Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Three Strikes – Hammel, Defense lead the Cubs to victory

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Hero & Goat

WPA Leader and Loser

Jason Hammel: +.436 WPA

Addison Russell: -.099 WPA

Video Recap

Strike One – The Jack of all Trades

Though his command was a bit shaky at times, Jason Hammel was able to grind out 6 innings of 5 hit, 1 run baseball. Hammel improves his record to 2 wins and 0 losses on the season. After a solid first inning, Hammel struggled to keep the ball down in the second while surrendering back-to-back singles to Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk. For reasons that I will never understand, the Cardinals decided to attempt at double steal with 0 outs and Yadier Molina at the plate. Hammel performed a slick inside turn toward second base, and the Cubs were able to execute a perfect rundown, and Adams would be tagged out between 2nd and 3rd. Molina would go on to hit a triple off the top of the fence in left field. Hammel worked around that triple, and kept the Cardinals lead at 1-0. Hammel also provided the Cubs only scoring in the ball game. With two outs and the bases full of Cubs, Hammel hit a ground ball between Ruben Tejada and Matt Carpenter that would plate two runs. Those runs would turn out to be the deciding factor in the ballgame. Hats off to Hammel, because after the second inning, I was convinced he would be out of the game quickly, but he improved the streak of Cubs starting pitchers throwing at least 6 innings to 14 straight games to start the 2016 season.

Strike Two – Defense

When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward, I’m sure they envisioned him making plays like he has so far in this series. Tonight just added to this already impressive list of stellar defensive plays Heyward has made on this young 2016 season. In the 4th inning with the Cardinals threatening to take back the lead in a 2-1 ballgame, Matt Adams hit a ball off the right field wall, and had Addison Russell been able to hold onto the ball at second base, Heyward would have thrown Adams out by a step. No matter, though. After Jason Hammel induced a popup from Randal Grichuk, Heyward made a fantastic, run-saving play to end the inning. Yadier Molina hit a fly ball to medium-deep right field, Heyward got behind the ball, allowed himself to gain momentum heading toward home plate, and fired a one-hop strike to Miguel Montero to nail Matt Holliday at the plate. I realize that is only two plays, but Kris Bryant also made some nice plays down at third base (High chopped by Holliday in the 8th), and Matt Szczur also made a nice play in the 9th inning after the leadoff man had already reached base. This Cubs team is much improved on defense from a year ago, and it is showing early in the season.

Strike Three – Bullpen the Weak Link?

Coming into the season, many believed the bullpen would be the one area that could let the Cubs down. I wasn’t necessarily one of those people, but all the guys in the pen have answered the call so far this season. While I realize it is still very early, according to ESPN, coming into tonight’s game, the Cubs’ relievers have a 2.40 ERA, compared to the 3.38 mark the relievers posted during the 2015 season. Those numbers obviously will go down after a scoreless 3 innings from the pen tonight. Couple the 2.40 ERA with a starting pitchers’ ERA around 2.00, and you have the best pitching staff in baseball. It’s early. I understand that. But 2-1 ballgames in Busch Stadium are high leverage no matter what month it is. The bullpen guys have been solid when called upon all year, and I don’t expect that to change.

Kyle HendricksHendricks threw only 16 balls on 83 pitches in his latest start, but he has a 4.91 career ERA at Busch Stadium.
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Carlos MartinezMartinez is coming off a strong performance against the Reds, with his only mistake in the form of a Joey Votto home run. Martinez was aggressive early in the counts and needed just 89 pitches to get through seven innings.
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Three Strikes – Lackey Dominates

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Hero & Goat

WPA Leader and Loser

John Lackey: +.383 WPA

Addison Russell: -.024 WPA

Video Recap

Lackey, Cubs shut down Cardinals – ESPN Video

Strike One – Johnny Be Good

I wondered if we would see a huge game from John Lackey and/or Jason Heyward given the fact that both probably wanted to stick it to their old team. If you think the rivalry is not alive, you’re wrong. The Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) talked all off-season and you wondered what game one would look like. Would there be heated tempers and chirping back and forth? Would there be a brushback? We got not of that. What we did get was a flat out great outing from Lackey and, aside from the 7th inning, an outstanding outing from Mike Leake. I thought Leake’s outing was better through six, personally, and I wondered if the Cubs would just get shut down again like they did twice in the Rockies series, but they proved otherwise. For Lackey, it was obviously his best start as a Cub and one of his best ever. He even came up big with an RBI to pad the lead. It was a great night to be Lackey.

Strike Two – Statement Game?

