Cubs

Cubs dont expect Castro to be a distraction

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Cubs dont expect Castro to be a distraction

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs dont believe a Starlin Castro Watch will dominate the daily headlines from spring training. They say their 21-year-old All-Star shortstop is supposed to report to camp on time next week.

But its something that hangs over the franchise. Castro, who lives in the Dominican Republic during the offseason, met with Chicago police last month while in town for the Cubs Convention. There were questions about an alleged sexual assault that happened almost five months ago.

Castro was not charged with a crime. His attorneys have vehemently denied the allegations. The Cubs have expressed their support, both publicly and in private.

I know theres been full cooperation from every end, Theo Epstein said Saturday. I expect Starlin in camp. Hes getting ready for the season and we dont expect it to be a distraction.

The incident occurred right after the season ended last September. The Cubs president of baseball operations described Castros situation as status quo, though he didnt want to interpret what that means exactly.

Its too sensitive an issue I dont want to speculate, Epstein said. Its really not our investigation. Obviously, what we said at the convention stands. Theres a lot of concern about it and our players have a responsibility to conduct themselves the right way off the field as well as on the field. But as far as I know, there havent been a lot of developments about this story.

At some point, Epstein expects the organization will receive some sort of update from the police. Until then, the Cubs are planning to educate their minor- and major-league players on how to handle fame and the spotlight.

Representatives from the Northeastern University Center for Sport in Society will come in to run several seminars this spring.

(Its) giving them the right tools to deal with difficult situations, Epstein said. Sometimes we take for granted that these young kids because theyre great at what they do on the field know how to handle all the tough circumstances that they find off the field. Its our responsibility as an organization.

We coach them on the field and we expect them to just make great decisions off the field. We need to give them great coaching off the field (to) help make the right decisions.

The Cubs Way means high standards on the field and off the field. (Theres) got to be accountability in wearing this uniform.

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

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AP

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

The Cubs go home for the winter with a bad taste in their mouths for the 108th time in the last 109 years.

But such is the nature of professional sports, where only one team and its fanbase gets to experience euphoria on the final day of the season.

The Cubs didn't play as well as they would've liked in the 2017 postseason, something they readily admit.

But the numbers behind the October run are pretty astounding.

Here are some of the most eye-popping stats from this fall, courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago stat guru Chris Kamka:

—The Cubs had the second-lowest batting average (.156) of any team in a best-of-7 League Championship Series.

The only team lower is the Houston Astros through five games, hitting .147 entering play Friday night against the New York Yankees.

The next lowest batting averages in a best-of-7 LCS:

.157 - 2012 Yankees
.164 - 2015 Cubs
.168 - 2016 Indians

—The Cubs also had the lowest batting average in a single postseason in baseball history among teams who have played at least eight postseason games.

And it's not a particularly close margin:

.168 - 2017 Cubs
.188 - 2012 Yankees
.198 - 1974 A's (won World Series with no LDS)
.204 - 2015 Cubs
.207 - 1973 A's (won World Series with no LDS)

—2017 was an interesting year when it came to home runs for the Cubs.

In the regular season, the Cubs were 77-37 (.675 winning percentage) when hitting at least one homer and just 15-33 (.313 winning percentage) when not homering.

But in the postseason, that script was completely flipped.

The Cubs were only 1-5 (.167) in October when homering and 3-1 when going homerless.

—The offensive issues go far beyond just homers for the Cubs.

They scored nine runs in that epic Game 5 of the NLDS but scored just eight runs as a whole in the NLCS. 

What's even crazier — all nine runs in Game 5 came without benefit of a homer. Every NLCS run the Cubs plated was off a longball as they went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

And then there's this:

—The difference in offensive execution in the NLCS can be summed up just by looking at the strikeout-to-walk ratio of each team.

The Cubs struck out 53 times in the five games compared to only five walks.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, struck out just 41 times with a whopping 28 walks. 

—A huge reason for the Cubs' downfall was the disappearance of Bryzzo in the NLCS.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined for a .135/.179/.216 slash line with one walk and one hit by pitch. Their only run and RBI combined came on Bryant's homer in Game 5 Thursday when the Cubs were already down 9-0.

—Here's how each spot in the Cubs order fared in the postseason:

1. 4-for-36 (.111 AVG)
2. 7-for-38 (.184)
3. 7-for-38 (.184)
4. 5-for-33 (.152)
5. 10-for-37 (.270)
6. 7-for-33 (.212)
7. 5-for-30 (.167)
8. 0-for-31 (.000)
9. 6-for-28 (.214)

Total: 51-for-304 (.168)

—In the Cubs' defense, they were going up against an elite starting staff led by Clayton Kershaw (whom they faced twice) and a bullpen that ranks among the best in baseball history.

The Dodgers had the second-best bullpen WHIP in an LCS in baseball history, coming in at 0.294 in 17 innings pitched.

The only team better? The 2005 White Sox bullpen, though they only had to get two outs in that ALCS.

The 2016 Blue Jays bullpen came close, posting a 0.553 WHIP in 12.2 innings against the Indians last fall.

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

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USA TODAY

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

The Washington Nationals must have been sitting at home, watching the National League Championship Series and wondering: How did we lose to this team?

The Cubs poured so much physical effort, mental focus and emotional energy into those five playoff games against the Nationals that they didn’t have much left in the tank for the bigger, better Los Angeles Dodgers team that dominated the defending World Series champs in every phase and captured the NL pennant on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

By midday Friday, the Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker will not return for the 2018 season, while the contracts for the big-league coaching staff have also expired, leaving a franchise with chain-of-command issues in damage-control mode.

This is a bitter disappointment for Baker, who needs a World Series ring as a manager to put the final bullet point on a Hall of Fame resume and still grumbles about how things ended in 2006 after four up-and-down years managing the Cubs.

Baker, 68, a former Marine, All-Star player and all-around Renaissance man with a great feel for dealing with people and managing the clubhouse, apparently couldn’t overcome last week’s elimination-game meltdown at Nationals Park, where the Cubs hung on for a 9-8 victory and forced Washington into its fourth first-round playoff exit since 2012.

Baker’s in-game decision-making was already under the microscope and his teams have now lost 10 straight postseason close-out games, a major-league record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Nationals also needlessly subjected Stephen Strasburg to withering criticism when Baker said the $175 million pitcher was feeling under the weather — maybe because of Chicago mold and hotel air-conditioning units — and being saved for Game 5. Only to flip-flop and watch Strasburg throw seven scoreless innings in a dominant Game 4 performance at Wrigley Field.

That unforced error and yet another manager search is not a good look for the Nationals, who made the announcement through the Lerner family ownership group after general manager Mike Rizzo repeatedly signaled that he expected to reach a new agreement with Baker after winning 192 games combined in two years and back-to-back division titles.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal and abandoned the Expos logo in 2005, the Nationals have employed seven different managers and will be starting all over again in 2018, when Bryce Harper will be in his last season before becoming a free agent and probably wondering if Washington can finally get its act together.