Got a whole lotta ’80s yacht rock on the brain this morning for some reason. Some of those songs … they’re just good. Don’t judge.
• Although the Cubs did not necessarily set out to accumulate one of the most contact-oriented rotations in baseball, it may prove to be the case. Among the currently-projected members of the rotation, Adbert Alzolay was the only guy to post a better-than-league-average strikeout rate in 2020 (and he made just four starts). Otherwise, Zach Davies sported the best strikeout rate in projected rotation … and he was 3% below average. Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, and Alec Mills were all welllll below average, and generally don’t project to see significant increases in their strikeout rates this year. This rotation figures to be EXTREMELY reliant on managing the quality of contact to be successful.
• … and that, in turn, makes the rotation heavily-reliant on the defense behind them. Yes, soft contact makes for easier plays, but when you allow as much contact as the Cubs will allow, it ain’t all gonna be soft. The defense will have to make not only the routine plays at a super-high clip, but it’ll also have to make some impressive plays on the regular. Fortunately, the Cubs project to line up pretty darn well defensively right now. Catcher, first base, shortstop, and right field all project well above average. Second base would be, too, if it’s Nico Hoerner getting most of the starts (at least average otherwise). Third base is at least average (and Kris Bryant rated above-average last year). Left field is probably slightly above average given Joc Pederson’s success there relative to the other outfield spots. Center field is at least average when you combine the guys who’ll play there.
There are no glaring weaknesses on the defense, and there is the potential to be above average at every single spot. If you were going to construct a rotation based on contact, you better have a defense in place like this one.
• How good can the defense be in 2021, though:
When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, their defense was statistically one of the best ever. That elite defense returned last season and with a contact-oriented rotation, they'll need to remain at that level in 2021 to reach their ceiling. https://t.co/glYIHhmHiX
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 25, 2021
• Oh, also: among the Cubs’ depth starter options, I don’t see any who realistically figure to be high-strikeout guys at the big league level, at least not immediately in 2021 (Shelby Miller, Kohl Stewart, Tyson Miller, Keegan Thompson, Cory Abbott, etc.). The Cubs *do* have big-time starting-caliber strikeout arms on the way in the farm system – guys like Brailyn Marquez, Ryan Jensen, Michael McAvene, Kohl Franklin, and Riley Thompson, among others – but they’re all still a little ways away.
• Pretty good bet that, all else equal and everyone healthy, Cameron Maybin will make the Cubs as the 4th/5th outfielder, together with Jake Marisnick. Here’s David Ross on Maybin, who joined the Cubs for the final month last year (Cubs.com): “He was ready for any role. Ready to come off the bench, ready to start. If somebody went down, he was ready to play great defense. … He’s just an ultimate professional.” That’s pretty much Maybin in a nutshell: just a good, solid, useful overall player.
• Kris Bryant on facing old friend Jake Arrieta in BP (Cubs.com): “Jake looked really good out there today, honestly. I’m happy to have him back in the Cubs uniform. It was weird seeing him in another pinstripe. I’m sure he enjoyed his time in Philly, but it’s really cool to see him back with the guys.”
• Bryant crushed one off of Arrieta, by the way.
• Jason Heyward makes Chicago his full-time home now, and he loves it (Cubs.com): “It’s home. I feel like most people, when you call something home, you live at home. I work out at Wrigley, work out at a few other spots close by in the community. It also allows me to do things to give back to the community and not feel like I need to travel back in town to do it. You know, it just kind of makes it easy to do exactly what I say I’m doing. That’s living and loving Chicago. That’s home.”
• This is fantastic:
On May 12, 1955, Sam “Toothpick” Jones became the first Black pitcher to toss a no-hitter in MLB history, striking out Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas to finish the game. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/PVNgMEuUm7
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 25, 2021
• Throwback at Wrigley:
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) February 26, 2021
So my brother and his wife decided to do something different/special for my little nephew's birthday:
— Unique (@DJUnique812) February 26, 2021
• Things continue to go surprisingly well for the Blackhawks:
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) February 26, 2021
There’s No Question: Patrick Kane Is a Front-Runner for MVPhttps://t.co/IdVjFEMWBd
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) February 25, 2021