Thursday, 26 October:
Smart Cub fans are watching the World Series closely to see just how their club needs to improve to play with the elite competition.
The whole world got to see just how elite they are. In an epic extra inning battle the Houston Astros outlasted the Dodgers 7-6 in what was a thriller by any description. The teams are pretty evenly matched, although the Houston bullpen is perhaps their weakest link.
But it was the Dodger pen, coming in with 25 scoreless post season innings under it’s belt that had a rude awakening, with ace closer Kenley Jansen blowing a save to send the game to extras. Offensively, both sides hit 4 homers each to set a new Series record with 8 in one game.
Usually, October baseball sees cool evenings with heavy, humid air. LA is in the middle of an unseasonable hot spell; it was 93 degrees at gametime. This would mean the park would ‘play small’, and both sides came to the park looking to drive the ball.
That they did. The lessons to be learned from this one is 1) Play to the conditions, and 2) No matter how brilliant the manager is he can ‘overmanage’ a game.
Dave Roberts did exactly that. He pulled his starter Rich Hill, too early. In what has become a machine like reflex, Roberts, who has a superb bullpen, went to it early one time too many. They were bound to give up a run sooner or later.
They gave up six. Hill had only thrown 60 pitches, and was clearly unhappy with being pulled. Second guessing is easy, but the fact remains that at some point you trust your pitcher. Bullpens really should be more for secondary use.
Hill was never in any real trouble, giving up a single run in his 4 innings of work. He gave up 3 hits and 3 walks, one of them intentional. But he did have 7 strikeouts, and had plenty more in the tank.
The lesson? Some times you just have to ‘let the kids play’.
Going forward for the Cubs they need smarter players. The team is very athletic, and is dangerous. But they don’t ‘play to the conditions’; they swing for the fences no matter what the weather or score of the game.
This must change.
Manager Joe Maddon trusts his starters for the most part; not having a Dodger bullpen sort of forces it. But the team cannot carry players they don’t trust, like Hector Rondon. He has been a wasted roster spot for two years now.
97 mph means nothing if it doesn’t miss bats. His stuff doesn’t.
Theo Epstein needs to find a more complimentary blend of players. The team needs a left handed contact hitter with plus speed who can get on base. If such a player is available he’s worth one of their right handed swing and miss types.
That is item #1.
It’s possible Ian Happ can fill that bill; the local media seems in a hurry to trade him for pitching, and he would no doubt fetch some in return. But the rookie, who is without a doubt a major talent, was rushed to the majors and seemed overmatched, particularly down the stretch.
Overly aggressive, he was striking out on fastballs right down the middle. Happ is still a bit of an enigma at this point. He has a legitimate 5 tool potential.
Do you bail on that now? Or do you move someone with less upside?
One thing is for certain. If he’s dealt it’s because the organization knows a weakness that isn’t going away and wants to sell high. If not, well he just may be the next Mickey Mantle.
Cubsquest think she stays. It’s the middle infielders who need to not make any major real estate purchases anytime soon…
Pitching and free agents fixes.