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Cub Tracks’ dharma bums

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The Cubs’ window, the Chili effect, and other bullets

COFFEE!
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Still no heads rolling on the road to Wrigley — we have as yet no results from the rounds of meetings that were held among Cubs personnel late last week. Buddha has not yet laid down the dharma, and so there is dramatic pause happening. The articles/interviews, etc., are not exactly numerous — the Cubs aren’t playing, and that isn’t news any more. So I’ll fill a little space with some baseball and ruminations about my favorite beverage.

Last time around, we took a quick peek at the starting offense, based on the players that are currently available, and today I propose to take a little look at the starting rotation as it stands, since some of the beats have begun to do that while snapping their fingers and drinking their espresso...mm, espresso...

— adjusts beret —

Dig that crazy beat. Yeah, man. I love me some espresso. And the bar that Kerouac and some of his pals used to drink at is about a mile away from where I sit. It’s a Mexican food joint now. Great coffee. The spoon stands straight up in that stuff when they mix it with dark chocolate, cinnamon, and a little cayenne...

— slurps indelicately —

Okay...where were we? Oh yeah, the rotation. Pardon my digression. It’s the caffeine, you know.

— coughs —

  1. Jon Lester. He’ll be back. Here’s his bbref page, if you need reference materials. 3.3 WAR, 181.2 innings, 149 strikeouts. 18-6 record. Given how spotty the Cubs’ offense was, that’s pretty impressive. He’s the ace of the staff. Jon has three more years on his deal and will likely remain throughout, though his period of effectiveness may be waning. He’ll be 35 this year.
  2. Kyle Hendricks. The co-ace. He’ll be back, too. 3.0 WAR, 199 innings. He’s entering his Arb2 year and will cost a bit more. His performance wasn’t as consistently impressive as it had been for the previous two years, but it was still pretty damned good. The Professor doesn’t monkey around.
  3. Jose Quintana. Uneven performance. Bad the third time through the order. 1.7 WAR, though, which isn’t terrible. 174 innings eaten. Keeps the team in the game a good percentage of the time, will continue to take the ball and deliver it with the same poise no matter what the situation. He’s under control for a couple more years and is fine if he functions as-is. Any improvement would be a bonus.
  4. Yu Darvish. Incomplete grade for the year. I have him slotted fourth only because of the handedness issue. I like balance. He’ll be given every chance to show his stuff. I was an Arrieta man, but Yu is a Cub and that’s the name of that tune. He’s in Chicago until 2023 if nothing changes.
  5. Cole Hamels (should he return, which seems likely). Unqualified success as a Cub. Can maybe squeeze another effective year out of his arm. 3.8 WAR on the year, that’s not too shabby at all. 190.2 innings. I’d take that option in a minute. He could move as high as third and as low as fifth in the rotation, depending.
  6. Tyler Chatwood. Theo Epstein has made plenty of noises about pitching depth, and Chatwood will again be given some opportunity. Here because handedness — I just like to alternate. None of these positions are set in stone, though I don’t expect 1 and 2 to change. I don’t like walks. Last year my predictive staff was all about guys that throw strikes. I’d like to see a trade here but I dunno how that could happen. Bad-contract swap, maybe. Otherwise he’s a righty swingman and is keeping Butler/Mills in Iowa. Not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s isn’t a win, either. He’s signed with the Cubs through 2020.
  7. Mike Montgomery. I don’t know if MiMo remains a Cub. He has a lot of trade value as a starter or swingman. 1.1 WAR in 124 innings, not bad at all. Mike has sometime control issues but he’s generally reliable. His future may depend on what the Cubs think they have in Mills. He’s in his Arb1 year.
  8. Alec Mills. Starter/swingman, maybe AAAA player but intriguing. Under team control for 2019.
  9. Jen-Ho Tseng. Another possibility to see some starter innings, at least in spring training, and an injury hedge at the very least.

So much depends on spring effectiveness out of this group, and of course there will be additions/subtractions. We’ll probably do a belly flop into the reliever pool next time, and swim in circles until something of note happens. Maybe I’ll even find some charts.

And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like:

As always * means autoplay on, or annoying ads, or both (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Cubs News and Notes:

  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): 5 offseason questions for the Cubs about their starting pitchers. “The rotation finished sixth in the league with a 3.84 ERA but ninth in innings pitched (888) and strikeouts (769).”
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): It sure sounds like Cole Hamels will be back in the Cubs rotation in 2019. “Hamels would give the Cubs a reliable fourth starter behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Chili Davis effect backfired, Cubs hitters regressed across the board. “...the Cubs failed to swing at better pitches, lift the ball, and knock in runs with runners in scoring position.”
  • Jeff Burdick (Cubs Insider): Addison Russell could remain with Cubs, but it’ll take a lot of work. “...don’t expect any quick answers to the Russell story.”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs’ 2018 time capsule: From Tommy La Stella’s bounce house to Anthony Rizzo’s toothbrush. “...it was fun to watch and provided some special moments that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): “Some in the industry are wondering” if Cubs would let Joe Maddon seek another job. “...the lack of certainty in the situation will leave open industry speculation.”
  • Joe Giglio (NJ.com*): MLB rumors: Cubs? Phillies? Yankees? Latest odds on Bryce Harper’s free agency. “Cubs: EVEN”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): With an uncertain infield, is Manny Machado going to become the Cubs’ free agent focus? “To be clear, I’m sure the Cubs will sign more than one free agent this season, but when it comes to luxury tax considerations, there are really only a handful of players you start talking about.”
  • Raphael Guerrero (Elgin Courier-News): Cubs prospect talks of forgiving Charleston shooter who killed his mom: ‘Best choice my life will ever have is forgiving Dylann Roof’. “Chris Singleton receives mail from all corners of the world. Much of it revolves around the same topic: forgiveness.”
  • CBS Chicago*: Stories 2 Tell: Andy Frain Ushers [VIDEO].

Today in Cubs history:

  • 1906 - In a snowy West Side Park, the first one-city World Series opens in Chicago. Nick Altrock outduels Three Finger Brown, giving the White Sox a 2-1 victory over the heavily favored Cubs. (1)
  • 1907 - In Game 2 of the World Series played at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, Tigers third baseman Bill Coughlin tags out Jimmy Slagle, who is leading off the base, using the hidden ball trick. The Cubs center fielder is the first victim ever to be deceived about the location of the ball during the Fall Classic. (1)
  • 1938 - Sweeping the Cubs in four games, the Bronx Bombers become the first team in major league history to win three consecutive World Series. Red Ruffing goes the distance, beating Chicago, 8-3, at Yankee Stadium. (1)
  • 1989 - The Giants win their first NL pennant since 1962 by defeating the Cubs 3-2 in Game Five of the NLCS. Will Clark bats .650 in the series with eight RBI to win MVP honors. (2)
  • Birthdays: Dave Rowe, Joe Pepitone, Jim Qualls, Felix Fermin, Courtney Duncan. Also Rube Marquard, Joe Sewell (HoF)

Food for thought:

  • Jennifer Leman (Science News): Spiky ice spires may stud the equator of Jupiter’s moon Europa. “Europa’s frozen landscape could be treacherous territory for future lunar landers.”
  • Science Daily: Mystery of Saturn’s moon Titan’s atmospheric haze.”A team of scientists homes in on a ‘missing link’ in Titan’s one-of-a-kind chemistry.”
  • Laura Sanders (Science News): How your brain is like a film editor. “The hippocampus may slice our continuous existence into ‘scenes’ suitable for storing memories.”

Thanks for reading.