Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Do Cardinals have a deal with the devil?

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MLB Power Rankings: Do Cardinals have a deal with the devil?

The 2015 MLB season has been fraught with disappointment - from teams and players. The San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and the White Sox will all be sitting in unenviable positions on July 1. Meanwhile, the Cardinals must be practicing some sort of witchcraft in St. Louis given how they continue to win despite injuries to so many key players.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. 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

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Do they have a deal with the devil? How are they still THIS good??!?

2   2

Hey, we’re down to only five Royals leading All-Star voting. One of them, though, still is Omar Infante and his .562 OPS.

3 12

Max Scherzer is on pace to allow just 47 ER in 234.1 IP. By comparison, Joe Kelly has allowed 47 ERA in 74.2 IP this season.

4   3

Falling back to earth with a 13-14 June record entering the week, but still comfortably atop the AL West.

5 5

I like this team overall, but are they really comfortable starting guys like Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger or Carlos Frias down the stretch or even in the playoffs?

6 4

Francisco Cervelli is tied for 5th in MLB in fWAR (1.8) in just 58 games. 

7 11

Ubaldo Jimenez has a 3.09 ERA and Chris Davis has 16 home runs. And with their career resuscitations comes the O’s in first entering the week.

8 8

Taking advantage of the Cubs' losing streak to leapfrog into the NL's final playoff spot for the time being.

9 6

Solid pitching, strong defense and an average offense have been enough to keep them in the thick of the playoff race.

10 10

Josh Donaldson for MVP, anyone? He has 4.3 WAR (4th-most) and 18 home runs (12th-most) while bringing the Blue Jays’ menacing order together awfully well.

11   9

Did well to split a four-game series in Houston after allowing 24 runs in a series loss to the lowly Phillies last week.

12 7

After beating Kershaw and Greinke and going 9 games over .500 for the first time since 2008, Cubs then go on a 5-game losing streak. Sounds about right.

13 13

Ervin Santana comes back on the Fourth of July, but will he be enough to keep this upstart side in a pennant race?

14 16

Justin Verlander is scheduled to start Tuesday, and Detroit needs him to be better than his six-run, three-homer showing in his last outing June 19 against the Yankees.

15 15

Despite having another MVP bid from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols’ 23 home runs, their position players have combined for the seventh-lowest WAR total this season.

16 17

Maybe they should just have Steven Matz play 3B on days he doesn't pitch?

17 14

The returns of Matt Harrison and Josh Hamilton look like they’re coming at the right time for a team that’s on the verge of sinking out of the playoff race.

18 18

Welington Castillo has a .901 OPS in Arizona. Hmm.

19 19

Think their recent 5-game losing streak ensures they will become sellers soon.

20   21

Can they even trade any of those guys they acquired over the winter besides JUpton? Myers has another wrist injury, Kemp has a .661 OPS, Norris is hitting .197 since May 16, Middlebrooks has a .250 OBP, Shields has a 4.24 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, Kimbrel has a 1.31 WHIP...the list goes on and on.

21 20

They won three straight series, then promptly swept out of New York by the Mets. Reds should sell, sell, sell in July.

22 25 Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, in 134 combined games, have been worth -0.7 WAR.
23 23

Robinson Cano has 0.0 WAR and 8 1/2 years left on his deal.

24 24

Even if they trade Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist (Cubs, anyone?), don’t rule them out of an AL West that could become wide open if Houston continues to slide.

25 22

Jason Kipnis' monster year is being wasted on this lagging team. Shame! Shame! Shame!

26 26

Nolan Arenado is on pace for 52 HRs and 147 RBI. And he's only 24. (But he's also on pace for only 28 BBs. Weird!)

27 28

Want to see how bad defense affects pitching? The Sox pitching staff has a 3.74 FIP but a 4.23 ERA, the largest gulf in the American League.

28 27

Without Giancarlo Stanton, will anybody watch this reality show in Miami?

29 29

Matt Garza's ERA by month: 5.52/6.34/4.60. Remember when he was traded for Chris Archer? Fun times.

30 30

Things are such a mess, Sandberg forfeitted millions of dollars to quit now, rather than wait another month or so and get fired and still get all that money. 

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: