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Sorting out the infield playing time and how Baez can get his share of PAs (Also: more Javy pics)

The Cubs have 5 starting caliber infielders and 4 positions at which to play them.  Joe Maddon doesn't have a specific solution, only saying that he will allow things to play themselves out.

It's always possible one player could get hurt.  Remember we had the same questions regarding the Cubs OF at this point last year when the Cubs re-signed Dexter Fowler even though they had an outfield alignment of Kyle Schwarber (LF), Jason Heyward (CF), and Jorge Soler (RF).  The Cubs even traded Chris Coghlan to make room.

What happened, of course, is Schwarber was hurt in the very first series of the season and would not come back until the World Series.  Fowler performed well, but Soler and Heyward struggled out of the gate.  Suddenly the Cubs went from having too many OFers to having to use Kris Bryant and Matt Szczur out there more often than they may have planned, especially early on in the season.  Willson Contreras would play out there as well before settling in a regular rotation at catcher.  The Cubs also called up Albert Almora and even ended up bringing back Coghlan.

Obviously this is not the ideal situation.  You want all of your best players at each position to play well, stay healthy, and get the lion's share of PAs -- but the Cubs are smart not to bank on that happening.  Even in the unlikely event that the players stay 100% healthy and perform consistently well all season, the depth can still be an asset and everyone can get their share of PAs.

How?

First of all, to represent this as 5 players for 4 positions isn't exactly accurate.  Ben Zobrist can also play the OF, so we could say then that the Cubs have 8 starting caliber players for 7 positions (not including catcher or pitcher) -- but that isn't exactly true either.  The Cubs have two semi-regular CFers in Almora and Jon Jay.  So it really works out to 9 starting caliber players for 7 available positions.

If we add up the games started for all of those positions (162 x 7) it comes out to 1.134 starts.  But with 9 starters or quasi starters, that comes out to 126 starts per player if we rotate them all out evenly.  Almora and Jay will mostly be in CF but one or both may get some defensive time in the corners as well.  We can also add in the last spot on the roster (Szczur or LaStella).  Either way (or even combned) hey probably won't get a ton of PAs, so let's call it 8 players for 6 positions and rotate those evenly, then it comes out to 122 games per player.  That's probably a crude way to divide that, but I am just being theoretical here.  I am not trying to give an exact formula of how many PAs each player should get.

Now consider that the Cubs were 5th in the league in plate appearances per game at 38.3.  Again if we divide that by 9 that comes out to approximately 4.25 plate appearances per starter if divided equally.  In the 8 players rotating for 6 positions scenario, a player who averages 4.25 PAs over 122 games will finish the season with 520 PAs.  That is a pretty good number on the surface, but of the 8 non-pitcher positions in question, only two (LF and C) didn't have a regular with more than that number of PAs, so no matter how much Maddon rotates the players around, someone will lose PAs...probably everyone.  In the most extreme example, 520 PAs is 179 fewer PAs than Kris Bryant had last season.  Does anyone want to see Bryant with 163 fewer PAs in 2017?  Of course not.

That little exercise was just to give you a basic idea of how PAs could be spread out and still give everyone plenty of playing time, but it will not be spread out evenly.  So where will the PAs come from?

  1. Ben Zobrist will turn 36 in May and he has played in two consecutive World Series.  As much as the Cubs would like to play him everyday, they have to be realistic that he can't continue to do that year after year at this stage.  I don't expect him to repeat the 631 PAs he had last year.  The Cubs will likely want to keep him fresh for what is expected to be another run in the postseason.
  2. Jason Heyward has worked hard to get back to where he was as a hitter, but he was a liability against lefties last year on offense with a 62 RC+/.268 wOBA -- basically the numbers of a glove first utility infielder.  Even if he does bounce back to where he was, his 82 RC+/.298 wOBA career numbers vs LHP is still well below average.  It makes sense that he will sit against some lefties -- at least the ones Maddon doesn't feel he'll match up well against.
  3. Kyle Schwarber is coming off a severe knee injury and while he seems to have a super-human ability to overcome pain and injury, it may still be wise to give him some scheduled days off this year.  And if he does end up catching some games. that could open up some playing time in LF for Zobrist as well.
  4. The Cubs may want to give all of their starters a few more days off.  Only two players started as many as 155 games played (Bryant and Rizzo) and only one other (Russell) had more than 150 (at 151), so maybe it isn't unreasonable if we say those 3 players each play 150 out of the 162 games next year if healthy.
  5. The Cubs play 9 games in which they will be able to use a DH.

So what if we cut down Ben Zobrists PAs to say...500 for the regular season to keep him fresh?  Some of those PAs will come at 2B, of course, but some will also come in LF and RF.  What if he gets 25 starts in LF to rest Schwarber and/or in games when Schwarber catches or DHs. Those 25 starts multiplied by the 4.25 average PAs per game comes out to 106 PAs in LF.

Now for Heyward.  Let's assume we get 689 PAs from RF (162 games X 4.25 PAs per game for each position).  Last season, approximately 24% of the Cubs PAs came against LHP, so of those 689 total PAs, about 165 PAs would theoretically occur vs. LH hitters.  Considering Bryant had 186 PAs in 155 games vs LHPs, that might be a conservative estimate, but we'll stick to the 165.  If Heyward plays 2/3 of the games vs. LHSPs, that's about 55 PAs more for Zobrist in RF.

So 106 PAs in LF and 55 PAs in RF for Zobrist comes out to 161 PAs.  If Zobrist gets 500 PAs and we subtract the 161 for the games he plays in the OF, that leaves 339 PAs at 2B.  Then, if we take the 689 estimated PAs we have set aside for each position over 162 games, then that leaves 350 PAs for Baez at 2B alone.

Now let's say the rest of the infield gets a bit more rest than last year and each plays 150 games.  As we mentioned that's not unreasonable in comparison with last season and certainly doable without much loss in production with the Cubs depth.  That leaves 12 games at each position open for either Javy Baez to play or perhaps with someone like Kris Bryant sliding over to play 1B with Baez playing 3B.  However it is sliced up, that comes out to 36 more opportunities to start for Baez.  Multiply that by 4.25 PAs per game and that is 153 more PAs.  Added that to the 350 at 2B and now we have Baez getting 500+ PAs over the course of a season.

And then there's the 9 games where the Cubs will get to use the DH.  That's another potential 38 PAs with Schwarber likely at DH, Zobrist in LF, and Baez at 2B.

Granted, this is oversimplified because we took one player (either Tommy La Stella or Matt Szczur) + the idea that Almora and/or Jay would play some corner OF and combined that as one "player".  I wouldn't expect  a lot of those PAs as eithea pinch-hitter that takes PAs away from the pitcher or a late PA after coming in as a replacement on defense.

Additionally, none of this is taking injuries into account, nor do we take account for partial games where Baez may come in as a defensive replacement at 2B (with Schwarber leaving the game and either Zobrist, Jay, or Szczur filling in LF) and potentially getting a PA late in the game.

But my point was not to get an exact number,  rather it was just one of many possible ways you could theoretically spread 500+ PAs among 8 players at 6 positions.  You can fiddle with your own combinations and come up with a different solution.  You may want Baez playing more at 2B with Zobrist taking more PAs in the OF and DH, for example.

In the end, I don't think Maddon will do anything that calculated.  There may be times where he matches up or plays the hot hand.  Other times when he decides a player needs a rest.  In the end, however, I think it will indeed work out one way or the other, even if all players stay healthy all season.

And since this is mostly about Javy Baez, here is a gallery of him playing 2B this spring.  We'll have the rest of the infield sometime this weekend.

 

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    If you leave out Almora and Jay as CF, doesn't that leave 7 regulars for the other 6 positions, not 7? Also, I believe there are 9 DH games, not 7.

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    In reply to John Howard:

    I meant 7 instead of 8 for 6 positions.

