know if Contreras hits RH? Does he?)?

I suppose it'll evolve as time goes on, but I'm just curious if there's any sense of when he might get his first start. But this is very cool news!
   7. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:01 PM (#5245002)
I haven't seen anything yet. I would guess he'd catch Hammel or Hendricks regularly, and maybe Lackey. I think it means more regular rest for Montero and Ross, and I think he'll PH in just about every game he doesn't start.

He's a righty, yes. Which is why everyone assumes next year will be a full-on platoon (or more games for Contreras) with Ross retiring.
   8. McCoy Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:40 PM (#5245039)
Awesome. Now they can do the Wilson thing like the Nationals do for Ramos.
   9. McCoy Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:46 PM (#5245042)
If Montero is still hurt/cooked (he's got a .531 OPS in his last 10 games, since coming back a .699 OPS but that has more to do with his spot in the lineup than his performance) I'd say make him Jake's personal catcher, give Wilson two starts, and give Ross two starts. If Wilson keeps on hitting and you don't think his pitch framing is an issue you give him more by taking away either a start from Ross (if he cools down) or by benching Montero.
   10. Red Voodooin Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:50 PM (#5245043)
My guess is that if he can get righted at Iowa, he's the next pitcher.


The reports I heard is that the Cubs actually intend to stretch Matusz out as a starter.
   11. McCoy Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:51 PM (#5245045)
Fun to see this team this season slowly morph into the home grown team from the team put together via FA and trade.

"Homegrown" could be
Rizzo
Bryant
Almora
Russell
Szczur
Contreras
Baez
Soler
Hendricks
Rondon
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 16, 2016 at 02:55 PM (#5245047)
Awesome. Now they can do the Wilson thing like the Nationals do for Ramos.


Except they'll have to do it with two Ls.
   13. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: June 16, 2016 at 03:19 PM (#5245064)
The reports I heard is that the Cubs actually intend to stretch Matusz out as a starter.


Huh.

That seems odd. Matusz's career splits are pretty pronounced - and while he had a solid rookie year in the O's rotation, it seemed like he had found a home in their bullpen till this year.
   14. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: June 16, 2016 at 04:48 PM (#5245156)
As does everyone else, I strongly approve of this move. If nothing else, this might get Montero through the season. He doesn't look healthy enough to catch back-to-back games and certainly no more than three games a week. Maybe he'll have something left by playoff time.
   15. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 16, 2016 at 06:36 PM (#5245228)
The problem wasn't that the Cubs had three catchers as much as three catchers who have been terrible hitters, especially in June, with no reason to think it is going to get better. So bad that the Cubs could muster no better than a .643 win percentage so far this month. But seriously, there was no reason to have Federowicz up, and Contreras has nothing more to prove in the minors, I think.

But it does raise some questions about what happens next. I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, but Kyle Schwarber made his major league debut one year ago today. A lot of the same discussions about keeping Schwarber down on the farm happened in 2015, but things changed when Montero got hurt. This year, Montero is hurt but not on the DL, so it's a different story. As the 2015 season progressed and after Montero came back, Schwarber more and more was used in OF roles, because of his bat. If Contreras hits well, there will be a strong force to play him in other positions, probably catching less and less. Now, Contreras is not the same physical specimen Schwarber is -- scouts seem to see him as an athletic catcher (Schwarber is surprisingly athletic, but he looks more like a DH). Plus, Contreras has fellow Venezuelan Montero to work with; hopefully that will be a good mentorship situation regarding catching.

My point though is that the Cubs now have three catchers on the roster, one of whom (assuming Contreras keeps hitting) is not entirely superfluous. This force will put him at times in LF, 1B, wherever. Maybe most of the time. The project of making Contreras a major league catcher will always come second to the project of winning the World Series. And there are going to be consequences to that.
   16. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: June 16, 2016 at 07:52 PM (#5245259)
I had to log in like 8 times in order to post here. What gives?

Anyway...

Fantastic...I'll get to catch Almora and Contreras this weekend.


I'm going to see them next weekend in Miami. I hope it's a happy homecoming for AA Jr.
   17. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: June 16, 2016 at 08:00 PM (#5245260)
The last time I saw the Cubs in Maimi, Sosa was on the team, and the number or Dominican flags was unreal. Since no one gives a crap about the Marlins, It will be interesting to see the Puerto Rican flags (Baez), Venezuelan ( Montero, Contreras, Rondon), Dominican (Strop), as well as fans on hometown hero Almora. Too bad Soler is out.

