Archive for the ‘General’ Category

GirlieView (10/29/2015)

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely 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 2015 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.


  • With 4 games left in the season, Kris Bryant is 10th in all of major league baseball in WAR
  • The Cardinals clinched the NL Central yesterday. This is probably a good thing because I think they are much more beatable in the NLDS than Pittsburgh would be.
  • In their wildest dreams, who would have thought the Cubs could win 95 games this year?
  • Nice outing by Lester yesterday. No matter how you slice and dice it, we need this guy to come up big in October.
  • Even if Arrieta doesn’t win the Cy Young, he still produced one of the best pitching seasons in Cubs history, and it was a pleasure to witness it.
  • We will finish the regular season at least 30 games above .500 Wow.
  • It’s the last day of the regular season, and I care.
  • Anyone who doubted the Epstein plan should be looking for crow recipes.
  • I will be bummed if Wednesday does not go as planned, but that does not change how much fun the ride has been this year.
  • Regular season has been over for about 17 hours, and apparently there are not five things we need to know today.
  • Apparently the 97 we already know are enough.
  • I guess we will be getting 15 things to know about the playoff game tomorrow.
  • I’d settle for a W and 20 things to know on Thursday.
  • Now you’re mixing Math and Algebra.
  • My nerves have been crazy for this one, but it is calming to realize that whatever happens tomorrow, they have already exceeded expectations. I think it also gets lost, with all the success of this year, that if this team matures as most young teams do, this offense will be downright scary for years to come.
  • I thought a season like this was essentially impossible in 2015.
  • It’s October 7th and the first thing on our minds is the Cubs.
  • At least Rodriguez finally got to hit something…the water cooler.
  • Same number of wins – only we keep going
  • Equally 98 wins, and equally 1 fewer pitchers HPB out of spite.. go Cubs!
  • Let’s go kick the shit out of the Cardinals
  • we have what it takes to take those dirty birds out. The Cardinals are nervous.
  • Even as the Cubs tacked on a fourth run on Fowler’s solo shot in the fifth inning, I still felt like I couldn’t exhale until the final out of the ninth inning.
  • I’m opposed to the whole idea of throwing at a player in general, but especially not at the pitcher. It felt like a move by a team that knew they were done, and they were just reaching for anything to make themselves feel better.
  • After a quick run-down of the implications of the WC game, Mrs. Swanson designated ‘elsewhere’ and ‘garage’ as possible viewing venues. Gesture of kindness.. no kids. I chose the later. Four-run lead so the littlest and I watched a few innings in the La-Z-Boy before her bedtime. It was the right choice for sure.
  • It doesn’t help Rizzo when LaStella bats behind him.
  • David Ross must have black mail pictures on Maddon
  • Last night the Cubs hitters from 3-6 were Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Chris Coghlan. They combined for an 0-for-13 night with 5 K’s and 2 double plays. Not a single one reached base.
  • We’ve been Cub fans long enough to know that no amount of optimism can erase the worry in the back of our minds. A win today will change that.
  • I will admit my obvious bias here and say that if this were any other team in baseball, I’d be more inclined to believe it, but after Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia left the game yesterday, news slowly came out that he had apparently been suffering from a “stomach ailment.”
  • mega props to Sherm for getting Soler in there.
  • Watching them throw the ball all over the field and Molina not back up the play was most enjoyable and rewarding.
  • Maybe if Ross played first base when Lester pitched, he could throw there.
  • I prefer Wood, Travis not Seymours blue pill kind.
  • Not my pill…I just write your Rx.
  • CUBS WIN! even sweeter because I didn’t have to stay up late to see it happen!
  • So happy. Wish we could all hug it out..
  • Cubs- it means a baby Bear, a young Bear. Maybe the formula all along was to have a group of young talented players to naive to know they aren’t suppose to win.
  • I would really like to see Ross get a big hit at some point.
  • We all would.
  • Whatever does happen in the NLCS and going forward from there, I think something very important for the future of the Cubs happened in the NLDS: They beat St. Louis.
  • I didn’t feel like Lester pitched bad, but when you’re being called on to get a win, you have to pitch better.
  • The offense appeared to have NO game plan whatsoever. Swung at too many first pitches early and which kept Harvey’s pitch count low, and then later in the game when he was throwing EVERYONE a first pitch fastball…they’re taking.
  • This team has had streaks of good and bad all year long…unfortunately, we’ve hit a bad streak at the wrong time.
  • Let’s all mentally hold hands and say a prayer…
  • I don’t know if the Cubs will lose this series. More than likely they will, but I do know this. I know I’ll be in front of my television tonight watching game 4 and cheering my heart out and you should to.


  • Well Fuck!

Shout Outs

  • Big shout outs to everyone for all your input, thoughtful commentary, humor, and friendship. VFTB couldn’t exist without you. (Well it could, but Joe would be lonely!) Thanks for being here!


  • Congratulations to Sherm, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time around! Way to go!

Final 2015 Season Standings (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie von White
2. Doc Raker
3. Seymour Butts
4. jswanson
5. Sherm
6. Joe Aiello
7. Doug S.
8. Jared Wyllys
8. Jedi
10. Dork
11. Bryan
12. Buddy
13. Katie
14. Jerry in Wisconsin
15. cap’n realist
16. Sean Powell
17. Mark from Toronto
17. Nick Dorey
17. Noah
20. Alex Botts
20. Chet
22. Jeremiah
22. King in the Nawth
24. Nate Head
25. Adam Peters
25. Bartz
25. Common Sense
25. Douglas Bath
25. Gaz
25. Josh
25. Kac
25. Michaer
25. mike
25. nmmatt
25. painhertz
25. RC
25. Tom

Chit Chat

  • So, that’s a wrap. It didn’t end the way we dreamed, yet at the same time it was so much better than we dreamed! We’re thinking of re-tooling the GirlieView in the off season to keep things interesting. Maybe every month instead of every other week. Maybe a limited number of Lizzies available for claiming each month, maybe unlimited (as current.) Maybe more than one Lizard. Do you have any ideas? What would you like to see? We’d love to hear your suggestions!
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Afternoon update: Trade/Free agent rumors, AFL news

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Early free agent/trade rumors

Granted, the World Series has just gotten started, but that doesn’t mean that plans for next year haven’t already begun in the Cubs front office. Almost immediately after losing game 4 of the NLCS a week ago, they took to work on looking ahead to 2016. The first word from Theo Epstein last week was the need for quality starting pitching. This probably comes as no surprise to any Cubs fan who watched the NLCS and paid close attention even as the regular season came to a close. The drop off from Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta to the number 3-5 starters was pretty steep, and when they didn’t pitch up to standards against New York, this caught up to us. Epstein acknowledged the need for additions, probably through free agency and/or trade fairly early in the winter:

“We need quality pitching,” Epstein said. “I’m not going to rule anything out or anything in, except to say whether it’s through trade or free agency we’d like to add one quality pitcher this winter.”

Though here he only mentions getting one additional starting pitcher, I have to wonder if we won’t see two new starting pitchers join the fold, one through free agency and one perhaps through trade. The problem, of course, with a trade is that it means that we will be saying goodbye to some of our young offensive talent:

“I would love to have our entire position group back,” Epstein said. “I think the competition is good, the depth is great, the redundancy is important and it’s a significant competitive advantage to have a solution at the ready if something goes wrong. It’s a competitive advantage to make out a lineup tailored for that night’s opposing pitcher. It’s a huge advantage.

“It might not be possible. We have some other areas we need to address. We may be forced … to take away from that position player group to add pitching. I don’t know.”

I would imagine that Javier Baez is likely a trade piece this offseason. His successful 2015 season, both in AAA Iowa and during his fairly brief stint in the majors, has probably raised his trade value well enough to be a part of a package that brings someone like Sonny Gray to Chicago (that’s one of the rumors that sprung up almost immediately after the Cubs season ended). Some have suspected that Kyle Schwarber might need to be a part of that deal, but Gray would certainly be a very valuable addition to our starting rotation. Tyson Ross is another starting pitcher who has been mentioned somewhat frequently as an offseason trade target. The Cubs seemed to be fairly close to acquiring Ross during the July trade deadline, but it did not come to fruition at that point.

Of course, from there, the other options are free agent signings like David Price or perhaps even Zack Greinke. The thought of Price being signed as the free agent this winter gets some mixed reactions, generally because while we expect that he will offer at least a few more years of high quality pitching, it will also mean that he is going to expect a large, long term contract, much like what Lester received last winter. Whether or not the Cubs want to be saddled with two contracts like this down the road remains to be seen. Greinke is a potential option as well, though he has not yet been connected to the Cubs to the degree that Price has. That can change, of course, as the winter meetings begin in a few weeks and offseason free agency really kicks off. Whatever the case, the Cubs will need to make some sort of pitching additions if they are going to hope to be competitive in 2016, as it is very, very likely that the Cardinals and Pirates will still be formidable opponents within the division and the Mets have shown that they are not going to be easy to deal with any time soon.

Though the Cubs have not yet been directly linked to any of these players, it is worth noting that Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, and some guy named Jeff Samardzija will all be free agents this winter as well. Though Samardzija had a very rough 2015 with the White Sox, he will probably be a very appealing reclamation project for someone next year. The presence of so many options in the pitching market might mean that Price or Greinke will be less expensive, but time will tell.

News from Arizona

I reviewed the players from the Cubs farm system who are in the Arizona Fall League on Monday, so I’ll take a look here at how some of them have performed in the last couple of days.

