THAT WAS SOME GOOD WOOD – The biggest contribution to yesterday’s win and the reason the fans went home completely satisfied was due to the good Wood they received. Even the Dodgers had good Wood, but it was Travis Wood who tossed four shutout, shutdown innings, which is much longer than I though it would be, that stole the show. It’s not all about length, but what you do when you’re in there that counts, but Wood was just was the doctor ordered after Jason Hammel had to leave the game after just two innings of work. The rest of the pen followed suit and what could have been a disaster of a day, having to go deep in the pen on game one of a series, turned into a stellar start to a semi-big series. It’s hard to have a “big” series when you’re 6.5 games up on the 2nd place team and almost 10 up from the team just on the outside of the wild card, but we’ll take what we can get. Any time we can play a team over .500, it’s a fun series to watch.
HERE WE GO AGAIN? – You might remember last year. Hammel was cruising along making Theo and Jed look like geniuses for bringing him back to the Cubs after dealing him to Oakland and then a hamstring injury caused him to completely derail. So far this year, he’s looked All Star worthy and it would be a shame if something like this causes the same colossal decline as last season. The word is that it was cramping and nothing more, but Hammel said that he had drank a ton of fluids prior to the start, so he was surprised with the cramps. He was sweating heavily in the 1st inning of work, which was a semi-low stress inning after he retired the first two hitters pretty easily, but it happens. For now, we breathe a sigh of relief that it was just a cramp and cross our fingers for what we see next start. Should Hammel be shelved on the DL, my guess is that the Cubs would first turn to someone like Clayton Richard or Trevor Cahill and leave Wood in the pen, but Adam Warren could get a look as well as more of a long term answer.
I’ve payed attention to the Cubs farm system for as long as I can remember. I’ve just enjoyed watching players, who have potential to make a difference in the future, develop into those players behind the scene. I always seem to latch on and find my favorites. Guys who tend to fly under the radar, but could still make some sort of name for themselves. Most never even sniff the cup of coffee they so desire, but it’s fun to watch them anyway.
This year I’ve identified eight guys that are not considered “top prospects” as far as the MiLB.com top 30 list for the Cubs that came out at the beginning of the season. When the list updates later this year, that may change, but for now none of the players listed below are on the list. As a result, these guys don’t get the publicity, but they are off to starts worth noticing.
Notes: As you can see, Rademacher is slightly older than the competition at his level by almost a year, and he is repeating the level after decent, but not eye popping numbers last year, but we’ve seen an increase in the power as he’s on pace to have more HR in a season than he’s had at any level so far, and he has increased the OBP well over just the increase in batting average.
Notes: The Cubs have lacked catcher depth for a little while now. With Miguel Montero probably nearing the end of his time with the Cubs and David Ross retiring at the end of the season, a guy like Ian Rice could find himself in a potential backup role behind someone like Willson Contreras, who most feel is the future backstop of this team. We’ve obviously got a long way before that, but Rice could move quickly, if he hits, considering he’s a college guy.
Notes: For some reason, a guy that was picked in the 1st round, has played as a young player at every level he’s been at, and has shown he can be competitive, does not get the love he deserves. In my opinion, Blackburn is the most underrated player in this system and I think he can crack the big league staff in the next by 2018 at the latest, possibly even earlier. The knock on him is that he doesn’t strike hitters out, and we’ve seen that decline at each level he’s been at, but while strikeouts are a huge factor in success, so is the ability to get hitters out, and that’s what Blackburn has done. Note the strikeout to walk ratio increasing.
Notes: I’ll admit that I’m a little biased on this one. Null was drafted out of Western Carolina, which is where I graduated from, but he’s worth noting. Again, not a guy that is going to blow hitters away, but he doesn’t walk a lot of guys either. He got a late start this year as he had some issues getting stretched out and had to start the year in extended spring training getting loose and ready for work, but since returning to Myrtle Beach this year, he’s made three starts and has looked good.
Notes: The Cubs signed Concepcion out of Cuba for $6 million over five years, so you can expect them to try to move him to the Majors at some point this season to know what they have. Up until this season, it appeared that the investment they made in Concepcion, albeit small, was not going to work out. After trying him as a starter, unsuccessfully, he’s pitched out of the bullpen and has been less than impressive. To be honest, had he not been a foreign guy they paid money to, I could have seen him get released after posting the numbers he did in 2015, but this year something has clicked. His 2016 numbers, which include time at Tennessee and now Iowa, have been a remarkable turn around. I don’t know what to attribute it to, but something seems to have clicked and fallen into place. He’s worth watching down the stretch this season to see if the Cubs give him a look.
