Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Organizational Recap: To Curb Aggressiveness Or Not?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Cardinals 3 @ Cubs 2 (Box Score)

  • FOWLER DOWN / EDWARDS UP: Before the game, the Cubs placed Dexter Fowler on the 15 day DL retroactive to June 19th and recalled Carl Edwards Jr. He’s a tilted cap kind of guy, a la Pedro Strop, so that should make all the older Cub fans excited. The move brings the bullpen back up to eight, because we all know you gotta have a bloated bullpen (sigh). Word is that Fowler’s injury is not expected to be one that needs the full 15 days to heal, so he should be able to get some rehab games in before the DL stint is up to remain sharp and be ready to go when his date hits to be activated. As for Edwards, I would hope he can get a shot to at least show what he can do. He’s been on the top prospect list for the last couple years and he’s basically ready at this point.
  • THE PLAY WE ALL WANT TO TALK ABOUT – If you watched the game, particularly the 9th inning, you know exactly what play I am referring to. With the Cubs down 3-2 in the 9th and runners on 1st and 2nd, this happened. I saw a lot of people blaming Albert Almora asking why he was so aggressive with the tying run in scoring position already. My feelings on it are simple. He thought the ball got away. If it gets away, he’s safe but for a freak bounce off the left leg of the home plate umpire that causes the ball to bounce right to Yadier Molina. He went on instinct and it got trumped by chance. My issue on the play is with Chris Coghlan not taking 2nd. There is no way Molina is going to come up throwing to 2nd base in that quick decision moment. Coghlan, even if he took off a split second after Almora, could have made 2nd and been in position to score had Ben Zorbrist still hit the single on the next play. In the end, our lead is still so great in the division that it probably doesn’t matter, but you don’t want to leave wins on the table.
  • ARE YOU FALLING IN LOVE? – I keep thinking of Lizzie when I watch Willson Contreras. She seems to have a thing for top prospect Cubs catchers. I’m not sure how she feels emotionally toward Contreras or if she even has anything left to give after giving her heart almost entirely to Geovany Soto, but I’m sure Contreras is generating fans at a nice clip so far. After hitting a home run in a pinch hit 1st MLB at bat on Sunday night, Contreras got the start and drove in a run. So far so good for another top guy coming up and making a difference.


  • AAA – Rob Zastryzny – 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • AA – No Game
  • A-Adv – No Game
  • A – No Game
  • SS – Manuel Rondon – 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K


  • AAA – John Andreoli (CF) – 2 for 3, BB, 2 2B, 2 R
  • SS – Tyler Payne (C) – 2 for 4, 2B, 3B


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Organizational Recap: Uncharted Waters

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Pirates 5 @ Cubs 10 (Box Score)

Last night the Cubs completed the sweep, and the Cavaliers finally brought a championship back to Cleveland fans. After the game, I saw a lot of tweets that talked about how the Cubs have to be next. I hope that is the case because watching Cleveland fans celebrate was good, but not even a comparison to what it will be like watching fans celebrate a Cubs World Series. Let’s hope this is the year.

    • UNCHARTED WATERS – Before the game, ESPN gave a stat in their broadcast that this was the largest lead a Cubs team had ever had in a division or a league since 1929. Pardon if I am off on the year, but that’s insane. This team is good. This team is really good. It’s sort of scary how much better we are compared to the Cardinals and the Pirates, two teams considered to be the only threats in the division. I have no doubt that this Cubs team will win the division. Now it’s just a matter of how ugly it’s gonna get. With the Pirates and Cardinals both playing less than desirable baseball right now, it could foreseeably get as high as 20 games, couldn’t it?
    • WELCOME TO THE MAJORSWillson Contreras has been up now for a few games, but we had not seen him hit until last night. Needless to say, the young guy made the most of his chance and went deep to CF for a pinch hit HR. Dan Schulman nearly lost his mess making the call for a moment. Give it a look and a listen.
  • IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO GO NOW – We saw another lackluster performance from Clayton Richard again, and it’s time for him to go at this point. The experiment did not work and it continues to fall flat this year. Two more runs given up and his ERA is now at 7.50. I think you have to make the move to designate him for assignment, place him on waivers, and then either outright him to Iowa or cut ties altogether depending on what he wants to do with baseball moving forward. He’s not an asset to this team right now and I don’t feel one ounce of confidence when he is brought in, regardless of the size of the lead. There are other options in Iowa, one which intrigues me most being Spencer Patton.



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Organizational Recap: Baez Has Mad Skills

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Pirates 3 @ Cubs 4 (Box Score)

I went to the library yesterday and picked up a novel by Stephen King called “11/22/63“. It’s about this guy who has the ability to travel back in time through a portal in a pantry of a closed down burger joint and is transported every time to 1958. If you’re like me and love to read, you know how much you can get swept into a new book. This one is 850 pages and I tackled 100 of them last night while I watched another satisfying win. This morning I woke up and was greeted with a small father’s day gift of a bag of Starburst candy and a copper pan I have had my eye on. Not a bad 12 hours. MLB doesn’t have the videos embeddable at this time, so it’s on to the three thoughts from the game.

  • BAEZ IS MY THIRD BASEMAN – After what I’ve seen of him this year at third base, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Javier Baez can continue to develop and close the holes he has in the swing, he is my third baseman of the future. I like what Bryan brings to the table over there, but what Baez can do is outstanding. He had a wonderful day yesterday, which I would show you if MLB was not a whore with their video highlights, and he just keeps making plays anywhere he’s placed. Joe Maddon calls him the Swiss Army knife because of his versatility, but I want him at third.
  • WHAT’S THE MALE VERSION OF A COUGAR? – I guess the answer to that would be: Normal. Whatever it is, Old man, David Ross is hitting on all sorts of younger Cubs fans and trying to get their support with his play. His home run last night put the Cubs ahead for good. There is a campaign on Twitter to get Ross elected to the All Star game. I don’t think it should happen, but I hope he truly elects to go out this year on the year he is having instead of trying to return next year as a player. If you want to come back as a bench coach or some other role, great, but go out while you’re ahead.
  • THE NON-TRADITIONAL SAVE – I hate the save stat. I hate that it was a Chicago writer who invented it, and I hate how popular it is. It has caused managers to make decisions around it. Last night Maddon brought in Hector Rondon in the 8th and let him stay in the game to hit in the bottom half so he could finish the game. It was a 4 out save, which is rare these days and I’m glad Joe did it. Bring your best relievers in the game in the biggest situations regardless of stat opportunities. Good for Joe.




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Organizational Recap: Another Successful Jake Day

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Pirates 0 @ Cubs 6 (Box Score)

I want to thank everyone who had a part in making yesterday another successful Jake Day. It’s always nice to stop and take a day off from being worried about getting a win and just watch Jake Arrieta pitch. It’s like being a kid again. I’m not a huge fan of day baseball anymore because I can’t watch a game while I’m at work and it’s hard for me to keep from checking the score until I get home. I like to watch a game where I don’t know anything about the outcome, but I was able to hold out yesterday and got to watch a nice, simple win yesterday.

  • It’s great to see Albert Almora come up and have immediate success in at the plate. We knew he could hold his own and some in the outfield and we’ve seen evidence of that so far, but the question mark around him was the bat. Could it play enough at the Major League level to make him an asset at that level when you combine with the fielding. So far, he’s done more than enough and continued it with a 3-for-4 day that included a walk. He’s getting on base and producing. He’s not going to be a leadoff guy like Dexter Fowler, who he will eventually replace in CF, but he can be a productive guy out of that 7th or 8th spot in the lineup as opposed to an easy out that most teams have in that position. If he can do that and play great CF, I’m happy as CAPS batch cooking multiple dinners shirtless.
  • I’m going to be a curmudgeon for a second and complain about Jake’s start. This is the third time in the last five starts in which Jake has failed to pitch into the 7th inning. He’s not been bad in those starts, but he hasn’t worked deep and it’s not because he’s saving bullets and leaving a start early. He’s just set the bar so high and in two of the starts (yesterday included) he’s missed too many bats, if that is even possible, and run the pitch count up. It’s not a big deal, but when you have to find a flaw, that’s the best I’ve got.
  • An 0-for-5 day by Miguel Montero and just a small amount of playing time for Willson Contreras. I’m sort of over Miggy Mont. Give Contreras some consistent starts over the next few weeks and let him show what he can do and then go from there. If he’s up here, play him.


