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April to August: Contrasting the Cubs' Opening Day roster to what we see now.

April to August: Contrasting the Cubs' Opening Day roster to what we see now.

In the second half of this season, the Cubs have approached the baseball world in full force, and they've become one of the most dynamic, fascinating and promising teams to watch. In July, the front office made some pitching related trades that a few fans may have deemed "questionable" at the time, but the Cubs have continued to pitch well.  They've brought up some of the power players that we watched thrive in Iowa every night, leaving fans only dreaming of the day that they would arrive at Wrigley. The future is now and yes, it is bright.

But let's take a look back just a few months to what this team looked like in April. In a nutshell, it was most definitely not as intriguing and impressive as it is right now. None of the Cubs top prospects we wait patiently to see at the plate each night had been brought up yet, and their pitching staff was what we assumed to be stellar, but the bats in the lineup provided menial run support for quality outings. Remember how many games it took for Jeff Samardzija to garner his first W?

Hitting - 

 Just for fun, maybe even a little bit of shock value, let's compare the typical lineup we saw in the first half of the season, to what we see now. All stats listed are these player current numbers, just to see what we would be dealing with in the present time should the lineup have not changed throughout the season, and what we are working with now:

 

Not only is looking at the difference in names a drastic change and improvement, but look at the number of players that have changed in this lineup; only three players are the same as the opening day lineup, and the quality of player they've been replaced with is a superior indication of what the future holds. But let's look a little further.

 The one thing that would catch anyone's eye right away is the addition of power hitting that has been added to this lineup. The opening day roster included players that all had a SLG% of .375 and under with the exception of Castro and Rizzo. Not good. Now, looking at the current typical lineup, the power hitters are thriving. The only players in a typical Cubs lineup now that aren't hitting above .375 SLG% are, hey look at that - only Welington Castillo. Yes, I included Soler's Triple A numbers because his stats are still a tad warped after playing in just four major league games (his SLG% in the MLB is currently 1.267), and this would be his truest measure of his talents at this point. The Cubs SLG% as a team has improved from .355 in April, to .422 in July and .400 in August. The slight downward trend in August is most likely the effect of the team's doubles dropping in August, going down from 48 in July to 38 in August which will affect SLG%, a stat that is derived from "total bases". Home runs in August have flourished, capping the month at 39, up from 29 in July. The Cubs had a 10-16 record for July with a .385 winning percentage, but let's go back a little further. In April, the Cubs had an incredibly discouraging start to the 2014 season, ending the month with a 9-17 record. August, however, has been a different story. The "kids" are here, and the numbers show it. The Cubs are 16-14 and have a winning percentage above .500 for August, with Alcantara, Baez, and Soler all in the lineup - and with Valbuena and Castillo recently producing well at the plate. 

The addition of the young talent found in Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and even the "new look" Logan Watkins, etc. is obviously what should be credited for the Cubs recent success. At 6'5", 215lbs, Jorge Soler's power is eminent and such an asset to this Cubs lineup. His HR/FB ratio is currently 75%, which indicates stellar power. According to FanGraphs, Soler has currently hit 6 FBs, 3 GBs and 2 LDs, while swinging at 61% of pitches inside the strike zone and 31% of pitches outside of the strike zone, and making contact 61% of the time on all pitches seen. It's only been four games, but he's already hit three home runs and had his first multi-homer game, while driving in seven runs. Nothing short of impressive.

 Baez on the other hand, tends to have a little less plate discipline, which seems to be an area of concern for a few Cubs fans - but as others have said - he is always going to be a high strikeout type of player. On the same scale of stats we looked at for Soler, Baez has swung 45% of the time on pitches outside the strike zone, and 59% of the time on pitches inside the strike zone. He makes contact on 59% of all pitches he sees, and 82% of the time on pitches inside the zone. One of the things that Cubs fans did take notice of a few nights ago, was just how close Baez came to hitting a home run that ended up being a deep flyball off of the usually untouchable Reds closer Aroldis Chapman and his elusive 101-mph fastball. I'm pretty sure if Javy can still do that during this time of league adjustment and less than 30 major league games under his belt, he will be able to adjust beautifully in the future.

 

Pitching - 

 On opening day, Cubs pitching wasn't really much of a troublesome issue. Of course, Edwin Jackson, who is still a part of the rotation once he's off the DL at this point, started off his season with three straight losses and only pitched six innings or less in those starts. But let's take a look at the Cubs former and current rotation, again, stats are all present day except were noted.

 

 

The numbers have vastly improved on the backs of two new pitchers, Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada, who have yet to disappoint - especially Hendricks. Hendricks currently holds an ERA of 1.91 since his debut on July 10th and has only allowed 14 earned runs and 3 home runs in 56 innings pitched. He also has an ERA+, for those of you who pay attention this stat, of 219. Remember, the ranking scale for ERA+ is 100 = league average, and anything on the plus side of that is above league average. Hendricks has become quite the buzz in the Cubs pitching world, known for his cerebral approach on the mound, he also has great control and maturity.  He has become a must see player every start.