Zach Hedges (SP) – 2.35 ERA in 9 starts for Myrtle Beach
I EXPECTED MORE – Maybe it was just me being naive, but I expected the Phillies to put up more of a fight this weekend. I especially thought Vince Velasquez would do more in the series finale. He’s been really good this year and I thought he offered up the best chance for the Phillies to steal a game in this season, but he just never showed up today. Dexter Fowler got it started in the first inning by reaching base and eventually scoring on an Anthony Rizzo single and the Cubs never let up on him after that. The final line of 4.2 IP, 7 ER was not what I expected. I think this Phillies team has some young arms that have potential to be very good, particularly Velasquez and Aaron Nola, but right now they are young and the Cubs were clearly the more talented team.
HOW WOULD I LIVE WITHOUT YOU? – The more I watch Ben Zobrist play baseball, the more I realize how important he is to this team. In the month of May, he’s been remarkably productive and I don’t know what the Cubs offense would look like had he not been on the team and Starlin Castro be manning second base. Zobrist hit a three run home run that essentially put the game out of reach. As you can see in the game flow chart, it was the death blow.
I have a co-worker that is a big Philly fan. He loves the Flyers, the Eagles, and the Phillies, so it should be a fun weekend of trash texting this weekend and the Cubs helped me strike first on Friday afternoon.
I ♥ GRANDPA ROSSY – We’ve been waiting for David Ross to get to the 100 HR mark and yesterday he did it with a 410 ft blast to left-center field. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about Ross since the Cubs signed him last year. People complaining about him being the personal catcher for Jon Lester, and why should the Cubs waste a spot in the lineup for a # 2 starter? I’ve heard people complain that he’s taking time away from someone like Willson Contreras in the Majors. Ultimately, I think Ross is vital to this team for two reasons. First is his production. He’s been a career backup catcher and last year posted an OPS+ of just 44. That means he was 56% worse than a league average player. This year he’s improved that to 121, which is 21% above league average. Throw in his ability behind the plate to disarm the running game and you have a really productive backup catcher. Second is his leadership. I’ve heard countless interviews with Cubs players asking what was different last year or this year and they all point to leadership from a guy like Ross. He has brought a presence to the clubhouse of young guys, along with Lester, and John Lackey. They bring winning experience and the ability to show a young team how to conduct it’s business, and that is a huge, immeasurable statistic.
DID YOU SEE SOLER’S DONG YESTERDAY? – It was long. It was hard, and it was very satisfying. Jorge Soler has struggled this season, but he’s played much better of late. In the last seven days, he leads the Cubs hitters in OPS, posting a very nice 1.160, and yesterday’s home run was one of those things of beauty that remind you of just how much power this guys has and how good he can be. Seriously, if you didn’t see it, scroll up and watch the video highlight. It was a majestic home run. Baseball lends itself to funny stats and that home run gave us one. It measured 452 ft according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker and took the top spot for 2016 longest Cubs home run. Who did it knock out of the top spot? Jake Arrieta (442 ft – Video)
WAIT…WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?!?! – News came out that the Cubs have outrighted lefty, CJ Reifenhauser off the 40 man roster. Usually these things will warrant some sort of news release from the Cubs PR department, but this one got nothing. In fact, I can honestly say I have no idea who this guy is or how he got on the 40 man roster to begin with. Now that it’s over with, the Cubs 40 man roster stands at 37.
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.
Bryant’s RBI liner up the middle when all that was needed was a liner up the middle…not a bomb. It doesn’t always have to be a bomb, and he’s figured it out. He’s going to be SO good.
I still miss Castro but I understand the different make up of this Cubs roster.
Wood’s lost some heat (don’t do it, Seymour) and is learning to be crafty, but he … needs a little more bend. (Dammit – leave it alone, Seymour)
Wood pitches hard.
What happened to the half off prom dresses?
Lester has a classic case of ‘the yips’ on the throw to first and everyone in the league knows it.
No review of the “YIPS” would be complete without defining the words origin. YIPS is an anagram for the first letters of what the coaching staff mutters when observing Knoblock lawn dart a throw from second to first. “You Idiotic Piece of S**t.”
Billy Ocean. Any relation to Junior Lake?
First cousins, only much larger.
