Welcome to the 2016 MLB season. The Cubs start for real tomorrow. They play an exhibition game this afternoon (game preview at noon CT). That's kinda weird, but whatever. I'm into weird.
Here are some things for your possible reading pleasure, carefully handpicked by the usual gang of idiots.
HotAlice says Fly the W!
Not Left Out.
- Neil (Chicago Cubs Online): Kyle Schwarber could have a bigger role behind the plate for the Cubs. Schwarber could be used as a catcher late in games.
- Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Kyle Schwarber graduating to higher catching level with the Cubs. If he continues showing improvement behind the plate, the Cubs could expand his role at catcher.
- Andrew Felper (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): In praise of Miguel Montero, the Tim Meadows of the Chicago Cubs. "It seems unavoidable that every great institution has a forgotten contributor."
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Two skippers go back a long way. Joe Maddon and Mike Scioscia have a lot in common, and have worked together before. They won a World Series together in 2002.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Jake Arrieta carries great expectations into Opening Day. He's going to throw the dickens out of the ball and exercise the ghosts of seasons past.
- Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Let's not forget it: Travis Wood was so good as a reliever last year. $6.17 million worth of good. "...of the 47 appearances Wood made out of the pen in 2015, 20 of them included greater than one inning pitched and another 16 were full inning outings." The super-reliever corps depends on that kind of ability.
New and improved.
- Adam Nissen (Sports Mockery): The Maddon Mystique: fabricating motivation out of nothing. Looking at what Maddon has done with the Cubs in only one year has been nothing short of impressive.
- Tyler Kepner (The New York Times): It finally looks like the Cubs' turn. "...nobody this good got this much better."
- Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): What the Cubs learned from the NLCS loss. Several things touched upon. Commonsense things like not taking anything for granted. But you have to internalize those things.
- Nick Shepkowski (CBS Chicago*): Wind of change blowing in Wrigleyville. 2016 is the first of many years to come of the Cubs being among the first teams named when you hear "World Series favorites."
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Kris Bryant returns home a polished product. Joe Maddon says he's "new and improved™".
- Todd Johnson (Cubs Insider): Carson Sands ready to work it on out. Prospect profile of South Bend rotation member. Sands is a workhorse and has three pitches he can throw for strikes at any time, but he has not yet developed an out pitch. That out pitch would be his ticket to the Show.
It's in the Cards.
- RB Fallstrom (AP): NL Central champion Cardinals tire of Cubs talk, ready to go. Adam Wainwright wrinkles his nose when the subject comes up.
- Joel Sherman (New York Post): Why new powers Mets and Cubs are still chasing the class of the NL. Yeah. He means the Cardinals.
- Odds Shark (SBNation): MLB odds 2016: Cubs and Giants top pack of World Series favorites to start season. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are expected to battle in the AL.
- Ryan Davis (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Know your enemy (2016) St. Louis Cardinals. Analysis of pluses and minuses.
- Isaac Bennett (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Know your enemy (2016) Pittsburgh Pirates. Analysis of pros and cons.
The grass is greener.
- Jeff Sullivan (Fangraphs): Making too much of too little Jason Heyward. Heyward may be looking to drive the ball a little bit more.
- The Sports Fan Journal: 2016 MLB Preseason Primaries: Jason Heyward. "...his offensive skill set slots in perfectly at the top of the Cubs’ order."
- Adam Grossman (CSN Chicago*): Wrigley Field's role in transforming the Cubs into a winner. Good article about branding; excerpt from a book. Al is quoted, at some length.
- Carlos Portocarrero (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): A brief history of spring training stats. Scott McClain. Jason DuBois. And more.
Your mileage may vary.
- Dave Cameron (Fangraphs): How it could all go wrong for the Cubs. "...if there’s one thing baseball is particularly good at, it’s reminding us all how uncertain we should be about predicting a specific future for one player or even one team."
- Reuters: Hard-luck Cubs open season as World Series favorites. "...this might finally be the year they end their 107-year World Series drought."
- Ronald Blum (AP): Brewers, Cubs illustrate boom-bust cycle. Analysis of the ups-and-downs of Major League baseball's competitive cycle.
- Luis Medina (Bleacher Nation): Re-evaluating the defensive component of WAR raises questions about Cubs players. But "...there are several Cubs near the top of whatever WAR leaderboard you choose to sort through."
- Burt Constable (Daily Herald): This is the Cubs' year. "...it's fun to think we'll all be part of the year the Cubs make it to the promised land."
- Mike Wellman (Des Moines Register): Lifelong Cubs sufferer copes with sky-high expectations. "We old (billy?) goats have been down this favorite road before, albeit rarely."
- Allan Scarabello (Daily Journal): The Cubs have got it all -- and it shows. This is it — the season your parents and their parents (and maybe their parents) haven't seen.
- Barry Svrluga (Washington Post): Theo Epstein broke the jinx in Boston. Now he may finally lift the Cubs' curse. Inasmuch as there is no such thing...but we're used to that by now. However, should they win, then Theo gets praised.
Either you is or you isn't.
- Chris Kulawik (Chicago Cubs Online): Time for Javier Baez and Jorge Soler to step up. Once Baez returns from the disabled list, the game begins for him and Soler to earn a long term spot on the Cubs roster.
- CSN Chicago: Bryzzo commercial. [VIDEO]
- Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Another day, another spectacular catch for Albert Almora. His glove has the Midas touch.
- Michael Canter (Cubs Insider): The Rundown: trades, predictions, and Evan being lazy. Some prognostication and a few bon mots.
- Sports Mockery: Cubs legend hired as WGN radio analyst. Ryne Sandberg signs on. Ryan Dempster does as well.
Food for thought:
- CBS Chicago: Can sensors prevent elbow injuries in baseball? Biometric baseball has arrived.
- AP: Putting data science on a player's sleeve. More biometrics. The next market inefficiency.
- Chris Plante (The Verge): Watch Albert Einstein jumpkick Isaac Newton in Science Kombat. Gifs and more gifs for you, to illustrate the game. I still think Al and Grant Brisbee should armwrestle. Maybe we could get these guys to make it happen.
That's your Sunday fix. I'll have a special treat tomorrow. See you in the funny pages.