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St_Louis_CardinalsBack in the saddle, and it feels good. Up front, I have to wish The Wife a very happy anniversary. We’ve been married seven years now, and her support has meant as much to the success of this place as anything I’ve done. Incidentally, she’s also been a pretty great partner/mother/friend/etc. over those seven years. Lucky, lucky me.

  • Although the Cubs dropped the series finale yesterday, the Cubs won a series in St. Louis for the first time in a few years. Winning comes with a price, though: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny used the Cubs’ series win in St. Louis as an opportunity to pat the Cardinals on the back. “We’ve got to realize that nobody is going to half-step when they come rolling in here or we go in to visit them,” Matheny said, per Cubs.com. “We know we’re going to get their best effort, we’re going to get their best excitement. We’ve been getting great draws so there’s excitement in the stands whenever, and those are all compliments to the kind of caliber team we are.” He’s not wrong, of course, which probably bothers me even more.
  • Dale Sveum says it’s too early to say whether Pedro Strop will be a leading candidate to close for the Cubs in 2014, but conceded that it’s a possibility (Cubs.com). Because Kevin Gregg was not dealt in July, and may not be dealt in August, however, Sveum does not expect anyone other than Gregg to get the bulk of save chances the rest of the way. It would have been nice to see how Strop handled the role going into the offseason. With the Cubs, Strop has allowed just five earned runs on eight hits and six walks over 17 innings. He’s also struck out 20.
  • Dale Sveum tells Carrie Muskat that he’s disinclined to pinch-hit for Darwin Barney late in scoring situations, largely because Barney gives good at bats and puts the ball in play. I’m quite fine with that. Setting aside the fact that Barney, the Cubs’ best defensive player, would then have to come out of the game, I also question whether a cold bat coming off the bench is really *that* much of an upgrade over Barney at the plate, anyway. Barney certainly got the job done the last couple of days in those situations, though I’m not really going to put too much stock in a sample size of two.
  • The Cubs have struck a deal with the Mesa HoHoKams to continue working at Cubs Spring Training games at their new facility, which opens for Spring play in 2014 (Az Central). The civic group – which will park cars, take tickets, sell programs, etc. – uses the revenue it gets from working with the Cubs to support local youth sports programs, so it’s good to hear that the Cubs are continuing the relationship.
  • Kerry Wood hosted a charity wiffle ball game at Wrigley Field on Saturday, bringing in celebrities and former Cubs. You can see more about it here at CSN.
  • Kris Bryant can’t possibly be long for Boise. He’s riding a 14-game hitting streak, and has his line up to .354/.416/.692.
  • King Jeff

    The hype on Bryant is going to become unbearable if he keeps hitting like this as he climbs the ladder. I can’t wait! Oh, and welcome back, you were sorely missed, fearless leader.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Well, Bryant certainly has allayed any fears that he’s an aluminum bat hitter. Sure, it’s low minors, but he’s obviously hitting the ball on the good part of the bat a lot to have an isoS of 0.34. (HIs BABiP is 0.410, which is obviously cannot last: but 10 of his 20 non-HR are doubles or triples, so it’s not like he’s having a ton of luck blooping singles between fielders.)

      • Hee Seop Chode

        If he were to continue hitting more than 50% of his base hits for extra bases, why isn’t his BABIP sustainable?

        • CubFan Paul

          Because he thinks BABIP is all luck and not adjustments and executing.

          • MichiganGoat

            Paul, Doc doesn’t talk about luck he would discuss statistical norms other math.

            • Cubbie Blues

              You could just replace “luck” with probability

          • DarthHater

            Or because he knows that it has been mathematically proven that any adjustments and executing related to BABIP do not correlate with future performance and hence are statistically indistinguishable from random fluctuations in the data (i.e. luck).

            • CubFan Paul

              Mike Trout.

        • MichiganGoat

          It’s sustainable for Boise because he is so much better than the talent he’s facing (most High A & AA players should be able to do that at Boise) but that is why he needs to move until eventually he reaches a level where a .400 BABIP is unsustainable and hopefully that level is Chicago.

          • Her Seop Chode

            Correction; hopefully a BABIP of .400 in Chicago is sustained for a 10 year period and he rides into the HOF. As long as we’re being hopeful.

