October Baseball: Thankfully This Is Not a 2 Game Series

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All hope is not lost when you go down 0 – 2. It’s hard to find a little piece a light to keep you going, but there is light. There are still five games left to play, three of which are Wrigley Field. The Cubs have yet to lose in the postseason at home. While Hendricks is usually good at home, the same is not true of Jason Hamel. I think the key going forward is keeping the top three Mets off the bases and not giving up any homeruns. 

IMG_6111It’s not like the Mets have come in and blown the Cubs out in either game. The Cubs have managed only to scrap together three runs in two games. No matter how much your distaste for Lester is, or your surprise in Arrieta, it’s the offense, or lack there of, that’s put the Cubs in an 0-2 hole.

It’s clear-cut to me that if the Cubs are going to get back in this, it’s their bats that are going to have to do the work. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are or no slouches as pitchers, but they are beatable the third time through the order. The Cubs did have their moments in the sixth and seventh innings against both pitchers, but never managed more than two runs. The Cubs seemed to neutralize Yeonis Cespedes and the rest of the Mets lineup, but Granderson, Murphy, and Wright are killing them. 

At the plate, they’re going to have to do one of two things differently. One, even though they lived by the long ball against the Cardinals, they can’t do that against the Mets. They’re going to have to string together hits, walks, and play station to station baseball.  

Second, considering how the Mets are getting ahead in the counts with first pitch strikes, being a little aggressive on the first pitch might work for some hitters. Ideally, the Cubs need to be aware of how they are being pitched right now. Cubs’ hitters are not adapting to the Mets’strategy.

The great thing about this young Cubs team all year is that it has been resilient. I think now they are in a deep hole but they can dig out of it with minor adjustments. Maddon somehow has to work some of his mojo on this club or the season could be over before the weekend. Luckily, this is not a two game series. 

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10 Things I Think: The Don’t Panic After One Game Edition

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jake 71 2015The Cubs lost game one last night. No big deal, no reason to panic and think that the world is coming to end. Remember the last series? The Cubs lost game one and came back and won. Yeah, that series. Patience, Cub fans, patience. The NLCS isn’t won or lost in the first game. With Jake Arrieta going tonight, I like our chances of coming out of New York with a split. Which as the road team, that is ideal. Thinking about the bigger picture, sometimes, helps to soothe the soul.

 

It’s time for 10 things I think, our monthly feature of a few random thoughts, or at least 10 of them, about some things that are happening at the major-league level and also at the minor-league level in the Cubs organization.

Major League Things
1. I have come to peace with game one already. Matt Harvey is good. Sometimes in this game, you just have to tip your cap and move on. The Cubs had chances in the sixth inning and beyond and did not get it done. But here’s what they did do: In game 5, Harvey will pitch again on Thursday. I think the Cubs will be much more ready for him than they were last night. Starting in the sixth inning last night, the Cubs began hitting the ball hard off of Harvey. Most of the time, though, it was right at someone. Their loss last night could set them up for a win on Thursday against Harvey.

2. I think the bullpen is going to play a much larger role in games three and four of the NLCS. With Jake Arrieta going today, that saves the bullpen and allows them to almost get two days of rest they will definitely need on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. I think my wife is in love with Trevor Cahill. She just loves his sinker and two seam fastball and how they both just drop off the plate. Hector Rondon is going to take a little more convincing for her, while Travis Wood and Clayton Richard are not. Justin Grimm has looked filthy with rest.

schwarber 78 2015 23. Kyle Schwarber is a beast. I can only imagine what he is going to do over a full season next year. He has punished the baseball in the post season doing things that only Mickey Mantle and Miguel Cabrera have done (4HRs before the age of 23). Wow! Sometimes I think what he could more powerful in the 3 spot rather than Bryant, but Joe Maddon loves to keep that alternating righty/lefty thing going, which is probably for the best.

4. I miss Addison Russell after one game of the NLCS. Javy Baez did great things in the NLDS, but I think he is meant to play to some other position this post season. However, he did make a slick play that resulted in a double play last night. I still think he Javy’s bat will be a difference at some point here in the next week. It is just too potent.

5. This team has had different heroes throughout the post season. One night it could be Soler, the next night Schwarber or Castro or Baez. What really drives this team, though, is when Bryant and Rizzo get on base. It is really is simple. They tend to make the offense, and they should, from the 3 and 4 positions. Look for them to figure out how the Mets are pitching them and adjust in games 2-4 just like the two sluggers did in the Cardinals series.

