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Wednesday, April 06, 2022

I guess we’re still doing this?

After last year’s bloodbath/cliffdive/whatever you want to call it, it can be hard to summon up much real enthusiasm for this year’s team.  It’s maybe a mediocre team on paper with a slight chance of being better but a real chance of being much worse.  It’s pretty impressive to have a roster that makes it both obvious how cheap the owners are - $136mil opening day payroll - while also being totally overpaid (I’m looking mostly at you, Jason).  If you want to be kind to the FO, this is a transition year, one where they try to see if anyone is worth keeping and to give the very young - but potentially good - prospects another year to develop; less politely they’re inexperienced yet old.  This is a roster than only has 2 clear every day players - one a Japanese rookie and the other a soon to be FA catcher; there’s a chance they have only 1 player start 130 games this year.  They have 3 clear SPs, one of whom is a 35 year old who was more valuable last year than his previous best 2 seasons combined and is going to start the year on the IL.  Everyone in the pen is either over 35 or under 25 (or so it seems).  This is a Rays roster without all the talent and getting paid twice as much.  Or to borrow the marketing slogan, it’s different here - whether that’s good or not is in the eye of the beholder.

Trying to organize this into a typical season preview will be difficult.  One of the best case scenarios still leads to a massive sell-off at the trade deadline.  So I’ll just start typing and see where this goes….

The Good?
-By far, the most exciting thing about this team will be watching Seiya Suzuki.  He was a helluva player in Japan, and that should translate to him being a positive here.  I think it would be unfair to expect him to be an All-Star, but that’s well within the range of possibilities.  He appears to be a pretty funny and engaging guy, so he will be fun to root for and I can only hope he doesn’t get off to a rocky start that causes the fan base to sour on him.
-Marcus Stroman is a legit good pitcher, and at least from my perspective, another fun and interesting guy to watch and follow.  The length of his contract, and the Cubs likely badness, will also keep the thought of a future trade in the back of my mind.  But he seems to be saying all the right things, and appears to really want to be here.
-I’d expect Contreras to have a good year.  I wish they would have agreed to a contract extension by now (whether he’ll be worth it is for another discussion, especially after all of the previous core ended up signing for deals well under rumored extension from the Cubs over the years), because I really don’t want to spend the whole year thinking about him getting traded at the deadline or just leaving after the year.  I don’t think it’s just nostalgia saying that either.
-The veteran bench signings all have uses and seem to compliment the young old guys well - all of Gomes, Villar, and Simmons have actual strengths and hopefully Ross uses them appropriately.
-The countdown to Brennen Davis’s arrival.  He very clearly needs time at AAA, and I just hope the Cubs don’t feel pressured to rush him for any reason. 

The Bad
-Jason Heyward.  For my sanity, I’m going to try and not comment on him at all until he’s no longer on the Cubs, so I’m gonna try to get a bunch of pre-emptive comments out now: he’s playing too much, he should never face a lefty ever, he’s clearly lost a step defensively and isn’t that good in CF anyway, he’s getting paid too damn much, don’t be a dumbass and think his one hot week is actual progress because he’s done this every single year, etc etc
-Madrigal’s defense and lack of power
-Hoerner’s health
-Happ’s horrible first half and good second half that’ll fool us into thinking he’s not terrible
-Wisdom’s 40% K rate
-Probably Smyly and Miley
-Alzolay’s health and complete ineffectiveness against lefties
EDIT: The fact that the Cubs haven’t gotten the Marquee network onto any more services since it was launched; in fact, it’s no longer on Hulu.  So you can only get it on Comcast/xfinity, Dish, or FuboTV.  None of which I have or really want to pay for just to watch this team (FuboTV is the cheapest at $70/mon, but it’s more expensive and significantly inferior to YouTubeTV, which is what I do have).

