Six Things I Learned This Week About The Cubs
Week one is in the books, and while it didn’t turn out quite the way we would have wanted, there were some things I learned as the week came to a close.
Runs Are Going To Be Hard to Come By Unless We Get Extra Base Hits – The more learning about advanced statistics that I do, which is a never ending quest for me, the more I see the value of power when it comes to scoring runs. Power doesn’t have to equate only to home runs, though those are always nice. Power simply refers to extra base hits. One of the stats I’ve been looking more into over the last week or so is ISO. It stands for isolated power. It’s basically a measurement of how well a player or team can hit extra bases. Fan Graphs has a really nice definition on it on their site. The problem I saw with this team over the first week was the lack of extra base hits. Let’s take a look at the games from this week.
|Game #||Result||# of XBH|
It’s early, but what you can at least see with Sunday was that we had a few more extra base hits and scored a few more runs. It doesn’t have to be home runs, but it has to be doubles and triples at the very least and a bunch of them. This team isn’t built for a lot of power at this point so we’re going to need to do the best we can with what we can do, and that is to hit the gaps and slap triples with our speedy guys.
Jose Veras May Need To Be Demoted – I try very hard not to overreact when a player or a team is struggling, but it’s hard to ignore what we’ve see from Veras to this point. It started in Spring Training when, in nine appearances he posted an ERA of 7.00. It’s easy to exaggerate reliever’s ERA numbers since one bad outing can completely blow up a guy’s ERA, but 12 hits in nine innings of work doesn’t strike fear into a batter’s heart. He wasn’t getting guys out in spring. Week one was no different. His implosion in the 16 inning game on Wednesday that cost the Cubs the win coupled with the complete bed wetting on Sunday is about as low a leverage situation as possible has me worried. In the 10+ years I’ve written about the Cubs, I’ve said it countless times that I am not a fan of paying for free agent relievers. I understand that Veras has a good track record, but I can’t help but see visions of failed relievers we paid for that didn’t quite deliver what we had paid for. At this point it’s probably too early for Rick Renteria to make a big statement and remove Veras for Pedro Strop, but I think this week showed us that move may be closer than we think.
I Need To Start Listening To Sean More Often When It Comes To Player Evaluation – We talked about Ryan Kalish on the podcast quite a few times over the past couple weeks and how he (and Chris Neitzel) both believed he would not only make this team, but that he deserved the spot. I wasn’t much of a believer and politely dismissed the notion. In just nine plate appearances this week that joke proceeded to lead the team in RBI with three and post a .286 / .444 / .714 slash line. His day on Sunday was outstanding and he earned his paycheck this week.
In addition to Kalish, we highly debated the likelihood that Emilio Bonifacio would make this roster out of spring training. Based on the title of this section of the post, you can guess which side I fell on in that argument. What is important to realize is that this was one week and that it’s important not to overreact, but both of these guys were a huge and pleasant surprise for me this week and I learned that maybe I don’t know a whole lot about talent evaluation.
Anthony Rizzo Is Improving Versus Lefties – I was please to see Rizzo get all the starts this week in spite of a couple tough lefties on the mound against the Cubs. Rizzo really struggled last year against the southpaws. For him to be in contention for the top 10 in the MVP ballot that I predicted, that will have to change for him this year. This week showed me that it was possible. While he looked horrible on opening day against Francisco Liriano, striking out three times on sliders away, he really rebounded nicely against Cliff Lee with a pair of singles. Since opening day, he’s looked better against the lefties and I think we’ll see improvement continue as we get him more and more at bats. He’s the future at that position so it’s important to let him learn.
Not Everyone Is Buying What Theo & Jed Are Selling – I had a brief banter on Twitter with a follower on Sunday about his frustration with the team just five games in. Needless to say, he’s not buying that this team will be any good. I politely disagreed and challenged him to favorite my tweet and re-evaluate it at the end of next year. I think at that point, he’ll like his baseball team, assuming that team is still the Cubs.
CAPS Is A Super Fan….of VFTB – This guy was at the game this week and this was the sign he held up. Dude can drop the mic and walk off stage without any words. That sign says it all in so many ways.
Carlos Villanueva pitched better than I would have expected. I tweeted this out before the game.
— ViewFromTheBleachers (@vftb) April 6, 2014
While I wouldn’t say Villanueva was outstanding, he did what he needed to do considering he was going on short rest after being used twice out of the bullpen this week. The fact that he was able to get out of two jams essentially untouched was amazing to me. He is obviously not a long term starting pitcher option, but the ability to have him in the long relief / swing-man role is valuable and today he did a great job.
We touched earlier on Veras and his implosion this week, but outside of him, the bullpen continues to pitch very well. Strop did come in to relieve Veras and promptly throw a wild pitch, but other than that the bullpen was really good again. It’s a completely different feeling when you can watch a game and in the back of your mind not worry as much that any lead we get will be given right back once we get to the pen. Now we just need to figure out a good way to actually get said lead more often and we’ll be cooking with gas.
Rest!!! Rest for our bullpen. Rest for us as fans and writers. You don’t realize it, but it can be quite burdensome when you have to watch a game and then write about it right after. I savor the off days more than you can imagine. Monday we’ll lay low, enjoy an update on the rest of baseball from Brian this afternoon, record a podcast episode and look forward to a series with the Pirates that features two pitching rematches and our first look at Gerrit Cole this season. Should be fun.