  • AAA – Aaron Brooks (L, 0-1, 15.00 ERA) – 3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • AA – Duane Underwood (ND, 0-4, 5.12 ERA) – 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
  • AA – Starlin Peralta (ND, 2-1, 3.82 ERA) – 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
  • A+ – Jonathan Martinez (ND, 3-4, 4.95 ERA) – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
  • A+ – Zach Hedges (L, 6-5, 2.47 ERA) – 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
  • A – Casey Bloomquist (ND, 4-3, 2.56 ERA) – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
  • A- – Dylan Cease (ND, 0-0, 2.25 ERA) – 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K



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Why Cubs Fans Need to Stop, Pause, and Enjoy

Friday, June 17th, 2016

I think it’s rather important when the Cubs are having a season like this…stop right there! …the modern day Cubs have never had a season like this.  I started following every Cubs game in 1977.  There are only two regular seasons that come remotely close; 1984 and last year.  The Cubs were very good in 2007 and 2008, yet in my opinion, any team that relied on Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot was never really that good.

I wrote on this blog earlier in the season about enjoying the ride, and not necessarily making this a World Champs or bust season.  With this amazing start…of course we will be disappointed if they don’t win it all…but I still think it’s important to stop…pause…and enjoy the season.

Let’s consider these facts:

  • The Cubs have won 23 games by 5 runs or more…more than half of their wins are “blowouts”.
  • The Cubs currently have a 9.5 game lead over the Cardinals and 11.5 over the Pirates.  Think about that for a second.
  • Going into Wednesday’s game…the Cubs have won exactly 22 games at home, and 22 games on the road.
  • The Pythagorean Win-Loss is a projection of what a team’s record should be based on the number of runs scored and allowed…here are the National League Division leaders:

Washington Nationals     40-25 actual               41-24 Pythagorean

San Francisco Giants       40-26 actual             37-29 Pythagorean

Chicago Cubs                     44-19 actual             48-15 Pythagorean

Yes…that’s right…statistically the Cubs should have a better record.

  • The Cubs currently lead the league in walks…if you read my book you know that EVERY time in their history that the Cubs lead the league in walks…they have won 95 plus games.
  • As I was watching Pedro Strop come into Tuesday Night’s game and make Nationals hitters look silly…I thought to myself…Wow! We got this guy for Scott Feldman? What a steal! …oh, and we acquired Jake Arrieta in that deal as well.
  • The Cub’s team ERA is 2.64…a full half a run ahead of the Mets 3.16 which is second in the League. The Cub’s pitching is definitely on a “regression” watch, yet even after a bit of normalization the Cubs staff will remain among the leagues’ best statistically.
  • Among National League position player leaders in WAR…the Cubs have 3 of the top 10…Zobrist, Fowler and Bryant.
  • Ahh…but what about defense? The Cubs have made some errors lately. Well, using Defensive Efficiency which is a measure of balls in play converted into outs…the Cubs lead the league at .733, followed by the Dodgers at .721 and the Nationals at .709 respectively.  Anyone still think Jason Heyward isn’t worth all of that money? In fact, the Cubs .733 is tops in both the NL and AL.
  • Okay, okay, its fan voting…but the Cubs could have 5 position players and the starting pitcher in the All-Star game.
  • This may seem petty…but the Cubs currently have a 13 game lead over the Chicago White Sox.  Put that one on the board.
  • While this is another area that may be difficult to statistically quantify…the Cubs are probably positioned as well as any team to make trades.  Even after the “graduations” of Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Almora Jr., Baez, and Soler…they have players such as Dan Vogelbach…a lefty hitting first baseman who is still only 23 and has a slash line of .313/.434/.545 at AAA Iowa.  The Cubs have numerous assets from which to deal.  In my opinion they will be in the market for a reliever as well as another left-handed bat.
  • While Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist have regressed a bit…Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are beginning to trend upward.  Barring injuries…the Cubs offense should improve over the last 100 games.

Wow… that’s some really good sh#t!  However, take it from this grizzled old-timer…don’t even think about the play-offs yet…just soak this in every day.  Cubs’ fans should make every game appointment TV…gaze over the stats with lovingly…and realize you are seeing something that has never happened before.  I hate to use these comparisons…but I have to:

I watched every game of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

I think I missed only 2 regular season games during the Bulls 1995-96, 72-10 title season.

…2016 has that kind of feel for our Chicago Cubs.

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Stop saying the Cubs need to add a starter

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

The Cubs are the best time in baseball, and coming into the season, everyone knew the hitters were going to be what carried this team. While that notion isn’t completely wrong, the Cubs starting pitching is what has fueled the teams’ success to this point in the season. The craziest part is: There are plenty of people out there who believe the Cubs still need to add a starting pitcher. Well, those people are wrong.

Going into Monday night’s game, the Cubs had 5 starters with ERA’s under 3.00. Kyle Hendricks didn’t throw his best game of the year, and his ERA now sits at 3.05 (Still really good for a #5 starter). We all know about the work Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have been doing at the top of the rotation, but every starter has pitched extremely well to this point in the season. If the season ended today, the Cubs would have all 5 of their starters in the top-30 in fWAR, and 4 out of the 5 (excluding Hammel) would be in the top-15 in fWAR. To me, the biggest question, as far as the starting pitching was concerned coming into the season, was whether or not Jason Hammel could bounce back from a rough second half of the season last year. Obviously, we all figured Arrieta would have a great year. Lester has been the guy the Cubs would hope he would be when they signed him before the 2015 season. Lackey has continued to pitch like a 27 year old instead of a 37 year old. Hendricks has been extremely consistent, and has definitely improved on an above average 2015 season. Excluding maybe 1 or 2 starts, Jason Hammel has been an all-star caliber pitcher.

So, even though all this is true, there are still people who believe the Cubs need to go out and trade for a starting pitcher. There are 3 key reasons why I believe the Cubs should NOT trade for a starter.

  1. The Cubs starters now are pitching extremely well.
  2. The Cubs needs to focus on acquiring a bullpen arm (More specifically, a left-handed bullpen arm).
  3. A top-of-the-line starting pitcher would be very costly in terms of prospects.

Like it or not, the fact is, the Cubs starters have been perhaps the biggest reason for this teams’ success. Hopefully, these guys can continue to perform at a very high level, and Theo and Co. will go out and make a move to improve the back end of the bullpen.

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Thoughts From A Series Loss with Washington

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Chicago Cubs – Lost 5-4 at Washington

I had a weird dream last night. I dreamed that the Cubs were in an extra inning game and saw Hector Rondon go down with an elbow injury. It was the type of injury that you knew immediately was season ending. Then, just a few plays later Jon Lester came in to relieve him (I guess it was a really long game), and he went down with the same injury. He was replaced by some guy I never heard of in a double switch that brought Jody Davis in to catch. I wasn’t sure how that was legal since Jody was in jeans and a t-shirt, but no one said anything. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but I thought I’d share.

Three thoughts from yesterday’s series ending loss:

  1. This Was a Measuring Stick Series – When I say that, I don’t mean to say that the Cubs are not as good as the Nationals since they won the series, but rather that the Cubs are a good team…the Nationals are a good team…it’s going to be a fun October. I believe there are four good teams capable of going to the World Series in October in the NL. In order of likelyhood, I believe it’s Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, New York. The Cubs played with the Nats and should have won the series. It happens, but we know we can compete.
  2. While the Bullpen is a Problem, it’s Not a Gaping Hole – I don’t like paying for bullpen help. I’ve made that clear over my years. While the pen is a “weakness” of this team, I don’t believe we need to overpay for the help to fix it. If the Yankees want to unload someone like Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances, I’m listening. If the Yankees want a package of top prospects for guys that pitch 50 innings, I’m hanging up. The pen is a need, but it’s not a gaping hole.
  3. Blackouts are Stupid – You didn’t think you’d get past a Nationals series without be whining about blackouts, did you? I was able to watch game one and two since I was in Chicago and could see the games on local TV. When I was at the airport coming home, I pulled up the game as it was starting and checked the score before getting on the plane. After a long, delayed, flight we arrived in NC and I pulled up the score to see that the game was in the 12th. The problem? I couldn’t pull up the 12th inning to watch because I was now in NC and blackout rules apply for Nats games in NC. MLB is a dirty whore.


