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June 2017

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COMMENTS

Waiting for a Streak

Written by , Posted in General

Not much to write about in this one. Once again a team scores early on the Cubs and while the offense produced, they can’t string anything together or get the big hit and the Cubs fall to the Marlins 4-2,  splitting the opening four game series of an 11 game road trip. With four against the Nationals coming up, this would have been a nice one to have.

The first inning trouble was exasperated by an error on Addison Russell against the lead-off hitter, Ichiro Suzuki. While Suzuki is still fast, Russell has to make that play every time. A line out from Giancarlo Stanton and then a walk to Justin Bour was followed by a single from Marcell Ozuna that scored Suzuki. A better throw from Ian Happ from center would have had the runner but it was way up the line.

A strikeout of J.T. Realmuto was the second out and made any additional runs unearned. Unfortunately there were two additional runs as Martin Prado hit a gapper into left-center to make it 3-0 after one inning.

Mike Montgomery pitched well after the first inning. He ended up going six innings giving up four hits (two in the first) and two walks with six strikeouts. I’m liking him as a fifth starter next year.

The Cubs ended up leaving 11 men on base as they had eight hits and seven walks but as previously mentioned, they couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities.

Game Notes

  • Russell left the game in the 4th inning with what is being called shoulder discomfort. In an article from the chicagotribune.com, he’s quoted as saying “With this type of discomfort, I don’t think you work through it. You have to pinpoint what’s really aggravating you with the shoulder.” That’s never good.
  • In the same article, it’s reported that Kyle Hendricks threw for the second straight day, pain free. A return immediately after the all-star game would be very welcome.
  • The Marlins Suzuki became the oldest player to start a game in center field according to Elias Sports. Suzuki is 43 years and 246 days old, passing Ricky Henderson by 35 days. I’ve always like Suzuki and appreciate the way that teams are giving him ovations when he pinch hits in road games.

Lineup Construction

I saw an article on fangraphs.com a while back that basically said that the order in which you bat players makes little to no impact on the outcome of the game. I heartily disagree. As a coach, which many of you are as well, do you put your fastest player right behind the slowest? Or the player with the highest on-base percentage in the lower part of the lineup? Of course you don’t.

Well, let’s have a discussion on the construction of the Cub’s lineup, specifically as it impacts the number of double plays they seem to produce. Before getting into specifics, I had to research who the leader’s in GDP were. I assumed the Cubs were the runaway leader but surprisingly, they are only third worst in the National League behind the Braves and the Cardinals according to baseball-reference.com. On an individual basis, Willson Contreras leads the way with nine while Anthony Rizzo, Albert Almora, Jon Jay, and Ian Happ each have seven. Ben Zobrist has six and no one else has more than four.

So what’s this mean? One, when those six are up, if someone is on first, they need to use a hit and run more often, especially with Rizzo, Jay, and Almora as they each keep their strikeout rate relatively low.

So if they Rizzo experiment is going to continue, I like Rizzo (1B) then Kris Bryant (LF) at the top. I would bat Happ (2B) third and Jason Heyward (RF) fourth (once healthy). Fifth would be Russell (SS) followed by Javier Baez (3B) and then Contreras/Miguel Montero (C) batting seventh and Almora/Jay (CF) batting eighth.

So that’s the lineup I would run with the majority of the time, do you agree or do you have a better configuration?

Around the League

  • The Dodgers won their tenth straight game with a 12-6 victory over the Rockies. Colorado had five wild pitches and Dodger rookie outfield Cody Bellinger hit his 23rd and 24th homers.
  • The Twins swept the Indians in a double header to move back into first place. Somehow Twins starter Ervin Santana continues to dazzle in 2017, throwing six shutout innings to get his tenth win of the season.
  • While the Cardinals avoided the sweep, they still lost the home series to the Pirates. The Birds are still six games under .500 and I think Mike Matheny might be on a pretty hot seat at this time. Though as a Cub fan, I hope Matheny sticks around a lot longer.

Down on the Farm

AAA: Iowa (32-43) – Rain in Texas led to a suspended game between Iowa and Round Rock with Round Rock having a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The game will be picked up in Des Moines next week when the teams meet there.

AA: Tennessee (37-36) – Tennessee snapped a six game losing streak as a rehab start by Brett Anderson jump started the team into a 2-1 victory over Mobile. Anderson went four innings giving up one run. The Smokies relievers were fantastic as James Pugliese went three scoreless innings and Justin Hancock and Dillon Maples each threw a scoreless inning.

High A: Myrtle Beach (44-29) – Rained out

Low A: South Bend (40-33) – South Bend dropped a close one to Great Lakes 2-1. The question that Cubs fan have is “how did Dylan Cease do”? Well, he threw four innings of no hit ball. He walked two and struck out five while throwing 52 pitches. The Cubs continue to move him along slowly though a promotion to Myrtle Beach after the all-star break doesn’t seem to be out of the question.

R: Eugene (6-5) – Eugene picked up four hits from designated hitter Joe Martarano, including his first homer of the year, as the Emeralds defeated Salem-Keizer 7-4.

Up Next

The Cubs head to Washington D.C. as they square off against the Nationals for four games. Maybe the team will dress as their favorite former President for the road trip. Eddie Butler will square off against Gio Gonzalez (7-1 2.96 era) in the opener Monday evening.

  • Michael S.

    I don’t think the raw number of GIDP is necessarily as informative as we’d like it to be. Rather, I think we would need a rate stat to determine just how badly a guy is doing in those situations. Sadly, GIDP opportunities doesn’t seem to be a thing tracked, at least not that I can find.

  • cap’n realist

    Russell’s error was exasperating. Totally agree.

    • Sherm

      I think Russell needs shoulder surgery, and said so months ago – and should get it done now. Blow off 2017, which is not a bad year to miss at this point, and come back strong…AS A 2B. This team could be better with Russell at second and Baez at SS anyway. Baez has the better arm.

      This is a very average team. That’s it. Average. Better than many but not close to as good as some. Face it, the Dodgers and Astros and a handful of others are better teams this season.

      I’m going to re-open the conversation about have an “Opener” to pitch the first. This is getting ridiculous. Remember when the saying was that the last three outs were the toughest? For this staff? It’s the first three. Let the relievers, sans the closer, rotate first innings. Every reliever gets to stay sharp, and it doesn’t matter if they bat 8th or 9th because if they get up in the first you’d use a PH anyway, so it’s kind of like having a DH the first time through if you have a rally going.

      Almora should lead the universe in GIDP. He’s slow as shit. He turns triples into doubles, and has never even been in a close play at first. Amazing how he can go get it the OF and be that slow.

      • Bryzzo1744

        The only time the FIG would need to bat is if the Cubs bat around on the road. You’re officially in the game once announced on the PA, so a PH would burn the FIG in such a scenario.

      • Doug S.

        I’ll ask – why the struggles for our SPs in the first inning? Not ready? Not in the game yet? The solution for road games is simple. Bat them first and get their ass in the game early.

      • Sherm

        Shhh. Don’t say things like that here. Maddon reads this blog. He’ll say “great idea! I’ll bat the pitchers first and get the worst hitter out of the way early! It’s brilliant, but also? It’s quirky and eccentric, and that defines me!”

        Plus, it would be exasperating.

      • Douglas Saye

        My thoughts. Pitchers typically try to establish the fastball early as well as to throw strikes early in the count to get ahead. If I can piece this mystery together, there’s a chance the hitters know it as well and are jumping on the starters early.

        Solution? Spend more time on other pitches while warming up and establish them early.

      • Sherm

        So. Cub pitchers are morons is what you’re saying. Got it. Makes sense.

      • Douglas Saye

        You say morons, I say stubborn. Potatoe, potato.

      • Sherm

        Donkeys are stubborn.

        Synonym for donkey is ass. Synonym for ass is idiot. Synonym for idiot is moron.

        Ergo, stubborn pitchers are morons.

        Potato. Potato. Potato.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        One Potato, two potato. I think we have established how to pick the first inning pitcher.

      • cap’n realist

        now you’re just exacerbating things…

      • Sherm

        Liar! I haven’t touched myself in hours!

      • Seymour Butts

        Not sure Ass synonym is idiot.
        I can think of several asses off the top of my head, and not all are idiots. Similarly, I can think of many idiots and not all are asses.
        The population that has overlap exists, but we are not supposed to talk politics ere.

  • Doc Raker

    GIDP can be function of hitting hard ground balls unluckily right at defenders which brings in the vagaries of hard hit balls into play, emphasis on the word vagaries.

    The Nationals will be tough, tButler v. Gio game tonight is a close your eyes and cross your fingers game.

