Another Way the Cubs Tried to Upgrade Their Catching, a Massive Trade That Didn’t Happen, WBC Underway, and Other Cubs Bullets
The Cubs are playing Team Canada today as they ramp up for their World Baseball Classic pool play, and I *REALLY* hope Cubs outfield prospect Owen Caissie, who is on Team Canada, is given a chance to start against his organization.
- We now have an advanced stat metric for catcher blocking, available via Statcast. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start (read more about it here). And, yes, it looks like it’s another area where the Cubs upgraded defensively:
- So, basically the Cubs’ new catching tandem would’ve been a solid upgrade in 2020-21, but rates out as what would’ve been a significant upgrade in 2022. Some important context here is that although the differences between a very good blocking catcher and a very poor blocking catcher are huge in terms of raw number of blocks/misses, they do not translate to a huge number of runs saved. The rough estimate is that the Cubs could see upgrade of about 5-ish runs based on blocking, assuming health for Gomes and Barnhart. In turn, that translates to about a half of a win. That’s not nothing, especially for one very specific skill upgrade.
- (Also, that doesn’t account for the possibility that having a top-tier blocking catcher behind the plate could, in some situations, impact the pitch calls and the pitchers’ confidence in really burying one to try to get a swing and miss. You never know.)
- So, based on the defensive things we can quantify, you’re looking at a solid bump in blocking value, a huge bump in framing value, and a slight downgrade in arm strength. The biggest difference – if the Cubs are going to be proven right in their decision to remake their catcher position – is going to have to come from those “soft factors,” including game-management, pitcher preparation, etc. That’ll be a lot harder to evaluate, but I suppose the best clues will come from the pitcher comments throughout the year and whether there are more and more surprisingly impressive performance/results from pitchers we weren’t necessarily expecting.
- A new piece at The Athletic today gets even more quotes on the new catchers, and you’ll continue to sense the theme: nobody is going to say a cross word about Willson Contreras, who necessarily had to focus a lot on his offense because he was so good at it and it produced so much value; but the way these pitchers and coaches talk about Gomes and Barnhart is fundamentally different. It’s just not the kind of stuff we would have heard in years past.
- Example: “With both Yan and Tucker, we’re pretty spoiled here,” Jameson Taillon told The Athletic. “They care about their pitchers. They do their research. They do their homework. What I’ve already noticed is that they have kind of a plan going in, but they also watch the game and see what you’re feeling, talk to you in the dugout. It’s just that nonstop communication. It takes a lot off my plate when those guys are doing their homework. I don’t really love thinking out there. I like just making pitches and following them. They’re already earning my trust.”
- Good lord … can you even IMAGINE if this trade had happened, and all the fallout that would’ve come in the years after:
- The butterfly wings on that thing are tremendous, right down to a question on whether Jason Heyward would’ve ever wound up with the Cubs. A really wild one? If Heyward is traded to the Yankees, that means he’s never traded to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller. Which, in turn, means Miller is never traded to the Diamondbacks as part of the Dansby Swanson deal. Which means the trajectory of Swanson’s career is completely altered, and maybe he never breaks out, much less ever winds up signing with the Cubs.
- Missed this one – most of the split-screen demonstrations this spring have been about the pitch clock, but this is ALSO a good demonstration of how important PitchCom has become, especially with runners on second:
- The World Baseball Classic got underway last night, with the Netherlands taking down Cuba in the opening game:
- Meanwhile, Panama-Chinese Taipei just got underway early this morning, with a RAUCUS atmosphere:
- Incredible sliders, better name:
- This would be an awful revelation if it winds up being true (though it’s hard to see how you could ever really know for sure):
But What About a Happ Extension, Suzuki Defense, Busy Day, Rucker, Replay Timing, and Other Cubs Bullets
FOLKS! The Cubs Are in “Advanced Discussions” on a Nico Hoerner Extension!!! (UPDATE: It’s Happening!)