The Cubs’ Lineup Isn’t All That Bad, Streaming Apps Coming, the Red Bill, and Other Cubs Bullets
The AFC Championship Game was pretty darn thrilling last night, but the NFC Championship Game wound up being a snoozer because of the early injury to quarterback Brock Purdy, and the injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance that preceded it. Purdy’s replacement, Josh Johnson, was quickly concussed, and the 49ers were effectively playing without a quarterback for much of the game and it was so over.
It had me thinking about how you can’t really compare the quarterback position to any other spot in sports. What even is the baseball equivalent of losing FOUR quarterbacks in a season? It’s obviously much, much more than losing four starting pitchers. I’d argue it’s closer to losing two+ FULL ROTATIONS’-worth of starting pitchers. The Cubs have the depth this year that they could actually lose one full rotation’s-worth of starters and still field a five-man rotation of above-replacement-level guys, but beyond that, no team could survive it. And we haven’t seen it before either (10+ season-ending-type injuries to starting pitchers on a single team in a single year? I feel like four or five is the most we’ve ever seen). But at quarterback, you have so much concentrated in a single guy, so if he gets hurt, it’s like a massive chunk of your team just got hurt.
- ESPN looked at the 30 teams’ possible lineups, and I think it’s mildly encouraging that they didn’t see a total dud in the Cubs. The Cubs’ lineup ranked 20th, with this description:
The Cubs have at least put themselves in position to have a breakout offensive season, even if the baseline forecast is more middle of the pack. It’s a resume without any really glaring weaknesses, though you’d maybe like to see some more walks. But there aren’t any elite strengths either.
Chicago’s hope comes largely from the potential of individuals on the depth chart to push this middling projection upward. It starts with Swanson maintaining what he did during his last season in Atlanta. Suzuki could be better and Hoerner could continue his growth.
But the biggie is Bellinger. There’s little reason to think the change in scenery will snap him back to MVP form. But if he did come something close to that, that would be the peg the Cubs need on which to hang their hopes for an offensive breakout.
- The thing about the Cubs’ lineup this year is that they are actually going to project, on paper, to be above-average offensively at every spot except catcher and center field. And as ESPN noted, in center field, you’ve got the potential for upside in Bellinger. But the reason the Cubs’ overall offense doesn’t necessarily project to be above-average is that at those other seven spots, they mostly project to be JUST BARELY above average, and the upside they do have is not necessarily massive upside (Seiya Suzuki is probably the closest). A couple injuries here and there, and inevitable underperformance here and there, and you wind up with a slightly below average overall offense, even though a lot of the composite parts on paper were projecting for 105 wRC+.
- In other words, I think ESPN actually really nailed the situation right now for the Cubs’ offense: it doesn’t look terrible, but if it’s going to be “good,” they’re basically going to HAVE to have several pleasant surprises (and good health, and platoons working well, etc.).
- All the more reminder that, if the Cubs are going to be competitive (85+ wins), they’re going to have to play exceptional defense and also be right about their organizational ability to maximize pitching results. The offense is probably not going to be the thing that floats them.
- Fun fact, if you’d forgotten: the 2022 Cubs posted a 98 wRC+, which ranked 20th in baseball, just slightly below average. This year’s installment lost Willson Contreras, but improved incrementally at 1B, 2B, and CF. So, on paper, they’re still in that same zone. It’s not a terrible group! It’s just not great.
- While the Bally/Diamond process works its way toward bankruptcy, the other RSNs are having to figure their own way through the new landscape. For the big boys, it’s going to mean direct-to-consumer offerings (i.e., a standalone app that you can stream games on in-market, without blackouts), and the Yankees’ YES network could be coming very quickly:
- Note that the Cubs have said they want the Marquee standalone up and running sometime this year, but it hasn’t been clear if Opening Day would be realistic. The challenge with these apps is that they afford fans the ability to just get the games they want without having to have a cable package … but that makes the cable channel less attractive to providers who otherwise pay those huge carriage fees to the network. So it’s a very delicate balance of offering the product to fans at a reasonable monthly price, but a price that is large enough that it doesn’t completely undercut/piss off your cable providing partners. NESN tried it last year at $30 per month, but that was for Red Sox AND Bruins, AND it came with eight tickets to games at Fenway. That said, you’re going to be looking at $20 to $30 per month for these services, most likely.
- It remains unclear, by the way, what happens when MLB finally gets its wish of being in the local streaming business. They want to be able to stream all games to all fans in all markets with no blackouts (the ideal modern setup), but teams like the Yankees and Cubs would want more control than that.
- I see a lot of folks agree with Michael here:
- … but I do not. I was never a fan of the red bill hats, even as an alternate. Can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but they just look stupid to me. The all blue, with a red C and red button … it’s just so good. Sure, if you want to wear an alternate hat that looks totally different, great. I’m in. But if you’re simply modifying the base case, then the red bill ain’t for me.
- Cubs fans have only one answer to this prompt, and it would’ve been ugly:
- He’s not wrong, as the Orioles could be very good on the strength of their system alone, but this was the reason they should’ve added ANYTHING in free agency:
- Least valuble typo: