The Rundown: Hope Springs Eternal, Cubs Will Return to Analytics-Based Baseball, Phillies Acquire Realmuto

Hope springs eternal: random Cubs thoughts and whatnot.

I am going to go on public record to state that I believe that climate change is occurring, though until recently you would have had a tough time convincing me of that. I genuinely fear for the future of this planet. Last year was a record year for rainouts, and I believe this year will be worse. The weather models indicate a very wet and warm spring across the country. Look at the Cubs’ already brutal September schedule. A repeat of last season’s final six weeks is entirely possible.

Looking for some happy Cubs news? I’ve got your back. So many feels.

I find it a warm and inspiring sentiment that many Cubs fans feel the team’s complete radio silence and lack of spending this winter are indicators that Theo Epstein is more in on Bryce Harper than any of us suspect. There are good reasons to want your organization to remain quiet on some baseball matters. That Scott Boras appears to be looking for ways to accelerate his prized free agent’s market can’t bode well for the Cubs.

Still, doesn’t at least a part of you believe the real reason there is no Harper market is because most front offices see a Cubs-Harper union as inevitable? There I go stirring the pot again. Shame on me.

How concerned are you that the Cubs will start spring training with essentially the same roster that couldn’t hold off the Brewers last September before losing to the Rockies in the Wild Card game? That brutal ending left a sour taste in all of our mouths and Jon Lester expressed our disgust perfectly. That the team is still banking on further development from roughly half its core doesn’t help that unease. Still, they won 95 games last season. Have we ever seen a more enigmatic Cubs team? Maybe the 1970 team if I had to guess. In fact, this team looks a lot like that ’70 squad.

Let’s call it what it is: Changes in the coaching staff represent a hard move back to a more analytics-based approach to winning ballgames. Epstein’s signature is all over this team, and the season falls squarely on his shoulders. Expect a more efficient, top-down operation designed to maximize the talent already on the roster.

The 2018 Cubs were the first team in NL history to send 10 different players to the plate 450 times. I believe we will see a more set daily lineup this season, especially if the DH rule is approved for 2019.

Why did the team sign Daniel Descalso? He’s a veteran leader on a team that has lacked clubhouse leadership since David Ross retired. Anthony Rizzo was supposed to assume that role, and Descalso will help him get there. Give the guy a chance, you’re going to love him.

The Cubs have a potentially invaluable stats monster in the versatile Ian Happ, but he needs regular reps to get to the next level. A Javier Baez-type breakout is very realistic if Joe Maddon doesn’t decelerate that process. Maddon has to bear the brunt of the blame that the team’s younger players have fallen short of projections and are still behind in their developmental curves.

I’m not buying into PECOTA. Projection systems are rarely perfect and for that matter they don’t claim to be. PECOTA missed two teams by 20 or more games in 2018 and the Cubs have more ways to beat other teams than any of their competitors within the Central Division. Don’t discount the fact that the Cubs are coming into camp as well rested as at any time since the start of the 2015 season.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs have been baseball’s trendsetters since Epstein took over and it seems like discussions regarding rules changes usually result from the fallout of teams copying what Epstein has done to exploit inefficiencies. That being said, I think the Cubs would benefit more from a universal DH than any other NL team ($) because of Chicago’s insane depth.
  • Some pitching prospects to keep your eyes on this season.
  • For all the talk about the NL East, the NL Central is just as loaded even if Harper signs with the Phillies. The  division had four teams finish .500 or better with two 95-win teams.
  • Have you ever wondered why Wrigley Field has a basket on the outfield wall?
  • According to predictions by ESPN’s David Schoenfield, Baez will be the team’s lone All-Star representative this season. Take notice that Schoenfield has Harper starting in the outfield, representing the Padres.
  • More cool stuff regarding Luke Hagerty’s comeback attempt from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. It’s a long read, but worth every word.
  • BP counterpoints the Wrigleyville hatred at their PECOTA projections in this paywall-free post:

So Long Frank Robinson, and Godspeed

Kudos to The Athletic for unlocking this fabulous tribute by Ken Rosenthal. “There was no challenge Frank Robinson couldn’t overcome, no opponent he couldn’t conquer.”

