With many of the Cubs' Spring Training games on TV broadcast from here on out, we're going to try to give you our daily observations and points of interest following each game, so stay posted for some daily nuggets.
Going into yesterday's ballgame, I was excited to be able to watch Schwarber work behind the plate after all the offseason work he put in with Cubs catching coach, Mike Borzello. I came away with mixed reviews. In the top of the 2nd inning, Hammel found himself with two outs and men on first and second, and proceeded to bury a slider in the dirt which Schwarber blocked (not entirely gracefully). The ball squirted away a little bit, but no damage was done. But here's the cool part: Hammel went on to throw two more pitches in the dirt in the same at bat, and Schwarber handled each pitch confidently and made a couple clean blocks. It's absolutely an encouraging sign when your pitcher can trust the catcher to block a breaking ball in a high leverage situation.
So that was exciting, but I don't want to disillusion people—Schwarber is not ready for a role as a regular catcher. Though his blocking looked good, his receiving remains choppy, and his ability to control the running game is still suspect. On one throw down to second, Schwarber yanked a throw well off the base to the left field side of the bag. Addison Russell was forced to Addison Russell the ball just to keep it from going into the outfield (yes, I used Addison Russell as a verb—not a typo).
Around the time of the Jason Heyward signing, I found myself looking at a lot of baserunning sabermetrics, mostly just to continue stoking the fires of my Heyward mania. By any account, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant are seen as elite baserunners in the sabermetric community. Yesterday, Heyward proved his lofty position with a stolen base and a triple. Ho hum.
Then there's Kyle Schwarber. Coming as an extreme shock (at least to me), Schwarber sabermetrically ranks not just as an adequate baserunner, but as a well, well above average baserunner. Now, I'll point out that baserunning sabermetrics are not quite as advanced and take a little time to normalize, but I've been watching Scwharber more closely since noticing his 2015 numbers and he is starting to silence my doubt. His reads on the ball are excellent (on the base paths, if not in the outfield), and he shows consistent ability to take extra bases as a result of quick, smart decisions. Yesterday, I was shocked to see him sliding into third for a triple after hitting a gapper to right center; maybe it's time to start acting less surprised. Take a look for yourself and see what you think.
We've had to remind ourselves several times this spring the preseason games don't matter. And they don't, for the most part. But man, doesn't it feel good to see a bunch of runs up on the board?
Negron (not a prospect) and Andreoli continued their hot spring yesterday as each hit a HR (Negron's 3rd and Andreoli's 4th of ST). Albert Almora continues to give me chills as I watch his glorious defense, and he looked good at the plate as well with a clean line drive single. He's looking mature at the plate, and hopefully he can turn that long awaited corner offensively this year.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.