  • In reply to John Howard:

    I agree its 7 players for 6 spots. I see the outfield a little differently, Schwarber is going to catch 1-2 games per week (that's 35-40 games) he will DH 9 games and rest 1 day a week (25-30games) that makes 70-80 games in lf. Then 30 games in rf. So I see 100 to 110 games to be played in the outfield.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I highly doubt Schwarber will catch 1-2 games per week. I think it will fall more like 1-2 per month with much of that coming n the 2nd half.

    Montero's still on the roster and with Schwarber coming off of major knee surgery, they'll want to go slow in his return to catching duties. His bat is too important for the Cubs to risk pushing that knee too far too soon.

    Next season, if all goes well with his knee and abilities behind the plate, perhaps he averages catching a game a week.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    I agree. Def not 1-2 a week, but I think 1-2 a month is a little conservative. I think if he's going to catch, its going to be 4-5 a month meaning at least 1 a week. Perhaps in the 2nd half ( after showing a couple of months of health and effectiveness ) he could become a personal caddy to a pitcher.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Then epstein is lying because he said schwarber would catch 1-2 games per week. I am taking him at his word.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    "Watch Joe Maddon discuss Kyle Schwarber's first day catching. He was behind the plate for John Lackey's bullpen session on Friday but didn't do any other drills as the Cubs take things slowly. He crouched with his left leg extended in the same manner Tony Pena used to catch. Maddon said it's possible Schwarber catches up to 20 games if all goes well."

    Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Schwarbs will not be catching 1-2.games per week this year. Not while Montero is around.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Theo said he was cleared medically to catch 1-2 "days" a week "in spring training". Not games, and certainly not 1-2 games a week during the season. If were going to take him at his word, let's take him at all of his words.

    Schwarber caught Lackey's bullpen session today. So that's 1 of his catching days this week...

  • In reply to John Howard:

    Was so busy checking the math that I may have missed the easiest parts. I can fix that either by recalculating 7 for 6 or just altering it as 8 for 6 because of the extra player not accounted for -- or the fact that Almora/Jay will play some corner OF. It won't change the concept all that much, but I will see

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I decided to leave it as 8 for 6 but factor in more players. I think that's more realistic anyway. Never felt good about leaving Szczur or LaStella out or Almora/Jay strictly in CF, so I combined those extra combined PAs as one theoretical player.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Poster previously, but for the record, here’s how skipper Joe used his position player roster in regular season 2016. Although some names have changed, I would expect a similar distribution in 2017.

    Offense (minimum 75 PAs): Bryant (699), Rizzo (676), Zobrist (631), Russell (598), Heyward (592), Fowler (551), Baez (450), Montero (284), Contreras (283), Soler (264), Ross (205), Szczur (200), LaStella (169), Coghlan (128), Almora (117), Lester (75).

    Defense (minimum 18 innings) by position: C — MM/558.1, DR/448.2, WC/389.2, TF/63 /// 1B — AR/1337, KB/55.1, CC/27, JB/21, WC/19 /// 2B — BZ/976.1, JB/383, MK/50, TLS/50, AR/.1 !! /// SS — AR/1262.2, JB/194 /// 3B — KB/857, JB/370.2, TLS/207.2, JC/22.1 /// LF — JS/371, KB/353.1, MS/200.2, WC/180.2, CC/173, BZ/127.2, AA/26, TW/5 !! /// CF — DF/1027.1, AA/193, JH/171, MS/67.1 /// RF — JH/1029.2, BZ/158.2, KB/99, MS/85.1, JS/41, CC/26, AA/18.

