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Monday

15

May 2017

35

COMMENTS

Three Strikes – Happ Looks Solid as Starting Pitching Issues Persist

Written by , Posted in General

It would have been nice to take this series from the St. Louis Cardinals, but alas, the Cubs lost the rubber game of the series on Sunday by a score of 5-0. But hey, at least we aren’t amidst the hellish run of a couple weeks ago in which the starting pitchers couldn’t get through two innings and games were going as long as 18 frames. A semi-normal routine will do the Cubs a lot of good as they try to regain control of the NL Central this spring.

Kris Bryant should be good to go following his stomach bug in the upcoming series, and Jason Heyward is available to return from the disabled list on Tuesday. According to a few Cubs reporters, however, it is unlikely he will come back that soon.

STRIKE ONE – Starting Pitching Struggles Continue

Coming into Sunday’s game, Jake Arrieta was sitting on a 4-2 record with an ERA hovering around five. Unfortunately, he maintained that earned-run average as he exited Sunday’s game following the sixth inning after giving up four runs off of two two-run home runs.

Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run in the second, and Matt Carpenter homered against his college teammate for the first time ever when he hit his two-run home run in the third. It wasn’t a terrible outing from Arrieta—you’d like to get some run support—but it could have been better.

A lot of teams around the league are performing poorer than expected so far this year, so it makes one wonder who all will be willing to make some deals for starting pitching. I think it’s pretty clear that the Cubs need some help in the rotation. The question is: what are the Cubs willing to give up to improve the situation? Surely the club will not just be looking for an arm to get them through this season. After winning the World Series last year, one has to assume the Cubs will be looking for more long-term value rather than short-term value (especially considering it will cost a good prospect).

STRIKE TWO – Happ Looks Good!

When Ian Happ was doing so well in spring training, I was hoping the Cubs would find a way to get him on the major league club sooner rather than later, but knowing the Cubs lineup, I figured it would require one or more injuries to some starters.

Well, Heyward and Ben Zobrist dinged up the last week or so, it opened the door for Happ to get some experience in the big leagues. It has been really fun to watch him this weekend, with his home run on Saturday and his solid day yesterday, but I have to wonder how long he’ll be up.

I hope he stays up for good, but I am not sure what would happen otherwise to the roster. Would keeping Happ with the Cubs be as easy as sending Tommy La Stella down? Is that the best decision? Probably, because Happ affords some flexibility that La Stella doesn’t—he even made it over to center field late in Sunday’s game.

Who knows? Regardless, it has been fun to watch Happ the last couple of days, and I am interested to see how the Cubs handle him moving forward.

STRIKE THREE – A Word on the Slide Rule

On Saturday, the Cubs were burned by the MLB’s new “slide rule,” when Happ overslid second base. Breaking the rule resulted in an “out” call that kept the Cubs from scoring a run. So far this season, the new slide rule doesn’t seem to be called by umpires on the field as much as it is called by instant replay review when a manager decides to take advantage of the new rule he hates.

Why am I bringing this up in the Sunday recap when the incident happened on Saturday? Well, Sunday before the game, Joe Maddon had a few more (sarcastic) words to say about the rule. Jesse Rogers reports:

“I have some other additions to it,” Maddon said. “We should eliminate the head-first slide. That is a dangerous slide. Your hand could (get hurt), your eye could get poked out. All these different things can occur on a head first slide.

 “I think face masks should be mandatory for all hitters. And pitchers have been hit in the head by line drives several times so pitchers should be forced to wear helmets.”

The job of a manager is to coach his players to play within the bounds of the rules of the game, no matter how stupid they are. Next time Joe challenges a play in which an opposing player who overslides a base, I’d like reporters to ask how he feels about the slide rule.

I get it. It’s a dumb rule. I wish it wasn’t a rule, but here we are. Let’s just adapt and move on.

Looking Ahead

The Cubs have the day off tomorrow before they begin a 10-game homestand against the Reds, Brewers, and Giants. I’ll catch them in San Diego over Memorial Day weekend whey they head out to play the Padres.

