October 30, 2017


One of the major deficiencies the Cubs had in 2017 was the lack of timely hitting.

In the playoffs, the Cubs could only score runs on homers.

The front office stats department has been keen on signing OBP hitters. On base percentage was more important than batting average. This led to a line up devoid of any .300 hitters.

On base is great if you actually get on base. In the playoffs, the Cubs batters looked at less than the league average in pitches per at bat. The Dodgers threw more than 200 less pitches to the Cubs during the NLCS. You cannot walk on less than 4 pitches per at bat.

The other problem with the Cubs line up was that it really could not manufacture runs.

Joe Maddon has an issue in "giving up outs" to sacrifice a hitter to move up a runner (the exception is the pitcher's spot.) But in close games, one cannot count on .250 hitters coming through to drive in runners in scoring position.

The way to manufacture runs is through the lead off hitter. Traditionally, the lead off hitter has been a high average, speedy base stealer. Once on base, the lead off man has many options to put pressure on the pitcher/defense: steal a base; hit and run; move from first to third on a single; move to second on sac bunt.

The Cubs have used many unconventional lead off hitters: Schwarber, Rizzo, Bryant, Zobrist.

One of the glaring needs is a solid, consistent lead off hitter to create a stable line up.
Players are creatures of habit. They like to know their role. They like to know where they will be batting in the lineup because their approach may differ.

A good lead off man will come up three times in a game with the opportunity to be the engine to manufacture a run. After reaching first, a steal and a sacrifice to third puts a runner 90 feet away with less than two outs. The odds are more than 50 percent that the runner will score. That is much greater than waiting for a hitter to hit a home run. The Cubs home run/at bat percentage was just three percent.

Unless the Cubs are going to try out Almora as the new lead off man (and that is a big "if" since Maddon refused to start him against right handers on a regular basis), the 2018 lead off man is not currently on the Cubs active roster.

Without runners on base, the meat of the order has less chance of driving in runs.

The Cubs need to refine their line up decisions to create a dynamic options for the offense.
The order needs to look like this:

1. A new lead off hitter who can get on and steal bases.
2. A new protection hitter who can get the lead off hitter into scoring position.
3. Traditionally, the team's best hitter for average.
4. Traditionally, the team's best power hitter.
5. The team's second best hitter for average and power.

Barring a day off, these top five hitters should remain in their slots for the entire season.

But Maddon likes "match ups" more than players "adjusting" to pitchers. Maddon will like to platoon two outfield positions with righty-lefty matches than try to get a consistent chemistry in a batting order.

A side note on the start of the off-season. The front office purged the coaching staff. Theo and Jed have added more ex-Boston coaches, including new hitting coach Chili Davis. It would appear that management is looking for more production from the players they currently have on the roster. 

October 27, 2017


A dip in the current free agent pool is lukewarm.

Excluding players with contract options, the positions of Cubs 2018 need find little help.

MLBTR Updated 10-23-17 Player (Age)


Alex Avila (31)
A.J. Ellis (37)
Nick Hundley (34)
Chris Iannetta (35)
Jose Lobaton (33)
Jonathan Lucroy (32)
Miguel Montero (34)
Rene Rivera (34)
Carlos Ruiz (39)
Geovany Soto (35)


Left Fielders
Cody Asche (28)
Peter Bourjos (31)
Melky Cabrera (33)
Rajai Davis (37)
Jarrod Dyson (33)
Craig Gentry (34)
Curtis Granderson (37)
Franklin Gutierrez (35)
Chris Heisey (33)
Austin Jackson (31)
Jon Jay (33)
Howie Kendrick (34)
Hyun Soo Kim (30)

Cameron Maybin (31)
Tyler Moore (31)
Daniel Nava (35)
Eduardo Nunez (31)
Colby Rasmus (31)
Ben Revere (30)
Michael Saunders (31)
Scott Van Slyke (31)
Jayson Werth (39)
Chris B. Young (34)
Eric Young Jr. (33)

Center Fielders
Peter Bourjos (31)
Lorenzo Cain (32)
Rajai Davis (37)
Jaff Decker (28)
Jarrod Dyson (33)
Carlos Gomez (32)
Austin Jackson (31)
Jon Jay (33)
Cameron Maybin (31)
Andrew McCutchen (31) — $14.75MM club option with a $1MM buyout