    Defense by player (innings): Bryant (3B/857, LF/353.1, RF/99, 1B/55.1, SS/1, CF/1, TOT=1366.2), Rizzo (1B/1337, 2B/.1, TOT=1337.1), Zobrist (2B/976.1, RF/158.2, LF/127.2, SS/2, 1B/.1 TOT=1265), Russell (SS/1262.2, TOT=1262.2), Heyward (RF/1029.2, CF/171, RF/99, TOT=1200.2), Fowler (CF/1027.1, TOT=1027.1), Baez (2B/383, 3B/370.2, SS/194, 1B/21, LF/2.1, TOT=971), Contreras (C/389.2, LF/180.2, 1B/19, TOT=589.1), Montero (C/558.1, TOT=558.1), Ross (C/448.2, TOT=448.2), Soler (LF/371, RF/41, TOT=412), Szczur (LF/200.2, RF/85.1, CF/67.1, TOT=353.1), LaStella (3B/207.2, 2B/50, TOT=257.2), Almora (CF/193, LF/26, RF/18, TOT=237), Coghlan (LF/173, 1B/27, RF/26, 3B/1, TOT=227), Federowicz (C/63, TOT=63), Kawasaki (2B/50, 3B/1, TOT=51), Candelario (3B/22.1, TOT=22.1), Kalish (LF/11, RF/2, TOT=13), Schwarber (LF/7.67, TOT=7.67), Wood (LF/5, TOT=5), Strop (LF/1, TOT=1), Patton (LF/.1, TOT=.1).

    TOTAL PLAYER-INNINGS = 11,677.1, or 1459.2 innings per non-pitcher position (e.g., Bryant played 93.6% of possible innings, or stated differently, Bryant was in the field 93.6% of the time that the Cubs played defense).

    Who were the regulars? The Cubs had 15 position players that played “regularly”. Players on the DL did occur.

    Was Baez a regular? He had the 7th most PAs and the 7th most innings in the field. With Maddon, the concept of “regular” has a whole new meaning.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    P.S. I think we constantly need to think in terms of a 180 game 7-month season, and how do we keep players fresh for the most important games of the year? Last postseason I believe the Cubs clearly had the superior position in being less "gassed" than the opposition (esp. pitching). I'm sure that will play into the general strategy again this year, and accounts for the high quality of the AAA backups that the Cubs have put together. It takes more than 25 players to win a World Series.

  • As Joel posts about once a week, these are "first world problems". I love the fact that concerning roster flexibility we have guys that could actually play as opposed to finding 150+ at bats for a defense only type so the regular player could get rest. And if the Cubs get through the year with no injuries, then that would be pretty remarkable.

  • I was told there would be no math. I am glad YOU did it. I feel fine about how this will work out with position players but I worry a bit about the starting pitching.

  • I'm expecting a lot of six inning appearances from both Schwarber and Zobrist. If the team is winning then Almora and Baez will enter for them.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I agree with this. Get them each "1 last PA" in the 6th or later and bring in the defensive replacement.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Javy may end up playing as many or more games than Bryant or Rizzo, but he will have far fewer PAs because a significant number of his games will be as a defensive sub.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Exactly. +1000

    My thoughts completely. If Almora and Heyward are already in the game, I could also see Zorilla moving to LF after 6-7 innings on the dirt in case Joe doesn't want to burn his last non catcher ( Jay).

    There is no secret weapon in Travis Wood anymore !

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    For that matter, remember, Bryant is even better in the OF than he is at 3B (I believe). It's not impossible that Javy goes to 3B and Bryant to LF instead of Zobrist. For that matter, with this much positional flexibility, why not use Jay? Suddenly your outfield is Jay in LF, Almora in CF, and Heyward in RF. Not a bad combo. Then, if something were to happen and we had to put Montero at C we could move Contreras out from behind the plate (if he is catching--and if he is not catching then he could simply come off the bench and cover LF in a pinch). As I said before, the ability of this team to move their players around gives Maddon a frightening capability he has never had before. I can't think of another team that has had this much defensive positional flexibility, and certainly not with a manager able to grasp its possibilities.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    ...we still have Strop (LF 1 inning) and Patton LF .1 inning) (;-).

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think that's possible. I also think there is a chance that this is the year Baez really begins to reach his full potential and essentially pushes Zobrist into the outfield full time. Zobrist could give both Schwarber and Heyward breaks during the week, and sometimes push Heyward to center field. At one point, Baez was a top five prospect in the entire league. And although I was a skeptic, it is impossible now to look at him and not see his potential.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    My hope for Baez is that he gets his K% down closer to 22% this year. I believe that is plausible as he showed in streaks last year he is capable of laying off pitches. However, I think he will also be apt to "chase" pitches that are out of the zone for some time when he gets "antsy."

    Then, I hope he can get his BB% up into the 5-7% range. To me this all depends on him starting to lay off pitches out of the zone. If he does this he will start to draw BB as they will be "balls" and not "strikes" and he can punish pitches in the strike zone making pitchers a little more reticent about going in there.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thought I just saw on MLB that the average k-rate was 21 per cent. Javy's 2016 rate isn't that far from ave. Improvement is always good but I believe Javy needs to concentrate more in critical situations rather than just lower his k-rate.

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    In reply to stix:

    And I think Javy can get close to that point. I believe as he improves his K% he will likely improve his performance in critical--and non-critical--situations. There are times when he is "locked in" in critical situations, bearing down and fouling off tough pithces and laying off pitches outside the zone. Then there are times where he looks like the 2014 Javy. But when he is in a "funk" he will swing at everything and it gets him in trouble. I am using K% as a proxy for when he is "locked in."

  • After John Jay signed, I created the attached playing spreadsheet. It's very similar to John's. It's based on games played vs. AB's. I figured if the guys get more hits, they'll naturally get more AB's.

    Player C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF DH Rest Total
    W. Cont 97 2 14 49 162
    Montero 65 97 162
    Rizzo 142 20 162
    Baez 76 20 46 20 162
    Zobrist 86 23 24 29 162
    Russell 142 20 162
    Bryant 18 116 8 20 162
    Schwarb 125 7 30 162
    Almora 75 87 162
    Jay 75 87 162
    Heyward 12 130 20 162
    Total 162 162 162 162 162 162 162 162 7 479 1782

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    well, that spreadsheet did not format well at all. Suffice it to say, no one will be a season long iron man.

    A friend and I have an over-under bet on the following. My answer for the season is 5. My friend is 7.

    How many times will Joe Maddon start Wilson Contreras at catcher, then move him to another position during the game and then back to catcher in the late innings?

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    In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    That's a great point about Willson. He played a very good LF last year too. I can see Zobrist maybe even having fewer AB than 500 or so. He has played so much the last two years that he needs the rest even though he might not want it. As you said John, these players will be rested and playing fewer games just like he'll have a 6 man rotation at times to save the arms.
    It seems to me that the only SS we have are Russell and Javy. What happens if they're both out of the game? Thanks John.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'd tend to disagree. Willson played an average LF last year. He wasn't really tested. And I also feel it isn't necessary to go out of the way to play him there. If he got hurt in LF, it would be unforgiveable.
    Also, Kawasaki is under contract I believe as an emergency for SS.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I would actually put it at 0.

    There is no reason to move WC around and create more flexibility because there is so much depth already with the current roster makeup. I also think management wants WC to focus on catching and catching only. Having him run out to LF or 1B only creates a distraction for him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I would take the "under" on that as well. It is really hard to change positions during a game. Even harder to then return to a previous position.

    But I disagree about not wanting to take advantage of WC flexibility. He is a good catcher and getting better. But occasionally playing another position won't stunt his development that much and will possibly give him PAs.

  • For my games started spreadsheet, in rough terms, I have the following:

    1. Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant and Heyward start 142 games each
    2. Zobrist starts 133 games
    3. Schwarber starts 132 games
    4. Contreras starts 113 games
    5. Almora and Jay start 75 games each
    6. Montero starts 65 games

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Rizzo and Bryant will start 150 - 155 games. There is no way they will play less than that, barring injury of course. Those two guys are your best offensive players, they are MVP candidates and are horses. Rizzo also plays a position that doesn't zap too much energy. There is no way he will allow Maddon to sit him 3-4 times a month.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I disagree with every part of this post. It may be that Rizzo/Bryant will start 150-155 games. But I can easily imagine a scenario--and a good scenario for the Cubs--where they start fewer games.

    Baseball is physically and mentally demanding not because they players are using "max effort" like players in other sports but because it is so unrelenting. There is a game almost every day and extremely limited days off for "travel." Taking these days off will likely cost Bryant and Rizzo in the "counting stats" (H, HR, RBI, R, etc.) but it may be made up for with even better "rate" stats (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, etc.) Giving days off can make a real difference to a player who is physically and mentally exhausted.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    My rationale for 142 games each for Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant and Heyward is looking at the away schedule in June and July. From June 12th until the All Star game is hot weather city hell. I would want to give these guys a day off each week plus move to a 6 man rotation if all pitchers are healthy.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I do not disagree with your argument. It is a long and grueling season both physically and mentally for a player.

    But Rizzo, and to a lesser extent Bryant, will not allow Maddon to sit them 20 games during the season. Maybe 1 game a month or something like that, but those guys are way to competive to allow themselves to be rested.

    You hear stories all the time where players are scheduled to rest a game and they lobby the manager to play and sure enough, they are in the lineup.

    I think Rizzo plays 154-155 games and Bryant 151-152.

    Russell I agree with in the 145 ish range simply because by resting him a game gives Javy an opportunity for more at bats as well as keeping Russell sharp.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think that Bryant and Rizzo respect Maddon enough to not "force" him to play them. They may ask, maybe fervently, but the ultimate choice is Maddon's. I don't buy the "They won't allow him to take them out of the line-up."

    Also, Baez is a pretty good 3B so any game that Bryant isn't there is another opportunity to have Baez at 3B to get PAs.

    The main thing that would de-rail, in my opinion, the kind of platooning I am describing would be an injury or a sudden, unexpected regression. For instance, it's possible that Zobrist has an "outlier" bad season leading Maddon to not want him out there for more than 200-300 PAs. What a luxury it is to say, "More PAs for Baez/Schwarber, etc." As Maddon says, this will likely sort itself out.

    I've not lost a moments peace "worrying" about "getting enough PAs" for these guys. The positional flexibility of this team is scary. We could see dozens of different defensive configurations of just these 10-12 guys. That is unheard of. And it allows Maddon to play the match-ups and really focus on putting players in positions to succeed.

    I do believe that Bryant and Rizzo will get the most PAs (barring injury of course). Obviously I don't have a problem with that. I just firmly believe that it is possible that the Cubs can have a VERY good team without them getting 650+ PAs. More importantly, they might have an even BETTER team because they will be rested and able to work out of their slumps before they get too long.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Ideally this would be the best thing to do to spread everything out and give everyone a lot of rest, but I am not sure its actually going to happen.

    I hope I am wrong, but I don't think the Cubs are going to have the luxury of basically having a 10 game + lead from May on. I think as long as the division and race for home field stays close, we will see Bryant and Rizzo on pace for 150+ games played. ( barring injury)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    That's true. Last year had a "victory lap" feel from May or so one. There was the obvious speed bump in June.

    However, if they are ahead by 5-6 games (not uncommon in June) I think those days off will HELP the team more than it hurts them.

    Also, recall, Baez is streaky. When he is on he is a devastating offensive force. When he gets "off" his contribution is offensive and devastating.

    As Maddon says, this will probably sort itself out with injuries and disappointing seasons for someone.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I agree. Rest during the season is crucial. Just look at Rizzo in the '15 playoffs. Not much left in the tank for the most important games of the year.

  • fb_avatar

    There is another scenario that could happen & that is Almora doesnt hit.

    If that happens Heyward shifts to CF - which was discussed last year before Dex came back - & Zobrist/Bryant play RF -while Javy plays 2b or 3b.

    I think theyll give Almora every opportunity to lock down that job -
    but its also possible he becomes a 4th OF & Def replacement.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    That's possible, but you're forgetting Jon Jay and his ability to contribute. It's not Almora or bust in CF.

    Jay is a career .287/.352/.384 hitter and is a legit defensive CFer. As a left-handed hitter, he makes a good platoon partner with Almora. If Albert completely loses his ability to hit left-handed pitching as well as the certain RHPs he matches up well against, then he'll likely be sent to AAA and you'll see more of Heyward in CF.

