Russell's Hot, Bryant's Defense, Contreras's Role, #CardinalsLose, and Other Bullets

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Russell’s Hot, Bryant’s Defense, Contreras’s Role, #CardinalsLose, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

addison russell helmetIt’s ‘Game of Thrones’ finale day. Which is awesome. And also sad. After tonight, there are many, many months before more GOT.

  • As Joe Maddon put it (, John Lackey was not at his best yesterday. It stinks that it came on a day that the Cubs scored six runs and could have still won with a mediocre pitching performance (as opposed to a bad one), but it was bound to happen at some point. Coming into the start, Lackey had been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the preceding two months. A down start or two is just the way it goes, and it’s not like the Marlins have a crummy lineup.
  • Addison Russell has had a blistering two weeks, which he needed: .325/.449/.625. He’s got his wRC+ on the year back up to 96. Defensively, he’s not been at the level he was last year, though, to be fair, last year he was basically one of the best 5 or 10 defensive players in all of baseball.
  • Speaking of defense, Kris Bryant discussed with the Tribune how the best defensive alignment for the Cubs right now probably has him in left field and Javy Baez at third base. He’s right. But it’s only fair to note that it’s because (1) Baez has become demonstrably ridiculous at third base (Bryant, for his part, is very good there – it’s just Baez is Baez), and (2) Bryant has, so far, shown himself to be legitimately excellent in left field defensively. Like, borderline impact good. He doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for the leaderboard, but if he did, Bryant’s UZR/150 in left field would be the highest in baseball this year. I don’t recommend leaning on small sample defensive metrics* (and, heck, when it comes to advanced defensive metrics, even an entire season’s worth of data can be too small), but I do think they can lend support when they square with what your eyes are telling you.
  • *(Case in point? Baez has a negative UZR/150 this year at third base, making him “one of the worst” defensive third basemen in baseball. Anyone buying that?)
  • Mark Gonzales reports that Miguel Montero is expected to catch again today, which means, together with Jake Arrieta’s start on Monday, he’ll have caught three games in a row since returning from a mini knee issue. That’s particularly interesting when you consider that Joe Maddon previously indicated an intention to have Willson Contreras catch two or three times out of the five starts in a turn through the rotation. Couple that with the fact that Contreras previously caught each of John Lackey and Jason Hammel, but won’t this time through, and it does stand out. I’d caution you not to read too much into just one time through the rotation like this, because it’s not as if this means Contreras is suddenly going to be catching less or that Lackey and Hammel simply won’t work with him behind the plate. Consider that today’s matchup comes against Jose Fernandez, and maybe the Cubs simply want to give Contreras that day off. Yesterday, the Cubs maybe wanted to see how Contreras looked in left field. Let’s just see how this all plays out over the next several weeks, not just a single week or two.
  • On Contreras’s debut in left field: I am #NotAScout, but I thought he looked like what you’d expect. Which is to say, a really athletic dude playing in the outfield for the first time in years. He has the speed and quickness to make up for bad reads, but I thought he was late getting back on the ball several times, taking poor routes to try and cut the ball off. But, again, what would you expect? He didn’t kill the Cubs out there, and, to the extent there’s a game when you want his bat in there and the only open spot is in the outfield, I think you can feel comfortable with him out there. It just won’t look like when Bryant is out there. Or maybe even Chris Coghlan.
  • The Cubs’ lead in the NL Central stayed at 10.0 games despite yesterday’s loss, since the Mariners held on late to beat the Cardinals once again by a single run. It’s not as if a Cardinals loss right now means any more or less than a Cardinals loss two months ago or two months from now. The losses (and wins) all count together at the end of the year, and, outside of the kind of scoreboard watching that can impact certain marginal roster/starting/resting decisions late in the year, there’s nothing that happens with the Cardinals (or any other team) right now that will actually impact the Cubs. But for fans, it’s an entirely psychological thing: at least the Cardinals lost again.
  • Need a heavy-duty safe? They’re on sale at Amazon.

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.