So we’ve had the weekend to enjoy another Cards-Cubs series…things are different this year…way different….some thoughts…
2016 was a very special year….the Cubs sprinted out of the starting box in April—went 17-5, their pitching was terrific—they (Lester, Arrieta, Hammel, Lackey & Hendrick) had a 2.39 ERA with 17 quality starts (tied for MLB lead) and the bullpen had only 53 innings of use—fewest in Majors… their sizzling offense outscored the opposition 136-57 and the 1-2 punch of Bryant & Rizzo was on-fire…Rizzo had 24 RBI’s 3rd most for the month by any Cubs player– the Cubs April RBI record belongs to HOF Billy Williams…boy what a sweet swing he had….when he had 25 RBI in 1970….the Cubbies never looked back as they won the division easily and really had it wrapped up very early…
….the Cards of 2016 struggled with a 12-12 April , 8.5 games out at the end of May and were just 2 games over .500 at the end of June and the Central Division race was over…a slugging team, the Cards won 33 games by 5+ runs but were just 24-23 in one run games…shoddy fielding often jumped up and bit the Cards, a transition in the bullpen as Rosenthal’s closing role became Oh’s, an unsettled roster with Wong & Grichuk…reportedly two of the major components for the future were sent down to the minors…Moss & Gyorko provided plenty of pop but not much in the field so they were juggled continually…Gyorko panned out….Moss did not
Fast forward….now it’s 2017….things are different in many ways…for the Cards…who used the word “athleticism” as their buzz word all winter…brought in Free Agent, Cub’s CF Dexter Fowler, as the “big” move of the winter….and …I do think he helped relax the long spring training days with his personality…but is he REALLY the answer for 4 years…I doubt it….anyway…Johnny is gone and I think the chances of ever seeing him again as a regular starting role again are about as likely as Red Schoendienst coming up to pinch hit again while Gyorko has …for the time…assumed 3B duties…Wong has been given the starting role as he accepts the up/downs of Major League baseball….Mike Leake was outstanding in April…don’t expect him to continue at that pace…but…he should be far better than last year.. Martinez seems to be getting the WBC behind him now and really is our ACE…the two-headed closer of Rosenthal & Oh look like they are sharing the closing role or the 8th & 9th
… the Cubs of 2017….came out flat…no doubt about it…Rizzo is hitting .219, Schwarber .189, Zobrist .216, Contraras .228— that’s half of the starting lineup…btw…Rizzo & Heyward are the oldest of starting lineup at 27 (except for Zobrist)…on the mound…the 3 month rental of Chapman as closer has expired…age & work-load are taking its toll on the Cubs starters– Lackey (38) has a 4.29 ERA, Arrieta (31) and coming off 426 innings of pitching over the last 2 years has a high 5.35 ERA, Lester (33) has actually provided some strong performances but hasn’t received the booming offense of 2016 for him to pile up wins…he goes…as most starters do now…only 5-6 innings…quietly ..the bullpen leading up to Wade Davis is a shaky as a ship in a storm.
So what must we consider about 2017…some questions…..concerns…things to watch for both of these clubs in the upcoming months
The Cards must “deal” with and/or consider the following…
….the performance of Wainwright & Wacha are causes for real concern….despite his valiant efforts, Waino can only “reinvent” himself so many times ….now he’s an “off speed” guy…let’s hope it works..Wacha has never been the same since his arm injury..the Cards are having him “miss a turn using the reasoning that they are “trying to keep him strong”…right…since when is that a concern…pls check out the dragging bullpen arms of the past several years….he’s just not the same pitcher …meanwhile a pleasant problem…the crowded OF…Mags Sierra has generated more “buzz” in his 1st week than anyone expected. Does this shake up the Grichuk, Fowler, Piscotty threesome? Tommy Pham has been up & down more than a yo-you….is this the real thing…this time?
…I just don’t hear the buzz about Diaz this year like I did last year
…for the moment, the bullpen has eased back into a nice set of “roles”
The Cubs face the following…
….will Schwarber actually hit….he missed all last year and is sinking below the .200 mark now…the small sampling of the World Series may have been an aberration …I do think that he’ll be moved out of the lead-off spot shortly…if …and this is a big IF…he hits .250, with 20 HR with his limited defensive skills in the OF…is that what the Cubs want..they’d be wonderful numbers for a catcher but with Contreras …it appears that Schwarber will be behind the dish infrequently
….The Cubs defense is a notch or 3 above the Cards and is an extremely valuable asset seldom mentioned. Assuming that the hitters will “find their correct water level” at some point
…the Cubs area already probably combing the MLB for pricy, older, effective starters on poor performing teams—Players like Jason Vargas (KC), Ervin Santana (Minn), Ivan Nova (Pitt) could already be on the list
…..the 6th, 7th, 8th innings are still a challenge….they are for all teams…but maybe more so for the Cubs than other contenders…prior to Wade Davis…things are often shaky
…..all in all….it’s a NEW YEAR in the Lou & Chitown…it’ll be fun to watch these two teams battle all summer and then tangle in the post-season
….other MLB tidbits….
