Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Game 43 Notes – Offense Can’t Support Hammel

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Cubs (3) @ Diamondbacks (4)

L: Jason Hammel (3-2)
S: Brad Ziegler (2)

GOOD

While it sucks to try to look for the good in a loss, it’s still possible to find positives and it helps to know that the next game is just a day away.

  • Jason Hammel continues to turn in above average to good starts. Considering he’s our 3rd starter in the rotation, the production we have been getting out of him is wonderful. While he wasn’t dominant in the outing, he was hit fairly hard at times, he gave the Cubs seven innings and only allowed four runs. That’s what I want from him. The offense didn’t pick him up. I wonder what it is about pitching for the Cubs that brings out the best in him, because it sures seems that when he’s with us, he’s a totally different pitcher than what we saw pre-Cubs and with the A’s last year.
  • As much as I hate to do it, I must give some love to Chris Coghlan for the game he played. He hit a no doubt home run to bring the Cubs to within a run late in the game, and he made a really nice play in left field on a ball that I thought he had no chance to get to. I will take a day off from ripping him a new one and give him a fist bump instead. Good job, Chris.
  • Justin Grimm came in and pitched a blemish free 8th inning. It’s good to have him back in the mix. Once Neil Ramirez gets back from rehab, the bullpen will hopefully begin to show what I believed it was capable of at the beginning of the year. There are some who are worried about Hector Rondon in the 9th, but I’m not one of them. I think these guys saw too many innings early and were just needing some time off.
  • Jorge Soler, who has been mired in a bit of a slump, had a pair of hits. I’m going on record now and predicting a monster week for Jorge. I still think he has the ability and the ceiling to be one of the top three rookie of the year vote getters and potentially win the thing. He’s that good.
  • Jim Duquette posted on Cubs.com about the potential trade options for the Cubs and Mets. There have been rumors for weeks about something since the Cubs have bats and the Mets have arms. I put this post in the good section for the simple fact that rumors and scenarios are fun to read.
  • Javier Baez had a pair of home runs yesterday for the Iowa Cubs and is hitting .322 since his return to baseball from the bereavement leave. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

BAD

  • I don’t see much value in Jonathan Herrera. You have to believe that his days are numbered. He’s 30 years old and out of minor league options. That’s a bad combination when you can’t hit a baseball. Enjoy the Major League meal money now, sir, because when someone is ready, either Tommy LaStella as he recovers from his oblique strain or Baez when the Cubs feel like it’s time, Herrera’s time will be over.
  • Couple of bad plays in the field by the left side of the infield. Kris Bryant flubbed a ground ball that bounced up high on him and Starlin Castro just plain muffed a line drive. Neither resulted in a run for the Diamondbacks, but they both looked bad and can’t happen.
  • Frustrating to lose a series to a below .500 team heading into a homestand that sees us take on the Nationals and the Royals. Both a really good teams so it would have been good to have some momentum headed in, especially since we start the series with Tsuyoshi Wada on the bump.
  • Not sure if this needs to go in the good or bad section, but the Cubs waiver claim of Anthony Varvaro has been voided by the MLB commissioner. Arizona Phil had a really nice post about some of the history around something like this.
  • Don Roach, who has been pitching like a god down in AAA had the trainer come see him prior to the game, but was cleared to pitch. One out into the game he was hit in the leg by a hard line drive and had to leave. Roach is 5-0 with an ERA of 2.13 for Iowa.

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1982 – In the third inning of Chicago’s 2-1 loss to the Padres, Cubs’ right-hander Fergie Jenkins whiffs shortstop Gary Templeton to record his 3,000th career strikeout. The Canadian-born hurler becomes the seventh pitcher in major league history to reach the milestone.

2001Kerry Wood gives up only one hit, a seventh-inning leadoff single to Mark Loretta, in the Cubs’ 1-0 victory over Milwaukee. The 24-year old right-hander strikes out 14 batters in the Wrigley Field gem.