Friday Stove

The Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins yesterday in a trade that seems as if it has been a long time coming, and could move on Harper or Manny Machado next.

The versatility of Marwin Gonzalez may be a detriment in his attempt to finding a home this season.

The disabled list is getting a new name. This just in: People still call that tall building on the corner of Wacker and Jackson the Sears Tower.

The Brewers made a sneaky good under-the-radar signing yesterday, pardon my facetiousness. I can’t wait until Josh Tomlin faces the Cubs.

Hal Steinbrenner is starting to sound an awful lot like his old man.

Zach Britton has changed his name to Zack Britton. Do we really care about this?

Hunter Pence has signed a minor league deal to play for the Rangers.

For you Orioles fans who are hoping for an improvement from last season’s 115-loss disaster, chins up. Baltimore signed its first major league player of the offseason yesterday. Welcome to Camden Yards, Nate Karns. He projects to a 0.9 WAR for 2019. Baby steps — it means setting small, reasonable goals. There’s no tanking in baseball, just rebuilding.

Extra Innings

Yup. As long as there has been baseball there have been labor issues.

Friday Walk Up Song

Open by Rhye. Achingly romantic, bedroom-inspired, soul-pop. Things don’t get more explicit than “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs” — the song’s opening line. I cannot believe this song is six years old already.


Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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  1. Two things that you recently wrote that surprised me; your better late than never conclusion on Climate Change and your love of the Grammys (I have come to hate the Oscars, as well)! Lol I liked that Rhye song!

    1. So the Grammys are farcical. It’s like watching a train wreck of on stage entertainment that combines awful one liners with art’s most narcissistic performers. And the music genuinely sucks so bad that I root for the country and western performers. But I can’t look away.

      As far as climate change is concerned I still despise the term global warming because it’s too limiting. But here’s what’s convinced me:

      For centuries the I ocean’s currents gave rendered the Pacific Ocean too cold to support hurricanes. Cold water flows from the Arctic down the Pacific to the Southern Hemisphere where it is warmed and serves as the fuel for hurricane activity in the North Atlantic basin.

      In the past five years we have seen unprecedented cyclonic activity in the Pacific-indicating that water temperatures now support the formation and strengthening of western hurricanes.

      That’s shocking and crazy. It means that the North Pole is warming at an alarming trend. I don’t see anything slowing that down in my lifetime or the next. They say we have 12 years to correct the damage but I believe we are past that point because people are only including man-borne destruction to the environment.

  2. The comparison to the ’70 team is an interesting one. That team had Hickman with over 1.000 OPS and Williams nearly matching that. I can see Bryant coming near that number this year and possible .900s from Rizzo and Baez, but no one else will likely break .850. What I find fascinating about that ’70 team is the amount of offense from the corners of the infield and outfield and the lack of production from everywhere else. I also noticed the pythagorean was at 94 wins. It is a mystery until you look at that bullpen (keeping in mind that bullpen usage has changed so dramatically). Ouch.

    1. …forgot to mention 3 starters soaking up 850 innings. Damn, that is old school. No way Boras would let one of his client’s arm fall off attempting a 300 inning season in this day. LOL

      1. That is the biggest change in baseball since I’ve become a fan. Seems like at about 175 innings they want to shut guys down

        1. People throw harder now, so fatigue is likely an issue. When I was pitching and doing tryouts in the late 80s, I was told the average ML fastball was 88-89 and there were only a handful of guys who could reach 95, now there are hundreds arms hitting that.

          1. I hit triple digits on my fastball the other day at a Milwaukee amateur baseball convention. 63.6 MPH

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