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Dillon Maples as a Statistical Leader, Serious Work at Wrigley, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

Listening to my kiddos sing holiday songs without a 100% grasp on all of the words is the best version of holiday music, and it’s never too early for that.


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  • Yesterday, we talked about how future closers can come from surprising places, and about how the Cubs will need a lot of optionable AAA reliever depth to most effectively use their starters in 2018, and both discussions necessarily made mention of breakout 2017 relief prospect Dillon Maples. While it’s unlikely that Maples, 25, will emerge as the Cubs’ closer in 2018, it’s not at all a stretch to suggest he could become an important part of the bullpen, given his plus-plus fastball and plus-plus slider. The command isn’t there all the time for those pitches to be as effective as their velocity/movement suggest they should be, but Maples took a HUGE step forward in 2017 on that front, and if he takes even just a small step forward again this offseason, we could be looking at a dominant reliever.
  • To that end, something interesting I stumbled across while perusing miscellaneous stats this week – Baseball Prospectus has its own ERA-equivalent-type stat that, using a huge number of measures, tries to neutralize all the luck involved in ERA, and comes up with a pitcher’s Deserved Run Average. You can read the link there for the particulars, but to the extent it intrigues you, then you might also be intrigued to learn that – albeit in a tiny sample – the Cubs pitcher with the best DRA in 2017 was actually Maples’ 2.49. Given that we’re talking about a whopping 5.1 innings of September baseball, you shouldn’t take that number to MEAN anything. Instead, it’s more of a reminder to look at what he did – 11 strikeouts, 6 walks, no homers, .600 BABIP, 6 ERs – and take nothing negative away from it. Instead, it should tell you (at most) some things you already believe to be true: the dude has nasty, nasty stuff, and he has trouble consistently commanding it.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • There is no time-bound reason for reminding you of this, it’s just that I happened to see it while searching for posts earlier about transactions around this time of year – remember that Jon Lester has a bone chip in his elbow that no one is worried about? It’s been a sufficiently “don’t worry about it” kind of thing that I nearly forgot about it entirely. It sometimes bothers him in Spring Training, and may eventually require surgery (a two-to-three-month affair, not like a Tommy John surgery).

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  • Statcast treats you to the most extreme homers of the season. The one that stands out the most to me is the Carlos Correa homer in the World Series, which had the steepest launch angle of the year – 48 degrees. Consider that the classification for a “pop up” starts at 50 degrees, and that should tell you just how insane it was that Correa got a homer out of a 48-degree fly ball.
  • We haven’t heard much of anything about the Cubs’ top (by money) IFA signee in their blowout class from a year and a half ago (the class that pushed them into the penalty box, from which they won’t emerge until July 2) – he was outfielder Jonathan Sierra, and Cubs Insider’s Brendan Miller recalls a conversation with the late John Arguello, who was very high on Sierra. The now 19-year-old is a big dude, and still has some work to do – he posted a .259/.332/.368 line in rookie ball this past season, most troublingly with a 28.8% strikeout rate and just two homers in 48 games. But when you’re a 6’3″ teenager, you’ve gotta grow into those levers a bit, and the Cubs didn’t sign Sierra to a $2.5 million bonus for nothing. This would be the year you’d hope to see him breaking out a bit, with the power starting to show.
  • Serious work at Wrigley Field continues, with the dugouts being moved, the new luxury suite areas going in, and concrete being worked on:

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  • This Tribune article gets into a bit more on NBC Sports Chicago’s recent staff turnover, including letting go Cubs and White Sox beat writers, Patrick Mooney and Dan Hayes. Hopefully Mooney latches on somewhere else soon. (And Hayes, too, obviously, but Mooney was the Cubs guy.)
  • Throwing it back at BN and BIF:

  • New blog, coming soon – Slippery Nation:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.