As I mentioned before, there was a lot of “hype” around this first game and this series. The Cubs eliminated the Cardinals last year and seem to be ready to take over the perch as top dog in the division, so you know the Cardinals would like nothing more than to knock them off the high horse. The Cubs did exactly what they needed to do. They went out and hit them square in the nose and now we see how the Cardinals, who are now 0 and 4 against the Cubs and Pirates to start the year, will respond. I don’t think it’s a “statement” win, but if the Cubs sweep this series, I think it goes a long way toward causing them to doubt their ability to compete in this division.

Strike Three – Who’s Fault Is It?

In the 5th inning, which was a key point in the game, the Cardinals had runners on second and third and a chance to take the first lead of the game with just one out and Leake at the plate. Leake attempted a squeeze and missed the bunt, causing Kolten Wong to be hung out to dry between 3rd and home only to see the Cubs blow the play. If you didn’t see it, here is video of it. My question to you is: Who is at fault on this play? It’s an out that was handed to us that didn’t get made. Is it Miguel Montero who is at fault for waiting too long to throw to third after running down Wong, or is it Kris Bryant for being out of position to take the throw for Montero? I’d like your input. I, personally, lay the blame on Montero, but am I wrong? Thankfully the play did not come back to bite us, but boy it could have and should have.

Watch the video of the Play

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Bryant played a great third base defensively all game long. I believe he’s best served playing the hot corner and tonight we saw examples of just plain good glove work
  • The Cardinals broadcast has a wonderful camera angle that essentially sets up directly behind the pitcher to give you a straight on view of the strike zone. If you know me, I’m a big snob about this.
  • Al Hrabosky made the comment that he feels the Cubs bullpen is the achilles heel of the team. I wouldn’t agree with that. I think the Cubs pen is deep, but doesn’t have any flat out dominant guys. I would not say it’s a weak area, though.
  • Kyle Schwarber is scheduled to have surgery to repair his ACL and LCL this week.

Jason Hammel (RHP) - All of Hammel’s offseason work is paying off. He’s given up one earned run in 12 innings in his first two starts. He also delivered at the plate in his last outing, hitting an RBI double. He’s 2-3 with a 5.97 ERA in seven career starts vs. St. Louis.

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Jamie Garcia (LHP) - Garcia is coming off the best start of his career, a one-hit shutout over the Brewers in which he struck out 13 and induced 13 groundball outs. Garcia had exceptional movement on his sinker and changeup in the outing.

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Three Strikes – All Good Things Must Come to an End

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Hero & Goat

WPA Leader and Loser

Jon Lester: +.221 WPA

Dexter Fowler: -.170 WPA

Video Recap

Strike One – Lester’s Gem

Jon Lester pitched the Cubs into a winning position, and for once this early in the season, it was the offense that lagged behind the pitcher’s dominance. He gave the Cubs 7 and 1/3 innings of 10 strikeout pitching, while only allowing 1 earned run on 4 hits. Not shown in the box score was his resiliency with men on base, who, despite Jon’s reputation for being notoriously throw-to-the-bases shy, only managed 1 stolen base against him. David Ross helped out greatly, and The Sheriff threw out 2 runners early in the contest. Jon also sought to take all matters into his own hands, and he became only 1 of 2 Cubs to manage an extra-base hit throughout the entirety of the game when he doubled in the 6th. Most importantly, he kept the Cubs within the game, and actually pitched them into the game, even as the bats remained silent for the vast majority of the contest. Sunday’s Jon Lester was the version the Cubs paid $155 million to over 6 years last offseason, in spite of him taking the hard fought loss for his 1st on the young season.

Strike Two – All Quiet on the 1st Base Front

The Cubs offense, for the second time this week, was nearly silent for the first half of the game. It took Javier Baez’s 5th inning single to break up the no-hitter going by Tyler Chatwood, who also pitched valiantly for the Rockies. He struck out 7 while only walking 1 through 7 innings of work, and seemed to confound the Cubs with his moving fastball and off-speed pitches. It seemed his brain was on “Computer Mode”, and like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, repeatedly told the Cubs hitters, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that”, while they eagerly beckoned for hits at the plate. Days like today can be the exhibition for the potential downside to constantly switching line-ups, as there seemed to be little groove with the guys. Addison Russell had the day off, and Javier Baez filled in well, as he provided the same shutdown defense Addison regularly does. In all, it seemed like a rare malaise set in early, and the energy of the sell-out 41,678 home crowd could not bolster the club’s energy, even as they threatened in the bottom of the 9th. Kris Bryant striking out to end the game seemed to fittingly personify the game as a whole. With all of this being said, however, I don’t find this to be an overly disconcerting showing, and have confidence in Joe helping the guys along to find a consistency in the wake of Kyle Schwarber’s devastating injury.

Strike Three – Opening Homestand Takeaway

As I discussed in my previous post this week, what I could not help but marvel at from afar during each game was just how energetic each crowd was. On Sunday afternoon, the Cubs came within 25 of beating the previous home-high crowd with 41,678 attending Sunday’s contest. Which game had the previous highest attendance, you may ask? Saturday. Cubs lively and rabid fandom this early in the season is so much fun to watch, and Joe Maddon’s message of embracing the target has clearly extended beyond the clubhouse and into the rest of Wrigleyville and beyond. The relationship the Cubs and us, the fans, have enjoyed over the past 100+ years has always been unique amongst Major League Baseball teams, but 2016 has been the time of this becoming the most overtly apparent and in the most positive way. This, to me, has best been exhibited by the vast majority of Cubs fans I known and have run into simply having fun with what is the team’s most stacked and exciting roster in some time. And that attitude is directly derived from Joe Maddon’s managerial philosophy, and “not vibing on the level” of curses and the Cubs’ negative spiritual connotations. Despite the series loss this weekend, the positivity remains contagious. Going forward, this is a club that is not only bound to find their footing firmly, but hold it for a long, exciting period of time.

John Lackey (RHP) - This will be Lackey’s first career start vs. his former team. He was traded from Boston to the Cards in July 2014 and helped St. Louis reach the playoffs last year, but opted to sign with the Cubs this offseason. He’s coming off a win over the Reds.

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Mike Leake (RHP) - Leake has labored to keep the ball down in his first two starts, which is why the ground-ball pitcher is allowing too much fly-ball contact. All four of the runs he allowed in his last start came with two out.

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Three Strikes: Arrieta is Too Good…Again

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

I’m so sorry for assigning Nate to recap yesterday’s game, causing the Cubs to lose. It’s back to normal today and I’m on the notes, which means we talk about a win. The Cubs are now 8-1 in games I recap, 0-1 in Nate games and 1-0 in Chris games.

Video Recap

Thanks A Lot / Thanks For Nothing

WPA Leaders and Goats

Jake Arrieta: .407 WPA

Anthony Rizzo: .142 WPA

Jorge Soler: .126 WPA

David Ross: -.032

Kris Bryant: -.051

Addison Russell: -.070

Strike One – Arrieta’s Start

I’m running out of things to say about Jake and his crazy good pitching. We saw him show his human side in start number two, but he was back to his old tricks in this one, going eight innings of shutout ball while striking out eight. He now has a scoreless streak at home of 48.2 innings and a 3-0 record. The skeptical Cubs fan in me keeps waiting for the Mark Prior or Kerry Wood shoe to drop, but it’s not dropping. I enjoy watching him pitch so much and it’s gotten to the point where it’s almost like an automatic win.

I did have one complain, and it was not toward Jake, but rather toward Joe Maddon. After throwing in the top of the 8th, Jake was due up 6th in the bottom of the 8th and Travis Wood was already warming up in the pen. It was pretty clear that he was coming in to pitch the 9th if Jake struggled a little going for the shutout. The Cubs tacked on another run to make it 6-0 and with two outs, Maddon left Jake in to hit and then immediately pulled him in favor of Wood to pitch the 9th. My problem is twofold. First, I would have rather seen Jake’s day be done after eight innings of work and 100 pitches. I don’t subscribe to the whole pitch count thing, but I know there are those that do, so I included the number. What I do subscribe to is that we saw Jake look mortal in the playoffs and with a six run lead there is no reason to run him out there for the 9th. Second, assuming Maddon was NOT going to let Jake pitch in the 9th, why let him hit in the 9th? At bats are few and far between for bench guys and it would have been a great time to give at at bat to someone like Tommy La Stella. Letting Jake hit doesn’t make sense and seems reckless. What happens if he gets hit on the hand? It’s not worth it.

Strike Two – Baez Returns

The box score shows a 2-for-4 day for Javier Baez with a run scored and a double. If you watch the game, though, you would have seen two strike outs that were evidenced by at bats that featured Javy swinging at out of the zone pitches. Basically in the two at bats he got a hit, he was good. In the two at bats he struck out, he looked bad. I think that’s what we’re going to see from Javy. He’s never going to be a low strikeout guy. He’s always going to contend or lead the league in that category, but when he connects, he has the talent to do great things with the bat. In his first at bat, he used his speed to beat out an infield single. For the double, he took the ball the other way with two strikes on a ball up out of the strike zone a la Vladimir Guerrero. Cap it off with this defensive play and I give him a solid B+ on the day.

Strike Three – Parra’s a Tool

Look at this idiot. I’m glad the ump called him on it. Stupid, bush league idiot.

Jon Lester (LHP) - Lester has posted quality starts in each of his first two outings. He did not get a decision in his last start against the Reds, and admitted he was overthrowing early in the game. He’s 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts vs. the Rockies.

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Tyler Chatwood (RHP) - This will be the first career start at Wrigley Field for Chatwood, who pitched solidly with the exception of a pair of two-out, two-run homers in a home loss to the Giants in his last outing.

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Three Strikes – You Gotta Lose Sometime

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Video Recap

STRIKE ONE – Where’s the Defense?

I tried to think of the perfect word to describe the Cubs’ defense Friday afternoon against the Rockies; adjectives like ugly, atrocious and sad all came to mind but none of them seemed to do the effort justice. Just know this: it wasn’t pretty. Entering Friday’s game, Chicago had only committed two errors in nine games. The team made four yesterday; Kyle Hendricks, Kris Bryant (x2) and Addison Russell were all culprits. To be fair, I don’t agree with the ruling on Hendricks’ misplay, as I thought it should have went down in the scorebook as an infield single. Bryant struggled at third, as he botched a ground ball and threw a ball erratically past Anthony Rizzo and into the visitor’s bullpen on a bunt attempt. (Speaking of bunts, who taught the Rockies to lay them down with such precision, Ichiro?) Finally, Addison Russell skipped a ball past Rizzo and into the camera well. In his defense (no pun intended), that came after a dazzling stop as well as a few remarkable plays in prior innings.

STRIKE TWO – Where’s the Offense?

In most games the Cubs are trailing during the mid-innings, I have this lingering belief that the offense will string together a combination of walks, bloops and blasts to put themselves right back in position to make a game of it. This was not the case yesterday. The often-potent Cubs lineup gave no indication that they were poised to make a surge in the late innings, even against the rather lackluster arms of the Rockies. The team drew four walks and had four hits—all singles. Chicago had a scoring opportunity in the fifth inning with runners on first and third and only one out. Joe Maddon’s decision to safety squeeze with Hendricks backfired as Soler was thrown out at home and Dexter Fowler flied out to promptly end the threat. The Cubs pushed across their only run of the ballgame in the seventh inning to make the score 4-1 and squandered a promising two-on, no out chance by only managing a single run. Worry not, these types of games happen.

STRIKE THREE – Assessing Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks pitched well enough to give his team a chance to win. As a No. 5, what else can you ask for? Kyle attacked the strike zone his entire outing, throwing just 16 balls in six innings of work. He allowed a troubling seven hits, but they were all singles and for the most part, not hit hard. Hendricks’ sinker was working well and 12 of his 18 recorded outs were via ground balls. Hendricks gave up two earned and struck out five. Overall, I was content with Hendricks’ performance. Maddon on Hendricks post game: “I thought Kyle threw the ball extremely well, a lot of bad swings and well-placed pitches. He did good…we just didn’t have our typical offensive day, or defensive day.”

UP NEXT

Jake Arrieta (RHP) - Arrieta helped himself by hitting his first home run, a two-run shot, in his last start. Pitching-wise, he said his offspeed stuff was “just average” but he did well enough against the D-backs to post his 22nd consecutive quality start.

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Christian Bergman (RHP) - Bergman had his start moved back to Saturday, as he’ll face the Cubs for the first time in his career. This will also be Bergman’s first start of the season.

Scouting note from MLB.com

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Dexter Fowler, Patience at the Plate Help Cubs Get Off to Scorching State

Friday, April 15th, 2016

The Cubs are off to a scorching hot start, their best since 1985. What has been their secret? Well, everything, to be honest, but here is how getting their leadoff hitter back and being more patient has made the Cubs the best team in baseball.

Going into 2016, expectations were sky high for the Chicago Cubs. After a 97-win season, a trip to the NLCS, and a successful offseason, expectations should have been set high. Through eight games, the Cubs have met those expectations head on and have gotten off to their best start since 1985. So, when you dissect the Cubs, what has been there strengths that have helped them get off to the best record in baseball over the first two weeks of the season? Getting a familiar face back and changing the approach at the plate has been the biggest key for the Cubs in 2016.

When Dexter Fowler decided to come back to the Cubs on a one-year deal in late February, the Cubs immediately had their leadoff guy back from their 97-win 2015 campaign. Joe Maddon coined the phrase, “You go, we go,” when describing Fowler in 2015. The centerfielder has proven that he wants to win this year, while taking his game to new heights. Fowler has played in all eight games, while compiling a .423 average, a .559 on base percentage, and a .731 slugging percentage (1.290 OPS; small sample size stats are fun) with a 231 wRC+ (100 is league average), three doubles, a home run, and eight runs scored. The centerfielder has compiled 0.7 fWAR in 8 games, which is 22% of his total fWAR from a year ago. The best asset that Fowler has brought to the lineup is his plate discipline. Fowler has reached base in every game this season, compiling six walks and two HBP in 34 plate appearances, while only striking out seven times. His walk rate is up to an absurd 17.6% (up from 12.2% in 2015) and his strikeout rate is down to 20.6% (down from 22.3% last year). This can be attributed to laying off pitches out of the zone. His swing rate on pitches outside of the strike zone is down from 20% in 2015 to just 17.9% in 2016. With the injury to Kyle Schwarber, Fowler should be in centerfield for the Cubs close to everyday, instead of 80% of the time, like originally thought with a healthy roster. Fowler struggled through the first half of the 2015 season, but really turned in on in the second half. He looks like he is picking up right where he left off, and that is good news for the Cubs.

Fowler isn’t the only Cub that is drawing walks at a crazy rate. Well, everyone is. The Cubs had to address contact hitters in the offseason, due to the lack of production with a runner on third and less than two outs and leading the league in strikeouts. Signing Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist were meant to address that need, and they have produced thus far. Heyward, while only hitting .250, has an on base percentage of .368 and a walk rate of 13.2%, which has been exclusively out of the two hole behind Fowler. Zobrist has been hitting mostly behind Heyward, and his production is also starting strong. The new Cubs second baseman is hitting .290, but more impressive is his .421 on base percentage, his 18.4% walk rate and his 15.8% strikeout rate (which is actually high for him, but well below league average). The top three in the order haven’t been the only ones having a great start to the season. The Cubs have 12 (!!!) players on their roster with a walk rate of over 10.0%. Throw away Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Kyle Schwarber out of that mix, and there are still 9 position players that have over 10 plate appearances that have a walk rate over 10.0%. Just a reminder: the league average walk rate thus far is 8.7% and last year it was 7.7%. The only regular to have a walk rate below 10.0% is Jorge Soler, and his walk rate is just below last year’s league average at 6.7%, which is still respectable. Overall, the Cubs have a combined walk rate of 14.5%, which is nearly three percent higher than the Braves in second place. Another improvement with the team in 2016 is the strikeout total. The Cubs struck out a lot last year. Like, a lot, to the tune of 1518 times, which was the third highest strike out total in a season by a club since 2000. The Cubs, obviously, had the highest strikeout rate in baseball last year at 24.5%. In 2016, the Cubs have only struck out 67 times, which is the 14th lowest total in baseball. That’s a strike out rate of 20.2%, which is the 8th lowest rate in baseball. Quite a turnaround from one year ago. The Cubs also have the highest BB/K rate in baseball, taking 0.72 walks per strike outs, which is a major improvement from last year’s 0.37 BB/K rate. A reason for the big turn around, outside of their offseason acquisitions, has been their lack of chasing pitches outside of the strike zone. As with Fowler, the Cubs have been much better at laying off pitches that are not in the zone. Their swing rate on the pitches out of the zone in 2015 was 30.5%. This year, the Cubs have only swung at 23.8% of pitches outside of the zone, which is the 3rd lowest rate in baseball.

While small sample sizes should be cautioned, the Cubs look like one of the most potent offenses, if not the most potent, in the game. Starting pitchers in games against the Cubs have only reached the 7th inning once. They have compiled 38.2 innings (which is below five innings per start) and have thrown 705 pitches, which is just over 88 pitches per start. Getting to the pitcher early has been a successful formula for the Cubs offense so far in 2016. With high walk rates, lower strikeout rates, and lower chase percentages, the Cubs offense is going to be a nightmare for pitchers throughout the 2016 season.