Minor League Things
Eddy 2016 1 (2)6. No sooner that it was announced that Eddy Julio Martinez signed with the Cubs that the Giants struck a second claim that they also thought they signed him. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Cubs paperwork appears to all be in order while the Giants does not:

According to sources, Martinez signed the term sheet for the Cubs on Oct. 8 and filed it for approval by the Commissioner’s Office one day later. The Giants submitted paperwork claiming a deal with Martinez the day after they came to terms. However, representatives for Martinez claim the player did not sign a term sheet for the Giants or the sworn statement that says a Cuban player is in compliance with Section 515.05 of Cuban Assets Control Regulations in order to sign with a Major League team.

Martinez is represented in the Dominican Republic by trainers Aldo Marrero and Amauris Nina. He is represented in the United States by Beverly Hills Sports Council. It was Marrero and Nina who made the deal with the Cubs. It was BHSC that made the deal with the Giants.

I don’t think the Eddy Julio Martinez signing will be the last international free-agent the Cubs are going to sign this winter. I think there are several more Cubans out there just that the Cubs could sign. They range from 16 to 21 years old and are a combination of pitchers and outfielders. Last year at this time, Theo went out and signed several young players from Mexico who worked out well including Carlos Sepulveda. This looks like it could be a post on its own after the season is complete.

7. The Arizona Fall League began on Wednesday. Jeimer Candelario is just destroying the league. He went 3-5 in his first game and yesterday, he went 5-5 with two home runs. Going into Saturday’s game, he was 8-10 with an astounding OPS of 2.618!!! Willson Contreras has gone 3 for 12 and Mark Zagunis is 0-4 so far. Pierce Johnson, Corey Black, and Rob Zastryzny have not fared well in their first outings while David Garner went one inning with 2 BBs and 2 Ks and did not allow a run.

young 86 20158. Minor League instructs ended last Friday (the 9th) and most players packed up and headed home while a few more were still hanging around and playing games with the Angels mixed squad. Their games ended yesterday, the 16th. Chesny Young and Victor Caratini both lead the Cubs hitters on the team. Young hit .375 in 8 games while Caratini hit .273 with 1 HR and 7 RBIs in 13 games. On the pitching side, Duane Underwood struggled with a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings. On the other hand, Tyler Skulina had a 3.00 ERA in just 12 innings. In relief, Stephen Perakslis has a 1.29 ERA in 7 innings with 4 Ks. (Stats compiled by Arizona Phil)

9. When I begin to start to think about the off-season plans for this website, usually one of the highlights for me is doing the minor league team profiles. I’ve already started thinking in my head about them. The Tennessee Smokies profile is going to be the profile to read for several reasons. One is three quarters of the players won back to back championships at Kane County and Myrtle Beach. The second reason will be that the biggest jump in talent in the minors is from High A to AA. With the amount of pitching that will be going from Myrtle Beach to Tennessee, it will be interesting to see how they do. The adaptation of pitchers Duane Underwood, Tyler Skulina, Paul Blackburn, Jen-Ho Tseng, Daury Torrez, Johnathan Martinez, and Brad Markey will be keys to the development of starting pitching in the organization.

10. In addition to feeling good about what is happening in Chicago, I get a little giddy thinking about what could happen in South Bend in 2016. The Cubs could have two of their top international free-agent signing in Eddy Julio Martinez and Eloy Jimenez playing alongside Donnie Dewees in what is easily the best outfield in the Cubs’ system. I just I don’t know how to describe it other than to say every day would be the 4th of July for South Bend. There could be fireworks with homeruns, stolen bases, diving catches, and screaming line drives. Broadcaster Darin Pritchett is going to have his hands full describing the action in South Bend.

Initially, when the Cubs regular season ended, I was going to do a series of profiles on each position in the organization as it pertains to depth and potential. The playoffs have postponed that analysis. All those posts are done just waiting to be posted. Once the big league club season is over, they will see the light of day. You will also be able to see them online at Cubs Insider, too.

October Baseball: NLCS Preview

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By Clark Lorensen

Well, here we are.  The Cubs have over achieved (Don’t tell them that- they don’t realize it) and are in the National League Championship with a chance at their first pennant in 70 years.  The last time the Cubs won the pennant there were no playoffs.  They won it by having the best record in the National League.  This year, they have the best record in the playoffs and don’t even have home field advantage- expect this to be rectified soon.

I’m pretty confident Maddon can out manage Collins based upon what I’ve seen in the playoffs and the regular season, especially since after the All-Star break. This series is going to come down to a few things for the Cubs. However, Todd and I differ on what those three things are.