Tsuyoshi Wada has also been an interesting addition to the Cubs rotation. He recently took a no-hitter into the seventh during his last start at Wrigley, before giving up a home run which would be his only hit of the night, exiting thereafter with one out in the seventh inning. Wada is on just his ninth major league start at the age of 33, and debuted just this year with the Cubs. He holds a 2.56 ERA and has allowed just 13 earned runs with 5 home runs in 51 innings pitched. Wada relies mostly on his fourseam fastball that averages around 90mph and his slider that tops out around 82mph. He also has a sinking slider and a splitter in his repertoire.

Though the current back end of the rotation has caused more question than the "new guys", there is no denying that this rotation has been cleaned up from what it could be, should Samardzija and Hammel have stayed in Chicago and went on the downward trend they are currently on with the A's, with the Cubs. Samardzija and Hammel have improved in their last starts with Oakland, but are still considered to be less impressive than their replacements in the Cubs rotation. Another undeniable asset the Cubs have had in their arsenal recently is their bullpen. The Cubs bullpen has had a 1.81 ERA and only allowed seven earned runs in the month of August, since trading James Russell to Atlanta and sending Brian Schlitter down to Iowa after a small stint on the DL.

The Cubs have made some drastic changes and so far they're working out. The last half of the season has been undoubtedly the perfect time to add these new minor leaguers to the mix and give them their first taste of life in the bigs. It leaves an adequate amount of time for them to do some league adjusting, while not having to scrutinize and pressure them just yet. The offseason is going to be a busy one of the Cubs, who's front office staff have openly stated recently that they will be looking to acquire veteran pitching for the 2015 season, and hopefully once we see the rest of these prospects next season, things will begin to look like a well oiled machine on the North Side.  The future is bright as ever.

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  • Interesting read Cat. There certainly is a contrasting look to the Rosters then and now.

    I saw something somewhere (can't remember where) that said if you take Vargas & E-Jax out of the equation, our team ERA is among league leaders... I also remember going on an 0-fer slide right after the Shark/Hammel trade and everyone blamed the trade... the reality is the Offense just wasn't very good with only Rizzo/Castro producing.

    I've been pretty impressed with Hendricks & Wada so far. Wada seems to get gassed after the 70 pitch mark. maybe it's just the smoke & mirrors not being as effective the 3rd time through the line-up... IDK. The addition of Turner could pay off HUGE for us.

    Even though there's a stark contrast in the rosters from opening day to today, just imagine what we'll be looking at this time next year...

  • It should be noted regarding the 1st half pitching rotation that Villanueva was a complete disaster as a starter. That 4.61 ERA he is sporting right now only looks respectable because he has been very good in the bullpen (2.73), but as a starter his ERA was 10.53. The staff ERA before the break was 3.85 and after it has been 3.53.

    The $15M or so spent on EJax and Veras is really an eye sore. Ugh. Maybe the worst SP performance and the worst RP performance of the year both belong to Cubs. At least they cut their losses with Veras early.

  • Crazy to think that next year you could/should see improvements from Baez and Alcantara, Bryant will replace Valbuena (who has been good), and you could possibly see Lester step in in place of Wood/Jackson. Exciting times.

  • Crazy how the pitching has improved after the A's trade.

  • I have been thinking about this over the past couple of days and would love to read what others think.

    Since we don't know what the FO will do with the rotation via trades and Free Agency, how would everyone line up the rotation for April next year with what we have right now. Not the 5 best, but how would you line it up (and again, don't add in a FA signing or a trade).

    Here is how i would go right now.

    1 - Arrietta - power stuff, great slider, good curve
    2- Hendricks - follow up Ace with a RH who throws soft, pinpoint control and keeps hitters off balance
    3 - Wood - not a good year this season, but is a vet with some past success. Throws harder than Hendricks but is a lefty
    4 - Turner - sits 92-94 and if his command can improve, will be a force
    5 - Wada - a LH version of Hendricks though throws a tick or two harder. Also offers a different look as you swing back to top of rotation

    EJaxx is your long man. Beeler, Dubront, Straily, CJ, Johnson make up your AAA rotation and offer a lot of solid depth for the year.

    All in all, that is a pretty good 10 deep rotation moving forward.

    Curious as to what everyone else would do.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    If we had to nail it down now, I'd go with your five. I would hope that Bosio/Johnston will continue to work with Turner / Dubront / Straily and others over the winter. Performances in Spring Training could shake things up a bit. It would be great to see somebody force their way into the rotation.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Arrieta
    Wood
    Hendricks
    Turner
    Wada

    I am really not sold on Turner yet, so I would definitely have him on a short leash and have Doubront ready and waiting in the pen to take over for him.

    EJax and Straily don't factor in to me. Both are bad and I don't see them capable of rebounding enough to be a part of the staff. Straily would be behind Jokisch and Beeler as a call up from AAA, making him essentially the 9th starter.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    You're right to not be sold on Turner... yet!

    Dude has Arrieta type stuff. He's been a disappointment thus far. Though he is still only 23 years old! But look how good he's looked in his 2 starts with us vs what he was in Miami. Bosio has only worked with him on his cerebral approach thus far, nothing mechanical. They may tweak something here or there mechanically in the off season/ST, but for now, just developing a pitching plan and focus on pitch selection, etc has made him better.

    "IF" he can finally reach his potential with us, we have another Arrieta on our hands. Which is not an ACE but a very very good #3 borderline legit #2 guy. I think with the full off season program and ST with Bosio, he will be able to finally realize his potential "IF" he is ever going to.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I like the movement on his fastball. He has good control, but his command is lacking. The changeup looked better in the second start. The breaking ball is nothing special and certainly nowhere near Arrieta's cutter/slider. He also altered his delivery on many of his breaking balls in the first start and was clearly tipping it to my eye, though I did not notice that the second start. I can see some of those deficiencies cleaned up with mechanicla adjustments. He is never going to be able to snap off a breaking pitch like Arrieta though.

    I think Turner's ceiling is more Rick Porcello than Arrieta. Unfortunately the 23 year old thing means little at this point because the Tigers and Marlins did him such a disservice bringing him up so early. He is out of options, which means he has to fix himself at the big league level, and does not have the luxury of getting starts in the minors until he is in his mid to late 20s the way Arrieta did.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    But that was my point, they haven't even started to work on the mechanical stuff; just the mental adjustments have made him so much better. Once he makes those mechanical adjustments, he can become a solid #2 or ideally #3 type on a playoff contender.

    As for Arrieta type stuff, I'd argue his FB is marginally better. Both guys have a plus offering there. But Turners is more of sinker, which generates a lot of GB's when he is on. The curveball was supposed to be Turner's best pitch. His loss of control/command with that is the main culprit of his struggles the last 2 years. He's lost all confidence in it. While it's not in Arrieta's league today, it once was. Can Bosio help him get it back? While I will agree that his Slider and Change-up have not lived up to expectations, I'm hoping Bosio can get him there. Those were both thought to be MLB avg offerings. He just started throwing the cutter in 2013. I think the jury is still out with that pitch. But who better than Bosio to bring it out of him? If he can find some consistency with 2 plus offerings and 2 avg offerings, we've got a guy built to win @ Wrigley.

    I mentioned his age because he is nowhere near his ceiling yet and still has plenty of time to get there. Can't fault the Tigers/Marlins for him being in the MLB; him and his agent insisted on a MLB contract out of HS. I think his fixes are quick and easy enough that he can become a key piece of SP for next year. We'll have to wait and see though...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Liked the way Turner used his cutter/slider last game.. just makes his 2 seamer much more effective..

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Everything you said is true and I do trust Bosio to put guys in the best situation to succeed. Sometimes I just have to go with what my eyes are telling me though and I just don't see the same potential with Turner that I see with Arrieta. That said, I've certainly been wrong before and its not like I don't want to give Turner the chance or hope he fails. I would certainly run him out there next April and hope he taps into the upside rather than settle for a guy like Wood or Wada if it came down to a choice between them.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I look at it like Aug/Sept of 2013. There were many on here doubting what we had in Arrieta. I thought then that a former TOR prospect could become a solid #2/#3 with some consistency in his approach and command. That's why I'm thinking Bosio will make MIA sick to their stomach when they see the season Turner has for us in 2015 ala BAL did with Jake this year.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Fwiw.. Turner fits the Bosio reclaim profile listed at 6'5". Others Jake A 6'4" Feld 6'7" Hamm 6'6" ... just saying he may have a thing he's sees in taller guys since he's a big dude himself that can help them? These days many pitchers are big so could be coincidence... but it's really cool he's helping guys get their careers back for us.

  • In reply to PeteyB:

    I know he likes to teach pitchers to throw with plane -- and height certainly helps in that regard.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks John that makes sense though plane isn't really a secret concept somehow he gets the message across better than other guys...I'm just glad he wears a Cub uni.... side note thank you for all the great data from you and the other writers...amazing stuff

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Id take Porcelllo. whos probably b een the Tigers most consistent starter this year.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    To me, if everything breaks right and what I'm hoping for is the following:

    #1: Jon Lester - Makes a ton of sense and wont cost a draft pick though it might cost a ton of cash. Cubs have tried to get a top line starter (Tanaka, Hamels) but Lester might actually be the one that signs on. 5/$22M per should get it done.
    #2: Jake Arrieta - Arrieta as #2 in my rotation for next year is just fine by me. Ideally, I'd like another TOR by 2016 but for 2015 if Arrieta is your #2, we should be contending. If Arrieta is your #1, then we're probably .500ish.
    #3: Jacob Turner - He is the true wildcard in the Cubs future pitching horizon. This is where I start dreaming and hoping that a solid 4 weeks in 2014 plus an entire offseason and spring leads to Turner becoming our #3 guy. He may have TOR stuff but I think his realistic ceiling is a #3 pitcher and if he gets there, the Cubs have succeeded in the Turner reclamation project.
    #4: Kyle Hendricks - I've loved watching him pitch but he's not the second coming of Greg Maddux. Still, Hendricks should be an excellent addition to the 2015 staff and has #3 starter ceiling. On a playoff team though, he's a #4 so the fact that he's #4 on the Cubs staff would indicate we're a contending team in 2015. Cubs need Hendricks to eat innings and keep the team in ball games.
    #5: Wood/Doubront or Ramirez - One of the lefties is most likely to have this job. I think we have Doubront under control for 1 more year than Wood so he might be the favorite for that reason. Also, Wood might have some trade value despite his poor season.
    Dark horse candidate: Neil Ramirez - its certainly a risk taking one of the best setup men in baseball right now and converting him to a starter but if Ramirez works out a starter, he's a #3 with #2 ceiling depending if he can handle the workload, stay healthy, and develop that change up and maybe a 4 pitch.

