John Lackey, Neil Ramirez, Cardinals Projections, and Other Bullets

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John Lackey, Neil Ramirez, Cardinals Projections, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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  • Everyone knows by now that new Cubs pitcher John Lackey has a certain reputation on the field. He’s gruff. He yells. He stares. He’s edgy. He is perceived by some as a jerk. But now that he’s with the Cubs, you start to see that there’s a difference between the guy Lackey strives to be on the field and the teammate he is off the field. Even before he signed, so much of what you heard about him was how good of a teammate he was – how hard a worker, how he pushes other guys, etc. – and the fact that a front office who knew him well, and a manager who’d worked with him before, all wanted to go after him probably tells you a lot, despite what fan perception of him (since we basically only see the version he shows on the field) indicated. It also doesn’t hurt that Lackey’s deal with the Cubs was roundly held up as one of the best moves of the offseason.
  • To that end, I’d recommend reading this article on Lackey and his friend Jon Lester, who may benefit from having Lackey around. Increasingly, you get the sense that Lackey is one of those “good clubhouse guys”, but is just especially hard and aggressive on the days he starts. I know a lot of fans say they don’t care what a player is like as a person as long as he helps the team win games, and, to some extent that’s true; but I think last year demonstrated pretty clearly that it’s a lot more fun for fans if they genuinely like the players on the team and enjoy watching them enjoy what they do. There was some understandable fan trepidation about the Lackey signing in that particular regard, but already, the more we’ve been exposed to him, the more I think we can see it’s not really an issue.
  • Speaking of that, BN’er Dan passes on an article you’ll want to check out, going into the long, close relationship between Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Lackey, including how Lackey helped pay for Maddon’s daughter’s wedding many years ago. Really cool story.
  • Oh, and one other thing from the piece on Lackey and Lester – they’ve got a bet on who gets more hits this year, which could favor Lackey, since now Lester doesn’t get to hit off of Lackey.
  • Joe Maddon anticipates good things for Hector Rondon this year (, believing that the Cubs’ closer has another level in him.
  • Neil Ramirez is going to come along slowly this spring after his mostly lost 2015 season (Tribune). Ramirez prepared in the offseason to strengthen his shoulder to protect against the inflammation that scuttled him last year, and he’s not going to ramp up too quickly this spring. So we’ll have to keep that in mind as we observe and evaluate. As we’ve said before, among the competitors for the final spot or two in the Cubs’ bullpen, a fully healthy and effective Ramirez is a no-brainer (especially because he’s out of options) – but health and effectiveness can’t be assumed.
  • Speaking of the bullpen competition, new signee Aaron Crow will not be a part of it in Spring Training as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He says the timeline, ideally, is more like June (Tribune). Like I said when the Cubs signed him, Crow is about as good as these kinds of surgery-flyer signings go, and if that 2014 season was more about the health of his arm than a true decline in his performance, then there is reason to believe he could help this team in the second half.
  • It happened! Remember the Rangers promotion about giving away free season tickets if a fan could hit a batting practice homer? This guy did it, and his family went nuts!
  • The Cardinals are pretty unhappy about (they’d call it uninterested in, but it’s unhappy about) the projections that have them winning only about 84 games next year (ESPN). Matt Carpenter offers strong disagreement about his own projections: “Those things also have people like me hitting .260 with nine homers. I’m going to guarantee you that I’ll hit better than my projected stats. I don’t buy into it. I believe that they’re always kind of not very accurate.” First of all, who cares about batting average? Secondly, Steamer has Carpenter, who just turned 30, at .269 (he hit .272 in 2014 and 2015), and ZiPS has him right at the same .272. Thirdly, both Steamer and ZiPS have him for 16 homers, which seems pretty reasonable given that, before he hit 28 last year, he hit 8, 11, and 6 the three years before. A projection system isn’t buying a 300% increase in homers at age 29? No way! (And, actually, they still are *kinda* buying it by projecting a homer total much higher than any of the three season before 2015.) In short, everything Carpenter said about his projections is pretty much just wrong. It happens.
  • This should help make the upcoming season even more fun.
  • If you missed anything this busy weekend, catch yourself up here.

Author: Brett Taylor

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