The First Step Is A Doozy, The Rest Is Easy: Cubs 6 - Reds 1

It looked like it could be another one of THOSE in the first inning for the Cubs, and especially Yu Darvish. He couldn't locate his slider very well, threw 39 pitches, and you were already envisioning all the headlines and hashtags that were coming. Then Darvish would just throw five more sliders in the next five innings, concluding that if you throw 96 with location that's probably enough for a Sunday. It was, he never really sweated again, and the Cubs had a pretty clean 6-1 win to cap off a 5-2 roadie. All in all, pretty good.

I don't know that Darvish is going to be successful long-term throwing 60% fastballs, and way more than that for the last five innings of his outing. But when it's generating whiffs 20% f the time, maybe what Yu presupposes is...maybe he will? Yu has a change, splitter, and curve, but we hardly saw any of them today. Yu's location is going to have to be immaculate, and today it was. A fastball located on both sides of the plate can go a long way, I suppose.

-All the offense the Cubs would need came in the second. Ian Happ walked, because that's his thing now, and then Schwarber sent a liner into the right field stands that if you described as a "screamer" wouldn't do it justice. It was a banshee. I'm not sure it was ever more than 20 feet off the ground, and I also know there was no doubt it was leaving the park. It might have still been going up when it caved in someone's chest out there. Javy Baez got back on track with a Jericho Missile the next AB on a hanger from Mahle that basically paused and waited patiently to be sent on its way. Zobrist would add another two innings later, and Zobes needs to show some power. It's never a terribly good sign when your OBP is higher than your slugging.

-It was pretty much coasting after that, as the Cubs tacked on a couple more off Tomato Can #7 that came out of the Reds pen. Strop once again came in and laughed at anyone trying to hit him, Edwards was able to get a scoreless outing after some troubled seas this week, and Morrow struck out all three Reds who were desperately trying to get home for the night.

Considering how well the Braves insist on playing, and how hard it is to actually sweep a double-header, 5-2 on this trip is just about all you can ask. Let's get a chart:

chart

Onwards...

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  • I think that sometimes we take Pedro Stoop for granted. If you look at what he done the last four years it is amazingly consistent An ERA under 3.00, a Whip at 1.10 or less. He is a gem and hardly ever gets talked about. When he was signed to a long term deal I was a little surprised, but it was very smart. When you add him to Jake in that trade it was a top 5 in Cubs history. Here's to you Pedro, my hat is off.

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Nice callout on Strop. He is having a fine year. And been pretty solid since he came over.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    He's the only cub reliever in franchise history with 5 straight years of an ERA under 3. Hopefully he can make it 6! It seems most fans underrate him because he doesn't always get the job done in the most efficient manner. But the numbers don't lie. For what it's worth, I believe his post season numbers are even more ridiculous. 1.73 ERA, which includes a clunker with Baltimore

  • Strop-ee is awesome. I love the quick slide pitch, his hat, and devastating slider.

    I also love Morrow. He just throws strikes. I feel as confident about him as I did when Wade took the ball. Nice to have.

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    I agree, he has learned how to pitch and his stuff is nasty! I don't know why he doesn't get called on those quick pitches though.

  • If the cubs can get Edwards straightened out, and with his stuff I think this has just been a bump in the road the bullpen will be in very good hands. Yes all Morrow does is throw strikes. I love that. We know that the FO will add a bullpen piece in July or August which will make the pen that much better. I feel that the hitting is starting to come around and if we get the starters to be more consistent a long winning streak is on the horizon.

  • Albert Almora is proving he deserves at least a little more regular playing time. His defense is excellent, but now his splits have almost evened out, with exception to his lack of power against RHP.

    vs LHP .324/.381/.541
    vs RHP .306/.366/.388

    The only thing that is holding me back from saying he should be leading off against RHP is his 24.4% K rate opposed to his 4.9% K rate facin LHP. But he looks to be the kind of bat we can probably benefit from having in our lineup more often than not. Hope he can continue to lower his K-rate against RHP, and continue to be a tough out for opponents.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    He's at least earned an opportunity to face some tougher righties imo. Even if we're batting him near the end of the lineup. He's got a knack for putting the ball in play, and that's exactly what we need with all of these RISP. We currently stranding more RISP than any other team in the majors

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Some of Albert's catches are outstanding ! Will someone give that man a cape !

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    In reply to Cubber Lang:

    It certainly appears the game is slowing down for him. I don't know enough about the RHP he has been doing well against. Maybe they are "reverse split" guys.

    That being said, it is nice to see him actually doing something against RHP. It wasn't that long ago (April 30) he was warbling away at .250/.291/.288 or something anemic like that. But it is also a cautionary tale about how SSS can affect things. That was based on 56 PAs. In May his numbers are at .379/.471/.552. Obviously his .476 BABIP is not really sustainable. But it does indicate that there was a certain "regression to the mean" involved. And I am happy he has already gone through a correction.

  • After taking a look at the underlying numbers, I'm extremely confident in this team going forward. We're 4th in the majors in run differential at plus 72 (behind BOS at 75, NYY at 76 and HOU at 96). Inconsistent performances in our rotation, coupled with a slow start from Rizzo and Heyward somehow regressing even more (not to mention those unseemly errors), has hurt. The defense hasn't passed the eye test, but according to fangraphs its performed like a top 3 unit. Our true achilles heel has been bad sequencing, as well as leaving runners in scoring position stranded. We are currently 30th in the majors at 4.14 runners left in scoring position per game, granted we lead the majors in OBP at .340, so it should be expected that with more opportunities, we could potentially strand more. But its also worth noting that the team who is stranding the least runners, Baltimore, is only stranding 2.73. That's a pretty big difference between first and thirtieth. Especially considering the lowest team OBP is .296, compared to our league leading .340.

    sidenote: milwaukee is only has run differential of plus 15, pit plus 24, and stl at plus 27. we not only lead the NL in run differential, we've also been bad in one run games, as well as extras. we're 5-7 in one run games, and 1-4 in extras. Whereas mil is 11-5 in one run games, and 3-1 in extras. Pit is 9-4 in one run games, and 2-1 in extras. Stl is 8-7 in one run games, and 4-4 in extras. Its not reasonable to expect a regression for Stl, but we can certainly expect Pit and Mil to come back to earth.

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    In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    So we’re 4th in RD and that’s with both Heyward and Rizzo not hitting although Rizzo has 29 RBI with his average at .203. That shows the ability of this team. We’ve already played 1/4 of the season. If our starters begin to pitch like they’re able to we’ll begin to pull away from the rest of the Central.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    It doesn’t get talked about enough but the starting pitching has to be better and hopefully we’ve seen the start of that this weekend with Quintana and Darvish. Currently the rotation is 24th in WAR and 21st in FIP in MLB. I was actually startled when I heard that this morning. On the bright side this staff pitches like it can I think the offense will do enough to win the division and probably the NL.

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    In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    As long as we are scoring runs I truly don't care how many runners we leave on in scoring position. If we are leading the league in OBP that means we are getting runners on base. Stringing together hits is very difficult. So if we are getting runners on base then we have a decent chance of leaving runners on base. As long as we are among the top in scoring runs I am going to continue to ignore RISP.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I understand where you're coming from, but I don't think we should completely ignore how we're doing with RISP. I realize that if we're leading the league in OBP, we're going to strand more runners in scoring position. But its not like we're blowing the league out of the water in terms of team OBP. The yankees are right there with us, and they're 10th in stranding RISP while we're dead last. This confirms the eye test; that we tend to leave a lot of guys on, and let opposing pitchers walk away unscathed. This goes back to an ongoing issue we've discussed on this board for several seasons; situational hitting. The FO has certainly noticed this, which is one reason why they brought in Chili Davis.

    Our OBP's dating back to 2015 are as follows in relation to the league; 14th in 2015, 2nd in 2016, 8th in 2017, and 1st T (apparently we're now tied with NYY) as of today. During that same time period our RISP stranded is as follows; 26th in 2015, 29th in 2016, 25th in 2017, and 30th as of today. Though I don't think our performance with RISP is the glaring issue, i feel its worth noting, and its something that we can, and should strive to improve upon as a team.

    I'm very pleased that we've averaged the composite score of 5.5 over the last four seasons in terms of team OBP vs the rest of MLB. However, where RISP is concerned, we're at 27.5. I know a difference of 3 isn't a large gap to most. But at bare minimum it shows we're stranding more runners than we should in relation to the league. Where I'm most concerned, is we haven't made any improvements since 2015. Hopefully our lineup can continue to grow. We were still able to win it all in 2016 when we were 2nd to last. But that was also with one of the best staff pitching performances in modern baseball history. It was like they channeled a bit of the 1907 Cubs lol! But I feel ignoring our issues in this area isn't the right answer, especially since we could never expect for another season of pitching like we had in 2016.

    *apologize for the semi rant! didn't intend to write this much!*

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    In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    I get where you are coming from. Obviously it is frustrating to leave runners on base. I am sure that the Cubs players and coaches would say, to a man, that they would prefer to be scoring those guys.

    I just think that part of it is sequencing. When the Cubs are able to bunch up their hits/walks they score runs. But this is harder to do than you would think.

    Let me give you an example in the way of illustrating my point. Let's say that the Cubs have their 3-5 guys batting in an inning. And one of them gets a hit (a single). One of the other guys gets out without advancing the runner and the other guy manages to get him to 2B with a "productive out." So now we have 2-outs with a runner in scoring position. We really have 1 crack at getting him in. And that is with the #6 hitter who is likely not as good as our #3 hitter. I don't think that teams that do well with RISP have a special talent/skill. Nor do I think they are "better hitters." I really think that they simply get their hits sequence differently.

    To me much more predictable, and therefore valuable, is the ability to not make outs. THIS will make an offense really run. Will there be guys left on base? Yes, there will. But remember, those guys on base also make for stressful pitches and run up a pitch count. And the team is constantly putting guys on base. I would rather have that and a low BA RISP than a lower OBP but a relatively high BA RISP.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Our ERA is almost a full run better than our FIP. To me that indicates that the pitching is getting help from the D or we have been exceedingly lucky. I hope it is the former.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    We've definitely overperformed in that regard. The question is how much, and what does that say about our future projections. We have a 77.7 percent strand rate, behind the astros (81.5) and dbacks (78.1). We're also 2nd in walks surrendered (4.3), which I don't expect to continue. Yes, Chatwood, Edwards, and Wilson will always have issues. But with more tutelege under Hickey, hopefully there is some improvement. Wilson and Chatwood alone are averaging nearly double the walks per 9 innings than they have throughout their careers. Furthermore, Q, Darvish, Lester, Chisek, and Duensing are cumulatively averaging nearly double their career walk rates. I do not expect that to continue. A positive regression seems entirely logical, and should be expected due to large sample sizes. Also, over the last 4 seasons (including 2018) we've ran a lower than average LOB % than the league. Will we remain top 5? I wouldn't bank on it, but our defense is certainly capable of sustaining an overperformance. When you factor into the equation that our defense has appeared to underperform (the missed routine plays has been tough to watch), i'm not as concerned. With a projected cut in walks, and our D getting back to the levels we know they're capable of, i think that can account for a part of our continued beating of the FIP.

    SIDENOTE: our ERA has consistently beat our FIP since 2015. The majority of the pitchers on our staff have been FIP beaters throughout their careers. Though I find FIP credible, I don't think it matters as much in this particular regard with a staff of FIP beaters, who also play on a team with an elite D who has obviously aided in this sustained overperformance. As much as FIP is relevant, I feel our overperformances over a 3 season and 1/4 sample size, as well as our extremely heightened walk rate that has no precendent, will help us sustain a very good to great pitching staff when its all said and done

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Agreed 100% I think the poor FIP is mostly a by product of the walks and I think you can expect that to correct itself for a ton of those guys. The starting pitching will be fine if Darvish and Q hold up their ends but I personally am nervous the bullpen maybe due for some regression. May not be a bad idea to get a reliever to replace Wilson if he struggles up until the deadline.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I'm also somewhat worried about the pen. We overworked them last year, and we all remember how that turned out, though I wasn't surprised with the results. We remember Cleveland's stellar run to the WS in 2016 largely on the back of their pen, and luckily for our sakes, they ran out of gas. Hopefully our SP has finally righted the ship. Morrow's injury history makes me somewhat wary, but I love his stuff and his attack approach. The Justin Wilson dilemma is sort of a JHey lite in my eyes. Even with his atrocious numbers after the trade last year, he's still a guy who has a career ERA of 3.33 and a FIP of 3.32 over 7 seasons. Hopefully he's back to his old self. The FIPs he's posted with the cubs are the highest of his career.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Agreed especially when you consider that our high leverage guys are on pace for a lot of games you have to be nervous and some of these guys have histories of strong starts before tiring such as Strop and Edwards. I've defended Justin Wilson on this blog a lot because his walk rates aren't even close to in line to what they have been over his entire career with other teams and he's usually pretty darn good with us even when he just throws strikes. I think he'll definitely have future success whether it's with the cubs or another organization. My issue with him is moreso we have him signed only for this year and I just don't think at this time that we can trust him in big games in high leverage situations. There's room for optimism if he can get the walks under control but my thing is he's only controlled this season anyways so if he doesn't figure things out by the deadline then I'd add another impact reliever because we both agree that the future outlook for our bullpen isn't as strong as they have been thus far. I think even if you do add another guy I'd hold try to hang onto Wilson as he's a lefty and there's clear potential there but if he doesn't turn it around by the deadline then I wouldn't take the chance of relying on Morrow, strop, edwards and cishek come playoff time I think they can use another impact reliever in a pretty wide open NL. We would be in big trouble for example if Morrow (very possible) or Cishek got injured.

  • I agree that Pit and Mil will start to regress and it is only a matter of time before we pass them. I see good trends going forward

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    I think Milwaukee and St. Louis will hang around all year. How long they do is going depend on deadline deals. Top to bottom I think Milwaukee is the better of the two but still probably needs to add a starting pitcher (aside from Nelson coming back in June). The Cardinals have a good rotation but are at least one bat short and need relief help. What's interesting is that the Pirates and Cardinals are about even with their Pythagorean record to actual record, Milwaukee has outperformed there's by 3 wins and the Cubs have underperformed by 4 wins.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Nothing against Mil, but I'm not buying their ability to hang in there until the end. There have been vast overperformances in their starting pitching, as well as the pen. Yes, they get Jimmie Nelson back. But who knows how he performs after the thoratic outlet issue. Furthermore, they're barely outscoring their opponents. They will need to not only sustain their pitching overperformances, but they must start to score more runs as well. A plus 15 run differential isn't indicative of a team with a .609 winning %. Furthermore, they have a .700 plus winning percentage in one run games and extra innings. I think they're a competitive club, but not a playoff team unless they're super aggressive at the deadline

  • Thinking about Schwarber getting rung up and ejected on a really high fastball, this brings up something I’ve been noticing for quite some time now and wondering if the Cubs need to change their pitching philosophy a little bit. It seems as though low strikes aren’t being called quite as frequently as high strikes have been called. I think it was before the 2017 season when there was an announcement concerning a slight raising in the bottom of the strike zone. Further, I remember hearing and reading on more than one account how the Astros have their pitchers throwing more fastballs up in the zone, which was also the same I’ve heard said about Darvish’s effectiveness when he was traded to the Dodgers; they had him throw his fastball up more often.

    So I’m wondering is there merit to pitching up in the zone and getting more strikes called these days?

    Maybe the Cubs should be having Darvis, Quintana, and Chatwood, who can throw in the mid 90’s, work higher up in the zone while Lester and Hendricks continue doing what they do well.

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    In reply to Cubber Lang:

    That ejection was really fast. I wonder if something happened before that PA. Was he yakking earlier in the PA or even a previous one?

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    It won't do any good to try to figure out the strike zone. I'm not saying this umpire did it, but a small group of umpires constantly change zones in a game and it proves how easy it is to kill an inning or change the momentum of a game.
    Despite many complaints to Rob Manfred, he refuses to correct this problem.

  • Pop to 2B, DP grounder and grounder to 2B. Can we call that the Heyward hat trick?

  • As "The Dabynsky" could relate in his day job this is the time for evaluation and assessment. Let us look at the state of the Cubs now 44 games into the season and heading into the last nine games in May. June 1st is the day GM's and Manager's kind look as a benchmark. Cubs are six games over .500, (same spot they were when the sun came up on May 1st) and therefore 9-9 in the month of May. Let us look at the team and their cumulative stats to see what is going on.

    Concern: Pitching is under performing, (easy to spot when the club is near leading the NL in runs per game average and they are playing a few blips over .500). I started diving into the team peripherals and at best Cubs are middle of the pack with their relievers, both MLB and NL, but May trends there is a bit of an uptick where their xFIP is above all other NLCS teams.

    Now if the Cubs offense continues to produce runs, hopefully more consistently as they still have not peaked, coupled with their leading fielding prowess, 2nd in FWAR in the NL and 4th in DRS with the leading UZR/150. So it all comes down to pitching. Lot of names but what is important is to gain some consistently from the bump at the first two segments of the game.

