Enjoying the Defense, a Trade After DFA, Sweeper Pluses and Minuses, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Enjoying the Defense, a Trade After DFA, Sweeper Pluses and Minuses, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Little Boy was looking for an activity, so I told him to rank his top 20 favorite Star Wars characters. He is treating it like the most important job he’s ever had. Multiple sheets of paper. Tiers. Making fine distinctions between different clones. This could take a while.

  • I love these plays for different reasons, with one a pure feat of athletic ability, and the other some exceptional quick thinking:
  • I don’t know that we can say for sure that the Cubs will have the single best up-the-middle defense in baseball in 2023 – the rules are changing, guys get hurt, guys underperform, etc. – but I think it’d be pretty hard to argue that the Cubs aren’t at the top of that conversation on paper right now. For fun, on a day Marcus Stroman and Tucker Barnhart start, they could have a Gold Glover at every single up-the-middle spot except Nico Hoerner at second base, where he was merely a finalist. At least until after this season …
  • Also: I think the defense is just going to be a lot of fun to watch. I look forward to that. Enjoying what we’re watching? Kind of a big part of baseball entertainment.
  • The Yankees did the rare thing with lefty Lucas Luetge, where you DFA a guy who has actual value, banking on the fact that you’ll be able to trade him somewhere in the following seven days before having to waive him. You lose a lot of leverage that way, obviously, but the theory is that the market interest will buttress whatever leverage you lost by being forced to trade the guy. In this case, the Yankees found a deal with Braves, netting a couple not-super-interesting, but non-zero prospects in infielder Caleb Durbin and reliever Indigo Diaz. So you might think the Yankees’ gambit worked, but still, it’s a really light return for an arb-level reliever who posted a 2.71 ERA over 129.2 innings the last two years with the Yankees. Yes, Luetge is 35 and the peripherals aren’t quite as strong (still good!), but that’s a guy most would want in their bullpens, and the Braves got him for a relative song.
  • So maybe, in the end, this is a good example of why you don’t DFA a guy with the expectation of trading him, even if you KNOW you’ll be able to trade him for SOMETHING. If you have any other options to open up a necessary 40-man spot, DFA them first.
  • FanGraphs is running down its “best of” content from the past year, which is a handy way to pick up stuff I either missed at the time, or didn’t give enough due. For example, Ben Clemens’ deep dive on “the sweeper” back in September. As you may recall, the sweeper is a slider variation that has become much more popular the last few years (including with the Cubs), and Clemens wanted to dig in on exactly what it does better than the regular, bullet slider (if anything), and why all pitchers don’t just throw sweepers all the time. Read the piece for much more detail and math, but the extremely short version is that sweepers, in the aggregate, are just as effective as regular sliders against same-handed batters with one big separator: they generate a ton more pop-ups. But, contrarily, against opposite-handed hitters, sweepers actually get hit a lot harder than regular sliders.
  • A facile but not wrong conclusion you could draw? This is why we see sweepers among relievers so much more often than among starters. A reliever will have the benefit of more platoon protection than you can afford a starting pitcher. So if a guy can throw only one type of slider effectively, his role might dictate which version is going to be better.
  • (Which has me thinking a bit about a guy like Hayden Wesneski, who throws a helluva good sweeper, but who also has four other usable pitches available to deploy against lefties. That’s probably the model for a starting pitcher who can effectively use a sweeper, but it’s a whole lot to ask of a pitcher to have five usable, MLB-quality pitches. We’ll see if he can keep both parts of that up through 2023.)
  • I think this is funny to think about, and how skewed a new fan’s perspective could be, depending on the movie you chose:


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.