Maddon's Managerial Success, Improving Pitch-Framing, Respected Rivals, and Other Bullets

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Maddon’s Managerial Success, Improving Pitch-Framing, Respected Rivals, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

We took the big kids on a Polar Express thing last night, complete with pajamas, as is the protocol, apparently. The Wife even generously surprised me with my own “BRETT” child-like pajamas, which I wore with grace. Only when I mused allowed that it was time for her to put on her pajamas because it was time to head out did she let me know that, oh, no, she wasn’t wearing child-like pajamas. She had just got them for the kids and me.

  • Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker was a perfectly acceptable winner of the NL Manager of the Year award, as he checked all the boxes you expect from the award (surprisingly competitive team, players taking big steps forward, other players bouncing back, no negative buzz swirling). I did think it was nice that Joe Maddon got a couple votes:

  • When you consider the significant injuries and underperformance Maddon dealt with, it’s remarkable that the Cubs won 95 games (seriously, how did they win 95 games?). Who cares that the Cubs had a big payroll as it relates to the manager’s performance? To that end, Dave Roberts probably deserved some consideration here, too. It’s not like it’s *easy* to manage a loaded roster that deals with adversity.
  • Maddon, of course, is set to return in 2019 as the Cubs manager, in the final year of his contract. His coaching staff remains in flux.
  • Cubs pitching prospect Justin Steele continues to round into form following the Tommy John surgery that cost him the much of the 2018 season. He came back very strong to end the year at High-A, and is getting more innings in the AFL. He feels good. He looks good. There is plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2019 that he’ll look like a big league contributor as soon as the second half of the season.
  • It’s tentatively looking like the Orioles are raiding the Astros to rebuild their front office, so get ready to see a bunch of Orioles pitchers suddenly spike in velocity and spin rate.
  • Here’s a great read in The Athletic on the White Sox’s organizational ability to improve catcher pitch-framing skills. Tyler Flowers became a brilliant framer under their watch, though more recently, Welington Castillo had improved with the Orioles and then regressed last year with the White Sox (so who knows if it’s really an organizational thing). I mention it here, of course, because of Willson Contreras’s struggles in the area, which have gotten much worse the last two years (coincidentally or not, after the Cubs lost two stellar framers – Miguel Montero and David Ross – with whom Contreras had presumably been working). White Sox GM Rick Hahn says they believe it’s much easier to teach a catcher how to frame well to hit well, so you take the bat and then deal with the rest later. Here’s hoping that philosophy plays out for the Cubs in the near future with Contreras – if he can just be an average framer, you combine that with his offensive and defensive ability, and you could easily have the best overall catcher in baseball.
  • Speaking of Willson Contreras, he’s showing some love for Sammy Sosa:

  • So, this is Albert Pujols, isn’t it:

  • Not sorry:

  • Good golly I love minor league team names:

  • It is my only regret about the Cubs’ farm system that they don’t really have any over-the-top ridiculous mascot names. It’s not too late, South Bend Pennywise Death Clowns …
  • Portable jump starters, puzzles and games, and much more are the Deals of the Day at Amazon today.

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.