Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

addison russell helmetAnd I’m off to the gym for a bit. That first time back after a weekend away in Chicago eating too many cinnamon rolls and drinking too much beer … this won’t be pretty.

  • Can we just take a moment to understand a few things before proceeding with any conversation about the Cubs’ horrific, catastrophic, the-end-is-nigh offensive “problems” in the NLCS? First thing: the Cubs scored eight freaking runs in the first game of the series. Second thing: the Cubs faced *literally* the best pitcher in baseball and *literally* one of the five best relievers in baseball in the second game of the series. Third thing: we are talking about two games. TWO GAMES. You cannot divine anything meaningful whatsoever from two games. Even if you extend back through the NLDS, you’re talking about six games (half of which were started by Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto!).

  • As Michael noted yesterday with respect to the two most visible offenders, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, there’s only so much you can take as meaningful when guys have a handful of rough games. Mike Trout started June with a six-game stretch where he hit .150/.320/.150 with a 51 wRC+. Maybe he’s allergic to June! (One game later – one game! – his June line was up to .240/.367/.400 with a 118 wRC+. Maybe he’s fine in June!) These guys could combine for five hits tonight, and suddenly they’re great again! Except that’s completely irrational because it’s just some hits in a single game! It goes in both directions! That’s why we try not to become irrational with small sample! Exclamations!
  • OK. Pull back, Brett. So, then, all that said, the problem with natural slumps in the playoffs is that even if you might not be able to use those small sample slumps to project trouble in the coming days, the poor performances really do hurt at the worst possible times. And if guys are going through a legitimate issue (it remains debatable whether guys like Rizzo and Russell are just in a fluke stretch or if they’re struggling in part because they’re pressing at the plate, and stepping outside their normal selves; whatever the case, the Cubs’ overall offensive numbers in the postseason aren’t good), there isn’t always enough time to let things course correct like you would in the regular season. You may have to make small, subtle changes at the margins, so long as it doesn’t disrupt the recovery of the very players whose struggles you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
  • An example? Maybe a modest batting order change is due? Joe Maddon suggested it was possible (CSN), but I wouldn’t expect anything dramatic. With two lefty starters coming for the Dodgers in the next two days (Rich Hill, Julio Urias), it’s possible the Cubs will try to get another righty bat in there – Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. – but that would mean taking Jason Heyward’s glove out of the rotation. Would it be worth it? Soler can be game-changing with the bat, and Almora’s glove is probably not that far behind Heyward’s. It’s something to think about, for sure, but it’s worth pointing out that neither Hill nor Urias has dramatic splits this year, as they’ve both been tough on lefties and righties.

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