Right Fielders

Jay Bruce (31)
Melky Cabrera (33)
Craig Gentry (34)
Carlos Gonzalez (32)
Curtis Granderson (37)
Austin Jackson (31)
John Jaso (34)
Jon Jay (33)
J.D. Martinez (30)
Carlos Moncrief (29)
Tyler Moore (31)
Michael Saunders (31)
Seth Smith (35)
Scott Van Slyke (31)
Jayson Werth (39)

Starting Pitchers
Brett Anderson (30)
Jake Arrieta (32)
Christian Bergman (30)
Mike Bolsinger (30)
Clay Buchholz (33)
Trevor Cahill (30)
Andrew Cashner (31)
Jhoulys Chacin (30)
Tyler Chatwood (28)
Jesse Chavez (34)
Alex Cobb (30)
Josh Collmenter (32)
Bartolo Colon (45)
Yu Darvish (31)
R.A. Dickey (43)
Scott Feldman (35)
Doug Fister (34)
Jaime Garcia (31)
Matt Garza (34)
Dillon Gee (32)
Miguel Gonzalez (34)
Jeremy Hellickson (31)
Derek Holland (31)
David Holmberg (26)
Drew Hutchison (27)
Ubaldo Jimenez (34)
John Lackey (39)
Francisco Liriano (34)
Jeff Locke (30)
Jordan Lyles (27)
Lance Lynn (31)
Miles Mikolas (29)
Wily Peralta (29)
Michael Pineda (29)
Tyson Ross (31)
CC Sabathia (37)
Anibal Sanchez (34)
Hector Santiago (30)
Chris Tillman (30)
Jason Vargas (35)
Hideaki Wakui (32)
Asher Wojciechowski (29)
Chris Young (39)

Right-Handed Relievers
Matt Albers (35)
John Axford (35)
Matt Belisle (38)
Joaquin Benoit (40)
Christian Bergman (30)
Mike Bolsinger (30)
Blaine Boyer (36)
Trevor Cahill (30)
Jesse Chavez (34)
Josh Collmenter (32)
Tyler Clippard (33)
Steve Cishek (32)
Wade Davis (32)
Neftali Feliz (30)
Dillon Gee (32)
Jeanmar Gomez (30)
Luke Gregerson (34)
Jason Grilli (41)
David Hernandez (33)
Yoshihisa Hirano (34)
Greg Holland (32)
Tommy Hunter (31)
Brandon Kintzler (33)
Seth Maness (29)
Chris Martin (32)
Dustin McGowan (36)
Brandon Morrow (33)
Jason Motte (36)
Peter Moylan (39)
Pat Neshek (37)
Juan Nicasio (31)
Bud Norris (33)
Seung-hwan Oh (35)
Kevin Quackenbush (29)
Chad Qualls (39)
Addison Reed (29)
Fernando Rodney (41)
Francisco Rodriguez (36)
Sergio Romo (35)
Fernando Salas (33)
Rob Scahill (31)
Bryan Shaw (30)
Joe Smith (34)
Craig Stammen (34)
Drew Storen (30)
Anthony Swarzak (32)
Koji Uehara (43)
Tom Wilhelmsen (34)
Asher Wojciechowski (29)
Chris Young (39)

Left-Handed Relievers
Fernando Abad (32)
Craig Breslow (37)
Jorge De La Rosa (37)
Brian Duensing (35)
Zach Duke (35)
Josh Edgin (31)
David Holmberg (26)
Francisco Liriano (34)
Jake McGee (31)
Eric O’Flaherty (33)
Oliver Perez (36)
Glen Perkins (35)
Kevin Siegrist (28)
Tony Watson (32)

All of these players probably have the dream to start next season, especially the catchers and starting pitchers.

The Cubs need a back up catcher, and the two best available, Avila and Rivera, were on last year's roster.  Avila wants to start so he is out of the picture.

