Cub-ism 1


The Cubs won tonight and looked good doing it. Lester really needs to practice throwing to first. The NL isn’t much of a running league but he doesn’t give his catchers any help whatsoever. Hamilton stole three without breaking a sweat.
The thing I notice about Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant is the same thing I noticed about Anthony Rizzo, namely, their tremendous baseball instincts. All three have clearly put in the time to react reflexively and appropriately–something that a lot of ballplayers seem to lack.
Diamond rats. Addison Russell seems so far to share that.
Travis Wood could probably play a better outfield than Rick Ankiel did after his switcheroo, and would probably like to between starts. Tremendous athlete. Hits like Kerry Wood used to, some good contact along with power. Carlos Zambrano just swung hard–like Javier Baez does. He got some results–but the Wood men look(ed) like position players at bat.

9-7 after sixteen games, with three wins in extra innings. That’s about what I expected. With relative health, a potential outside chance at the playoffs. They still don’t have the system depth to plug guys in, as a number of their potential candidates are in the low minors now. The relief corps has shown that pretty clearly, though they have a case if they claim to be overworked. Quality starts haven’t been the norm so far.

My suspicion is that Joe Maddon doesn’t want to overwork his starters early. Several times they’ve been pulled when they clearly had gas left in the tank. It’s early in the season, and cold.

The position players have recently had a rash of injuries, which is ostensibly why Bryant and Russell are up with the big club. Third baseman Mike Olt was going to be Wally Pipped at some point. I’d like to see him remain with the team, though. He has power and a good eye, very good glove. Not a complete slug on the bases, can play left or right in a pinch, 3rd or 1st anytime. The RH backup position will be contested for between Olt and Baez, it looks like (not enough at-bats for both, I don’t believe). The eye test says Russell stays at second. That leaves Alcantara, if he gets his swing figured out, as another utility guy, and there’s room for the Chris Denorfia/Chris Coghlan platoon.  And the three catchers. And infield backup Jonathon Herrera, a switch-hitter also.
David Ross had a key double tonight, but he’s been next to useless at the plate. If he wasn’t Lester’s caddy, he wouldn’t be on the team. I don’t believe in all of that currently fashionable “pitch-framing” nonsense. Castillo is the better player and should get 50 games or so worth of at-bats. Ross shouldn’t be there, but like I said, Lester’s caddy. I’d sooner develop another young player assuming that they keep thirteen pitchers.

Montero is a decent player. Good defense, home run power. Low average hitter, has some patience. A bit better than Castillo, but getting on in years a little. 32 years old, legs maybe 52.

They’re basically holding him until Kyle Schwarber is ready, or so one would think, given present evidence. The reports say that Schwarber isn’t a lock to be an MLB catcher, but that he wants to try, and it may be the most suitable position for him in terms of organization.

His bat, though, is thought to be MLB-ready in the same manner that Bryant’s bat is. Bryant hasn’t gone yard yet, but a flurry is coming any time. He’s whacked a couple of balls off the walls in his first week. One of those balls came rocketing off the wall past the center fielder and was steaming toward the infield when it was intercepted.

That was great stuff. The Pirates treated Bryant as if he was a right-handed Barry Bonds. They threw him maybe six or seven fastballs during the entire series. Only two or three were over the plate at all. They were what I like to call strike-ish.

Which is fine. With Rizzo batting second and Bryant third, it’s like having three leadoff men. If Fowler gets on, they have the pop to drive him in. If he doesn’t, they’re on base anyway, because the pitcher won’t give in. Mike Leake gave in to Rizzo tonight, and the result landed 350 or so feet away. He sneaked a few past Bryant, who looked a little more impatient tonight.

Settle down, Kris. Take your base. Rizzo takes his, and it’s instant rally. Soler, who bats second frequently, has some plate patience as well. Make that pitcher throw 100 pitches by the fourth, dig into that bullpen and look for gold.

They should have taken three out of four against the Pirates. But they’re clearly well-matched teams, and that was a fun series to watch. I’m springing for MLB.tv this year, and really enjoying it. I love me some baseball, and I’ve been watching a lot of it. Not just the Cubs–I’ve seen games by just about everyone, on the MLB Channel or on mlb.tv.

It’s easy to get excited if you’re a Cubs fan, though. These are the guys we’ve been waiting for for the excruciatingly bad years of the rebuild. And they look every bit as good as they were advertised. Soler in particular looks like a veteran already.

The pitcher needs to go back in the nine hole though. I know the theory, but it doesn’t work. Murphy makes sure that the pitcher comes up with the bases loaded more often than any other player.

Effin’ Murphy. And his lawyer.

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