      • Jon

        When you a have a talented hitter way too good for his league, a high BABIP doesn’t concern me, at all. He just needs tougher pitching.

  • JB88

    And just imagine if Bryant hadn’t struck out 5 times in his first game in Boise …

    • Jim L

      He can strike out 5x in his first game at every level, if that means putting up a slash line like that.

  • Jay

    Yeah, you want a weak grounder to the right side or a pop fly—Barney’s your man.

    • frank

      Though his BA has been about 40 pts better after the 7th inning this year. Maybe they should just play him late in games.

  • ssckelley

    Given the potential log jam of middle infielders in the Cubs organization, just curious as to what future you all think Barney has with the Cubs?

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    This Stop-as-closer talk is annoying me, the Chicago Cubs do not need a “closer.”

    In my opinion, there are only a few situations in which your team should have a designated “closer” –

    1. There is an extremely overpowering and awesome pitcher on your staff, but he doesn’t have the stamina to be a starting pitcher. Only a few elite guys come to mind: Rivera, Kimbrel, Chapman.

    2. You are a cruddy team who is trying to build trade value in certain player because everyone else in baseball for some reason feels “closers” are hot stuff.

    I feel like the Cubs will not be in either of those situations next year (not trading for Kimbrel, and hopefully not super cruddy). I would much prefer to see the Cubs mix and match in the late innings on who is successful, who is rested, and who the matchup favors. Designating a “closer” when there’s no overwhelming candidate (i.e., we shouldn’t be hearing about how Strop “may” closer next year, it should be “no crap, Strop is closing next year”) leads to lame things such as them eventually being overpaid to throw less innings, the media constantly asking when he’s going to be removed from this imaginary role because he is struggling, or the player being put in unfavorable situations (tired, poor matchup, etc) simply because he’s “the guy.”

    This is my current position on the “closer role” — I have the book CLOSER sitting in a box waiting to be moved onto my new book shelf which I am told may change my mind, but for now this is where I’m at. #downwithclosers

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    This Stop-as-closer talk is annoying me, the Chicago Cubs do not need a “closer.”

    In my opinion, there are only a few situations in which your team should have a designated “closer” –

    1. There is an extremely overpowering and awesome pitcher on your staff, but he doesn’t have the stamina to be a starting pitcher. Only a few elite guys come to mind: Rivera, Kimbrel, Chapman.

    2. You are a cruddy team who is trying to build trade value in certain player because everyone else in baseball for some reason feels “closers” are hot stuff.

    I feel like the Cubs will not be in either of those situations next year (not trading for Kimbrel, and hopefully not super cruddy). I would much prefer to see the Cubs mix and match in the late innings on who is successful, who is rested, and who the matchup favors. Designating a “closer” when there’s no overwhelming candidate (i.e., we shouldn’t be hearing about how Strop “may” closer next year, it should be “no crap, Strop is closing next year”) leads to lame things such as them eventually being overpaid to throw less innings, the media constantly asking when he’s going to be removed from this imaginary role because he is struggling, or the player being put in unfavorable situations (tired, poor matchup, etc) simply because he’s “the guy.”

    This is my current position on the “closer role” — I have the book CLOSER sitting in a box waiting to be moved onto my new book shelf which I am told may change my mind, but for now this is where I’m at. #downwithclosers

    • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

      woops, sorry about that. I thought there were tools in place on the site so doubleposts don’t happen??

      • Cubbie Blues

        I just figured you really meant it since you said it twice.

        • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

          I do! RAawrawrAWRAWRRRR DOWN WITH CLOSERS~!!!1!!1!!

          • Jay

            For some reason, a large percentage of relievers seem to go to pieces if they don’t know their “role” ahead of time. Don’t know why—their job is to get outs, not worry about when the outs happen—but it seems that way.

            • cub2014

              Jay,
              Its the mental preparedness. A starter has 5 days.
              I was a closer my last 2 years in college and knowing
              ahead of time my role is very important. Not everyone
              is a mental machine but some more so than others.
              So it helps some pitchers more than others.