2008 – Former major league pitcher Geremi Gonzalez is killed by lightning standing on a dock in western Venezuela. The 33-year-old pitcher, who was signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1991, also hurled for the Devil Rays, Red Sox, Mets and Brewers before being released by Milwaukee in 2006.

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Game 42 Notes – It Had Been A Long Day

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Cubs (9) @ Diamondbacks (6)

W: Jason Motte (2-1)
L: Enrique Burgos (0-2)
S: Pedro Strop (1)

It was noticeable from the beginning – Arrieta was on his B game tonight, while the D’Backs were on their A game. Even though, Jake Arrieta‘s B-game is better than most people’s B-games, it was obvious that he didn’t have his stuff.

The defense didn’t have their stuff, either. A couple of errors messed things up a bit. They were dumb, annoying errors, too, not even the ones where you can argue “but he has such great range” or whatever other excuses folks come up with. They were just boneheaded errors. The Cubs were looking like fools on defense.

Interestingly enough, Edwin Jackson pitched a clean inning. Who would have thought the between he and Schlitter, they’d both still be on the big league roster? And that Jackson is pitching… dare I say… well?  (An aside – Brian Schlitter‘s middle name is Patrick. What a nerd.)

By the 8th inning, the score was 6-4, Katie (that’s me), was nearly asleep, and then Jorge Soler did a thing where he hit the ball, the guys on base advanced, two runs scored, and he wound up on second base. Then, wouldn’t you know, the game was tied up!

There was a long time of the ballgame being tied, and then this awesome thing happened:

And then the bottom of the ninth was quick and painless. Rizzo had 6 RBIs, so Arrieta’s rough outing didn’t matter.

October is coming. Let’s go.

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1957 – In his first big league at-bat, Frank Ernaga hits a third inning home run to deep left field off future Hall of Fame southpaw Warren Spahn in Chicago’s 5-1 victory over Milwaukee. The rookie right fielder follows his Wrigley Field round tripper with a three bagger in the following frame to become the first Cubs player to have hit a home run and a triple in his major league debut.

1969 – For the first time since the start of the season, a span of forty-one games, Don Kessinger does not reach base. The Cubs Gold-Glove shortstop grounds out four times and hits into a fly-ball double play in his last at-bat during Chicago’s 7-5 loss to the Padres at San Diego Stadium.

2001 – Cincinnati is finally shut out when Cubs’ starter Jon Lieber one-hits the Reds on 79 pitches, 3-0. The span of 208 of games without being blanked establishes a new National League record, with the 1931-33 Yankees (308) and the 1978-79 Milwaukee Brewers (212) being the only teams with longer streaks.

2011Jo-Jo Reyes makes his 28th straight start without recording a victory, tying the major league record shared by Cliff Curtis (1910-11, Braves, Cubs, Phillies) and Matt Keough (1978-79, A’s). The Blue Jays southpaw, who leaves the game trailing 5-0 to New York after just three innings of work, hasn’t won a start since June 13, 2008.

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Game 41 Notes – Free Baseball Friday

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

 Cubs (4) @ Diamondbacks (5)

W: Randall Delgado (2-2)
L: Zac Rosscup (1-1)

The second series of this west coast trip started last night in Arizona. The pitching matchups definitely favor us in this series, but the Diamondbacks have been playing well lately. This game was a tight one, staying tied at 2 all the way through the second half of the game and into extra innings. It went deep into extras last night, and if you managed to stay awake for the whole thing (I can’t say that I saw everything that happened in the 11th or 13th innings), it was a frustrating outcome.

Good

Junior Lake‘s at bat in the second inning was very nice to see. Even though it ended in a lineout to RF, he absolutely battled. I know it’s been said here before, but it bears repeating: It’s time to let Coghlan serve as the 4th OF for a while so we can see what Lake can do. Coghlan has as pesky habit of having a good night just often enough to make him seem better than he is.

Another long start from one of our pitchers. Even though the game went deep into extra innings, it was good to see Lester go 7 full. Under ordinary circumstances, this would have meant a nice break for our bullpen, and especially so after the complete game shutout from Kyle Hendricks on Thursday. Our bullpen ended up getting used extensively last night, but I’ll focus on the positive that Lester was able to produce a quality start.

We hit the ball really hard and often last night, but it seemed like too often that it was right at the Diamondbacks defense. Perhaps BABIP wasn’t our friend last night. On a different night, maybe we score 7 or 8 runs.

Bad

I realize that after trading Welington Castillo this is probably a moot point, but can we stop with David Ross? He comes up in the 4th inning with runners on first and third and no outs and just flails his way through an at bat. Which of course leads to a strikeout by Jon Lester to give us 2 outs and our runners still stranded. Thankfully, Addison Russell came up after that and drove in a run. I have to wonder if Lester should be batting 9th when he pitches, because having him and Ross back to back in the order is two very easy outs in a row more often than not.

As mentioned earlier, our hits kept finding the gloves of Arizona. Not much you can do about that, but at times I wondered if the fence in straight center is 600 feet from home plate.

In all, even though it was a loss, there’s not too much you can say for last night’s game that’s negative. Our starter pitched well, we hit the ball hard, but it just didn’t work out.

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1991 – With his fourth inning swipe of second base at Shea Stadium, Andre Dawson becomes the third major leaguer to become a member of the 300/300 club, with his 300th stolen base. The 36 year-old Cubs outfielder, who has also hit 354 home runs, joins Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays in reaching the milestone.

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Game 40 Discussion

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Cubs (3) @ Padres (0)

W: Kyle Hendricks (1-1)
L: O. Despaigne (2-3)


I hate that I wasn’t able to see this game, so I will instead leave this open for discussion on the following questions.

1. Do you feel that the Cubs need to make a move for a starter this year to be contenders for a playoff spot? World Series?

2. Assuming we move someone decent from the young prospects, who do you feel most comfortable moving? Why?

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1968 – At Wrigley Field, Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell hits three home runs and just misses a fourth in a 13-6 rout over the Cubs. ‘Pops’ also hit a single and a double, which bounced off the railing of the left field fence back onto the playing field.

1977 – In a 14-10 Boston victory at Fenway Park, the Red Sox (6) and Brewers (5) combined for 11 home runs to tie a major league record. The round-tripper riot matches the mark set by the Yankees and Tigers in 1950 and equaled by the Cubs and Mets in 1967.

1990 – During the Cubs’ 2-1 victory against the Reds in a 16-inning contest at Wrigley Field, Andre Dawson is walked five times intentionally to set a major league record. The previous mark of four free passes in a game was established by Yankees outfielder Roger Maris in 1962 and then equaled by Padres shortstop Gerry Templeton in 1985.

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May 17th 1979 – A Game to Remember

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

On Thursday May 17th 1979, the Chicago Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field.  The announced attendance for the game was 14, 952, and the contest lasted 4 hours and 3 minutes.  Due to the length of the game, I was able to watch the conclusion after getting home from school.  This day was a defining moment in my personal timeline as a Cubs’ fan.  This an event that comes in and out of my consciousness…”a flashbulb” memory as psychologists would call it. (I hope to finish my second book on the Cubs this summer…which focuses on this particular game…hence you can call it a childhood obsession)

Why this game?   For starters…here is the line score:

Phillies        7  0  8   2  4  0   1  0  0   1   23 24  2

Cubs            6  0  0   3  7  3   0  3  0   0   22 26  2

After school it was my daily routine to jump off the bus, run into my house, and watch the end of the Cubs’ game.  Imagine my surprise arriving on this day…with the Cubs trailing 21-16, and in the middle of a 6th inning rally.  I was instantaneously mesmerized…this was like nothing I had ever witnessed in baseball.  The 6th inning ended, and the Cubs had trimmed the lead to 21-19 after another mammoth home run by Dave Kingman. (Check out the highlights on YouTube!) I called a couple of my little buddies to make sure they were watching…and settled in to watch this rare offensive extravaganza.

Greg Gross (an ex-Cub) tripled to center to start the 7th, and was quickly driven home on a double by Phillies catcher Bob Boone…making the score 22-19.  The Phillies’s 7th inning rally was halted as Ray Burris entered the game in a double switch with Bobby Murcer (my childhood hero) and pitched out of the jam.

In the bottom of the frame, Bobby Murcer’s first plate appearance resulted in a one out single that put men on first and second.  I couldn’t believe what I was watching…could the Cubs rally again? I was having a hard time wrapping my little head around the fact that the score was 22-19…and the Cubs were primed to close the gap even more.  Larry “Hawkeye” Bittner pinch-hit for Steve Dillard and hit into an inning ending double play…a typical outcome on an atypical day.

Pete Rose (3-7, BB, 4RBIs) promptly led off the 8th inning with a single; and I was certain another Phillies’s onslaught was in the offing.  Mike Schmidt followed Rose, and Burris was able to coax a fly-out from the slugger. (Schmidt was retired only twice in his eight plate appearances that day).  Burris, who entered the game with an ERA of 6.53, was able to induce consecutive ground-outs…and the Phillies put a rare zero on the Wrigley scoreboard for the 8th inning.

Ivan DeJesus singled to start the Cubs 8th…and was racing to third almost immediately as Scot Thompson followed suit with a single of his own.  Bill Buckner (ahhh…another childhood hero) smacked a single to center which scored DeJesus and the 20th Cubs run of the day crossed the plate…and Dave Kingman was due up! Kingman…who had already belted three homers on the day…could give the Cubs the lead with just one more of his majestic shots onto Waveland.  Regrettably, Kingman flew out to center and Steve Onitveros followed with a fielder’s choice. The Cubs now had men on 1st and 3rd with two outs…and the promise of the inning was dying.

My hopes for a Cubs’ miracle quickly returned as ex-Phillie Jerry Martin (“biting the hand that once fed him”…as Harry might say) knocked in Scot Thompson…and the score was 22-21.  Cubs’ catcher Barry Foote (3-6 on the day…despite entering the game with a pitiful .204 batting average) astonishingly followed with a single that scored Steve Onitveros…and the score stood tied at 22.  One little boy was jumping up and done going crazy in his family’s living room…like the 14,000+ were about 45 miles away at Clark and Addison.

Let’s pause and return from the land of 1979 to 2015, where metrics and statistics have been advanced and enhanced…to demonstrate just how noteworthy this Cubs’ comeback was.  Here are the Phillies’s projected win possibilities during various points of the game:

SITUTAION/INNING                                                         CHANCE OF PHILLIE’S WIN

-leading 7-0 after top of 1st                                                                     93%

-leading 15-6 after the 3rd                                                                       99%

-leading 17-6, top of 4th                                                                        100%

-leading 17-9, after the 4th                                                                      99%

-leading 21-9, top of 5th                                                                        100%

-leading 21-16, after the 5th                                                                    95%

-leading 22-19, after the 7th                                                                    93%

-tied 22-22, after the 8th                                                                          50%

Back to May 17th, 1979…Bruce Sutter came in to pitch the 9th for the Cubs. Sutter… the future Hall of Famer, the CY Young winner, and arguably the greatest Cubs’ reliever of all time. Sutter did not disappoint, pitching around a one out walk and the Cubs now had a chance to actually win this game.  After tallying 22 runs…and the most improbable of comebacks…if the Cubs scored just one more run… I would witness a marvelous ending.  Alas, Rawly Eastwick the Phillies closer, quickly took any drama out of the bottom of the 9th…and the Cubs were retired in order.

