Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jon lester cubsThe Little Girl is in a theater camp this Summer, which is awesome, and very up her alley. I’ll be taking her this morning and then hurrying back in time for Day Three of the Draft, which starts at 11am CT today. Luke wrote about Day Two earlier this morning, if you missed it.

Speaking of the draft, if you’re around this evening, Luke and I are tentatively planning on a post-draft live stream at 7pm CT tonight. Be here or be square. Something like that.

  • I keep retyping this sentence because I’m not sure if I’m troubled or comforted by the discussion of Jon Lester’s last two ugly starts (9.1 IP, 18(!) hits, 11 ER, 2 HR, 9 K, 3 BB). You can see Lester’s, David Ross’s, and Joe Maddon’s comments here, here, and here, and the short version is that nobody thinks anything is actually wrong. Maddon and Ross point out that the velocity and stuff look normal, and Lester says he feels as good as he has all year. Does that mean we really are seeing the statistical outlier in a huge population of pitchers in baseball – some of them will have a disproportionately large number of balls fall for hits, despite their performance – or is it troubling that Lester feels good and the results are terrible?

  • I think I’m not worried that this is going to be Edwin Jackson part two – good peripherals, continued outings of simply getting hit – because Lester’s track record is much more firmly established, and he was always a better pitcher. I also think it was always error to expect Lester to be the guy he was last year, when everything went right. Instead, something between last year and the year before seems most reasonable, and, by the peripherals, that’s pretty much who he’s been. The BABIP (.344) is way over his career average (.303) and his left-on-base percentage (72.2%) is also below his career mark (74.7%). He’s got an elevated HR/FB rate (15.0%), and that’s likely to come down a bit. The strikeout rate and walk rate are fine. I could point to things that provide comfort. But then I look at the batted ball rates – line drive rate up at a tenuous 24.7%, hard hit rate at a dicey 29.9% – and I get a little more nervous. But then I remember that it’s been only 12 starts total this year. Ok. I’ve convinced myself. Official status: not worried.
  • Speaking of Jackson, he picked up Lester and saved the bullpen last night, working 3.2 quality innings, allowing one earned run on four hits, no walks, and striking out five. Jackson’s been used sparingly and in low-leverage moments for the most part, but his results this year out of the pen are pretty great: 2.79 ERA, 2.69 FIP. Are they legit? Eh. He hasn’t given up a homer yet, and that’s likely to change. His groundball rate is way up, which could be flukey. His strikeout rate is not impressive, but his walk rate is solid. BABIP’s normal. Left-on-base rate could actually regress positively a bit. If you didn’t actually watch and follow Jackson regularly, you might look at his numbers this year and think, “Oh, hey, he’s taking really well to the bullpen. Maybe he’s got something left after all.” I’m not going to make that argument myself, but if the Cubs could find a taker for just a couple million of his remaining salary based on his performance thus far, I think they should probably avail themselves of that opportunity. With Rafael Soriano coming in a few weeks, with Neil Ramirez rehabbing, with Jacob Turner on a rehab assignment, and with Yoervis Medina working at AAA, the Cubs may have a bullpen glut soon.
  • Joe Maddon kept it coy when discussing Kyle Schwarber as a DH with the big league team this year, indicating that it was discussed, but that he was happy with the roster he has right now (CSN).

  • The Cubs are (still) in the middle of a brutal stretch of games against quality opponents, but Matt Trueblood writes that there’s considerable light coming at the end of the tunnel in mid-July. Of course, by baseball standards, that’s still a long ways away, and you just hope the Cubs can sufficiently tread water between now and then (if not better, since we’re hoping things, I guess) to be in a position to make an impact addition or two and make a move in the standings.
  • Nice promotion:

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