Maybe the Cubs could hire a tutor/musician to stroll out to the mound with Chris Bosio and spend 30 seconds humming to Jon – the way some teams have an interpreter for non-English speaking players.
Even with no game tonight, it was a great day for Ben Zobrist who was named National League co-player of the week,
Still not loving Heyward hitting two. To me, Zobrist probably belongs there behind Fowler – back to back switch hitting on base machines. Heyward has been a rally killer, and until his wrist, or whatever it is that is bothering him, is 100% it won’t kill him to bat lower in the order. Hell, bat him ninth.
We lost all of that funny junk we said with the other comment format… I hope Lizzie was taking notes
Lizzie never gets distracted.
I guess I’ll summarize. Doug was classic, CAPS apparently gets emails every time somebody comments on VFTB, intentionally, Dork had an identity crisis, Sherm shermranted, business as usual for Seymour and me. Raker was studying science at Subway and failed to check in. Still no sign of our beloved Johnsons.
get your game face on, triangle mouths and all!
She was last seen standing outside of a baseball stadium holding a homemade sign which reads “balls to the face hurt.” Her original sign, “who wants a ball in the mouth?” was stolen by a streetwalker.
Last year I dreaded games that David Ross was the starter because he was an automatic out. He’s not an all star, by any means, but watching him play this year has not been torture.
Real satisfying watching Sean Rodriguez strike out.
I have a problem with people not giving people that are better than them credit. Know where you stand
To all the off season Ben Zobrist supporters. You were right, he is an upgrade from Starlin Castro as much as I like and miss Castro. It’s not just the batting average with Zobrist, it seems like everyone of his AB’s is a quality AB. Zobrist is impressive and made the Cubs a better team.
Who hasn’t had the metaphorical bat flipped in their face? It’s life.
And who hasn’t, metaphorically, at least, punched an arrogant idiot in the mouth?
If you don’t like his bat flip, maybe you should have gotten him out.
The Pirates are probably still salty from their Wildcard loss.
People don’t hate losers. It feels good to be hated on.
The Cubs are playing with class and acting like they have been there even though they are not and have not been perennial winners year after year.
it prevents [your] back end of the pen guys from staying sharp because they aren’t needed very often. Take Clayton Richard, for example. In the last seven days, he’s thrown one inning. For the year, he’s under six. This for a guy who has the endurance to throw that in one outing, and he’s considered you long man. How can you expect him to be a long man if he doesn’t have the opportunity to throw long outings?
There is no reason to have three catchers unless one of them is named Kyle Schwarber and if Tim Federowicz has his name changed to Kyle Schwarber, I retract that statement too.
I would just as soon send Federowicz packing and keep Kalish. I bet Baez would be willing to strap on the gear and catch the long man.
Heck, I’d rather see Thunder Matt Murton pinch hit over watching guys like Richard, warm the bullpen pine, game after game.
The league may be making adjustments on how they pitch to the Cubs.
Len – Joe Nathan, there’s two first names
Thinking Man – Wouldn’t you like to see a Joe Nathan / John Jay matchup?
Len – Two more first names right there
Thinking Man – Then you have Jay Bruce
Len – That’s out number one. That brings up a great point, do you think Jay Bruce was born to run like Bruce Springsteen?
Thinking Man – Maybe back in his glory days
Len – We’re through eight. Cubs seven, Milwaukee two.
Opportunity for a 4th of July hot dog eating contest tie in with Joe Nathan.
Nathan’s famous hot dog probably has an entirely different meaning in the Nathan bedroom
Federowitz pinch hit AB in the 9th was putrid.
Flailowitz at bat was terrible. I’d have rather seen Travis Wood pinch hit. Pathetic. He didn’t come within a foot of the ball.
I would go with Bryant at 1b and jBaez in left. I didn’t think Rizzo should of been pinched run for. Now we are in extra’s without our best hitter.
And Baez could have pinch it in that Whiffowitz situation. Or instead of Cahill, who actually did a lot better than Strikeoutawitz.
Wood played hard, as per usual.
He played hard for a long man.
Maddon, when asked what he said to Wood on the mound with bases loaded? “Understand one thing: If you get out of this, you’re getting an at-bat.”
I know you have seen good 3b play, you played with me.
What happens in the shower, stays in the shower
I do want to go back to something Joe said in the original post, though. The WWE is fixed and pre-planned? SON OF A BITCH!!!!!
