Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kyle schwarber cubs catcherAfter today’s series concluder with the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs will travel home to begin a huge four-game set against the San Francisco Giants, who currently trail the Cubs by just a half game for the second Wild Card spot in the NL.

Thanks(?) to Monday night’s rainout in Pittsburgh, the Cubs were able to rejigger their rotation for the Giants series, presumably in a way that optimizes the match-ups. To that end, the Cubs elected to keep Jason Hammel and Jack Arrieta in their normal spots, bookending the series, but decided to flip-flop Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in the middle. That moves Lester up a day (he threw only 31 pitches on Monday), and gives Hendricks an extra day of rest.

Presently, the Giants have announced only righty Chris Heston to start on Thursday. If you were wondering, then, why Jon Lester isn’t going in that game, could it be because Hammel starting ensures that Kyle Schwarber could be in the lineup against a righty?

The only lefty in the Giants’ rotation, though, is Madison Bumgarner, and, since he pitches today, he’s the one guy the Cubs will miss (huzzah!). So, maybe the Schwarber effect is minimal, other than lining up the starters such that Schwarber wouldn’t have to be somewhere besides catcher for two days in a row, had Lester started on his normal day (Saturday) and Jake Arrieta followed the next day.

In any case, if the Giants keep the rotation in order, they’d go with Heston on Thursday, Mike Leake on Friday, Matt Cain on Saturday, and Jake Peavy on Sunday. Leake has pronounced L/R splits for his career, so you would have thought, if Schwarber’s ability to catch a given game was dictating the schedule, that’s not the day Lester would have pitched.

I might be overthinking this stuff anyway, given that it’ll be four Giants righties for the series regardless, and Miguel Montero should be back in the mix at some point anyway to catch a game or two. Schwarber being able to be behind the plate on a given day, then, may not have been much of an input anyway. It could just be that this rotational order was best for the pitchers, and for the many series to come after the Giants.

Speaking of Montero, Joe Maddon says that he’s got a plan for how to accommodate all of he, Kyle Schwarber, David Ross, Chris Coghlan, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, and anyone else who could be impacted by the chain effect of Montero’s return ( It sounds like Maddon has something very specific in mind: “I’ve been conducting conversations with our guys in the front office to see what they have in mind. I know what I think, and I’ve told them that …. Once Miggy comes back, I want it to be in place so there’s no gray area and everybody knows what’s going on. But those conversations are actively going on.”

So, Maddon didn’t get into the particulars just yet, but I wonder if we’re going to see a rotation that puts Montero behind the plate for about 2.5 games per 5, Schwarber behind the plate for about 1.5, and moves Chris Coghlan around the accommodate Schwarber’s bat in left field when Montero is starting. If that happens, you could see Coghlan sometimes in right field (spelling Jorge Soler), sometimes at second base (spelling either Addison Russell or Starlin Castro), and sometimes at third base (spelling Kris Bryant).

However it plays out, I’m pretty excited to see Maddon do this thing with more pieces available to him. Hopefully Tommy La Stella comes back soon, as well, and Javier Baez eventually factors into the equation, too. So many match-up opportunities, so many chances to get guys rest for the stretch run ….

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