Depending on how the Cubs want to structure their outfield (trade Schwarber, play Almora in center, and/or bench Heyward), there is a case that the team needs two corner outfielders with starter credentials. JD Martinez will be the prize FA. Cabrera, Gonzalez, Cain and Bruce will round out the second tier starters. Jay seems to be the best 4th OF candidate in the FA class.

Can the Cubs find two quality starting pitchers without breaking the bank? Probably not.

The top tier starters are Arrieta, Chatwood, Cobb, Darvish, and Tanaka if he opts out.
Reclamation projects include Hellickson, Peralta, Tillman, Sanchez and Holland.
The homecoming crew could be Cahill, Cashner and Feldman.

Quality relievers are hard to find. The best of the bunch appear to be Morrow, Davis, Watson and Kintzler.

In the educated guess department, the Cubs will probably target one premiere starter and one reclamation arm; Cobb and Tillman. Or  the team might end up with one arm like Cashner.

For the bullpen, the Cubs often hunt under the radar arms like Gomez, Collmenter or Reed.

Currently, the Cubs can shed $45.7 million off its 2017 payroll via free agency and non-tender arbitration. 

October 24, 2017


The Cubs are at a cross road. It can take the first fork and try to regain its championship form by spending a lot of money in free agency to compete with the Dodgers, Nationals and Yankees. Or it can take the second fork and try to bandage its wounds with the hope that the current core will rebound to their 2016 performance levels.

The Cubs are also at a financial cross road. 2016's success saw massive spikes in the costs of going to a Cub game. The gravy train was open for business. But a slow start and the novelty of not winning haven been worn off, made a destination to Wrigley not a prime ticket in 2017. Even during the playoffs, tickets were being sold under face value. The Ricketts problem continues to be how to maximize revenue for their huge development costs outside of Wrigley. If fans don't have to be part of the "experience" of winning (since they experienced the championship already), then the Cubs have to try to excite the fan base with a "dynasty team."

But Theo has been under a tight financial budget for the last three seasons. It is unlikely that the front office will be given a blank check to solve its baseball operation problems.

Part of the current issues are self-inflicted philosophical errors. The draft strategy has been simple: in the early rounds take the best college hitter available (Bryant, Schwarber, Happ). All three have made it quickly to the majors, with a varying degree of success. At the same time, the front office felt that signing free agent pitchers was the way to build a rotation. Then the final piece was to overdraft pitchers with the statistical hope that a few would pan out. In the Epstein Cub era, he has not developed one major league starting pitcher.

There are no potential solutions in Iowa. The AAA staff has not shown promise.
Brooks: 8-10, 6.12 ERA
Perez: 7-10, 5.01 ERA
Freeoff: 2-8, 4.40 ERA
Buchannon: 7-2, 4.46 ERA
Kelly: 7-5, 4.46 ERA
Tseng: 6-1, 1.80 (7.50 ERA in two major league starts)
Zastryzny: 2-3, 5.94 ERA.

Carasiti: 21 saves, 1-3, 3.26 ERA, 1.45 WHIP.
And this problem led to the Cubs trying to trade for pitching. Pitching is the diamond asset in most organizations. It takes a fortune to give up on young pitchers. This year the Cubs paid the price to get Quintana for the stretch run. Arrieta, Strop, Hendricks, Davis, and Montgomery came through trades. But is really hard to find a AAAA pitcher who just needs "a change of scenery" to blossom into a star.

The minor league system is out of high value assets. In Iowa, only two players had good seasons. Catcher Catatini hit .342, with 10 HR and 61 RBI. He has been on the major league roster and appears to be the 2017 back up to Contreras. Infielder Freeman hit .306, 3 HR, 31 RBI appears to be a defensive utility man at best.

Who are the Cubs most valuable trade assets?

Bryant and Rizzo, but they are going no where. They are the face of the franchise that needs "star power" to hold fan interest.

Russell and Baez are similar players that could anchor the middle infield for years to come. If one had to guess, the front office to keep Baez over Russell.

Contreras has worked his way to untouchable status. He may be the best catcher in the NL. He could become the next Molina.