..Milwaukee & Cincy are both improved….both teams have elevated their hitting numbers significantly.. Cincy is younger but both teams can hit…both struggle on the mound….Mil uses the 4 pitcher per night formula to eke out wins…in their first 37 games (20-17)…check out these appearances by the Brewers bullpen—Jacob Barnes—20 games; Carlos Torres & Corey Knebel-each 19 games; Neftali Feliz-18 games; Jared Hughes “just” 15 games…remember this is from 37 games! At this rate Barnes, Torres & Knebel would all be in 85+ games. But all this being said…the improvement of these 2 teams impacts the overall win total for both the Cards & Cubs. Not so many sweeps. Somehow Cards have a tougher time with Cincinnati than Milwaukee….one of those quirky things.
…..another team that honors the past as much as the Cardinals is the Yankees….their “Monument Park” is adding Derek Jeter….as it should..he’ll be the 38th player honored in that way..
…the Mets can’t catch a break or maybe better stated…can’t throw….not long ago many thought that the Mets had formed a dominant rotation & closer….it’s fallen apart….Noah Syndergaard is gone until the end of July because of a torn lat..can’t touch a ball for 6 weeks…Matt Harvey isn’t the same since returning from a thoracic outlet syndrome surgery (2-3, 5.63)…Steven Matz—out for at least a month with a flexor tendon strain—being referred to as a “mysterious injury” by the Mets….what does that mean?….Seth Lugo is rehabbing from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament..Robert Gsellman has flopped…no sore arm…just no outs! …on the back end…closer Jeurys Familia is out 2-3 months with an arterial clot in his shoulder! Mgr Terry Collins will be making many…many…trips to the mound this year! Some speculate that all the work & time by the pitchers in the weight room may…may…be the culprit…or at least a partial cause..of some…or all…of these injuries.
…the much-traveled Mark Reynolds (7 teams) is currently 3rd in NL in RBI’s with 31 & 6th in Slugging % at .654 and 9th in batting .331….oh…the light air of Denver does wonders for hitters
…David Freese has found his niche @ Pittsburgh….batting .302 as a backup 1B-3B
…while looking at ex-Cards….seemingly back from the dead…Joe Kelly has re-emerged for Boston..in 2017 he has recorded some nice numbers 19 inn, 2 wins, 10 hits, 2 holds 1.89-era and a whip of 1.16
….Albert ….we don’t need a last name…is at .245, 5 HR, OPS is at .629 for the Halos…hindsight is 20-20 so this is a bit unfair….but…I wish the Cards had used the same Albert strategy on Johnny
…Jason Motte (Atlanta) has a role of a “real short” guy…he’s been in 11 games and just 7 innings…it seems to be working…at least to a point…he hasn’t given up any runs this year yet but has no wins, no saves, no holds..with the weak Brave starting staff…they probably should carry 15 pitchers
….Houston has opened up a huge lead in AL Western Division….the Astros are up by 8 games over Angels & Rangers while Seattle is 9 out and Oakland finds themselves 10.5 games behind on May 16…it might be a long, long summer in the Bay Area (SF Giants are also 8.5 games out in NL)
…the highest average in the Texas Rangers lineup Sunday night was their catcher, Robinson Chirinos, the backup catcher at that….any questions why the Rangers are 8 games out of 1st place
Outside of the MLB….
….I hope the Blues are following the Preds-Ducks series…the Ducks scored 5 goals in game 2 to win a 5-3 game and even the series….it took the Blues about 4 games to score 5 goals…how did they break down the Nashville defense….but now the series moves to Nashville
….Mizzou Basketball signs another highly touted recruit(Tilmon)….this will…probably should…lead to the most abrupt, huge “turnaround” of any D-1 Basketball program in NCAA history
…speaking of NCAA…last weekend, the UMSL Tritons softball team hosted the NCAA regional. In this double elimination tournament, the Tritons whipped Kentucky Wesleyan 11-1 in game 1 on Thursday, were no-hit by Wayne State’s Lindsay Butler in the 1st game of Friday then defeated Truman State 4-2 on Friday. On Saturday, the Tritons Carli Kingery outdueled Butler and Wayne St 1-0 to force a final championship game (both remaining teams had 1 loss)…the Tritons led 4-1 entering the 7th and final inning…Wayne State lashed out 7 straight hits, scored 6 runs took a 7-4 lead. UMSL fought back to load the bases but could only push 1 run across the plate and the Tritons were eliminated in an extremely thrilling…but disappointing…. game. UMSL finished the 42-15 for the season and won the GLVC tournament….a terrific accomplishment any time but considering the graduation of a record-breaking 4 year starting pitcher and the departure of the head coach…it was really another terrific season! Congrats! Check out the softball program’s outstanding success over the past few years—2016-53-9; 2015-48-8; 2014-49-8; 2013-41-13
…why is it taking so long to get to the Warriors-Cavs championship series in the NBA? Do they need all these 7 game series to eliminate the weak sisters?
…if you want good pitching at the collegiate-DIII level with 4 of your primary pitchers under 3.00…check out Wash U….holding a 26-8 record, the Bears Jake Mintz is 4-0 with an 0.91 era; Brad Margolin 9-0 and a 1.70 era; Zach Kotin 5-2 & 2.57 and John Howard is 3-3 holding a 2.87. Wash U is an unbelievable 14-1 at home in 2017.
While some things change from 2016 to 2017…not much changes at the bottom of this blog…thanks for reading…pls feel free to respond on the Prepcasts page or on the facebook page…we respect your thoughts and opinions…