Sutter quickly retired All-Stars Larry Bowa and Rose to start the 10th inning…a pair that had been on base a combined nine times. (note…I realize some of you may wonder why a relief pitcher would pitch more than one inning…believe it or not this was a common occurrence before the bastardization of bullpens by one who shall remain nameless…okay, okay…he wears dark glasses and has a last name one vowel different than the Karate Kid)  With Bowa and Rose retired, Sutter was one out away from sending the Cubs to the bottom of the 10th with a chance to untie the game…unfortunately Mike Schmidt was the out Sutter had to get.

Schmidt…who had already homered on the day…and whom the Cubs had walked four times.  Schmidt…who had hit four homers in an 18-16 Phillies’s victory over the Cubs in 1976 at Wrigley.  Schmidt…who if he had played his career at Wrigley would most likely be the all-time home run leader.

The Cubs and Sutter pitched to Schmidt…and the results were predictable.

Now trailing 23-22 the Cubs still had the bottom of the 10th, but Eastwick bested Sutter and retired the Cubs 1-2-3…including a strikeout of Kingman.  The Cubs fell just short of a dream finish…as they frequently do.  I was disappointed but proud of the game that my favorite team had just played.

Is it the sheer rarity of a game like this that has stuck with me all of these years…and compelled me to write about it?  More likely…it’s the symmetry involved with the history of the Cubs and this particular game.  Phillies 23, Cubs 22 is a microcosm for an organization that can come so close…even be amazing at times…and then fall just a little short.

A more positive take (and one I don’t think we Cubs’ fans get enough credit for) is that 23-22 embodies the trait of never giving up.  This is my preferred take and one I feel Cubs’ fans should embrace.  The Cubs could be losing inning by inning, game to game, year to year, decade to decade, (century to century?); and Cubs’ fans will keep coming back.

…that’s what the 23-22 game means to me.

Epilogue- For those that play fantasy baseball…just imagine the stats from this game:

Larry Bowa 5-8 with 4 runs scored, Pete Rose 3-7 with 4 runs scored and 4 RBIs, Mike Schmidt 2-4, 2 HRs and 4 RBIs, Gary Maddox 4-4 with a HR 4 RBIs, Bob Boone 3-5 with a HR and 5 RBIs, Ivan DeJesus 3-6 with 4 runs scored, Bill Buckner 4-7 with a HR and 7 RBIs, Dave Kingman 3-6 with 3 HRs and 6 RBIs

UGH! Dennis Lamp 0.1 IP, 2 HRs 6hits and 6ERs, Randy Lerch 0.2 IP 5 hits and 5 ERs, Donnie Moore 2 IP 7ERs, Ron Reed 9 hits and runs in 3.1 IP

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Game 39 Notes – If You Watch, You’re Out

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Cubs (3) @ Padres (2)

W: Justin Grimm (1-0)
L: Tyson Ross (2-4)
S: Hector Rondon (9)

GOOD

Tsuyoshi Wada – Right now, I’m going to file this in the good column, but long term, I’m not so sure. If you missed the game, Wada came into the game trying to make his case for the rotation after Travis Wood has struggled this year. While he was almost unhittable in the innings he pitched, he was removed from the game before getting through the 5th inning and only throwing 69 pitches. It was a curious move, but they saw something that led them to believe it was the right move. Had the pen stunk, we’d question it. Because the pen did the job, we can praise it. If you are a fan of the strikeout looking, which is my personal favorite type of strikeout, this was the game for you. Wada struck out the side in the 1st and 3rd innings and five of them were looking. It seemed like everyone was just going down watching, on both sides.

Now the question with Wada becomes whether or not he can be consistent enough in the 2nd and 3rd time through an order with his less than overpowering stuff to not tax the pen too much and keep the offense in the game during his starts. Under normal circumstances with a winning team, you can get by, but when we also have to worry about the same thing with Kyle Hendricks, that’s tough on a pen. I would like to see someone like Jason Hammel spaced in between the Wada / Hendricks combo to at least try to rest the pen a little. Either that or put Jon Lester between them. While Wada is a decent strikeout pitcher (7.4 K/9 in 2014), he isn’t the guy we saw last night (17.4 K/9).

