Villar’s Defense, Heyward's Future, Newcomb's Role, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Villar’s Defense, Heyward’s Future, Newcomb’s Role, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

How do you create tension and surprise in a show where we already know so many of the outcomes? That was how. Last night was how.

•   As a team, the Cubs have just seven errors. Their total team metrics peg them, at the moment, as roughly an average defense. Roughly squares with our perception from watching so far, no? I haven’t really noticed a stellar group overall, nor have I noticed the group being bad at defense. Just, you know, fine.

•   … well. There is one big exception. Of those seven team errors, four belong to Jonathan Villar. One belongs to Yan Gomes on a throw to Villar that should’ve been caught/stopped/blocked. And another error over the weekend was changed in the scoring to a borderline hit. For our evaluative purposes, it’s as if Villar has something like six of the team’s eight-ish errors. That’s bananas. Absent Villar, the Cubs would, overall, rate out as an above-average defensive team.

•   And while it’s way too early to use the advanced defensive metrics on an individual player to make any kind of projections for the future, it’s not as if they don’t square with what we’ve seen: Villar rates as brutally negative already at third base and shortstop (fine in his very small dose at second base), where he’s already accumulated -4 Defensive Runs Saved. If he continued starting at third base and shortstop on the semi-regular, at the rate he’s accumulating negative DRS, he would total OVER NEGATIVE FORTY DRS by the end of the season. Going back 15 years when this data started to be more regularly calculated, no defensive season has approached -40, not even the infamous Ryan Braun season at third base back in 2007 (a mere -32). Again, you can’t do a linear extrapolation like this, and it’s more likely than not that Villar would not actually total -40 over the course of a whole season. Instead, the point is just to underscore how bad he has been for this particular stretch. He has been completely unplayable on the left side, and as much as you want his bat in the lineup, you cannot afford to start him on defense if he doesn’t improve. Here’s hoping there’s a correctible issue with the throws, at least.

•   If the defense doesn’t improve, and if Andrelton Simmons is still really far away from returning, the Cubs will have to consider bringing up Ildemaro Vargas (but he is not yet on the 40-man roster, so there would have to be a corresponding move there, to say nothing of figuring out how to fit him onto the active roster).

•   Speaking of the roster crunch …. The latest ‘Onto Waveland’ had us discussing, among other things, when you draw the line and decide that it’s time to move on from Jason Heyward:

•   The answer to Mooney’s question, in my view, was that it would be difficult – and maybe late April is too difficult for the clubhouse dynamics – but at some point, Heyward is departing. That is a guarantee, if not by virtue of his performance and roster spot, then by virtue of his expiring contract next year. So it has to happen eventually anyway, and if there is no thinking that Heyward is going to contribute meaningfully to a winning team in 2023, then the cut has to happen sometime this year in service of letting other guys play who might contribute in 2023. We’ve already talked about how Heyward’s deployment against all righties (together with Rafael Ortega as DH) is arguably the thing keeping Alfonso Rivas out of the starting lineup (where his glove would be an upgrade at first, and Frank Schwindel could still frequently DH).

•   I just enjoyed seeing this (also follow us on Instagram and such!):


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•   Justin Steele, summing up this weekend (The Athletic): “I think we are going to be better. We have a very good team in this locker room. But it’s baseball, things are going to happen. You’re not going to win every ball game. But I think we’re a lot better than losing three out of four to the Pirates at home.”

•   So much Ninja food stuff is in the Amazon Deals of the Day today, so check that out. #ad

•   Sahadev Sharma writes a bunch of Cubs notes, including a deep dive on Ian Happ’s musical affection for Sad Girl Indie music (which actually winds up quite a funny section). On a more substantive note, the Cubs aren’t going to tinker with Sean Newcomb much yet:

The things Newcomb needs to work on won’t be pushed on him just yet as the Cubs focus on getting him comfortable with their system and encouraging him to just let his stuff play in the strike zone ….

An outing like Saturday’s, in which Newcomb came in to pitch the eighth with his team up 17-0, was a perfect opportunity to give him a few batters under little pressure.

“I think having another lefty down there is valuable,” Ross said. “I’m trying to ease him into things. I try to see how guys handle each moment. It’s one thing probably — in my mind right now, it will probably be a little less leverage to start.”

Newcomb threw 15 pitches in a 1-2-3 frame, 12 of them four-seamers that he looked to get up and sometimes above the zone. He garnered two whiffs and two called strikes on the offering while flashing his curveball twice and the cutter once. What comes next for Newcomb is still to be seen. Hottovy and his staff will eventually have him start working on a few ideas they have, whether it be pitch usage, location or even some grip or mechanical adjustments. What he’s comfortable with and what he takes to will be key, of course. But for now, Newcomb will just be expected to come in for lower-leverage outings as the Cubs ease him into his new surroundings.

•   RIP:

•   Why don’t I believe you:

•   TBD whether that winds up being up to him:

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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.