    Darvish showed something today, he just needs to do this 3 out of the next times between now and build on that thru to the ASB. Same for Lester, those two have to step up and lead the staff. As it stands Chatwood is leading in fWAR while Hendricks in xFIP.

    Fortunately in the month of May no other NLCS team has better pitching than the Cubs. So improve the starters so they get through the 6th inning with quality starts this team will suddenly start winning at better than .650 ball. The offense sure seems to be coming from all directions. And once Rizzo moves to his mean they will scoring more runs.

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    What happened in the month of may means nothing now that the cards have called up Jack Flaherty who gives the cardinals yet another No.1 starter along with Martinez and Mikolas....and the best is yet to come with the soon arrival of the best pitching prospect in the game in Alex Reyes. The cardinals not only have the best starting staff in MLB they also have the youngest. Prepare thyself for another decaded of cardinal domination in the NL central.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    The Mets said the same thing. How’d that work out?

    Probably makes you very happy. Let’s play the games before declaring any decade of domination. They will have to score some too and last check they aren’t very good at that.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    And lets get real the mets pitching prospects were flat out better than the cards prospects according to prospect rankings other than Reyes who I think has a chance to be special but lets see if he can stick as a starter he definitely profiles as an ace reliever at least.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    No offense greg but I think it's pretty clear that you only come on this blog as a cards fan posing as a cub fan to irritate cubs fans. This is the 4th year in a row that we have to hear from you that the cards are the best team in the division and all their players are better than ours and now Flaherty who is not even considered a TOR type of prospect is already a 1. I can't stop you as a cards fan from posting on a cubs website but frankly your predictions have been 100% incorrect 3 years in a row give it a rest and stop trolling. Other posters may have the illusion that you're a cubs fan but I don't and I think personally that you should be banned from this site because it's clear that your purpose here is to stir up cubs fans but it's not up to me.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    At the end of the day though I'm not offended because this is the cubs time whether cards fans (and maybe the brewers are the real rival now) want to admit it or not so how can we really take offense to anything that you say. Good luck the rest of the season because you guys are going to need it lol

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think Greg really is a Cubs fan. He just messes with people on this site, which is fine by me. He's never attacked anyone or been offensive. Honestly he's one of my favorite posters because he's pretty good at ruffling feathers and it makes me laugh, although sometimes his shtick is too obvious.
    But for the first time in 3 years, Greg is on to something. The Cardinals rotation has the potential to be special. Martinez is capable of being a TORP. Reyes is as good of a pitching prospect as it gets. Mikolas is somehow dominant. And Flaherty has been really good throughout the minor leagues and in his short time in the MLB too. I don't think they're set up to dominate because their offense is a real issue, and their bullpen is trash. But yeah, the Cardinals rotation could be scary.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Greg's been around cubs den for many years and I actually once thought as you did that he was a negative minded cubs fan but I've been following this blog for years and it's clear to me after this extended time that he's a cards fan that poses as a cub fan just so it isn't confirmed that he's just trolling so he doesn't get kicked off this blog. He'll act like a cubs fan with a positive post once in a blue moon but I just think it's an act I have know of people that pose as fans on team commenting boards posting negative minded opinions to stir up those fanbases and I'd say it's pretty clear that's the case here. 95% of his posts are pro-cardinals posts where he claims that the cards players are better than cubs players when they typically aren't lets get real he's very clearly a cards fan. I think realistically if he admitted he was a cards fan he would've been banned from posting on this website years ago with how many posters he's riled up over the years and he knows that so he just wants to be allowed to stick around because he enjoys trying to rile fans up. I agree he's never attacked anyone and in my view it's hard to be offended when cards fans don't have a lot to brag about right now but I just think the act is getting a little disrespectful to our intelligence after a while.

    I agree the cards rotation is improving but I still don't like the bullpen or lineup that much and I think the rotation is overrated based ont their unsustainable numbers thus far. While they have played well and are adding nice young talent I don't think that's going to translate to winning the division. martinez is pretty darn good and Reyes is extremely promising but he's still very young and coming off a major injury. In addition we still don't know if reyes is he's an efficient enough pitcher to stick as a starter even though he profiles as an elite reliever. Flaherty to me has a long way to go and despite a nice debut I'm not going to panic over a guy that's not looked at as an elite prospect especially given that he's a rookie starter with a lot of development in front of him. But lets be clear Flahertys upside is a MOR starter he's not some high end elite prospect so it remains to be seen how he does and I doubt he's going to push the cards ahead of us either way. I get Mikolas is off to a great start but he's still not showing swing and miss stuff and I look at him as an obvious regression candidate and I'm not very fond of michael wacha as a player in general. In addition on Mikolas I think you have to give the league a chance to catch up on the adjustments that he made in Japan before we jump to any conclusions. Remember how good we all thought Eric Thames was in the 1st half before the league started figuring him out after he made major adjustments in Japan? i think it's an improving young rotation no question about it but there's not really many established pieces there to make me think that their rotation has a better outlook than ours over the next 2-3 years despite a number of guys under performing for the cubs. Count me in the group too that thinks that our rotation has much better days ahead. I see no reason why we should not be better than the cardinals and I'd consider it a massive disappointment if they finished ahead of us barring major injuries to our players.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    For the record too I think reyes sticks as a starter but he does tend to get a little wild and lose his command. It results in him using a ton of pitches so I think that's a major area of development for him even though it's hard to see him not panning out with his pure stuff. I think personally though that Wacha, Flaherty and Mikolas are extremely overvalued at this point in time with their strong starts. Very obvious players that may regress in my view.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Eric Thames played in South Korea not Japan.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    My mistake but I think the overall basis of my comparison of a guy that's had his struggles in the majors before going overseas and making adjustments. I've noticed a lot of those types of guys seem to get off to fast starts before the league adjusts to them. Maybe Mikolas is better than I think he is but my opinion still stands that I think he's definitely a good candidate as a player that's due for regression. Additionally this is just my opinion but I haven't been very impressed with his overall arm talent from what I've seen so far. His stuff looks much more like a 4-5 then the TOR guy that cards fans are making him out to be. That's just my opinion maybe I'm underestimating the guy maybe not.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Fair points on Cardinals rotation members. I agree, I'll take the Cubs' rotation going forward as well.
    Regarding Greg, maybe you're right. I've been reading his comments for 3 or 4 years though and i think he's a Cubs fan who is just trolling around here most of the time. I don't think he should be banned just because people get riled up though. Plenty of posters do that. I've done it myself (and I've gotten riled up a few times too). If people don't like what he says, they don't have to respond to it. He doesn't even post very frequently. Most of us have just learned to laugh it off if he says something too wild. I find myself looking forward to his posts. I was a bit disappointed he didn't have much to say after the sweep in St Louis.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    That's fair Kramerica and for me we have our ring anyways so it's hard for me to get offended when the team is doing well. I just got annoyed in the moment because I've ignored him in the past but his posts have riled up a lot of posters here and it's just getting old. It reminds me of an old poster cubstalk who used to post constant negative comments on this website to rile fans up. He was typically not directly attacking posters but he riled enough people up to the point where John did eventually ban him from the website. I think your points are fair though there's no reason to start a war with him over the internet so i'll try to not respond to his posts in the future assuming they're respectful. No reason to pick a fight with every fan whose wrong we all love cubs den because it's the one cubs website that you can actually have intelligent and respectful conversations with other fans that have a similar passion for this team.

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    Just out of curiosity, what is wrong with a Cardinals fan coming on here and making comments? As someone else said at worst he "stirs the pot." He doesn't call anyone names, doesn't "disrespect" anyone, nor does he particularly argue his points. Usually he makes assertions that turn out to be unfounded but that is about it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I guess it depends on your tolerance level for these sort of things but I think at times not this time but in the past he has got into it with several posters and has been a bit disrespectful at times although he typically doesn't take things over the line. But when you think about it you have been around for a while Joel how is he any different then cubstalk the poster who was on cubs den years ago and used to rile up many posters with his comments. He was eventually banned by John for this practice and he really was doing just what Greg has been over the past 3-4 years. In addition this is just my personal viewpoint but I think cubsden should be a place for cubs fans to have intelligent and respectful discussions about the team and baseball not a place where there's a clash of 2 different fanbases debating whose players are better. John has actually banned a couple cards fans who have posted on the website in the past because he didn't want the discussion boards to become a clash of the fan bases. I personally am not offended by anything Greg said and I'm not calling for anyone to be banned but I do think it's annoying and he tends to rile up posters on a regular basis. I subjectively just for me too I feel pretty strongly that he's not really a cubs fan too and I think cubs den should be a place for cubs fans to discuss the team and not argue with fans of other teams but I understand your viewpoint and I feel I'm making a bigger deal out of this then there needs to be. I'll try to just refrain from replying to Gregs comments moving forward as long as they're respectful. At the end of the day you're right in that he's not really doing anything bad and which team has the bragging rights right now last time I checked :)

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think one thing I want to add on cards fans posting on a cubs site is that I actually wouldn't have a problem if a cards fan posted on here and actually tried to have an intelligent discussion with us. But I think it's different when you have a cards fan that's just trying to troll people on this website and rile cub fans up. Maybe he's not attacking the posters directly but he's trying to essentially stir people up and create a conflict. That's kind of what I was getting at when I say it's just getting a little annoying because Greg doesn't even usually make an attempt at being logical with his posts it's just becoming clearer that it's his intention to cause conflict and while I'm not upset or angry about it it's moreso just annoying to some fans and less annoying to others.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't know that there's anything wrong with it but with the poster in question it's usually a "hit and run", in other words make a snide comment and leave only occasionally attempting to defend his position. I can ignore it, and have for a long time, only occasionally taking the bait but it isn't a lot of fun either. On Facebook there's a "NL Central Smack Talk Group" just for this kind of thing and after about a day of that I never went back, just because a lot chest pumping about our teams doesn't hold a lot of interest to me. I like baseball, I like to know how it works, I like to expand my knowledge and the vast majority of posters here do just that. Heck, two of my dearest friends are Cardinals fans and they're very knowledgeable about the game and neither of them end their baseball texts messages with the likes of "prepare to be dominated for the next ten years".In fact I can even appreciate Cardinals players when we're not facing or in the depths of the pennant race. I like their starting pitching, for instance, but "nanny, nanny boo boo we're going to beat you" holds zero interest to me. That said I know what his deal is and if I take the bait it's on me. My browser allows me to scroll down.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    When did Martinez become a No. 1 starter? Somebody better tell him to stop meandering around aimlessly in the rotation and pick it up a little if he is supposed to be a #1 starter. LOL

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    I read an article the other day about who is the face of the Cubs franchise. It was basically between Kris & Javy. Which is understandable. Kris is elite, Javy is good and fun to watch. But you can also include Rizzo, maybe even Maddon.
    What are you're thoughts? I lean towards Rizzo. Javy is my favorite Cub, but if my kid grew up & is half the upstanding citizen Rizzo is, I'll be a proud dad.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I feel Rizzo has more of a pull in the Chicago area, but KB is a bit more popular nationally. Baez could be considered a runner up in either regard, however i feel KB and Rizzo are more of a 1A and 1B, so i guess Javy is behind both of them depending on how you judge it. Maddon is solid pick as well, but I feel players almost always outshine managers.