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Three Strikes: Guess Who’s Coming Back

Friday, April 15th, 2016

 

Video Recap

STRIKE ONE: Curb Your Enthusiasm

In all seriousness, I don’t mean to pee in your corn flakes this morning, but as excited as I am about an 8-1 start to the season, it’s important to take it with a cynical eye just a bit. This team is good. This team is very good and it’s going to be a very exciting summer of Chicago baseball overall with the White Sox playing good ball as well (Note: I don’t hate the White Sox), but step back for a second and look at the teams the Cubs have played so far. We beat an Angels team that is considered to be potentially the worst team in the AL west. We beat the Diamondbacks who some believe will be OK and some believe will be bad (I believe they will be under .500), and now we’re beating up on a Reds team that is essentially tanking and will eventually sell off guys like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. They don’t want to win. This weekend we open a series with the Rockies (also a bad team). It’s not until Monday when we get the Cardinals that we get our first test of a competent opponent. Let’s hang tight on being the annoying homer fan until we know this is not just a hot stretch against bad teams (it’s not).

STRIKE TWO: My Boyfriend’s Back

Ok, so Javier Baez is not my boyfriend (sorry to Pedro Strop for even joking about that), but I do like watching him play and have looked forward to him getting regular at bats this season in the Majors. Word got out yesterday that he is scheduled to head back to Chicago. It was first expected that he would be on the road trip with Iowa and then Tommy Birch tweeted out that there was a 180 and that Baez was headed back to Chicago.

I could see him activated as soon as today with Munenori Kawasaki headed back to Iowa to take his place. The question will then shift to how to get him in the lineup on a regular bases to not retard his development. He’s kind of a guy without a position.

STRIKE THREE: So Long To Jokisch

A rather curious move (at least it was to me) yesterday as the Marlins claimed LHP Eric Jokisch off waivers from the Cubs. Jokisch was on the 40 man roster, which stood at 40. I find it odd that the Cubs would just up and try to pass a player through waivers at the risk of losing him just for the sake of removing him from the 40 man roster when nothing was forcing the roster move. Baez will return from the DL, but he’s already on the 40 man roster. I’ve seen it speculated that the Cubs just wanted to see if they could slip him through to give them roster flexibility, hoping no one would notice, but I’m not buying that. Teams don’t just randomly not notice that a guy is on waivers. They check that list every day. This one sticks with me, and I feel it’s an indication of something coming. It could be nothing, but I would watch to see if the Cubs add someone in the next day or two.

UP NEXT

Kyle Hendricks (RHP) - Hendricks posted a quality start in his first outing — and got a hit off Zack Greinke. He’d like to improve his fastball command and his changeup vs. right-handed hitters. This will be his first start at home, where he posted at 3.38 ERA last year.

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Chad Bettis (RHP) - Bettis threw seven innings, struck out six and gave up two runs (one earned) while beating the Padres on Sunday. His experience at Wrigley is limited to a scoreless two-thirds of an inning of relief in 2014.

Scouting Report from MLB.com


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1942 – At Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, Hiram ‘Hi’ Bithorn becomes the first Puerto Rican to play major league baseball. The Cubs’ right-hander from Santurce makes a relief appearance, allowing no runs or hits during his two innings of work in Chicago’s 4-2 loss to the Redbirds.

1947 – In his National League debut, Hank Greenberg has the lone RBI in the Pirates’ 1-0 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh bought the slugging first baseman from the Tigers in the off-season for $75,000.

1969 - Jeromy Burnitz is born

1978 - Milton Bradley is born

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Bright Lights, Big Inning

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

You have tickets for the second home game of the year. You are a little concerned about Lackey, who is starting. Your son Joe was supposed to join you, but his job interfered. So you are taking Donna’s son, Will. You will meet Will at your place after work and then you will take the Red Line.

You layer up because Donna warned you that it will be cold. You decide not to take the Cubs blanket. You grab a blue Barbour zip up with a lining. You throw a jean jacket on over it. You cannot find your Cubs logo wool hat, so you grab another and stick a Cubs pin on it.

You catch the el at Clark and Division with Will. The el is not crowded on a Wednesday night at 6 pm, which you think is strange. You get off at Addison. You walk around the ball park and check out the new stuff. There is not that much to see. You notice the McDonald’s is gone. The lot is surrounded by green fencing and you can’t see what construction is underway, if any, on that site. You note the office building on the northeast corner of Waveland and Clark is coming along, but still is open construction. You think it looks about a month away before they will close up the building.

You try to figure out where the new clubhouse is located, but cannot. You guess probably under the old player’s parking lot, but it’s hard to say. You like the new changes to the outside façade.

It’s still early, so you stop at Murphy’s for a beer. You hear Will offer to treat. Nice. You have a Three Floyd’s Gumball Head. You are impressed with Will’s baseball knowledge and good company. You like him, but mistakenly had him pegged as a football guy.

You are anxious to see your new seats. You bought the Rivals Package this season. You will see six games, one against the White Sox and the rest against Central Division teams. You know that you will get in another 3 or 4 games over the course of the season with friends or work colleagues. Your new seats are in the field boxes opposite left field. You moved down from center upper deck, where you have been the last few seasons.

