March 28, 2019


The national news is filled with Chicago criminal headlines of celebrity favoritism, clout and pandering to voters. But the real indictment is the following:

When you looking at this pitching staff, what do you see?

Yu Darvish
Cole Hamels
Kyle Hendricks
Jon Lester
Jose Quintana

Brad Brach
Tyler Chatwood
Steve Cishek
Carl Edwards Jr.
Brandon Kintzler
Mike Montgomery
Randy Rosario
Pedro Strop

The answer is obvious and criminal: none of these pitchers were drafted and developed by Theo Epstein.

Every one came by trade or free agency. 

In seven years (seven amateur drafts), Epstein and company have failed to draft a pitcher and develop them to be on this year's 2019 Opening Day roster.  

As a result, the starting rotation is the financial sinkhole of the team. If you include 6th starter Tyler Chatwood, the rotation's payroll is $97.9 million (or 47.5% of total budget).

The bullpen does not have a real, full time quality closer. Brandon Morrow is still on injured reserve, but his health for 2019 is always going to be a nagging issue. 

As we have opined for years, the lack of developing home grown pitchers is killing the Cubs ability to make moves, keep a youthful core and combat arm injuries. Now, without any money to spend in case of injury, the Cubs are in a very tight spot in a very competitive NL Central.

March 22, 2019


The last bow of a legend came in his home country. Irchiro Suzuki announced his retirement after the second game of the early season. As MLBTR stated:

With these two games, the 2653rd game of his MLB career,  Ichiro, 45,  has now appeared in parts of the last 28 seasons in both Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball, completing one of the most remarkable careers in the history of the sport.  Over 951 games with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan and then 2653 games with the Mariners, Yankees, and Marlins in North America, Ichiro recorded more professional hits than any player ever.

Heading into today’s action, Ichiro had an incredible 4367 career hits — 1278 in NPB, and 3089 in MLB, reaching the 3000-hit club in the majors despite not playing his first North American game until he was already 27 years old.

After nine years as a star in Japan, Ichiro made a heavily-anticipated jump to the majors prior to the 2001 season after the Mariners won a posting bid to acquire his services.  The transition was more than just seamless — Ichiro’s debut in the Show saw him hit .350/.381/.457 over a league-high 738 plate appearances for a 116-win Mariners team.  He became just the second player to win both the Rookie Of The Year and MVP Awards in the same year, also winning the first of three Silver Slugger Awards and the first of 10 Gold Gloves.

Ichiro’s smooth left-handed hitting stroke and quick acceleration out of the box made him a threat to reach base every time he made contact.  Perhaps the most notable of his many achievements was setting a new single-season hits record in 2004, as his 262 hits broke the 84-year-old mark formerly held by Hall-of-Famer George Sisler.

Ichiro’s defense and baserunning were perhaps just as impressive as his exploits at the plate.  He stole a league-best 56 bases in 2001, and finished his career with 509 steals, tied for 35th-most in Major League history.  As a right fielder, Ichiro unleashed a throwing arm that instantly drew comparisons to Roberto Clemente in terms of both power and accuracy.

While his skills inevitably declined with age, Ichiro did his best to stave off Father Time, playing past his 45th birthday due a fitness regime and nonstop preparation.  This work ethic helped make Ichiro one of the most respected players of recent times, idolized by both fans and teammates alike all over the world.

Irchiro ends his MLB career with a 59.4 WAR, .311 career BA, 117 HR, 780 RBI, 509 SB and 3,089 hits. His career is comparable to Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Lou Brock and Tony Gwynn. Despite his accomplishments, Irchiro probably had the "quietest" superstar career in MLB history.

March 16, 2019


Despite the increasing bad blood between the players union and owners in regard to the stagnant free agent market, MLB is pushing forward with some terrible rule changes.

Inning breaks: Subject to discussions with broadcast partners, inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. The Commissioner’s Office retains the right to further reduce the breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the start of the 2020 season.

REACTION: Hold my beer!!!!! That is a whopping 6 minutes of alleged time saved during a game.

Trade Deadline: The waiver trade period will be eliminated. The July 31 Trade Deadline will be the only deadline. Players may still be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31, but trades will no longer be permitted after that date.

