August 31, 2016

30 August:

The Cubs are pretty much world famous for the core of young, athletic talent they have.

Just four short seasons ago they were a last place club with a dearth of talent on the team. To give a stark contrast, Starlin Castro was the best athlete on the team then.

He couldn’t even MAKE this club. Think about it. Every infielder the team has is way better than he. Not to beat up on the former shortstop; just to make a point. That’s just how much better this team is.

Kris Bryant has the highest ‘Q’ rating of any baseball player. Q ratings are a highly secret, and coveted stat employed originally by Hollywood to gauge how recognized a star was. It’s a mixture of familiarity and appeal.

Bryant has cornered the market in it. It’s off the charts. And then you have Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, not to mention Willson Contreras and on, and on. Every one could be on the cover of ‘Teen Beat’ magazine.

They are probably the best collection of young talent on any sports franchise. It’s a phenomenon, and much of the country is dialed in to it.

Then there’s the pitching staff.

They don’t get anywhere near the love, outside of Jake Arrieta and his historic run. They exist to serve; Jason Hammel is 13-7 with a 3.21 ERA, which would make him a #1 starter on 25 other clubs. But if he were traded tomorrow few would mourn his passing.

Jon Lester has a fond following but once again you don’t see a lot of #34 jerseys in the stands, do you?

Nope. The Cub pitching staff, almost criminally underrated, exists to serve their 24 year old super athletes. Even the acquisition of assassin closer Aroldis Chapman, who cares not about the warm and fuzzy Cub thing, hasn’t warmed the cockles of fan’s hearts.

Frankly, that’s a good thing. The offense is a cuddly reality show party with lots of smiles from handsome faces. Chapman could care less who he’s pitching for.

The Cubs are just his latest employer. He is definitely ‘Chris’ (Yul Brynner) from ‘The Magnificent Seven’; a gunslinger hired by the locals to chase the bad guys away. John Lackey would be ‘Vin’ (Steve McQueen).

You could have fun comparing the rest of the staff, too. Charles Edwards Jr could be Horst Bucholz’ ‘Chico’. Now, this is the 1960 version, not the new remake with Denzel. We’ll see how that one compares later.

Anyway, this is the nature of the Cub staff. A bunch of semi-anonymous guns for hire here to ‘get some jewelry’, as Lackey pointed out. Much like Brad Dexter’s ‘Harry’, who was convinced there was some gold at the end of their adventure.

Then there is The Professor.

Kyle Hendricks, who has been schooling the National League for the entire 2016 season.  He might be the cool customer ‘Lee’ (Robert Vaughn) from the film. In spite of his relative youth, he brings an intellectual angle to  his position that makes him unique.

And the rest of the baseball world is taking notice. Let’s take a look inside his stats a bit.

He’s tossed 159 innings, right behind Jon Lester’s 160 and Arrieta’s 165. He’s only allowed 117 hits. Only 13 balls have left the yard on him. He’s gotten 139 strikeouts.

And has stingily given up only 39 free passes. His WHIP this year?

0.98. Arrieta’s is 1.05. Lester 1.07.

That’s Cy Young territory, and he’s a FIFTH starter. It’s time to give Chris Bosio the credit he really deserves for corralling this talent. He has obviously worked with Hendricks to add a little velocity; he hit 90 a couple of times Tuesday night.

He was sitting at 86-7 earlier this year. And that extra couple of miles an hour has allowed him to get guys out up in the zone, change eye level. This is HUGE. His problem was always the third time around in the lineup.

The hitters had seen that plus change and curve. They dared him to throw the ball past them, and he struggled there. That’s when you’d see him get squared up. So, he had a reputation as a six inning pitcher.

A damn good one. But not one to go deep into games. That metric has changed. He went 7 again, and now he’s added that extra pitch he needs to get him there. He only needed 99 pitches, walked one and struck out four.

His 2.09 ERA leads the majors.

The Cubs played an OK game behind him; it wasn’t the insane effort of Monday night’s 13 inning walk off. That was a game for the ages.

Anthony Rizzo homered off of Chad Kuhl(L, 3-2) in the first, a two run laser shot to right, and that was all they needed. Miguel Montero singled in Addison Russell in the second to add the very early icing on a pretty nice cake.

Carl Edwards pitched a drama free 8th,  and Aroldis Chapman pitched his automatic 9th. It was his 31st save, and 18th appearance for the Cubs.

All in all a very professional effort. And with a major league leading 84 wins -they have won 21 games in a month for the first time since 1945- it’s a sight that Cub fans, and the rest of the baseball world, is getting used to seeing.

Let the Magnificent Seven Ride!…

Jason Hammel takes on Ryan Voglesong, who bounce back and forth from Pittsburgh to San Francisco like a well used beach ball. 7:05 start; CSN, 670 The Score

Tags: #Cubs #Pirates #LetsGo #GoCubsGo