              • FullCountTommy

                Ding ding ding!! Completely agree here. Pitchers, and especially relievers are different animals and a reliever knowing his role is very important to them. I was also a pitcher in college, and did everything from start to long relief to setup to close and I was definitely most comfortable when I could prepare for a certain role. I don’t want to call relievers mental midgets or anything, but to put it nicely, they’re a bit strange

                • cub2014

                  Tommy you understand being a reliever is
                  different. OK I will just say it! A lot of goofing
                  around for the 1st 6 innings or so then you
                  have to start getting focused.

                  • FullCountTommy

                    Exactly, some relievers don’t even bother stretching until like the 5th. Up until then it’s bullpen games, seeds (or dip), candy, and just general tomfoolery

              • John S.

                Hi Jay, never having played beyond little league and an armchair fan, I’ve always been intrigued by the importance placed on a reliever “knowing his role” within the bullpen. Assuming a pitcher knows he’s a relief pitcher, isn’t his job to simply get the hitter out regardless of inning, situation, etc? is the key that the typical closer comes in at the start of the ninth and generally not in the middle of an inning with a men on base sort of situation? Appreciate your insight.

    • ssckelley

      I get what you are saying but the Cubs dropped games earlier in the season because they were trotting out crap closers to finish games. That guy you designate as the “closer” needs to be able to come into a pressure situation (9th innings almost always are) and have the stuff to shut the other team down. This is why some of us want to see Strop in those situations this season, let’s see if he can handle the job. About the only reason I can think of on why you would keep sending Gregg out there is because the Cubs still think they can trade him before August 31st.

      • TWC

        The Cubs lost games earlier this season because for the first two months they had an abysmal team wOBA. They weren’t scoring runs. Hard to win games if your opponents score more than you do, regardless of the quality of your bullpen.

        • bbmoney

          Completely agree. It’s easy to point to the bullpen because the Cubs did blow a number of late leads. But if their offense had been better, giving them more margin for error, than 1 run on many cases, they would have won more games.

          The bullpen is just the easiest thing to point to. Having a better bullpen would be great, but it’s not the magic elixir either.

          • ssckelley

            You (and TWC) are taking my comment (in response to a guy about closing) and turning it into a completely different debate. With a decent closer, even with a crappy offense, the Cubs could have been a .500 team.

        • ssckelley

          Oh I remember how bad the Cubs were hitting, but I also remember how well the starting pitchers were keeping the Cubs in the games. Even as bad as the Cubs hit they would have been playing around .500 if they had a decent bullpen. They broke camp with guys like Bowden, Camp, Fujikawa, Rondon, Russell, and Marmol in their bullpen. Go back and look at some of the box scores in April where they had the lead late and the bullpen gave up the game. It will make you sick.

          April:
          April 6th – Up 5-1 heading into the bottom of the 8th at Atlanta.
          April 14th – Cubs battled back to take a 7-6 into the top of the 9th against the Giants, Camp gave up a solo home run with 2 outs in the 9th.
          April 22nd – In extra innings the Cubs grabbed a 4-2 lead in the 13th inning, Bowden gave up 3 in the bottom half at Cincinnati.

          Cubs record was 10-16 in April, could have easily been 13-13 with a decent bullpen. To your point had the Cubs hit worth a crap they could have won a few more of those games where the pitching was good but the Cubs did not hit.

          • hansman1982

            I bet, through the end of April, I could easily find 3 games where, had the Cubs offense been doing anything other than scoring runs at historically low levels, would have won the game.

            • ssckelley

              Yep, in fact against this same Latos the Cubs managed nothing and lost 1-0, and there are a few more close games like that. The Cubs did only average 3.58 runs per game in April.

              Again, I am not denying the Cubs offense sucked in the beginning of the season. I only argue that the Cubs could have been a .500 team with a decent bullpen, this argument could work with a decent offense. Put both together (decent offense and bullpen) and the Cubs could have ended April near the top of the division.

  • Cubbies4Life

    I used to think despising the Cardinals was simply the Cubs fan’s “duty.” But after this past series in St. Louis, I now truly DO despise the Cardinals! Whiny babies….

  • Eric

    How long does Bryant stay at 3rd? That’s the more pertinent question as he climbs the ladder.

    • ssckelley

      Until he proves that he cannot handle the position. Bryant has only made 2 errors in his time at Boise (.955 fielding percentage). It would be ideal for Bryant to end up being a third baseman.

  • Jon

    So are the Cubs going to man up and get Jose Abreu, or lose out to the Dodgers again?

    • gocatsgo2003

      Why would it make any sense to spend a ton of money to sign a guy who is most likely a career 1B/DH (6-2 260 without much speed, as far as in can tell) when we have Rizzo at 1B?

      • DarthHater
      • Jon

        Because acquiring REALLY good players is a good thing ?

        • TheDondino

          I don’t disagree with the signing really good players part, but for Abreu, I’d agree it probably doesn’t make sense for us. Abreu, it would appear, will be getting a big time major league contract and will probably be on a Puig-type timeline, little to no minor league time. That doesn’t fit with our current situation. If he could play any other position, then all bets are off, but he seems locked into a 1B/DH role and we don’t have room for a major league ready, big contract 1B at this time with Rizzo there.

          • Jon

            We have a chance to get a guy who’s put up video game like numbers, and we are hemming and hawing it because he potentially could be blocked by our current 2.8 win first baseman. We, as Cub fans need to increase our expectations.

            • Jon

              Of course, I was just debating with others hear about a week and a half ago who though Puig was still a flash in the pan, so maybe I need to consider the audience.

              • TheDondino

                No, you have a point. Abreu could be a Cabrera level player, or better. Puig and Cespedes have proven that we can rely on Cuban numbers to an extent where before they were viewed very skeptically. But I just feel we won’t be in on him very hard because Rizzo, while not performing as well as possible now, is still young and viewed with a very high ceiling. I don’t think Rizzo now is what we will be seeing in another year or two. By 2015, I think Anthony will be a top 5 1B in this league and under a very team friendly deal, all while playing a good 1B defensively (I have no idea how Abreu is as a fielder) and hitting from the left side of the plate. Our system is nearly devoid of lefty hitters so that is a consideration as well, though a small one (Abreu is a righty).

        • gocatsgo2003

          But doesn’t make much sense for us based on our current roster, unless the FO was confident that they could put either Abreu or Rizzo in left field and hope for the best.

          • jaslhill

            Or trading Rizzo, his “upside” and very team-friendly contract.

          • ssckelley

            Why does it not make any sense? I look at the Cubs roster and I do not see anybody that could be considered “best hitter in the world”. Us Cub fans have got to stop over valuing the players on the current roster. This is like saying the Cubs don’t need Cabrera because they drafted Bryant or “heck no we don’t want Mike Trout we have Junior Lake!”. When the opportunity presents itself to acquire elite talent the FO would be stupid to not pursue it.

    • DarthHater

      If success in signing free agents is due to manning up, then I wonder if it would be legal for Theo, Jed, and Ricketts to take a few massive testosterone injections?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Getting its own post.

  • Rebuilding

    I’ll say it again. Bryant is underrated by a lot of our fan base. Which is strange for a #2 pick. But talking to friends who are of the more casual Cub fan variety you hear Baez, Almora and Soler’s names, but not Bryant. I think he’s our top prospect and possibly Top 5 overall and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him even earlier than September next year. He’s going to be a monster.

    Strop has plain nasty stuff and enough wildness to follow in the tradition of heartburn inducing Cubs closers

    • Cubbie Blues

      So, you are saying Strop = LaTroy Hawkins?

      • Rebuilding

        I would never say such a thing about anyone ;) Gotta give it to Hawkins though, he’s had a long career and cashed a lot of checks

      • Headscratchin

        Or maybe Strop= Mitch Williams?? Who caused more angst For Cub fans late in games- Williams or Marmol?? They have to be two of the more frustrating players in the history of the Cubs.

        • Noah

          Mitch Williams was one of the most overrated closers in history. He didn’t strike out a ton of hitters for a reliever, as he only had 2 seasons where he had a K rate above 9K/9 IP. This season is the first since Marmol was converted to a reliever than he stuck out less 11 per 9 innnings. And Williams’ control issues made Marmol’s look like only a mild concern in most seasons.

