Today, Jed Hoyer jumped on 670 The Score to talk Cubs baseball with Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins.
You can check out the full interview right here, and I’ll cover the highlights, alongside some thoughts of my own, below.
- Although the games are more important now than ever, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein don’t interfere with Joe Maddon’s lineup construction (at least, not more than usual). To be sure, they’ll all talk about matchups the night before a game, but Maddon sends the lineup over every morning (using that special cocktail we talked about) and the front office is good with it 99.9% of the time. Given Maddon’s openness to advanced statistics and this front office’s hands-off approach, I can’t say this is much of a surprise.
- Hoyer has been impressed with Albert Almora’s work lately (we’ll get into his big night last night a bit later), and likes where he’s been headed offensively. More specifically, he loves that Almora has been 1) hitting the ball in the air more frequently and 2) is beginning to figure out right-handers – both of which are excellent developments. He also made sure to remind listeners about how young Almora, the front office’s first draft pick with the Cubs, still is, and how much room/time he has to grow. But because we’re going to dive into all of this a bit later, I’ll save the deeper analysis for now.
- We covered Jen-Ho Tseng pretty significantly earlier, but Hoyer did add some comments of note. For one, he reasserted that Tseng is a 4-pitch mix, good command guy, who could have some immediate success. Beyond that, he noted that the decision was made, in part, by their desire to stabilize the bullpen, and lay off Mike Montgomery, who’s pitched a ton this year, down the stretch. When asked if it had to do with left-handed reliever Justin Wilson’s struggles, Hoyer said no, because the entire bullpen has shown weaknesses at times.
- The idea, it seems, is to allow Montgomery to get some multiple-inning relief appearances, so that each reliever can be used a bit less overall and a bit more when the matchups are appropriate. Sounds like a plan to me.
- And on Wilson, Hoyer says that he was hopeful he was turning the corner during that five-game stretch without a walk (or earned run), but, and I’m paraphrasing/interpreting here, after five walks in his last three appearances (1.2 IP), the Cubs will have to pick their moments carefully with him going forward. However, don’t expect Wilson to disappear entirely. Hoyer says they’re still looking to get him into a groove before the postseason (fingers crossed) and that he’ll still also be needed down this very scary final stretch of games. It’s “all hands on deck,” according to Hoyer, and that includes Wilson.
- On which relievers, outside of Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr., Hoyer is most comfortable with right now, he was relatively candid: Pedro Strop, Brian Duensing, Koji Uehara (when healthy), and Mike Montgomery. He was particularly proud of Strop’s work this season and, really, the last four years (don’t make me explain to you why this is accurate, please). But on top of those six guys, Hoyer suggested that anyone who steps up will be heavily leaned on over the next few weeks (Hoyer cited Trevor Cahill’s late-inning, post-season usage in 2015).
- On the Contreras/Happ gaffe last night, Hoyer’s not giving it a second thought. Both players are hard-working, hustling individuals who simply made a mistake (and, yes, the Cubs specifically told Contreras to take it easy on the base paths). With that said, Hoyer has noticed a lot more of those plays this year than last, and suggested that the Cubs will have to tighten up significantly if they hope to repeat.
- On Contreras’ upcoming playing time (in general), Hoyer said they’ll lean on their training staff’s suggestions and take it easy. On a more specific/immediate note:
Willson Contreras will have the day off today (back tomorrow), per Jed Hoyer on @670TheScore
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 14, 2017
- Given that there’s a night-game tonight in a series the Cubs have already won and an early day game tomorrow against the Cardinals, this move makes plenty of sense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Contreras play a full one tomorrow, though, just based on how much action he’s seen this week. That’s just my speculation though, as Hoyer didn’t really touch on that specifically.
- On Kyle Schwarber’s up and down season, which was highlighted by the last two nights (3-3, BB, HR on Tuesday and 0-4, 3Ks on Wednesday), Hoyer is still optimistic, but also simply hopeful. Not unlike the plan for the pen, Maddon will have to play the hot hands in the next few weeks, and that could or could not mean Kyle Schwarber. Hoyer hopes it’s Schwarber, though, because he knows how good he can be in October on the biggest stage/when it matters most.
- On the divisional race the Cubs no find themselves in, Hoyer suggests that it’s probably good for baseball, because there’s basically only one other division up for grabs (AL East). But with that said … yeah, he wishes this isn’t where the Cubs wound up. Looking for the bright side, Hoyer implies that maybe the extra competition will be good for the guys heading into the postseason. Which, shrug. We pretty much know that’s not a consistent thing, but there’s really no harm in the guys/front office feeling that way.
- And furthermore, with so many games against Milwaukee/St. Louis left, the Cubs’ fate is really in their own hands. They have a bit of a lead, of course, heading into this final stretch, but they still have to get it done against the second and third place teams to wind up in October.
- And finally, on the Marlins/Brewers game moving to Milwaukee, Hoyer isn’t going to complain, even if he recognizes the advantage. He did add that perhaps Milwaukee could be a better hitting environment for Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, so maybe that’ll help. I agree with Hoyer (and Brett earlier): I’m not complaining under the circumstances, but I’m not blind to the fact that this is a clear bonus for Milwaukee.