Tuesday Talking Points: Saying Goodbye, Leading Off, and Some Things to Read

The winter meetings are done, and for a while, the stove will cool down, and we'll be left to settle in and brace ourselves against the long weeks before spring training begins. Or, at least, until the first of the players report to Arizona in very early February and we have something to dream on. That's a momentary salve, though, and even the spring training games get old after a while, if I'm being honest.

There's still plenty to say about the events of the past week though, so let's get to it.

Saying Goodbye

Only in the deeper recesses of our childish Christmas hopes did we really cling to the idea that Dexter Fowler just might be gearing up to come striding back onto the Cubs' 25-man roster. Only there did anyone genuinely think he wasn't just headed off into the sunset room full of cash waiting for him. I had the dark suspicion that it would be the Cardinals that would nab him too. On an episode of The Den, I voiced as much, and I even tweeted it before that:

I am still unhappy to be right, but I will continue my appreciation for Fowler, no matter where he plays. Thankfully, I have not seen any takes so far condemning him for being a "traitor" or any other juvenile silliness of that strain. In general, the people in St. Louis seem happy to have him (which they should be), and Cubs fans seem only appreciative of what he did in the past two seasons (which they should be).

The move to let Fowler just walk after arguably his career best season (4.7 fWAR) represents the kind of clinical approach to constructing a successful team that is necessary. It's a vote for the future in Albert Almora, Jr. and it's an unwillingness to overspend on a player because of sentimentality. It's said that Red Auerbach, of Boston Celtics fame, once put forth that letting a player go a year too early is better than hanging on to him for a year past his usefulness, and that's what's unfolding here.

Though he plugs a pretty significant hole in the Cardinals' roster, five years is long for the guy who'll be 36 when that contract ends. I'm sure St. Louis will get a year or two of very productive work from him, and while they think that this acquisition is closing the gap in the division, that is probably just the kind of baseless positivity that fills the winter months, and they could very well have hamstrung themselves for the years in the near future when a large chunk of the Cubs roster is really hitting its peak.

But thankfully his reception in St. Louis seems warm so far, and I do hope that he is successful there. Just not enough to get them in the playoffs. And when he returns to Wrigley, I will pour an Old Style on the head of anyone who boos him.

So Who's Up First?

I tossed around the idea a few weeks ago that either Ben Zobrist or even Jason Heyward might be a good fit to take the first spot in the batting order with the then assumed departure of Fowler, but I'll admit that Kyle Schwarber never occurred to me.

Just yesterday, though, Sahadev Sharma may have convinced me that I made a pretty glaring omission when wondering about the best choice to lead off in 2017. (John: I broached the idea here as well last week). The idea was perhaps first sparked when Jed Hoyer actually speculated on the radio about the job of finding an out with a top three of Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo:

“It’s pretty terrifying if you say you went Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo to start the game, that pitcher’s coming out for that first inning and he knows he’s in trouble right away,” Hoyer said. “And I love that idea. I think it’s intimidating and getting your best hitters up there the most often is the most important part of our strategy.”

Imagine those three and then still have hitters like Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and a (hopefully resurgent) Heyward to deal with. With that, "You go, we go," might turn into a trifecta of terror for opposing starters.

Schwarber isn't a choice just based on intimidation, either. As Sharma put it:

The reality is, if you can’t find the perfect leadoff man to fill the spot, Schwarber fits the bill. He posted a 13.2 percent walk rate in his rookie season and scouts believe that as he continues to develop, his bat-to-ball skills will improve and his .355 OBP from 2015 may just be scratching the surface.

During his very, very brief time as a minor leaguer (621 plate appearances in parts of two seasons), he had a gaudy .429 OBP. No one expects that, or even close to it, but he's consistently shown the capability of getting on base with regularity as a professional, so maybe sending him to the plate to start the game isn't an idea out of left field.

Some Good Reads

I don't read as much as I should. The work schedule and home schedule just don't allow for it, but I'm in the midst of this book by Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh and genuinely enjoying it so far. As for the short term, here are a few things I came across today and found interesting:

  1. Rian Watt at 538 on the shift in hitters' ability to make good contact on pitches outside of the zone (linked here). As much as I'd be in love with a league full of guys who can do what Vladimir Guerrero did, that's not quite what's happening, but it was still intriguing.
  2. Nick Stellini at Fangraphs speculating on the baseball equivalent of the slam dunk (linked here). I'm inclined to agree with his conclusion, but I'm also partial to the knee-buckling called third strike.
  3. Eric Roseberry (who has a phenomenal podcast, by the way), at the Red Reporter on watching a rebuilding team stay mostly silent at the winter meetings (linked here). It was a nice reminder that the Cubs were, not that long ago, in the throes of a challenging rebuild, and that the road to competitiveness for the other teams in the NL Central is not an easy one.

That's all for this week, denizens.

 

Comments

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  • I am still hoping to find a Tyson Ross under our Christmas tree...

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    In reply to ricco:

    I still don't see the obsession with Tyson Ross. He's either good(not often), bad, or injured. Unless the Cubs know what to fix. But that's still a crapshoot.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Nothing wrong with giving him a shot especially as a 5th starter.

