It’s here. The first full workout day for the entire Cubs squad. The various reporting dates, the early reporting players, the preparation for the preparation for the preparation – that’s all complete. Now, Spring Training really begins, and the Cubs start the long march back to playoff baseball. And although that’s certainly the goal, we’ll all have to keep checking ourselves throughout the year not to become solely focused on the playoffs (especially here in February).
There’s a lot of fun to be had in the interim, and a lot of games that have to be won before we can even start the playoff conversation. Yes, the Cubs were great last year and project to be even better this year, but it can’t all be about the handful of games in October that you hope the Cubs will play. The playoffs will keep popping into my mind throughout the coming months, but I’m going to do the best I can to just keep enjoying what there is to enjoy about Cubs baseball in that moment. Not only is the experience a lot more fun that way, but it also makes the low points a lot less miserable.
- The Cubs don’t have many glaring fundamental issues they need to address in advance of the 2016 season, but everyone knows at least one big one: holding runners. The Cubs gave up the second most stolen bases in baseball last year, and there were times when it felt like every single was effectively a double or a triple. Yes, Jon Lester’s well-documented issues throwing to first base are a significant part of that, but it was just Lester. Most of the pitching staff, in conjunction with the catchers, needs to do a better job (to the extent they can do so without dramatically diminishing their pitching performance), and it’s something they’ll be working on immediately (Tribune).
- If you can’t get enough of folks praising Jason Heyward already – I can’t – here’s more from Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon, and Heyward’s new teammates.
- Joe Maddon tells the Tribune that Tommy La Stella is a guy who could roll out of bed and hit, and I do agree that – in terms of bat-to-ball ability – La Stella is a fantastic hitter. As we’ve discussed, the big questions, though, are whether the short bench will allow him a spot when you consider defense, and you consider that guys like Javy Baez and Chris Coghlan will probably draw all the extra available starts at a huge number of positions. Given that La Stella’s got options left, and still has big league starter upside, it might be best to let La Stella play every day at Iowa until/unless something comes up at the big league level that requires him.
- Interesting read over at BP Wrigleyville on John Lackey’s pitching evolution, including a dramatic uptick in fastballs early in counts (I remember noting that heading into the playoffs last year). What’s interesting in Andrew Felper’s article is just how prolific Lackey became at getting groundballs early in counts, even as batters tried to counter his increase in early-count fastballs by swinging early more often. Lackey still has great velocity, but obviously the more he can get early grounders, the better (not only because that’s just generally a good thing, but also because of his age).
- Over at Baseball is Fun, Josh Collmenter was teaching his fellow Diamondbacks some physics, which gave me an excuse to share the *best* physics/baseball write-up I’ve ever seen.
- Also, did you know they were playing baseball 700 years ago? I can only imagine what they would have said about the DH …
- Jake Arrieta, certified stud:
— Rawlings Sports (@RawlingsSports) February 23, 2016