If they do move a guy out of the pen and into the starting rotation without a trade, I would look for it to be Warren.
I’ll start with Grimm. He’s a two pitch guy. Unless one of the two is a heater that hits triple digits with sick movement? He’s not a starter. Teach him a change-up, and then? Maybe. Not this year.
look at the standings, and then stare at a photo of Jake and question your sexuality.
Heyward is a different story. He’s just not comfortable at the plate. Give him some time off and call it bereavement (for the death of his swing) But really…just drop him to 7 (or 9) in the batting order and let him work it out.
VFTB authoring guideline 101 – The word naked usually follows shortly after Murton.
Soler busts out. Finally. He was like a big black right handed Kyle Schwarber yesterday. The JS of Death?
Bubble wrap the JS of Death and it sticks.
Every time I type that, I have to send Sue a nickel
I hope you sterilize them first.
Cheap at twice the price.
They actually play rookie ball in Phoenix through out the summer. That is brutal.
It’s a dry heat.
so is fire
My apologies, I thought I gave CAPS your celebrity fan line number. $1 a minute to listen to your recording…………..”and then we took batting practice……..and then we played the games………..and then there was laughter and joy for those capable of experiencing laughter and joy……….and then dinner at Quiznos………..”
$4.99 a minute. What do you think I am.
I did prefer the 24 – 6 stretch over the 5-8 stretch we have been on.
Did anyone see the poor ump in LA that took a fouled off bunt to the groin? He went down pretty hard. Karma?
Twig or berries?
The Cubs are 1st in the league in ERA and 2nd in the league in runs scored. They’re on pace to win 110 games, which would be freaking insane. Don’t let a couple tough losses in May get you down. All is well in Cubbyland!
Cardinals Kick the Cubs in the Twig AND the Berries
What a blessing Ben Zobrist has been this season. He had another great night at the plate and has been wonderful this season. Imagine this team had he not been brought in and had Dexter Fowler not spurned the Orioles and come to Chicago.
The only question mark was catcher, but Geovany Soto grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.
My Bushmills taste especially good this evening, it compliments a good old fashion ass kicking of the Cardinals very well.
the pig is on the runway. Hammel will be our #2 come playoff time. Lester just isn’t as trustworthy.
Hammel is all star caliber this year. Not only does he pitch, but he hits, and he throws to first. That’s 3 out of 3 if you’re doing the math.
Baseball in person still beats any other sport. Even in a loss.
Big shout outs to Andrew Thackray, Bartz, Bilyuds, Buddy, and Dork for their first 2016 Regular Season Lizzies!!!! Thanks for being here!
Congratulations to Sherm, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go!
Top 10 of the 2016 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)
1. Eddie von White
3. Doc Raker
4. Seymour Butts
6. Joe Aiello
7. Doug S
8. cap’n realist
9. Brad Lyerla
10. Sean Powell
Today’s day off gives you some extra time to think about the Cubs so give this a try. Given current performance what’s your proposed lineup for Friday’s game vs. the Phillies? (Probable starter is Jon Lester so you must work that in. Adam Morgan is set to start for the Phillies if it matters.)
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Jake Arrieta showed again that he has the potential to be “human” a day after Chris Sale got shelled. We’ve been a little spoiled having both of these guys pitching in Chicago the way they have been, so you had to know it was going to happen eventually. The key was that we got the win. I would go on record right now and predict that at the end of the year, Jake will still have a 0 in the loss column. Mark it down.
Two games in a row with a six run inning. There was no option to embed the game recap, so instead I give you the big inning video. That’s essentially the recap. Had the Cubs not done that, they have no shot at winning this game.
How do you like to watch the game? I am an MLB.tv guy, so I watch games at night. I avoid Twitter and Facebook during the day on dates where the Cubs play early so I can watch without commercials between innings. If I see the score, it ruins it for me. Yesterday a Cardinals fan on Twitter ruined it for me. We’ve been direct messaging back and forth since the playoffs last year and it’s all in good fun. He didn’t know, but let this be a lesson to you all. Don’t talk about the game with me until you know it’s OK.
Celebration of the Cubs looking like the Cubs of two week ago lasted long into the wee hours of this morning for this guy. In my glazed-eye state, unsure of why I was still awake, I stumbled upon the final few moments of MLB Network’s late night show with none other than the “great” Harold Reynolds.
