July 27, 2018


The Cubs were forced to make a move. Tyler Chatwood had another aggravating outing of walking 6 batters and putting the team into an early, big deficit.  Yu Darvish has been slow in his recovery to the point the team is now counting on a TJ-rehabber in Drew Smyly to make an impact in September.

So the Cubs made a trade for a second or third tier veteran starter in Cole Hamels. He has a no-hitter and a WS ring on his resume, but he has struggled for the Rangers this season. As MLBTR reports, the 34-year-old Hamels isn’t the ace that he once was, and he’s had his share of struggles in 2018 — albeit nearly all of them coming at his homer-happy home stadium in Arlington. Hamels is surrendering home runs at a career-worst rate, but it’s somewhat telling that 16 of the 23 round-trippers he’s yielded have come at Globe Life Park. Hamels has a 6.41 ERA, a 6.16 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP when pitching at home this season but a 2.93 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 3.83 xFIP on the road.

This is the same logic Theo used to justify signing Chatwood to a three year deal. Get him out of the hitter friendly Coors Field climate, and he will do great. It is apparent that throwing strikes or allowing home runs is not solely dependent on the climate.

The Cubs rotation, except for Lester, cannot get through five innings in any consistent manner. Hamels has to fit into the fourth or fifth starter role with the mentality of six plus innings in order to save the bullpen. Hendricks had another iffy outing, Quintana has had one quality start and two good ones in his last three, and Montgomery is hitting the wall by the fifth inning.

I suspect that Montgomery will move back into the bullpen as the long relief, emergency closer role from 2016.  Hamels will be in the rotation until Darvish returns. Then the real decision has to be made: keep sending Chatwood out to the mound to wet the bed, or go to a six man rotation (which Lester opposes.) You cannot trust the lack of command in Chatwood to be a leveraged relief pitcher. You can't waste Hamels potential for eating early innings in the bullpen.

In 20 starts this year, Hamels is 5-9, 4.72 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, 0.8 WAR. He is averaging 5 2/3 IP per start. If he fits into the rotation, the Cubs could probably count on 10-12 more starts from him (which would be slightly better than Chatwood's numbers). 

The Cubs gave up two minor league pitchers and a possible player-to-be-named later for Hamels. The Rangers will still eat most of the money owed to Hamels. Whether Hamels has anything left in the tank is the value of this trade.

July 25, 2018


The Cubs surged into first before the AS break, but now have begun to wobble in the heat of July.

Kyle Hendricks is not the old Hendricks, a pinpoint professor in the art of pitching. Teams have finally figured him out. An 88 mph fastball is not his out pitch. Batters are now sitting on change ups that are in the hitting zone. As Hendricks relies more on off-speed stuff on the corners, umpires are taking away is major advantage by calling more balls. Patient hitters and smaller strike calls is making Hendricks an average pitcher. It could change if he uses his fastball more to keep the batters honest and off-guard.

Kris Bryant was pulled from the line-up because of his shoulder issue. He said before the ASG that it was an injury that he will have to deal with throughout the season. But word is that he cannot even swing the bat. That means a probable DL stint and the return of Bote at third. Having Bryant out of the line-up puts more pressure on Rizzo, who is trying to hit his way out of his own personal slump by leading off. But Maddon will have to move Rizzo out of the #1 spot to increase scoring chances if Bryant goes on the DL.

Yu Darvish is becoming a real bad issue. The Cubs were happy that Darvish  yesterday threw 16 pitches off the mound after three weeks of rest. Sixteen pitches is not a start. It seems that Darvish's progress has been painstakingly slow. The front office is counting more on Drew Smyly coming off Tommy John surgery than Darvish. Montgomery was great when he first took Darvish's spot in the rotation, but now after a half dozen starts, he is falling back into being an average starter (which ironically is better than the Cubs original 4th and 5th starters).

Javy Baez is trying to do too much. He got throw out again for aggressive baserunning. He needs to calm down and let the team win games. Baez is the Cubs current MVP. He is the only true five tool player on the roster who can make exciting plays at the plate and in the field. But Baez has a history of coming unglued at the bat.  Let us see if he has matured enough to adjust to his new leader-by-example role.

The bullpen was re-tooled in order to be ready for the post-season. Brandon Morrow was the new closer, and Maddon kept him on the light work load. But Morrow got hurt anyway (which is his M.O.). The rotation has been sub-par all year, with very few quality starts. More times than not, starters are barely throwing five innings - - - which taxes the bullpen to the extreme that now four different position players have thrown in relief. Jesse Chavez acquisition was needed to find a "rubber" arm veteran who can do long relief, short relief, close and spot start. But asking Chavez to be the bullpen godsend is asking too much.

The Cubs offense still runs in feast or famine mode. They score a lot of runs, or they score very little. Consistency in the batting order could be blamed for the hot and cold mentality, but Maddon would disagree. He wants to use his entire roster to keep them fresh and in the game. But since the ASG, he has literally given up midway through 2 games (for losses).

The Cubs probably need to make a big move at the trade deadline, but they do not have any great minor league prospects to trade. And Theo and Jed are in love with "their" guys to trade away Happ, Schwarber or Almora.

July 19, 2018


The Cubs surged into (or do you say the Brewers stumbled out of) first place in the NL Central. And, by a matter of mathematical magic, the Cubs have the best record in the NL.

But the consensus is that the Cubs lofty position was more to blind luck and a weak league than a juggernaut of goodness.

Bryant and Rizzo are having sub-par seasons.

Hendricks and Quintana have regressed from last season.

Chatwood has been a wild pitching machine disaster.

Darvish is MIA.

On the plus side, Baez has become the MLB poster boy for fun, on offense, defensive and on the base paths. How many runners can score from first on a stolen base attempt of second?

Lester is pitching well. Morrow has not blown up his arm (yet). Montgomery has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation as the emergency, long-term sixth starter (but even he is beginning to wear down).

We have been lulled to think that Russell, Schwarber, Happ and Almora are having better than expected seasons. The Cubs are near the top in offensive stats, but a lot of their games have either been feast or famine HR contests or a streak of series of oppo-hits, merry-go-round the line up crooked innings.

Pundits believe the Cubs history of having a .660 second half will happen again. The team should cruise to the playoffs. But the Brewers are still better than most people thought they would be. They are one or two trades away from making the race closer than comfort.

And this second half of 2018 has a new components: Rizzo and Bryant must have nagging injuries (back and shoulder); Darvish may be a big-city head case; Contreras may not live up to the hype as the next Molina; and the bullpen has been overworked early because of the poor collective starts of the rotation.

The Cubs are favored to win the NL and should be able to accomplish that feat.

But the Dodgers got Machado in a trade, and the American League is stacked with All-Star Teams (Astros, Red Sox and Yankees). It is not going to be an easy October run.

July 2, 2018


The radio chatter for weeks has been that the Cubs should trade Addison Russell to the Orioles for Manny Machado. It was poised as a simple no brainer deal, especially considering Machado wants to play shortstop.

But is it?

Machado is deemed to be a top 10 player in baseball. In 2018, he is hitting .310, 21 HR, 59 RBI, 5 SB and 1.7 WAR.  However, he has a negative 1.5 dWAR.

Swapping Russell for a rental Machado may have made some sense when the Cubs could not score runs, but after scoring more than 40 in 4 games, is Machado really needed?

In 2018, Russell is hitting .286, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB and 2.4 WAR.

Yes, Russell has a higher WAR value than Machado. Russell's WAr breaks down 1.4 oWAR and 1.4 dWAR.

Russell has three more years of control while you would have Machado for three months tops.

Russell has lost his luster because of nagging injuries and lack of flash that Baez provides on defense.

But the more the season progresses, the need is less on adding Machado than finding another reliable starting pitcher.