    Line up construction; Rizzo leads off with a double. Does Bryant really have good ‘move him over’ AB’s? I say no.

    • Douglas Saye

      You’re correct that Bryant isn’t known for hitting ground balls to the right side. Unfortunately this appears to be a declining skill across the league.

      I went with the top two OBP players at the top with Bryant second because he doesn’t hit many grounders for when Rizzo leads off with a single.

      • Sherm

        I’d rather see Happ hit second simply because a large number of his at-bats will be left handed and that usually indicates an easier time getting the ball to the right side and moving the runner over. (Moving the runner over is something that has NOT changed since the beginning of baseball. It is a CRITICAL and functional part of the game to have productive at-bats, and this team doesn’t really ever seem to consider that or even try to.)

      • Douglas Saye

        I love that we are thinking about the “why” of lineup mgmt., wonder if this goes on between Maddon and Martinez?

        Thinking about your Happ strategy. Rizzo has 333 plate appearances and has 14 doubles so that’s a 4.2% chance of being on 2nd and needing to be moved to third. Conversely he has 39 singles, 47 walks, and 12 HBP so that’s a 29.4% chance of being on first. A Happ grounder here is likely a DP.

        Not saying I’m right or wrong, just what I’d do with the roster as constructed. The real truth is that we don’t have the optimal players for a “perfect lineup.

  • Bryzzo1744

    Hitting into a double play requires a runner on base. I bet you teams with higher OBP have a higher DP rate than low OBP teams.

    • Douglas Saye

      Good points. I just grabbed the data of all 17 teams above the league average in OBP and computed GDP per plate appearance. The Cubs wound up as 5th worst in MLB. Interestingly, two teams doing worse in this stat are playing well (Boston and Houston) while two are not (Atlanta and St Louis). Maybe it means nothing but I sure didn’t expect double plays last year as I do this year (except Heyward last year).

      • Bryzzo1744

        What was the correlation between OBP and DPs? I bet pitching staffs that have high OBP rates also have high twin kill rates.

      • Douglas Saye

        Correlation is a bit over my head! But the casual eye test shows that the worst eight teams in pitching OBP don’t also get a higher rate of double plays turned. One example is the Mets who have the third worst OBP at .344 yet have turned the second lowest amount of double plays (47).

      • 7.5

      • A Wednesday.

      • Bryzzo1744

        And the over wins!

    • Sherm

      Wait a minute. You can’t hit into a double play with no runners on base? Wow. Next you’ll tell me it’s impossible to lead off an inning with a grand slam.

      • Seymour Butts

        What if you hit it really, really far?

  • Guy Karafa

    Suzy Sunshine here. Russell , Heyward , Zobrist , Hendricks , Schwarber , not playing. A game and a half back. Stay positive!👍Oops , didn’t even mention Bryant slump.

  • Buddy

    Eddie Butler + Nationals lineup = Trouble!

  • Michael S.

    Did a foul ball catch Maddon’s melon sometime this weekend? Lineups are starting to make LESS sense.

    • Sherm

      Right. Willlllson leading off.

      We should have had an over/under on that.

      • Michael S.

        I give it a week until the pitcher leads off.

        Maybe 2.

  • Bryzzo1744

    More idiocy at work today. I had to explain the process for registering a car in MA to an agent today. I shouldn’t have to be explaining these things to agents!

    • Seymour Butts

      Thanks for keeping us informed.

    • Don’t you just bring the title to the county motor vehicle department?

      • Bryzzo1744

        Not in MA. Bc they require insurance on a car in order to register it.

  • Kyle

    So, I made a spreadsheet: Documented how many games the Cubs have given up 1st inning runs. Here are the results:

    Current Overall Record: 38-37 (75 games)
    Games given up 1st inning Run(s): 32
    Record in those games: 18-14
    games given up more than 1 run: 17 (8-9 record in those games)

    Games where 1st inning runs accounted for more than or equal to the losing margin: 7

    Conclusion: I have too much free time at work.

    • Sherm

      See if you can do this one. How many times has Joe Maddon done something ridiculous, either in game, or with the lineup itself SIMPLY to be quirky vs it really was a good idea. Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Phone just alerted me that Von Butler is facing Geo.. a.k.a. better get a beer or two down before opening pitch.

    • Doug S.

      Willllllson dellllllivers.