Thanks to the Pirates taking it to the Brewers, and hot streaks by the Cubs and Cardinals, the NL Central is suddenly compacted once again, with only 5.0 games separating the Brewers from the fourth place Pirates.
For that reason, in addition to all the other organic ones, the next two weeks before the Trade Deadline are going to be crazy to watch. Will the Cubs add more? Will the Brewers make the big move, or are they now nervous? Will the Cardinals get a big bat? Will the Pirates sell, or decide they’re still in it?
- With yesterday’s win, the Cubs have tied their season-long winning streak of five games. Of course, that one was immediately followed by four straight losses, so … maybe win today, Cubs, so that there can be no parallels!
- John Lackey played a big part in yesterday’s win, allowing just one run over his five innings of work, despite a lengthy rain delay at the start. He didn’t have his best stuff or command, but he did have solid velocity (his average and max fastball velocity last night were both his highest of the year – the rest clearly did him well on that front). Lackey was getting ground balls, which is good, though he did give up six balls hit at over 95 mph, which is not great. On the whole, as I said last night, it was the kind of performance you’d find acceptable for a fifth starter, which is what Lackey is for the Cubs at this point. Mike Montgomery, who starts today’s finale against the Braves and then likely moves into the bullpen, probably offers a lot more upside at this point in his career, but Lackey might be a little more predictable and steady. Consider this: since the start of June, five of Lackey’s eight starts were ones you’d characterize as, “Yeah, that was adequate.” Of Montgomery’s eight starts, you’d probably say the same of five of them. Montgomery’s three really bad starts, however, have all come in his last three starts.
- It’s also possible that, perhaps sensing the end of his career, Lackey really turns it on for the second half in a playoff push. He’s probably not quite going to be the guy he was last year, but he can certainly be better than he was in the first half – and he doesn’t have to improve by much to be a league average starter. And a league average starter as your fifth starter? That’s solid.
- Granting all that, plus Montgomery’s recent success in a long role in the bullpen, and you’d say that if the Cubs were going to stay with a five-man rotation, it should be Montgomery going to the pen right now, and Lackey staying in the rotation. Even still, I don’t love hearing things like this:
Lackey on the idea of possibly going to the bullpen: pic.twitter.com/m5jUJfRNgc
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 19, 2017
- *furrowed brow, offset mouth expression* … I am 0% surprised by that stance from a 38-year-old John Lackey, who has made one bullpen appearance in his career, which was nearly 15 years ago. He is in the twilight of his career, has an understanding of who he is as a baseball player, and has no interest in being anything else. You’d love it if every player said, “I’ll do whatever is best for the team at any time,” but that’s not the reality of all players at all stages in their career. Maybe it’s not even solely a matter of Lackey being stubborn or selfish – maybe he’s just confident he cannot be an effective reliever at this point. I don’t know, and I’m not really interested in speculating on that front. Instead, I’ll call it a “disappointing, but expected stance.”
- Of course, as I said before all that, I don’t think the bullpen is the right place at this time for Lackey anyway. And maybe not ever, given his elevated home run rate. Unless Lackey were solely going to pitch mop-up duty, you wouldn’t want a guy so prone to long balls pitching in high leverage situations anyway. What will be interesting is if the Cubs do come to a point where they want to move Lackey out of the rotation … then what happens? Do they DFA him and let him go elsewhere? Would he? Would he simply retire and leave the rest of this year’s salary on the table? Do they try to trade him before that happens? Would he threaten to retire if he’s traded in any case? A lotta unknowns there that’ll probably never come to fruition, but it’s not at all hard to imagine struggles popping back up over the next month, and the Cubs having to make a decision.
- Theo Epstein underscored that the willingness to trade Eloy Jimenez in the Jose Quintana deal was a vote of confidence in their entire position player group at the big league level, including Kyle Schwarber (CSN).
- Speaking of the Brewers’ recent mini-swoon up top, they also just lost catcher Stephen Vogt to a knee injury for the next month. He’s been raking since the Brewers picked him up off the scrap heap from the A’s, so it’s not a non-zero injury.
- It was Michael’s turn on CLTV, and you can see what he had to say here:
— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) July 19, 2017
- This is a fun stroll down memory lane:
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 18, 2017
- What it looks like behind the scenes when a player is traded, and is headed out the door … just odd to see:
Heard in tunnel: "Go get yourself a ring, JD. We'll miss you." pic.twitter.com/efIruPmkfb
— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) July 18, 2017