The could go either way
-I want to see Hermosillo given a real chance to get regular playing time.  Prove he’s decent or bad once and for all.  He should get the most ABs in CF until Davis comes up, full stop.
-Madrigal’s and Schwindel’s contact skills.  They’re real, but are they good enough for them to be worthwhile players or not?
-Nico’s versatility.  I still am not convinced he should be an every day SS, but if he plays well enough he might earn the job which could be a bad thing; if he doesn’t play well enough, he might not be worth trying to play in multiple spots.  I guess I’m saying he should play, but I am not optimistic.
-Young pitchers that could stand out, including Steele (gets the first shot at keeping a SP’s job), Thompson, and Roberts (I’m buying the hype on him as a future closer).  Couple other guys in AAA that could come up this year and prove worth something including Abbott, Killian, Leeper, and Rodriguez.  I guess this could eventually include Marquez but his health is totally unknown and such a huge wild card. 
-David Ross.  I think we really still have no idea whether he’s a good manager or not (I guess that kinda implies not), but this roster is so matchup dependent top to bottom he’s going to have a huge impact on how successful so many of these guys will be.
-Hendricks.  He was so bad last year, and always felt like a guy with such a small margin for error, that he really could slip back into his old self without it being a surprise (the defense should be better this year than last, but his biggest problem last year was the home runs), or he could continue to suck and be completely worthless.  He’s going to throw a ton of innings either way.

Final Prediction: 75 wins, with at least 12 guys from the opening day roster dealt at midseason.

Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 06, 2022 at 01:57 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 06, 2022 at 02:31 PM (#6070571)
This thing is still on. Cool.
   2. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 06, 2022 at 03:41 PM (#6070585)
Nice post. This seems incongruous though:

Final Prediction: 75 wins, with at least 12 guys from the opening day roster dealt at midseason.

That's 4 more wins than last year's team, which started the season with better players. For this team to get to 75 wins, they need all their tradable players on the roster all season.
   3. Brian C Posted: April 06, 2022 at 10:43 PM (#6070647)
I think it's kind of an open question what a "tradeable player" even is at this point. Deadline deals have become less and less favorable for sellers over the years in general, it seems like. Most if not all front offices have figured out that there's not much sense in giving up a ton for a rental, and I suspect the expanded playoff will drive down the market even further. It's now going to be even more of a crapshoot to get through the playoffs than it was before, and I don't see a lot of teams giving up much in the hopes that one or two guys will put them over the top.

So even if, say, Contreras has a monster first half, what are the Cubs going to realistically get for him? Maybe some prospect on the edge of MLB's top 100 and a couple of lottery tickets that we're as likely as not to ever hear about again. But he's their most likely trade asset - hard to see anyone else on the roster fetching back much in a trade unless the Cubs want to deal Stroman and take on most of his 2023 salary.

I guess my point is that I think we're going to see the traditional deadline market dry up for the most part and building a roster with an eye towards being sellers in the trade market will be an increasingly dumb idea. So I'll take the under of 12 players traded.

Otherwise, I think this team as constituted is a 70-75 win team, so 75 wins doesn't seem outlandish. Probably would set the over/under at about 72 myself ... nothing below 80 would surprise me much; more than 80 would be an enjoyable year, I think.
   4. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 07, 2022 at 03:52 PM (#6070735)
75 wins is really just a random ass guess; don't forget that the Pirates and Reds will be still be much worse than the Cubs so that'll help them some.

Maybe my 12 guys prediction should really be at least 12 guys traded or released/DFAd. I don't think anyone of note will be dealt - I still don't see them dealing Contreras and I'm not high enough on Miley or Smyly or any of the relievers being good enough to fetch a real return - I just think the end of year roster is just going to be significantly different than the one at the start of the year.
   5. Brian C Posted: April 07, 2022 at 04:20 PM (#6070744)
Well, I didn't have Nico Hoerner in the "first Cubs HR of the season" pool.

First Cubs HR of the season, since 2000:

2022: Nico Hoerner
2021: Kris Bryant
2020: Ian Happ
2019: Javier Baez
2018: Ian Happ
2017: Willson Contreras
2016: Miguel Montero
2015: Chris Coghlan
2014: Anthony Rizzo
2013: Anthony Rizzo
2012: Darwin Barney
2011: Alfonso Soriano
2010: Marlon Byrd
2009: Alfonso Soriano
2008: Kosuke Fukudome
2007: Mark DeRosa
2006: Matt Murton
2005: Derrek Lee
2004: Corey Patterson
2003: Corey Patterson
2002: Todd Hundley
2001: Julio Zuleta
2000: Shane Andrews
   6. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 13, 2022 at 10:59 AM (#6071489)
Couple random thoughts 4 games in:

-Suzuki looks great. Not just the homers, but the patience and the batting eye. Going into yesterday, he only had swung and missed once. He just seems so happy and like he's having fun all the time, great guy to root for.
-Happ starting hot is unexpected. I was most impressed by two hits going the other way as a righty yesterday.
-Heyward/Hermasillo looks like a straight platoon so far, which is disappointing. Heyward is getting his 4th start today (4th RHP starter they've faced), though he was PH for the other day against a lefty reliever. I still say they need to give Hermasillo more PT and I just don't want to see Heyward ever again.
-I've been pleasantly surprised with Nico's defense at SS, especially his arm. Maybe he's actually gotten better over there, though obviously too early to say.
-I'm also a little surprised that Ortega/Frazier appears to be a pretty straight forward platoon at DH (and leadoff) so far. Ortega clearly shouldn't hit against lefties, but Frazier should get ABs against righties too, and other guys should rotate thru DH. So I expect this one is more just about early season matchups.
-Gotta be pretty happy with the starters one time through, even if MIL and PIT aren't the toughest offenses (plus early season weather impacts). But lots of weak contact across the board. Steele looked great, and he's the guy I'm most interested in watching. Bullpens are bullpens, but I'm also ok with settling on Robertson as the closer for now. Roberts stuff is great.
   7. Brian C Posted: April 13, 2022 at 01:50 PM (#6071517)
Pretty much agreed with all the above. Suzuki is just not having any bad ABs - in addition to not swinging and missing, they just said during today's broadcast that he's only swung at 2 pitches outside of the strike zone so far.

Hendricks reverting to his 2021 self today is discouraging, though.
   8. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 13, 2022 at 01:57 PM (#6071518)
I had to say something, didn't I?

EDIT: and Heyward is hitting against a lefty here in the 6th. Weak 3-1 groundout.
   9. Brian C Posted: April 16, 2022 at 06:48 PM (#6072062)
Cubs called up Mark Leiter Jr to make the start tonight, a 31-year-old dude who will be pitching in the majors tonight for the first time since 2018 after what appears to be an extended road back from TJ surgery in 2019 (not that he was any good before the surgery).

So, like, we were worried about depth in the rotation this year, and we made it all the way to ... April 16 before the issue came to a head.
   10. Brian C Posted: April 16, 2022 at 09:45 PM (#6072088)
That went about as well as expected. At least now that Junior is out of the game, Sciambi can stop talking about the extended Leiter clan.
   11. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 16, 2022 at 10:48 PM (#6072099)

First Cubs HR of the season, since 2000:

And now, the 1990s & 1980s:
1999: Mark Grace
1998: Henry Rodriguez
1997: Mark Grace
1996: Rey Sanchez
1995: Mark Grace
1994: Tuffy Rhodes, of course
1993: Jose Vizciano
1992: Mark Grace
1991: Shawon Dunston
1990: Andre Dawson
1989: Andre Dawson
1988: Jody Davis
1987: Ryne Sandberg
1986: Leon Durham
1985: Keith Moreland
1984: Keith Moreland
1983: the immortal Wayne Nordhagen
1982: Bump Willis
1981: Mike Tyson
1980: Dave Kingman

Bit of a surprise that it was never Sosa.
   12. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 17, 2022 at 08:56 AM (#6072126)
I'm more surprised that it was Grace FOUR TIMES.
   13. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 17, 2022 at 09:44 AM (#6072130)
1994: Tuffy Rhodes, of course

I was at that game! All the HR off of Dwight Gooden, who gave up 7 runs and got the win.
   14. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 11:16 AM (#6072147)
I enjoy doing this:
1979: Dave Kingman
1978: Dave Kingman
1977: Steve Ontiveros
1976: Jerry Morales
1975: Jerry Morales
1974: Billy Williams
1973: Joe Pepitone
1972: Billy Williams
1971: Billy Williams
1970: Jim Hickman
1969: Ernie Banks
1968: Ron Santo
1967: Glenn Beckert
1966: George Altman
1965: Roberto Pena
1964: Andre Rogers
1963: Ron Santo
1962: Ernie Banks
1961: Andre Rogers
1960: Don Zimmer
1959: Ernie Banks
1958: Cal Neeman
1957: Bob Speake
1956: Ernie Banks
1955: Gene Baker
1954: Clyde McCullough
1953: Preston Ward
1952: Randy Jackson
1951: Andy Pafko
1950: Andy Pafko
1949: Bob Scheffing
1948: Phil Cavaretta
1947: Andy Pafko
1946: Phil Cavaretta
1945: Bill Nicholson
1944: Roy Easterwood
1943: Bill Nicholson (over 30 games into the year!)
1942: Lou Stringer
1941: Bill Nicholson
1940: Augie Galan
1939: Joe Marty
1938: Clay Bryant (starting pitcher)
1937: Frank Demaree
1936: Frank Demaree
1935: Gabby Hartnett
1934: Chuck Klein
1933: Riggs Stephenson
1932: Vince Barton
1931: Gabby Hartnett
1930: Riggs Stephenson
1929: Riggs Stephenson
1928: Freddie Maguire
1927: Earl Webb
1926: Howard Freigau
1925: Grover Cleveland Alexander (yeah, the Hall of Fame pitcher)
1924: Gabby Hartnett
1923: John Kelleher
1922: Hack Miller
1921: Bob O'Farrell
1920: Dode Paskert

No Hack Wilson. All hail Riggs Stephenson?

   15. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 11:27 AM (#6072149)
Guys who did it more than once, 1920-2022:

4 - Ernie Banks and Mark Grace
3 - Gabby Hartnett, Riggs Stephenson, Bill Nicholson, Andy Pafko, Billy Williams, Dave Kingman
2 - Frank Demaree, Phil Cavaretta, Andre Rogers, Ron Santo, Jerry Morales, Keith Moreland, Andre Dawson, Corey Patterson, Alfonso Soriano, Anthony Rizzo, and Ian Happ

Weidest one? I'll go with Andre Rodgers, who hit 45 homers in his career, and had more than six in a season just once (a big 12, with the 1964 Cubs).

Dave Kingman is the only guy to do it three years in a row.
   16. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 01:50 PM (#6072177)
1919: Max Flack
1918: Fred Merkle
1917: Larry Doyle
1916: Vic Saier
1915: Wilbur Good
1914: Vic Saier
1913: Frank Schulte
1912: Jimmy Sheckard
1911: Frank Schulte
1910: Ginger Beaumont
1909: Frank Schulte
1908: Frank Schulte
1907: Frank Schulte
1906: Harry Steinfeldt
1905: Joe Tinker
1904: Frank Chance
1903: Johnny Kling
1902: Charlie Dexter
1901: Barry McCormick

Eh, that's as far back as I can get info.

All hall five time first-homer-guy Frank Schulte. He & Kingman are the only ones to do it three years in a row.

   17. Brian C Posted: April 17, 2022 at 01:55 PM (#6072178)
Weidest one? I'll go with Andre Rodgers, who hit 45 homers in his career, and had more than six in a season just once (a big 12, with the 1964 Cubs).

I'm not sure that's weirder than Rey Sanchez, who only had 15 career HR in 5200 PA, and who didn't hit another homer and slugged only .253 in 1996.
   18. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 04:46 PM (#6072211)
Sammy Sosa did, however, hit the first home run of the season for the 1991 White Sox. So there.
   19. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 04:52 PM (#6072214)
But Harold Baines never was the first guy to homer in a season for the White Sox. He ain't no Geovanny Soto (who hit the first homer for the 2017 White Sox).
   20. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 17, 2022 at 09:06 PM (#6072283)
Not that anyone cares, but here are guys who more than once hit the first homer of the season for the White Sox:

3 - Ron Kittle, Jose Abreu, Jim Thome, Carlton Fisk

2 - Zeke Bonura, Tim Raines, Sherm Lollar, Pete Ward, Paul Konerko, Minnie Minoso, Joe Kuhel, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hal Trosky, Frank Thomas, Eddie Collins, Ed Walsh, Don Kolloway, Dick Allen, Danny Green, Carlos Lee, Buddy Bradford, Bill Cissell, Bibb Falk, Adam Dunn.

