Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

joe maddon cubsI’ll be heading to Chicago later today, not in time for today’s game against the Giants, but I will be in the Wrigleyville area most of tomorrow, soaking in the – I’m expecting – energized atmosphere. I’ll keep folks posted on where I am before the game if they want to hang out, and then I’ll be in the right field bleachers for the game, itself. Hope to catch up with some of you.

  • Last night’s win may have been, in part, preserved by a gutsy, atypical, and probably brilliant move by Joe Maddon to pull starter Jason Hammel after he’d walked the first two batters in the fifth inning. Hammel was at just 76 pitches, had given up a double and a homer the inning before (and the homer came on what looked to me like a good pitch), and would normally be given a chance to work out of that trouble. But the game had a playoff feel to it – and obvious, significant playoff implications – and Maddon was quick with the hook, going to Justin Grimm, who has become Maddon’s most trusted “get the starter out of a jam” guy in the 5th/6th/7th innings. Grimm got it done this time, and Maddon’s move is lauded by statistically-inclined types who understood that the leverage in that moment was enormous.
  • But how did Hammel feel about the move? Well, he spoke with Maddon after the game (ESPN,, because he didn’t love it. And that’s not so hard to understand, right? The guy had, after all, given up only a couple runs, and didn’t get a chance to unspool the walks he’d allowed. Hammel’s been so good with the Cubs, so he’s earned the right to believe in himself in that situation. The thing is, the Cubs have an eight-man bullpen, and it’s there for a reason – sometimes, you tap them early out of an abundance of caution, even if it’s possible that Hammel would have been able to get out of that and cruise another inning or two.

  • As for Maddon, you can see more of his thoughts on the decision here at CSN. He felt like it was a huge moment, and he didn’t want to see the Giants get back in it. Maddon’s gut was right, in terms of the hugeness of the moment – check out the win expectancy charge (see the big dip for the Cubs after the second walk) and see the spiking of the leverage index:

Source: FanGraphs

  • Mike Leake’s got a hamstring issue, so he’s been scratched tonight for the Giants, a relative break for the Cubs, who struggled against him when they faced him in Cincinnati. Ryan Vogelsong, who’s had a rough year, fills in for the Giants, and hopefully the Cubs can take advantage of the situation.Kyle Schwarber, who homered again last night, comes in for praise from his manager and his teammates (
  • Tommy La Stella (oblique) has been playing just about every other day at Tennessee, and the plan is now for him to play today and tomorrow and then be re-evaluated (ESPN). Presumably, if that goes well, he could be back with the Cubs next week.

  • As for Miguel Montero, I’d say there’s a fair bet he’s back either Saturday or Sunday. With Jake Arrieta starting on Sunday, that’s probably the day you’d really want to target to have him back, assuming he’s feeling good.
  • Kris Bryant and the grind of the season (CSN).

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