When the Cubs first traded for Nicholas Castellanos I was of the opinion that signing him this offseason should be more of a luxury than a necessity, and certainly not a priority. I have now changed my tune. Nicky Two Bags was a big part of last night’s 8-2 win over the Reds, a game in which it seemed at times like the Cubs had no business winning. I guess we can thank Cincinnati for leaving 11 runners on base, but the North Siders sure gave them plenty of chances to win the bend-but-don’t-break game.
The only thing today is missing is a Nicholas Castellanos doub- pic.twitter.com/ASHZqfWakh
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2019
I didn’t feel certain of a Chicago victory until Castellanos hit his two-run double in the 8th inning. The Greek God of Hard Contact continues to rake, putting on an offensive display that baseball hasn’t seen since the 1930’s. As such, he is going to make some serious cabbage this winter, and agent Scott Boras is already ramping up the rhetoric, championing his client whenever given the opportunity.
Some of the geekier analytics eggheads will tell you that the Cubs can’t open the 2020 season with both Kyle Schwarber and Castellanos in the same outfield, even with Jason Heyward manning center on a full-time basis. Heyward is much weaker in center than right, and the two corners aren’t likely to win any Gold Gloves in the foreseeable future. But is saving a few runs worth giving up the kind of firepower that that outfield would supply?
- Castellanos is slashing .293/.340/.872 with 26 home runs, 72 RBI and a mind-blowing 55 doubles. He looks like he is made to play in Wrigley Field and face NL pitching for the rest of his career.
- Heyward is having his best season since 2012, when he played for the Braves. He’s still 29 years old and as been a consummate teammate and leader. His 21 homers represents a personal high water mark since joining the Cubs in 2016. It’s his second-highest total since hitting 27 in 2012.
- Schwarber is enjoying a career year, slugging .515, and with 37 longballs he is on pace to be the first Cub to surpass the 40-HR mark since Derrek Lee in 2005.
That outfield is worth -16 defensive runs saved over the course of their careers (with Heyward at CF), per Baseball Reference. I believe the smart play would be keeping all three and finding a solid defensive replacement for the late innings of close ball games. I don’t know if the Cubs will have the coin to keep Big Stick Nick, however.
Cubs News & Notes
- Castellanos is the third right-handed hitter in MLB history to have at least 55 doubles and 25 homers in a season. Cha-ching.
The @Cubs' Nicholas Castellanos is the third right-handed hitter in MLB history to have at least 55 doubles and 25 homers in a season.
He joins Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg (1934) and Joe Medwick (1937).#EverybodyIn
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) September 17, 2019
- Only four teams in MLB history have scored 55+ runs over four consecutive games, including the Cubs.
- Any game that features a home run by Schwarber is a good time.
- Despite their five-game winning streak, the Cubs postseason chances remain somewhat tenuous, as the Brewers have won 10 of their last 11 games. Milwaukee plays some of the worst teams in baseball to close out the season and is counting on the Cubs and Cardinals to beat the crap out of each other this weekend and next, possibly allowing the Brew Crew to stealthily take the division.
- With the Cubs just a half-game behind the Nationals for the top Wild Card seed, and the Brewers just another game back, a strong possibility exists that the NL Central could have three teams in this year’s playoffs.
- Current playoff probabilities per FanGraphs: Nationals 91.8%, Cardinals 88.7%, Cubs 76.7%, Brewers 39.8%.
- Yesterday’s Cubs’ win put the nail in the coffin on the Reds’ season. They are now officially eliminated from postseason play.
- Kris Bryant was named NL PLayer of the Week. Over six games the third baseman posted a .500/.538/.1.182 slashline with five taters, including two, two-homer games.
- Anthony Rizzo sure makes it seem like he is not going to miss a lot of time.
- David Bote is quietly having a nice second-half. The sophomore seems to take a little longer than most hitters to adjust to how he is pitched, but when he does he’s locked in.
- If the playoffs started today, the Cubs would have to decide which of Cole Hamels or Jon Lester would not be part of their postseason rotation. Hamels didn’t help his case last night.
- Craig Kimbrel may be activated from the IL ahead of Thursday’s tilt with the Cardinals.
- Wednesday’s game will be the 800th for Joe Maddon as manager of the Cubs. He has a 469-329 (.588) record in four-plus seasons and has led the team to the playoffs each year. Here’s a list of baseball’s all-time best managers, in which Maddon earns honorable mention.
- Yu Darvish takes the bump tonight hoping to lead the Cubs to their sixth straight win. His last outing was his best performance since coming to Chicago. In 11 second-half starts, the righty has a 2.44 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. Darvish has allowed just six walks since the All-Star break.
How About That!
After beating the White Sox last night, the Twins are now five games up with 12 to play, reducing their magic number to eight over Cleveland.
Astros second baseman José Altuve has been absolutely mashing since returning from injury. He’s batting .336/.385/1.004 with 18 home runs in 64 games since the All-Star break, good for a 165 wRC+. Houston has no weakness right now, though closer Roberto Osuna has struggled somewhat.
Monday’s Three Stars
There were no truly exceptional individual performances yesterday, but fans of the game are certainly enjoying the Wild Card races in both leagues,and NL Central baseball is truly must-see right now.
Got some unsettling news regarding my father-in-law yesterday evening, but he remains in good spirits and is enjoying another September surge by his beloved Brewers. He’s hoping for a Chicago-Milwaukee NLCS and believes that is exactly what will happen. I hope he sticks around long enough to see his prediction come true.
I can’t even.
This might be the most talented dude at Wrigley tonight. pic.twitter.com/wAwwVzt0Up
— Cut4 (@Cut4) September 17, 2019
They Said It
- “Every game right now is a playoff game. We have to win.” – Cole Hamels
- “I want to play as soon as possible, whether it’s now or Game 1 of the World Series. I have every intention of trying to do everything I can with the training staff to get back on the field with the boys. I think in a few days it’ll really tell a lot just by how it reacts.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “It’s torture for [Rizzo], but at the same time, we kind of love seeing him roll around. If he’s going to make a bunch of jokes about it, we’ll make a bunch of jokes about it and have fun with it that way.” – Jason Heyward
Tuesday Walk Up Song
The Race is On by George Jones. Perfectly baseball-apropos and a song my father-in-law truly loves. I wish you could hear him sing it.