    For what it's worth, according to an article from MLB.com posted on Oct 2, 2017, KB has the number 2 selling jersey and Rizzo the number 3. Baez is 10th, and Schwarber 14th. The cubs are the only team to have 4 players in the top 20. Jersey sales aren't everything, but I find it at least relevant

  • Here's something interesting: Ian Happ is now 4th on the Cubs in both wRC+ and wOBA, and 3rd in OPS. He's ahead of Baez in all 3 categories. Certainly doesn't feel like that is possible does it?

    May splits -
    Baez: .717 OPS, 87 wRC+
    Happ: .971 OPS, 151 wRC+

    Also, Addison Russell has had a really nice May, and quietly gotten up to a .262/.352/.369 line, good for a 99 wRC+. Needs to slug more, but I'll gladly take that .352 OBP from our stud defensive SS.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Speaking of his defense I like his (new?) move of getting his momentum moving towards first base before he throws the ball. The long throws were his only weak spot in the past and this seems to be working well for him.

  • In reply to jefeggs2542:

    Yeah his throws look firm and strong this year. The Cubs insisted his shoulder injury was affecting his throws last year, and it certainly seems to have been the case.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Pretty remarkable ESP when you consider that id say at least 50% of fans wanted him sent down with his early struggles. People undervalue the damage he does when he puts the ball in play he's an extra base/home run machine he seems to really get his money's worth when he puts the ball in play despite his high K rate. His babip is a bit unsustainable though he still needs to work to keep those Ks under control but impressive turn around nonetheless

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Happ isn't my favorite, but the dude has had a great few weeks. That said, I think this is an instance where the stats we use (I throw wRC+ and wOBA out there all the time) don't capture the entirety of the value, or lack of it, a player has contributed. Happ (128, .362) and Baez (124, .355) have put up similar wRC+ and wOBA to this point. They haven't really been similar hitters profile-wise, but according to those metrics, they've created similar value. But to our eyes and memories (to mine at least) Baez has been better. Maybe this is a case of the numbers being more reliable than our memories (they are). Or maybe the numbers don't capture everything important (they don't). When Happ was struggling, he was REALLY struggling. He wasn't just making outs, he was missing fastballs in the zone (as he is wont to do). Even factoring his hot streak, Happ has still Kd 40% of the time, compared to Baez' 22%. Now, some sabermetricians will tell you Ks don't matter. They're just another out. That's nonsense. If Ks didn't matter then pitchers who strike out a lot of hitters wouldn't be more valuable. Ask yourselves, why does pitcher WAR factor Ks heavily, but hitter WAR doesn't account for them at all? Glaring inconsistency.
    All that to say, although Baez and Happ have similar wRC+ and wOBA (both very good metrics), I FEEL like Baez has been better. Maybe i'm completely wrong, or maybe he really has been better, and our metrics ought to penalize a hitter for striking out in 2 out of every 5 plate appearances.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    good points, and i completely agree. though i have been critical of Happ, he is a force when he's hot. i was in the camp where i considered a demotion to Iowa something that might be necessary to right the ship. i was basing my assessment on the Schwarber situation last year, where Kyle came back at had nearly an OPS of .900. as you mentioned, his propensity to miss hittable fastballs in the zone earlier in the season was a huge red flag in my eyes. but they're different people, and just bc it worked for one player, doesn't mean it works for everyone. hopefully he continues to prove me wrong, though that 40% strikeout rate is alarming

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    The more numbers you look at the more accurate your assessment will be. All stats, especially those that use a formula rather than simply "tallying" events (H, BB, K, RBI, HR, etc.) have potential blind spots contained in their fomulas. Would I rather have Baez or Happ on my team? I would take Baez.

    As for K's I am firmly in the THEY MATTER camp. Years ago I insisted they are "just like any other out." Which is sort of true. There is no added penalty for striking out beyond an out. To me the differences are these:
    1. Baserunners almost never advance on a K. Yes, it happens sometimes, but it is more frequent with a ball in play.

    2. BABIP. And this is the big one. Back in about 2014-2015 I started playing with some numbers for Mike Olt--I had an odd fascination with him...I'm working on it. I tried to find at what point he might become a decent player (like .750 OPS). If he struck out in 30% of his PAs unless he hit something like 35-45 HR and a similar number of 2B he had to have a BABIP of something like .360. For a not great speed guy that is nearly impossible. Otherwise his OBP would be mired in the .300-.315 range which put a lot of emphasis on his power. He had power but I couldn't get the numbers to add up unless he became a borderline all-star. My detail numbers aren't correct and I could try to re-produce my study, but the impact was huge to me. If you K a lot it is possible to still be a valuable member of the offense. But you have to be EXTRAORDINARY at everything else. And, no, Mike Olt was not that.

    I didn't go far enough into the study to find the breaking point but I think it was somewhere between 25-30%, though it may have been a little different than that. Happ's 40%+ rate is well above where he is likely to maintain success.

    The one saving grace Happ has is that he is willing/able to take a BB. Without that he would simply dissapear until he got his K's down. As is I think he is going to be relegated to "super-sub" with some pop, switch-hitting and defensive versatility (can play IF and OF). That has value, but not much. And not really a skill-set I want in the line-up 140+ games.

    But if he can cut his K% down to closer to 25%--which is possible--he suddenly becomes REALLY valuable.

    Honestly, I have never really seen a player quite like Ian Happ. His BB seem to do "magic" with his slash line. Just as an illustration, in the month of May his K% has been almost 36%. But his BB% has been almost 23%. Suddenly his OBP looks solid at .441 despite a pedestrian .267 BA. Add on a HR rate of about 1/15 PAs, similar on 2B and a 3B and his SLG ends up close to .670. His BABIP is .400. EVERYTHING about this seems to scream unsustainable. Yet it isn't over 20 PAs but pushing 60. Still too small of a sample to believe it will continue, but it gives some idea what his unique skill-set does to a slash line.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Well his BB% in May is propped up by 5 IBB. Those alone have taken his BB% from a would-be 14.8% (very good) to a Bonds-ian 22%.
    Like you said, his profile is unique though. His HR/fly ball ratio as a major leaguer has been nearly double what it was as a minor leaguer. I pointed to him as a regression candidate early last season because of this, but he's doing it again. He also produces more hard contact than average (42% compared to 36% league average) and hits WAY more fly balls than average (55% compared to 36% league average). The combination of well struck balls in the air has so far produced enough XBH to offset the fact that his ZONE CONTACT RATE IS 67%. That's what I find unsustainable more than anything else. Can he be 30% better than league average while missing 1/3 of pitches he swings at in the strike zone?