    Others: Straily, Wada, Beeler, Jokisch - to me, these are just guys. Every team needs them but they are not starters on playoff teams. The next actual rotation candidate would be Pierce Johnson but he should be considered for 2016.

    Though I love starting pitching, there is nothing better than a lights out bullpen. To have Rondon, Strop, Grimm, Ramirez, Schilitter, Rasscup, Vizcaino, Rivero all under control and back next year as cheap power arms is great. EJax would probably fill the Carlos Villaneuva role next year because... well... you have to have him somewhere.

    All in all, the pitching staff could be very promising next year. Everyone keeps saying... "where is the pitching?" but it wouldn't surprise me if the pitching staff is the one consistent reliable force next year while all our young bats continue to mature and grow.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I think Grimm is our best SP conversion candidate.

    I like Ramirez's stuff; but his medicals may prevent him from consideration by this FO. I think the general rule on guys sent to BP because of injury is 2 healthy years as a RP before being stretched out for a SP role. Which is where Rondon is now, and he was once considered a TOR type arm, before the elbow/arm issues that cost him 2 years (and made him available to us). But Ramirez & Rondon both may have more present value to us where they are at in the BP that they won't be considered.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Grimm is the "best" option, but he still isn't a good one. At best he is a 4/5 starter. The Cubs are not lacking for those type of pitcher. He is beginning to settle into his role in the bullpen. He seems to be a rubber arm type that can take the ball in a lot of situations. He seems a better fit for the Villanueva role to me movin forward.

    Ramirez and Rondon have no minor league options available next year, so they would both have to be stretched out in the majors only where it is much more difficult to protect guys and control usage. That is a terrible idea given given their medical histories. Neither is even a condsideration for conversion in my opinion.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Grimms results haven't matched his potential. But we're talking about a guy that didn't make his pro debut until 2011 and was pitching (out of team necessity) in the MLB by 2012. His repertoire gives him the ceiling of a #3, not a #4 or #5. Consistency and command has always been his problem. But Epstoyer & Jon Daniels both admit he was rushed and would need some time to sort things out.

    His FB touches 96 regularly, and he can command it. His curve is considered a plus pitch. If he can develop some consistency with that change-up (which has flashed plus potential) he definitely has #3 upside. If he can't develop that chg, then he may be a #5 or stay in the BP.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Grimm's fastball has little movement and he has no deception in his delivery. When he is working in short stretches and able to tune it up to 95 regularly he can get by with it. As a starter he would not be able to maintain that velocity consistently and the second/third time through the order I think hitters would start to square him up pretty easily, especially on any days when his curve ball is off. That makes him nothing more than BOR in my eye.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    You're projecting his ceiling based on what he has today. I'm saying he has #3 potential "IF" he can develop his change-up as a 3rd offering. I intentionally never mentioned his FB, except it's velocity. Which is why that change up is so critical. If he can develop that pitch, it will make his FB even better. The movement (or lack thereof) won't be an issue because they won't be able to time him up with that change-up. They'll have to be sitting on one or the other. Guessing is a fools game. A game Grimm will win the bulk of the time.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Rondon/NRam show every indication of being dominant late inning pitchers. Add Vizcaiano and Rivero to the mix next year and you have 4 bullet arms for the late innings, not to mention Grimm. For a lefty, has anyone thought about Andrew Miller?

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Again, the premise was that we don't know about FA pitchers and what the FO will do so the exercise was to not consider them/

  • I've stated a couple of times when people still claim the lineup isn't any better that every player in the lineup (when Rizzo and Castro are healthy) is a threat to do damage. The OBP has not been improved yet, but Baez and Alcantara should continue to make strides there. In the mean time, when they do contribute they contribute big. Unlike Schierholtz/Barney/Lake/Bonifacio/Sweeney, who even when they had a good game basically contributed a single or two, which does not translate to many runs. Now we get HRs.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Right, you don't need a ton of guys on base all night if one out of every 3 times a guy gets on base, the guy behind him hits a home run. Cubs won't be as dependant on stacking hits in an inning because of all of the extra base hits they will accumulate.

  • The platoons are long gone!!!

  • Like everyone else, I'm hopeful that the Cubs sign a TOR pitcher this offseason, but I'm impressed at what the team's scouting / coaching / FO has done in acquiring pitching talent. Four current starters, Arrietta, Wada, Wood and Hendricks were all acquired and then developed/tweaked. Even if we assume that Wood has regressed and Wada isn't in the long-term plans, the Cubs have still added two quality starters. Can they do that again next season? If only one of Turner/Straily/Dubront turns out to be the next Arietta, and Edwards or Johnson is ready, the Cubs have a pretty dang good rotation. Add Lester (or...) and subtract Jackson and - wow!

  • Maybe the one interesting comparison is Schierholtz/Baez: both have the same BA, but Baez is up .144 in SLG. At least Baez has potential; Schierholtz reportedly is as bad with the Nats.