AAA – Iowa Cubs (15-20) Won 11 to 10

SP – Jake Buchanan – 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K

2B – Chesny Young – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB

AA – Tennessee Smokies (22-15) Lost 4 to 3

SP – Trevor Clifton – 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

2B – David Bote – 3 for 4, RBI

A-Adv – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (21-16)  Won 7 to 0 & 5 to 4

SP – Oscar De La Cruz – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

SP – Casey Bloomquist – 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

  • Sherm

    I pretty much made all my comments yesterday on the previous post, and am not interested in re-typing them here, but would put Happ wherever he can continue to get regular at bats. If that’s the big league club, fine. I support sending Schwarber down for a few weeks to find his swing, too, but it never gets mentioned, so I doubt that it’s even a consideration.

    • chrismartin17

      You’re probably right on Schwarber not getting sent down, but I agree with your thoughts on it.

      I never thought I would be frustrated with how much young talent we have, but I really am. Makes me think we definitely need to deal someone like Almora or something for a solid, young(ish) starting pitcher than can contribute for a long time.

      • Sherm

        This team appears to lack veteran leadership.

        Last season, they had Ross and Fowler who were pretty good at club house instruction and motivation. This year? Montero is not that guy. He’s fighting for his own playing team and the willpower to pass up a box of Krispy Kremes. Jhon Jhay? Not really. He’s no Dexter Fowler – on or off the field. Zobrist? Should be, but I think he’s a fairly quiet guy, who is also not playing terribly well. Tommy LaStella? The Italian Scallion? I don’t think so. The only other person who could be considered a veteran is Rizzo – and if “lead by example” is the definition, he’s not the answer. His play in the field has been lackadaisical, and his at bats have been horrendous. His pitch selection has never been worse, and his stubbornness to change? Not a good example.

        I don’t include pitchers in that simply because pitchers are, by nature, more lone wolf anyway. They hang with other pitchers, but when the chips are down, they go “inside” (themselves) for motivation.

        Some managers – I’d include Joe Girardi in this – are “like” veteran team leaders. Young enough to relate and have played the game long enough and well enough to have earned respect. Maddon is not in that group, in my mind. Not that pillow fights and pajama parties aren’t fun and all, but I don’t see how that helps young players focus on pitch selection, situational hitting, bunting and the like.

      • chrismartin17

        Yeah, I agree. Would be good to have more outspoken, veteran everyday guys.

      • Not defending Joe at all, but the Cubs have NEVER focused on pitch selection, situational hitting, bunting and the like. Not even last year (we talked about it often!) They won it all last year in spite of their weaknesses. I think those weaknesses are being exposed more this year because of the target on their backs and simple adjustments being made by the other teams.

      • Dork

        I think your right – those have been the weaknesses so when they are not hitting you do not see a leadoff double turn into a run you see him stranded on 2nd or 3rd.

      • Sherm

        You’re right – as an organization, they’ve been poor fundamentally for as long as I can remember. I had hoped that Maddon, a disciple of one of the best (Mike Scioscia) would bring that to this young team, but instead he brought jammy day, silly shirt day, and a mime. He should not be called the manager. He should be called the “Ringmaster.”

      • Bryzzo1744

        I thought in 2016 they were showing a lot of discipline, talking a lot of pitches, taking walks, and working the count. I’ll have to look at the numbers again.

      • Sherm

        “showing a lot of discipline, talking a lot of pitches, taking walks, and working the count”

        That’s pretty much four ways of saying the same thing.

        And they did work counts better last season than this season, which has not gone unnoticed by opposing pitchers who are pounding them strikes early now. But, the comment above specifically relates to fundamentals such as hitting behind runners, contact in contact situations, bunting, etc. more than just patience. That’s what I was referring to and I’m pretty sure Lizzie was, too.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Understood. Agreed with you somewhat. But do you think an overall approach of showing better discipline would help with the latter? By extending at-bats, they can get it to the point where they put it in play when contact needs to be made, etc?

      • Dork

        They are missing something in the patient aggressiveness. Fowler was really great at it, he was able to recognize a pitch he could really handle and just drive it Rizzo at times is good at this. Zobrist at times is good at this, but right now no one is showing signs of being good at it. The opposing pitchers are definitely dictating the AB’s, and it is not because they are great pitchers at least not all of them. The cubs can take them deep into the count and even walk but then what…pretty much nothing.

      • Yep, that’s what I was talking about too. A walk is certainly better than a strikeout but if the walked guy sits there at first while the people behind him do nothing or immediately hit into a double play the end result is still no runs. Good plate discipline is one part of an overall plan which isn’t being executed at all right now. “Win when guys hit home runs” may work when the guys are actually hitting home runs but I don’t like that as an offensive strategy.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Agreed with you. It’s great when guys are going yard, but I want guys getting on base, and working the count and knowing the situation.

    • cap’n realist

      If only they’d have traded Schwarber before the world knew he was an easy out. Imagine if they’d done it back when all of you thought he was passable defensively as a catcher. Andrew Miller’d be looking pretty good right now, and an organization like the Yankees absolutely would have the balls to send him to AAA where he currently belongs.

      • Doc Raker

        True but Andrew Miller is a bullpen guy and we need starting pitching. We don’t win the WS without Schwarbs so I would rather have 1 WS Championship than Miller and no WS championship.

        I would not give up on Schwarbs, this is a game of adjustments and the league has adjusted to him and now he needs to make some adjustments. Those adjustments could be worked on in AAA though and it is ridiculous to keep him in the leadoff spot.

  • Eddie Von White

    You are all making good sense.

  • Google’s last OTA update soft-bricked my Nexus 5X.. apparently five business days is an acceptable amount of time to wait for a replacement. Bullshit.

    Anyhow, I’m three games removed from actual Cubs viewing, and managed to play some solid baseball in our wood bat league. Feel somewhat recharged.

  • Bryzzo1744

    Chris – Are you sitting with us in SD?

    • He got into a fight with his parents, and then his parents told his aunt and uncle not to let him stay at their house, and then he cancelled his plans, but then he decided to make his parents angry by actually booking the trip, and that will show them once and for all how serious he is.

      • Bryzzo1744

        I’m not staying with my family. I did it because I was able to make it work financially, and because I couldn’t get the time off work for another trip.

      • That makes complete sense.

        How many people got kicked out of the stadium for pelting you with trash again? That should be this week’s “7.5.”

      • Bryzzo1744

        That was in 2005. And it was more than 50 at the home of whiney sux. Only time I’ve been pelted with trash.

      • Sherm

        So, the over.

      • Has anyone else had trash thrown at them at a sporting event? I’ll put the line at .5 and take the under.

      • Sherm

        Define trash. For that matter, define sporting event. Ah, never mind. The answer is no.

      • Bring an umbrella, Chris.

      • Bryzzo1744

        No need to.

      • Seymour Butts

        …for the trash pelting that he is sure not to get.

  • Chris you’re too nice of a guy to quote the funniest part of Joe’s safety suggestions, the “cup check” to ensure the success of future families. 😳

    • I’d rather play without my mitt than without my cup.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      At my age, unless I pull a Felix Unger, future families are not a consideration, although extreme pain is a huge consideration.

  • Doug S.

    Enjoy reading you suggestions for improvement. Wish I had the answer, or ‘an’ answer, but there’s a reason I wake up when it’s still dark and walk to an office job. Yes, something’s missing. I want to say this team’s too good to be one and done, but are they? I sure hope so.

  • Brad Lyerla

    The over slide rule makes sense. When a runner over slides such that it results in the automatic out under the rule, the ump can be confident that the runner’s goal was not the base, but the defender. There is little doubt about intent in such cases. I don’t know why this rule is controversial.

    • Dork

      and why the cubs cant figure out how not to get caught – if it is a rule that is going to be called it seems important not to do it. Saturday is not the first time.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Wasn’t Schwarbs called out on an overslide in one of the first few series? Not long after Joe declined to review an illegal slide from Fowler (which I thought was an ok move by Joe, but you did not, I think).