Or maybe it will be none of that.
   18. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 16, 2016 at 09:56 PM (#5245314)
This force will put him at times in LF, 1B, wherever.


I'm not sure I see that. Maybe 1B on the rare days Rizzo takes off, but barring injury, he's going to play 150-155 game. The Cubs don't really have any holes elsewhere. They haven't gotten great production in LF (and RF) because Soler (and Heyward) has scuffled this season, but between some combination of Soler, Almora, Bryant, Coghlan, and Szczur, I don't see whey they'd try to add their catcher of the future into the mix out there.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: June 16, 2016 at 10:26 PM (#5245380)
A key difference between Schwarber last year and Contreras this is that Montero was doing well (when healthy) and pretty clearly still the #1 choice at C for 2016 ... and hopefully still in the mix in 2017. Ross was already signed for 2016. Given Schwarber's defense and limited C experience, it wasn't clear there was a path forward for him to play C and there certainly wasn't any reason to hold back the bat. Off to LF!

Now it looks like Montero may already be down to an 80-game C at best (Cubs know more about his health than I do) and Ross is gone after this year so there's a clear path to Contreras getting at least 80 starts next year, in line with fairly standard C development. From a defensive perspective, I'll guess it would have been better to keep him down for another couple of months at least (get him up to 170+ games caught at AA/AAA) but spending time on the bench in the bigs won't kill him. Anyway, I don't expect to see him in LF/1B much at all.

I assume Ross continues to get the Lester starts. Contreras will get any other start against LHP and he'll get any day game after night game start when neither is a Lester and a few more starts here or there. Call it 22 starts for Ross (stuff happens), 32 for Conteras, 44 for Montero. Injuries, wrapping up the division super early, etc. would lead to changes.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: June 16, 2016 at 11:57 PM (#5245551)
Except they'll have to do it with two Ls.

Stolen from Welington Castillo.
   21. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 17, 2016 at 11:49 AM (#5245880)
But it does raise some questions about what happens next. I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, but Kyle Schwarber made his major league debut one year ago today. A lot of the same discussions about keeping Schwarber down on the farm happened in 2015, but things changed when Montero got hurt. This year, Montero is hurt but not on the DL, so it's a different story. As the 2015 season progressed and after Montero came back, Schwarber more and more was used in OF roles, because of his bat. If Contreras hits well, there will be a strong force to play him in other positions, probably catching less and less. Now, Contreras is not the same physical specimen Schwarber is -- scouts seem to see him as an athletic catcher (Schwarber is surprisingly athletic, but he looks more like a DH). Plus, Contreras has fellow Venezuelan Montero to work with; hopefully that will be a good mentorship situation regarding catching.

My point though is that the Cubs now have three catchers on the roster, one of whom (assuming Contreras keeps hitting) is not entirely superfluous. This force will put him at times in LF, 1B, wherever. Maybe most of the time. The project of making Contreras a major league catcher will always come second to the project of winning the World Series. And there are going to be consequences to that.


To expand a little on Walt's point, I really don't think that it's that similar to Schwarber last year. There were always questions about whether or not Schwarber would be a full time catcher, so it always made sense to try him out in other spots and continue to try and make him a catcher. That really isn't a question for Contreras now, even though he wasn't a catcher his entire career.

When Schwarber was called up last year, he had only caught 93 games in the minors, and had only been a pro* for just over a year. Contreras has caught 341 minor/winter league games. Even though I agree with Walt that ideally you catch more in AA/AAA, there's really no question what position he plays. The Cubs have spoken about how the only part of his defensive development left is the nuances, and they appear to think that can happen in the bigs.

Now, I'm not going to say he'll only play catcher - Maddon played Coghlan at 2nd multiple times last year, and has thrown Bryant at CF and SS, so everything is on the table - but I think the idea of finalizing Contreras' defensive development isn't something that contradicts with the current goal of winning the 2016 WS. His bat can help now, but they don't need it today. IMO, the goal should be to do everything they can to try to make it so they're comfortable with him being the starting catcher in September and October. Last year, they were in a race to make the playoffs when Schwarber came up, there's a lot more leeway this year with Contreras. Wouldn't an ideal 25 man roster for the playoffs not include 3 catchers? Let's hope Contreras can make either Ross or Montero superfluous by then.