    The real question is where the Cubs dug up the crud they put on the field the first couple of months of 2014. Also, if Billy Beane is such a genius if the pitching moves (these two and Lester) haven't worked out, and the Dunn trade apparently was because trading Cespedes was a mistake.

  • In reply to jack:

    I wonder if the Lester - Cespedes trade came about because Samardzija & Hammel didn't pitch as well as expected. I like Lester, but that deal was a head-scratcher for me.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The real question probably is how 3/5ths of the original rotation were not deemed worthy to finish the job, when they had gotten the As into first place early in the season.

  • In reply to jack:

    The SweetSpot blog had a bit on the A's a few days ago. The conclusion was that Beane improved his team, but it just didn't play better.

    Baseball is a fickle game.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    8 of Sharks 11 starts with OAK qualify as "Quality Starts" with 2 of the 3 non quality starts being 6.2IP w/4ER and 7.0IP w/4ER. Both of those were No decisions for him. He's only posted one 'stinker' of 3.2IP w/7ER since he's joined OAK. His last outing he went 8.0 IP, gives up 1ER and takes the loss...

    Maybe Hammel's performance had something to do with it, though unlikely. Yes, he sucked initially; he was 0-4 start with NO QS and 2 'stinkers' to start in OAK, but Billy Beane doesn't seem like the type to over react to small samples/slow starts to me.

    Shark has been everything he was advertised to be and Hammel has been pretty solid his last couple of outings.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    "Billy Beane doesn't seem like the type to over react to small samples/slow starts to me."

    Very true. All the more reason I was surprised he traded Cespedes after already acquiring Samardzija. I haven't reviewed all the numbers, but Beane must have felt comfortable the team would still score runs without Cespedes.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    That and he may be felt like he was selling high on Cespedes...

  • I don't think you highlighted enough the changes to the bullpen over the course of the year. They were a disaster in April, seemingly working against the team like moles. Rondon and Grimm started out as mop up guys and Ramirez was in AAA, now they're locking down that back end and doing a great job of it.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Can you blame anyone for blocking the Jose Veras era out of their minds?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Jose Who? :)

  • fb_avatar

    Well played here Cat and good analysis, but is there a reason you used ERA instead of FIP?

  • I was against brining up Baez as I felt the holes in his swings would be exploited (as they have been) and he would regress. Then I think about Anthony Rizzo and his struggles when he came up.

    Rizzo: 128 AB (153 PA): .141 avg., .242 slugging, .523 ops, 1 HR, 8 Dbl, and 46 strikeouts.
    Baez: 120 AB (125 PA): .175 avg., .383 slugging, .591 ops, 7 hr, 4 Dbl, and 51 strikeouts.

    For Baez and Alcantara to get a taste of the majors so they can get exploited and make adjustments in the offseason is key. The difference in these two is that Baez will most certainly go back to AAA to continue offseason adjustments and hopefully will come up and have a Rizzo-like impact. And he may have a down year (which should still produce 25 HR) in avg. but he seems like a mainstay in the middle infield for a long time.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Baez does not have holes in his swing, he has holes in his approach/pitch recognition. There is a big difference there and should not be confused.

    Do not expect him to start at AAA next year. Unless he has an absolutely wretched ST, he will come north with the team. If he is hitting below .200 next May they could send him back down but not until then.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Since Manny has been widely credited with improving Javy's approach (e.g., see yesterday's link to the Manny article), are you surprised that he didn't join the coaching staff when Iowa's season ended?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Manny wants to get healthy, play in winter ball and then in the Majors next year. When he finally realizes his playing days are over, I would guess Theo would approach him about being a hitting coach. Would be a good pick up for our coaching/teaching/development team.

  • In reply to John57:

    Manny would make a great "roving" hitting coach in a loaded farm system.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    I like that, but I think I would prefer him as a special hitting coach with the major league team. That is where the kids will really need help making adjustments, reviewing video, altering approach, etc....all thing Manny has always been great at. How great would it be for Manny to be able to work with Baez right now...take him to the video room, and show him exactly how pitchers are exploiting him, and how he can counter that....it's obvious the prospects listen to him because they respect him so much as a player. Manny was one of the most prepared and professional hitters in the game, I would love for him to pass on that approach to hitting to our players as they come to the majors and establish their own preparation regimens.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    They have access to so much scouting info & video at the MLB level. IDK if Manny is better equipped to be that guy at the MLB level vs what we have now. His role is to get them there...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I disagree. I'm not saying as a replacement, but in addition to what the Cubs have.

    RE: "They have access to so much scouting info & video at the MLB level."