  • Don't underestimate the Cardinals. To me there is another signing that could put them very close to the Cubs level, Edwin Encarnacion. Put something like .260/.350/.500 with 35-40 HR in the middle of that lineup they go from good to scary. Yes their pitching is a question mark but with Reyes and Lance Lynn added to the rotation I wouldn't sleep on them. Still it is yet to be seen if they would sign Encarnacion but if they did...

  • In reply to TC154:

    A few people have expressed concern over the Cardinals signing Encarnacion or Trumbo. I don't agree. Encarnacion certainly has a nice bat... but he is atrocious defensively, and would only detract from an already bad Cardinal defense. He's asking for more than $100M and will be 34 next year. And for what it's worth, each of his offensive figures declined last year (except HR, but Toronto is a bit of a bandbox (as are the other AL East parks) and St Louis is FAR from it).
    I'd be ecstatic to see the Cardinals offer him something like 100M/5yrs. Although their top 4 in the order would be formidable, he probably doesn't add more than 2-3 wins to their record and his contract would very likely become an albatross by year 3ish.

    And Trumbo just sucks.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    +1

    I hope the Cardinals continue shelling out money for guys that are on the wrong side of 30 & have most likely played their best seasons. They continue to ignore the fact that they had a pretty bad bullpen and awful defense last year.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Agree. The bullpen could improve with Wacha likely headed there and Rosenthal (seemingly) acting as their utility/roving reliever. They did lose Duke for the year.
    SP looks solid, but they're going to be very reliant on health from a rotation featuring 3 guys with major injury history.
    Again, defense will be bad and outside of Fowler, Carpenter, Piscotty, (is Diaz for real?) the offense isn't very scary either.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I agree too!
    The Cubs will win 95+ games next year. The Cardinals as they are set up now can't win that many for 2 reasons........1) They aren't that good to begin with and 2) They have to play the Cubs 19 times so........all they can hope for in 2017 again is a Wild Card.

    Sucks to be a Cardinal fan.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think Encarnacion is at least average to slightly + at 1B.

  • Good article. It is nice thinking of Schwarber as lead off. Should be a fun fun year. Small correction on Fowler's age when his contract ends, he will still be 35.

  • In reply to John57:

    Personally, I don't like Schwarber at leadoff. If you think Schwarber is their best hitter, then you don't want to bat him lead off because then you'll have a lot of empty bases because of the 9 spot. I think zobrist is my clear favorite because he still gets on base a lot, but doesn't have the power (or pure bat) Schwarber does. Let Schwarber either bat 2 or 3, with Rizzo at 4.

  • Zo is my fall back as I know that he can handle the role. However, my hope is that Heyward finds himself and plugs in against right hand starters so Ben can remain as protection for Rizzo. He's our best at making teams pay for 2out pitching around Riz.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. Hopefully Heyward can take that role.

  • Nice article as usual Jared.

    Personally - I like the idea of a healthy Schwarber leading off games. Sure - he'll have his share of strikeouts - but so did Dexter Fowler. But I like the idea of a guy who could give you a OBP north of 0.350-0.360, and who could quite easily give you a solid, thumping, LH bat with 30+ HR hitting right ahead of Bryant, Rizzo and Zobrist or Russell.

    Chances are - he'll get to cruise home at a trot with some regularity with those guys hitting behind him, and nobody is going to try and pitch around him to get to 'those guys'.

  • I always thought it was Bill Walsh who used that line: "Better to let a player go a year too early than a year too late." The cold bloody commitment to winning is what I loved about that Niner dynasty. Also think it will likely be applied to Arrieta as well.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    It might be. I've heard it attributed to Auerbach, but I also suspect it's one of those quotes with an unclear origin.

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    In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    I've heard it attributed to Billy Beane and Branch Rickey (completely different eras, I know, so Billy Beane is implausible). I think it is kind of like "Defense wins championships." It has been around for a long time and no one probably knows who coined the phrase.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yep. I suspect this is probably the case.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Branch Rickey was the first one that I ever heard that made the statement that it is better to trade a player a year too soon than a year too late. It was made in 1937, after trading off one of his veteran players when he could have given up Enos Slaughter instead.

    The quote came from a book published in 1950 entitled "75 years in Baseball History."

  • I want Kyle to come to the plate as often as possible, but I'm hesitant to lead him off. He's a base to base type base runner and hasn't demonstrated good instincts, that I have noted. Plus, Srchwarber is coming off a serious knee injury that sidelined him all year and making an important base runner seems way to risky to me. I love scoring first and prefer a fast instinctual base runner in that spot. Hit Kyle second and hope someone like Heywart and Contreras can be productive at the top.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I'm with you. I'm kind of iffy on Schwarber leading off as well. That's a lot of power at a spot that is essentially resetting the lineup in the NL. When the Cub's play in AL parks I'm all for it, or if Almora is batting 9th with the pitcher batting eighth. Otherwise I would prefer Zobrist

  • What would be really exciting would be if the NLDS and NLCS version of Javy Baez becomes the new norm.

    NLDS : .375 BA / .412 OBP / 24% K rate
    NLCS : .318 BA / .333 OBP / 17% K rate (co-MVP)

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    He probably won't hit that well (those are MVP numbers), but he is still really young and still making adjustments. Id be happy with just seeing continued improvement. The sky's the limit with this kid.