AAA – Rob Zastryzny (W, 2-1, 5.14 ERA) – 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 0 K

AA – Postponed due to Rain

A+ – Jake Stinnett (W, 5-3, 3.78 ERA) – 7 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

A – Ryan Kellogg (L, 2-4, 4.01 ERA) – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K


AAA – Mark Zagunis (RF) – 3-for-4, 2 2B

AAA – Willson Contreras (C) – 1-for-5, RBI, R – Extended Hit Streak to 20 games)

A+ – Rashad Crawford (CF) – 2-for-4, 2B

A – Ian Rice (DH) – 2-for-4, 2B, HR, RBI

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Jason Heyward and His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Start

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Six years ago, Jason Heyward made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves. I remember his first at-bat like it was yesterday. It came on Opening Day 2010, as the Cubs were in Atlanta to kick off what would unfold as a 75-87 mediocre season that saw the end of the short-lived Lou Piniella era at Wrigley. Carlos Zambrano was on the mound and brushed the 20-year-old Heyward off the plate with two inside fastballs. The third pitch was knee high fastball that caught too much plate and J-Hey hit it on the nose for a three run blast.

Turner Field was rocking (the team was still good then) and play-by-play commentator Chip Caray (remember him?) was yelling so loud that his face must have been as red as a pepper. The hype surrounding Heyward at the time was enormous, as several media outlets were convinced Heyward was geared to blossom as the next star in baseball, with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated going as far to declare him “a legend before his time.”

As he circled the bases after his line-drive home run, I thought to myself what everyone else was thinking: 1) This guy is going to be good and 2) I wish my team had him. Little did I know, six years later, my team did have him, as Theo and Jed signed the now 26-year-old Heyward to a massive $184M deal in December.

Let’s put it this way: Heyward has drastically underperformed in his first season as a Cub. Yes, he is notorious for starting slow out of the gates–his career numbers before the All-Star break entering this season were .251/.391/.420*–but the numbers he is posting so far in the 16′ campaign (.236/.331/.340) are substantially lower than his usual pace. This is despite his tendency to see a lot of pitches to hit from hurlers vehemently trying to avoid issuing a free pass ahead of boppers such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Recently, Heyward is showing signs of life. He is in the midst of perhaps his best stretch of his young season, batting .263/.323/.491 in his last 15 games, including an impressive span from June 8-11, where he went 5-13 with a home run. During this stretch, his batting average has increased 13 points. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but all signs are pointing towards a turnaround from Chicago’s most costly addition in an offseason of spending.

The silver lining in Heyward’s play is his fantastic defense. If the season ended today, there is no doubt that he would deservingly add a third Gold Glove trophy to his display case.

Hang in there, guys. Heyward is a bit like our friend Jorge Soler, he heats up as the weather does. And….

It’s only June.

*All stats are as of 5pm Tuesday night, 6/14

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WAR: What is it Good For? Wins

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

As you can probably tell analytics are not my specialty, but I have begun to noodle around on FanGraphs and some other sites to begin to teach myself some of the basics about the new statistical tools for measuring baseball performance. If you wonder why in the world would I want to do such a thing, then just file it in the category of old dogs learning new tricks for fun and enlightenment.

In any event, though I am very late to the party, I have become fascinated by the stat referred to as WAR, which is an acronym for Wins Above Replacement. Most of you VFTB fanatics probably know already that WAR seeks to measure the value of a player by making a multi-variable comparison between a player’s performance and computed hypothetical averages. Today, I don’t have time to explain it fully (and candidly I want to understand it better before I even try). But I did notice something before Monday night’s game that I want to share. At five of our starting positions, the Cubs have a player whose offensive WAR is in the top three for that position in all of the major leagues. Yes. That’s right, five out of seven (because I am excluding pitchers and catchers). Here is the breakdown:

First Base: Anthony Rizzo is third among MLB first baseman in offensive WAR at 1.9.

Second Base: Ben Zobrist is third among MLB second baseman in offensive WAR at 2.9.

Third Base: Kris Bryant in third among MLB second baseman in offensive WAR at 3.0.

Center Field: Dexter Fowler is second among MLB center fielders in offensive WAR at 3.0.

Left Field: Kris Bryant is first among MLB left fielders in offensive WAR at 3.0.

I will not try to explain how Bryant can be in the top three at two positions, but he is and, for now, I take that at face value. What is clear is that with this kind of relative value, we are taking care of business on offense.

So you know, Addison Russell is 14th among shortstops with an offensive WAR of .9. Justin Heyward is 13th among right fielders with an offensive WAR of 1.3. In my mind, Heyward is the only disappointment in the starting batting line up. I expected him to challenge for the Cubs’ offensive MVP this year. But at this stage of the season, he is only middle of the pack league-wide.

No worries though. Before the season, we knew that someone would underperform at the plate. There is always someone. This year, so far, it’s our right fielder and we are still killing the competition.

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