Counsell on Developing Timely Hitting, Gray and the Cardinals, Yamamoto MVP, and Other Cubs Bullets

If you could guarantee the Cubs sign Shohei Ohtani by eating a massive number of pancakes – large, fluffy, NO butter or syrup – how many pancakes could you eat? One sitting. If you puke or dump, it’s over, but otherwise you can take as long as you want. I feel like I could do something well into the double-digits, depending on just HOW large and fluffy we’re talking about, but the lack of butter and syrup would really sting. I wish this were a real opportunity.

  • Sometimes I remember that the Cubs got Craig Counsell as their manager and it makes me happy. Stray note on something Counsell gets right. From The Athletic:
  • “Oh, the nerds are going to love this one. Asked by a reporter how to develop timely hitting, Counsell shot down the theory immediately.

    ‘I don’t think you can develop timely hitting,’ Counsell said. ‘You can have hitters that have skills, that put the ball in play a lot. Generally that’s going to give them a better chance, probably have a higher (chance) because the ball’s going to be in play more. But I think we’re pretty far down the line of proving there’s nothing to that.’

    Counsell brings up a good point about putting the ball in play. Do that and sometimes crazy things will happen. The Cubs had one truly bad month — May — hitting with runners in scoring position. But some would tell you it was a weakness. In May, they struck out 28 percent of the time in those situations and had a .285 BABIP. In every other month, their BABIP was above .300 and their strikeout rate actually was better than in most other situations (it never got higher than 23.1 percent and generally hovered around 20 percent with runners in scoring position).”

  • In other words, from Counsell’s perspective, good hitters tend to be good hitters, and you’re really not going to be able, at a team level, to flip a magic switch and create “clutch” hitters. Guys who can put the ball in play in those moments, that’s probably the biggest skill question at issue, and we’ve certainly seen that so much over the years (and which really stung the Cubs in May, for as much as we mostly focused on the batting average with runners in scoring position at the time). Where this matters at the managerial level is that you just don’t want a guy operating from a false sense of reality, and then working outward from there to make his “gut” decisions. Not that I worried Counsell would see this issue the wrong way, but it’s comforting to know that – as un-fun as it is, and counter to traditional baseball narratives – he believes there’s nothing to the idea that some guys can consistently get BETTER than their usual selves when in big moments.
  • Sonny Gray is the new front-man of the revamped St. Louis Cardinals rotation. In what has become a delightful tradition for every new Cardinals player signing, he looks overjoyed in his first-look screen grab:
  • The three years and $75 million (club option could take it to four and $100 million) probably didn’t hurt:
  • Just kidding, because that fit always seemed to make sense. The question going forward is whether the addition of Sonny Gray, together with Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson before him, is all she wrote for Cardinals starting pitcher moves this offseason. The Cardinals certainly have more moves to make, but it’s possible that no more starters are coming:
  • In addition to winning the NPB version of the Cy Young and pitching triple crown for the third straight year, Yoshinobu Yamamoto also won the league MVP for the third year in a row:
  • So, basically, if you sign Yamamoto, you’re getting the next Ichiro. Something like that.
  • The Marlins claimed former Cubs pitching prospect Ryan Jenson off of waivers from the Mariners yesterday. Jensen is likely to keep doing this dance all offseason, unfortunately, because he’s a highly-attractive outright candidate (get to keep him for 2024, not on the 40-man, let him try to work things out at Triple-A). You first have to get him through waivers, though, which means the process will keep repeating itself. Cubs tried it, Mariners claimed him. Mariners tried it, Marlins claimed him. And at some point, the Marlins are going to try it, and for all we know, the Cubs might snag him again and try to be the team that finally gets him through waivers.
  • Was a stud in 2023 for the Cubs – finally stayed healthy, got a real shot, and harnessed it all. Cubs will need him to do it again in 2024:
  • Cubs have a lot of players and prospects training at the Cressey facility this offseason. Love to see it. The founder, Eric Cressey, is the Director of Player Health and Performance for the Yankees, and has been connected to the baseball world for a long time.
  • A whole bunch of toys are a Deal of the Day at Amazon today if you want to start looking ahead to Christmas and knock out some shopping. #ad
  • This is really fun and I missed it originally (the arm around Buster the whole time is the cherry on top):
  • At 3:58am, Peter Gammons tweeted something incredibly cryptic about new Red Sox President Craig Breslow and I need to know what it’s about:
  • The initial Mets ZiPS are kinda rough, especially in the rotation and in the outfield. I know there were rumors about them taking a step back this year, so maybe they’ll just let this ride a bit. But if they aim to compete, they REALLY need to add a couple starting pitchers and a corner outfielder.
  • My guess is that by this time next week, after the first full day of the Winter Meetings, the Cubs will have made at least one notable addition. Not saying it’ll be one of the TOP names, but a move that we look at and think, ok, yeah, that is something.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

    more cubs news

    Matt Chapman’s Deal with the Giants and the Cubs’ Third Base Options

    I was asleep when word broke around midnight that Matt Chapman was signing with the San Francisco Giants. So I woke up to a buncha texts about the news as I rolled over to my phone, and I had an...

    Cubs vs Dodgers: Lineups, Pitching Matchup, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

    *HOMAGE is excited to reissue the iconic CUBS STARTER SATIN JACKET in an exclusive limited edition release. A certified nineties throwback, these exclusive vintage-inspired jackets are built for the dugout, with all the classic details of the original. Get your...

