There was a spirited debate today in my text messages after the lineup came out. Tommy LaStella, a guy most people forgot was ever on the team by July, was not the most straightforward choice for batting fifth. My biggest concern was putting Kyle Schwarber in the outfield in a critical game. Kris Bryant is a passable outfielder, maybe even average. If the Cubs decided to go with Bryant as a frequent centerfielder next year (2), it wouldn’t be optimal but they’d get by fine most of the time. Schwarber appears to be the second coming of Matt Stairs, and especially Matt Stairs in the outfield. It’s sometimes an adventure. He – and the Cubs! – have mostly gotten away with it, but there’s been plays a normal outfielder would’ve made and plays were thing nearly could’ve gone very wrong. Given the way he was slumping for the last month, it didn’t seem like it was worth the risk to put him out there.
Kyle contributed one very long single earlier and that’s was all they needed. I think he had about zero meaningful plays in right field too. Maybe Fowler does it himself anyway, maybe it’s really good scouting of what tendencies match up with which players, or maybe the roulette ball just keep landing on the right number time after time. The team seems good – “We Are Good” even – but it also feels like the 2015 Cubs are living a charmed existence. It doesn’t have to go that way – the Rodriguez misplay followed by the complete ineffectiveness of Alvarez showed how badly it can go the other way – but this is the year where everything seems to go right. You don’t get many of those.
Jake Arrieta went 9 innings, gave up zero runs, struck out twelve, allowed four hits and hit a couple of people, and it completely looked like his shakiest start in a while. Bar is high, he’s been incredibly dominant, but he was wild early (maybe overwhelmed by the moment) and lost it again in the middle innings before settling down. He locked back in fair the last few innings, after the scrum, but the Pirates had their chances. They just hit the ball very hard where people happened to be positioned. Four zero doesn’t say how close this felt like going the other way, but the Pirates just can’t break thru. That’s their story.
The Pirates prepared the Cubs for their next opponent well. The HBP to Arrieta was some true Cardinals Way junk. I didn’t like the TBS announcers that much and maybe that’s just local team bias, but their lack of familiarity with these two teams hurt the broadcast during that not-fight. Pirates were definitely angry about getting hit, but it’s also probably was a little bit about the second baseman who was in a wheelchair during introductions. This isn’t the end of it for these two teams, this is coming back as a remix in 2016.
It took me about 15 seconds to start trying to map out the rotation for the next series, and only that long because I fought hard to resist thinking about it from about the seventh inning on. The design of these wildcard games it to make it tough for the Wild Card winner to throw their ace again in the next series. Tough, but not impossible.
Plan A Plan B
Game 1 Friday Lester Lester
Game 2 Saturday Hendricks Arrieta*
Game 3 Monday Arrieta Hendricks
Game 4 Tuesday Hammel? Lester*
Game 5 Thursday Lester Arrieta
Traditional planning would have A. My preference is to go for Plan B; get Lester and Arrieta as many times as possible even if not on full rest. People with more sense than I pointed out maybe you don’t decide at all until you must. (4) If the Cubs win, hold back Arrieta onto normal rest to be either the close out guy or the guy who puts them back ahead in Game 3. If the Cubs lose game 1, play Arrieta right away because you then you know to find a way to get two wins from him and one win from anyone else, and you can’t afford to go with a Hammer or Haren or Bullpen Day in game 4. Playing aggressive has gotten the Cubs this far, so I’m thinking Arrieta’s going to be pushed hard.
That and figuring out the end of the roster are the talk of the next few days. The Cubs will add at least one more starting pitcher and maybe one more reliever. As strange as it would’ve seemed at the start of the season, I wonder if Jorge Soler is off the 25 man now. He only serves a purposes as right handed pinch hitter but they don’t seem to be using him much as that. I’d be sure LaStella would be the other guy to be dropped if he didn’t play this game and he’s the guy I’d cut. People will look at Ross’ numbers and think it’ll be him, but he’s Lester guy and he allows more double switching and positional movements; he’s as safe as they get. Berry’s another one that’s going to look weird to people who haven’t been closely following the team, but the only reason he’s getting paid is to steal a critical base in the postseason and he’s got to be active for that. Maybe Denorfia? The problem with having such a deep team is there are some hard cuts, but having a deep has at least put them in the position to make some cuts.
11 to go. Why not?
(1) And that out of the box thinking didn’t seem to amount to much; 0-2 for him, 0-2 for Austin Jackson in his spot.)
(2) Dexter Fowler is going to get paid so much for so many years and good for him
(3) I’m fairly sure I couldn’t do that last time I wrote one of these.
(4) uncertain why I need the thing I tend to do most explained to me; I was too happy in the moment?