A lot of this applies to Almora also, though I don't think the ideal situation is him starting in CF or LF in the playoffs (unless Soler is hurt, or traded). But he will play in the playoffs too.

*The Cubs have consistently talked about wanting their picks - Bryant and Schwarber specifically - spending a full year in the minors at least.
   22. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: June 17, 2016 at 12:20 PM (#5245917)
Contreras is sort of Schwarber in reverse --

He played mostly 3B, some 1B, some corner OF his first couple years but the Cubs have made the dedicated shift to C a truly dedicated shift.

That said, if Contreras REALLY hits - I see no problem with getting the occasional PAs in 1B/LF/3B (perhaps not starting, but maybe switching around, etc).

   23. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: June 18, 2016 at 11:47 AM (#5246640)
The Cubs are now 5 games under their pythag.
   24. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: June 18, 2016 at 12:00 PM (#5246651)
They have allowed more than 100 fewer runs than every other team in their division.
   25. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: June 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM (#5246657)
The problem wasn't that the Cubs had three catchers as much as three catchers who have been terrible hitters, especially in June, with no reason to think it is going to get better.

Combined batting line for Ross/Montero/Whatshisface in June:

8 hits in 55 at bats, no doubles, no triples, 1 homer. 7 walks (2 intentional), and a GIDP. That works out to a slash line of .148/.246/.204 and an OPS of 450. On defense, they have 2 errors and have thrown out 2 out of 16 base runners.
   26. McCoy Posted: June 18, 2016 at 12:47 PM (#5246683)
Comes have scored 75 runs in 15 games so far in June. A slight uptick from their May. Good to see them maintaining their run production and that it is not relying a lot on the home run to score runs. I keep waiting for the offense to go into an extended slump and it hasn't really done so. The worst 10 game stretch in terms of scoring was from 5/11 to 5/22 when they scored 36 runs. It featured two shut outs and a few 1 and 2 run games. After that you have the beginning of June and yet they managed to 6-4 and 7-3 in those stretches. By contrast the Royals had a 10 game span in which they scored a grand total of 20 runs.
   27. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 18, 2016 at 01:11 PM (#5246701)
The similarity between the Contreras situation and Schwarber situation is a simple one: it's very difficult to bring a catcher up to the majors, and continue developing him as a catcher, when you have two veteran catchers on the roster.

Sure there are a lot of differences too: Contreras has more experience and seems to have much better tools than Schwarber, and the opportunity exists now to modulate Montero's role downward to get Contreras some time behind the plate. It still doesn't leave a lot of room for it though. It's something you have to allow to evolve on its own, and it's a nice problem to have.
   28. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 18, 2016 at 02:42 PM (#5246746)
7 walks (2 intentional), and a GIDP. That works out to a slash line of .148/.246/.204


Even granting that Montero and Ross batted in front of the pitcher this month, that seems like very poor managing.
   29. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 18, 2016 at 04:03 PM (#5246773)
The Cubs' current 10.5 game Division lead ties their maximum lead in 2008, which came on September 22nd.

The last time the Cubs had a >10.5 game lead at any time in a season: 1929? I am not sure.


   30. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: June 18, 2016 at 04:35 PM (#5246796)
What the hell is wrong with this section of the site? I had to log in about a half dozen times before I could post. Anyway:

The last time the Cubs had a >10.5 game lead at any time in a season: 1929? I am not sure.


The 1984 team maxed out at 9.5. 1969 peaked at 9. The 1935 team, the last one to win 100 games, didn't touch first place until Sep 13, in the middle of their 21 game win streak. 1932 peaked at 8. So yeah, probably 1929. They got as high as 14.5 up. If these guys match that, then it's back to 1907 for 18.5 up, then 1906 for their all time high of 20.
   31. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 19, 2016 at 10:28 AM (#5247066)
So, it appears that the Cubs have their biggest lead in 87 years. It helps that the second place team has a .522 win percentage.
   32. McCoy Posted: June 19, 2016 at 10:37 AM (#5247068)
I know it is in part because of the different amount of games played but I'm kind of surprised that despite how much this season is considered historic there are several teams within a few games of the Cubs in the win column.
   33. Spahn Insane Posted: June 19, 2016 at 11:26 AM (#5247089)
AR:

Of course, the Cubs themselves have a little to do with that; it's easier to have a division full of .522-and-under rivals when you're beating the crap out of all four of them. (They're 20-6 against the NL Central. 7-1 against Pittsburgh, 6-1 against the Reds, 4-2 against the Cards (all in St. Louis), 3-2 against Milwaukee.)