Schwarber, Almora and Happ are all outfielders with various skill levels. Schwarber is a pure hitter than does not hit the ball as much as everyone thought he would. He is turning into an Adam Dunn/DH. Almora is one of Epstein's guys, a #1 pick, who does not get enough opportunities under Maddon's managing style. Happ is an infielder who is playing the outfield in order to get his bat into the lineup, but in a desperate time to find playoff offense, Maddon sat Happ on the bench.

Zobrist and Heyward are declining players who have no trade clauses. They have to be slated to be expensive bench players in 2018. Which means the Cubs are in a market for a power hitting right fielder.

The Cubs current depth chart shows the holes to fill:

ROTATION: Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN.
Set up Man: UNKNOWN
Relievers: Strop, Montgomery, Wilson, Edwards, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN.

OUTFIELD: Schwarber, Almora, UNKNOWN
Reserve OF: Heyward, Happ

Infield: Bryant, Russell, Baez, Rizzo
Catcher: Contreras
Reserves: Caratini, LaStella 

October 23, 2017


“Sooner or later you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club.  We’re entering a phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.” --- Theo Epstein

General managers often fall in love "with their guys." To the point of overvaluing them; overprotecting them from the trade market; and hyping potential over performance.

The Epstein-Hoyer management has their own guys like Lester, Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber and Happ.

Whether they will stick with their guys or move them will be the major story in the off-season. Much of the early blame to the playoff flame out was on the faltering bullpen and pitching staff (which led to the firing of pitching coach Chris Bosio.) But in reality, the offensive was so bad it would have taken perfect pitching to win against the Dodgers.

The Cubs go into the off-season with a lot of work to do.

The starting pitchers on the roster with major league experience as of this moment: Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Zastryzny, Montgomery, Tseng.

Relievers on the roster with major league experience: Maples, Strop, Wilson.

From first glance, the Cubs have to sign three more starting pitchers this off season and find seven more major league ready relief pitchers in order to have pitching staff depth in 2018.

One of the great failures of the current Cubs front office is the inability to draft and develop starting pitchers. Approximately 48 percent of all Cub draft choices have been pitchers. The minor leagues is devoid of any can't miss pitching prospects. It puts pressure on the team to go out and trade or sign pitchers (which is the highest value commodity in the off-season).

The projected 2018 rotation is simple: Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN.

The bullpen is more a mess considering Wilson was pegged to be the next closer, and he got dropped from the playoff roster because of his bad performance.

Another problem with the current Cubs team is Maddon's tendency to "over manage" his club. He likes players who can play multiple positions, even if they have never played it before or are not the best at it. Prime example was playing Zobrist in RF. At times, he was slow to break on balls and did not cover much ground. Heyward is a defensive gold glove, but has a concrete bat.

Both Zobrist and Heyward appear to be expensive bench players. Heyward and Zobrist both have not trade clauses. Heyward will make $21.5 million and Zobrist $16.5 million next year.

The infield is set with Bryant, Russell, Baez, Rizzo and Contreras. Caratini projects to be the back up at catcher and first. LaStella projects to be the second super sub off the bench.

The outfield appears to have only Schwarber, Almora and Heyward. Happ seems to Joe's new Tampa Zo, moving from infield and outfield game by game.

With so many major holes to fill with little left in the minors to trade, some contract controlled player will have to be moved in a trade. Schwarber, Baez or Happ seem to be the most likely candidates.

Theo has painted himself into a corner to make some hard choices. The championship hangover is now over. Fans expect the Cubs to be in the playoffs next year to erase the disappointing finish to this season.

October 18, 2017


Joe Maddon said the Cubs have four Game 7s in a row.

Such the optimist.

He also said there was nothing he could say to motivate his team in this time of crisis.

We thought he was the great motivator when the Cubs hired him.

Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Sun-Times got Bryant and Rizzo to admit that they are physically tired in this Dodgers series.

The whole team looks lethargic. The mental fielding errors show a glaring problem. The lack of plate discipline is the reason for weak offensive production. The whole team seems to be dragging their heels from game to game.

But how can the team be collectively "tired?"

Yes, the Nationals series was a roller coaster ride. But the Cubs have only played 8 games since the season ended in early October. And the Cubs had 7 days off during that time period. And Maddon rested his regulars prior to the end of the regular season.

Part of it could be mental, part physical.

