Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: McCutchen, Pirates are just fine, thanks

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MLB Power Rankings: McCutchen, Pirates are just fine, thanks

Remember when Andrew McCutchen was hitting .188/.279/.292 on May 6? Everybody was freaking out. The Pirates had just lost five straight and things seemed very bleak in Pittsburgh. All McCutchen has done since then is hit .353 with a 1.040 OPS and the Pirates are now firmly planted as the second-best team in Major League Baseball...even if they aren't even leading their own division. Hey, what can we say? The NL Central is just that good.

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 | Week 12

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Matt Carpenter since June 1: .194 AVG, .568 OPS...yet the Cardinals are still winning.

2   6

Pirates are 21-9 since June 1 while Andrew McCutchen has a .951 OPS in that span.

3 2

*Only* four Royals made the AL All-Star starting lineup, and Omar Infante — much to the happiness of MLB officials, most likely — wasn’t one of them.

4   4

Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have done well to offset Collin McHugh’s regression (4.54 ERA in ’15, 2.73 in ’14).

5 3

Bryce Harper hit the most American home run in history Saturday.

6 5

At no point this season has Zack Greinke's ERA been above 1.97. So unreal.

7 12

Followed up a tough series in St. Louis by taking 5 of 6 from Mets, Marlins.

8 15

Despite all the front office vs. dugout drama, they’ve won eight of their last 10 and are three games out of first entering the week.

9 11

Alex Rodriguez (16 HR, 2.2 WAR) is legitimately deserving of an All-Star bid.

10 7

Rough week saw them lose three of four to Texas and two of three to the White Sox.

11   13

Scoff all you want, but they’re four games over .500 at the halfway point of the season and they just got Ervin Santana back. 

12 10

That 17-23 record in the United States has gotta get better for Drake to really jump on their bandwagon.

13 9

Two wins in their last 10 games but only two out of first place. The AL East, everybody!

14 8

Six straight losses have sunk them in this week's rankings.

15 14

Miguel Cabrera is out for six weeks and Justin Verlander just gave up seven runs in five innings against Toronto. Not looking good at the midway point in the Motor City.

16 16

That offense is borderline pathetic. The only guys with an OPS over .800 are Travis d'Arnaud - in only 19 games - and Steven Matz, a pitcher.

17 18

David Peralta - a converted pitcher - is turning into a nice hitter: .804 season OPS, hitting .340/.446/.617 since June 23.

18 17

Josh Hamilton has to stay healthy for them to have any real shot at making a run in the second half.

19 19

Cameron Maybin keeps doing his thing and may be a hot trade deadline piece.

20   25

Five games under .500 but lurking — their pitching staff has the best FIP in the American League (3.54).

21 22

Only six out of first place in an AL East that may cannibalize itself. Not too early for them to give up.

22 23 Hisashi Iwakuma is back this week and should provide a much-needed boost to a lagging preseason favorite.
23 20

Hard to determine how they should play the deadline. They have enough pieces to turn things around and contend, but don't want to miss opportunity to sell high on Justin Upton, an upcoming free agent.

24 21

Everybody knows Todd Frazier's HR prowess, but did you also know he's on pace for 49 2Bs and 16 SBs? Dude's a stud all around.

25 24

On paper, they don’t make any sense. All of their starters have an ERA under 3.70, they have a +49 run differential and are squarely in last place.

26 29

An 8-game winning streak is still not enough to have the Brewers climb out of the bottom 5.

27 27

Four-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday in a 9-1 loss that saw them commit four errors and a baserunning mistake. Just haven’t found that consistency yet.

28 26

The National League is looking pretty bottom-heavy, with 4 of the last 5 teams on the rankings from the Senior Circuit.

29 28

Their lineup vs. the Cubs all weekend featured Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto 3-4-5. That's um...yikes.

30 30

Hey, at least they can win (sometimes) when Cole Hamels pitches.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.