On Monday, the Mesa Solar Sox traveled to play the Glendale Desert Dogs and Pierce Johnson had the start for the Solar Sox. In spite of a less than impressive outing, Mesa’s offense provided enough for the Solar Sox to get the win. Johnson threw just 4 innings and gave up 6 hits and 2 runs. He walked just one and also struck out just one batter. On offense, Angels prospect Chad Hinshaw provided most of the runs with 3 hits (including a home run) and 3 RBI. Cubs catching prospect Willson Contreras went 2 for 4 with a double and scored 2 runs. Contreras also drove in a run. Jeimer Candelario was 1 for 5 with an RBI double, and Mark Zagunis was 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

Yesterday, Glendale exacted a bit of revenge, this time in Mesa. Cubs pitching prospect David Garner pitched a scoreless final inning in relief, walking one and striking out one. In 4 appearances in the Fall League so far, Garner has yet to give up a run. Offensively, it was a bit of a quieter day. Contreras was 0 for 4 but drew a walk and scored a run, and none of the other Cubs prospects played.

This afternoon, Mesa heads to Surpise, Arizona, to take on the Surprise Saguaros.

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Out of the Archives: Success Rate of MLB Draft Picks by Slot

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

This post originally ran about three years ago, but it’s worth bringing back. Props to Michael Jimenez for writing it.

It’s no secret that MLB prospect success rates are rather low.  There’s been a couple great studies on prospect success rates like Scott McKinney’s study on the success of BA’s top prospects  and Matt Garrioch’s study on the draft’s success by round; however, I have not seen any studies on the success rates of draft picks by each individual slot.  This has peaked my interest recently as the Cubs are tanking the 2012 season for as high of a draft pick as possible.  Many of you already know I am working on a Ph.D. in History so something like this is right up my alley (too bad I chose a Civil Rights topic for my dissertation instead of a topic on baseball or I’d be done already).  I decided to do my own study tracking the success rate of every draft pick in the first round from 1990-2006.


I separated the 17 years into three separate brackets. 1990-1995, 1996-2000, and 2000-2006.  I chose to stop at the year 2006, because many of 2007′s prospects have their fates yet to be decided. The number 3 pick for instance, Josh Vitters, just hit the majors.  Is it fair to call him a bust when he’s had 25 plate appearances and is still only 22 years old? Granted the more recent years will still be a little shady as well, especially players drafted out of high school, but at this point successful players should be performing at the majors.

Establishing what would be deemed a “successful” draft pick was the most difficult part of this study.  I asked a few of the popular prospect experts how they would define success of an MLB draft pick, and the responses all came back similar; it depends on each individual case, the money involved, and where they were selected. There was no one way to define “success” that would cover every draft pick.  So instead I chose three separate approaches.

First, I went with  a similar methodology to Scott McKinney’s study on BA’s top 100 prospects.   I used FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as the tool for measurement.  I took  the average of WAR at the MLB level during the player’s controllable years excluding seasons under 100 plate appearances or 25 innings pitched if they occurred in the first 1 or 2 consecutive seasons of reaching the majors. McKinney wrote  that he “was attempting to account for the fact that many players get very little playing time in their first or second season, and I did not want to give them equal weight in the average WAR calculation.  At the same time, I didn’t want to omit all short or partial seasons over a player’s cost controlled years because they are often due to injury or poor performance.” I agreed with this premise and decided to keep this stipulation.  This is labeled as cWAR.

That means for a player to be deemed a “success,” they must post at least a 1.5 WAR average in the 6 years before they could hit free agency.  In addition, there would be a “superior” category in which the player would need a 2.5 WAR average over that same time period.

Second, I looked  at the peak of the player’s career.  I evaluated the players’ best 5-year stretch using higher minimum WAR requirements than the first approach and labeled it as pWAR.  Since I cherry picked the best 5 consecutive seasons of a player’s career, I increased the WAR to fit the basic definitions for a league average and superior player.  That means the minimum success WAR was raised to 2.0, while the minimum superior WAR was raised to a 3.0 average.  This would give “late-bloomers” a chance at being called a success, or some successes to be bumped up to superior players.

Lastly, I looked at the longevity of a career.  To play in the majors for an extended period of time shows a player had enough skill to stick around at the highest level.  I wanted a number high enough that the player received either a multiple year contract or multiple contracts after they hit free agency.  I decided to use 10 years as the amount to be deemed a success for draft picks.  There were 2 players in the next bracket who are both still active and sitting at 9 years, I decided these 2 players deserved the success as longevity; they are R.A. Dickey and Matt Thornton.  After 1999 there were no players who were successful via only the longevity clause which was expected as there’s just not enough time to develop through the minors and reach 10 seasons yet.  The same minimum requirements of 100 PAs or 25 innings pitched for the first year or two apply.  I also decided to add a similar stipulation to the tail end of careers to eliminate failed comeback attempts to avoid artificially inflating a player’s length of career.  Overall, a very small percentage of players were deemed a success via only longevity so I was very happy with how this approach turned out.


