Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Yesterday was really, really hard, following the death of Jose Fernandez. I said what I could about his passing here, and I’ve just got to leave it there.

Today is an attempt to get back to some level of normal. So much baseball stuff will be colored by the Fernandez-smile-shaped hole left in the game, of course, but we love this sport precisely because it allows us to move on to something nice when the rest of the world is scary, confusing, and sad.

So, then. Baseball. And it gave us the stark contrast, at the end of the day, of Vin Scully calling his final game at Dodger Stadium … which the Dodgers won on a walk-off home run to clinch the NL West. Are you serious, baseball?

  • From a Cubs-specific perspective, last night’s game was like mana from heaven for this weary writer, and I’d bet the same is true for many of you. We’ll have much more on David Ross’s special night and Jon Lester’s continued dominance later, but one fun item on the homer Ross hit: with it, his 10th, the Cubs have now had nine players hit double-digit homers for the second season in a row. That’s truly remarkable, especially when you consider that it came this year without Kyle Schwarber, and with Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero at just seven apiece.
  • Apropos of nothing – I just noticed it when perusing the Cubs homer stats – but Jake Arrieta has been worth 0.9 non-pitching WAR this year (i.e., offense, defense, and baserunning), tied with Madison Bumgarner for the most in the NL. It won’t really factor into the Cy Young award voting, but it’s interesting to think about the “total value” of these players – Noah Syndergaard is close, at 0.7, and the late Jose Fernandez is at 0.5 – other Cy Young candidates are at (Jon Lester) or below (Kyle Hendricks, -0.1) zero. That’s nearly a full win’s worth of difference, for example, between Arrieta and Hendricks/Lester, making Arrieta the “most valuable” overall pitcher on the Cubs’ staff (4.8 total WAR for Arrieta, 4.4 for Lester, 4.0 for Hendricks).
  • Jason Hammel, by the way, is at 0.5 non-pitching WAR, which would put him at an even 2.0 WAR for the year. Really not bad for a fifth starter, eh?
  • And speaking of the Cubs’ starters, the rotation is lined up thusly for the final seven games of the regular season: Hendricks, Lackey, Arrieta, Zastryzny (a bullpen day on Thursday, but a nice nod for Zastryzny’s first big league start), Hammel, Lester Hendricks. Lackey and Arrieta, then, get the very long breaks before their playoff starts, but, given the four days between the end of the regular season and the start of the NLDS, that was going to happen no matter what. This way, at least two of the Cubs’ starters – Lester and Hendricks – will be pitching on just a touch over normal rest (with the flexibility to go with any of the four starters for Game One, depending on health and matchups).

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