How Wuuude; Scruffy Looking Nerf Herders 1, Scoundrels 0

bad-feeling

The Cubs have struggled mightily of late to capitalize on base runners.  After an embarassing loss last night, hope was that the Cubs might be able to take advantage of a pitcher who was making just his second major league start.  Of course, as most life-long Cubs fans know, the Cubs always seem to struggle in this situation.

It was another maddening night of offense tonight, as the Cubs could not solve a 26 year-old rookie making just his fourth career appearance and just his second career start.  In fact, Adam Plutko kept the Cubs hitless through six innings until Anthony Rizzo led off the seventh inning with a double.  Thus, an exceptionally pitched game by Jon Lester was wasted.

There's not a whole lot to recap, so let's hit the "highlights."

Schwarbs and Javy Tags

The first at bat of the game provided the best highlight for the Cubs this evening.  Francisco Lindor led off the game with a base hit toward the left field line.  You've probably seen it by now, but Kyle Schwarber made an outstanding play running to his right to slide, cut the ball off, and throw a strike to second base.  The placement of the throw could not have been more perfect, as Javier Báez was easily able to slap the tag on Lindor an instant before his hand reached second base on the attempted double.

Two batters later, Javy got to show off his tagging abilities again.  Michael Brantley followed the Lindor at bat with a single of his own.  With two strikes on Jose Ramirez, the Cubs got a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play.  The throw by Willson Contreras was not perfect, as it bounced to second base.  However, Javy caught the ball on the bounce and quickly tagged out Brantley to end the inning.

Pitching Solid

Jon Lester was the hard-luck loser tonight, throwing seven innings of one-run ball.  The only blemish against him was when Rajai Davis (*that* guy) singled to lead off the third inning.  He was bunted to second base by Plutko.  Lester got Lindor to pop out to Addison Russell near third base for the second out.  Michael Brantley came to the plate and lofted a weak line drive into the perfect spot between Báez and center fielder Ian Happ for an RBI single.  And that was that.  Lester scattered six hits and just one walk over his seven innings of work.  He only struck out four, but controlled the game.  It was vintage Lester, mixing pitches and moving the ball in and out to keep the hitters off balance.

Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow did their jobs in the 8th and 9th innings to keep the Cubs close.  While Edwards did allow two base runners, he struck out two in his inning, and got Edwin Encarnacion to fly out weakly to right field to end the threat.  Morrow threw straight gas in the 9th, reaching 99 on the clock.  He struck out the first two batters, allowed a single, and then got Davis to line out softly to Báez, who made a nice leaping grab in the outfield grass.  Can't ask for much more.

This is Madness

this-is-madness

As you all know, this was Star Wars night.  Unfortunately, it wasn't Original Trilogy quality - or even Rogue One Vader tearing up Rebel Scum awesomeness - tonight was prequel garbage from the Cubs.

Most frustrating was the above-mentioned seventh inning.  Rizzo led off with a double, and Willson Contreras reached first on an infield single to Northbrook's Own.  Runners at first and third with nobody out seems pretty promising.  At that point, the Indians removed Plutko in favor of Andrew Miller.  That brought National League RBI leader Javier Báez to the plate - and he promptly bunted.  Rzzo made a bad read, and was thrown out easily at the plate.  Joe Maddon challenged the call at the plate because reasons, and a couple minutes later Rizzo was still out.  Still, all hope was not lost, as Addison Russell had a chance.  Miller struck him out on a terrible strike three swing.  Jason Heyward was due up.

Hey, don't the Cubs have a guy that does pretty decently against lefty pitchers, but can still compensate for the loss of Heyward on defense?

Apparently not, as Heyward was left in to face the tough lefty, and ultimately (you guessed it) grounded out weakly to the first base side of the infield to end the inning.  Cubs come up empty again.

To be fair, Almora would get a chance to face Miller to lead off the eighth inning, and he flew out to center field.  Still, the seventh was a poorly managed inning by Maddon.

The Cubs would get a two-out single in the eighth by Schwarber, but come up empty before whimpering to the finish line by going 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.  Never fear, if the Cubs face Cleveland again this year, we know we've got them where we want them, having lost 3 of the first 4 contests in 2018.

Source: FanGraphs

Moving Forward

The Cubs will welcome San Francisco into town for a weekend set.  Lefty Derek Holland will get the start for the Giants against Kyle Hendricks.  First pitch on Friday is at 1:20.

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    We had opportunities but just couldn't get that run across. Happ had another one of those running mistakes that always cost us. Lester has been terrific this year and was again tonight. Morrow shone as well. I hope the rest tomorrow does some good.
    I don't want to take Michael's recap tomorrow morning, I'll only say that our minor league pitchers were almost perfect--of the 4 games played only 1 run allowed. There is talent down there.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Both pitchers were outstanding -- Lester's game score was 69, Plutko checked in at 68. Doesn't get much closer (or better) than that.

  • If Maddon doesn't have enough confidence that Javy can get the runner in from 3B in that situation, Maddon has no business batting Javy that high in the order.
    It's time Maddon takes the training wheels off these guys and let them loose. That bunt call was cowardly at this time of the year and in that situation.
    Even if it was successful, we'd still have to score another run to win. Go for it, Joe. This guy is absolutely a terrible game manager.
    Oh yeah, Maddon wants an extension.
    Give me a break.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    It was s horrible call with a horrible result, taking the bat out of the hands of the league leader in RBI's.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Don't know how I missed this earlier. You are so right on. If that guy is batting that high in the order, you better have trust in him to drive in the man from 3B with less than 2 outs. I don't care if Sidd Finch is out there throwing 115 MPH. It's a case of getting "too cute" or the attempt at being the smartest guy in the stadium. Just a bad decision that led to a loss.

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    I just read on MLB trade rumors that Wellington Castillo received an 80 game suspension for PED use. He's the 2nd in the last 2 weeks, Robinson Cano was the first. I guess PED usage is still around and we shouldn't be surprised about anyone getting caught.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Unfortunately it is still very much around. Not quite the levels of the nearly-sanctioned late 1990's-early 2000's, but I'd guess about 30% of the players. If you tell me I'm wrong, I'll bet I'm too low.

    I look around baseball and see a lot of things that don't make sense. So many players doing things they shouldn't be capable of doing. I've heard the reasoning of juiced balls and launch angles, and some of that is true. But anyone who thinks baseball is clean is naive or willfully blind.

    And yes, that includes some of our guys.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I would say your def short. I would say over 70% are taking something that will be illegal eventually and at least 40% are taking something illegal now w masking agents.

  • I’m as big a Maddon fan and defender as there is, but allowing Heyward to hit in the 8th is indefensible. And the bunt was an atrocious call as well, even if it had worked. Absolutely terrible management of that inning.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    7th

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Agreed Kramerica20.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Agreed Kramerica honestly I was so baffled and irritated about the bunt call especially that I wanted to take a day and collect my thoughts before posting. Now after taking the day to think about it I can't think of a single justification for the call. I wouldn't have bunted personally no matter what if it was up to me but I would've at least thought it was defensible 1) if there was 1 out not 0 outs because you're concerned with the strikeout for javy but with 0 outs you can live with the strikeout and I think Baez matches up pretty well with Miller with his ability to handle LHP. 2) if Rizzo wasn't running on 3rd why on earth are you calling a safety squeeze with one of your slowest baserunners it reminds me of the time he bunted with Russell against the Marlins with Caratini at 3B I'm a huge believer in only running this type of play with a guy with at least decent speed and IF YOU'RE going to run this play at least make it a suicide squeeze to account for Rizzo's speed. 3) I think it would be more understandable if the game was tied 1-1 and not with us down 1-0 because in that case Rizzo is the winning run and you're mainly just looking for that run. Down 0-1 not only are you giving an out away but you're thwarting a potential rally to take the lead in this game. In addition I see the safety squeeze bunt play misexecuted way too often for me to justify using this play in general unless all the pieces fit or if Jon Lester is up to bat.

    Overall very disappointing decision making by Joe and as good as I think that he is in a lot of other aspects of managing I think that he was a huge part in losing not only this game but Saturday's game against cincinnati where he opted to sit our 2 best relievers (Cishek and Morrow) to use Justin wilson and basically conceded another win. He better get his act together soon it seems like he's getting out managed in a lot of close games this season. For reference the cubs are one of the worst teams in the league in 1 run games and extra inning games and while the players have to be held accountable too, I haven't been happy at all with joe's in game decision making over the past month really.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I'm not as upset about the bunt as I am about Heyward batting in the 7th. But I still wouldn't have done it for the exact reasons you mentioned.
    In 2018 against LHP:
    Heyward: .143 average
    Almora: .316
    Zobrist: .265
    LaStella: 0/5, 30/100 in his career

    The only reason I can think of for Joe's decision is that Andrew Miller has allowed a .267 average to LHB this year (18 batters faced) vs a .194 average to RHB (44 batters faced). But over his career the averages are almost identical. Heyward is arguably the worst hitter in baseball since 2016, and especially can't hit lefties. Joe leaves him in to face maybe the filthiest LHP in the game, with the game on the line, and 3 clearly better options sitting on the bench. I'm more baffled by this than by literally any decision Joe has made as a Cub.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think the bunt was an outrageous mistake and the almora decision was a mistake but I at least can think of one reason that may have factored into his decision unlike with the bunt. With the almora decision I think he didn't have any alternative pinch hitters with the pitchers spot up next so if Almora or heyward were to walk then I guess we'd be potentially screwed especially if Tito intentionally walked almora with a lack of alternatives that we would've had to pinch hit. Now personally I agree with you I thought there was a near 0% chance at Heyward coming through so I would've hit Almora anyways and taken my chances that he wasn't walked. Even if they do walk almora that still loads the bases with a walk or a wild pitch tying the game. I'm not positive though but caratini may have been available off the bench and if that's the case then all of my points are invalid and I'd consider this to be another unacceptable mistake by Joe. Andrew miller is clearly a nightmare matchup for anyone much less heyward.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Overall managers make their money in close games and we're losing a ton of close games or blowing teams out. I get that the players have to execute but it's hard for me not to somewhat blame Joe's in game managing for these results. To me Joe has lost us our last 2 games and he needs to stop this outside the box thinking and just manage the game a little more conventionally like a Tito Francona. Joe does so many other things well and there's much more to managing then in game decisions but he's definitely not one of my favorite in game decision makers

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    My mistake he was a large part in losing last nights game and the game against cincy on saturday in the double header not the game on tueday where we just got shelled.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I'm much more okay with outside the box managing in the clubhouse rather then on the field. Joe's practice of calling that safety squeeze play seems to ALMOST NEVER work unless Almora or lester are bunting.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Don’t think Joe was responsible for the 10-1 loss but I generally agree with your comments.

  • In reply to stix:

    I said this is a separate post but I was referring to the extra inning double header game in Cincy where Joe opted to use Justin Wilson and not use cishek and morrow despite both being well rested thus practically conceding that this game means nothing after our guys battled their asses off to put themselves in a position to win that game

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I forgot about Caratini. He was available. So were Zobrist and La Stella. That's what makes it more egregious. 4 bench bats available, each of whom is unquestionably a better option than Heyward. Heyward's wRC+ against LHP is 6. Maddon may as well have sent Chatwood up there.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Never mind I wasn't aware of all those guys being available although I don't like the La stella matchup more. You're absolutely right then there's another egregious decision then. No way to suger coat it I'm not saying Joe's a bad manager but he was definitely the main reason that we lost yesterday's game or at least didn't tie it. I think he was also a huge part of losing that game against cincinnati. Disappointing decision making by him this week in general and I hope the media criticizes him so he's at least aware of others perspectives on some of the moves he's made recently.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Again, I'm a huge Maddon fan. I'm ecstatic he's the Cubs manager. I think a lot of the vitriol he receives is typical "whipping boy" stuff - people need someone to be mad at. 95% of the time I disagree with his decision, I do some digging and come to the realization that, "oh, Joe was right. He had info that I didn't have."
    Sometimes he gets cute and out-thinks himself. Last night it happened.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I'm actually generally a Maddon fan as well I actually think he generally puts a lot of good thought into his lineups for example despite the criticism he's gotten for changing his lineups. I actually respect how he places a lot of emphasis on ensuring that everyone even lesser players on his 25 man roster are getting regular appearances to keep them ready and on their toes on an every day basis. I think he has no choice but to change lineups a lot when he's had a lot of talented young players come up over the years that need to get AB's. In addition I love the loose vibe he brings to the clubhouse and his insistence on ensuring that he's resting his players. I can go on and on don't get me wrong I think Joe does a lot of things really well.

    I'm not the biggest fan of his gameday managing though for me especially with the pitching decisions. I get that the metrics say go to your bullpen when your starter gives up a baserunner 3rd time through the order but I don't like when he takes a starter out who is dealing like he did with chatwood recently against atlanta in a game our bullpen lost (has he not learned from the WS). In addition I don't like the constant safety squeeze calls in big moments when the baserunner at 3rd and the hitters aren't the best combinations due to their overall skillsets such as speed or bunting ability. Personally, I'm against bunting for the most part in general unless the context of the situation makes it defensible and I think Joe over utilizes this play way too much in a lot of situations that make me scratch my head. I'm still fuming about the time he called for a bunt with addision russell against the marlins with caratini the baserunner at 3B. Overall, I like Joe I just don't think he's a particularly good in game decision maker and it's just my opinion that he's had a number of questionable moves that I haven't agreed in close games that have played a part in the team losing those games. The cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball in 1 run games and extra inning games and those are really the only games that a manager has an impact on. I think in some ways while Joe is exceptional in certain aspects of managing, he's generally a little overrated as a manager because of his win percentage but that's also in large part due to talent (he had one of the best young talented rotations in the past 20 years with tampa bay too lets remember so he's had a ton of talent). Now I think he's a great manager I think anyone who doesn't think he's good is flat out lying to themselves the guys done nothing but win and change the cultures of losing organizations in the big leagues and I think culture changing is his biggest strength as a manager. I just don't think he's an elite/exceptional manager that pushes the right buttons consistently with his in game decisions on a game to game basis as opposed to say bruce bochy or tito francona who frustrate me at times with how sharp they are with their decision making. For example I said yesterday with Schwarber at 1st and bryant up in the 8th that Bryant actually sees the ball well off andrew miller and what does Tito do he brings in cody allen to get him out. The guys brilliant and seems to always make the sensible move.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Another Maddon strength that I want to point out is how open minded he is despite being an older manager. Not many/any older managers are as open minded about things like analytics and some of the new trends if the game like Maddon is and I think it says something about his overall intelligence that he's open to changes like this that are maybe different than how he was taught to look at the game. He has all the experience of an older veteran manager while still being open minded about the new trends of the game today. Very rare trait and kinda reminds me if Greg popovich, Phil jackson and Pete Carroll in this particular area

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Isn't Baez leading league in RBI's?

