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COMMENTS

It’s OK to Breathe Now

Written by , Posted in General

My wife bought me an Apple Watch for my birthday last month. I love it in most ways. But I have not made up my mind yet about the built-in lifestyle/exercise apps. The apps give me a number of reminders during the day. Many are an annoyance. A good one though is a reminder every so often to breathe. I am putting that one to good use during Cubs games this month. Gotta remember to breathe. Take an occasional deep breath with a long relaxing exhalation. Watching baseball is a leisure time activity after all.

Nice win yesterday. Jose Quintana threw a gem. Kudos go to Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo too. But I want to talk about a few other things this morning.

Two subjects have dominated the posts here on View from the Bleachers the past few weeks. First, who is the Cubs’ most valuable offensive player? Second, who should be in the starting rotation if the Cubs make it into the post-season, as now looks likely? As to the former, I think you can make a case for more than one guy. As for the latter, I think the four who belong in the post-season rotation are obvious and, barring injury, the arguments for anyone other than the top four are lame.

OFFENSIVE MVP

The stats tell the story. Let’s start with the Cubs offensive MVP. Here are your leaders and a selection of their offensive stats (before Sunday’s game):

Player          BABIP           AVG         OBP           SLG                WAR

Bryant          .332              .295          .408           .537                 6.5

Rizzo             .278             .277           .396           .517                 4.3

Contreras     .312              .272          .349           .503                 3.1

Baez              .343              .271           .316           .475                 2.0

This surprised me. I did not expect Bryant to be the clear leader in so many offensive categories. Obviously, this is a select sample of the many offensive metrics that the quants track these days. But Bryant dominates the others that I did not include here too, except for RBIs (where Rizzo is running away with the team lead). Bryant’s OPS has been above .900 every month of the season except June. The stats confirm what we already know. Kris Bryant is good at baseball. He probably is our MVP on offense.

POST SEASON ROTATION

The stats for starting pitchers are similarly unambiguous. The top four are clear:

Pitcher             ERA       K%       BB%       WAR

Arrieta              3.43       23 7.      7             2.6

Lester               4.56       23.5       8.1          2.4

Hendricks       3.14        20.7       7.1           2.2

Quintana         3.79       28.3       6.5           1.5

Montgomery  3.44       18.7       10.0          1.2

I can draw only one conclusion. If Jon Lester is healthy, then our rotation in the first round should be Jake Arrieta, Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Quintana. Michael Montgomery’s value is highest in the bull pen. If it were me, I would have John Lackey in the bull pen too. I don’t see leaving him off the post-season roster altogether.

WHO IS OVERALL MVP?

But wait. The stats tell us that Bryant is our offensive leader. They tell us who should be our starting pitchers in the post-season. But do they tell us who the Cubs’ overall MVP is? The short answer is no, the stats don’t tell us who is most valuable overall this season. Last year, Bryant’s offensive dominance was so great that it carried the day for his overall value. This year, his offense has continued to be top drawer, but not so much that it ends the discussion. This year, we have two other players who bring so much value defensively that they have to be considered for overall MVP too. Javier Baez is our best defensive player and deserves recognition for that. He must be in the conversation. At the same time, Willson Contreras is our second best defender (and arguably plays the most important defensive position). The difference between them is that while Baez still swings at the occasional breaking ball that bounces two feet in front of the plate (like he did in Saturday’s loss), Contreras has become the third most productive offensive player on the team.

I think Willson Contreras is our MVP overall. I understand that others like Javy Baez, Tony Rizzo or Kris Bryant. A plausible argument can be made for each of them. But I like Contreras for his contributions in total this season.

  • Doc Raker

    All those stats are large sample sizes, the trend my eyes are seeing is different. I see a declining Lester that struggles to throw strikes or to a base. I see Jimi Hendricks trending towards Cy Young form, a vast improvement from his first half. I saw the Q throw like an crafty ace lefty his last few outings. Jake has had a better second half than first, MMM has looked good, Lackey has looked like our worst starter.