You find a stand in the left field concourse and buy a gourmet sausage and a Green Line. Will has a Green Line too, but goes with a sausage called an Aloha. You approve of the fancy cuisine – it’s a schmancy hot dog and is tasty. You find your seats and they are good. It’s a different angle, but close to the field. You won’t always be able to see the pitch from this angle, but the new scoreboard behind the left bleachers identifies the ones you miss.

You think the ball park looks spectacular. The first thing you notice is the new Rooftop area above the right field bleachers. It looks like a good place to be and you make a note to get tix for there when you can. You bet Donna will like the game from there. You also notice more signage, but you are prepared for that and resigned to it.  You don’t like that the sound system is so loud, but you also think that it is not as bad as last season. Perhaps, you are just farther away from the speakers.

You groan with the rest of the crowd when Lackey starts the game by yielding a double. Your concern grows as he digs himself into a deep hole and gives up a run. But you are comforted when he calmly works himself out of a sticky jam and limits the Reds to only one run scored. You say to Will, that could have been much worse.

You feel a surge of energy as you wait for the Cubs at bat. You feel the excitement of the crowd and sense again this could be a special year. You rise to your feet with the faithful when Fowler starts us off with a double. You marvel as the Cubs bat around and chase Simon who has thrown over 50 pitches and recorded only two outs in the bottom of the first. You are impressed with the Cubs’ patience that enables them to score 5 runs in a half inning playing small ball – though you thought Soler’s sacrifice fly might have been a home run on a warmer day.

You are now cold. The first inning took about 55 minutes. You turn to the two middle-aged guys behind you, whose conversation reeks of Budweiser and baseball knowledge. You say, when they bat around it really f’s up your score card. You get a good laugh from them. Your fingers are cold and your scorecard is not just cramped; it is barely legible. Your pencil markings are indecipherable from the cold.

You buckle down – this is where you want to be, but it is too cold and you may not make it for nine. You hang in there and are gratified when Heyward knocks in two runs to redeem his two strike outs in the top of the first. You feel the game begin to grind a little and then Bryant hooks a solo shot into the left field bleachers. You feel that was what you were waiting for. You turn to Will sheepishly and suggest a move back to Murphy’s to warm up in front of a TV – with the added benefit of catching up on the Blackhawks too. You think he will regard this as a wimpy move. But you are pleased when he is totally on board.

Back at Murphy’s, you size up the Hawks game. You think the Hawks can win the series, but you hate watching when they play the Blues. You do not like the Blues’ goon style of hockey. You say to Will that the Blues are to the Blackhawks what the Knicks were to Jordan’s Bulls. He is 26 and you can’t tell if that means much to him.

On the other hand, you see the Cubs are cruising. You are relieved that Lackey pitched well and that the bats are hot, notwithstanding that you are frozen. Suddenly, you want to be home. You tell Will that you are going to jump on the el and beat the crowd. You can get home for the final inning or so on TV. You hear him order another beer and say that he will take an Uber back to Wicker Park.

 

You get home and watch the final five outs. You feel good about the Cubs. You owe Joe a posting for View from the Bleachers tomorrow. You decide you will write up your evening in the second person – Jay McInerny style. You think Joe might be cool with that.

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GirlieView (04/14/2016)