In any event, .522's an 85-win pace, which is more than your 2006 world champion Saint Louis Cardinals (and a handful of other division winners) managed. I don't know how that compares to a typical second place record in the wild card era (paging bbmck), but flip a couple games and their record would be the second best among the teams currently in second place; they're all of a half game behind the Dodgers, a game behind the Mets and Mariners, and a game and a half behind the Royals, and those teams ain't facing no 10.5 game deficit. I'm thinking the Cubs' lead has a lot more to do with their being really ####### good than with their division competiton's being especially weak.
   34. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: June 19, 2016 at 01:44 PM (#5247151)
In any event, .522's an 85-win pace, which is more than your 2006 world champion Saint Louis Cardinals (and a handful of other division winners) managed. I don't know how that compares to a typical second place record in the wild card era (paging bbmck)

Not bbmck, but looking at 2nd place winners from 2006-15 ..... it averages out to a .543 winning percentage, about an 88-74 record.

Odd thing: the two lowest averages in that period have been the two most recent years: .531 in 2014 and .536 in 2015. I assume it's because: 1) the AL has been fairly bunched up in recent years (especially last year) so everyone's closer to .500, and 2) the AL is still overall the better league with an overall better winning percentage, so even if the NL separates more into stars'n'scrubs, the overall league record is still tilted under .500.

Records .522 or lower:
3 times in 2015
2 times in 2014
1 time in 2011
1 time in 2010
2 times in 2008
1 time in 2007
1 time in 2006

There were also .525s in 2012 and 2006. And a .528 in 2009.

So that's 14 out of 60 under .530. And only 11 lower than the current Cards record.
   35. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: June 19, 2016 at 01:49 PM (#5247155)
Not that anyone cares, but since I got the info in front of me -- average second place finishes for each of the last 10 years:
2006: .541 (88-74)
2007: .546 (88-74)
2008: .538 (87-75)
2009: .552 (89-73)
2010: .546 (88-74)
2011: .537 (87-75)
2012: .555 (90-72)
2013: .550 (89-73)
2014: .531 (86-76)
2015: .536 (87-75)
   36. Spahn Insane Posted: June 19, 2016 at 02:31 PM (#5247187)
That's about what I expected....85 wins would be below average but not to a particularly noteworthy degree.
   37. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 19, 2016 at 02:55 PM (#5247201)
I was just pointing out that the second place team being even slowly below average makes a difference. Of course the Cubs get the lion's share of the credit for their lead, particularly when you consider that they are a combined 11-3 against the second and third place teams.
   38. Spahn Insane Posted: June 19, 2016 at 03:49 PM (#5247244)
Well, sure, but as noted it's a pretty minor difference in light of how bunched the second place teams are at the moment. And of course, were it not for the Cubs' domination of the Pirates to this point, the Bucs might be in second place instead of the Cards.

Apropos of nothing in this thread, happy Father's Day, AR (and the rest of you offsprung gents), btw.
   39. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 19, 2016 at 07:56 PM (#5247358)
Apropos of nothing in this thread, happy Father's Day, AR (and the rest of you offsprung gents), btw.


Grandpa Rossy got a card from his "eldest son"
   40. Brian C Posted: June 19, 2016 at 09:13 PM (#5247426)
Opposite field HR from Rizzo ... maybe it's coincidence, but Rizzo sure seems to be looking opposite field a lot more often lately. I wonder if he's tired of hitting into the shift and wants opposing defenses to spread out a bit?
   41. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: June 20, 2016 at 06:24 PM (#5248211)
From today's Robothal column:

Another thing that Montero likes about Contreras is his fire. Contreras can be emotional, even hard on pitchers at times. But Montero recalls asking a young catcher from one of his previous teams, "Are you here to take my job?" -- and the young catcher acting too intimidated to respond.

Contreras answered in the affirmative, and Montero loved it.


Awesome. On both guys.
   42. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: June 20, 2016 at 11:36 PM (#5248472)
But Montero recalls asking a young catcher from one of his previous teams

His previous teams? He's only been on one previous team.

Looking up the 2011-14 D-backs, they didn't really have any young catchers. Best I can find is 27-year-old Konrad Schmidt in 2012. Montero was 28 that year

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