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    I'd be thrilled with .270/.330/.450. That will likely require a <20% K% and an improved BB% (say around 5-8%). I don't know that this is realistic. Put that with his defense, though, and we could be looking at a 3-5 WAR player. Not bad for a 4-5 best player on the team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Fourth or fifth best player not the team? When its all said and done, Javy may very well turn out to be the best player on a team full of future Hall of Famers. His ceiling is still off the charts.

  • In reply to TTP:

    OMG, 4th or 5th best on team? WOW, I'd call that quite optimistic. I hope as you both do, that he reaches his top potential - but I think some of you need to slow down a bit.
    Javy hasn't even proved himself yet, to deserve to be considered to have won a starting job. He's not the best SS on this team - offensively or defensively. Let's keep our enthusiasm realistic, until facts bear things out.

  • If you like Schwarbs as your leadoff hitter why wouldn't you like Bryant even better!? He is a better base runner (see WS game 7), is not coming of a serious knee injury and has just as good of an eye. I like Schwarbs better in the 2 hole, similiar to the lineup in Games 6 & 7 of WS, I really thought that sparked the team offensively.

    1. KB
    2. Schwarbs
    3. Rizzo/Zobrist
    4. Zobrist/RIzzo
    5. Russell
    6. Contreras/Javy
    7. Javy/JHey
    8. Pitcher
    9. Almora

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I was thinking that as well and mentioned it once, but I havie not heard any baseball commentators explore that possibility, so I just thought that there must be something that I'm missing.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Bryant has only a 30% GB rate and is well documented to have a great ability to not ground into double plays. I don’t think you want to waste that in the leadoff spot when he’s much less likely to be batting with someone in force out situations (lead off or after an SP out or SP sacrifice).

    Either player being considered right now, Zobrist or Schwarber, will be on first base often, meaning there is a lot of value to having Bryant behind them only making one out on a groundout. Expected run outputs are significantly different from 2 outs none on (GIDP) or 1 out man on first (just a FC at 2B).

    This is also one of the reasons to consider Schwaber leadoff. He had a 40% GB rate, and any GB with a runner on first for him is almost certainly a GIDP. But with his likely 12-15% BB rate he’ll be on first a lot for guys like Bryant or Rizzo, who will score him from first more often than the average hitters.

    I’ll still make the argument that Willson Contreras may be a very good option. He’ll probably hit about .270-.280 with a 10% BB rate, leading to about a .350 OBP. His GB rate of 54% (while sure to come down, will still be very high) means he’ll have a lot of GIDP if he’s behind guys that get to just first base a lot. He’s also not that big of a power hitter wouldn’t be wasting as much power potential to drive in players already on base as a Schwarber. However, his expected good contact rate (yes, 23.7% K last year, but about 13% in the minors and sure to come down) to drive in RISP later in an inning would be minimized.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Is there a reason that my comment here about lineup construction didn't get posted? It said it needed to be approved by the administrators. I thought it was insightful? Is there a reason I can't post?

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I agree with you, but I think they most assume they want to go LH, RH, LH for the big three.

  • In reply to berber31:

    Good point.

  • In reply to berber31:

    Good point but they could just as easily go RH, LH, RH, LH especially with Zobrist being a switch hitter.

    I like KB the best for leadoff but I think the most likely scenario, as others have commented, is a mix & match approach. Schwarbs is my least favorite though simply for the fact he is coming off an injury and it would be nearly impossible for him to go 1st to 3rd or home on anything less than a double. I also think you could see a bunch more double plays w/ him in that spot. Zobrist isn't fleet of foot either but I would call him a good baserunner.

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    In reply to berber31:

    I like that line-up. But I agree there are advantages to going "L/R/L" in the line-up. Especially against managers that LOVE platoon match-ups with their pitchers (Bochy?). While I think that is worth considering I think slavishly adhering to it can hamstring the line-up. I say that in full recognition that I often do slavishly adhere to it, almost reflexivlely.

    I try to have my rule of thumb be: All things being equal I prefer a L/R/L...combo. But if that means batting a "worse" batter higher just to maintain that it is likely to fall apart in a hurry.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    The Cubs need to find a way to have Bryant, Rizzo, and Schwarber hit with men on base, not Zo, Russell, and Heyward. I like Zo in the 1 or 2 slot to get on base in front of those guys. I would be great to see Heyward rebound too as he could fill a high on-base role in the lineup. You could see Bryant, Rizzo, and Schwarbs all with 100+ RBI with a couple of on-base guys in front of them. Russell is no more than a 6/7 hitter and Wilson and Javy are looking to be 6-8 slots as well with Almora rounding out the bottom. You could afford to slot Schwarbs up higher if Wilson mashes behind Rizzo. But my personal preference would be to have Bryant in between Schwarbs and Rizzo at 2, 3, 4 or 3, 4, 5.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I can imagine Contreras being a good lead off hitter. He isn't "fast" and not a great baserunner, but he can get on base, has a decent batting eye, and would allow us to have Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber batting with someone on base.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I am not opposed to Wilson at lead-off. It would be nice to see him maintain his MILB approach in his second big league season. I am not worried about "speed' but rather decent base running.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    Thank you for acknowledging that "speed" and "baserunning" are not synonymous. They often go together, but not necessarily.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Willson is not slow and has aggressive instincts. He is pretty difficult to double up. I'm and looking forward to full year of his offense.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't disagree with any of this, all excellent points! I also agree JHey is kind of an "X" factor this year. If he puts up numbers like he did in 2015 there is really nowhere in the lineup he wouldn't fit and certainly would fit the bill of a leadoff hitter.

