August 28, 2018


Since the Cubs acquired second baseman Daniel Murphy, the team is 6-0.
Murphy is hitting .407, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .448 OBP and 0.4 WAR since leading off for the Cubs. He solved two problems: the lead off hitter slot and the weak offensive production. He was the spark plug that ignited the Cubs current six game winning streak.

Cole Hamels has been a godsend to the Cubs rotation. Not only has he taken the place of Yu Darvish, he has pushed the other starters to perform better. In his five starts (all Cub victories), he is 4-0, 0.79 ERA, 0.941 WHIP. As a veteran presence, he took some pressure off Jon Lester to lead a shaky staff into the final two month grind of the season.

On the South Side, the White Sox starting pitchers have a streak of quality starts. Michael Kopech's debut in the rain was impressive, as was his second start. He is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA. But even more impressive has been Carlos Rodon. He has solidified his role as a #1 starter (and was one of the reasons the Sox traded Chris Sale). Rodon is 6-3, 2.70 ERA, 1.007 WHIP. Young starters Reynolaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito have been coming on strong after a rocky first half of the season.

The 2019 rotation is starting to take shape very quickly. A White Sox staff of Rodon, Kopech, Lopez, Giolito and a fifth starter from Carson Fullmer, Dylan Covery, Jordan Stepehns, Tyler Danish or Donn Roach will be solid. After completing the starting pitching part of the rebuild, it should be easier to consolidate the offense when Elroy Jimenez joins the team in late April, 2019.

It is interesting to note that the addition of a player or two can really turn around a ball club with both excitement and enhanced performance.

August 2, 2018


 The Cubs made the following moves:

Players acquired: LHP Cole Hamels (TEX), RHP Brandon Kintzler (WSH), RHP Jesse Chavez (TEX)

Players traded: RHP Eddie Butler (TEX), RHP Rollie Lacy (TEX), RHP Jhon Romero (WSH), LHP Tyler Thomas (TEX), player to be named later (TEX) notes that the Cubs were able to reinforce their bullpen and rotation without losing any top prospects, improving their playoff odds in the short term without compromising their future.

Well, the Cubs farm system is extremely weak, near the bottom in most current rankings.  The Cubs gave up Class A prospects for the three pitchers. A quick scouting report shows why.

Hamels is at the end of his career. He was great in 2008. He was traded to the Rangers and had a good season and excellent post season. But this year he has been horrible at home and okay on the road. He is no longer the ace of a pitching staff. He may be best viewed as a hang-around fifth starter in the mode of last year's John Lackey.

Kintzler has been a meh middle reliever for the Nationals. Nothing special except his veteran status. The Cubs bullpen burnout is happening quicker this season than in Maddon's recent past. Maddon has rarely used AAA call-ups for innings unless he was pressed to the extreme (and they failed and got sent back down.) Maddon may also be getting Dusty Baker scared of using some of his staff (Wilson, Duensing, Chatwood) in high leverage situations.

Chavez may be the best pitcher of the bunch. Scouts call him a "rubber arm" pitcher. He throws strikes, challenges hitters and so far been quite effective. He may teach other pitchers not be throwers who nibble on the corners because they are afraid their pitches will get hit. Chavez has the reputation of throwing his best stuff in the zone daring the hitter to make contact. As we all know, even the best hitters fail to get a hit 70 percent of the time. Patient hitters with non-confident pitchers who lack control can get on base more than 40 percent of the time.

The move that could have shored up the rotation would have been to trade for former Cub farm product Chris Archer. The Rays received two major league players from the Pirates, both under the age of 25. To make that deal, it seems the Cubs would have had to trade Russell or Happ and Edwards or Strop to get Archer.

But in the end, the Cubs think they have enough starters in Lester, Quintana, Hendricks, Hamels, Montgomery, Chatwood and rehabbing Darvish plus Smyly to make it to the post-season.