Without further ado, the results spreadsheet for your viewing pleasure

As you probably expected, the further the study went, the more fuzzy the picture became on some draft picks. These were guys, usually called up within the past few seasons, who sat on the fringe of success and could go either way depending on how the rest of their career goes.  There wasn’t a significant amount of players affected to alter the results but there will definitely be an influx of more successful players as time goes by in addition to the handful of the successful by longevity guys as well. This type is actually rather easy to predict.  Usually they are just on the border of being a good player.   The majority were actually converted starting pitchers who went to the bullpen and found some success there after failing as a starter.  Guys I would expect to see hit the 10 year mark include Phil Hughes, Chris Volstad, and Carlos Quentin among others.  The study predicted players that I perceive as borderline very well.  In all, I agreed with nearly every determination in the study.  The few that I disagreed with, tended to have injuries skew their statistics.

One question I wanted definitively answered was if tanking actually helped teams rebuild quicker.  I would answer that with a resounding yes after seeing how successful the higher draft picks were compared to the mid to low picks especially when separated into the brackets.

Teams that chose in the top half of the draft had at least a 36% to find a successful player moving forward.  Teams choosing in the top 5 had nearly a 50/50 chance.  While teams had a little better than a 1 in 5 chance to land a quality player in the 16-25 range, if you weren’t making the playoffs, you absolutely wanted to draft as high as possible.

As you can see the chance to find a superior player also drastically decreases the further you get in the draft.  It was even more important for rebuilding teams to stay in the bottom 10 in the standings to have the best chance at acquiring impact talent.  After the top 10, there is a significant drop off that levels off until the final bracket.

The second question I wanted to answer was if drafting had improved over the years as scouting and saber metrics had advanced.   This is a little more difficult to answer but based purely on my research I would lean towards no.  In the 90-95 bracket  teams found a successful player 34% of the time and a superior player 18% of the time; however, those numbers dropped in the 96-00 bracket to 27% and 16%.  In the final bracket, those numbers rebounded to 30% and 20%.  While the successful player percentage is still lower than the first bracket, if you take into account that many players drafted between 00-06 have not been in the majors long enough to get out of their controlled years and there were zero longevity successes in this bracket, you could predict an increase of 12 more successes.  That would increase the success percentage to 37% still within 3% of the 90-95′s success rate.  With modern medical advances, nutrition awareness, and less general wear and tear on players, I think there’s a case to be made that we are seeing more successful players because injuries are less career threatening than ever before and players were able to keep a higher production and hang around the majors longer.  You could also make the case that the 02′ and 05′ drafts are two of the best draft classes ever and those are skewing the numbers more positively.  Moreover, there were a few cases like Brian Bogusevic who haven’t been in the majors very long, put up a really good season, and that one year that carried him to a success result.  In any case, there’s no definitive evidence to conclude there was an improvement in scouting.

As for the Cubs, the organization wasn’t as bad as I expected.  Out of 17 draft picks in the first round, they came away with 5 good picks and 2 superior players for just shy of a 30% success rate.  The average success rate was 30.64%, and the Cubs were tied for 14th, right in the middle of the pack.  However, there were two problems.  Foremost, three of their picks’ careers were derailed by injury – Kerry Wood, Corey Patterson, and Mark Prior – and the team traded away Doug Glanville and Jon Garland for past their prime veterans.  Second, there were zero successful picks after 2001. As Scouting Director from 1996-2002, Jim Hendry chose 4 of the 5 successful picks for a 57% success rate. The guy that assumed the role after Hendry, John Stockstill, went 0-3 before he left to join the Orioles.  After Hendry turned to Tim Wilken, you can see a noticeable difference in talent through the draft with all four of his first picks already playing in the majors.  Speaking of Tim Wilken, there’s a good reason he’s so highly regarded around the major leagues.  While with Toronto and Tampa the two organizations went a combined 9-16 (56%).  I am very happy the new front office kept him on board and have expanded his roles with the team.


I enjoyed working on this quite a bit.  It was fun to take a stroll down memory lane, and it was also interesting to see what players I perceived as better or worse than they actually were.  I had to triple check Corey Patterson’s numbers after they said he was a success… and he wasn’t the only player/team I was surprised by.

I’m not done with this study.  I’m already expanding to the team stats and I will definitely revisit the study in a few years to update and expand it for more recent drafts.  I will probably go back earlier than 1990 as well to continue to investigate if the success rate of organizations has improved or diminished over the decades.

If you have any suggestions how to improve the study, found an error or want to share any surprises you found, please leave them in the comments.

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Catching up with the Arizona Fall League

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Though the season for the parent club ended on a sour note almost a week ago, that doesn’t mean that all Cubs related action has come to a halt. In fact, almost two weeks ago, the Arizona Fall League started its season, and there are several Cubs minor leaguers who are playing this fall. On October 13, the 2015 season started in Arizona, so there have been quite a few games already. While most of us were wrapped up in the Cubs’ postseason run, some of their future players were getting extra work in a league that many casual fans probably don’t know exists or at least know very little about. I’ll take a quick look at the basic structure of the league and its schedule, and then a brief look at each of the Cubs affiliated players who are down there this year.

The league

As I mentioned earlier, the season started on October 13, and it runs until the last regular season game on November 19. They have an all star game on Saturday, November 7, and the championship is on Saturday, November 21. There are 8 teams split across an East and a West division, with the teams in Salt River, Scottsdale, Mesa, Glendale, Surprise, and Peoria. The team in Mesa plays at Sloan Park, and that is where the Cubs affiliated players are, along with other minor leaguers from the Angels, Marlins, A’s, and the Rays.

The Cubs have quite a few players in Mesa this fall, including a few prospects worth watching closely. Here’s a look at who they are:

The players


Corey Black

Originally a draftee of the Yankees, Black came to the Cubs system in 2013. This has been his fourth full season in the minors, and the 24 year old has spend the last two seasons with AA Tennessee. This year, he made quite a few more relief appearances than he did in 2014, and he ended up throwing just 86 innings for the Smokies. He does boast an excellent strikeout rate with 101 Ks in those 86 innings, but his 1.407 WHIP in 2015 is a little worrisome.

David Garner

Garner left Michigan State early to join the Cubs in 2013 after they drafted him in the 7th round. He was drafted out of high school by the Reds in 2010, but opted for college instead. He split his time between South Bend and Myrtle Beach this year, and actually did considerably better after moving up to Myrtle Beach. There, he had a 0.890 WHIP in 30.1 innings and 36 strikeouts to just 10 walks.

Pierce Johnson

Johnson was also drafted out of high school originally, but declined in order to go to Missouri State. The Cubs took him in the first round in 2012, and coming in to the 2015 season, he was ranked 83rd in the Baseball Prospectus top 100 list. Because of a back injury, he spent the first couple of months in extended spring training this year, but he was able to throw 95 innings in 16 starts for AA Tennessee this year. He looked great in that time, and maybe, just maybe, he could be that extra starting pitcher that the Cubs are looking for in 2016. Perhaps not right away, but I could see him brought up in the second half of the season.

Rob Zastryzny

Zastryzny had a pretty rough year in AA Tennessee, posting a 6.23 ERA in 14 starts. His WHIP was a troubling 1.731, and he gave up 77 hits in 60.2 innings. He’s not pitched particularly well in the Fall League so far either. On Saturday, he threw 5 innings in his start and gave up 6 hits and 2 runs. He did strike out 7, however.


Cael Brockmeyer

Brockmeyer played in 4 minor league levels this year, going from single A South Bend all the way to AAA Iowa. His best performance came in Kane County last year, when he went .297 in 77 games there. He did play at the AAA level in 2013 also (for just 2 games), but spent all of 2014 in low A.

Willson Contreras

Contreras has been with the Cubs organization since 2009, when he was 17. Contreras spent all of 2015 in AA Tennessee, where he put up numbers that are worth your attention, especially when you consider that he spent the majority of them at catcher. In 521 plate appearances, he had an OPS of .891 and had 151 hits to just 62 strikeouts. He’s also spent the last two winters playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he’s gone up against guys at least 5 or 6 years older than he is, and he still hits extremely well.


Jeimer Candelario

This 21 year old third baseman seems like he just might have a bright future. Another player who joined the Cubs system as a 17 year old, he split his time this year between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. Between the two stops, he had a combined OPS of .770 and hit 35 doubles, 4 triples, and 10 home runs. In 6 games in Arizona so far this fall, he’s hitting just a scant .478 and has 4 doubles and 3 home runs already.


Mark Zagunis

The Cubs took Zagunis in the 3rd round out of Virginia Tech last June, and he spent all of this year in Myrtle Beach. In 512 plate appearances there, he had an OPS of .818. He had 24 doubles and 5 triples. He’s had just 2 hits so far this fall, but he’s drawing walks like crazy. In 5 games, he’s already been walked 8 times, so while his batting average is .182 in the fall league so far, he has an OBP of .526. He drew 80 walks for Myrtle Beach this season (in 115 games). Just to give you some perspective, Kris Bryant drew 77 walks in 151 games for the Cubs this year.


2008: The Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the top offensive player in each league, is presented to Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis (.312, 29, 115) and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.289, 27, 111). The honor was established in 1999 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Henry Aaron surpassing Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.

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2015 Cubs in Review – There Art Thou Happy

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Bear with me here, as I promise there’s a connection to the 2015 Cubs, but one of my favorite scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is in Act 3, Scene 3, just after Romeo has killed his new cousin-in-law Tybalt in a fit of rage over Tybalt’s accidental killing of Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio. In the first scene of the play, the Prince of Verona had warned the Capulet and Montague families that if they brawled in the streets again, death would be the penalty, but because of the confusion of this particular brawl, Romeo is banished to Mantua instead of being executed. The problem is, Romeo has just secretly married his love of the past 24 hours or so, Juliet. So, like any rational teenage boy, he goes to the priest (Friar Laurence) declaring that he’s going to kill himself.