    That's exactly my point, Manny excels at hitting adjustment based on how pitchers are attacking. A player is in a slump, Manny can get in the video room with them and show them how they are being exploited, and tell them what he would do to adjust to it. Young players would intently listen and most likely apply that...even in-game he could give tips on what the pitcher is doing. He is a professional hitter who could help our prospects adjust to the majors much easier.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    @ GD

    I don't doubt he could help out... but other than the camaraderie he has built with some of the players, I don't see an advantage of having him there. It's all on video, everyone can see what is happening.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    No. Teams don't generally add coaches in the middle of the season at the MLB level. Until Manny is ready to become a full time coach he isn't going to get a chance at the MLB level with the exception of maybe Spring Training instructor type gigs.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I agree; he gets a chance to make adjustments early next season and if he's still struggling by May, then he may be sent back down. It wouldn't be the end of the world for him either. Worked out well for Rizzo. It would definitely hurt his pride, but it would increase his determination to make it 10 fold. Maybe he'd also listen to some of the advice he's getting. No one, I mean no one, can consistently hit the ball pitched at eye level. Maybe he's been able to do it since he's a kid, but he's not a kid anymore and he's not playing against kids anymore. I think he'll figure it out, but he may need to learn it the hard way with a trip back to Iowa (Iowa's no fun for anyone by the way...lol).

  • In reply to mjvz:

    His pitch recognition is kind of like a hole in his swing. He sees the ball, thinks he can hit it and doesn't. Sometimes he's missing fastballs and off speed stuff on the inner part of his plate. There are holes, maybe minor, but it is more than approach and pitch recognition. I get that there's a difference.

    AAA will not depend on ST as stats don't matter, approach does. I think he'll benefit more from a few months at AAA, plus doesn't that give us another year of control by brining him up then? He has problems with his hitting, and I think it may be better to fix it in the minors. However, he has shown to struggle at every level before figuring it out. Still, if he doesn't figure it out by the end of this season, my guess is AAA no matter what he does in ST.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    By horrendous ST I refer to his approach. ST do not matter.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Fair enough. I suppose if he shows enough by the end of year that he's starting to get it, has a nice off season with our staff and does what he needs to do in ST approach wise, I agree.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    They have already had very preliminary extension conversations. While nothing is likely to happen in the next year or so, cost control will not weigh into the decision about where he plays in 2015 at all.

  • Printing headlines like this and speculating before the MRI results are even published is why I don't read Gordon anymore... All he's doing is fueling the ignorant masses with fear and prejudice.

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/29648792-419/starlin-castro-anthony-rizzo-may-be-done-for-season-cubs-win-7-1.html#.VAc4wPk7uM4

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Not that he isn't as much of a blowhard as the rest of them, but to be fair, newspaper writers do not control the headline of their articles. That is determined by the editor and page layout.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Very first sentence from the article, which he DID write:

    "The Cubs could be without both of their All-Stars for the rest of the season after shortstop Starlin Castro left Tuesday night’s game in the first inning with a left ankle sprain."

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ha! I obviously didn't read the article. I probably haven't read a Sun Times or Trib article in months and probably haven't paid any attention or taken anything either has written seriously in years.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That is such a bad lede. Yes, it is possible, but is it likely or ever the most likely outcome...no. Next lede "The Cubs Could be Without Entire Team if Martians Attack Wrigley"

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He is annoying. But the writer doesn't write the headline. That is handled by someone else.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's what passes for "journalism" today. It's all about clicks. Fall for the headline and click it, and the "newspaper" gets credit for another "reader," even if you don't read a word of it. Sensational headings generate clicks.

    The same principle applies here at Cubs Den, but luckily John has enough integrity not to exploit it with false and misleading headings. That's just one more thing I like about this place.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Well apparently Grdon is partially psychic...

    Patrick Mooney @CSNMooney

    Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says Starlin Castro's high ankle sprain is expected to be a season-ending injury.
    4:52 PM - 3 Sep 2014

    Though it's already been reported that Rizzo's injury is NOT season ending...

  • Soler's control of the strike zone is really impressive considering his age and limited experience. In the 7th inning, he took four balls in a row without even thinking about swinging at any of them (I don't remember the last time I commented about someone talking a walk). Of course he'll expand the zone occasionally like any young hitter will, but if his approach is this good already, imagine how good he can become. Just gotta keep the guy in one piece.

  • In reply to Ricardo:

    Soler's pitch recognition is pretty impressive for someone so young. I'm not sure that can be taught, but I remember hearing Barry Bonds relate something he used to do to improve his pitch recognition (and it had nothing to do with juicing). During Spring Training, before ever taking a swing, he would go to where the pitchers were throwing and stood in the box and just watched pitches. He believed that the more pitches he saw the better he would be at recognizing a ball from a strike and a fastball from a change-up, etc. Interesting idea.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to AggBat:

    I also read that he made a habit of "bunting" in batting practice as that allowed him the most time to recognize and adjust to the pitch and get him used to putting bat on ball. He knew he could swing hard enough to drive the ball, so he focused on making sure he could make contact.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Bonds was a putz, but you can't say he didn't work on being a better hitter. Unfortunately, he would do "anything" to improve.

  • Hendrick's 1.91 era is fantastic. But if you eliminate just his first inning of work, his era is 1.46!

  • The remodel is complete in early 2015 with the arrival of Bryant and whatever they add this winter. Russell, Schwarber, and whoever hits out of Almora, McKinney, Vogelbach, etc will make up the next wave and provide some embarrassingly rich flexibility going forward. What has been uncanny is how many of these prospects are hitting their development targets - or in some cases (i.e. Soler) obliterating them. There are still questions - Baez and Bryant have horrifying AAA K-rates from which easy transitions to elite levels in the MLB are relatively unprecedented in the history of baseball. We are kind of "due" for a big injury - not even our pitchers have had any. But, there's no way to give "the plan" anything but an "A" here after the midterms.

    The real test will be in 2015 and - even more so - 2016 when the final vision of a baseball team is on the field after the extreme makeover of the last couple of years. I'm expecting it to still be a bit clumsy and occasionally disappointing at first, but it's already exciting and could get downright scary good in a hurry.

  • Funny how correct the FO has been with the additions to the roster and how they prescribed a lower top ten team through June. The love of Samardzija by many in the Fanbase was unwarranted as we have seen the real statistic, W/L by the team has improved.

    Would love to see Valbuena get some starts at 1B only to see how he could function in a super utility role if pressed next season, same for LF.

    Hendricks, Alcantara, Soler then Baez have shown the most intriguing possibilities in that order. Alcantara already is adjusting at the plate and in the field. Baez shows me something like his walk and then base running and fielding. The more he begins to manage his plate discipline and starts adjusting on 2-strikes the better. Soler is so natural, especially in recognizing game situations it is amazing. As for Hendricks wonder if improved scouting has allowed him to flourish even more.

    Cubs are 2 games under the 10th spot in draft order. It will be interesting to see where they finish.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    You did not mention Logan Watkins. He is versatile, is a LH bat and is currently hitting .400, not too shabby. He is getting overlooked by the four guys you mentioned.

  • Wow, Hammel's era has nearly doubled. Now if anyone could predict the Cubs 2015 opening day lineup correctly, that'd be impressive. Since John said Bryant is expecting to stay at 3rd, I would love to see the Cubs sign Denard Span

  • fb_avatar

    Great stuff Cat!

    We have all talked alot about the starting rotation and how great it would be to add a Jon Lester. But I was wondering if you guys think our bullpen may also need an addition? I look at our strong bullpen and some of the guys we have have in the system and think it might be nice if we could add a guy like Andrew Miller to our bullpen.

    He's been outstanding as a reliever and could be the shut 'em down lefty that always looks great in those late innings. I first thought that Felix Doubront might take that roll but he seems hell bent on starting.

    Thoughts?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I wouldnt mind Miller at all. Lefty power arm who has a sub2 ERA and Sub 1 Whip pitching in t he AL East. Sign him up. Hed be a huge improvement over Wright or Russell. Rosscup doesnt l;ook ready for prime time. Be nice to have 2 solid lefties in the pen.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Miller is a stud, but he is going to get a big contract. I'm not a fan of big contracts to relievers. Especially when we still aren't sure when the window to contention is open. While I think it could begin next season, if it takes a year or two there is a good chance Miller won't be the same guy by that point given the fluctuations in relief pitcher performance. If the Cubs were more certain on what point the rebuild was at I would be singing a different tune. Veteran TOR starters and dominant relievers are guys I would invest when I think we are one piece away.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Exactly This ^^^^

  • Question: Our future, potential line-up has five elite, but unique, hitters that could all fit in the three hole. It's a fun, but tough needle to thread. Is there a computer program that can design lineups based on OBP, SLG, SO%, etc. to get optimal run production? It doesn't seem too hard to design. I'm surprised you don't hear about that more. The whole labeling of hitters as belonging in a certain slot seems like an inefficiency in the game.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    Every computer model I've seen shows the lineup makes way less difference than fans/media/coaches make it out to be. The 2 and 4 spots are shown to be the ideal places for your best hitters, but it really isn't that much different than 1 or 3. Getting more at bats for your best hitters over the course of the season by hitting them higher in the order is most important thing. Putting an out machine in the one or two hole because he puts the ball in play while you have a far superior hitters in the 5 or 6 spot is the worst mistake being made.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I don't think you need a computer model to support your theory. It just makes good sense to me.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    And yet the scrappy second hole hitter and speedy low obp leadoff hitter are still prevelant throughout the game.

    And people still spend way to much time worrying about whether a guy is a better 3 or 4 hole hitter when it doesn't matter because if you are good enough to hit in one spot you are good enough to hit in the other.

    And people still think you can plan for outcome sequencing in baseball. Even the best hitters still make way more outs than hits/walks. Trying to plan for certain sequences of events is a lost cause. Leadoff guy gets a hit, steals second, good bat control guy hits ball to right side to advance runner to third to set up the run producers. How often does this actually occur? I would bet a hell of a lot less often than 7/8th hitter gets on base, pitcher sac bunts runner to second, and your speedy low obp/slg leadoff guy is up with a runner in scoring position. Yet the second scenario never is given consideration when building a lineup. Why? Because there are too many different variables to account for. The simplest solution, get you best players as many at bats as possible, is really the only thing that makes sense.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think that it matters, even if only by a few runs in an entire season. Consider if you put all your high-SO/high-HR hitters at one end of the order, and all of your high OBP/singles hitters at the other end. This lineup would undoubtable be less productive than if they were more staggered, even randomly. Given this assumption, there must be an optimal lineup that big data can help with.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    There are very few high OBP/singles hitters. It is hard to get a lot of walks if pitchers aren't afraid careful to keep the ball out of the heart of the plate. I don't think the scenario you suggest is likely to ever occur. Some of the high OBP guys are going to have power, in which case they would be mixed in with the low power/high obp guys at one end.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I remember John running an article or two on line-up construction and looking at the old school view vs. the new way of looking at it. Very good. John, any chance you run that again this offseason?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I can do that. Thanks for the idea. I haven't run a "From the Cubs Den Archives..." piece in a while.

