SportsCenter has been running this montage of military personel surprising their families on their return home from service and you’d pretty much have to be made of stone not to melt when you watch it. The sports connection is a bit tenuous, but … whatever. It’s sweet.
- With yesterday’s win, the Cubs have now won three straight series (yes, against bad teams – but that’s what you’re supposed to do), and are just 10 games under .500. No, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start dreaming about a hot streak that turns things around. The Cubs are still 13.5 games out in the Central and the sell-off is coming. There is no stopping it at this point, nor should there be. That said, I thought it worth checking back in on Baseball Prospectus’s adjusted standings, which calculate what a team’s record should be, based on underlying statistics and the opponents they’ve faced. Updated as of this morning, those adjusted standings have the Cubs as still one of the unluckiest teams in baseball, five games worse than they should be. Flip those five games, and the Cubs are a .500 team, as BP says they “should” be. Further, when the rest of the NL is adjusted, the Cubs wind up just 5.5 games behind the Pirates for the second Wild Card spot. That makes me wonder: how different are our conversations today if the Cubs are at .500 and just 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. Are we still guaranteeing a sell-off for the Cubs? Would you still want them to sell? Stand pat? Buy?
- Speaking of that win, it came in Edwin Jackson’s third quality start in June. It was of the “just barely a quality start” variety (6 IP, 3 ER), but it’s a continued step in the right direction from where his season started. It sounds like that “conviction” hullabaloo from earlier in the season was Dale Sveum’s way of saying, simply, he wanted Jackson to throw with more velocity. While Jackson’s velocity has bounced around a bit, I still think the primary reason Jackson’s results haven’t been great is negative variance. Which is to say: he’s had bad luck. The underlying numbers are right around his career averages, and his FIP remains solid (3.77, which is top 50 in baseball).
- Theo Epstein knows his manager has received a lot of heat for how Carlos Marmol was used prior to the reliever being designated for assignment last week, and he doesn’t think it’s fair. “The manager often times takes heat for things that are beyond their control,” Epstein said, per Cubs.com. “We’ve given him an imperfect roster. We have a lot of talented players, but it’s an imperfect roster, and he’s often times put in situations where he has to chose between imperfect solutions. He didn’t want to necessarily use Marmol in certain situations, but there comes a point where other guys need rest or have already been used, or he’s looking a day ahead. I think it’s unfair, with only partial information, to jump to conclusions about Dale’s managerial ability based on using Marmol in a certain spot.” I’m sure some of you are tired of hearing that same thing, but that doesn’t make it any less true. For me, there was scarcely a time when I thought Sveum’s use of Marmol – or any other reliever – was beyond justification when you consider the whole of the situation (where the Cubs are, how the bullpen is constructed, etc.).
- Epstein also said that, if you were summing up the Cubs’ season so far, you’d note how well the first seven innings go, and then how it kind of falls off in the last two innings.
- Epstein was asked about the status of negotiations with top draft pick Kris Bryant, the last of the Cubs’ top ten picks to sign, but Epstein declined to address the matter beyond the boiler plate. There isn’t much upside in saying too much, and there isn’t much legitimate concern that a deal won’t be completed, so that’s what you’d expect.