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Was until today until Suarez from Cincy tied him.

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    Hopefully Lester can keep this up and the cubs can unload him,along with Quintana at the trade deadline.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Did you stop taking your medication sometime about a week and a half ago? While always being a good troll in the past, you have ditched that and gone straight to being pretty much a full fledge board pain in the asterisk.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I tried to tell everyone who says he's not doing anything offensive that in my opinion how is he not trying to be offensive. His SOLE intentions of his post are to praise the hated cardinals and try to troll and provoke different posters on this site. It maybe okay with some people and not others but I don't know how these posts can't be considered offensive or disrespectful if he's intentionally trying to start conflicts on this website that we love to have intelligent baseball discussions about. I'd personally have no issue if he was a cards fan that wanted to have a real, intelligent discussion but I have no respect for posters who comment on a website with the sole intention of provoking others. Personally I don't really care I think the brewers are the threat this year and over the long run (good luck after Yadi retires) but I just wanted to reiterate why I felt the need to comment last time he posted.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Frankly John has banned several posters like this and I get that cubs den doesn't really have a means of enforcement now but I'm just saying that posters like Greg have been banned in previous years. John didn't approve of posters that commented with the intention of riling up the readers of cubs den (CubsTalk for example)

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Why?

  • Both Russell and Baez have failed poorly in most situations when called on to bunt, I hate seeing them asked to do it but the fact remains they don’t execute it well at all. But......they should.
    That’s basic baseball.
    I wouldn’t say Rizzo “misread” it, the placement of the ball was almost right back to the pitcher instead of more down either line where then you can run hard to the plate, he almost was forced to hold position like you do on a come backer to the mound.
    Contreras slowed down coming out of the box on his single, looking like he was giving up on the play before turning on the jets when Kipnis had difficulty handling it. I hate seeing this.....this is getting to be bad non-chalant baseball, what happened to the Respect 90 thing?
    We need somebody around like Ross. It just doesn’t look as if the ones responsible to motivate are getting the job done either.
    ......do NOT like where this is going and what I’m seeing....all I’m seeing now are the ‘86, ‘87, ‘88 Bears.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Never seen a backup who never hit over .229 on the cubs get overrated so much. Ross wouldn’t make a difference

  • In reply to bolla:

    Who are you kidding? Ross is the reason you never miss Dancing With The Stars.....

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Rizzo has to get in a rundown there. Looked like he considered it for a split second before just deciding to run straight into the out.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    We have a slow runner on third with the league leader in rbi's at the plate and we bunt?

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I was thinking the same thing. If your going to be out which he pretty much knew he was which is why he paused. Therefore you have to get Willson to 3rd so you basically have the same opportunity but w 1 out.

    Run down is absolutely mandatory there. Prob wouldn't of mattered w Russell striking out but u never know.......

  • Idk, I was in the park and it really a good game played by both teams. The play by Javier Schwarber in left was incredible to watch, wow! My son was livid that Joe did not let Javy hit, but Javy is actually generally good at bunts. I didn't think it was that bad of an idea. We have seen Baez expand the zone in those situations. The overriding concern was tying the game at that time. It was that kind of baseball game.

    It was a tough loss for sure, but baseball at its best.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree. Tie the game and keep moving. I don't have a problem with a bunt in that situation, just the execution/placement.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It was a horrible idea to bunt in that situation. You have the slowest runner in America on 3rd. And for him to score on a safety squeeze is very tough. A double play ball would have tied the game up.
    Just as bad was letting JHey bat vs Miller.

    The cubs are getting away from the extra hustle and respect 90 motto. Watching Wilson thinking he had ball 4 and then the extra long stare down at the ground after clearly ball 4 isn't a very mature move. Then when he thought he got it all and it fell short of a Hr. Javy all of a sudden will ask the umpire for an appeal on his own check swing is getting a little too cocky for me.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    A bunt helped Cleveland take the lead. RBI-leader or not, Javy has been struggling at the plate and is clearly in one of his anything-in-the-ZIP-Code-is-swingworthy periods, so I'm not opposed to the bunt attempt, but the execution was awful.

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    Didn't get to watch the game but the defensive play by Schwarber was impressive. Give credit to Javy too for the extremely quick hands at 2B but Schwarber able to cut off the ball was impressive. And then having the presence of mind to be sliding so he could plant his foot, stop his momentum, pop-up and make a strong, accurate throw is impressive.

    While he still needs to work hard on his routes, etc. he has improved enormously. Obviously getting the out there was nice. But I will be even more impressed if he starts getting a reputation of a good throwing arm and starts turning that into a single might be even more valuable. While it isn't an out taking a base away from the other team has value as well. Especially if it happens multiple times.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Agreed Joel what a nice play and we're going to criticize a guy when he's struggling defensively like Kyle did last season then we have to give him credit for his hard work in his improvement. I think his overall footwork out there has really come a long ways and while it may never quite look pretty you can see that there was a lot of hard work put in there. He still has plenty of work to do and I don't buy his UZR as being sustainable but I think he's shown improvement in almost every aspect of his defense and give him credit for coming this far this fast. Now imagine if he has another 3-4 years to work on his defense who says he has to be a DH.

