With 22 days remaining until the deadline, trades are beginning to happen around major league baseball. Yesterday, the Red Sox made a move for reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona to bolster their pen in the wake of the injury to closer Craig Kimbrel. This series of articles is going to look at the Cubs to see what pieces could help the team and then look at the American and National League teams to see what pieces are out there that would fit those needs.
Coming into play today, the Cubs still maintain a large eight game lead in the division and are one game back for home field advantage for the NL playoffs. The offense has scored the second most runs in baseball and the pitching staff has allowed the fewest runs. Breaking that down a bit further, the starters have easily allowed the fewest runs in baseball, but the bullpen comes in 12th in preventing runs. So, at a high level, the pen would be the first area that needs some reinforcements. But we can take a deeper look than that.
Starting with the offense, let's go position by position. We'll see how the position ranks by both WAR and by wOBA.Add a comment
Jake Arrieta gave up 6 earned runs last night, the most he's given up in a game since 2014. That's a lot of runs to give up in one game. Arrieta only gave up 6 earned runs total in a span of 15 regular season stats, stretching from the middle of August last year into May this year. Giving up runs isn't such a foreign concept to Jake Arrieta anymore, though. He's given up 15 in his last three starts. Despite his best efforts, his accustomed efficacy isn't there. This is his nadir -- hopefully. Frustrations certainly are at an all-time high.
This is happening at an inopportune time, as well. The Cubs are in a death spiral, losing 8 of their last 9, and 14 of their last 19. When we need our stopper the most, he can't seem to stop the bleeding. If anything, he's exacerbated it. Jake knows that. He's an intense competitor. There is no one hurting more than him. Getting out of this rut must seem like a Sisyphean task. If this all sounds too depressing, then I have good news for you: Last night wasn't so bad for Jake. He did get shelled, but he got shelled... differently. More importantly, he changed his approach in order to correct some issues he's been having.Add a comment
A little past the halfway mark of the season, the Cubs have very few areas of real concern. The offense is one of the very best in baseball. The starting pitching has been healthy and extraordinary (with a few bumps in the road lately). The biggest concern throughout the first half has been with the bullpen. Rondon and Strop have both been very good, but getting the ball to them has been a big challenge.
In 2015, there was a third reliever in the pen that posted fantastic results - Justin Grimm. But 2016 has been something of a nightmare for Grimm (or for the fans when he pitches). While he has been better than his 5.79 ERA would suggest, he has still been pretty bad. The 4.42 FIP and 4.12 xFIP both point to a reliever that cannot be relied upon in close games.
So is there any hope that Grimm returns to his 2015 level of performance? Let's take a look at some charts!Add a comment
This is a question I've heard asked a lot over the past few days. The first question to ask: is the offense really struggling?
I'm going to look at the splits by month to see how much the offense has really tanked during June when compared to the glory days of the first couple months when the Cubs were running roughshod over the rest of baseball.
If you've heard Theo Epstein talk about player development, you've probably heard this phrase: Control the Zone. Short hand for how Theo wants Cubs players to use the strike zone to their advantage, people generally understand the application when it comes to hitters. Work counts in your favor, and attack pitches you can drive, not just pitches that happen to be strikes.
The same logic applies to pitchers as well. The Cubs want to control the zone, which means throwing strikes and more importantly, not walking people. What's missing in that equation is the corollary to 'attack pitches you can drive'. Just like the Cubs want hitters to focus on strikes that they can drive, they want pitchers to throw strikes that are less likely to be driven. This isn't easy to do, and almost as difficult to measure, but I think contact management is something the Cubs put a lot of weight behind.Add a comment
I've been holding off on writing this article. There have been some signs that something's off with Jake Arrieta. I figured he would suddenly snap out of his funk, unfurl a complete game shutout and make me look silly in the process. And he still might do just that. But, I can't keep sitting idly by. Something's wrong with Jake. I don't mean to be alarming, but this just isn't right. I have to write about this, much to my own chagrin.Add a comment
As we all know, Addison Russell is an exciting young shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. At only 22 years of age, he is already a key component to the best team in baseball. Dating back to his days as a prospect, he has often been compared to Barry Larkin.
So why does he suck against left handed pitching? As evidence look at this chart from 2016:Add a comment