The Rundown: Dodgers Are Champs, Turner Tests Positive for COVID-19, Craig Kimbrel 2020 Report Card, Welcome to Hot Stove Season

I don’t think Cubs fans ever realized just how dominant Craig Kimbrel was this season. Sure, he was bombed in his first four games as he surrendered seven earned runs in 2.2 innings, but after that he may have been the game’s best reliever. Look at Kimbrel’s line after those first four performances:

12.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, 26 K, 7 BB, 4 H, 0.87 WHIP

The opposition batted .130 with a .174 SLG against Dirty Craig during that run.

That, my friends, is elite, especially considering that summer camp lasted all of three weeks and Kimbrel barely had a chance to prepare for the rushed 60-game season. Those first four outings cost the veteran reliever his job as closer, but he’ll be back in that role entering the 2021 season if David Ross can avoid coddling the well-pedigreed reliever.

In layman’s terms, Kimbrel’s mechanics were completely out of whack during the first week of the season. He made the necessary adjustments, cut his walk rate substantially, and feasted on opposing batters the rest of the way. Had the Cubs been able to survive the Wild Card series against the Marlins, Kimbrel would likely have been the key to a long playoff run.

I can’t ignore the poor start when grading Kimbrel, but those final 14 appearances aren’t a small sample size, either.

  • Final Stats: 15.1 IP, 28/12 K/BB, 5.28 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 86 ERA+, 0.1 WAR, 2 Saves
  • Final Grade: B-

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Dodgers are champions and it’s time to start discussing potential offseason moves. According to David Kaplan’s latest Cubs Talk podcast, the biggest moves for the Cubs this winter could be Theo Epstein stepping down. He also believes Chicago could non-tender Kyle Schwarber.
  • Here are your key offseason dates.
  • Who are the Cubs’ best trade chips entering the offseason?  Which players are most likely to be traded? My gut tells me the front office could get a decent haul for Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo, and/or Kimbrel. Of those, I could see Epstein moving Kimbrel or Contreras, but Happ may get them a contact-hitting outfielder, like Whit Merrifield for example, allowing Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to make one final run with the current core.
  • Though it is not going to happen before next season, one way MLB could recoup some of their devastating financial losses from this year would be to expand to 32 teams. That would have a profound impact on how the front office builds future rosters and which players it decides to extend.
  • Even without expansion, Epstein and Jed Hoyer have some tough decisions to make this winter.
  • Though Pedro Strop, who was picked up on waivers near the end of the year, never got a chance to pitch for the Cubs, he may be someone the front office brings back in 2021, probably on a minor league deal.
  • Wrigley Field was bathed in a spooky orange glow last night. What else should we expect? It’s been the craziest of years.

Odds & Sods

Keith Olbermann is irate and he wants everybody to know that the Dodgers should forfeit Game 6 for violating COVID-19 protocols, though that reeks of insane extremism. I do expect the team and Justin Turner to be fined for their actions during the game and in the championship celebration, which included the Los Angeles third baseman joining his teammates on the field sans mask.

Postseason Potables

Elimination losses are the cruelest of realities. No one knows that better than Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash and last night’s starter, Blake Snell.

The Rays’ season ended last night with a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series, a game they led 1-0 with one out in the 6th inning when Cash pulled his starter, who had been dominating. Snell’s reaction indicated he strongly disagreed with the decision.

Cash is the same guy that let Tyler Glasnow die over 112 pitches in a Game 1 loss, yet opted for the quick hook with Snell, who was pitching the game of his life and had a two-hit shutout through 73 pitches with the part of the order coming up that was 0-for-6 against him with six strikeouts on the night.

Nick Anderson replaced Snell after the starter had allowed a one-out single to Austin Barnes. Anderson gave up a double to Mookie Betts, then allowed runs on a wild pitch and a grounder to first. Game over.

Though almost nobody defended him, Cash said he made the decision because he didn’t want his starter to face the Dodgers’ top hitters, Betts and World Series MVP Corey Seager, for a third time. It’s a common, analytics-driven theory the Rays have stuck by. Cash seemed more interested in going by the book and may have overlooked, or plainly ignored, the fact that Anderson had been struggling.

Ed. note: If you’re into conspiracy theories, some people believe Cash was in on the deal and pulled Snell in order to let the Dodgers win to avoid the major snafu of a postponed Game 7. That flies in the face of logic, but isn’t that the point of a conspiracy. As for the details, we have to question MLB’s and/or LA’s motives in allowing Turner to continue playing despite an inconclusive test result from Monday that was delivered in the 2nd inning. His test from earlier Tuesday came back positive at some point prior to the 8th inning, when he was removed. He was then asked to isolate and opted not to, at which point no one seemed to care.

This was Tampa Bay’s second trip to the World Series and second loss there in their 23-year history. They were beaten in 2008 by the Phillies in five games.

It is now officially hot stove season. Strap it on.

How About That!

Last night’s win gave the Dodgers their first World Series championship in 32 years.

Wade Boggs, Álex Rodríguez, Lou Piniella, and Doug Glanville have some ideas on how to make baseball a more exciting game.

The Mets could make a play for Astros free agent outfielder George Springer this winter.

Retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully has an impeccable ability to say so much with so few words, and last night he perfectly gift-wrapped what will be baseball’s most memorable season

Apropos of Nothing

Does David Price get a ring and a World Series share? The former Rays ace opted out before the season and is at peace with that decision. He has yet to pitch a single regular season inning for the Dodgers and still has two years at $64 million left on his contract. I’ll bet Los Angeles tries to trade him this winter because of that contract, and I’ll bet president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman somehow wins the deal if he can move Price.

Extra Innings

Betts with the dagger.

They Said It

  • “I felt Blake [Snell] had done his job and then some. Mookie [Betts] coming around for the third time through, I value that. I totally respect and understand the questions that come with it. Blake gave us every opportunity to win. He was outstanding. They’re not easy decisions. And that’s where I came to the decision. I felt it was best after the guy got on base, [Austin] Barnes hit the single, didn’t want Mookie or [Corey] Seager seeing Blake a third time.” – Kevin Cash
  • “I get it’s the third time through the lineup. I think I’m going to make the adjustments I need to make as I see them a third time. I don’t know, man. I believe in me, I believe in my stuff, I believe in what I was doing. I didn’t walk nobody, they had two hits up the middle. For most of that game, I was dominating every outcome possible.” – Blake Snell

Wednesday Walk Up Song

The Gambler by Kenny Rogers – Cash and Snell will be the talk of the winter and beyond. Guaranteed.

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