Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

dexter fowler featureI wish I was more into the NFL Draft, because it sure seems like folks got excited about it yesterday.

  • Cubs hitting coach John Mallee came into the organization with a philosophy that, at its broadest level, is fairly easy to explain, but harder to implement: focus on swinging only at pitches right in your wheelhouse. Then, if you get to two strikes and it hasn’t happened for you, just try to put the ball in play. I love it for so many reasons, and I love even more how much this Cubs team seems to be taking to it. Because pitchers have seemed to be cautious with the power in the Cubs’ lineup, that has meant a great deal of deep counts and walks – the latter of which is not necessarily something you seek out, but it’s the byproduct of the approach.
  • The Cubs have the 7th best walk rate in baseball so far, as well as the 7th best on base percentage. They lead the National League by seeing nearly four pitches every plate appearance. Luck is the residue of design.

  • More from Mallee here – so far, so good.
  • Mark Gonzales writes about Kyle Schwarber’s defense behind the plate at Tennessee this year – outside of one very bad game (three steals, two passed balls), Schwarber believes it’s been going well. We all know the stakes: a Schwarber who can catch, even just a couple days a week, is dramatically more valuable than a Schwarber who exclusively plays the outfield. Of course, if he keeps raking like he is, you care a little less about the position.
  • Gonzales’s piece also includes injury updates on Albert Almora, Jr. – he’ll be given at least the full seven days to recover from his whiplash/concussion-like symptoms – and Pierce Johnson – still not close to joining an affiliate as he recovers from a Spring Training lat injury.
  • Through 7.2 innings at AAA Iowa, James Russell has been as good as it gets: no runs, just 3 hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. Although I’m not sure he can be a full-inning guy for the Cubs, he probably is a guy who can help in the bullpen. The trick is going to be figuring out how to incorporate him – while Zac Rosscup has acquitted himself as a full-inning guy, Phil Coke is best used as a situational lefty. With seven relievers in the pen, can the Cubs realistically have three lefties, two of which are best used as LOOGYs? Moreover, neither Russell nor Coke can be freely optioned back and forth between Iowa and the big leagues.

  • If you missed it, Javier Baez is back at AAA Iowa, and Luke wrote about his first game back earlier today.
  • David Cameron looks at the disparity between run-scoring this April versus last year (scoring is up) despite the fact that wOBA is flat. Curious.
  • Patrick Mooney on the Cubs’ big investment in Jon Lester – no, it’s not another article about Lester’s so-so (small sample) start to the season. It’s more about his unique durability, and pitcher injuries throughout the game.
  • Rian Watt takes a fun look at the best individual moments (by WPA) of the first month of the season.
  • Chris Coghlan talks about being a guy who’s been in every kind of role, and how that fits in with this Cubs team (CSN).

  • After the first month of the season, Jesse Rogers is recalibrating his expectations for this Cubs team.
  • I was on the Second Winded podcast to talk about the Cubs.
  • I don’t know what to make of Michael’s great piece last evening about Travis Wood’s hot start in 2015. I’d planned to write about that, myself, but what I didn’t remember – until Michael wrote about it – was that Wood was equally hot to start the 2014 season. That doesn’t mean he’s suddenly going to fall off the map this year, of course. And maybe I’m lying to myself to match what I want to see, but it sure seems like Wood has been hitting his spots much more consistently this year than last year, even early on. One big difference between 2014 and 2015 has been Wood’s pitch usage – in 2014, he was relying heavily on his cutter in April, whereas this year it’s mostly been his four-seamer and two-seamer. Of course, by the end of 2014, his usage looked more like what he did this April 2015. So there may not be much meaning here. We’ll have to see how the usage proceeds.
  • From the Pelicans:

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