REACTION: A hard deadline affects all teams the same. The change in the waiver rule only helps bad teams who can make a claim of a good player trying to be sent down (when another player is activated from the DL).

All Star Game: As far as the game itself is concerned, the 10th inning -- and all subsequent innings -- of All-Star Games that go into extra innings will begin with a runner on second base.

REACTION: A horrid rule!  It FUNDAMENTALLY alters the foundation of the game: earning your way on base by a hit, a walk, a dropped third strike or catcher interference. But to put a runner in scoring position with no outs is a face slap to the origins of the game AND the poor pitcher who starts the inning in an artificial hole. This does not speed up the game because the pitcher now has to slow down and concentrate more, since the runner on second is trying to steal the signs.

Home Run Derby: Total player prize money for the Home Run Derby will be increased to $2.5 million. The winner receives $1 million.

REACTION: Who cares? It is an exhibition game.

Mound visits: The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five per game. MLB had instituted an initial mound-visit limitation prior to the 2018 season.

REACTION: Woo-hoo Johnny, that change saves a whopping 4 minutes in game time (2 minutes each for each team.)

Active roster provisions: The roster size from Opening Day through Aug. 31 will increase from 25 to 26 (with the minimum number of active players rising from 24 to 25, and roster sizes for doubleheaders rising from 26 to 27).

REACTION: Adding another player but limiting the number of pitchers on the roster to 13 in regular season (and 14 in September) does nothing to help the players union beef on service time. Contending teams used to call up a half dozen players to help them win games down the stretch; including more relievers and specialty players like pinch runners or defensive specialists who could not make the regular season roster. Also, it is not like the 26th man is going to be a big money veteran player. More likely it will be the team's best AAAA earning the minimum salary.

The 40-man active roster for September will be eliminated. From Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season, all clubs will carry 28 players.

REACTION: Again, adding just two players does not help if a team is struggling with a tired arm pitching staff (especially with new restrictions on batters relievers must face and the inability to use position players as mop up guys). In the past, a team could bring up 15 players or their entire 40 man roster up in September. No one did, but they could. If a team does not want to pay for extra players, why penalize a team that wants or needs to do so?

Furthermore, the number of pitchers a club can carry on the active roster will be capped at a certain number, to be decided by a joint committee. (But MLB is suggesting 13 in regular season; 14 in September). To adhere to that rule, clubs will have to designate each of their players as either a pitcher or a position player prior to each player’s first day on the active roster for a given season. That designation cannot change for the remainder of the season.

Position players will not be allowed to pitch except in the following scenarios:

They are designated as a “Two-Way Player.” A player can only qualify for this designation if he accrues at least 20 Major League innings pitched and at least 20 Major League games started as a position player or designated hitter (with at least three plate appearances in each of those games) in either the current or the prior season.

Extra innings.
In any game in which his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.

REACTION: I guess this is the Otani Rule, where clubs will have to scout Japan to find the next SP-OF star. This anal retentive rule about telling the world if you are a position player or pitcher is stupid. They are all BASEBALL PLAYERS. As kids, we played all the positions depending on the circumstances. I can see dumb unintended consequences such as a manager pulling his pitcher and place him in the outfield for a reliever (which is still fine), then have the reliever get an out then switch with the original pitcher (because who says a reliever has to pitch 3 "consecutive" batters, see below). Let the managers manage for gosh sakes.

Three-batter minimum for pitchers: Rule 5.10(g) will be amended to require that starting pitchers and relief pitchers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness. This will effectively end the so-called “LOOGY” (left-handed one-out guy) and other specialist roles in which pitchers are brought in for one very specific matchup.

REACTION: Another terrible rule because it destroys in-game strategy. The rule is another feeble attempt to speed up play, but it will not do it because the new rule forces a manager to leave a starter in longer. A struggling starter takes more time between pitches. A reliever is on a shorter pitch count than a starter, so instead of throwing a dozen pitches in consecutive days, a reliever can be used up after one appearance. That creates more wear and tear on pitchers . . . equates to more injuries and expensive DL time.

Injured list: The minimum time a player spends on the injured list will be increased back to 15 days from 10, and the minimum assignment period of pitchers who are optionally assigned to the minors will increase from 10 days to 15. MLB had reduced the minimum injured list period to 10 days prior to the 2017 season to reduce the incentive for teams to play shorthanded or for players having to play at less than full strength. However, teams manipulated the rule change to rotate relievers on and off their active rosters, thereby maintaining a full stash of rested arms, which resulted in more pitching changes.

REACTION: Teams were trying to PUT THE BEST PRODUCT on the field. Now, they are penalized for using their full 40 man roster? If MLB wants more action by having tired, injured and bad players on the field, then let the batters hit off tees and run around the bases like little kids.

None of these rule changes help the game. It is trying to hack a quality video game. 

If you really want to speed up play of the game, do not allow batters to leave the batter's box after the first pitch (except if they are knocked down or a foreign object gets into their eyes). A batter takes 10 seconds between pitches to re-set his gloves and armor. In a 300 pitch game, that is 50 minutes of dead air. Once a batter is in the box, the ball remains live. If he steps out, the pitcher can throw home for a ball or strike. Remember, current rules allow the umpire not the player to call time out. Umpires can speed up the game by not giving batters unlimited time outs to step out of the box. In fact, quick pitchers like Mark Buerhle got the game into a fast rhythm that home plate umpires liked (and subliminally helped him with calls).

March 8, 2019


It was very strange that the Cubs reworked new reliever Brach's contract.

The Cubs just signed him, but then after a week of spring training, decided to rework the deal.

The deal basically back loaded the original money into the second year, saving about a million dollars in payroll for 2019.

If the Cubs are so tight with cash now to rework a middle reliever's new deal, things are going to be a problem throughout the season if injuries to pitchers come to the forefront as many experts have predicted. The reason for this situation has been that Epstein and Hoyer have yet to draft and develop any major league starting pitcher. Instead, they have had to rely on more expensive, veteran arms to fill the pitching staff. Worse, the Cubs farm system now ranks near the bottom.

Another oddity is that there really is no competition for any roster spot. Usually there is a competition for at least a bench role or a starting pitcher or relief arms. But the Cubs, since they did not do any major moves, are basically bringing back the 2018 squad. Delcasco replaced LaStella as the last bench player. Brach replaces Chavez.

As a result, Cub fans have not been excited about spring training. Most of the recent off season news have been about off-the-field transgressions by players and ownership. The PERCOTA prediction of 79 wins did not sit well with the club (even though the history of those predictions is very poor). But the rest of the NL Central has improved more so than the Cubs.

It is also odd that a team with 95 victories is making their star manager go through the final season of his contract without an extension. The writing seems to be on the wall that the front office is at odds with Maddon over how he has run the club. But the front office also has to be held accountable for the revolving door of hitting instructors. Maddon, and his $6 million salary, appear to be gone at the end of the season, barring a World Championship.

The question remains will the players play hard for a lame duck manager. A few need to prove themselves: Bryant and Darvish coming back from injuries; Contreras from a bad year at the plate.

The Cubs will start the season with the bad finish of 2018 front and center. Is there enough leaders in the young core to motivate the club to keep the championship window open?

March 2, 2019


Spring training is supposed to be about the competition of players to earn a spot on the major league roster. The Cubs are in the unique and boring position of having no roster battles. The 25 man roster was set prior to the camp opener.

The only mystery will come in May when the team has to decide to add Addison Russell back to the roster, and when Brandon Morrow returns from the DL.

But other than those in-season moves, the Cubs roster is set:

1. Lester
2. Darvish
3. Hamels
4. Hendricks
5. Quintana

1. Chatwood, long relief spot starter
2. Montgomery, long relief spot starter
3. Kintzler mop up duty
4. Duensing
5. Rosario
6. Brach
7. Cishek
8. Strop

1 Almora
2. Schwarber
3. Heyward
4. Happ

1. Bryant
2. Baez
3. Zobrist
4. Rizzo
5. Descalso

1. Contreras
2. Caratini

It is basically the second half 2018 team with the addition of Brach and Descalso.