Reynolds and Eric Byrnes were discussing players who should be on the move come late June or July when the name Ryan Braun comes up. The Brewers are bad and kind of direction-less after losing Prince Fielder and CC Sabbathia a few years ago, leaving Braun to carry them to a handful of last-place finishes. Moving Braun for younger pieces makes plenty of sense.
The conversation carries on with each former player offering a team Braun would make sense on, including the Indians and Mariners. Byrnes briefly interjects with a notion that Braun would make sense in either league, but his familiarity with the National League could make him a fit with a team like the Phillies.
I shake my head to my cat, Ella, but Byrnes corrects himself by saying that would only make sense if the Phillies surprisingly good start continued further into the season. He adds as a final note that Braun would not be a great add for the top teams in the NL because of their depth in the outfield, to which I do concur and begin to reach for the remote to head to bed.
Since we enjoy hot takes on the interwebs and the fallout from them, I offer to you a hot take from someone other than me.
In what had to be a weird out of body experience or maybe it was just the shandy, Reynolds seems to correct Byrnes in saying that a top team in the NL could be interested in Braun because of his offensive prowess.
At this moment I begin to yell internally, ‘DON’T SAY IT HAROLD.’
He did. He says the Cubs could use Braun and that he would be an upgrade over anyone in their outfield currently.
HOLD THE BUS.
Yes, I assume you are having the same reaction as me in this moment.
Okay, now that we’ve briefly recovered from such a thought, let’s quickly break it down. Putting aside all ill-fated thoughts about the former* PED user for the Brew Crew, Braun is obviously a great offensive player. He’s made six all-star games and has a lifetime average just over .300, something the Cubs don’t currently have in their outfield.
I’m not going to compare Braun to Dexter Fowler because there’s no way he could play center well with any consistency. In theory you could move Jason Heyward to center, but that just seems like spinning tires for the sake of doing so.
Braun is a better offensive player than Heyward at this juncture and few would doubt that, but what Heyward provides from the depths of the outfield make up for a few of his deficiencies. The Cubs top two outfielders have combined for 156 putouts, three assists and no errors through 44 games, as well as a 1.0 defensive WAR through the first quarter. Heyward’s .6 mark is only lower than David Ross (.8) and Addison Russell (.7).
Braun is essentially average at .1 in 36 games played. He’s not a liability like he was at times during his transition into the outfield earlier in his career, but he’s not even upgrade on Soler despite posting better numbers this year. Soler’s one errors in more limited chances hampers his early-season score, but Braun cannot match the arm strength in left or right.
So essentially it all boils down to offense in Harold’s rhetorical world, but at what cost? The Cubs offense has had its fair share of letdowns this season, including the most recent stretch of futility that cost them a couple series in succession. Soler has been one of the most frustrating of the bunch, often over-swinging on breaking balls away and low. Frustration with Soler is warranted, but he’s one of the lower salaried members of the lineup and was supposed to keep working as a rotational player this year.
Braun would be an upgrade in the lineup over Soler, but where does he fit in reality? Second? Third? Sixth? It would create an embarrassment of bats, but at what cost?
Even if you could get a good deal for a bat like that, would fans ever be able to get over the fact that he’s been an NL Central villain for the better part of eight years?
What say you?
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If the last few days have got you down, hopefully yesterday’s win with the promise that today is Jake day has you feeling just fine. My guess is the coffee tastes better today than it has been.
Jason Heyward made his return to the lineup and did Jason Heyward things (0-for-5 with 2 K), but the rest of the team, including the bat boys, clubhouse attendants and even the organist did their job well. At what point do you move Heyward down in the order? We’ve seen Joe Maddon move other guys around in the lineup, but not Heyward. I want to see him in that seven or eight spot in the lineup until he can play his way out of it. I’m done with him at the front end of the lineup.
Jason Hammel pitched another solid game and has been, arguably, our second best starter this year. I think I would still trust Jon Lester over Hammel, but Jason has really pitched well this year. You know me, I’m a skeptic and was ready to jump off the Hammel train this spring training, but I’ve been running behind that train all season trying to grab on and hoist myself back up for the ride. I’m almost there, and I’ve begun to wonder if there is a chance Hammel makes the All Star team. The Cubs the potential to send multiple representatives, and perhaps Hammel should be one of them.
It was a big win last night to get some momentum heading into this afternoon with Jake Arrieta, and I fully expect the Cubs to win this series.
Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Won 8-3 over El Paso
The win ends an 8 game losing streak for the I-Cubs