          So while Cubs fans may think he Marmol created a similar amount of angst as Williams, Williams never had the type of peak that Marmol did from 2007-2008 and 2010.

    • Noah

      I’d say a lot of casual fans don’t hear about prospects until the chatter starts up about them. Bryant is number 2 in the system for me, and I don’t think will jump from the 13-25 or so ranking we’ve seen based upon a great (but expected) start at Boise. If he does this at High A and Double A next year? Well, that’s a different story.

      Baez gets the nod as number 1 for me due to positional rarity, and the fact that I have concerns that Bryant will have some swing and miss issues in the higher levels as well. Hopefully a year from now we’re looking at both of them being in the discussion for Top 5 prospects in baseball. If Baez continues that way he has over the last couple of weeks through the end of the season, he could be in the Top 5 at the end of this year.

      • ssckelley

        I don’t get the under rated or lack of chatter when it concerns Bryant. Twitter is all over Bryant and Baez any time either of them have a good game. Baez may be getting a little more love because he is doing it at a much higher level. I think Soler is the one most have cooled off on since he has been injured. But earlier this year he was playing through that injury and doing very well, I am still as high on Soler as I am on Bryant and Baez. Almora is 4th in my mind because he has struggled to stay healthy and some of us “casual fans” tend to pay more attention to the sluggers.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    So, by Matheny’s logic, might I infer that the Astros are the best team in baseball? It seems like everybody gets up to beat them! Similarly, Boston and Atlanta obviously are not very good: teams don’t take them seriously.

    • hansman1982

      Exactly, and it’s not about teams being good or bad, it’s their heart, TWTW, sCRAP and other intangibles.

      (In reality, it’s about the Cardinals being a bunch of smarmy douchenozzles)

  • Rebuilding

    One nice thing about our Big 4 is that none have shown any flameout potential yet. As weve all discussed before, its prudent to think 2 of the 4 will either stall or just become below average MLBers. Baez’s strikeouts have been the one red flag, and while still a worry he’s crushing AA. Bryant has been great against lesser competition, but there hasn’t really been a problem after Game 1. Almora was having a very good season and seems to have a floor of GG CF with a 750 OPS. Soler might be the only one with some questions right now and that is largely due to injury (although he had really cooled off after a great start)

    • Cubbie Blues

      Soler had also been playing with a stress fracture leg possibly since the beginning of the year.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Let’s just hope Baez can keep focusing in on his K-rate without sacrificing his power. While all obligatory small sample size alerts apply, I think it’s kind of fun to compare K-rates across the various splits that are typically available (Baseball Reference, for example, provides readily available 90-, 28-, and 7-day splits).

      For those timeframes, Baez’s K-rate is 23.1%, 30.4%, and 13.6% — the 28-day split covers pretty much his entire time at AA thusfar. At worst, it shows that he is taking to coaching, which was a bit of a concern with Javy due to his attitude early on. At best, it shows that he’s able to quickly adapt to new levels of competition to utilize his natural gifts at the plate.

    • ssckelley

      It is funny, while I consider Baez the top Cubs prospect I also think he has the highest potential to flame out due to that high strike out rate. The odds are overwhelming against him ever becoming a regular MLB player with a strikeout rate that high.

      • gocatsgo2003

        … and yet he’s already showing signs of adjusting to AA competition at 20 years old. By the time he was promoted out of A+ ball, his strikeout rate was 23.1%, which isn’t great but certainly isn’t particularly alarming either (for reference, Rizzo’s K-rate at A+ in his 20-year old season was 23.7% and 21.4% at AA that same year).

        • ssckelley

          Which is why he is still considered the top prospect in my books. I think he has the biggest potential of the top 4 to flame out, not saying he will. Heck I know the odds are against it but I hold out hope that none of them will flame out.

  • MichaelD

    The other thing about pinch hitting for Barney is that the Cubs do not have a long bench. Considering that they have to pinch hit for pitchers, the only way I could see this is if they had a game where they faced a lefty, so that Schierholtz, Valbuena and Navarro (the usual pinch hitter) are all available against right handed relievers. But you might also want to pinch hit with them for the starting RF and 3B in those situations too.

  • Caleb

    Dale said Barney is “the one guy… Who comes in and does baseball player-type things.” Haha

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