It is a travel day for me, as I am headed to Chicago for the Cubs Convention, which kicks off tomorrow. More on that later today. You should see normal posting today, though the obligatory travel caveat stands: there will be a six-hour window of time when I will be less able to respond to comments/Tweets/etc. Be good.
- There’s a good read at Cubs.com on new catcher Miguel Montero’s eagerness to be brought into the Cubs fold, and it sounds like he’s really going to get a kick out of the Convention. The article gets particularly interesting when discussing the relationship between Montero and former Diamondbacks pitcher, Edwin Jackson, with whom Montero worked for a little while. Montero sees the talent and potential in the arm, but notes the inconsistency (which we’ve seen), and also Jackson’s tendency to “space out”, in Montero’s words (see the whole bit for context). It’s hard to know exactly what Montero means by that – most folks associate “space out” with a strongly negative connotation, but I’m hesitant to ascribe that to Montero until we know a little better how he communicates – but Montero seems to be alluding to the need to keep Jackson focused, and putting him in the best position to succeed.
- That immediately makes me think about Dale Sveum’s vague comments in 2013 on Jackson lacking “conviction” with his pitches early in the game. I’m still not quite sure what these kinds of comments mean, but we do know that Jackson’s results the last two years have not matched the talent in the arm. Maybe Montero can help bring it out of Jackson, assuming he’s still around when the season starts. (Jackson’s stats with the Diamondbacks, by the way, weren’t great.) Expecting a big contribution from Jackson in 2015 would be a mistake, but there will certainly be enough change around him that it’s possible something clicks. The money is spent either way, and there don’t seem to be many takers at this point, so, as we’ve discussed, we might as well hope for some kind of contribution.
- In case you were wondering, yes, all seven arbitration-eligible Cubs have filed for arbitration. Completely perfunctory. The next step is the exchange of salary requests, which comes tomorrow. My guess is that we get word of the Cubs agreeing to a deal with many of the players before that happens.
- Patrick Mooney offers yet another enjoyable (and balanced) read on The Plan and the run-up to the Convention.
- Mark Gonzales on new Cubs hitting coach John Mallee, who will be, and has been, working with the Cubs’ young hitters.
- The Cubs Caravan is making stops this week, doing good things (Cubs.com). I like the quote from Joe Maddon about hearing that the excitement of the Cubs Convention ranks right up there with the World Series and All-Star Game. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it should be especially buzzy this year.
- A fantastic read from The Hardball Times on the MLB TV blackout issue, with a really solid explanation of why the large team blackout regions exist, and why they’re very difficult to just throw away. The most realistic solution, from the outside, looks to be simply reducing the size of the blackout regions (for example: stop blacking out folks in freaking Iowa from six different teams, none of which actually play in Iowa.
- Mike Petriello looks at a few notable pitch-framing data points from the past few years. Did changing from quality pitch-framing catchers to poor pitch-framing catchers (and vice versa) have a noticeable effect on the strike count for the pitchers who utilized both catchers from year to year? As you’d expect, the answer is yes. Of course, determining how the increased or decreased strikes impacted the pitchers’ overall performance is more difficult (though it has always stood to reason that more strikes = better pitching performance).
- The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have released their schedule for 2015, so make your travel plans to see the Cubs’ new High-A affiliate.
- A graphical look at where every MLB team stands in terms of team age and contention window. The Cubs look good.
- Anthony Rizzo takes first base on the All-Underrated Team. He’s more “rated” than he was at this time last year, but the baseball world still doesn’t seem to fully appreciate just how crazy good he was last year.