Cubs

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

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USA TODAY

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

Wade Davis is still having a perfect season.

Let's get that out of the way right now. 

The Cubs closer is 23-for-23 in save chances and despite some hiccups lately, has always found a way to get the job done.

But he's also shown he's mortal, giving up eight runs over his last 16.2 innings dating back to June 11. In that time, Davis is also allowing nearly two baserunners an inning on average, surrendering 18 hits and an alarming 12 walks.

Davis suffered the loss Thursday in The Willson Contreras Game when he gave up a pair of homers to Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez in the top of the ninth. Two days later, Davis walked a pair of batters before striking out Bryce Harper on his 30th pitch to end the game and halting a three-game losing streak.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes a 30-minute rain delay might've contributed to Davis' problem Thursday, when he gave up two homers in a relief outing for the first time in his career.

But even apart from that outing, Davis has looked off over the past couple months after boasting an 0.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in his first 22 appearances.

"I just think he's trying to be too fine early in the count," Maddon said. "He can throw a strike whenever he wants to. I've always felt that way about him. And you can see it. His stuff's the same.

"He's just a little bit off with the relief point. You can constantly see him trying to figure out at the end of his delivery. But I've always seen that. This is nothing new for me with him. I have a lot of faith in him."

Maddon has known Davis since the lanky right-hander came into the league in 2009 as a starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon thinks maybe Davis is reverting back to that starter's mentality and trying to be too perfect early, subsequently falling behind 1-0 or 2-0 consistently.

Davis, however, scoffed at that notion.

"No. Not even close. There's never any time where I'm trying to be too fine with anything," Davis said. "Sometimes you just go through slumps, I guess.

"I'm never trying to be too fine. I'm always trying to pitch aggressively in the zone. Sometimes it just doesn't go there."

Davis is a cerebral guy who is always thinking and adapting along with the game. He compared his issues right now with a hitter going through a slump at the plate — just the natural ebb and flow of baseball.

"Just different timing," he said. "Earlier in the year, my stuff wasn't as good, but my timing was really good. Now, my arm feels strong and better, but my timing is off from time to time."

Davis said he's had this kind of issue every year of his career, but also typically gets stronger as the season goes along and his arm feels better now than it did even in April and May when he had a 0.00 ERA.

But all along, whether he's going good or bad, Davis is the exact same guy. Same temperment, same body language, same mood. 

"He's mellow, man," Maddon said. "That's who he is. You talk to him as he's coming off the field after the game's over and he's barely breathing. That's just who he is.

"He's a very calm player. He's always been that guy from spring trainings to the middle of the season to shooting a black bear in Toronto."

That calm demeanor has helped Davis become one of the elite closers in the game. Even if the tying run is 90 feet way, he has the same level of confidence in his stuff and abilities.

He also doesn't pump his fist after big outs or nailing down clutch saves. He maintains an even keel in the middle of the road.

"I try to," he said. "As soon as you think you're good, then you get your ass kicked. And when you're going bad, you're not nearly as bad as you think you are.

"You wanna be in your own shoes, stay in your own lane."

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

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AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.