    I go Jimi, Q, Jake and Lester as our divisional rotation and if you can go 3 starters due to off days then go with Lester in the pen.

    • Brad Lyerla

      If you want to cut down the sample sizes and focus on the second half, then Arrieta, Hendricks and Lackey pitched very well in the second half.

      Lester had a weak second half.

      Quintana played two months with the Cubs, basically. But he is what he is. He throws more strikes than anybody on the club, and pitched much the same when he was with the White Sox. He also gives up some hard contact like guys who are consistently throwing strikes will do. But he is a good one. During his time with the Sox, the local sports press here often said that if not for the brilliance of Chris Sale, Quintana would have been recognized as a top of the line quality pitcher long ago.

      With all of that said, I think it is hard to sit Lester in the divisional playoffs. But he supposedly will start two more games before then, so we will see.

      • Doc Raker

        Mark me down as a no for Lackey

      • Bryzzo1744

        Joe’s iPad has Lackey in the rotation.

      • Michael S.

        Lester and Lackey have put up…similar numbers overall since the ASB, but Lackey has been more consistently bad, and giving up early runs and putting the team in an early hole is his M.O. You can’t be down 2-0 in the 1st in the playoffs, and that’s exactly what will happen if Lackey is starting.

      • Eddie Von White

        And Lester is noted for that as well.

    • They are my top three as well. They won’t be Maddon’s iPad’s top three.

    • Adam Peters

      If Hendricks wasn’t the #1 starter last year, there’s no way in hell he is this year.

      And WTF difference does it make who we wise VFTB folk consider to be the Cubs MVP? There isn’t even an award for that. If anything it’s a good thing that there are at least 4 guys in the conversation.

      • I topped the Lizzies a few years ago, and all I “won” was that Doc gave CAPS my phone number.

      • Eddie Von White

        I guess we’re all winners this year since Brad posted his number again.

      • Classic Brad.

    • Dork

      If I were guessing, I think Maddon goes exactly opposite of this. He likes the lefties against the nationals. So I think he starts Lester game 1 and goes left, right, left, right. Exactly the opposite of what you have there. Just a guess though.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I am with you on how Maddon is thinking.

  • Doug S.

    Agreeing with your post season pitching lineup. I like Hendricks and while his numbers may suggest #1, I don’t feel he is.

  • Michael S.

    2 years ago today, the Cubs’ ticket to the postseason was punched, even though they lost to Pittsburgh that day; the Giants were the last possible entrant, and they lost to Oakland.

    • Two years ago today, a Tuesday.

      • Michael S.

        Second one that week, in fact.

  • I actually turned off the Breathe reminders because I found them to be intrusive. I use the other activity trackers. But my point here is that you can turn off any of those reminders, temporarily (quiet for today) or altogether in your settings. (And of course then you can turn them back on similarly.) I like to keep a good balance of notifications so that I’m actually paying attention to them. Otherwise you’ll start not even realizing you’re being notified at all, which defeats the purpose of the watch (mostly.) Anyway you’ll find your own balance.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I have my wife to remind me of things like breathe, you need to lose weight, stop eating those cookies. She is great, and if I start to ignore the reminders, she has her methods of getting me back on track.

      • cap’n realist

        So you finished the gutters then?

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        absolutely!

    • Eddie Von White

      I never started holding my breath because the Cubs have not played up to their potential all year so I haven’t needed to stop and remember to breathe. I figure if they go deep into the playoffs it’s not because they deserve it, so however far they go they go – even though I will not be happy with anything but a repeat. If we get to the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series up or down by a run, I might hold my breath a little.

      • I never started holding my breath because I’ve been too busy mouth-breathing inside with a cap on.

      • Doc Raker

        Mouth breathing through a triangle

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    I am beginning to think that Quintana likes pitching to Wilson, and that part of his slump was because his favorite catcher was on the DL.