  • Just surprised to see a team so adapt at playing defense and base running in 2016 seem to constantly make simple mental mistakes in both of these areas the last 2 seasons. I felt the Team could even take this part of their game to an even higher level with experience and adding some better athletes to the mix.

  • What stood out to me in the game was the contrast in hitting. It seemed like the Cubs were great at hitting warning-track fly balls while the Indians were content with making contact. It's great on the days when the wind is blowing out or the flies are falling in, but the Cubs lost a winnable game and wasted a great performance by Lester.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The only warning track fly ball I can remember was Russell's shot to CF that Davis caught.
    Sometimes a pitcher has filthy stuff, hits his spots, shuts you down, and you tip your cap. And sometimes, like last night, a pitcher has completely mediocre stuff, just chucks it up there, and the hitters get themselves out with terrible swings and approaches. The Cubs looked like they had no plan last night against a completely "meh" SP. Can't count how many guys swung at bad pitchers in a hitter's count.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I agree, but the Cubs only struck out 6 times compared to 8 for the Indians. The "approach" is what I'm pointing out - too many players sitting on a fastball trying to hit a 450-foot HR instead of focusing on making contact. And then, there's Heyward...

  • We've focused on what's wrong with offense and the answers are difficult to come by. A lot of people have pointed to the Astros' contact approach and they are actually an interesting comp when you dive in. if you look through their team batting numbers and compare them to the Cubs they are nearly identical, so much so as to be almost bizarre. .256/.339/.427 to .256/.329/.411. The Cubs have scored 239 runs, the Astros 238. Cubs walk rate is 9.6, Astros 9.2. K rate Cubs 20.6, Astros 21.6. The Cubs even have a 10 point edge in wRC+ 108 to 98. Even Pythagorean record fails to expose anything as the Cubs have won 25 games but should have won 30 while the Astros have won 32 but should have won 37. This tells me a few things; 1) the Cubs have an unfortunate mix of hitters, in 2016 they had 4 guys in the everyday lineup with OBP of .380 or better and today they have two in Bryant and Schwarber (Zobrist as a I sem-regular) 2) Given the fact that Anthony is somehow now a replacement level player there's really a lot fo room for growth in this offense. He needs to hit and they probably need another OBP guy from outside. 3) If you want to look at the difference between the Cubs and Houston look at the pitching.

    One thing I’ve touched on before is that I think this is a bad mix of hitters. Outside of Heyward and Rizzo the batters are performing. There are 8 men over 115 wRC+ which is once again identical to the Astros. What I’m seeing though, and a lot of this is because Rizzo is a replacement level player this year, is that there is no real way to construct a consistent lineup. Even with Rizzo performing in 2017 this team was short one contact hitter. Without him it’s short two and that’s difficult to overcome. Sequencing plays a part, which is why I think they’re underperforming their Pythagorean record, but the bigger part is the bad mix. The issue is how do you fix it? Machado would help, but the trade could devastate this contention window. The answer could be a lot less expensive though. For whatever reason Jed Lowrie has become an OBP machine in his dotage and would be a hell of a lot less expensive rental. Put him at 2B and move Baez to 3B with KB in RF. Bat him leadoff. This only works if Rizzo becomes Rizzo though.

    Then of course you come to the starting pitching which has been unacceptable outside of Jon Lester, who ironically I thought would really struggle this year but then again I had left Justin Verlander for dead years ago so what do I know? Unlike the offense where there are some trade options there aren't a lot of options for this rotation. It really is what it is unless you think Alzolay is a better answer at 5 than Chatwood but that's painting around the edges, not fixing the problem. They have to pitch better or they will not win, they may not win the division if Milwaukee and St. Louis make good deadline moves (I think Milwaukee is a much better team with less to add btw).

    Bottom line to me is that while the offense has some lineup issues I can see those being fixed creatively if Rizzo becomes himself. I think Lowrie might be a good two month fix to add an OBP hitter. The pitching scares the heck out of me though and they can't waste performances like the one Lester gave them last night. They simply can't afford to.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Interesting comparison. I like the idea of adding Lowrie (more than Machado, whose acquisition cost for 3 months would be beyond painful). You pointed to sequencing, which I somewhat agree with. The Cubs have the highest differential in baseball between wRC+ with bases empty and wRC+ with RISP. There must be some philosophical/approach failure with RISP. I've never seen a team struggle like this in that scenario. Yes, hitting with RISP usually evens itself out (it did last year after the Cubs struggled for the first half). But their change in contact%, K%, and hard/soft% with RISP leads me to believe there's something more to this than sequencing luck.
    I'd also add that Hendricks has been really good in addition to Lester.