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    In addition on the absurd home run rate especially since reaching the majors, he also did it in spring training both this year and last. And respectfully as someone that followed his minor league career, I think you have to completely disregard his home run rate from the 2016 season. He was having some issues with his swing apparently and only hit around 15 home runs the entire season I believe and couldn't hit the inside fastball. He made some adjustments over the offseason and had an amazing Spring in 2017 where he hit a ton of home runs then he continued that path and hit a ton of home runs per PA after his promotion from Iowa. He's continue to hit home runs at a high rate this season going back to spring and even if he can't maintain a pace quite this high I think we'll see him hit home runs at a more similar pace to the 2017-18 seasons rather than 2016. He's made a pretty big adjustment since that season and we know the raw power and bat speed is there.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I agree with you that his contact rate is really bad. Maybe part of the problem for me is that I am trying to get him to "fit" into a mold. But he just doesn't fit. Maybe he is just one of the most extreme True Outcomes hitters in history. Maybe we are making a mountain out of a molehill and things will average out throughout the year.

    As for the IBB I agree they inflate his numbers. Thanks for posting his numbers without them (and acknowledging it is still really good). Obviously there isn't skill involved in the pitcher seeing that you are a greater threat than Jon Lester. But he was still a baserunner. So the true assessment of his value probably lies somewhere in between...and probably closer to the 14.8% number than the 22% number.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    That’s a really interesting observation Kramerica and I completely agree and while I consider myself to be a well read cubs and baseball fan including analytics I don’t know that I have the statistical expertise to answer that type of observation except to say that I think both players have ways of distorting the stats. I agree with you on the K’s to a degree but I will say that I don’t think it really matters if you strikeout unless those strikeouts are happening with a man on second or 3rd with less than 2 outs. I agree that I don’t care what the numbers say Ian Happ isn’t one of the 4 best players in our lineup. I think at the same time though certain fans may undervalue him though because number one we tend to notice strikeouts and he not only has been our highest strikeout guy but that issue really got out of hand at times in April especially it seemed like. But at the same time he has a knack over the course of his MLB career for getting a ton of non-single type of hits and seems to get his money’s worth when he does make contact unlike say Albert Almora or Zobrist who are mainly singles hitters.
    At the same time I don’t think any of us here think that Ian Happ is as impactful of a player as Baez even as a hitter putting defense aside despite what the offensive numbers say. It’s hard to say I do think Baez does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score and I think that’s why we’ve seen Theo hold onto him despite trade rumors even though the numbers have never really backed Baez up. Like I said I don’t have enough statistical expertise to delve deeper into this but I think Baez is the perfect example of a player that’s more valuable than the numbers say and I think he’s an outlier that distorts the stats to a degree and proves they can be flawed even though they’re generally a reliable tool to evaluate most players. I think at the same time I’ve noticed that Baez and Almora are 2 perfect examples of fan favorites that carry pretty good batting averages but the metrics typically don’t like them as much due to their limited walk rates although Almora is getting better in that regard. My point is I think cubs fans seem to have somewhat of a bias towards both. Overall though I think while Happ may distort the stats a little bit I think for the most part he is a more valuable offensive contributor then fans give him credit for but I think that Baez is moreso somewhere in between. I think on one hand he may just not be as valuable of an offensive contributor as some fans think due to his low obp but he does things on the bases and in the field that just stand out that maybe stats can’t measure and that’s why is value is distorted to a degree from advanced stats but maybe not quite the MVP candidate that cubs fans make him out to be, at least NOT YET I personally think he has another level that he’s still growing into

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I agree with most of this. What I disagree with, is that strikeouts matter only with runners in scoring position. Of course they hurt more because that situation so obviously calls for contact. But I do think they are detrimental to an offense no matter the situation. I just haven't really done the research, and can't quite articulate why.
    What I do know is that balls in play are valuable. I know this because balls in play result in a hit roughly 30% of the time, while balls in the catcher's glove result in a hit (or a reach) exactly 0% of the time. Also, we value high K pitchers more than other good pitchers. All other things equal, we would want the pitcher who strikes out more hitters. Similarly, if I had 2 hitters with the exact same numbers across the board, but one had a lower K%, I'd take him.

    The other thing I disagree with is that Baez has another level he hasn't tapped into yet. I think we've seen what Baez is. We always say, "If he can just lay off that slider away, he'll be a force." Well, he can't. He never has been able to. Even during his hot April, he was swinging at more pitches than ever before. He was just punishing them. He has never indicated that he will have any semblance of discipline at the plate. For that reason, I think we've seen what he can be: a streaky hitter who carries an offense when he's hot, and is barely passable as a MLBer when he's cold. But he's not going to supplement his cold streaks with BB. Can he have good years and get better than he is now? Sure. But he's never going to put up 150 wRC+, or 900 OPS for 162 games.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Oh I agree with you that I’d rather have a low K hitter then a high K hitter of course you always want to put the ball in play you never know what hole you may find and perhaps strikeouts can be contagious for an offense but that’s not really measurable from my end. At the end of the day of course you want to put the ball in play but unless you’re advancing a base runner then is there really much if any benefit to striking out versus popping out or grounding out? For a pitcher, strikeouts typically have a direct correlation to a pitchers success and you basically have to strikeout a batter per inning minimum in order to be a TOR starter other than a few exceptions like Kyle Hendricks. You can’t give up a hit if they can’t make contact off you and I just don’t think you can make an exact comparison when comparing K’s for hitters versus pitchers. Keep in mind that a lot of the best hitters (like bryce harper, kris bryant in previous years, Arenado) in the league have high strikeout rates. You don’t really see many elite pitchers with low strikeout rates and I’d say in general having a high strikeout rate correlates moreso to being a strong pitcher as opposed to having a low strikeout rate being correlates to being a strong hitter.