Kris Bryant not only continues to hit, extending his hitting streak, but he’s been really good on the bases as well. It’s fun to watch him each night. It’s so refreshing to watch a guy come up and be what we hoped and heard he would be. After being a Cub fan and being burned by guys that were supposed to be the next great thing, Bryant is finally showing us what that actually looks like, and that’s fun to see.

BAD

Nit picking here, but just a couple things

  • Anthony Rizzo struck out twice
  • I still hate Chris Coghlan (no, I didn’t skip yesterday’s game notes because he hit two home runs)

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1907 – After the Giants’ 3-0 loss to the Cubs that drops New York out of first place, the players need to form a protective ring around umpires Hank O’Day and Bob Emslie. Pinkerton guards fire shots in the air, trying to disperse unruly fans who have spilled onto the field at the Polo Grounds.

1927 – For the second consecutive day, an umpire at Ebbets Field is the target of fan abuse. Arbitrator Frank Wilson needs a police escort after the Robins (Dodgers) drop a twin bill to Cubs.

1986Rafael Ramirez strokes four doubles in seven trips to the plate. The infielder’s quartet of two-baggers helps the Braves to edge the Cubs in 13 innings at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 9-8.

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Farewell, Welington

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

 

The first Cubs trade of the 2015 season was announced yesterday, and it is likely to be the first of many. Thus far, the Cubs look to be competitive enough to be on the buyers’ market come the July trade deadline, so we could reasonably expect to see a veteran added to our roster when that time comes. For now, we bid farewell to Welington Castillo and the three catcher platoon. I wrote about the problems of having three catchers last week, and it certainly seemed inevitable that this would end sooner rather than later. Given the problems of the 6th/7th inning for the bullpen, having a roster spot used by a catcher who rarely sees at bats just wasn’t useful. So let’s take a look at what’s changed for the Cubs as a result of yesterday’s trade.

Summary:

It’s about as straightforward of a trade as you can ask for, as the Cubs and Mariners just swapped one player for another. Yoervis Medina comes to us from Seattle, and the hope for the Mariners is that Castillo can add some needed offensive punch at the catcher position (that’s been a problem area for them, as their starter, Mike Zunino is hitting a paltry .173 with a .233 OBP – and their backup, Jesus Sucre, is even worse at .067 without a single walk in 16 plate appearances). Even though Castillo hasn’t exactly torn the cover off of the ball – .163/.234/.349 – his history suggests that he can hit well enough to give the Mariners what they need at this point. If you look at Castillo’s 2013 and 2014 seasons, the closest to full seasons that he’s had, he’s about a .250 hitter with the potential for around 10-12 homeruns in a full season. Not bad at all.

Medina, who comes to the Cubs and is expected to report straight to Iowa, is a little harder to figure. He’s a big (6’3″, 245) right hander whose career numbers indicate that he can get the strikeout, but also gives up about a hit per inning. His career WHIP is 1.336, so he may not be the kind of guy to go to for an easy inning. His strikeout rate looks more like a guy who can come in to get one or two outs based on the matchup, which is how he was used in Seattle. In 141 career appearances there, he has 137 innings. So, while he might give up a lot of hits and probably too many walks, I like the fact that he has 140 Ks in those 137 innings. Medina throws primarily a sinker and a 4 seam fastball, and he also throws a knuckle curve, though not as often. He looks like a flyball pitcher, which could be dangerous on days at Wrigley when the wind is blowing out.

Going forward:

The immediate impact will be the freedom with the roster spot that saying goodbye to Castillo brings. Because Medina is headed to the minors for now, the Cubs have a few options although given the heavy usage the bullpen has seen already, I don’t expect Medina to stay in Iowa for very long. For now, Mike Baxter comes up from Iowa to join the Cubs. He was a non-roster invitee this spring, and he has hit fairly well in Iowa so far. Baxter can play 1B and OF.