    The First Spring Training Injury Hits Ian Happ’s Hamstring

    Fffffffffffffflip. I know this happens every year. I know you can set your watch by it. I know you have to just hope that it's not a super major injury to a super major player. But I still hate it...

    Busch and Bellinger, Lefties in the Lineup, NL Central Starters, Fun Was Had, and Other Cubs Bullets

    Matt Chapman thoughts and comments forthcoming in a bit (thanks to Michael for jumping on the news last night - stop it with these late night moves!). I want to set that aside as a separate matter, hit up the...

    REPORT: Matt Chapman Signs (Another Opt-Out Heavy Deal) with the Giants

    Cody Bellinger and the Chicago Cubs came to an opt-out heavy agreement last weekend. And tonight, another one of the Boras Four comes off the board. This time, it's free agent third baseman Matt Chapman heading to the San Francisco...

    Spring Training Miscellany: Comeback Cubs, Caissie Crushes, Cuas Cruises, Cosmic Chaos, More

    The young Cubs did the comeback thing AGAIN today. It's just Spring Training, none of it matters, and so forth, but it's still really fun to see these guys doing it. You can really dream on the future, even as...

    I Dug Deep on the Cubs 2024 Schedule (And I Like What I See)

    Finally, with Cody Bellinger in the fold, we can start focusing more seriously on the season ahead. So today, I thought we'd take a look at the Cubs 2024 schedule. You can flip through the Cubs 2024 schedule right here...

    Cubs Tentatively Looking to Rotate Players at Designated Hitter

    The Chicago Cubs won't be naming "a" designated hitter any time soon, if ever. Very few teams these days have a dedicated guy in that spot, and Craig Counsell was suggesting very early in the offseason that his preference is...

    Cubs vs White Sox: Lineups, Pitching Matchup, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

      CUBS LINEUP — This afternoon, Justin Steele will take the mound for his first start of the spring. He's got a very big season ahead of him, entering the year with MUCH higher expectations than 2023, but none of...

    Dansby Swanson Shows Off His Gold Glove Infield Routine

    Dansby Swanson is known for, among other things, his superlative shortstop defense. And, more specifically, he's known for his incredibly consistent ability to complete plays. He's just so sure-handed, so steady, and so capable. You don't get that way on...

    Latest News

    Ladd McConkey Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash, Profile, Scouting Report

    Ladd McConkey, a wide receiver from Georgia, has emerged as one of the top prospects for the 2024 NFL draft. He is currently participating in the on-field drills, and athletic testing at the NFL combine after impressing draft scouts at...

    Canucks vs. Ducks Prediction: Picks, Live Odds and Moneyline – Sunday, March 3, 2024

    The Vancouver Canucks travel to face the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, and are -230 favorites on the moneyline, with the home team a heavy underdog at +190.Canucks vs. Ducks Favorite, Moneyline, TotalFavorite: Canucks (-230)Underdog: Ducks (+190)Total: 6.5Best Canucks vs. Ducks...

    Capitals vs. Coyotes Prediction: Odds, Picks, Best Bets – Sunday, March 3, 2024

    The oddsmakers give the edge to the Washington Capitals on home ice (-142) over the Arizona Coyotes (+120) when they play on Sunday, March 3 at 1:00 PM ET.Capitals vs. Coyotes Favorite, Moneyline, TotalFavorite: Capitals (-142)Underdog: Coyotes (+120)Total: 6Best Capitals...

    Kings vs. Devils Prediction: Live Odds, Stats, History and Picks – Sunday, March 3, 2024

    The Los Angeles Kings welcome the New Jersey Devils on March 3 at 3:30 PM ET, and are -125 favorites, with the away team at +105.Kings vs. Devils Favorite, Moneyline, TotalFavorite: Kings (-125)Underdog: Devils (+105)Total: 6.5Best Kings vs. Devils Promo...

    Presbyterian vs. Charleston Southern Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    The Presbyterian Blue Hose (13-17, 5-10 Big South) are at home in Big South play against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (10-18, 6-9 Big South) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 2:00 PM ET. The Blue Hose are favored by 7.5...

    Minnesota vs. Penn State Prediction: Spread, Total Points, Moneyline Picks – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    The Penn State Nittany Lions (14-15, 8-10 Big Ten) are underdogs (by 6.5 points) to end a three-game road losing streak when they visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-11, 8-9 Big Ten) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 3:15 PM...

    Iowa State vs. UCF Prediction: Picks and Betting Odds – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    Big 12 foes square off when the No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones (22-6, 11-4 Big 12) visit the UCF Knights (15-12, 6-9 Big 12) at Addition Financial Arena, beginning at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, March 2, 2024. The Knights...

    Weber State vs. Northern Arizona Prediction: Spread, Total Points, Moneyline Picks – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    The Weber State Wildcats (19-10, 10-6 Big Sky) are heavily favored (by 12.5 points) to continue a three-game home win streak when they host the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (14-16, 7-9 Big Sky) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 4:00 PM...

    Grambling vs. Florida A&M Prediction: Picks and Betting Odds – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    The Florida A&M Rattlers (6-20, 4-11 SWAC) are heavy underdogs (+10) as they try to stop a four-game road losing streak when they visit the Grambling Tigers (14-13, 11-3 SWAC) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly...

    Duke vs. Virginia Prediction: Picks and Betting Odds – Saturday, March 2, 2024

    The No. 10 Duke Blue Devils (22-6, 13-4 ACC) host the Virginia Cavaliers (21-8, 12-6 ACC) after winning five straight home games. The Blue Devils are favored by 9.5 points in the matchup, which tips at 6:00 PM ET on...

    more cubs news