Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

mlb logo featureThe Cubs took a tough loss against the Reds – who now stand at 55-77, last in the NL Central – the day before an off-day, which is just the worst. It’s hard to be too upset at Kris Bryant, because without his home run an inning earlier, there’d be no tie game to blow. Oh well. Life goes on, and so does the news around the league …

  • Nationals manager Matt Williams is the latest prisoner of the ‘bullpen role’ dilemma, that forces managers to use imperfect matchups during the highest of leverage situations. The prevailing (old school, let’s call it) wisdom is that if a particular pitcher has a defined role (closer, for example), he should only be used in particular situations (such as saves). In this case, for example, Williams recalled that a manager isn’t supposed to use his closer in a tie game on the road. Well, on Tuesday night, the Nationals were tied with the Cardinals in the 9th inning at Busch Stadium. With men on first and second base, Williams insisted on sticking with Casey Janssen (4.91 ERA, 4.75 FIP) instead of calling for his closer, Jonathon Papelbon (1.78 ERA, 3.07 FIP) who is clearly superior and hadn’t pitched since Sunday, when he threw 8 pitches. The result? Brandon Moss hit a walk-off three run home run with Papelbon watching from the pen. For what it’s worth, GM Mike Rizzo supported Williams, but what else is he going to say? I am thankful that Joe Maddon isn’t as tied to such protocol and is open to many different strategies.
  • It would appear that Miami is primed to make “sweeping organizational changes” at all levels, after the conclusion of the 2015 season. Two vice presidents have already been reassigned from their current positions and it is possible that current manager, former GM Dan Jennings will return to his post as GM at the end of the year ( His return to the front office would close yet another potential high-level executive opening, but would leave the Seattle Mariners GM job open – which was a previously rumored potential landing spot for Jennings – otherwise.

  • Speaking of executive stuff:

  • When rosters expand to include 15 more players and you have a 100% chance of making the playoffs, you can afford to rest some of your young starting pitchers down the stretch, like the Cardinals are currently doing. The latest had Cardinals pitcher Tyler Lyons replacing Michael Wacha, in an effort to ease Wacha’s workload into the playoffs. Wacha’s 157.1 IP in 2015 represent a 50 inning increase over 2014, and are by far the most in his young career. There are no indications that Wacha is hurt at all, so this really is just a convenient, and frankly, well-earned perk of being on a historic win pace.
  • Hey, remember when the Cardinals got caught hacking the Houston Astros and had to fire their last scouting director? (There, do you feel better after reading the last paragraph?) Well, they have officially hired his replacement on Tuesday, in the form of Randy Flores. Flores, who played five of his eight MLB seasons in St. Louis, seems like a forward-thinking executive who has even founded his own baseball/softball video capturing technology, which allows players to critique their own game. Good for him.

  • The Dodgers are expected to bring up top prospect Corey Seager, one of the best in the game.
  • Channeling his inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriquez, Elvis Andrus pulled off the rarest and coolest plays in all of baseball: The Straight Steal of Home. It’s such a difficult (and a little bit dangerous) play to execute, but he does so perfectly. Does a better pitch get him? Maybe. But that’s what makes it all the more rare.
  • Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Rios and reliever Kelvin Herrera are infected with the chicken pox. It’s a highly contagious disease, and is more dangerous the older you get. Both players will be out of action (and quarantined) for two weeks.
  • FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan comes in with a fascinating read on Ryan Goins, who is the beneficiary of a fantastic late stage, second half breakout due to a fundamental shift in his stance and swing. He is but the latest reminder that some players break out later and/or are capable of significant improvement if the coaching, buy-in and execution is exactly right.

  • The Cubs officially won the original (acquiring) Matt Garza Deal with the Rays:

  • Well, you know, other than Chris Archer who, in 2015, has a maintained a 2.78 ERA (2.56 FIP), accumulated 5.2 WAR, is 26 years old and is under control until 2021. Happy Thursday!

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