And the way Maddon managed the Nationals series had a direct, negative impact on the NLCS. He has a habit of doing things drastically different in the post-season than in the regular season, especially with his pitching staff. Starters as relievers, relievers pitching more innings than normal, and the quick hook on starters.

Perhaps the hitters are feeling the pressure of a weak bullpen. Perhaps the starters feel pressure of having to be perfect since the offense is not scoring runs. Perhaps the bullpen is imploding because of the pressure of bad defense plays leading to stressful relief appearances.

The Cubs are backed into a corner. A cornered, battered dog should attack. But in the case of the Cubs, they may just go out with a whimper.

If we look back at the preseason expectations, the Cubs were destined to get to the World Series and probably repeat. The young core had just learned how to win championships.

But apparently, the continuing excuse has been the young core has not learned how to celebrate championships. The championship "hang over" lasted to the All-Star break (and some whisper it is still present). If the Cub players and staff thought the Cubs were so good that they could "turn it on" at any point in the season or a series, we know now that is not true. It has never been true. Preparation, research, training, repetition and baseball intelligence of a pro player is a daily exercise.

The teams remaining in the playoffs have one thing in common: a lights out bullpen. The Yankees have former closer Robertson coming in at any inning like a firefighter containing a potential out-of-control blaze. The Dodgers use Morrow in a way to take down the other team's best hitters. A bullpen that can take the ball in the 6th and shut out an opponent is the key to victory - - - it gives the offense 12 outs to mount a comeback or hold the lead.

The 2017 Cubs did rest on their 2016 laurels. Schwarber is no longer Mr. October. Arrieta is no longer Cy Young, Jr. Hendricks looks like Older Greg Maddux. Baez looks like a lost rookie at the plate. The general expectations for 2017 were diminished by the WS win. But it is how the Cubs are losing is disappointing to many fans.

Some people are comparing the Cubs to the Blackhawks. The current Hawks won their first Stanley Cup with a young core surrounded by veterans. But they could not repeat. The team had to re-tool for the second championship and then again for the third. They had to re-learn the hunger to get the title. Hopefully, this can be the Cubs projected cycle: re-tool to win another championship before the window closes (i.e., Bryant and/or Rizzo's free agency).

October 17, 2017


As the NLCS returns to Wrigley Field with the tenor of "must win" games, the focus is still on Joe Maddon strange managerial moves. From the time he mule whipped Wade Davis to pitch in three innings in the NLDS finals to putting in a cold John Lackey to hold NLCS Game 2 in the 9th, Maddon has been soundly criticized for his actions.

When the Cubs charter plane had to make an emergency landing because of a player's family member's medical issue, it could have been seen as a bad omen. The players had to sit on the plane for 5 hours because regulations required a crew change. It was a stressful cross country trek to get to LA for Game 1.

The debate for the Game 1 starter was between Quintana, who just pitched in relief, and Lackey who was on the roster as an observer in the NLDS. Considering the weakness and overwork of the bullpen, many people thought Lackey should start Game 1 for the following reasons: 1) he was fresh; 2) Dodgers stadium is a big ball park, a pitcher's park; 3) he has post-season experience; and 4) if he is on the roster, use him. You could get 7 innings out of him and Montgomery to save the bullpen for the series.

But Maddon chose Quintana to start. But it was reported just before the game started that the player's family member stricken on the charter flight was Quintana's wife. They stayed in New Mexico on Friday. And that she was still recovering in LA on Saturday. Why would you summon a player to the mound when there are still serious personal issues on his mind?

In order to set up the rotation on proper rest, Maddon should have had Lackey pitch Game 1 followed by Quintana, Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks.

Quintana pitched 5 innings, keeping the game close. It was the bullpen that let the Dodgers secure the lead. Hector Rondon replaced Justin Wilson on the roster (which was a good move considering Maddon did not trust Wilson in any key situation). Rondon gave up a home run - - - it was a good pitch that was taken deep.

To compound the rotation issue, Maddon called on Lester to pitch Game 2 on short rest. Lester struggled through 4 2/3 innings. Edwards and Strop came in to pitch well. But in the 9th inning, Maddon had Lackey come in to stop a Dodger rally. It was a disaster. Lackey clearly was not ready to come into the game as he wandered around the mound in a five minute time span to pitch to two batters. Normally, a starting pitcher takes at least a half hour to warm up. An older pitcher may take longer to get loose. In Game 2, Lackey was called in the 9th to relieve. It appeared he was not physically or mentally prepared to shut down the Dodgers. He gave up the walk off HR to Turner.

Maddon explained that he did not go to closer Davis in the bottom of the 9th in a tie game because he wanted to save him "for a save situation." He said Davis would only be able to throw an inning so he did not want to use him in a non-save situation. But Maddon's comments shows the flaws in his own logic. The only reason Davis could only throw an inning in Game 2 is that he had been burned out in Game 5 of the NLDS. Maddon was looking ahead for the Cubs to score in the 10th inning to set up a save opportunity. But the Cubs offense was dormant - - - there was no guarantee that the Cubs would  bat again. There is a general philosophy in baseball that a visiting team uses its closer in the 9th inning of a tied game because it is a sudden death situation. Maddon did the opposite.

Maddon continues to defy his seasonal decisions. He keeps on putting players in situations which they have never done before in their career, let alone in the regular season. A prime example of this was putting Lackey in Game 2. Lackey had never pitched in back to back games in his entire career. Lackey is not a relief pitcher, let alone taking on a closer's role.

Maddon cornered himself with his post-season pitching decisions because he only had Montgomery and Davis available in the pen for the end of Game 2. Montgomery has experience closing out playoff games (Game 7 of the 2016 WS) but he may have been physically drained to be put into a high pressure 9th. Maddon may have also thought he needed a "long" reliever in extra innings.

On the opposite dugout, Dodgers manager Roberts told reporters that he does not hesitate to take out a starter early in a game. He places his relievers to face certain batters. For example, he said he would make sure that Morrow would face Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras (the 2-3-4 hitters) and not use him for the bottom of the order. By assigning his relievers to where he wants them to pitch before the game starts allows Roberts not to second guess himself.

While the focal point of Maddon's decisions has been pitching, the Cubs hitters are in a terrible slump. They are not taking walks. They are fishing for breaking balls in the dirt. They are deer in the headlights of change ups. But Maddon kept putting in players who are struggling at the plate.  He has done two double switches which had Almora, his most consistent batter, taken out of the game. He has also forgotten about playing Happ at any position. And the post-season magic of Schwarber appears to be at its end.

It will take a Cubs home sweep to give the team a remote chance to make it to the World Series. Maddon's moves to date have not helped his team win games.

October 13, 2017


It was a strange, wild and epic NLDS Game 5. It had everything.

The bottom line is that the Nationals are the heirs to any post season curse. For the fourth time, the favored Nationals bowed out in the first round.

Teams have this pirate mentality in elimination games; "all hands on deck."  It means everyone has to be ready to contribute to the cause. There is no tomorrow. Backs to the wall. Do or die.

Both teams tried to kill themselves off during the rollercoaster contest.

The 7 out Wade Davis save was cringe worthy since Davis barely got out of the 8th inning.

And this shows how managers lose their baseball IQ during the playoffs by trying to force players to do something they had never done in the real season, like having Davis pitch in three consecutive innings.

His teammates said after the game Davis had "big stones."  The real issue is whether he has any arm left to pitch on Saturday night in LA.

Or whether any pitcher has any viable arms to start Game 1 of the NLCS. Maddon used both Lester and Quintana in relief. That was his playoff rotation used up in the last two games. For some unexplained reason, Maddon refused to warm up Lackey for either Game 4 or 5. If you are on a playoff roster, you should be able to contribute.  But Maddon lost confidence in his bullpen (as shown by carting out Edwards in every single game).

For most people it does not matter because last night's game was so insane.

A rested Dodger team will start Kershaw in Game 1. The logical choice would be the Cubs starting Lackey in the large confines of Dodgers Stadium in Game 1, but some people think Maddon will try to start Quintana on one and one-half days rest.  If Lackey is not going to start a NLCS game and Maddon has no confidence in him coming to pitch in relief, then Lackey should be dropped from the playoff roster. In close, wild games like last night, you cannot run out of players. The Cubs almost did.