Here’s part of Friar Laurence’s response:

In short, the friar reminds Romeo of several things he has to be thankful for, namely that he killed Tybalt rather than the reverse, and that the Prince has spared his life. He also scolds him for acting “womanish” and pouting about his lot in life. So, why am I going on about Shakespeare? Because I think some of our fanbase has a bit of Romeo in it. We’ve got things really pretty good, but we have to be careful not to focus on the negatives.

Yes, it will be 108 years next season. But I’ll say the same thing here that I say to every non-Cubs fan who brings that up: The only year that matters is this year. Yes, we came close to the first trip to the World Series since 1945 only to be swept in four ugly games by the Mets. The Mets. But, for once, it wasn’t about goofy curses or jinxes. It was just good old fashioned bad baseball. No goat, no black cat, no Bartman. Just crappy baseball. That was paradoxically refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, the last 4 games of the 2015 Cubs season were about as disheartening a series as I have ever watched. I expected the Mets pitching to be dangerous, but I thought our hitting could match up to it. I expected our pitching to drop off after Jake Arrieta‘s start on Sunday, but I didn’t expect the Mets’ offense to channel the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 Yankees. (If you had told me a week ago that Daniel Murphy would be a primary catalyst for ending the Cubs’ season, I would have laughed until I peed myself).

But that’s baseball. Four miserable games in the heat of July might not register on anyone’s radar, but 4 miserable games in late October get seared in our memories. I vented a bit of this frustration on Twitter, because I feared the bandwagon backlash after the loss in game 3:

But really, that’s all done now, and there’s only the time left to watch the remaining teams battle for this year’s championship and then gear up for the offseason. What 2016 will bring for the Cubs will be a fun ride, I’m sure, but this past season was definitely something special; easily the most fun I’ve had watching the Cubs in my lifetime so far.

So here you go, Cubs fans, reasons to be happy in the face of the sour taste left in our mouths after the last out of game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday.

24 more wins

That’s right, the Cubs exceeded their win total from 2014 by 24 wins. No one, and really no one, expected that. I thought 88 or 89 was the high end and 82 or 83 was more realistic. Just get above .500, that’s all I really hoped for – and playoffs? Wasn’t on my radar, and if you look back at preseason projections from the first week of April or so, it wasn’t really on anyone else’s radar either. Certainly not a trip to the NLCS, sweep or not.

Cy Young…maybe

Again, go back and look at preseason awards projections. No one expected Arrieta to be even remotely close to this conversation. Really, without his second half performance in particular, I don’t think we get to 97 wins, or even particularly close, and we’re probably not in the wild card game. We got to see a Cubs no hitter, several complete game performances, and just pure dominance that dazzled the entire world of baseball.


Like Arrieta, we’ll have to wait and see, but Anthony Rizzo‘s 2015 performance has put him firmly in the discussion for NL MVP. He had a career high 701 plate appearances, in which he posted an OPS of .899, hit 31 home runs, had 41 XBH, and struck out just 105 times. While he looked a little flat in the playoffs, he showed team leadership the belies his 26 years. He’s a cornerstone of our offense for a long time to come, I would have to imagine.

NL Rookie of the Year

I reviewed his case for this award in a previous post here, but if Kris Bryant does not get the National League Rookie of the Year award, many will be crying foul. The service time drama of early April feels like a distant memory, but in the 650 plate appearances with the Cubs that Bryant had this year, he had 154 hits, 26 home runs, and an OPS of .858. He also showed some defensive flexibility, playing in multiple spots in the outfield on different occasions. Sure, he struck out a NL leading 199 times, but details, people.

Maddon was Maddon

Speaking of awards, Joe Maddon could very likely collect the manager of the year award for the National League, and I think he fully deserves it. I wasn’t sure what to expect of him this year, but he honestly surpassed what I had hoped for. I think his approach to this young team played a large role in them being able to defy expectations and go on the run that they did. Many will nitpick and be hypercritical about his decisions in the NLCS, but I say they’re just grasping.

The walkoffs

The Cubs won in a walkoff thirteen times this year. Thirteen.

Beating the Cardinals

If the NLCS hasn’t erased this from your memory, remember that 4 game series in which the Cubs dispensed of the 100 win Cardinals? And with relative ease? Even after Arrieta pitched poorly in game 3 and the Cardinals still couldn’t get a win? I was at game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night, and one Mets fan made it a point to express his thanks. To quote him roughly: “On behalf of all of America, thank you for beating the Cardinals. Nobody likes the Cardinals. Nobody.” He had worse things to say about them than he did the Yankees. Think about that.

While there are plenty of other things I could highlight, I want to end with the fact that, unlike many times in the past, “There’s always next year” has a very different tone to it now. 2016 is looked to with excitement, not trepidation for a change. We have an extraordinarily young team that looks to do exciting things next year. My hope is that our front office adds to our pitching rotation and then looks at options for center field. Maybe Dexter Fowler will stay, or maybe Jason Heyward takes his place (that’s already being rumored). Whatever the case, there’s plenty of reason to smile when you look back at the 2015 season.

