I’m headed to Arizona this morning for some more Spring Training. The first half of the week, I was to stay with some friends in an Airbnb (the second half in a hotel when the family joins me). I’ve never used Airbnb before. I’m sure it’s great. Lots of people swear by it. But, for my first experience, the placed we’d had booked for months … cancelled on us the night-freaking-before.
So last night was a bit of a panicked searched to try and figure out where we were going to stay. Guess what? Finding a last minute place to stay in the Mesa area during Spring Training is – ha. ha. – not easy. Thankfully, we managed it, splitting the time between two hotels. If you’re around the park the next week or so, look for me wandering around in blue and red shoes, probably cursing Airbnb.
- Jon Lester’s minor league start yesterday went fine, by all accounts – he pitched four basically legit innings, and then a fifth more practice-y inning – and, as expected, the game was heavy on offering him opportunities to work on throws and pick-offs. Based on eyewitness accounts, Lester made some nice plays/throws, but mixed them in with some characteristic overthrown pick-off attempts, and buried-in-the-dirt throws to bases. At one point, Lester picked off Dan Vogelbach, who may never hear the end of it.
- You can read more on Lester’s work on his throws here at Cubs.com and here at CSN, and, to his credit, he’s being very open about the issues and his efforts to correct them. As we’ve discussed, it’s a legit concern, but not so serious that it’s going to derail his season. I also appreciate that Lester’s concedes, at this point, he’s not going to be able to pick off guys like Billy Hamilton on the regular, or even stop them from running. But he wants to focus on limiting guys who shouldn’t be stealing bases in the first place.
- Speaking of obvious defensive things that need work, Joe Maddon talks about Jorge Soler’s outfield defense at Cubs.com and at the Tribune. While I tend to think, like Michael, that Kyle Schwarber’s defensive issues have been exaggerated at times, I’m not sure the same can be said for Soler, who has a killer arm, but frequently looked lost on his routes in really concerning ways last year. Now he’s being tasked with moving across the outfield, which may not seem like a major change, but there are certainly differences between left field and right field. Maddon says Soler, as you might expect, needs to develop a better first step and work on his routes, but it’s something he believes can be improved with work (keep in mind how little professional experience Soler has, and it’s possible his defense didn’t always get nearly as much attention as his offense and his health).
- More generally, Maddon says the outfielders might play deeper this year (Cubs.com), which will increase bloop singles, but theoretically cut down on more damaging extra base hits. That seems like an especially good idea to me on a team that (1) has very good infield defense that might be able to convert a few extra double-play chances, and (2) has a lot of strikeout pitchers who could get out of innings featuring a couple singles (but if there’s one big extra-base hit, that can score runs before the pitcher has a chance to limit the damage). The Cubs may also see fit to explore some extreme outfield shifting.
- There’s a fantastic read at FanGraphs on Kyle Schwarber and how he approaches an at bat from a data perspective. I’m hoping to take a deeper look at the implicit issues therein, but, for now, you can read his thoughts.
- Matt Murton (appendectomy) played in the minor league game started by Lester, so he’s getting close to a Cactus League debut (Cubs.com).
- A Rays outfielder made an incredible homer-robbing catch in center field … but it wasn’t Kevin Kiermaier.
- White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche surprised folks yesterday by saying that he intended to retire, citing personal reasons that were not more fully disclosed. LaRoche, 36, had a terrible 2015 season (.207/.293/.340), his first in a two-year $25 million deal with the White Sox. His retirement would save the White Sox $13 million, though it’s obviously too late in this offseason to maximize the use of that money. If LaRoche does pull the trigger, he’d be the second player to retire and forfeit money in the process (Michael Cuddyer, Mets), which almost never happens.
- If you missed it earlier this morning, here are some highlights from yesterday’s blowout Cubs win.
- Every time I travel, I realize I need a new bag. But, by then, it’s too late. So I’m sitting at the airport looking at some bags on Amazon (including Cubs bags) to see if there’s something I should just pull the trigger on now for next time.
- The latest episode of Limited Range is out if you want to give it a listen. Potential problems for the Cubs, and the nasty impact of regression.