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Evolution of Castro

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Even the best major leaguers cannot help but let their minds wander during a 9 inning marathon affair. Players take their at bats to the field. Hitters take their errors with them to the plate. Pitchers have all the time in the world to let their minds roam. Coaches have nothing to do but think.

Hearing that Starlin Castro wants to play 162 games is a good start. He has been widely criticized for his lapses in his defensive play. The media made him an easy target when his mind started to wander in the field. People started to question his drive, want, and mental makeup. Some even wanted him to be on the trading block.

Starlin just celebrated his 25th birthday and will be playing in his first season with the expectation of winning. This will be his sixth season manning the shortstop position and the first that he will be expected to show leadership. Everyone around him with the exception of Rizzo could very well be a player with less than 200 major league at bats. Even Mike Olt, who I really hope is not at third as his strikeouts are piling up, is pretty raw at this level.

Hearing he “wants to get better everyday” and “play through bad days” shows the maturity level is growing. Baseball is a game of failures and it looks like he is only breaking the surface between the ears. If this maturation means a better player we are in store for a treat.

I Hate Jason Motte

Look at this dickbag.

You’d think these days, what with me attempting to be something of an actual baseball blogger, and an intelligent one at that, and with the amount of data at all of our disposals that we could be rational about any signing or player the Cubs have. But I am not a rational being.

I still hate Jason Motte and hope he never takes the mound at Wrigley.

Oh, I understand the reasoning. Here is a veteran reliever, a fall-back plan as Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, and Hector Rondon don’t have long track records of success. We don’t know that any one on or combination of them could take a step back this year, and suddenly the last three inning which we thought were locked down become the same kindergarten recess we suffered through under Dale Sveum. Motte could at least come in and pump fastballs over the plate enough to not turn into Salem, MA. circa 1700 or something.

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Des Moines Beautiful This Time of Year 

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2 for 45

That’s my biggest fear. Kris Bryant would start in Chicago versus the Cardinals on Opening Day and start his career in a slump. He seems like a well adjusted young man with a great head on his shoulders. He seems destined for stardom. He has hit at every level. I just do not want to see him have to be sent down in May due to a slump. 

Scott Boras is putting pressure on the Cubs’ brass. Tony Clark is doing what the MLBPA is supposed to do by putting their two cents into the mix. Fans are yearning to see those crystal blues on Opening Day.  Thank heaven the CBA gives ownership at least one power. 

The CBA allows teams to protect themselves by sending players down to mess with arbitration and gain a year on the backend. Theo and company know darn well they are thinking past 2015 when it comes to a World Series title. They also know they fear Kris starting his career in a slump and they’d have to send him to Iowa for at bats although they’ll never say it. 

Give this rebuild a few more weeks before we start to push the fast forward button. Let’s see where the team stands in May or June before Kris gets his turn. I cannot help but think we’ll look back and laugh at the arguments people are making in a few years when he’s in the middle of the lineup surrounded by future free agents and other home grown prospects raking to the tune of 45 homers. These few weeks in 2015 will be a distant memory. We’ll be thankful he spent a few more weeks in Des Moines. 

Arizona Trip Day 1

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Made my way down to the Scottsdale area for a couple days to get a sneak preview of what’s coming to Clark and Addison in a few week’s time. It’s what’s coming a couple weeks after that that stole the show of course. Anyway, some observations about today’s game in Tempe (sorry, none of them will concern ASU girls).

-The main story of course is two Kris Bryant bombs, which pretty much made the whole trip worth it already. There is just a different sound off his bat. It’s a thud. You didn’t need to see the ball come off it for the first homer to know where it was going. You only had to hear it. Few guys create a stir in the crowd simply by the sound of contact. Bryant is one.

What I noticed most is just how balanced Bryant is at the plate. While Baez feels like he’s hurling everything he has at the plate when he makes solid contact in pure rock fury, Bryant is just fluid and stable. It looks like he’s barely trying and yet everything is behind the ball. He’ll have his struggles, but overall Bryant is going to hit. And hit a lot.

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Adjust Yourself

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Baseball players are always adjusting themselves.  It’s part of the game.  You can go back decades and document all of them.  Somewhere there is probably a website that can show you baseball players adjusting themselves.  Baseball is all about adjustments.

The biggest adjustment this spring has to come from Javier Baez.  His inability to make contact is going to be his downfall.  In an era where the long ball is dying, he needs to be able to make contact and force action. The long ball is great. Sometimes forcing action by taking what the pitcher gives you allows for you to get the pitch you’re looking for to drive out of the park. Sometimes you need to do less in order to do more with the next at bat.

It is well documented that Baez has made an adjustment at every level of baseball. We also know that there are several coaches and advisors working on his swing. We also know the opponents that are chomping at the bit to see if he is able to make these adjustments.  There have been plenty of prospects throughout their careers that could not quite make these adjustments.  Corey Patterson is the first that comes to mind.  Was he overrated by the organization or was he a top talent that just could not make the adjustments?  I bet you could still throw a fastball at the letters and he would still swing at it.

Major league pitchers will make the best prospects look silly.  Kris Bryant is going to have to make adjustments.  I know that’s blasphemy but true.  If Javy wants to succeed at the major league level he will need to tone down that swing.  He swings hard.  Real hard.  It’s almost fun to watch even when he misses by a foot.  The problem is, fun and winning sometime don’t go hand in hand.  Having a two strike approach and making contact with runners on is productive.  Production calls for runs.  Scoring more runs than the other team equals winning.

If an adjustment is not made I cannot help but think that Javy will be the first prospect on his way out of town for major league help.  There are prospects behind him and some already at the major league level that can play second base.  I hope to turn on the TV someday and see him making these adjustments.  This will not happen overnight but needs to start now.

Health Will Give Them A Chance

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Jake Arrieta needs to stay healthy. Yes, I know that is mind-blowing information but the Cubs are relying on a pitcher that has never logged anything close to 200 innings. He came off a shoulder injury last year that shortened his fine season but it was just that…shortened. I’ve always been under the assumption that I’d rather have 5 healthy “good” starters for a whole season than have “potential” guys mixed in with “average” guys. Potential and average rarely mix well. Jake showed everyone why he was a touted prospect for so long. Now show us you can do it again and do it again for 30 starts.

Jon Lester should be good for 190+ innings and I’ll leave it to the experts to predict how many wins his team gets from his starts. I’d like to calm expectations surrounding having a legit #1 starter this year but there is some type of excitement around the Cubs’ big boy club that I’ll just hope he’s healthy for 190+ innings. With him everything else should just fall into place.  He’s a classy veteran at the top of the rotation with the track record of a champion.

Jason Hammel struggled mightily after his trade last season to the A’s. Sometimes things just don’t work out. His walk rate went up and his FIP was around double than his time with the Cubs. Again, sometimes things just don’t work out. He’s back in the comfy comfines and should be back around his 3.75 ERA rather than is sub 3.00 when he was traded. My only hope is he can get himself righted and give the Cubs around 175 innings. This will go a long way into whether the Cubs are contenders or hanging on for one more year for the prospects to develop.

Kyle Hendricks pitching like last year would be a wonderful thing. If he can sustain a 14-4 season and pitch around a 2.50 ERA things will be looking great. Those would be about what his numbers would have projected out if doubled last season (I added a few earned runs because I feel it was needed). If those look like numbers of a #4 starter than you should start looking for your seat on Michigan Avenue in November now. Kyle will come back down to earth but, a healthy 175+ innings is what I want to see. With his just okay stuff, his change up people seem to always swing over and his heady approach to the game make for a fun time watching hitters frustrated that they “just missed that one.” He’s fun to watch but his margin for error is limited.

If you take into consideration that your #5 starter doesn’t need to log a ton of innings but needs to keep his team in games and give them a chance to win then Tsuyoshi Wada is your guy. He gets more out of his stuff than Travis Wood and/or Edwin Jackson. However, he doesn’t have the stuff of Jackson but he also doesn’t have the two years of bad as Edwin. This position just needs to keep games within reach for the bats or defense to come around. Give me a solid 160+ innings and an ERA around 4.00 out of this spot and I’ll be happy.  It should be interesting how this plays out.

I’m not asking for much. I’m just asking for 5 guys to stay healthy to give them a chance.

(A big thank you to Sam for allowing me to contribute to the Ivy Drip this season.  I’m a local product looking to have some fun and share some knowledge about the Cubs and this great game of baseball – Ray Napientek)

Shut Up, Experts

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I feel like I spend most of my time writing about Cubs fan psychosis. But as the spring training games kick off today, we’re not left with much else.

The avalanche started long ago this winter. Probably when Jon Lester signed signaled it. But you’ve seen it as spring training started, and you’ll see it more and more as the season approaches. Grantland’s Jonah Keri was just the latest, but follows in the footsteps of many other experts who are predicting big things for the Cubs this season. Not next one, but this one, like winning 90 or more games (which doesn’t sound ridiculous to me but still an improvement of 20 games isn’t done all that often).

And every time I read one, I cringe. Because I’m a lunatic, you see.

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