Today, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer jumped on ESPN 1000 to discuss a myriad of Cubs-related topics as the team heads out to Atlanta.
Among the topics discussed …
- Hoyer is not concerned about Jose Quintana (namely, his velocity, or his command), despite the obvious struggles this season, and simply thinks he’ll just start to tighten things up as the season goes on. As you can tell, Hoyer didn’t offer much in the way of an explanation, but we did get into Quintana’s start earlier today if you’re looking for more.
- On the same beat, Hoyer recognizes Yu Darvish’s struggles, particularly getting through that pesky fifth inning, and knows that he hasn’t pitched up to his capabilities yet. But he also knows it’s been just six starts in what should be a long, successful Cubs career. From me … I don’t know. I very much believe in Yu Darvish and genuinely think he’ll be just fine (ditto Quintana). But also, I was hoping for more of an explanation than just don’t worry about it. I guess it’ll just be worth waiting to see how he does in first start back tonight – against a tough Braves offense, no less – before reassessing tomorrow.
- The reason the Cubs pushed Darvish to today is because he was still battling the flu as recently as Thursday and didn’t feel great on Friday, so they were looking to find ways to give him extra time off. It had nothing to do with not pitching at Wrigley, which Hoyer seems to dismiss entirely, and instead was about extra time to gain strength back.
- Hoyer doesn’t want to “count his chickens,” but he thinks the bullpen has been excellent this season, and he’s not wrong. Through today, their 2.69 ERA ranks third best in baseball and their 1.2 WAR is sixth best in the NL. “They’ve really thrown well,” Hoyer said, “and they’ve really kept us in a lot of games where our starter’s gone short.” It’s worth pointing out that the Cubs’ bullpen is tied for the second highest ground ball rate in baseball, the sixth lowest fly ball rate, the second lowest hard-hit rate, and the highest soft-hit rate. That’ll play.
- On the flip side, the offense (which has been inconsistent) and the rotation (which hasn’t really gotten into full swing) has been tougher to watch for Hoyer, but none of that stacks up to the defense. “Our defense is probably the part that I would say is most frustrating to me, just because we all saw what we did in ’16, how tight this defense can be, and there’s just been too many games that have been a little bit sloppy. I think that’s the area that’s been most frustrating and the area I hope turns around soon.”
- For what it’s worth, the advanced defensive metrics so far are digging the Cubs, as they place them second in baseball with 17.0 Def (behind only the D-Backs). By Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, the Cubs (20 DRS, 14.0 UZR) rank 3rd and by ARM they rank first. HOWEVA, this doesn’t really go against what Hoyer is saying, because the Cubs also rank 4th (worst) in errors, and we’ve all seen plenty of sloppiness with our eyes.
- Hoyer is taking a very hands off approach to the Ben Zobrist’s cleats thing: “If Ben feels strongly, then he should make his case to Major League Baseball and to the Union. But these are things that are collectively bargained, and so in some ways his voice was already heard as part of a bargaining unit.”
- Jason Heyward is eligible to return from the concussion DL any day now, and according to Hoyer, “it’s just a matter of passing tests, feeling good, and getting some baseball activities done,” but he got “pretty dinged up on that play.” Hoyer added that Heyward’s close, but not quite ready yet. So I wouldn’t expect him today.
- When pressed on Joe Maddon’s “unsophisticated” remarks (re: having a fixed lineup construction), Jed Hoyer had his manager’s back big-time: “In my mind, I think lineup construction is the most overrated thing to talk about. It doesn’t have a lot to do with the winning or losing of baseball games. And as long as you’re hitting your best players the most often, we’re talking about fractions of runs that can be changed by the order.” Hoyer continued hitting this point, but, yes, his thoughts are clear: it doesn’t matter all that much, stop asking about it.
- This team/front office is ALL ABOUT finding every edge and squeezing out every possible ounce of competitive advantages (including the mental side of the game – more than most teams, in fact). Do you really think a team led by Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer wouldn’t have a fixed lineup if it mattered?
- But beyond all of that, Hoyer reminds listeners that a big reason the Cubs are a good team in the first place is because of their quality Major League depth. That means not only finding the right matchups (which inherently shakes up the lineup), but also ensuring the right amount of rest to be fresh later in the season.
- Anthony Rizzo is 100% healthy, and even though he’s struggled at times, Hoyer sees it as a positive. “We know what this guy’s capable of. He’s been probably the most consistent guy in baseball over the past four years, in terms of where his numbers end up. And I have no doubt” his numbers will get back to those levels by the end of the season. “When he does get into that groove, it’ll be pretty special to watch.” For what it’s worth …
In the month of May, Anthony Rizzo is hitting .310/.400/.714 with 5 homers, 10 runs, 14 RBI, and a walk rate (12.0%), double his strikeout rate (6.0%).
That's about as locked in as it gets.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) May 15, 2018
- The Cubs knew all along that their position-player first strategy to player acquisition (back during the rebuild, that is) was going to lead to a Minor League system devoid of top-end pitching talent, but Hoyer feels like they’ve done a good job correcting for that in recent years (to say nothing of the fact that it clearly worked, as they’re all wearing rings). “Our guys are moving through the system nicely,” Hoyer stated, before saying that there has obviously been some ups and downs. But don’t get him wrong, they’re not at the place they want to be yet (actualizing the end result).
- As expected, the Cubs are considering pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay for the big league doubleheader on Saturday, but they haven’t decided anything concrete just yet. According to Hoyer, that decision will probably come tomorrow or Thursday. “Certainly, he’s in the conversation and he’s earned that.”
- And finally, David Kaplan asked Hoyer, “Trading assets for a rental … is that something you say we can not do that … or each situation we judge on its own merits?” Response: “I don’t want to be completely definitive on that, because you know, you never know what situation might present itself, but I wouldn’t expect that we would do that. 2016, that team earned us making that trade. We were the best team in baseball, undeniable,” and they had just one hole to fill to win the World Series, “and we did that.” Right now, Hoyer doesn’t see the Cubs making that kind of move. “Never say never, but I think our focus as we move closer to the deadline will be evaluating this team, but also we’ll certainly have an eye toward the future as we make any deals. We don’t feel like we’re in that same position we were in 2016.” Theo Epstein recently spoke similarly about the Cubs’ strong reluctance to part with impact talent for rentals.