Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

hector rondon cubsThe Taylor Family is headed back home today after a nice long weekend in Austin. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas – they’ve got these flying cockroaches that you wouldn’t believe – including the Texas-shaped waffles in our hotel. The kids loved those.

We’ll be doing various flights today, which will limit my responsiveness. I expect that there could be a roster move before today’s game – see the “if you missed it” below – and I’ll do my best to be on top of it when time and wireless signals permit.

  • My position on having a named closer has always been a bit muddy. On the one hand, I really don’t think it can be argued at this point that the 9th inning – for whatever reason – is just different for some pitchers. I know some modern thinkers hate the idea of intangibles, but we can’t ignore that the mental part of the game is such a huge unknown and a huge influencer on player performance. So, some players are better/ill-suited for the 9th inning, regardless of what their numbers in other innings indicate. On the other hand, I really hate having locked-in reliever roles, because it limits a manager from – for example – using his “closer” against the heart of the order with a runner or two on in the eighth inning.

  • So far, I’ve been pleased with Joe Maddon’s flexible bullpen usage, and I thought yesterday was a perfect example. After several weeks of Hector Rondon looking a bit shaky, especially with runners on base, Maddon immediately pulled Rondon in favor of Pedro Strop after the former walked the first batter he faced. Strop completed the game, picked the save, and set off a storm of questions about whether Rondon was still the “closer” or whether Strop had supplanted him. In typical Maddon fashion, he wasn’t going to throw Rondon out, and he wasn’t entirely clear on who will be in what role going forward – indeed, there may be some flexibility. You can see Maddon’s comments here at, here at CSN, and here at ESPN, among other places, but the gist is: there’s no official change, and he was just trying to win the game. However, it’s possible we’ll see Rondon pitching in other situations going forward. So … take that as you will. To me, there’s not a clear, set closer right now, and I’m fine with that. But, at the same time, I kind of hope someone emerges – be it Rondon or Strop or someone else – to be, at least, the kinda-sorta-most-of-the-time closer. Like I said, there’s just something different about that inning, and playing matchups with all relievers in the 9th may not always be the best approach.
  • Iowa Cubs catcher/first baseman Taylor Davis is now learning the outfield. That could mean that there will soon be fewer catcher starts to go around (Kyle Schwarber figures to be due a promotion to AAA soon enough; plus there’s also Rafael Lopez and Taylor Teagarden), and it could also mean the Cubs like what they’ve seen from Davis’ bat enough that they want to see if he can be a bench/utility option at the big league level at some point. He’s currently hitting .295/.356/.474 at Iowa – pretty much never striking out – after a similar performance last year at AA.
  • Addison Russell felt normal playing shortstop again after being at second base for most of this year (Tribune).
  • Jeremy Null K/BB update at Low-A South Bend: 44/3.
  • If you missed it last night, Matt Szczur has been optioned back to AAA Iowa, and, if you’re asking for my guess, I’m thinking we’ll see Chris Denorfia back today.

  • And if you missed it this morning, Javier Baez – who could be the next guy up – hit another mammoth homer, even with his softened swing.

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