Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

joe maddon speaksBaseball is back! Yesterday felt long, didn’t it?

  • Is Joe Maddon going to win the NL’s Manager of the Year award? He certainly fits the profile (whether it’s actually the best measure of a manager or not): plenty of attention, leading a team with lower expectations coming into the year, and that team is in contention. Matt Snyder has a write-up on the possibilities, and that’s pretty much where he lands, too. For my part, I’m not a fan of the award, because I think too much of the value a manager provides is opaque to the people who vote on the award (which could be on a bad team), and thus the decision is made on the “profile” I mentioned above. But, if there’s going to be an award, and if Joe Maddon wins it, I’ll give the Internet equivalent of a cheer. It’s not like Maddon hasn’t been excellent for the Cubs this year in all the ways we’d hoped he would be. The way he manages a diverse, young, and often churning roster is incredible. His in-game decisions are almost always spot-on. He’s done just about as well as possible with an erratic bullpen and no bench. He’s gotten his players to really buy in to what he’s doing. And there have been no controversies when there easily could have been (seriously: think about how smoothly the Starlin Castro transition has gone down, and then try to imagine that happening in years past – sure, the Cubs winning helps a great deal, but I’m convinced Maddon is a huge part of the explanation).

  • Jonah Keri’s latest devotes a healthy chunk of words to the Chicago Cubs, and it’s always nice to see people saying nice things about the Cubs. Kyle Schwarber comes in for lots of love, in particular, but there is this part to note: “Regression will come at some point, especially to Schwarber’s sky-high .431 BABIP. And Schwarber’s defense has been ugly behind the plate: Although it’s a small sample, he’s already watched seven wild pitches scoot by, allowed 11 steals in 14 tries, cost his team two runs according topitch-framing stats, and produced lousy overall results by advanced metrics.”
  • In the end, as Keri goes on to mention, if Schwarber keeps hitting anything close to what he’s been doing, he’s going to be a huge asset for the Cubs wherever he plays. I’d add only that Schwarber’s performance behind the plate so far has already been better than most outside observers expected, and he’s doing this so far ahead of schedule (the catching in the big leagues part) that it’s almost crazy to think about. A little over a year ago, this was a guy who was catching in college in such a way that virtually everyone who saw him said that he’d never catch professionally. Now he’s doing it – poorly but passably – in the big leagues. It truly boggles my mind that he was able to do it. If he’s going to do it passably for a couple days a week beyond this year, though, he needs more instruction, more practice, and more time. Although the performance has sometimes made you cringe and the numbers back that up, I have seen nothing this year that tells me Schwarber absolutely cannot be a part-time catcher in the big leagues next year and onward. I think he can be. And I think the only thing that will preclude it is if the Cubs make a decision that it’s not in everyone’s best interests long-term for him to do that. Barring that, I get giddy thinking about the rotational possibilities behind the plate and in the outfield heading into next year.

  • Bradley Woodrum takes a fantastic look at the new BIS batted ball data (the Hard%, Medium%, and Soft% contact rates) in relation to how well those stats correlate with offensive player performance. If you care to use these metrics at all, you’re going to want to read Woodrum’s piece. Short conclusions of note? The numbers are best used in VERY large sample sizes (i.e., more than one year), and do not offer much in the way of BABIP explanations or excuses. There’s so much more in the piece. Read it.
  • A Baseball Prospectus article on Starlin Castro that is probably worth your time.
  • Thanks to Burdon in the comments for passing on this incredible Royals fan video welcoming Johnny Cueto. Burdon was sharing it with the thought that it was awful, but it’s actually so intentionally awful that it’s awesome:

  • Speaking of Cueto, one of the best shots you’ll see:

And the Cubs drop the sick burn:

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