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely, and/or interesting quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2016 Season = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • Cost me the equivalent of 80 Subway sangwiches for those seats, but when it’s your 7 year old daughter’s first Cub game, you kick down.
  • A cursory review of this week’s Lizzie’s leads me to believe that she never saw the Princess Bride. She should find a way to see it. Good, clean comedy.
  • I used to take little girls to ballgames. The restraining order put a stop to that.
  • I agree about the west coast, though I do like opening week in a warm weather venue.
  • The older I get, the more I prefer watching games on television. More comfortable. Better food. Better booze. Freakin’ PAUSE.
  • I love seeing St. Louis UNDER .500 already
  • I was at the game on Sunday. A few observations. There were some foul balls that were very dangerous, I think MLB should consider more netting for fan protection.
  • I have thought that about foul balls before as well. I wonder why no one ever makes an issue of it.
  • I’ve been too busy trying to figure out how to ban bats since Colvin was impaled.
  • A bat can do a lot of damage, I think bubble wrap would be helpful.
  • After the strikeout to end the 7th, Federowicz tossed the ball to mini-me Realist in the stands. This made her year. He is my new favorite minor league Cub, and I hope he makes the club next season, or later this season when Ross has a grabber legging out a triple.
  • [Fowler]’s the catalyst for this beast of a lineup. If he’s getting on base, this order is going to have a monster year.
  • How fun was that last night? Everyone contributed. A satisfying way to get started.
  • My first cup of coffee in the new season was sensational this morning.
  • If only the game had been on at a reasonable hour (for those of us in the EST time zone), as I was disappointed to have been unable to watch any of it.
  • Mark_in_Alberta has a decent ring to it.
  • But then I would miss any of the EST games which would start while I was still at work. Guess I can’t win either way
  • Split the difference in Winnipeg… Mark_in_Manitoba
  • Simplify – Markitoba
  • Somebody really should track down Jedi now that we’re good.
  • Just imagine what would come of this team if it played at Coors.
  • David Ross clearly spent the winter with Ponce de Leon in Florida.
  • Soler has a huge hole in his swing down and away- he has Sorianocantrecognizetheslideritis
  • Sort of looks like Raker is photobombing Cap and Alec
  • Looks like some holding-my-gut-in action taking place.
  • I am the one closest to the camera, don’t be that guy closest to the camera, not flattering. The Capn is in the middle holding his gut in and Alec Berg is in the grey Santo jersey.
  • I hope you were paying attention to flying objects leaving the field of play as well. Turning your back on the field of play can be hazardous.
  • Not to worry, Raker Jr. was wrapped in bubble wrap as was Mini-Me Cap’n.
  • Jr Raker smelled really funny when we took the bubble wrap off
  • that jersey is 10 years old…who among us wouldn’t have some tightness in the belly in a 10 year old shirt?
  • I am in Phoenix on business, but cruelly will not be able to see any of the games because of other commitments.
  • Call in sick. Head to the ballpark w/ a fake mustache and Goldie jersey. Problem solved.
  • Make a cardboard cutout. No one will know the difference. She has already described you to her co-workers as “dry as dust.” They will be amazed at her apt description in the desert.
  • I was going to suggest his and hers fake mustaches, but okay.
  • There’s gotta be a way to scam 1 game out of the series. Promise her you’ll paint a wicker chair with her, row a boat for her, hug her on a bench, dance with her, sit in a bathtub and watch the sunset with her……am I forgetting anything?
  • Ipecac. It’s over the counter and will make you vomit. This will get you out of the evening engagements.
  • I see an opportunity – “Ask Seymour – Marital Advice for Cubs Fans”
  • Bring your dollar bills.
  • that uppity prick from Texas
  • Nicely written and reasoned. I will, however, be profoundly disappointed if the Cubs fail to go all the way nonetheless.
  • As will Chris, regardless of what he says here.
  • I haven’t read your book, but it’s not bad luck or a curse that has kept the Cubs down. They’ve been a very poorly run team with no vision for a LONG TIME.
  • Fowler re-signing looks genius today.
  • Despite his quick bat, Schwarber going out for the season probably will have the least impact. Last year when Russell got hurt, the whole team suffered.
  • Strop – It’s difficult to take someone seriously when he wears his hat like that – and then loses the lead.
  • We all knew somebody was going down…Thought it would be Cindy Sandberg, though…
  • We can go 161-1 now, still can be a pretty good season
  • now we go home to the cold and windy April Wrigley were manufacturing runs will be paramount. Let’s see if we can win that way also.
  • I would think the emergence of Arrieta as the clubs ace makes life for Lester a lot easier, it takes the spot light off of Lester and allows him to work and make adjustments without the media and fans over reacting.
  • Back to Chicago… hope they didn’t misplace their muffs over winter.

Lizard

  • Good morning. It is Opening Day!

Shout Outs

  • It was the first 2016 Season Lizzie for everyone who had a Lizzie this time around! Big shout outs to Adam Peters, Brad Lyerla, cap’n realist, Confused in Cali, Doc Raker, Doug S, Eddie von White, Joe Aiello, jswanson, Mark_from_Toronto, Seymour Butts, and Sherm! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Eddie von White, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go EVW!

Top 10 of the 2016 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie von White
2. Doc Raker
3. jswanson
4. cap’n realist
5. Seymour Butts
6. Sherm
7. Brad Lyerla
8. Doug S
8. Joe Aiello
8. Mark_from_Toronto

Chit Chat

  • (Just a quick fyi … I had to wrap things up early this week because of some travel commitments. But never fear, I’ll pick up exactly where I left off next time.) Now that you’ve been able to (hopefully) see a few games, who are your favorite Cubs right now? Let’s go with top 3!
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