Quintana's Brutal Ending, Hoerner's Downturn, Happ's Versatility, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Quintana’s Brutal Ending, Hoerner’s Downturn, Happ’s Versatility, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

So, I write the Cubs Bullets 364 days a year, and although it isn’t always “fun,” it is usually, at worst, “a very good job.” Most of the time, I really like doing the Bullets, because it’s a little more free than writing about some specific topic or news or rumor. But this transitional phase between “season” and “offseason” is probably the hardest spot for me for the Bullets – finding the right stuff to hit and the tone and all that makes me spin my wheels a bit. Thankfully, I haven’t had to do this much over the past five years, so no complaints here.

  • Jose Quintana got smacked around by the Pirates last night in his final start of the year, capping off a brutal September that destroyed what had otherwise been a perfectly solid season. No, Quintana was not acquired for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to be “perfectly solid,” but that’s a heckuva lot better than where he wound up:

  • To be sure, when you normalize the numbers and account for parks, Quintana’s ERA was only 7% worse than league average, but that still isn’t anywhere close to what you wanted or needed him to be this year. Quintana, who turns 31 in January, will have his final team option ($11.5 million) picked up after this season, and the Cubs will have to hope he puts together a killer platform year in 2020. I suppose it’s possible he could be part of a series of trades, but (1) you’re not going to get much value for him at this point, and (2) I’d much rather the Cubs just retained him and rolled the dice on a bounce back. Again, before September, the guy was fantastic.
  • I also try to remember, when ex-post-facto analyzing that trade, the deal was 50% about what Quintana could do immediately for the Cubs in 2017, and he helped push them to the NLCS. It was a win-now move, with what came in 2018 and 2019 as the “extra.” You almost always feel the sting later in win-now moves.
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
  • Nico Hoerner got a pinch-hit appearance last night, in which he naturally singled and drove in a run.

  • Through 69 plate appearances, Hoerner is starting to approach the performance you would expect from him at this stage in his career: .288/.319/.470, 99 wRC+, 4.3% BB rate, 11.6% K rate. As expected, after the initial burst, big league pitchers started adjusting to Hoerner’s extreme contact ability, driving his hard contact rate down to 29.3%, his soft contact rate up to (yikes) 27.6%, and his groundball rate up to (yikes x2) 56.9%.
  • We’ve seen this story before, but what Hoerner has going for him is a better idea of the strike zone than we’ve seen from other high-contact, high-bat-to-ball skills guys like Albert Almora or Starlin Castro. With some more development time, *especially* after seeing how big leaguers attacked him, I’m really optimistic that Hoerner can develop enough discipline to not only get himself more drivable pitches, but also to get that walk rate up near 8-10%, a level at which he becomes a real threat to post a .360+ OBP.
  • Ian Happ still has an awkward throwing motion, but this was a strike to get an out at the plate:

  • I still remain hopeful that the Cubs can figure out a way to keep Happ this offseason and utilize him as a utility man next year. No, he’s not gonna replace Ben Zobrist or anything, but a switch-hitter with speed and power who can play every position except shortstop and catcher? With a newly-expanded 26-man roster? How could you *not* want to keep that guy around, especially when you consider his huge strides this year in contact?
  • Joe Maddon, who dropped a beauty of a quote about the Cubs’ lineups and how much he doesn’t give a rip whether it impacts the Brewers, also had this nice line about playing out the string (Cubs.com): “It’s like going to Spring Training games. It’s awful.” Hey! I like the first 15 or so Spring Training games … but, yeah, I don’t really want to see them in late September, unless it’s because the Cubs clinched weeks earlier.
  • The end of an era, and potentially a career:

  • Hernandez, who is still only 33 but has seemingly had the arm of a 40-year-old for a half-decade now, pitched through the end of his contract with the Mariners, struggling mightily since 2016. But he was such a dang stud for the decade that preceded that, he’ll always be a hero in Seattle.
  • Clothes, games, exercise equipment, cold brew coffee makers – lotta Deals of the Day at Amazon today.

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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.