Monday, November 28, 2016

Cubs 2017 Projections

ZiPS Fan Graphs for the 2017 Cubs are looking very promising.  ZiPS is one of the most referred to mathematical projection sites around.  It is giving the Cubs, especially Kris Bryant outstanding projections for the upcoming season.

ZiPS uses a static called zWAR, or projected wins above replacement.  Baseball reference breaks down how you come to this number.  ZiPS has Kris Bryant at 6.9, which is the second best in baseball right behind Mike Trout.  Anthony Rizzo (5.7) and Addison Russell (4.2) are also projected to have all-star seasons.  This is fantastic news considering that these numbers will not account for players stepping up and performing better than expected, like so many did last year.

Unfortunately, ZiPS has the Cub's bullpen as the weakest part of the team.  With the departure of Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs will mainly rely on Hector Rondon and Perdo Strop in high leverage situations.  Those two have the potential to be solid relievers, but may never measure up to the all-star, record breaking caliber pitcher that is Aroldis Chapman.

The starting rotation, however, is looking pretty good.  The only starting pitcher that the Cubs will be losing going into next season is their fifth starter Jason Hammel, who's zWAR is at 1.5.  His spot may be filled by Mike Montgomery, who is at 1.1, but hasn't been tested as a consistent starter with the Cubs.

No matter what anyone or any calculated projection says, it is safe to say that we can look forward to fantastic Cubs baseball in 2017.

2017 Cardinals vs. the Cubs

Looking to next season, one of the big questions is going to be if the Cardinals will be able to keep up with the Cubs.  Last season, the Cubs finished with a 17.5 game lead in the central division, allowing them to clinch the postseason on September 16th.  Here are a few thoughts on how the Cardinals are looking for next season.

The Cardinals aren't really losing very many players to free agency this season, only Matt Holiday and Brandon Moss.  With the departure of Matt Holliday, there has been some speculation that perhaps Dexter Fowler may be singed over to the Cards to fill his spot.  Like I've mentioned in an earlier blog post, I think it is going to take a lot to get Fowler away from the Cubs, especially for the Cardinals.  As for Brandon Moss, who occasionally played 1B or OF, his departure will not be as big of an issue.  The Cardinals have some depth at those positions, so they will be ok at those positions.

As far as aging players goes, big veteran players like Yadier Molina aren't getting any younger.  Here's a link to a page that lists the age of every player.  Give him five more years, and he will be on the brink of retirement.  It will be up to the Cardinals front office to come up with a couple more players to fill the shoes of aging players if they want to remain where they are right now (which is 17.5 games back when underperforming)

As a Cubs fan, I will admit that the Cardinals could have a solid team going into next season.  With a lot of the players they have, along with a few additions to the pitching rotation or bullpen, they could have the potential to compete 2016.  Bottom line, their players who have potential need to perform better than last season, and the front office needs do their part as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Future of The Cub's Catchers

On a typical team, you will usually see a starting catcher and a backup catcher.  Last season, the Cubs held a little bit more depth at the position. They had (still have) Miguel Montero, who served as a solid day to day catcher who saw his struggles at the plate, only batting .216.  They also had David Ross, who was the personal catcher for John Lester.  With his age came his struggles at the plate as well, with a .229 batting average, but he served a crucial leadership role in the club house.  He enjoyed what he called his year-long retirement party last season, while going on to win the world series before he retired.  Kyle Schwarber was also a prospect at catcher, but with his recent injury causing him to miss much of the 2016 season, many speculate that he will not likely return to the position.  I, however, remain optimistic for him.

On June 17th, a third catcher was called up to the Cubs from Iowa.  Wilson Contreras served his role very well with his bat, along with being a solid defensive catcher.  Over the 2016 season, Contreras played in 57 games.  In those 57 games of his rookie season in the majors, he threw out 13 base runners.  At the plate, he batted .353 in AAA and .282 in Chicago with 12 home runs.  Here you can find more expansive statistics.

With the retirement of David Ross and a 32 year old Montero's age showing and impending free agency, it is fantastic that the Cubs have Contreras to count on as being the future of Cubs catching.  Next season will be a great opportunity for Montero to share as much of his veteran experience to Contreras as he hands off the torch.

Wrigley Construction

If you have been anywhere near Wrigley in the past few years, I'm sure you know there is a lot of construction and renovating going on.  Since the Ricketts acquired the team in 2007, one of the main objectives (aside from winning a World Series) was to improve the aging facilities.  The whole project is know as the 1060 project, named after Wrigley Field's address.

Last season, a lot of what was done in the off season was structural.  One of the big projects was removing the outfield bleachers.  This consisted of tearing up and replacing the concrete and the bleacher seats themselves.  Another really big improvement was the remodeled clubhouse and new office building for the front office staff.  The old clubhouse was extremely outdated, to the point where it was one of the worst in the MLB.  Below is the Cub's clubhouse both before and after the renovation.

This off season, there is a pretty expansive list of projects that will be underway.  The big one that I would like to note is the moving of the bullpen.  The bullpen will be moved from first and third base line foul territories, to under the bleachers.  Wild warmup pitches were constantly causing delays in play, so it was pretty obvious early on in the renovation plans that would need to change.  With it being under the bleachers and out of site, it will be interesting to see just how fans and broadcasters will know who, if anyone is in the bullpens during high leverage situations.

One thing is obvious, the best ballpark in America will be constantly improving over the next few years.  The Ricketts are doing a fantastic job of adding important modern amenities for players and fans alike, all while keeping the ballpark's century old charm.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Let the Offseason Commence

After an incredible season, it is now time to get settled into a short off-season until pitchers and catchers report in February.  Until then, this blog will bring you analysis and opinions of what Jed and Theo are cooking up for the 2017 season.

There are a couple key players from last season that are free agents: Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman.  Both of these players proved to serve a crucial role in such a successful 2016 season, and the Cubs would love to have them back.  Both the player's fates, however, are up in the air at this point.

As of right now, it is looking a lot like the Yankees want Chapman back pretty bad.  The case of Chapman's scenario is somewhat rare; being such a dominant, tried and tested closer for so long, many teams don't know if they should shell out the money for a long term contract, or go all in and try their luck for one year.  Very few teams have the money for a long term contract for a high-dollar closer.  Those teams include the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Cubs.  Here is a great article that reflects that.  I will say that it is pretty important to look back at the World Series and consider all of the confidence Joe Maddon put in Chapman as opposed to the rest of the bullpen.

Dexter Fowler, however, is a little bit of a different story.  Dexter isn't as much of a high profile player as Chapman is.  Although Fowler rejected the Cub's qualifying offer, I believe his heart is with the cubs, whereas Chapman may be more indifferent.  It is a possibility that Fowler is looking for more of a long term contract with a salary the reflect how valuable he has been to the franchise the last two seasons.  At this point, it is up to Tho and Jed to determine how badly they want him around considering the Cubs currently have the players to fill his spot.

No matter what happens, it is a pretty safe decision to put your faith into the Cub's front office.  Theo Epstein has worked his magic with this team up until this point, and I am pretty sure that is not going to change.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cueto Down!

As I predicted, game one of the NLDS was a very low scoring game.  The Cubs came away with the 1-0 win after Javier Baez hit the go-ahead solo homer into the left field basket in the bottom of the 8th.  Johnny Cueto had been pitching great the entire game, but made a mistake to Baez, and paid for it with the hefty price of his team being down 1-0 in the NLDS.

I was wrong in a sense where I thought it would be a battle of he bullpens.  There were no runs allowed by the Cub's bullpen, and Johny Cueto went a complete game.  This is good new for both pitching staffs.  Both staffs have a pretty well rested bullpen going into game two.  The Cub's only pitched Chapman for one inning, and both Cueto and Bumgarner have pitched complete games for their respective games.

Now, taking a look at the bats from game one.

The Giants held the cubs to only three hits.  That's all the Cubs needed, though.  The Giants, however, out-hit the Cubs with six hits.  two of those where lead off base hits, one in the first, and one in the second.  Thanks to none other than grandpa Rossy for knocking both of those runners off of the base-paths with two great throws.  In the first, Ross threw Gorkys Hernandez out trying to steal 2nd.  In the second, he picked off Connor Gillaspie at first.  Very strong arm for someone who is set to retire.

Tomorrow's game will played at 7pm.  Kyle Hendricks will be facing off against Jeff Samardzija.  I would like to acknowledge how frustrating it would be for Jeff to lose to the Cubs tomorrow.  Keep in mind that Jeff pitched for the cubs from 2008-2014.  He has seen his fair share of bad Cub's team.  He actually had a stretch of the 2014 season where he had the best ERA in the league but was winless.  That just goes to show how terrible the bullpen was.  The cubs traded him to the Athletics the last time they were in "sell mode".  The season after they sold him, Jeff watched the Cubs make it the the NLCS.  Now he is pitching against them in the NLDS.

Hopefully the Cub's bats heat up a little bit tomorrow.  Tomorrow's game will be their best chance to win for a little bit.  After tomorrow's game, the Cub's will be traveling to San Francisco and facing Maddison Bumgarner.  That, in my opinion, is the Giant's game to win.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here We Go

As I'm sure you know, game one of the NLDS is upon us.  The game starts at 8 CT at Wrigley Field, with the pitching matchup of Lester vs Cueto.  Although, I would have much rather seen the Cubs play the Mets (as expressed in my last post), the Giants will make for an exciting series.

With last year's very gratifying win in the NLDS vs. the Cardinals comes another opportunity to shut down another team who may look like they are destined to win.  The Giants have won the World Series for the last three even number seasons (2010, 2012, 2014).  It would be a really satisfying win if the Cubs could break that streak.

The Cubs are 4-3 vs. the Giants last year.  Five of the seven games were one run games.  That is a really good indicator that this series could easily go either way.  Both teams have solid bats and a very good pitching rotation.  Tonights pitching matchup is a solid indicator of that.  John Lester has an ERA of 2.44, and Johnny Cueto has an ERA of 2.79.  It is a solid bet that tonights game is going to be very low scoring.  The bullpens will have a huge role in the outcome of tonights game.

The Cub's bullpen has an ERA of 3.56, ranking 9th in the MLB.  If Lester can go deep in the game today, Chapman should be able to finish them off.  The Giants have an ERA of 3.65 ranking 15th in the MLB.  If the Cubs can do the Giants bullpen what they've been doing to so many bullpens all season, they should be in pretty good shape.

I will follow up tonight with some post game analysis and thoughts.  Enjoy game 1 everyone!