There art thou happy.

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NLCS Game 3 Notes – Mets 5 @ Cubs 2

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

I sat in the bed last night after the game trying to process it all and think about what I was going to write in the morning. I thought I would wake up refreshed and ready to talk about it, but I’m not. What do you want me to say? Do you want me to say that it will be OK? After all, the Red Sox came back from down 3-0 in the series to the Yankees in 2004 and not only won the series, but won it all and broke their losing streak. Do you want me to say that it was the umpires fault we lost? Perhaps you would like me to say that if Addison Russell hadn’t gotten injured, maybe some of the infield issues wouldn’t have happened and this would be a different series. I can’t say any of those things this morning. I’m sorry.

We know what happened last night and it hurts. We know that Kyle Schwarber misplayed a ball in left field that went over his head. Hey, he’s young and playing out of position. What do you expect? We know that Miguel Montero failed to block a third strike in the dirt that essentially got the Cubs out of a jam only to see the runner reach first base and a run come in to score. It happens. It’s in inopportune time, but it happens. We saw Javier Baez come in to take away the bunt to Curtis Granderson in the 1st inning only to be charged with an error on a ball hit back to him. It happens. There is no guarantee Russell makes the play. We know Daniel Murphy hit his 5000th home run in consecutive games. It happens. Guys get hot in the playoffs and turn into heros. We saw Jorge Soler dive or over extend for a sinking ball at him that he had no business trying to catch on the fly, only to see the ball completely go past him and wedge in the ivy (thank God for ground rules). It happens. All of these things happen. The problem is that they all happened to us and they all happened on the same night.

I don’t know if the Cubs will lose this series. More than likely they will, but I do know this. I know I’ll be in front of my television tonight watching game 4 and cheering my heart out and you should to. I saw too many fans pouring out of Wrigley last night before the game was even over. I saw too many fans last night not even standing up when everyone around them was standing and cheering. Tonight, I’ll be watching, cheering, and hoping and you should be too, if for no other reason than this team of players has given us a wonderful surprise one year early. We were not supposed to be tweeting with hashtags reading #WeAreGood in 2015. These were gifts that were to be opened on opening day 2016, but this team succumbed like a parent to our pouty lip and let us open a gift the night before Christmas. Tonight, as you watch the game, whether we win or lose, cheer out of respect for a team that gave you so much this season and remember this tweet.

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NLCS Game 2 Notes – Cubs 1 @ Mets 4

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Game Notes

I tweeted this just after the game, but it’s a really good idea not to use the minutiae of two games of an NLCS to draw grand conclusions about the 2015 Cubs. If you’ve just recently started watching the Cubs because of their success of late, let me say two things: Welcome, we’re happy to have you. And you’re watching a team that one at least a dozen more regular season games than they were projected to and that has made it to the NLCS for the first time in 12 years in a year that they weren’t expected to make the playoffs at all. Try to relax a little and enjoy yourself.

That said, one thing of interest that is worth noting is the innings load that Jake Arrieta has had this season. He’s far surpassed anything that he’s done until now, and it’s possible that the fatigue is hitting him at the least opportune time. It happens. Here’s what I’m referring to though:

It’s also possible that it has nothing, or very little, to do with that, but the last two starts have been uncharacteristic Arrieta. He has not had two consecutive non quality starts since May 2 and 7.

Along with that, and more importantly in my humble opinion, our offense just didn’t have it. Maybe it’s because Noah Syndergaard is just that good, maybe it’s because it was something like -40 in New York tonight, or maybe it’s because the home plate umpire was calling unhittably low pitches strikes all night. I usually fight the urge to complain about refs and umpires as much as I can, but the strike zone tonight was pretty suspect. Even without that, our offense – either through misfortune or something else – had a remarkable propensity for hitting the ball either straight up in the air or right at the Mets defense. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.” There are worse things to be outraged about.

The funny thing about playoff baseball is that there always seems to be “that guy” who just inexplicably can do no wrong, and for the Mets it seems to be Daniel Murphy. Murphy was 2 for 3 with a very key home run tonight, and in game 1 he hit a first inning homer off of Jon Lester. Again, so it goes. Murphy has 62 career home runs across 7 seasons, but sure. (You can’t see it, but I’m shrugging and throwing my hands up.)

What’s on tap?

This is a very tough pitching matchup for the Cubs, but the fact that it’s back at Wrigley and in warmer weather (maybe I’m reading too much into this, but we’re down 2-0 and I’m all about looking for reasons to be hopeful) makes me feel a little better about our chances. Kyle Hendricks has actually done a pretty fine job in his last few starts, including a very important game 2 of the NLDS in which he struck out 7 Cardinals in just 4.2 innings. He also had 3 straight quality starts to close out the regular season, and has shown that he is going to strike a lot of guys out consistently.

And Wrigley is going to be nuts on Tuesday. If it’s not, then we don’t deserve this. As for Jacob deGrom, he had 2 starts in the NLDS, and pitched well both times (shocker, I know). In game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers he struck out 13 in 7 scoreless innings. And then last Thursday he threw 6 innings of 2 run ball while striking out 7. He looked a little more mortal on Thursday night, but not by much.

I will resist the urge and temptation to make any sort of predictions here, but having 3 games in a row at Wrigley is as good of an environment as you can hope for to do something crazy and get back into this series. Whatever the case, just remember that this is baseball, where very surprising and unusual things can happen all the time. And this is a 7 game series of playoff baseball, which is where that tends to happen even more. And, as Cubs fans, we should understand how surprising an NLCS can turn out better than anyone.

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NLCS Game 1 Notes – Cubs 2 @ Mets 4

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

All day Saturday I paced the house and looked at the clock. Gametime couldn’t come fast enough. I had it all lined up. I was going to a friend’s house who is a big Mets fan with a few other guys, some of them Cub fans, to watch the game on his big screen. All day I was looking forward to it. Then it all started to unravel. My friend sent a text around dinner that he was not feeling well and was going to have to take a rain check, which left me watching at home. I fired up the Roku box (we’re recently cord cutters) and loaded my Sling App that I’m on a free trial of, and the internet was having some speed issues. Thankfully those cleared up before first pitch, but another thing going wrong. Then the first few innings happened and it was basically all down hill from there.


I knew the Mets had a good starting staff and I knew that Matt Harvey, last night’s starter, was really good. I went into the series knowing this, but I still felt like we could out slug them. It just didn’t happen. Harvey pitched like a boss and basically tied the leash on the lineup. They couldn’t do a thing. Even when it seemed like we were going to get something going when a ball was lined off of Harvey, he picked it up, made the play at first base, and kept on sticking it to us. In his one other start against us, he pitched really well as well, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise as more of a disappointment.

Jon Lester took the ball for the second series in a row for game one and for a second time, the Cubs left the park with a loss. Like last time, I didn’t feel like Lester pitched bad, but when you’re being called on to get a win, you have to pitch better. You have to raise your game up a notch and will yourself to put up zeros. Lester was just too hittable and the Mets capitalized with a couple home runs and a key base hit with runners in scoring position. They put more guys on base than we did all night and took advantage when needed. It happens and it needs to go in the books and stay in the books. Lester didn’t get the win, but unlike in the NLDS, he’ll get another shot and he needs to take advantage.

As for the bullpen, they did what could do, with Justin Grimm, Clayton Richard and Trevor Cahill all chipping in to patch up the remaining outs, but it didn’t matter much. I’m still amazed that the Cubs have been able to get positive things from Richard and Cahill, two guys that were left in the baseball dump to rot. I don’t know what will happen to either of them, as both are free agents at year end, but it’s been interesting to see this front office hit on more lottery tickets.


Not much to talk about here, with the exception of two runs. For the first few innings I worried seriously that I was going to see a no hitter. There just wasn’t any offensive firepower coming from the bats. David Ross was in at catcher since Lester was on the mound, so that weakened the bottom of the order, although Ross did just miss a home run by about five feet. Lester came up with a big situation at the plate, but was unable to take advantage. It is what it is. Did you expect a bad hitter to find a nut in that sitiatuion? If you did, you set yourself up for dissappointment. In the end, there were just two plays to discuss.

First, was the 5th inning. After Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a hit by pitch off the right elbow, Starlin Castro came to the plate and hit a rocket line drive over the head of Juan Lagaras and Rizzo came around to score. In the box score it looks great, but should Castro have been on 3rd? Take a look at the highlight.

You’ll notice, especially on the slo mo replay after the play, that Castro was very slow out of the box watching the ball. Had he hustled from the first step out of the box, he probably reaches 3rd as the throw goes to the plate to try to get Rizzo. That was a big play, because the very next play, this happened.

If Castro is standing on 3rd base after his hit, he scores easily on that play. It’s little things like this that drive Cub fans bananas, and I don’t blame them. I’m a Castro supporter. I like him and I want to keep him, but I say that knowing things like this happen. I’m not blind to it and I don’t take the approach that it will suddenly get better with age. Some guys are smart baseball players and some are not. Some play with their head up and some play with their head down. Castro is a head down kind of player with a lot of raw talent and last night it got us a run and it cost us a run.

The other offensive note to mention was Kyle Schwarber‘s monster shot. This guy is  a beast and he continues to hit moon balls.

Up Next

We turn our eyes and our hopes to Jake Arrieta. While it’s not a series ender if he can’t win tonight, it would be quite damaging and dig us a pretty deep hole to come back from. Here is your pitching matchup for tonight.

Met’s Fans are dumb. That’s all I have to say about that. Here is the only evidence I need and then I can drop the mic.

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Can You Name the Cubs Opening Day Lineups Since 1991?

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

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