Ask Away: Slow Starts, Clubhouse Updates, Man Crushes, Best BN Moments and More!

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Ask Away: Slow Starts, Clubhouse Updates, Man Crushes, Best BN Moments and More!

Chicago Cubs

Ask Away

Today marks two months of these here Ask Away segments, and so far I’ve enjoyed writing them!

Now that there have been several to take in, and we’ve gotten into a rhythm, I’d like to solicit some feedback down there in the comments. If you have any suggestions for improving the articles (length, depth, number of questions, types of questions, etc.) drop a comment and let me know.

Separately, if you’d like to ask a question, remember to send them in to Ask Away @ BleacherNation dot com. For some reason, I agreed to answer any type of question (including how many fish I can name and what kind of a boss Brett is), so get creative and send them in.

Last week, we discussed where Logan Watkins is and how his recovery has been going, who will be the next home grown starting pitcher for the Cubs, who would cover for Anthony Rizzo at first if the unthinkable happened, and more, so be sure to check it out.

This week, we’ll touch on Jorge Soler, Hector Rondon, the renovation updates and much more. So without further adieu, Ask Away …

If Jorge Soler is still hitting as poorly in two weeks as he is now – .059 AVG, .473 OPS – and is still finding his way in left field, what are the chances he starts the year out in AAA Iowa? Nick M.

The short answer is “no,” but I think it’s important to understand why.

At the time this question was asked, yes, Jorge Soler was hitting just .059 with a .473 OPS. But today, just four days later, he’s raised his batting average up 71 points (.130) and his OPS 221 points (.694). There is so much variation in such a small sample, that Soler was able to raise his OPS over 220 points in just a handful of games. When there is this small of a sample (less than 30 PAs) there is just no way to tell how well (or poorly) someone is doing.

Separately, when we say Spring Training games don’t matter, we mean it. Not only are some players working on a particular pitch or timing strategy, but we’ve even seen players purposefully put themselves in tough positions, just to work on getting out of them. For example, just the other day, we learned that Jake Arrieta purposefully walked a batter so that he can get more work out of the stretch. I have no idea if (or more likely what) Soler is working on, but it’s at least conceivable that coaches want to see him batting with two strikes or exclusively trying to lift the ball, etc.

Lastly, 2016 is about winning and decisions will be made accordingly. Players like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, or even Kyle Schwarber might actually benefit from going to AAA Iowa to work on particular areas, but the big league team needs them. The truth is, Jorge Soler is the best option the Cubs have for the role he’s playing on this team and that means that – absent an injury – he’s staying in the majors.

Should we be worried about Hector Rondon’s Spring Training performance? John F.

Everything I said about sample sizes and focusing on certain areas for improvement goes for Rondon as well. So far this Spring, he’s only thrown a grand total of 3.2 innings, and, for all we know, was throwing fastballs almost exclusively for some of those outings. Or, perhaps, he was toeing the other side of the rubber, while working on escaping jams without strikeouts. There are just so many possibilities and variables that any concrete conclusion would just be premature.

But, more importantly, Rondon is becoming somewhat of known quantity. Although he had injury questions in the past, he’s been healthy for three seasons with the Chicago Cubs, increasing his inning limit each year (54.2, 63.1, 70.0). And, while relievers are usually quite volatile, year to year, Rondon is just a hair over 28 years old and finished the last two seasons as one of the better closers in baseball. No, really, he was.

In 2015, Hector Rondon’s 1.67 ERA was fifth best among all relievers, just behind Aroldis Chapman. In 2014, he finished a 2.42 ERA – which is absolutely excellent – with an even stronger 2.26 FIP. And, he’s becoming a model of consistency, his strikeout rates in 2014 (24.7%) and 2015 (24.6%) are both excellent and eerily similar, as are his walk rates in 2014 (5.9%) and 2015 (5.3%). In both seasons, he was worth exactly 1.6 WAR.

Having a down year is always possible – and that goes double for a reliever with a history of injuries – but Rondon has been consistent, good and healthy over the past three years, and a few Spring Starts shouldn’t erase that from your memory.

Is the home clubhouse still on schedule? Steve H.

Cubs Spokesman Julian Green announced that Wrigley Field will be ready for Opening Night on April 11, despite what the appearance of the stadium might lead you to believe, per Tim Bannon of The Chicago Tribune. All projects, including the new 30,000 square foot home clubhouse will be completed on time, according to the most recent schedule.

The Cubs clubhouse will become the second biggest clubhouse (behind the Yankees) of any team in MLB, and is a long time overdue. For years, we’ve heard reports of small facilities with aging amenities, but it appears the course has been corrected. The visitors clubhouse will not be renovated this season, however. I can live with that.

And now for the personal, funny and anything-else-that-comes-to-mind part – let’s talk about favorite BN moments, man crushes and cat photos. Ask Away …

What has been your favorite Bleacher Nation Moment so far as a writer? SSCKelley

The best part about this job is that the moments you all get excited about and for are the exact same for Brett and me. At the end of the day, we are giant, enormous, nerd-level Cub fans that want to know every single thing we can about this team. So, think back on your favorite moments over the past year, those have been my favorite as well.

But, to answer more specifically, one of my favorites was Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to Spring Training. Within a matter of seconds Brett and I exchanged a thousand texts deciding whether we should report on the trade of Chris Coghlan, the acquisition of Aaron Brooks, the potential fallout of the move and then BAM! Dexter Fowler surprises everyone, including us. It was a whirlwind of an hour, my heart was racing (trying to keep the facts right) and my fingers were burning. It was certainly my favorite moment, thus far.

Who are you man crushes (Cub or non-Cub) and why? (Jason R., Jacob H., many, many more)

I’m not quite sure what I’m putting out there, but I’ve gotten this, or a variation of this question several times so far, so I suppose it’s time to answer it. I’ll throw in two Cubs and two non-Cubs to kick it off

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant

Don’t ask me who the most influential band is and be surprised when I respond with The Beatles. #Bryzzo is my answer, because it’s the right answer. I’d love to hang out with both of them, while we play pranks on Jon Lester and John Lackey (you just know they’d get mad).

Non-Cubs: Chris Pratt and Tom Hardy

Chris (yeah, I’m going with first names) could teach me how to be goofy and charming, while Tom can teach me how to be smooth and mysterious. And then, Rizzo and Bryant will want to hang out with me, because I’ll be super cool and have cool friends.

Why all the photos of cats accompanying posts? Is there no love for other animals? Joe V.

Ask Brett.

I’m a dog type of guy, myself (I’m actually considering getting one this summer), but I’m pretty sure owning a cat is a requirement to work at BN. Brett has just been letting me slide, so far, though, I don’t see myself with a cat in the near future  ever.

[Brett: My family has always been a dog family, and I never had a cat until I married The Wife ten years ago. Now, although I think dogs are awesome, I would never go back to dogs. Cats are, to me, simply superior pets. I never thought I’d be a crazy cat guy, but I am. It could happen to you!] [Brett: Also, the cat pictures are staying.]

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami