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April 2014

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COMMENTS

Are Platoons the Way For This Team?

Written by , Posted in General

Junior Lake was interviewed by Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago recently and expressed frustration with the fact that he was not being penciled in the lineup each and every game. For Lake, coming off a rookie year that saw him post a .284 / .332 / .428 slash line, you can understand some of his frustration when you look at some of the other options on this roster for the outfield. It’s not exactly a position bursting with talent. It’s a bunch of average guys who could all make the case to start. However, so far this season we’ve seen Rick Renteria use a platoon more than I would have expected. We’ve seen it with Lake and we’ve seen it with Mike Olt and Luis Valbuena at third base. In fact, we’ve even seen it a little at second base with Emilio Bonifacio and Darwin Barney, though that platoon may be sorting itself out on it’s own. However, is the platoon the way to go? In my opinion, a platoon is the way to go when there is an obvious reason for it. It’s not the way to go if you simply want to get everyone in the lineup. So, I wanted to take a look at some of the guys involved in the platoons and see if, from a career splits standpoint, it makes sense.

If you take a look at the splits numbers for Olt vs Valbuena, for example, what you’ll see is that against righties, Olt has struggled a little. However, his numbers are all based on minor league stats for the most part. Valbuena has more Major league at bats, but really hasn’t done much with them. It’s a tough balance for all parties. I understand where guys are coming from. If it were me, what I’d be doing is playing my highest ceiling guys first to give them every opportunity to win the job and run with it and, should they fail or slump, give the chance to the next in line. That said, I feel like Olt has the higher ceiling at third and Lake has the higher ceiling in the OF. Both should be in the lineup more often than they are not.

  • Baseball America recently had an article asking the question “Is the Cubs pitching underrated?“. We hear all the time about the bats that are soon to be making an impact at Wrigley. Guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Jorge Soler all get you excited, but are there names on the mound that the common fan doesn’t know about but should? The general feeling is that while there aren’t a lot of top level guys, there are a lot of arms that could be serviceable. Stockpiling has been the goal of the new regime when it comes to arms, so it appears that people are recognizing and acknowledging that has come to fruition.
  • Joe Kaiser of ESPN Rumor Central had a post about Baez in which he asked if it was time to worry. His premise is the 0-for-9 start at the plate and the recent ejection for arguing balls and strikes. Seriously people. Is there not more to write about? Has media become so easy to access that the quality is severely declined? Wait, let me answer my own question. You’re coming here to read my opinion on something. Isn’t that proof enough?
  • We talked about baseball video games on the podcast a few episodes ago. The new RBI Baseball game is out. If anyone has played it for the iPad, I’d like to hear their review of it.

We talked on the podcast on Monday about the discouraging lack of offense. However, all this week we’ve seen the offense show some life. Tonight was more of the same, which was exciting because we didn’t have Edwin Jackson on the mound keeping it close.

  • Bonifacio continues to light up at the plate. We know he’s not capable of maintaining this pace all season so the question then becomes what to expect from him. It is entirely possible that this is just a breakout, career year for him and the Cubs are the beneficiary of that at a bargain basement price. I am still in the camp that believes he’s going to regress to a league average to below offensive player. If you look at his OPS+ prior to this year, he sits at 79, which is below average. I believe he’s on a hot streak and will show his true colors soon. I’d love to be wrong, though.
  • Jason Hammel has made two starts now for the Cubs and both have been excellent. We know the ultimate plan would be to net a healthy return for him before the trade deadline, but I wonder if that has any effect on a player. When you’ve seen the plan and are constantly asked the questions about how you feel about being on the block, does that change your outlook when it comes to taking the mound or even getting to know your teammates. It’s hard to invest in other guy’s lives when you know you may be on the move any moment.
  • Great to see Anthony Rizzo continue to improve against the lefties. Wandy Rodriguez is not a dominant starter, but he has his moments and Rizzo did just fine against him tonight. Top 10 MVP vote here we come.
  • It’s easy to say this after the fact and look like I’m saying it with the benefit of hindsight, but I was disappointed to see Pedro Strop get the call in the 9th tonight. I felt like Wesley Wright was the better option because of the fact that, as you can see on the bullpen health report, he hasn’t gotten in and needed the work. It was a non-save situation so why not rest a guy like Strop and even Jose Veras and go with Wright?

Well look at this, we’re in line for a potential series win. I’m telling you. This team is going to finish .500 this year. Mark my words. Winning the series is not going to be easy as we face the Pirates ace in Gerrit Cole.

MLB.com reports:

Cole hasn’t been around all that long, but he’ll already be looking for his third career win against the Cubs, whom he beat twice last season, striking out 13 in 13 innings. Included was a Sept. 24 outing in Wrigley Field.

Wikipedia Reports:

Cole features a four-seam and two-seam fastball that he regularly throws between 94 to 98 miles per hour (151–158 km/h), but has been clocked as high as 102 miles per hour (164 km/h). He also throws a slider and a changeup.

Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus also had a really nice scouting report article that is free to view and was written last year. For our lazy readers who don’t like to click on links, here is a sample.

Cole’s fastball is one that you can’t teach. It comes out of his hand effortlessly with natural velocity, helping to create the illusion of additional explosion.

Cole throws two fastballs – a four-seam version that routinely averages 96-97 mph throughout the course of a game and can hit as high as 100 mph, and a two-seam sinker, which typically averages 94-96 mph and can get as high as 98 mph.

Cole’s fastball is a true 80 pitch, not only because of the velocity, but also because of his ability to command them both. He throws them both for strikes and locates them well within the strike zone, allowing his velocity to play up even further.

  • PLCB3

    Do the bullpen health report numbers get updated automatically or do you have to enter it in manually?

    • Joe Aiello

      I do it

    • Joe Aiello

      I do it

  • Doug S.

    I don’t think platooning is a good long term solution. Maybe OK for a while while positions become clear.

    5 solo HRs account for all Pirates scoring last night. Were we good or lucky?

    • PLCB3

      If we don’t get to challenge that call in the 6th, it’s all of a sudden a 1-run game in the 9th.

      • Eddie Von White

        And then they would be tie it up and we’d have a sanctioned sudden death home run derby in the 10th to decide the game.

    • Doc Raker

      Limiting walks and base runners is good, not lucky.

      • PLCB3

        Agreed. Unless you’re Dusty. Because walks clog the bases for guys who can run. But for some reason, even though taking walks is bad, it’s also bad to give up walks.

    • Doc Raker

      Limiting walks and base runners is good, not lucky.

      • AC0000000

        Agreed. Unless you’re Dusty. Because walks clog the bases for guys who can run. But for some reason, even though taking walks is bad, it’s also bad to give up walks.

  • Doc Raker

    This team is showing shades of an exciting young team. They seem to be feeding off of each other instead of pulling each other down. Notice how Castro started hitting after others in the line up started to garner the pitchers attention. Success is starting and it is contagious. I am not talking about the win and loss record, I am talking about the increased success in individual at bats and on the pitchers mound.

    I find this team a heck of a lot more exciting than last years team. Let’s go win the first series of the season today and keep those series wins coming.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I am surprized you did not bring up Rizzo going to the opposite field last night, that will make him a better hitter, and make the defense play him more honestly. I give Bill Mueller full credit for the hitters showing more intelligence at the plate.

      • Glad to see that as well…even if they are mostly duck snorts.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Yeah, but to the grandkids they will all be screaming line drives.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Yeah, but to the grandkids they will all be screaming line drives.

      • Doc Raker

        Good point, that is a big improvement for Rizzo. If he can hurt a pitcher on the outside strike he will see more pitches in his power zone.
        That is what I am talking about, those little things that create success and is contagious to others in the line up. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Doc Raker

    This team is showing shades of an exciting young team. They seem to be feeding off of each other instead of pulling each other down. Notice how Castro started hitting after others in the line up started to garner the pitchers attention. Success is starting and it is contagious. I am not talking about the win and loss record, I am talking about the increased success in individual at bats and on the pitchers mound.

    I find this team a heck of a lot more exciting than last years team. Let’s go win the first series of the season today and keep those series wins coming.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I am surprized you did not bring up Rizzo going to the opposite field last night, that will make him a better hitter, and make the defense play him more honestly. I give Bill Mueller full credit for the hitters showing more intelligence at the plate.

      • Doc Raker

        Good point, that is a big improvement for Rizzo. If he can hurt a pitcher on the outside strike he will see more pitches in his power zone.
        That is what I am talking about, those little things that create success and is contagious to others in the line up. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Eddie Von White

    – My daughter had the game on tv last night. I had work to do, so I watched it from behind my computer. Finally, I closed the computer and just watched the game – Olt, Rizzo, Castro, Hammel, Pedro, even Barney poked a hit to right field. I just couldn’t walk away. I am growing quite fond of Ricky as our manager too. Questionable decisions aside, he seems to know how to motivate his boys.

    – Joe, I think your i-Pod could use some happy pills.

  • I’d like to see Kris Kristofferson knock the hair products off that clown.

  • I’d like to see Kris Kristofferson knock the hair products off that clown.

  • PLCB3

    How come the last game result doesn’t show the 2 HRs that Alvarez hit?

  • AC0000000

    How come the last game result doesn’t show the 2 HRs that Alvarez hit?

  • Seymour Butts

    Did you mean to say what we should expect from Bonafacio, or what we would accept?

    • PLCB3

      Lame

  • Seymour Butts

    Did you mean to say what we should expect from Bonafacio, or what we would accept?

    • AC0000000

      Lame

  • It makes no difference to me whether Junior Lake should or shouldn’t get the starts. Bitching about playing time to the press just makes you look like a whine ass. Someone ought to remind him about Ian Stewart.

    • PLCB3

      Our old friend now plays for the Angels.

    • Dusty Baylor

      Well…to be fair…wasn’t he asked about wanting to play every day?

      • PLCB3

        If that is the case, then I would have to agree with you.

      • He may have, Dusty, I didn’t hear the interview. I was going by Joe’s comment saying he “expressed frustration.” If he wasn’t complaining, then I withdraw my criticism. But if he did complain, even if he was asked, then I stand by what I said. Someone can say “are you miffed that you aren’t playing everyday?” And the guy might be truly miffed, but he can say “I appreciate every opportunity the Cubs are giving me and I will work hard to make a positive contribution in whatever way I’m asked.” He can even say “I’m hoping I can put together a good streak so I can work myself into the lineup!” But he can’t say “yes I’m miffed!” Bad karma.

      • Dusty Baylor

        Well said Lizzie. Forunately, the Cubs have a huge amount of good karma built up…. wait…I mean…er…

  • It makes no difference to me whether Junior Lake should or shouldn’t get the starts. Bitching about playing time to the press just makes you look like a whine ass. Someone ought to remind him about Ian Stewart.

    • AC0000000

      Our old friend now plays for the Angels.

    • Dusty Baylor

      Well…to be fair…wasn’t he asked about wanting to play every day?

      • He may have, Dusty, I didn’t hear the interview. I was going by Joe’s comment saying he “expressed frustration.” If he wasn’t complaining, then I withdraw my criticism. But if he did complain, even if he was asked, then I stand by what I said. Someone can say “are you miffed that you aren’t playing everyday?” And the guy might be truly miffed, but he can say “I appreciate every opportunity the Cubs are giving me and I will work hard to make a positive contribution in whatever way I’m asked.” He can even say “I’m hoping I can put together a good streak so I can work myself into the lineup!” But he can’t say “yes I’m miffed!” Bad karma.

      • Dusty Baylor

        Well said Lizzie. Forunately, the Cubs have a huge amount of good karma built up…. wait…I mean…er…

  • PLCB3

    Our old friend Marmol did what he does best last night.

  • AC0000000

    Our old friend Marmol did what he does best last night.

  • nick

    I think this is an excellent article. I question the platoon system as far as the outfield go as well and I am wondering why we acquired Ruggiano when it appeared Junior Lake would be a shoe in to start everyday after a solid rookie campaign. Soriano get’s traded and Lake plays everyday last year but now we start the outfield situation off in a platoon? Lake has tremendous upside. Ruggiano and Kalish are high quality character people and solid players, but if the Cubs traded Soriano to get the youth movement going why isn’t Lake getting the majority of the playing time. That is frustrating to me. I also would like to see Olt play more to learn how to be more effective in his weak areas. These kids aren’t going to develop right if they aren’t getting reps everyday on a consistent basis. No offense to the other players but Olt and Lake have the higher upside and although the other players are solid it is time to get the other kids playing more regularly.
    This is baffling to me as a Cubs fan although it is great to see Rizzo and Castro off to a great start!

  • nick

    I think this is an excellent article. I question the platoon system as far as the outfield go as well and I am wondering why we acquired Ruggiano when it appeared Junior Lake would be a shoe in to start everyday after a solid rookie campaign. Soriano get’s traded and Lake plays everyday last year but now we start the outfield situation off in a platoon? Lake has tremendous upside. Ruggiano and Kalish are high quality character people and solid players, but if the Cubs traded Soriano to get the youth movement going why isn’t Lake getting the majority of the playing time. That is frustrating to me. I also would like to see Olt play more to learn how to be more effective in his weak areas. These kids aren’t going to develop right if they aren’t getting reps everyday on a consistent basis. No offense to the other players but Olt and Lake have the higher upside and although the other players are solid it is time to get the other kids playing more regularly.
    This is baffling to me as a Cubs fan although it is great to see Rizzo and Castro off to a great start!

  • nick

    And the boob that wrote the article about Baez is just a sensational journalist who must not know anything about baseball. I really can’t believe ESPN allowed that crap past the editor. It is a misinformed and ignorant article and makes the writer and ESPN look silly.