  • In reply to TC154:

    When comparing the Astros and the Cubs you left out a very important variable. I know you will not agree with this but A. J. Hinch is by far a better manager then Maddon. There are reasons Maddon was not hired as a full time manager until he was 52 years old.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Well you're right about that, I don't agree. I think HInch is a good manager but Maddon's record speaks for itself and in the four years they've managed their respective clubs Maddon has a .597 winning percentage, 3 NLCS appearances and 1 WS title while Hinch has a .565 winning percentage, 1 ALCS appearance and 1 WS title. In 15 years as a manager Maddon has a .538 winning percentage to HInch's .524 in 6 years. I get that you don't like Maddon but HInch has a few years to go before I would come close to calling him better.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I knew you would not agree. I don't think you can go by winning percentage or how the teams perform. Maddon has had better talent then Hinch until recently. I believe Maddons teams have performed as they have in spite of Maddon in game management.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    You are more than entitled to your opinion and I respect it. I've many times that Maddon has been my favorite manager in the game for 10 years. I like that he doesn't conform to expected baseball norms and I like how he works with young players. The only managers currently in the game who I would put ahead of him are Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona. Of the young managers I like Gabe Kapler a lot and I think he's gong to have a lot of success in Philly.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Fair enough TC. That Maddon doesn't "conform to expected baseball norms" is the main reason I don't like Maddon. And I respect your opinion also.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    So then why can’t they handle the simple safety squeeze? Doesn’t sound like better talent to me.

  • In reply to stix:

    Stix, I am not sure why you are asking me that question?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Dusty Baker is available...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks for the info Cliff. Real helpful.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Just trying to lighten things up, sorry. But, here's something to ponder - Davey Martinez, who received most of his managerial training from Maddon, is now the manager of ANOTHER very-talented team that is under-performing. That doesn't prove anything, but does it point to the effectiveness of Joe Maddon's style? If I didn't like Maddon, I'd add that tidbit to my argument.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I am really beginning to see the argument about the hitting "mix," but the way to change it is by changing players, and that means trading, or at least sitting, a favorite or two. I can see Cubs Den boiling over with criticism of the trades and/or the way Maddon plans the lineup. I'm starting to think a trade - ANY trade - might be needed just to shake this team out of its complacency. Chanting "we are good" is fine, but proving it is essential.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Why wouldn't you just put LaStella in at 2B instead of trade for Lowrie?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    La Stella has nice numbers in 65 PA but Lowrie has put up his numbers in more than twice as many PA. I think if La Stella played everyday he would be exposed.

  • In reply to TC154:

    FWIW, I completely agree on Rizzo. His morphing into Heyward for the first two months has destroyed this Offense from a holisitic view. You can't have your 3 or 4 hitter essentially be an automatic out for 2 months. Just awful.

    Think of it this way he is essentially a 0 WAR player, replacement level, so if Herrera was called up from Iowa would he bat 3rd or 4th for 2 months? There is no way.

    We now have dealt with a May regression from Javy and Schwarber, have Heyward still abysmal, Russell have a hot streak and still posting his lowest OPS of his career, Happ endure contact issues, and Almora play in and out of CF. Not a good MIX -- that's for certain. This is why our offense is so hit or miss. I still feel if Rizzo is Rizzo, then a lot will be cured. Willson is close to a bust out. But it all centers around a Rizzo return to form.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I've said this before...no player has more impact on each single game, and hence the season, than the starting pitcher. Some folks on here think the person in left field is more important than starting pitching and that is their opinion...but I wholeheartedly disagree with that. Good outfielders are much easier to find than good starting pitchers. Lester is starting to pitch better and Hendricks will probably come around...but the key to this season is Quintana and Darvish. If those two don't pitch like they have historically, then the Cubs will not win the division let alone the World Series. I think both of them will come around and there is a ton of baseball left in this season, but I'm much more concerned with the starting pitching than the inconsistent offense.

  • In reply to Gingerbread Man:

    There isn't a single thing in your post that I disagree with. It's always about pitching.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The problem isn't the #'s, it's CONSISTENCY. Javy is a perfect example, on paper his #'s look great. Unfortunately, just like the team, he does most of his damage is short spurts and then looks overmatched in many other matchup (although he has visibly but his strikeouts down). My point is that the team scores a lot of runs but in fewer games than when they struggle so while they're numbers look good on paper, they're just over a .500 team record wise. And you can throw all the numbers out there in the world, none of them mean much to me personally except the standings and the W and L's.