Notable White Sox who did it once: Yoan Moncada, Sammy Sosa, Ron Karkovice, Robin Ventura, Richie Zisk ('77, naturally), Ray Schalk, Magglio Ordonez, Luis Aparicio, Jose Valentin, Harry Hooper, Happy Felsch, Gus Zernial, George Davis, Gary Peters, Eddie Lopat, Darrin Erstad, Darrin Jackson, Chico Carrasquel, Chick Gandil, Chet Lemon, Carlos May, Bunny Brief (not a notable player, but how often do you get a chance to type out "Bunny Brief" Carpe diem, people), Buck Weaver, Albert Belle, Al Simmons, Adam Eaton.

7 times a pitcher did it, including three times in four years (1905-08, missing only the championship year of '06. In '08, their first homer came on July 4 - hit by Ed Walsh).
   21. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 17, 2022 at 09:12 PM (#6072287)
Ed Walsh hit three HR in his career, and still has as many first HR of the season for the White Sox as Frank Thomas. (Helps when the team hit 5 total HR in 1907, and 3 in 1908.)
   22. Gch Posted: April 17, 2022 at 11:47 PM (#6072297)
Not that anyone cares, but here are guys who more than once hit the first homer of the season for the White Sox:

I was curious and bored so I did it for the Blue Jays:

3: John Mayberry, George Bell, and Carlos Delgado (Delgado almost did it 4 times across the span of 10 seasons, but in 1994 Alomar beat him to it)

2: Ernie Whitt, Ed Sprague, Shannon Stewart, Vernon Wells, and Teoscar Hernandez

Random one shots that I wouldn't have guessed in a million years: Erik Kratz (PH homer off David Price in the 8th inning), Maicer Izturis, Bengie Molina homering off Johan Santana in an opening day Santana/Halladay matchup, Domingo Cedeno hitting a homer on opening day in 1996 with the Oakland A's hosting in... Las Vegas?!?, Rance Mulliniks off Eckersley in 1983 (Eck gave up 7 runs to kick off his worst season as a starter), Pat Borders foreshadowing his World Series MVP award hitting the Jays first homer in 92.

Most impressive performance that I noticed was George Bell hitting a game-winning homer in the top of the 10th off Quisenberry in 85, then hitting 3 homers off Saberhagen in 1988's opener.
   23. Brian C Posted: April 18, 2022 at 10:24 PM (#6072467)
This Cubs team is going to have rotation issues all year I think, but offensively they're not unfun to watch - lots of good at bats, not a ton of strikeouts (except tonight), and some power here and there. Like, they don't seem like an offense that's particularly likely to put up 10 very often, but they should be pretty consistent for 4 to 6 a night and be in games when their pitchers don't blow up.

It's just different from past years where it seemed like they'd either hang 12 on their opponents or struggle to score 2 on any given night. I still miss the core guys, and I haven't seen much to make me think this team is a contender in the long run, but at least they're watchable.
   24. Dag Nabbit at Posted: April 19, 2022 at 06:06 PM (#6072608)
For the St. Louis Cardinals since 1980....

Most times hitting the first homer of the season for the club:

4 - Yadier Molina

3 -

2 - Tyler O'Neil, Randal Grichuk, Pedro Guerrero, Matt Holliday, Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds, Geronimo Pena, George Hendrick, Darrell Porter, Albert Pujols

Honorable mention: Joe Magrane, a pitcher, did it in 1988.
   25. Brian C Posted: April 21, 2022 at 12:42 AM (#6072870)
Maybe my 12 guys prediction should really be at least 12 guys traded or released/DFAd.

Well, we're already up to 1, as Jesse Chavez has been traded to the Braves for Sean Newcomb, who was just DFAd by the Braves.
   26. Brian C Posted: April 26, 2022 at 09:42 PM (#6073911)
I think I'm done with the Michael Hermosillo experience already - he actually has me wishing Heyward was playing tonight. He did make a very impressive catch in deep CF that Heyward would not have gotten to, but he also made a 2-base error after misplaying a single and got doubled off of first. And of course he's 0-2 at the plate (with 2 HBP).

At this point the sole evidence that he has potential as a useful MLB player is ... a good year at Iowa last year? His minor league numbers aren't very impressive aside from that. And lord knows he hasn't actually done anything in the majors yet.

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