Ask Away

Javier Baez is back! And I couldn’t be happier about it. Hopefully, he’ll draw a start sometime soon, although I thought today’s matchup against Chad Bettis would have been a nice one for Baez (strong splits favoring righties, low strike out numbers). Oh well, soon enough, Javy, soon enough.

But even in the face of losing Kyle Schwarber for the entire season how could we not be happy with the Cubs 8-1 start? They were hyped all offseason long, projected to get off to a good start (due to a relatively easy April schedule) and then actually followed through!

Not to mention their +43 run differential is tops in baseball and a full +19 runs better than the second place Cardinals. They’re even walking at historic paces. What can go wrong!? (He said, as he looks up for rain.)

If you’d like your question to be answered in an upcoming Ask Away, remember to send them in to Ask Away @ BleacherNation dot com, or tweet them to me @Michael_Cerami using the hashtag #AskAway.

Last week, we discussed four-man rotations, Kris Bryant playing left field (Hey! He did last night and then hit a home run!), veterans on Minor League deals, Star Wars theories, my favorite podcasts and much more. So, be sure to check it out.

This week, we’ll touch on Albert Almora’s stats, Tommy La Stella’s role with the team, the dumbest movie I’ve ever paid to see, The Walking Dead and much, much more. So without further adieu, Ask Away …

What kind of offensive numbers would Albert Almora have to put up to make a jump to the big leagues before September? As we – fans – check in on his progress this year, what should we look for? Alex H



Almora is something of an interesting cat. While I typically like to use a hitter’s strike out/walk rate in the upper minors as an early indicator for how ready he is for the majors, that doesn’t quite work with Almora. Not unlike Starlin Castro, Almora has excellent contact skills. He is able to put the bat on the ball even when he probably shouldn’t. What happens, then, is that he has a very low strike out rate, but relatively low offensive numbers, otherwise.

For example, in the early going of 2016, Almora has been walking at an absolutely fantastic 17.2% of the time, while striking out at just under 14%. In a vacuum, that is truly about as good as any player could ever hope for. But that’s the thing. This isn’t a vacuum, and when you take a step back, you’ll see that his overall slash line .286/.393/.333 is less eye popping (although, look at that OBP!). So, for Almora, the stat to look for is his isolated power (ISO). Right now, it’s sitting at just .048 which is exceedingly low. In fact, Almora can “swing for the fences” a good deal more – even at the expense of his strike out rate – so that his ISO (and SLG) can increase.

His glove is already ready and his patience is improving; he just needs to hit for a bit more power. Almora may surprise many of us yet.

If you were a member of the front office, what skills or characteristics would you seek out in players to give the Cubs a home field advantage at Wrigley Field? Scott M. (Oldystyle_NewCubs)

The characteristic I would look for in a player is skills that play up in the cold months of April and May when the wind is blowing in. More specifically: guys that can walk. As we’ve seen with this current Cubs team, taking a ton of walks can lead to a lot of runs (many more so than your competitors), even when the conditions aren’t conducive to scoring.



For example, the Chicago Cubs are collectively walking at a league leading 14.3% of the time (the second place Braves are walking over 3 percentage points less – 11.1%). When your lineup is taking a lot of walks and moving the line along, grounders, singles and sac flys can lead to a lot of runs. For example, the Cubs have scored 64 times – the most in baseball – despite having just the ninth best batting average. Wrigley has a notoriously poor offensive environment in the early months of the season, so guys that get on base are especially valuable (and obviously that’s good all the time, anyway).

With Javier Baez seemingly in the fold, what is Tommy La Stella’s role on this team? Andrew (BWA)

Although this question was asked before Kyle Schwarber was out for the season, it has slightly more significance now. Before Schwarber was injured, La Stella’s role on the team was hard to define. He wasn’t the primary backup in the infield – that was presumably saved for Javier Baez at shortstop, second base and third base – and he wasn’t the primary backup in the outfield – the Cubs already had four starters, plus Baez and Ben Zobrist out there.

But now, La Stella has much more value as the only lefty bat off the bench, as evidenced in last night’s game. Had there been no season ending injury, Schwarber would have started in left field last night and Kris Bryant would have started at third. Instead, La Stella got the start at third, pushing Bryant to the outfield and Jorge Soler to the bench. So, that’s his role on this team. For now, when the Cubs face a particularly tough righty or need a lefty bat off the bench, La Stella will be that guy. He’ll draw the occasional start at third base or second base, and will pinch hit. He has a quality bat, makes contact, and takes his walks, all from the left side of the plate. Tommy La Stella has value.


And now for the personal, funny and anything-else-that-comes-to-mind part. Ask Away…

What is the dumbest movie you have ever paid to see? Shane K. (SSCKelley)

I am unashamedly known for loving just about every movie I’ve ever seen. In fact, despite seeing just about as many as I possibly can, my friends and family hate my suggestions, because it’s usually positive. I guess I just like liking things. With that said there are two movies that I truly feel like I wasted money on in my life (one old and one new).

  1. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) – Although the cast was led by veteran thespian Vin Diesel, I thought this movie was a huge dud. I hated it in the theaters, I never watched it again, and I never plan to!
  2. Chi-Raq (2015) – I was actually pretty excited about this movie, because there’s obviously some very real, very serious, but also very interesting source material to work from. But it just falls so flat. It is by far one of the most confused (not confusing), movies I’ve ever seen. The tone drifts listlessly from comedy to preachy to action to noir with absolutely no direction. I saw this one in theaters and I do not plan on re-watching it.

Do you watch The Walking Dead? Jonathan R. (Darth Ivy)



I actually do not watch The Walking Dead and it is one of my most ashamed secrets (like how I felt claiming I was a movie buff before seeing Blade Runner – don’t worry, I have since). The problem is that TV has just been so excellent over the past few years, that it’s hard to keep up with everything. At the time The Walking Dead was on, I was already watching Mad Men and Breaking Bad on AMC – in addition to a million other shows – so my collective hour long drama capacity was reaching its max.

I’m guessing I will binge watch it at some point though, so stay tuned (or don’t, you probably don’t care too much).

Do you and Luis feel bad that Brett has created a Lukewarm Stove feature but no Michaelwarm Stove or Luiswarm Stove? I imagine that this blatant favoritism of one writer could create some internal discord at BN. David M.

You don’t know how right you are, David. We actually all have a ton of pent of anger and aggression towards each other. It was a real problem for a while. But then we organized a fight club, so we just use that to get it all out of our system. I’ve been typing this entire message with one eye swollen shut and no lefty pinky. It’s pretty gruesome, but it keeps us sane.

Happy Friday!


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