Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Cubs surge into top five after Giant sweep

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MLB Power Rankings: Cubs surge into top five after Giant sweep

If the last four days are any indication, the Cubs are for real.

After sweeping the Giants out of Wrigley Field in a four-game series, the Cubs have a taking a three-and-a-half-game lead in the National League wild card race and enter the week with baseball's fourth-best record. So it's no surprise the North Siders rank as a top five team with 52 games to go.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Matt Carpenter's back (7 HR last 10 Gs) and Randal Grichuk (.901 OPS) looks like a stud in that lineup now.

2   2

They're 10-3 against the White Sox this year. Guess that first series of the season was actually a sign of things to come.

3 3

Gregory Polanco since July 7: .290/.382/.477 (.859 OPS) with 13 XBH (9 2B, 3B, 3 HR), 16 BBs and 3 SBs. If he has figured it out atop the lineup, it gives the Pirates a whole new dimension.

4   8

It's official. The young Cubs are here and totally deserving of a spot in our Top 5.

5 11

Winners of eight in a row and just swept a road series at Yankee Stadium. Forget the wild card, these guys look like they could win the AL East.

6 4

For a team with World Series hopes, that was an extremely disheartening series against the Pirates, especially Sunday's implosion.

7 5

Still have 10 games left against Toronto, including a big three-game series at Rogers Centre this weekend.

8 6

There seems to be little doubt they'll make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, but will it be as a wild card or division winner?

9 12

Winning back-to-back series against Baltimore and Cleveland was a positive step for a team that a week ago was in a massive tailspin.

10 10

Still can't believe they're in first in the NL East, but they're playing well and David Wright may be back in the next couple weeks.

11 7

It's not like they got crushed in every game to the Cubs, but a four-game sweep is a four-game sweep no matter how you slice it.

12 13

Still hanging around the wild card race and have a +53 run differential, so don't rule out a hot streak in the season's final month and a half.

13 9

Zimmerman, Werth and Strasburg are back and producing, yet the team's still losing. They need to right the ship in a hurry.

14 14

The Rays gave a rookie an all-time great silent treatment after his first home run against the White Sox last week.

15 16

Cole Hamels has a 7.14 ERA in his last five starts (two with Texas), and that includes his no-hitter against the Cubs.

16 19

They won't win anything this year, but they have a nice core moving forward of Goldschmidt, Pollock, Tomas, Peralta and even Welington Castillo.

17 14

They're enjoying the second half (6-16) about as much as Ned Stark enjoys trips to King's Landing.

18 18

The whole firing of Dave Dombrowski was strange, but he won't be out of a job for long.

19 21

Corey Kluber's "regression" can be explained more by Cleveland's suboptimal offense and defense than anything he's really doing differently (2.54 FIP in 2015, 2.34 FIP in 2014).

20 22

Still baffled by Nelson Cruz being the American League's best power hitter and this team finding a way to underperform.

21 24

Their trade to acquire Swisher and Bourn to free up money for 2017 seemed like an NBA deal. I'm still not sure it was a good move for the Braves.

22 26 Former White Sox farmhand Chris Bassitt has a 2.27 ERA in seven starts, including a one-run, 10-strikeout outing against the first-place Astros on Sunday.
23 20

Since their seven-game winning streak ended July 30, they're 2-8.

24 17

Remember when they didn't sell at the non-waiver deadline? Now they look even silly in the midst of a six-game losing streak.

25 25

It's not all bad for the Fenway Sports Group, though too bad Philippe Coutinho can't pitch.

26 23

Brandon Phillips is on pace for his most SBs since 2009. Too bad his OPS is only .697.

27 27

Quick quiz: Who is the Rockies' team leader in OPS? It's not Tulo before the trade, or even Arenado. It's Carlos Gonzalez (.881), who hit another two homers of Scherzer Sunday.

28 29

They have some nice young pitchers (Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Corey Knebel) providing hope for the future.

29 30

They're 16-5 since the All-Star Break. So that three-game sweep at Wrigley wasn't such a big deal then?

30 28

Now Jose Fernandez is on the DL again? They should just shut him down. This team isn't worth watching the rest of the way.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”