  • is samardzija really an ace? great fangraphs article

    http://www.fangraphs.com/community/is-samardzija-really-an-ace/

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Spellcheck wants to be paid like one. His numnbers say hes a miid-rotation type.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Wonder why that guy thinks Jeff is a free agent this winter. We traded him with a year and a half left on the contract.

  • Fun article. Coghlan has turned out to be one of the FO better non-pitching reclamation project. He has impressed with his approach. How do you think the FO sees him moving forward?

  • In reply to RTGrules:

    As role/utility players. Ideally Coghlan & Ruggiano are the Cubs 4th & 5th outfielders next year.

  • I guess I never noticed but the way RR has had the batting order seems to alternate OBP and Hit/power with Rizzo and Soler having both sides of that.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    probably getting off topic, but I am ready to see RR put Baez lower in the order now. Today's lineup should be interesting. Maybe
    Coghlan - lf
    Watkins - 2b
    Valbuena - 3b
    Baez - SS (see if he can get some UV protection from Soler, otherwise i'd hit him lower)
    Soler - RF
    Beef
    AA - cf
    Valaika - 1b

  • Bryant's comment about him realizing this game being a buisness...had me think,
    Is Theo upsetting Bryant by not being calling him up even tho he earned it is killing some chances of any hometown discount he may give the cubs years from now? Would it have been better to keep Bryant happy and keep the best of ties with him?

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    No, everything I've heard is that he completely understands how it works and is fine with it. He's a mature kid.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's great to hear! Thanks

  • I thought that "keep it fresh" comment Theo made about Bryant playing the OF was strange. It wasn't logical. If you wanted to keep him "fresh" playing the OF, then you should have had him play out there this season. Theo is extremely logical and articulate. Something fishy about this statement.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    Their is nothing "fishy" about it. He said it's now been a year since Bryant played the OF in college...so he will get some play their next year (perhaps just in Spring Training or AAA) to keep the OF fresh in his mind in case they need him their down the line. It's a pretty clear cut statement...not sure why you are having so much trouble with it.

    ““We’re going to keep outfield fresh for him. Now that it’s been a full year since college, we want to make sure he doesn't lose that. We think -- no doubt in our minds -- he can play third base and be a really good third baseman, but we just don’t know how the roster is going to look a year from now, two years from now, five years from now. We want to keep that fresh for him.”

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I think what he means is the timing of the statement. I'm sure the Cubs will have Bryant play some OF at some point, but to put that out there now when they haven't asked him to work there yet or to prepare this offseason could also be interpreted as a message to the league. Saying they're not bound to Bryant at 3B increases their infield options and leaves open the possibility the Cubs could go with 3 shortstops in the IF with Bryant in the OF. If teams thought the Cubs were dead set on Bryant at 3B, then it would almost certainly put the Cubs in a position where they have to trade a shortstop and that is something the Cubs wouldn't want teams to think, since it would affect their leverage.

    I think for the most part that Theo is straightforward, but FO's use the media too to get stuff out there. I think he is sincere about trying Bryant in the OF but there's a part of me that thinks he wants the rest of the league to know that as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh, I didn't think of it like that...Good Point to both you and Aggbat.

    Definitely, right as the season ends (and before the offseason) putting it out their that they are not tied down to any one scenario certainly increases their leverage and options in terms of possible negotiations.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You keep the premium player at the premium position for as long as possible. I can see Castro traded next winter IF Bryant, Baez and Russell hold up their end of the bargin. I understand you want to milk every last dollar out of your assets but the Cubs are not in a position where they need to do that in the short term.

    I've been thinking about something. Dollar cost averaging. How about stagger the swagger? Have the kids one year separated on the clock. Rizzo and Solar are on the books. Have Baez, Bryant, Russell and Schwarber all one year behind each other.

    Oh, You and crew are excellent!

  • In reply to since1970:

    Thanks! And I like the "stagger the swagger" line. Actually just wrote an article on the growing swagger this team seams to have.

  • Cat, the laptop is back in action and in great form!

  • CUB POWER IS ABOUT TO RETURN!

    I used last winter to look around for a place that shared my views on the rebuild and future. I am here (though I still rarely post) because my views, dating back to June 2010, are here.

    I told my sister last year (she lives in Chicago, has two young sons and takes them to games) that those boys are going to experience a golden age in Cubs baseball.

    I'm talking about a team better than the one I watched at their age: Banks, Williams, Santo and Jenkins.

    Do you know what Theo wants? Back to back to back.

    My two high points as a Cubs fan was in 84 at Wrigley when Davis hit a grand slam against the Mets in September and when Kerry Wood Struck our 20 Astroholes on the only day I ever left work early to watch a game on TV.

    The Cubs owe me nothing but they are about to payoff huge.

    Cub Power t-shirts should be issued.

  • I missed the obvious. It's not "back to back to back" it's "back, back, back . . . Hey! Hey!

  • In reply to since1970:

    Would you believe some of these youngsters think Harry Caray was a good announcer?

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