    I don't think you have to have "speed" out of the leadoff spot but rather someone who has the potential to get 1st to 3rd on a single which supports your argument to have big 3 hit w/ runners on. That is why I think Schwarbs is the worst choice. I think he would be prone to base running errors that could lead to early outs or worse injury. I think its pretty clear he only plays baseball in one gear, guess thats what you get from a former linebacker, lol!

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    If Schwarbs goes 1st to 3rd maybe he can roll the 3rd baseman if needed. Ha!

    It's crazy but all this really comes back to Heyward. I agree with you 100%. He's gotta return to career norms. He needs to be able to slot in the 1, 2, or 6 spots for this offense to really take off.

    I would lean towards this:

    1 Zobrist
    2 Heyward
    3 Rizzo
    4 Bryant
    5 Schwarber
    6 Contreras
    7 Russell
    8 pitcher
    9 Almora

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Unless Heyward adjusts his swing mechanics, he could be a DP machine!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Welcome back Quasi. Haven't seen you post in quite a while.

    Agree. I was only placing him in there "if" he returned to his career norms. If thehe guy we saw last year returns, I would probably place him 9th after the pitcher hoping he could draw a walk to get back to the top of the order.

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    In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I remember I posted a while ago (August?) about possibly batting KB lead-off. He did it in college if I recall correctly. He is an outstanding baserunner. He gets on base. He works counts. The only downside is that he hits HR so a higher percentage of them would be solo shots. But that is an odd "downside."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    He actually hit quite a bit on solo shots last year and barely cracked 100 rbi the past 2 seasons but certainly that is better than 76 rbi or so that Soriano used to put up in the leadoff spot.

    Like I said I wouldnt want him there everyday but he makes sense to at least be considered.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Just too many homers left without anyone on if KB hits leadoff. You want that player to hit with the most people on. They could just walk him too and go for the double play too easily on Schwarber if nobody's on. Still think zo, Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo is the way to go.

  • Maybe conteras or anyone with contact behind Rizzo. That's the one issue about taking Zo out from behind Rizzo.

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    In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Schwarber is most likely to hit in to double plays. He also derives more offensive value through walks, I.e. he is less likely to just hit a single to drive a guy in, so the benefit of having him on base comes from the higher averages behind him.

  • Splurge on two Old Style's, Jarrod. Send me the bill. I got ya.

    Schwarber leading off would be intriguing, and like Jed said, intimidating. Zobrist will get a lot of time there. But I know Maddon likes speed. That's not quite the Cubs' game, but I think J-Hey has the inside track, although I remember him saying a few years ago he wasn't comfortable leading off. So now I'm back to being as confused as ever.

    We have Maddon the puppet-master at the helm, so I really don't think it matters. Much like labeling starting pitchers #1-#5, it might look important on paper, but changes frequently thoughout the year. I can see Joe's lead-off hitter changing daily vs. matchups, and I think that would work out just fine.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    All that seems true, and maybe lead off is good for Jason's confidence, but I'm not sure he's the guy that that one would want getting additional at bats late in the ball game. I'm missing Dex already.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Also, I would like to hear some from those more astute than I on the pros and cons of a Bryant lead off. He certainly is the kind of hitter who can't come to bat too often and is a really good base runner on base percentage guy.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If Heyward regresses toward his norm, you'll like him getting additional AB.
    Pros and cons of Bryant leading off are probably the same as Schwarber, only more exaggerated. Nearly a 40% chance of reaching base to start the game (or any time he bats), which is actually probably considerably higher than Schwarber's chances. Like you said he's a great baserunner (one of the best in the league). He also provides good odds of starting a game 1-0 with a HR.
    Cons, similar to Schwarber, are that you might not want to waste his power behind the #8,9 hitters. And he can't offer protection (if you believe in that) to the hitter in front of him. Although I guess you could argue he protects the hitter behind him by being on base constantly.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I'm guessing that the Cubs' nerds have already provided the outcomes of these options to Joe. Curious as to what they might be.

  • If anyone of the big 3 leads off, do you think Maddon will move pitcher back to the 8th spot? This will allow someone like Almora to act as a leadoff guy without actually being the leadoff guy. Plus, he'll see some fine pitches to hit.

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    In reply to berber31:

    I still say Almora is a perfect guy to bat in front of the pitcher. It mitigates his biggest "weakness" offensively (doesn't draw BB) by introducing the idea of BB him with pitches well out of the zone. But he does have the bat-to-ball skills to hit a pitch a little off the corner and potentially get a base hit or maybe a sacrifice where a more disciplined hitter might wait for a pitch to drive that never appears.

  • Hi guys,

    Long time reader but first time poster. I like the idea of Schwarber as leadoff hitter with his patient approach and OBP skills. The Indians had Santana leading off for much of last year, and he has a similar skill set to Schwarber.

    But does anyone else think that Contreras would also be a good choice to lead off? .357 OBP last year, and a .413 OBP in AA in 2015. He's not particularly fast, but he hustles, has a good approach, and a decent baserunner.

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    It probably would be unwise this year, but I could see Russel being the lead-off hitter for the Cubs in '18 and beyond.
    For '17, i would not mind seeing Heyward hitting 9th like Russel did in '15. This effectively makes him the lead-off hitter, except in the 1st and limits his number of ABs until he proves he isn't terrible. Plus, many of the Cubs SPs are decent hitters.

    Against Right Handed Pitching

    1. Schwarber LF
    2. KB 3B
    3. Rizzo 1B
    4. Zobrist Rf
    5. Russell SS
    6. Contreras C
    7. Javy 2B
    8. Pitcher P
    9. Heyward CF

    Against Left Hand Pitching
    1. Zobrist RF
    2. Schwarber LF
    3. KB 3B
    4. Rizzo 1B
    5. Russell SS
    6. Contreras C
    7. Javy 2B
    8. Pitcher P
    9. Heyward CF

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    I really think they will go back to hitting the pitcher 8th more times than not. It will be Almora in the 9th spot, its a really great way to "protect" a younger hitter especially if you have someone like Schwarbs, KB or Zobrist hitting behind them. I see JHey in CF very, very little he is more valuable in RF & Almora has gold glove potential.

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    In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Ronnie - not that I disagree with you - I agree that the best OF defense includes Almora in CF and JHey in RF. But that is not the best offense.

    If Almora is in CF, that means some bat is out of the lineup. and if we are putting JHey out there, that means the bat that comes out of the lineup is All Star caliber. However you slice the rest of the lineup, one of the following bats will be missing. Zobrist, Schwarber, Baez or Russel. All 4 of that bats are far superior to both JHey and Almora.

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    You are right but of the four guys you listed Zobrist is probably the most likely to see reduced playing time. Its not because of performance but I just see him getting a little more rest this year after playing in back to back WS. Theo has already mentioned that guys who play deep into the postseason the previous year need to be rested a bit more the following season. Just to add to that I think all the regulars will be rested more this year, I could for instance Sundays or the day before off days be used frequently to keep guys like Rizzo & KB fresh

  • "And when he returns to Wrigley, I will pour an Old Style on the head of anyone who boos him." Yes.

  • I have liked the idea of Schwarber leading off given their current options for a while now, in part because of his great ABs and also because I like Zobrist behind Rizzo as a switch-hitter (making it difficult to use a LOOGY in that spot) who will put the ball in play.

    Wrote this last week,

    "he out-of-the-box choice is Kyle Schwarber and what makes him interesting apart from his OBP skills (A Fowler-like 13.2% walk rate in 2015 with a .355 OBP) is that it's the least disruptive. Because Schwarber did not play for almost the entire season, he can slip into the lineup and keep the other players in their regular spots -- including the Zobrist protection spot behind Rizzo. He cannot replace Fowler's speed, but Fowler wasn't a base-stealer anyway (13 last season) and that isn't really the Cubs game. The Cubs game is to get on base and hit for power, so Schwarber fits, even if it is unorthodox. And besides, wouldn't you want Schwarber getting as many PAs as possible?"

    That last part is also big factor to me. If he you can get him extra ABs over the course of the year, that is a big bonus for the offense.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If my goal is too get my best hitter the most PAs possible I actually put Schwarber behind Bryant and Rizzo.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'm not sure Schwarber doesn't end up the best hitter with the best ABs, even if the other two will be better all-around players.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    An embarrassment of riches.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. I think he has one of the best approaches & batting eyes. I also agree w/Joel that with those 3 we have an embarrassment of riches.

    Throw Happ & Jimenez in that lineup in say maybe 2018 (if they aren't traded)... They will be even more dangerous 1 thru 5/6 if Russell's &/or Contreras bat(s) keeps maturing.

    We won the World Series but I'm still excited for the future...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Your right about Fowler's "speed" but he had a great ability to get from 1st to 3rd on a single or even score on a double from 1st. I just don't think Schwarbs can do that and if he does I worry about injury doing so. Plus he is less likely to take an extra base on a throwing error or a misplayed ball in the OF or if he were fortunate enough to get to 3rd w/ less than 2 outs his chancing of tagging up on a flyball are slim. Plus if he did tag, his chances are great for injury because its likely to be a close play. I think anyone else (Zobrist, JHey, Contreras, KB) all stand a greater chance of doing so and with less chance of injury.

    I want Maddon & FO to tell Schwarbs very directly this season, your job is to hit...period!! If refraining from diving in the OF or not taking an extra base here & there cost us an out or a run so be it! I have said this many times but imo Schwarbs was THE difference maker in the WS and while there were many legitimate choices for WS MVP I thought he should have won it. Just imagine what kind of difference maker he can be over 162, I don't want to jeopardize that in any way!!!

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Yes, Schwarber does fall short in that respect. Not quite an ideal leadoff guy, but they don't have a player with all those skills except for maybe Bryant.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Then, if 'll I am the manager, Bryant leads off. In the bottom of the sixth a pitch hitter will be hitting in the pitchers spot giving more rbi opportunities to leadoff. Of course me saying if I were manager is like saying if I were president.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    One factor which hasn't been mentioned (I think) is Fowler's ability to have long ABs. How many times did we we him have lead-off ABs of eight pitches or more to start a game? The advantage that brings to the line-up is tremendous: Not only do the hitters behind him get a good look at the pitcher's stuff, but the pitcher's confidence has to be shaken. I almost prefer to see lead-off hitter coax a walk after a a nine- or ten-pitch AB, rather than a lead-off HR. Almost.

    I think that Schwarber could provide those long, high-quality ABs at the top of the order. With his eye and bat control, he could drive starters crazy!

  • Will miss Dex. The Cubs have done nothing but win since he has been rooted as the leadoff batter.

    I don't think Schwarber will be replacing him as leadoff guy, thought, probably a combo platoon (is that a phrase?) of Zo/Jay and Zo/Heyward, depending on how much Jay starts and how well Heyward bounces back.

    Although SBs are not critical for a lead off man, running ability certainly is. Getting the extra base on base-hits and putting pressure on the pitcher when on base are key qualities for a leadoff guy, and Schwarbs, for all of his axe-wielding talents, just doesn't have that ability.

    Plus, did you see what the 2-5 order of Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo, and Zobrist did to Cleveland's staff a few months ago? The staff that was virtually unhittable against every other lineup? I believe we will be seeing that lineup version a number of times next season.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yea putting Schwarbs in the 2 spot in Game 6 was a series changer imo. When Maddon did that I instantly thought Russell would benefit the most, even though he was 3 spots behind him. And what do you know GS!

    Anywho, I agree with you, you have to think Maddon will not forget that either. Also we could be missing the boat here and they simply put they Jay there when he plays and sprinkle in Zobrist too.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I don't think the order changes, just that everyone gets bumped up. Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist to start a game is a nightmare. Then you have to deal with the likes of Russell, Contreras, Heyward, Jay/Almora (maybe them 9th?) which isn't a bad bottom of the order

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I remember 2004, when the Cubs struck a deal with some of the rooftop owners, bringing in some extra cash. We used that money to bring back Maddux, I think around $5M, and threw him in with Wood, Prior, Zambrano, and Clement. I remember a lame movement trying to dub that group "Murderers Throw".

    This current group of hitters has a chance to more approximate that original phrase. Schwarber, Bryant, and Rizzo is as intimidating a threesome as I can recall. Zobrist, and hopefully a resurgent Heyward, offers good balance, and it's only a matter of time before Russell and Baez add to their fearsomeness. Contreras may already be that feared, and getting better. "I pity the fool" that needs to game-plan, and then try to execute, against this lineup.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    To be fair, that staff would have been tough if they stayed healthy, but yeah, that hitting group is definitely more deserving.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sure. When I said "lame movement", I meant the phrase, not the group of pitchers. I was as optimistic going into 2004 as I was 2016. History will more accurately record those expectations vs. results.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sometimes I write down the starting lineup and rotation from that 2004 team and drool over it, and wonder how in the world they only won 89 games.
    Then I remember Prior tumblin' bumblin' over Marcus Giles on his way to 2B and mangling his shoulder.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh yeah, not much difference moving these guys to 1-4 instead of 2-5. I can definitely see how this lineup will do lots of damage. Then you have Contreras, Heyward, Russell, Baez, (and the rest) following that up. Has the makings of the Big Blue Machine.

    Still, I'm not sold on Schwarber being in the one hole. He more than fills the OBP requirement, but I would like to see better speed. Not necessarily SBs, but the ability to take the extra base, and also not to slow down faster runners behind you, is important in a leadoff hitter. At least that's what I think.

  • I'm sure we'll see a few guys leading off depending on match ups and who has the day off. Regardless the lineup is deep with 10+ hr potential from top to bottom. And as we saw in the WS the lineup with Schwarber in it is a different animal. Not to mention clearly better.

    If he's leading off I can see plenty of early hooks and burning up the opponents LOOGY after getting past the pitcher with men on. With Bryant in the 2 hole there's a 95% chance he's one and done. Advantage Cubs.

    I'll miss Fowler like everyone else but there are so many options with Almora and Jay. They may actually be better. The Cubs versatility (while maintaining a solid defense) was superior to every opponent last year. It was an advantage/weapon every opponent's broadcast team commented on early and often throughout the season. How many times did we see the opposition try it only to see a key error or missed play that factored into the outcome?

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    In reply to Cubmitted:

    I agree that the Cubs lineup construction can mess with out team's bullpen management. Let's assume the opposing manager will save a LOOGY for either Rizzo or Schwarber in a high leverage spot. Having KB in between those guys means the LOOGY only gets one batter or has to face KB. It's better to have a RH between then than Zobrist, because the opposing manager can leave the LOOGY to face Zobrist because he will switch hit either way. Why not face Zobrist because then he also gets to face Rizzo? KB is the most dangerous RH in the lineup, not good for your LOOGY.

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    It's a headache for an opposing manager. 3rd-4th inning Cubs have already put a crooked number up. You're down 3. 2 runners on. 2 outs after retiring the pitcher. Schwarber heading for the plate.

    What to do?

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    Lineup construction is always fun. I think it is amazing that you could probably put any of these guys in any order and the lineup would put up a lot of runs. I know a lot of people are hung up on Schwarber being unable to run the bases as the lead-off hitter...but I guess I fail to see how that wouldn't happen in any other situation...if he's hitting 2-5, would he still not be able to run the bases as effectively? I'd like to see 2 men on in the 1st inning whether it is 1st/3rd or 1st/2nd. A double will still score Schwarber if he's the lead runner in either of those situations...anyways. The point is to have guys on base for the 3-5 hitters. It is actually interesting that the #3 hitter comes up the most with 2 out and no one on...so the #3 isn't as important as say the #2. So in total...you want your best offensive player in the #2...you want high OBP in #1, you want your 2nd best in the #4, and someone with high OBP in #3 to keep the line moving and at least have 1 on for the #4...so in my opinion I would consider:

    Schwarber-LF
    KB-3B
    Zobrist-2B/RF
    Rizzo-1B
    Contreras-C
    Heyward/Javy-RF/2B
    Russell-SS
    P
    Almora/Jay-CF

    I think everyone's lineups could be seen through out the year just because we know Maddon is going to rotate a lot of guys. The offense is never going to be an issue with this team. I just hope the SP can stay healthy as we have had good luck the past two seasons with that.

  • Zobrist/Jay
    Schwarber/Contreras
    Bryant
    Rizzo
    Russell
    Heyward/Baez
    Contreras/Montero
    Pitcher
    Almora/Jay/Baez

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    Out of all the ideas we have all thrown out, I think this is the most likely lineup on most days. Just fun to play manager isnt it?:)

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    The amazing thing is that once Joe decides on this defensive line up for the day, he can literally pull names out of a hat for the batting order. I'd love to see him do that one day. And, no joke, he just might.

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    I like that lineup, but another idea might be leading off with Contreras. He's faster than Sccwarber and has a good OBP and his enthusiasm is catching (no pun intended). I can just see him getting a double to lead off and him jumping up and down exciting the whole team.
    I do like the pitcher hitting 8th too.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That pun was very much intended, don't lie. :) Contreras is another option on a team full of options. You make a good point about his energy level. I love seeing that as a fan, and I'm sure it fires up his teammates as well. The Cubs may not have the prototypical lead-off man, and Dexter will surely be missed, but we'll be all right.

    I didn't get to reply to your comment yesterday, Jonathan. Yes, the guys in the bar were complimentary towards BarleyPop, and they compared "him" to Norm from "Cheers". They mentioned you as well. You were descibed as the "nice guy" and a "good dude". The spoke very highly of you, and for good reason.

    We're famous, ya'll! I guess we owe John some agency money.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'll take that--and you're right, we owe a lot to John. What a year!!

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    What about Rizzo leading off some too (a la Joey Votto style)? He's getting on base at ~39% in the last 3 years, a walk rate of 11% and a K% of 16 isn't too far from fowler. He has more speed than Schwarber (can possibly go 1st to third) has probably the most consistent batting approach on the team. I think he would be a good,if not unorthodox, lead off guy. Something like: Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Zobrist, etc. with a pitcher in the 8 hole and Almora in the 9 spot to give Rizzo some rbi chances.

  • In reply to Tyler Cunningham:

    What Rizzo lacks in speed he makes up for in instincts. Count me as one who is not in favor of Schwarber leading off. Much of the Cubs success had to do with Dex and Kris at the top scoring from 1st on a double, going first to third on a single and tagging on sac fly. That just isn't Kyle's game.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Schwarber is actually an above average base runner. But, I am not sure I want to see him or Rizzo or Bryant leading off. If the Heyward of old comes back with his OBP that works for me.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Above average speed with a recently surgically repaired knee.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    HUH? Who said anything about above average speed?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Not you, sorry.

  • According to my rudimentary math skills, the Cubs led MLB last year with 6335 PA. Divided by 162 games comes out to 39.1 PA per game. Which is 4 trips thru the lineup and the first 3 batters with a fifth AB.

    I'm in on Schwarb batting lead-off. I'd rather have those three guys bat in the first if it gives them a better chance of batting in the ninth.

  • According to my rudimentary math skills, the Cubs led MLB last year with 6335 PA. Divided by 162 games comes out to 39.1 PA per game. Which is 4 trips thru the lineup and the first 3 batters with a fifth AB.

    I'm in on Schwarb batting lead-off. I'd rather have those three guys bat in the first if it gives them a better chance of batting in the ninth.

  • I really liked having two high OBP switch hitters book-ending the big boppers in the lineup. The only near major league ready switch hitter with high OBP skills is Candelario, yet its hard to see where he fits on this team.
    I think the default top of the lineup is going to be Schwarbs, Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist with the hope somebody steps up and shows the capability to be the lead-off guy. I think long term the Cubs envision Schwarber as their #2 hitter.

  • The Cubs only losing streak last year was when our leadoff man was on the mend.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Coincidental. The offense was good during that losing streak. The losing happened as a result of the starting rotation (Hendricks aside) collectively sucking.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    That's true.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    Not just good, they were actually better across the board. The pitching was certainly to blame during that stretch.

    I think Schwarber would be just fine at the leadoff spot; more important at that spot than speed is a hitters ability to see pitches, and we know Schwarber will be one of the best hitters in that department. We know for a fact that he can use the whole field, but he's gotta do it with more regularity or he's gonna lose a lot of PA to the shift. I feel like when Rizzo started doing that more consistently is when be took the step up to the next level as a hitter. Hopefully Kyle can do the same.

    Maybe also work on bunting occasionally. You can rack up some cheap hits by exploiting the shift and just dropping one down the 3B line...

    Any way we align the hitters is fine by me. Zo can lead off. Willy and Addy would be fine there as well. It doesn't really matter. This team should hit a lot more HR this year with the return of Schwarber, and should score a bunch more runs as well.

    I'm also totally optimistic on Jay. This is a guy who has hit both LH and RH to about a 280 BA and 350 OBP over his career. I also like the fact that he puts a lot of balls in play. Hopefully he helps speed up Almora's offensive development as well.

    I expect a really good offense. Better than last year.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    They were a bit winded too. Long stretch with travel and maybe 1 day off as I recall. Fowler returned, a little time off and they found their stride again.

  • The Cubs signed 3 former top IFA prospects to minor league deals.
    Maikel Cleto, 27 RHP, was a former top 20 prospect that can hit 100 on his FB. He last played in the MLB in 2014 with CWS. He had a 4.60 ERA, 16.7% BB, 23.2% K, & not a good GB pitcher. Pitched last season in Mexico.
    Daniel Corcino, 26 RHP, was a former top 10 prospect in Reds org in 2011. Pitched last year for LAD AA team to a 3.53 ERA & 3.91 FIP, with a 21.2% K to 6.9% BB. FB is 89 with cutting action & a good slider.
    Jhondaniel Medina, 23 RHP, made it to Pirates AAA last year. Had a 2.63 ERA & 4.41 FIP, with 16.4% K to 11.5% BB. His FB sits around 92-94 & has an above avg splitter & avg curve.
    None will likely contribute, but could be some interesting lottery picks if they can devolop better control.

  • I agree that Schwarber makes a lot of sense as a leadoff hitter, sans his baserunning. I guess he makes the most sense till someone else steps up.
    Most of the points have been brought up already, especially that Heyward is a key piece in all this. But I thought I'd throw in that Candelario makes sense too. The major issue is where to play him on the field, but a switch hitter with high OBP is what the ideal leadoff man would be, in my opinion.

  • Sorry if this double posts, the filter got me earlier. The Cubs led MLB with 39.1 PA per game last year. That's exactly 4 trips thru the lineup plus a 5th at bat for the first 3 hitters. This should continue if we replace Fowler's OBP with Schwarber.

    This has changed my mind about Kyle batting lead-off. In a close game I want our best 3 hitters batting in the 9th inning, and tho it changes every game we'll still have a better chance if those guys hit 1-2-3.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    Good point. Once the starter is out of the game there really isn't a lead off hitter anymore. The guy who is most likely to get the most at bats needs to be a darn good hitter.

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    I've just looked at JHey's career. In 2011 his OBP was .319 and other than last year (OBP .306) he was usually in the .340's or .350's.
    Last year was an aberration and I think he reverts back to his norm. One of the discussions when the Cubs signed him was whether he could lead off, with his speed, base running and OBP it was a good thought. If he can go back to what he was then he could be a part time lead off man.

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    Against a rightie, I'd prefer...

    1. Jay CF
    2. Schwarber LF
    3. Bryant 3B
    4. Rizzo 1B
    5. Zobrist 2B
    6. Russell SS
    7. Heyward RF
    8. Contreras C
    9. P

    Yep, that's what I'd pencil in. I am bullish on Russell. I know he knocked in nearly 100 ribbies but I think he will hit .275 or .280 in 2017 and lead the team (and possibly even the NL) with 120 ribbies.

  • Dont worry, Joe will figure this lineup thing out. It will probably change everyday!

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Agree, in the end that's most likely how it will play out. These days it's unusual to have a single leadoff player. Those players like Fowler are valuable but rare because it's long grind. Maddon is the best at mixing and matching so the Cubs should be good.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    You are absolutely right. Dexter is one of the best lead-off men in the game. With his career OBP and the amount of pitches he sees, it would be silly to put him anywhere else. But now that we don't have a bonifide LO man, it's like giving Joe another toy for Christmas. He loves this kind of stuff. I'll be surprised if we see the same batter at the top of the lineup three games in a row all season.

  • think Maddon has said he loves Zobrist protecting Rizzo. if you put Schwarber there, Schwarber could be pitched around a bit more. so Schwarber in leadoff prevents Schwarbs from being pitched around with Bryant and Rizz behind him. doubt you ever really have to pitch around Zobrist

  • Uehara signed

  • In lieu of not having a prototypical lead-off hitter, it will come down to match-ups. Thinking about pitching depth, and wondering how Zastryzny would line up as a swing man. Very impressed with his demeanor and stuff so far.

  • I would like to give Javy Baez a chance to bat 3rd. Lineup would look like...

    standard lineup
    Bryant
    Schwarber
    Baez
    Rizzo
    Russell
    Heyward
    Contreras
    P
    Almora, JR

    vs tough RHP
    Schwarber
    Bryant
    Rizzo
    Zobrist
    Heyward
    Montero
    Russell
    P
    Jay

    vs tough LHP
    Bryant
    Zobrist
    Baez
    Rizzo
    Russell
    Contreras
    Szczur
    P
    Almora Jr

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