  • Granted this is an all metrics aside argument, but in the old-school baseball book you don't have the NL RBI leader bunt with a man on 3rd and no outs, you go for a big inning, or score a run on contact since the infield wasn't drawn it. Next, if Baez strikes out, you can still have Russell try a bunt to tie the game, it's a smarter play at that point to avoid the double play if Contreras is still on 1st with 1 out. Now that you're down to 2 on 2 out and needing a base hit to hope to score, you pinch hit Zobrist, who is a switch hitter, so Francona can't make a corresponding pitching change to a righty to face Almora who was in the on-deck circle. Plus, Zobrist is a clutch hitter who makes hard contact much more consistently than Heyward. However, if you say you need Heyward's defense in the late innings and you want to give him a shot to boost his confidence, then at least give him the take sign on the first 2-3 pitches to see if he can work a walk and get 2 runners in scoring position for the upcoming pinch hitter. In 1-0 games it's equal parts execution and mistakes that declare the victor. Earlier in the season Maddon was going to Cishek in the 5th, showing urgency that every game was an important, must-win game, but that didn't last long. Now we're watching a game of individual agendas play out and it's detracting from the team. There's a Happ agenda, a Heyward agenda, a Baez agenda, a Russell agenda, a Schwarber agenda. Chili Davis was supposedly brought in because hitters were overthinking, so why is Maddon managing to the individual? Why is he reinforcing the Baez narrative with the bunt call? How is a bunt with a man on 3rd and nobody out a Mona Lisa beautiful art of the game play? It's not soccer, there are no draws (sorry for the bad pun).

  • The NL RBI leader has not been hitting well lately. I can understand Joe's desire to plate that first run, and the plan would have worked if Baez had been able to place the bunt just about anywhere except right at the pitcher. Even if Javy had been thrown out, Contreras would have been in scoring position with only one out. I think Maddon was just trying to make something happen and it didn't work.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    What did golden boy bryant do with a man on in the clutch? Nothing as usual,but continue your agenda.

  • In reply to bolla:

    What does that reply have anything to do with the rational comment he just made?

  • In reply to bolla:

    If you'll reread my comment, you'll see that I didn't even criticize Javy. Give the pitcher some credit for Baez not being able to get the perfect bunt down. It happens. But in the bigger picture, why does everything have to come down to Baez vs. someone else on the team? Seems like somebody has an "agenda" to defend Javy, no matter what.
    FWIW, yesterday, Baez got zero hits and a strikeout. Bryant got zero hits and a strikeout. Neither did anything offensively to help the team win the game. Do you really want to argue which litter-box morsel tastes better?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Every time baez has bad game/play in the field or at the plate I see constant complaining and ire. I do not see the same when rizzo or schwarber or bryant does. Bryant had an error that led to a run that led to a loss. Crickets. It's strange to me, but it's obvious why there's preferential criticism it's not an agenda It's calling out a very disturbing habit

    If you guys have followed the cubs for years you should know baez is boom or bust at the plate and in the field. It is what it is he's gonna be spectacular or bad. But y'all act like you don't know this by now. He tried to bunt vs andrew miller which was smart because the chance baez got a hit was slim.It didn't work

  • In reply to bolla:

    Kris Bryant is probably the best player in the national league, and arguably the 2nd best in baseball. You'll excuse folks for giving him a pass when he makes a mistake.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I agree with you 100% about Baez being "boom or bust." He gets high praise when he "booms" and criticized when he "busts." For the rest, I it feels like you're looking for a problem. There's quite a bit of criticism of Maddon today, as well as some negative stuff about Rizzo and Heyward. Aside from saying that Javy couldn't get the bunt down (which is very different than saying Javy doesn't know how to bunt), all I see in the comments about Baez is praise for his defense. I would point to several players as causes for the Cubs mediocre record, but Baez wouldn't be in the top few.

  • Everyone,

    I know the last two days have sucked. But lets stay calm in here, please. Don't attack other posters. Let's keep it civil. Start

    Thank you

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    I need to know if anyone is seeing the same thing I am. This team does not have a clutch hitter to put in this lineup. They are doing the same thing they did all last year. First and third and they come away with nothing. Not one person in that lineup is clutch at all. The strike outs have gone beyond crazy. They will stand there and let pitches right down the middle go by and swing at pitches that can't be hit. it has nothing to do with there hitting coach because the same thing happened last year. There is no improving either. Just tear it down and start over. The guys they traded are going to be stars. Theo and Co. have never been very good at getting good returns. They give up Cease and Eloy for an average pitcher. I'm sorry but I'm very upset. This team has nothing and if not for the Reds they would be in the rear. You can't expect them to get better. Bryant is about it and there is no clutch in his bat either.

  • In reply to RClax3:

    Understand your frustration. A lot of us are right there with you. But let's not miss the facts about the trades -- Arrieta, Hendricks, Strop, Chapman, Rizzo, Russell have all been examples of trades favoring the Cubs and proved instrumental in the World Series title.

    Before yesterday, I believe the Cubs were 26th in baseball scoring a Man from 3rd with less than 2 outs -- that is pathetic for the caliber of hitters on our team. You are right about this being systemic from year to year. This needs to be fixed moving forward or we may just miss out on the post-season.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I'm interested in your take on the "fix." Is it patience, coaching, ?? I feel like this team needs some "tough love" to get them back to good, fundamental baseball, including the "respect 90" theme from 2015, but that could be the exact opposite approach from what's needed.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It’s probably trying too hard. This is something that has been harped on for 3 years with these guys. I am sure they are trying to do too much instead of what the situation holds. When my travel ball hitters struggle, I go to simple thoughts and the one which does the most good is “through the middle” with everything. My boys start hitting more gappers when they are staying on pitches. Not sure why but we don’t miss good fastballs or get way in front of curves and change ups. Gotta keep the “paralysis by analysis” out of it.

    I’m not a supporter of “Respect 90” as I think hustle is the most overrated aspect of baseball. I am a “Rspext the Game” advocate, not just 90 feet on the bases. Now I am not saying you don’t run hard on live balls—grounders, pitches in the dirt, base hits, etc. That is a must. But I see some heartburn with players running 75-80% on routine fly balls. Running hard makes no difference on those plays. But fans get all upset. Not me. I know there will be some who disagree and that is their prerogative. I just don’t buy it. It’s ok to not go all out on a simple pop out or fly ball, IMO.

    Tough love—nah. These guys are with one another for 9 months and are grown adults. You don’t need someone banging on you everyday. That will never have a good outcome. This is the one reason why Joe is #1 in baseball as a players manager. He handles this stuff better than anyone. I trust Joe to get through to the guys. Don’t need Leo Durocher and Lee Elia types in today’s game. Won’t work.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thanks for the explanation. I confess that I sometimes have (and use) Lee Elia's vocabulary!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Me too!!! He still had one of the funniest and most epic rants ever!!! LOL!!!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    And you can take that right downtown and PRINT it!

  • In reply to RClax3:

    Let's be clear, I do not believe the sky is falling and I fully expect this team to win the division when it's all said and done. Milwaukee is probably going to make it a while lot more interesting than any of us expected and St. Louis does have pitching so they could certainly add a couple of bats and hang around as well, but this a talented team and the offensive stats still show this as potent offense. I'm not discounting what we all see with our own eyes but some of this will level off. I think a trade has to made for an OBP bat and I've suggested Jed Lowrie. He's overperforming, 34 years old and shouldn't be terribly expensive but he seems have figured something out in approach as his OBP has risen sharply over the last two years. I'd put him at 2B, Javy at 3B and KB in RF moving Heyward to the bench down the stretch. If you could go Lowrie, Schwarber, KB, Rizzo, Contreras, Baez I think you're going to score in critical situations a lot easier. Maybe there's another OBP guy I'm not thinking about too. There is no doubt, however, that this is a frustrating team as they were in the first half last year. I wish it wasn't so but it is what it is. If I panic it will be in July, as for now I just see opportunities.

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    I also need to say Russell and Hayward should never pick up a bat. I've given up on the Manager. First and third and has the NL RBI leader bunt. Insane!!! It's not the first time he's done stupid things.

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    The Cubs are 5th in the NL in hitting when behind, but 14th in the Majors. Not great but not the WS contender that we want. It seems to me that in the last few years, even in 2016, we had trouble hitting with RISP. It looks like we're 4th in runs scored, of course we all know that we score 10 in one day and then 2 days of no runs. It's not talent, we have plenty of that, but maybe it's situational hitting and learning to give up oneself for the good of the team. I don't mind Javy's bunt, but he hit it right at Miller--even a foot on either side and Rizzo would have scored. They have to play as a team and not swing away every time. You can see how Zo does it. Very patient, doesn't mind to take a few pitches and goes the other way, moves the runner over, etc. Rizzo, for all his slump this year, does choke up and tries to make contact. It's doable, just do it.

  • I'm glad that I skipped watching or listening to that game. I was too disgusted with the previous drubbing to come back so quickly. This team can really put in a bad mood, I take it too seriously at times! But when Maddon makes calls like the bunt and allowing Heyward to hit, those are the ones that make most mad. I saw someone mention Miller's "reverse split" and no doubt Maddon was going on that. He freaking LOVES to talk about the "reverse splits guys" but when Heyward is the LH hitter who cares what the splits say!?

    I wonder if losing his longtime and well trusted bench coach Davey Martinez, has anything to do with these "mistakes?" Someone else should be making these in game calls.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I think that's a really good point John and while I've never been the biggest fan of Maddon's in game decisions I feel he's been even worse this year. He directly cost us this game but there's been other close games where I haven't agreed with his pitching change management and in those cases when the results didn't go as he'd hoped while I at least understood where he was coming from I would've done it differently. I think he really mismanaged that reds double header as well. I hope Davey's absence isn't hurting us because he just has really not pushed the right buttons in a lot of close games that we've been in and don't get me wrong I also blame the players for not hitting in tense moments but I don't think there's any question that this hasn't been maddons best season with the in game decisions. I hope Theo maybe talks to him with a list of specific examples of situations that maybe handled differently. For me I'd start with not taking your starters out early because they give up one baserunner when they've been dealing all game and 2. stop the freaking safety squeeze calls in big situations when you don't have the right people to execute that play in terms of the bunter and based on the baserunners speed at 3B. this is 2 safety squeezes with our slowest baserunners that hasn't worked. He called the same play with caratini at third and addison russell bunting in an 0-1 games vs. the marlins a few weeks back that I'm still having panic attacks over lol

  • Anyone know why my IPad comes up with “not secure” in the Chicago now.com line in the browser? It’s not every time but does the author of the article have some virus in his computer?

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