    But even in that scenario, Jay will still get some starts in center.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Quedub:

    "It is almost like the Cubs have made a concerted effort to get 'middle-of-the-field' guys (C, SS, CF) who can move to the corners if necessary UNLESS the "corner" guy is a truly special talent. You know, someone "generational" in talent. But we all know the Cubs aren't willing, able or interested in following through on a coherent strategy in the FO."

    --The 2010 version of Myself.

    Thankfully I currently hold a different view of the FO.

  • fb_avatar

    Thank you, John, for putting into words so well--as you always do--a way that this can work out. As rbrucato mentioned (quoting me), "These are first world problems."

    I have basically been saying this since fall/winter 2014. Once I divested myself of "Bryant/Rizzo/ HAS TO get opver 650 PAs" it becomes relatively easy to get these extra guys ~500 PAs. I even put together a scenario where each of 10 players (Rizzo, Contreras, Russell, Zobrist, Jay, Heyward, Schwarber, Almora, Baez) would get 450-575 PAs.

    Also, I think it is tempting to underestimate the need for rest. Especially considering that the Cubs play a much larger percentage of their games in the hot afternoon sun than most teams. Having that extra "starting caliber" player is a HUGE advantage. We don't drop off from Bryant to Kawasaki on offense when he needs a day off.
    450-575 PAs (based on 4.2 PAs/start)

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The other thing that makes this possible is the ridiculous amount of defensive flexibility of the Cubs. ALL except Rizzo and Montero can play at least 2 positions at an adequate (for Schwarber) to above average (for everyone else) level. This also means that when we put in a sub it isn't someone at the level of TLS defensively.

  • Actually the Cubs get 10 games they get to use a DH.
    3 @BOS, 3 @BAL, 2 @CHW, 2 @TBR
    I figure in terms of Games Started by position player:
    Bryant and Rizzo, who should get about ~150 starts.
    Russell about ~140, I think with Baez improvement in all facets, and Russell does still have a tendency to get into funks, the Cubs will be more willing to give Russell breathers.
    Schwarber/Heyward ~130-140 GS, I think they'd rest against a lot of LHS, Schwarber likely need the rest anyway.
    Zobrist ~130, as one of the older players on the team, he'll need his rest too.
    Baez ~125-ish GS.
    I would assume this would be the game plan if everyone is healthy, which is never the case anyway. There's going to be a good month or 2, where we'll be grateful to have this depth available.

    Knowing how Maddon uses the bench, I don't think any players would have a hard time getting into the game. Schwarber will be taken out of the field any time they're protecting a lead late. And Baez would be going into the game for defense.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    These overall numbers make the most sense to me. You have to think Rizzo & KB get at least around 150 games. But I can see Schwarber getting 125ish starts and Javy getting closer to 135, only because of Kyle's bad wheel. He would also be a game-changing pinch hitter in those game he doesn't start.

    Plus, there will be a lot of 3 inning games Javy will play because of his fantastic defense. So the total # of games that he plays will probably be in the 150ish range.

  • It's a lot easier to project rest days for Bryant and Rizzo now than it will be for Maddon to not write their names into the starting lineup.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    That is possible and I am one of the strongest advocates for spreading the PAs around. I don't pretend to go into the schedule and say, "Bryant should get the day off on June 10th."

    However, I think that Maddon will make his plans in advance and likely let the players know several days in advance. Obviously this gets thrown out the window if the player suddenly finds himself "hot" but, in general, it is good to stick with the plan.

    I remember reading in one of Sandberg's biographies (maybe an autobiography) that he really appreciated when the manager would say, "You'll have the game next Tuesday off." He said that way he could make plans with his family for the evening after the game, plan on "getting his work in" during the game. Not have to worry about being sweaty, grimy and dirty but simply change out of his uniform and go home without even worrying about showering.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    And who says we have a 10+ game lead goin down the home stretch of the season??

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    There doesn't have to be a "10 game lead." I do, however, think that the Cubs win the division by 5-6 games. To me the Cardinals still have some serious issues. While Fowler will help them he is likely coming off a career year and moving Grichuk to LF will help their defense it is still relatively porous.

  • Great pics of Javy. I suppose that a would taking it too far, if I were to legally change my middle name to Javier.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Haha! And thanks. Javy is a hard guy to get good pics of...always moving and very quick. Kyle Hendricks is much easier :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Someone noted the other day, that Hendricks was the least likely looking mlb pitchers in camp.

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    Great pics and writeup as usual. I have to say I was a little disappointed that there was no pic of Javy's hair.

    I heard that Javy died his hair so he would be less recognizable. That's got to be one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

    Not to rain on the great analysis, but barring an injury, I am positive Zorilla is going to get more then 500 plate appearances.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    You may be right. But it is a fun exercise, for me at least, to try to come up with different ways for this to play out.

  • More of what 'we' would generally refer to as 'First World Problems',...

    Think back to a typical 2010-2012 Cubs starting lineup position player options,... Where guys like Theriot, Fukudome, Barney, Pena, LaHair, Valbuena and Campana were regular starters,.... and where guys like Baker, DeWitt, Reed Johnson and Mather who (despite the fact that they were good role-players at the time) probably wouldn't make the 40-man roster now.

    Maddon will figure out the best way to distribute the PT and PAs - and some of that may sort itself out over the course of the season if somebody gets on the DL for any length of time.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Doc, you ruined my weekend posting that lineup and those guys. OMG was that a terrible team. It's crazy to think there are a few teams now who have a cast of characters like that. And as ST bring hopes, those fans actually think their team has a chance. I want to look forward. HAHA!!!!!

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I am THRILLED we put together that line-up. If we had a little better line-up we probably don't get Kris Bryant (word is the Rockies were high on him--imagine him in Coors Field). I'm good with that roster and line-up.

    The one I always get a kick out of is Matt Garza telling Jeff Samardzija to get out of Chicago and go to a team that cares about winning. While Samardzija went to the Giants--a very good team by any measure--Garza had been warbling away with a millstone contract in Milwaukee.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    From that perspective, I am thrilled too. Haha!!!! I like what it turned into.

  • Nice breakdown John! I really don't think getting everyone AB's/keeping regulars fresh is going to be difficult or is a mystery to the FO/Maddon. I would bet they have already started to discuss this with the players and are probably using a simliar calculation that John explained. One thing we know for certain about the FO is they always have a plan!! They have already stated keeping players fresh this season is a priority. Plus they have been through the process of trying to repeat, I think they know the importance of keeping the main cogs ready for when it counts. I think they will utilize scenarios like:

    - "Sunday" lineup. I know its seems simple but that is roughly 24 games a year or 4 games a month or 1 day a week to give a guy like Zobrist or Schwarbs extra rest. Plus alot of off days fall on a Monday. So its an easy way to get a player a 2 for 1.

    - Since the Cubs play more day games after night games than other teams, its another easy way to give starters some extra rest and keep players fresh.

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    In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Reading this I thought of a game late this past season. I think it was the last game against the Reds with the furious comeback by the Cubs. Len Kasper commented that Maddon likely had the most fWAR (Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Baez, Heyward, Fowler, etc.) on the bench in the history of baseball to use as PH.

  • Personally I think things are going to play out a bit different than expected. If Jay or Almora start in CF that leaves either Zobrist or Baez out of the lineup which usually is not a good thing. Opening night with Lester on the mound I predict Heyward in CF, Bryant in RF and as Maddon loves to do, Baez at 3B when Lester is on the mound.

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    In reply to ruby2626:

    Maddon moved away from that "Lester defense" in the 2nd half last year. Not sure if analytics told him something or if he just played a different hunch.

    I think we are going to see a lot more different defensive configurations this year. There might not really be a "base" defense to start most games.

  • Has Matt Murton found a team? Always liked that guy.

  • If this year is like last year, the final 15-20 games will be meaningless so the games started stat is skewed.

    Also, you forgot to include paternity on your list of games missed. We got a lot of young guys on the team.

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