    I think context matters too when evaluating our players.I think Happ maybe an exception in that he can carry a relatively high strikeout rate because he does so much damage when he does make contact and if he can get that K rate to 25-30%( very realistic as last year he was at 30%) then he’ll still have a ton of value. The league seems to be trending towards strikeouts being more accepted for hitters for whatever reason so we’ll see if you’re right and teams maybe place more value of mixing in more contact oriented hitters into their lineup like a Ben Zobrist. I personally think that his addition was a big part in getting the team over the top with all of our high strikeout guys especially considering that was before Kris bryant made a drastic improvement with his K rate.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    As for Baez that's just my subjective opinion I think while he'll never have a high walk rate that he doesn't really need to. He's one of the elite hitters in the game when he swings at pitches that are in the strike zone and I don't think he needs to ever become what we'd call a patient hitter to get there. If he can get that walk rate around 8% which I think is possible with his improving power in games as teams pitch around him to stay away from that power and if he can just lay off the low and away breaking ball like he more consistently then I think he can get there. In some ways he's shown great javy and bad javy this year. When he's great he's laying off that pitch just enough and we know what he can do if you challenge him with a fastball in the strike zone. I'm sure we'll see bad Javy from time to time but I think as he grows into himself we'll see the good from Javy on a more consistent basis. I maybe overvaluing him but that's just my view and I admit that I'm a Javy lover and extremely high on his overall talent.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Probably shouldn't have used the word MVP candidate but I think we'll see more of good Baez then bad Baez as he gets into his prime and I can see an all star game in his future. I personally don't think he ever has to become a patient hitter to be great he just needs to get his approach a little more under control and lay off some of the low and away breaking pitches like he did early on even though that didn't necessarily translate to many walks I did definitely notice an improved approach with 2 strikes especially that 1st month before he's gone bad Javy on us recently.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    You guys are all bringing up some good points here, the strike out argument for me is a little more complicated because the answer is of course they're important, until they're not but when they're not it's usually a team makeup argument. In other words if you have three players in your everyday lineup at 30% K rate that's really bad, even if they all have near elite SLG numbers, but you might be able to handle one of them in the lineup if you have three or four solid contact hitters. That leads me to a similar argument with wRC+ (or OPS+ which is a similar stat yielding very similar results). I think it's a great thumbnail sketch of a hitter and his run production but as shown in the Baez and Happ discussion the number could mean very different things in terms of your actual team production. In other words the numbers don't lie, if you have two hitters that are around the same wRC+ but one is prone to really horrible, unproductive slumps and is one isn't then you have to look at lineup construction differently. They might be equal value as hitters and run producers but fulfill very different roles on your team. That's when the dreaded eye test comes in. In other words numbers do not exist in a vacuum and shouldn't be used as such, but as a thumbnail sketch they do help with player value.

  • In reply to TC154:

    @ Kram, Kkh, Joel, TC, and 009

    i appreciate the insightful comments and discourse. thank you for not only digging up a lot of information on Happ, but i enjoyed reading each of your perspectives as well

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Agreed I think it was a great discussion and nice analysis kramerica very insightful posts. Glad we're now talking about how happs numbers are better then where we'd expect rather than talk about whether he should be in AAA. If heyward doesn't turn it around then I think he'll have a big part to play this year along with Almora.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy. Thanks everybody. This is Cubs Den.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I was thinking the same as I read some of the comments. SO much better than calling each other names!

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think Baez has been better. As you point out below, Happ was intentionally walked five times in four games, which really inflated his stats. It does show the value of walking.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    To me if Javy reaches anything resembling his ceiling he will likely be better than Happ.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    To me if Javy reaches anything resembling his ceiling he will likely be better than Alomar.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Potential gold glove at a premium defensive position. 30+ home runs potential. Incredible base runner. It’s probably a good Baez is more valuable than Happ. With that said, I agree with the poster above who says the Javy we have now is the Javy we’re going to get. He is going to be very streaky, and won’t suddenly develop plate discipline. Whereas Happ, the jury is still out. Plus, he’s a switch hitter. Fastest player on the team. Fastest player in Cubs history to get to 20 home runs. Don’t hate me. I know everyone loves Baez!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I certainly love Baez, and I don't hate you. With that immense love, however, comes deep disappointment when he isn't an instant superstar. I've run the gamut of emotions.

    I simply can't agree with anyone who says "this is who he is". Who he is is a 25-year-old ballplayer with as much talent, and LOUD tools, as I have ever seen. A young man who lost nearly two full years of prime development time due to freak injury and family tragedy, and who is just now settling in to a full-time gig.

    It's not just Javy. These guys are young. I really don't buy the "this is who he is" on any of them, yet.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Well, I hope you’re right.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yeah, I feel weird saying something so definitive because in the end, what do I know? For every guy who never improves, there seems to be another one who figures it out later in his career.
    For Baez, I think the talent is so obvious, and he's so likable as a player and a person, that as fans it's easier for us to dream on "if he can only tighten up here..." But Baez has never once, over any period of time shown any indication that he can do it. Maybe he changes his approach as a hitter as he matures. We haven't seen an inkling of it yet though.

  • The answer is KB for as long as he wears a cub jersey. Rizzo will be always be the heart/captain.

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