My Big Three

Jon Lester Run Support
maddon 74This ball club needs to jump on Matt Harvey in game one.  It may take this team one time through the lineup to get to Harvey, but I like their chances.  Pick a name out of a hat between Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez on who will get to him, but watch out for David Ross as well.  That low batting average can be deceiving, and who knows, the veteran could come up with a meaningful hit.

Joe Maddon
You don’t have to to come here to know that the Joe Maddon signing was a huge part of this team coming together.  When the Cubs signed him it was known that he was good with young players based on his time in Tampa, but most didn’t realize just what they were getting.  With no offense to Terry Collins, the best manager will be in the visitor’s dugout on Saturday and Sunday night.  Joe Maddon has proven to me that managers do make a difference.

Take A Deep Breath, Cubs Fans – This Team Only Knows This Team
I realize that it is easy to buy into the hype.  ’69 Cubs vs. ’69 Mets.  A Cubs sweep of the Mets is great for the generation just ahead of mine.  I learned plenty about it from my father.  My experience with hurt doesn’t begin until quite sometime later.  To be honest, it was the playoff teams of the ’00’s.  The collapse of the ’03 team in the NLCS and the ’07/’08 teams that were nothing more than a bye for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.  This is enough to sting.  All of this bothers us as fans.  It hurts.  It’s what being a Cubs fan “was” about. The men on this ball club do not share your pain and this is a good thing.  They are too young to realize the ghosts of our past.  They are too talented to let any of this play into how things go on the field. Maddon has instilled that in them.

My Prediction?
Well, I haven’t been one for predictions, but I am a contributor for this blog so I’m going to do it.  If this team can get the win in game one, followed by the a win with Jake Arrieta on the mound in game two.  I’ll take the Cubs over the Mets in 5 games.  Look for another home field celebration (#FlyTheW, #WeAreGood, #LetsGo).  I go from not wanting to make a prediction to making a bold one.  Cubs win the NLCS 4-1!


Todd’s Big Three
The starting rotation, specifically the number three and four positions.
Lester and Arietta will go in games one and two on Saturday and Sunday. Then the Cubs have a three-game homestand on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The question that Todd wonders about what Maddon will do is this: Who will start games three and four? Todd’s pretty confident Joe will give Kyle Hendricks the ball one of those days. The question will be which day. Neither Lester or Arietta needs to pitch on three days rest at this point. The odds are that if the Cubs can come out of NYC with the split that will be great. Lester gives the Cubs the best shot of winning on Saturday and Arietta on Sunday, so it could be 2-0. With Hendricks likely facing DeGrom on Tuesday, Maddon may hold off on pitching Hendricks until Wednesday. Instead, Maddon could go with Hamel or Dan Haren or the bullpen on Tuesday. Todd’s head is spinning.

The bullpen could use this guy
The bullpen could use this guy

The Bullpen
The bullpen stole the show in the Division Series. They picked up Arietta in game three and in game four, after Trevor Cahill gave up two runs, the bullpen shut them down the last five. Innings. Neil Ramirez might be ready. Neil could be a key weapon in late innings, more so than Fernando Rodney has been at this point.  The thing Todd liked about the bullpen in the Division Series was the relievers were fresh after Pittsburgh and Lester’s eight inning outing game one. Even though Lester lost game one in the Division Series, he went almost 8 innings, saved the bullpen there, and helped to win the series. The bullpen was fresh for games two through four which the Cubs all won.Getting the extra two days off this weekend could continue to help make the bullpen fresh. It will be interesting to see the roster for pitchers here on Saturday and whether or not Ramirez makes it.

Riding the Right Fielder
If there was an award for MVP in the Division Series, Jorge would be in the conversation with Kyle Schwarber. However, Soler is not a nine inning player. Even though his deadly arm stopped the Cardinal rally on Tuesday, his lack of range gives way to Chris Denorfia late in games. Todd wonders how soon Joe goes to Denorfia in the NLCS while balancing the need for Jorge’s bat.

Todd’s Prediction
With one day to go before the National League Championship Series, Todd’s still a little bit on cloud nine thinking about the past week. It all just seems like a blur at times playing baseball this late in the year. On the other hand, Todd could get really used to this and will have to at least through 2021.

Cubs in 6 – They need to come out of New York with a split. Harvey will be tough, but DeGrom and Synergaard can be worn down and hit the third time through the order. The Mets bullpen is weak. Get into them, get to the World Series.

Lost in the Moment

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Sometimes I enjoy being a fan too much. Today was one of those days! I got all wrapped up in the moment after the last out in the ninth that I forgot to document it. I just had to sit in front of the TV and just watch the celebration for two hours. I didn’t really even think about blogging something today. “I will just write something when I have processed it more.” That will more than likely come Saturday.

1961 baezI have three whole days in which to enjoy this moment. We do not play in the NLCS until Saturday. I honestly don’t care who the Cubs play. Both the Mets in the Dodgers each have their strong suit, which is pitching, but they also have their weaknesses which I think the Cubs can exploit. Still, I haven’t wrapped my brain around the analysis of whoever they play. All I can think of is the Cubs are four wins away from playing in the World Series. And I think I am going to bask in that!

I don’t need to get caught up in what the pitching rotation is going to be, that’ll take care of itself. I don’t need to get caught up in analyzing either team at this point. I don’t need to get caught up in who will be on the NLCS roster, either. I just need to continue to savor this win. And it is sweet my friends!

I’m going to enjoy the fact that this club is so close to something I didn’t think was possible for another year.

Goodnight! I love this moment!

October Baseball – One Game at a Time

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Maddon 65 2015I woke up this morning, logged on to Twitter, talked to Clark a little, saw the Chase Utley slide, saw the Utley tweets and discussion, and then logged right off. I am not going down that road and rabbit hole today. Today is the second Sunday in October and that is usually reserved cleaning up the yard a little bit, watching some Bears, getting ready to enjoy a day off of school tomorrow, and backing up my school files. It has not been reserved for baseball for a very, very long time.

Since I started this blog two years ago, I was usually waxing poetic about some prospect, potential trade, or some international draft pick by now. Not this year. This year it is all about the big league club’s chances in the National League Division Series.

Joe Maddon says to take it one game at a time. It’s very hard for me to do that. I see Jake Arrieta is pitching tomorrow and I get excited knowing the odds are ever in our favor. When I see that no one is slated for Tuesday, I start to get a bit nervous. I must remember Joe’s words – “Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” And that is true. But if it’s Hammel…and then I stop. I can worry about Tuesday, Tuesday. Tomorrow I get to enjoy Jake Arrieta. I must keep focused on that aspect.

As a Cub fan, we have had many wonderful hitters over my 52 years – Billy Williams, Matlock, Kingman, Sandberg, Grace, Sammy, Aramis, Derrick Lee, and the collection of bats we have now is unbelievable. When it comes to pitching, the list of dominant pitchers the Cubs have had in my lifetime is smaller – Fergie, Sutcliffe, Maddux, the two kids who could have been (Wood and Prior), and now Arrieta. In reality, though, no one is like Jake. And I truly enjoy watching him pitch.

jake 1965 2015 2What Jake brings is an intensity I don’t think I have seen on the mound and probably haven’t seen since Bob Gibson. He attacks hitters not to strike them out, but to get them to hit grounder after grounder to the second baseman. And it’s not just any grounder, but a weak one, with a high hop followed by a couple little bounces, a throw, and Arrieta is on to the next guy. The sweat on the forearms is pretty endearing, too!

I get worked up as a Cub fan. So does my wife. She yells at the Cubs more than I do. I only get my blood pressure up when a leadoff hitter gets on in an inning after we just scored a run. That’s beside the point, though. Knowing Arrieta is pitching has already taken some of the edge off of me a full 48 before the game is pretty cool. Now it’s a matter of savoring last night’s victory in St. Louis for a whole day and basking in the knowledge knowing that Arrieta is going tomorrow.

Since the middle of June, Arrieta has been on a run. In that run he faced the Cardinals two times and gave up 3 ERs in 13.2 innings for an ERA of 1.96. He also struck out 11. This is giving me some confidence to focus on today and tomorrow.

There’s a confidence in trusting what he can do. The fact that it is at home will be something we haven’t scene since 2003. However, I think tomorrow will be different. Back in 2003, we had Wood and Prior going in those games. I loved those kids, but they’re not Jake. I didn’t have the confidence in them that I do for Arrieta. I know it’s only to take a 2-1 lead, but if Arrieta does what Arrieta does, then the Cubs have two chances to get to the National League Championship Series – I am getting ahead of myself again. I have to stop doing that.

I should be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment. Tomorrow’s game could be one for the ages and it’s against the Cardinals – even sweeter.

It’s all about Jake tomorrow. I can handle that and enjoy that. You should, too.

O, Ye of Little Faith: Cubs Tie Up NLDS and Take Away Home Field Advantage

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soler 82Being a Cub fan is like being fans with a lot of junior high students. Everything is the greatest thing in the world, or it’s the worst. Basically, the last line sums up the last 24 hours. The Cubs lose game one 4-0 as a result of only putting 3 hits on the board. A series usually doesn’t start until someone loses at home. Well tonight, the Cubs made that happen as they swarmed the plate with two safety squeezes and a Jorge Soler home run en route to a 6-3 win, all in St. Louis. The series now shifts to Chicago.

On Monday afternoon (for now), the Cubs have Jake Arrieta going at home. If he can do what everyone thinks he can do, then you have my permission to get a little antsy. For game 4, I have no idea what trick Maddon will pull, but I am thinking it will be Jason Hammel or the bullpen getting the start. Hammel has gone 7 and given up 3 ERs and 4 innings with 4 ERs against the Cardinals. It should be an interesting decision.

But first, let’s just enjoy the feeling that the Cubs won tonight. They now have home field advantage.

Fly the W with pride tonight and enjoy that same feeling tomorrow.

Monday night should be fun!

The Eddy Julio Martinez Signing Malfunction – Cubs Get the Talented Young OF, but How?

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Eddy 2016 1 (2)Thinking about the Eddy Julio Martinez signing has me feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A lot of emotions have gone through my head in the last 11 hours about Martinez, the deal to sign him, and his true talents. Here are the varied reactions to the deal.

How I Must Appear On the Outside…Dr. Jekyll…aka Mr. Conservative
The Cubs signed Cuba outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez for $3 million early Thursday. Martinez is another young outfielder that Epstein has added to the stable of young prospects the Cubs have stashed at the lower levels of the minors. It remains to be seen where Martinez will be assigned. That will be decided in spring training, and even more likely, extended spring training so that the Cubs can truly see what they have.

The 6’2” 195 lb. outfielder was ranked as the #4 International Free Agent by MLB.com. Jesse Sanchez describes his talents:

In the batter’s box, Martinez has a quick and compact power stroke. He’s shown the ability to hit home runs to all fields and work the counts. He’s speedy out of the box and shows base-stealing potential. Described as “hard-nosed,” Martinez is aggressive and not afraid to take an extra-base.

Martinez has shown good instincts on defense and the ability to cover the gaps in the outfield. Those skills combined with a playable and accurate arm make scouts believe he will stay in center field and could be in the big leagues in after a couple of seasons in the Minor Leagues. Scouts also like that Martinez has experience playing for Cuba’s junior national teams in Mexico and Venezuela and that he spent two seasons with Las Tunas in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the island’s top league.

How I Feel On the inside…Mr. Hyde…aka…Mr. Hyperbole
Yes!!! Wednesday was Christmas and Thursday was like New Year’s! I am really excited that the young 20-year-old, one of the top international free agents on the market, signed with the Cubs for a measly $3 million! Martinez has been comped to a young Andruw Jones for his bat and fielding prowess! When it comes to Martinez, the young 20-year-old outfielder technically could play all three outfield positions. He has good power, good speed, a plus arm, and a good glove; a real five tool outfielder. And the Cubs got him for just $3 million. What a steal!!! Can’t wait to see him in Myrtle Beach and Tennessee next summer!

But, In the Real World…
Earlier this summer, the asking price was supposed to be around $10 million for his services. The Cubs just got him for $3 million when less than a week after he purportedly signed with the Giants for $2.5 million, and then three days later backed out of the agreement. Apparently, the rumor is that Martinez’s dad asked for the extra money.

Something is still a little off on this deal. One is the reported asking price of the summer versus what the Cubs agreed to pay him. Just the other day, Keith Law said Martinez looked really good in batting practice.

I think the real story is going to come out here in the next few days about why the big drop. And yet the Cubs were still able to sign him. It could be any number of things. It could be a rickety arm or a bad knee or an attitude issue, who knows?

Or the biggest reason – maybe this is just the market for Cuban CFs these days.

Or, here is what Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com thinks (click to Enlarge):
CQ2DdlfWIAA71dr
I don’t quite know what to truly think about Martinez. Spring Training is really when we will truly see what Martinez is and what he can be.

As for where he will be in 2016, I tend to think he will start out in South Bend because his skills might be a little advanced, along with his age. However, it would not surprise me to see him start in Eugene if the Cubs play it conservatively. Either outfield is going to be cool to see whether he is with Darryl Wilson in Eugene or Eloy Jimenez and Donnie Dewees in South Bend.

I don’t think Martinez will be the last international free agent signing by the Cubs this winter, either.

Check our Top 21 Prospects Page to see where we put Eddy Julio on our list.