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A Look at the Cubs Roster Moves

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Even for an off day, yesterday brought plenty of Cubs-related action. On one hand, President Obama launches his Twitter account and follows all Chicago teams except the Cubs, stirring up a faux controversy that can only get any footing on an off day, but more importantly, the Cubs announced several changes going into their road trip to the west to square off with the Padres and Diamondbacks starting tonight. Here’s a look at how the roster will be different:

Going Down

The biggest news is probably that Phil Coke has been designated for assignment, which could result in either his departure from the team or a stint in Iowa if he accepts the assignment. Coke was signed to a minor league contract on March 7, so he might be willing to try and work on things in the minors for a while. His 6.30 ERA and the fact that he couldn’t get left or right handed hitters out, coupled with the need to make room for Tsuyoshi Wada (more on that later) made this move an inevitability.

Additionally, Brian Schlitter has been optioned and will head back to Iowa. He’s already made this trip back and forth this season before. Schlitter has performed even worse than Coke somehow, and has even struggled in AAA this season.

Going Up

Wada is rejoining the big club from Iowa to take Travis Wood‘s place in the rotation. Wood just hasn’t put together the kinds of starts the Cubs need and will be joining Edwin Jackson in the bullpen. Wada will probably take the #4 spot in the rotation ahead of Kyle Hendricks. Wada returns after a rehab stint in Iowa and is expected to make his first start tomorrow night.

Junior Lake is also returning to the Cubs after being called up in late April and appearing in just four games. Matt Szczur was optioned back to Iowa a few days ago so Schlitter could be added to the bullpen, so Lake is being called up to fill the role 4th outfielder role. It seems as though the Cubs are still determining whether he or Szczur is the best fit for that job.

Speculation

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Javier Baez is doing good things in Iowa. Not only is his K rate down to 25% and he’s hitting .299 and has an OBP of .382. Most importantly, he’s having good at bats and working the count in a way that leads me to believe that he might be able to make an impact on the major league roster at some point soon. The trouble will be where to put him defensively. His best fit is probably SS, but he can handle 2B just fine as well. Another option might be putting him at 3B and shifting Bryant to LF, but Baez has had very, very scant experience at 3B (just 4 games during the Arizona Fall League in 2012). Given the current middle infield situation, I think it’s best to let him continue working on  his approach at the plate and for the Cubs to wait until further in the season to call him up. Perhaps in the meantime, though, giving him some looks in the hot corner might not be such a bad idea.

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Looking Back at Week 6 in MLB

Monday, May 18th, 2015

A star player could soon find himself in a new uniform, Miami is suddenly in the market for a new coach and a passionate fan base might finally be getting their team back. A multitude of new prospects will try to make impacts, and the Cubs flexed their muscle. Week 6 had some big implications for the future, so let’s recap:

Tulowitzki and Rockies Headed for a Split? 

The annual Troy Tulowitzki trade rumors have started once again, and they seem to have more traction than ever. Despite recent comments from Rockies General Manager stating that Tulo demanding a trade is false, it seems that a split between the star shortstop and the team is coming. Any team would like to have a player with his ability, but the most logical place that he could end up would be in Flushing, with the Mets. New York has struggled in the last week, and have watched a 6 game division lead evaporate. It would make a ton of sense for them to aim high for an offensive boost, and they have the young pitching to appeal to the Rockies in a trade. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Jacob de Grom could each be the centerpiece of a trade, if one were to happen. This is just speculation, but it could gain traction if the Rockies continue to bring up the bottom of the National League West, and the Mets continue to lose ground in the N.L. East.

Marlins Let Go of Redmond 

The Marlins (16-22) fired manager Mike Redmond and bench coach Rob Leary on Sunday a 6-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The move is curious, as Redmond improved the team’s win total by 15 games in 2014. Falling six games out of first was all it took for the Marlins’ front office to make significant changes. No one should be surprised if the Marlins’ coaching search is something of a circus because, well, everything they do is sort of a circus. Possibly the most interesting name to emerge in rumors has been Las Vegas 51’s (Mets Triple A affiliate) head coach and former big leaguer Wally Backman. Backman is a YouTube star, as a film series was made about his work with the South Georgia Peanuts of the South Coast League. Calling him hot tempered would be a colossal understatement, and he is notorious for clubhouse rampages and throwing everything he can find in the dugout on to the field, among other things. If you are not familiar with Backman, do yourself a favor and check out his (not kid-friendly) videos on YouTube. Reports between Sunday night and Monday morning had former player Jeff Conine and current GM Dan Jennings each as the new manager of the Marlins, with Jennings being tabbed in the most recent updates as the choice for manager.

Returning Baseball to Montreal

It was announced this week that Montreal’s Mayor, Denis Cordere, will be meeting with MLB Commissioner to discuss bringing Major League Baseball back to Montreal. It has been more than a decade since the Expos became the Washington Nationals, but indications are that Manfred does not oppose a return. According to CBC Canada, Manfred is intrigued by the level of interest in baseball in Montreal, though an obvious obstacle involves building a functioning stadium that could play home to 81 games per year. Olympic Stadium, the former home of the Expos, has hosted Blue Jays exhibition games for the last two years, and attendance has been exceptional. Manfred’s comments sound as if Olympic Stadium will not be a sufficient venue, but if the interest is there, a stadium will follow. Finding a team to move to Montreal would figure to be a challenge, since the most logical team to move is the Rays, and they can’t move until 2027. The logistics of moving a franchise to a new city might take about that length of time, though, so the Rays could still be a candidate.

Rookie Watch

The last week saw a number of top-prospect call ups, the most notable being the Mets bringing up pitcher Noah “Thor” Syndergaard. The Phillies called up one of their top prospects, third baseman Maikel Franco, while the Astros called up right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers. Syndergaard figures to be the most likely to make an impact and contend for Rookie of the Year honors, and he was very impressive on Tuesday night against the Cubs, albeit in a losing effort. Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant has figured out opposing pitching at a lightning quick rate, and is in the midst of a seven game hit streak. He has three home runs over the course of that hit streak, and is becoming increasingly aggressive at the plate, a change from the incredible patience he showed in his first couple weeks. Dodgers’ center fielder had been the front-runner among rookies, but he struggled in the last week, amassing four hits in 31 at bats. Archie Bradley returned to the rotation for the Diamondbacks, after taking a line drive to the face on April 28, but allowed four runs over two and two thirds innings.

Cubs on Postseason Track  

The Cubs have won six of their last seven, and suddenly all is right in the world. Ranking in the top half of the league in nearly every offensive category has been a nice change, which can largely be attributed to the Cubs corner infielders. After some panicking early on, Jon Lester has been dominant over his last five starts. He has a 2.18 ERA and 33 strikeouts over his last 33 innings. The bullpen is still a glaring situation, and Brian Schlitter is getting closer and closer to being chased out of town. Javier Baez has found success at Iowa, and likely won’t be long for the minors at this point, which should provide even more pop to the lineup. As far as standings are concerned, the Cubs are four games behind Saint Louis in the division race. On a more positive note, if the season were to end right now, the Cubs would be in the Wild Card game. How ‘bout them apples?


MVP of the Week: Cleveland Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis lead the league in hits over the course of the last seven days, and got on base at a .677 clip. Most importantly, Kipnis launched an eventual game winning home run in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against Texas. The runner up for this week’s award is Miguel Cabrera, who powered the Tigers to two wins against Saint Louis, which is well deserving of high praise. Plus, Cabrera joined the 400 home run club this weekend.

Cy Young of the Week: Shelby Miller gets the nod this week, after he allowed one run over 16 innings, and came within one out of a no-hitter against the Marlins. Corey Kluber should get some credit, as well, after he struck out 18 batters over eight innings against Saint Louis. Kluber finished off that unbelievable performance with a Game Score of 98. That is just seven behind the highest score ever, but it was done in one fewer inning (Kerry Wood has the all time high, 105, done over nine innings).

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