It was breakfast with Santa day for the Taylor Family, so you’ll excuse the tardy Bullets. Hopefully this morning’s Tyson Ross rumor piece kept you satisfied until now …
- I will be very interested to see to what extent Dexter Fowler’s defensive improvements over the past two years were the product of legitimate changes, and instead what was the product of a very playable home center field and a partner in right field who shrunk things ever further. The numbers matched the eye test, as near as I could tell: Fowler was very good at making all the plays you’d hope and expect a center fielder to make, but his range and/or first step were not necessarily above average. In whole, then, he appeared to be about average out there (which, when paired with his considerable offensive and base-running ability, made him an extremely valuable player).
- I say all of that because this St. Louis-based writeup of the outfield change for the Cardinals at first seems a bridge too far: “Now, with the 30-year-old Fowler in center field alongside young outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals feel they have one of the better defensive outfields in the league.” Upon review, though, maybe that’s not a ridiculous statement, and I certainly can’t claim to have a ton of eyes-on experience with Grichuk and Piscotty. What I remember seeing was that Piscotty was average in right last year (the metrics generally agree), and that Grichuk was flat-out bad in center field last year (the metrics actually have him as slightly above average). Moving Grichuk to left field, though, probably makes him among the better defenders out there in the National League. And if Fowler and Piscotty can at least be average, well, then the sum might be a little better than average overall. So, then, maybe the assessment of the outfield is fair, depending on what Fowler brings.
- Fowler’s bat projects to age well enough to support his contract, by the way, though if he’s well below average defensively or is forced to move to a corner (and does not play elite defense out there), then it could get dicey for the Cardinals. As is always the case with these longer-term deals, though, it’s much more about how much he can provide in the next couple years than the latter three. To that end, it’s quite clear that the Cardinals want to get right back up on top of the NL Central this year, and they probably aren’t finished making additions to the roster.
- At present, the Cubs’ depth starting options (aka, the guys who can serve as 6th/7th/8th starters as necessary, because they can be stashed and keep starting at AAA Iowa if/when necessary) identified by Theo Epstein so far (ESPN): Rob Zastryzny, Jake Buchanan (whom you may vaguely remember from a bit of time late last year), Aaron Brooks (who was the return in the Chris Coghlan Spring Training trade last year, but then missed most of the season with a hip injury), and Seth Frankoff (a recent minor league signing of the more notable variety).
- Buster Olney with an interesting and probably-pretty-accurate guess: Mariano Rivera might be the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection when he becomes eligible in a couple years now that BBWAA voters have to unveil their ballots publicly.
- A fantastic read from Eno Sarris about the things executives will tell you about the game off the record/anonymously.
- The Cubs’ World Series Trophy is touring the city, and made its first stop yesterday:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 9, 2016
That's a wrap for the first stop of the #CubsTrophyTour!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 9, 2016
- You are advised, holiday shoppers:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 10, 2016
- I don’t know how Michael finds these things, but I’m glad he does – get a chuckle out of Mr. T’s reaction (yes, Mr. T) to Bo Jackson showing off his arm.
- Humanizing Joe Buck, if you’re able:
— Baseball Is Fun (@flippingbats) December 9, 2016
- This is not Cubs or baseball or even sports related, but a friend sent it to me, and I was so blown away that I had to share. I was dubious at first, but within a minute or two, I was trying to figure out how this was even possible to do so well: