Cubs

Start 'emSit 'em: Week 13

952783.png

Start 'emSit 'em: Week 13

The guys' point totals are moving up, but Mark remains our leader after Week 12. With bye weeks over, you now have a full array of players to use each week. That being said, more and more players are being affected by the injury bug which means back-ups are more important than ever at this point in the season. As always, with the season winding down the waiver-wire may be the best place to find a player to stash on your bench for the stretch run.
Just a reminder for those keeping score at home (though we'll do it for you), for players who each analyst starts, these are the points they will receive:
Start 'em: 5 points if a player scores 25 points4: 20-243: 15-192: 10-141: 5-90: negative-4
Sit 'em: 5 points if a player scores negative points to 4 points4: 5-93: 10-142: 15-191: 20-240: 25
Without further adieu, here are our picks for Week 12. Good luck!
Scott Krinch (Week 12: 14 points; Season total: 143 points)
Well sadly I was the low man on the totem pole last week. Two of my starts in Andy Dalton and Cecil Shorts had big games, but my decision to label Matt Forte as a must start didn't look so wise. Forte didn't even crack 70 yards and Michael Bush went back to his vulture ways for the Bears. My sits didn't fare so well either. Eli Manning went HAM against the Packers, Reggie Wayne and Chris Johnson both had great performances despite not reaching the end zone. With the fantasy football playoffs a week away, it's time to make some bold decisions if I want to catch up to Mark in the standings. All or nothing. With that, I give you my Week 13 picks.
Start 'em
Jay Cutler, QB -- CHI (vs. SEA)
Call me crazy, but I think Jay Cutler is going to have a monster week. In ESPN standard leagues, Cutty is ranked 24th among starting quarterbacks this week. Forget about those rankings on Sunday. The Bears went with more of a balanced attack last week and even if Matt Forte is held out on Sunday, Michael Bush will keep Seattle's defense honest. Despite not having a monster performance against the Vikings, Cutler showed no ill effects from his concussion. Brandon Marshall has been beastly lately and even the tight ends are starting to catch balls in Chicago. I say No. 6 throws for over 250 yards and three touchdowns while quieting many of the doubters. 
Bryce Brown, RB -- PHI (@ DAL)
I usually stay away from players that have one big week out of nowhere, but something about Brown intrigues me. The Eagles are playing for nothing right now and the coaching staff is going to want to see what they have in Brown. On Monday, Brown exploded for 178 yards and two scores, but had two costly fumbles. The fumbles don't worry me so much in fantasy terms as long as he's finding pay dirt. The Cowboys defense was torched by Alfred Morris and RGIII on the ground on Thanksgiving and there's no reason to believe Brown can't break 100 yards and finding the end zone at least once. I say go with What can Brown do for you and reap in the benefits. 
Eric Decker, WR -- DEN (vs. TB)
I'm taking a page of Tony's book this week and putting Eric Decker in my starting lineup. Decker has been silent in recent weeks, but this should be a good matchup against a Buccaneers' defense who's been getting torched in the air every week. With both offenses having quick strike ability, this looks like it has the making of a shootout and the last team with the ball may be the winner on Sunday. Expect Decker to see a lot of touches and break through with a score this week.
Sit 'em
Colin Kaepernick, QB -- SF (@ STL)
Kaepernick has been creating buzz all around the league the last two weeks and rightfully so after two solid games in his first two career NFL starts. Everyone is rushing to put him in their starting lineup, but I say hold off this week. St Louis' defense has been very good against the pass this season and with the emergence of Janoris Jenkins, it's going to be Kaepernick's job even tougher this weekend. I see him having a bad game and Harbaugh surprisingly going to Alex Smith down the stretch. Do NOT give into temptation, keep him out of your lineup this weekend.
Marshawn Lynch, RB -- SEA (@ CHI)
Once again, I'm picking a player that's going up against the Bears' defense. Yes, Adrian Peterson ran for over 100 against Chicago on Sunday, but a lot of his yards came in garbage time in the second half when the Vikings were already well behind. Lynch had a miserable week against the Dolphins after four-straight 100 rushing games. I don't see him going into Beast Mode this weekend. The Bears (second-best rushing defense in the league) are going to make Russell Wilson beat them and stack the box against Lynch.
Dez Bryant, WR -- DAL (vs. PHI)
Bryant has been on fire the last two weeks with 20 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns. I must be insane to sit him against an Eagles' defense that's given up seven touchdowns to opposing wide receivers in their last five games. I don't know why, but I see this as a letdown week for the enigmatic Bryant. If you want to start a Dallas player, go with Miles Austin and Jason Witten, I see them as safer bets on Sunday.
Tony Andracki (Week 12: 18 points; Season total: 138 points)
I got back on track last week, as Stafford came up big against the Texans and Welker had a decent day. But, I'm still a far way off, thanks to a couple of rough weeks sandwiched. But we're gonna keep it going this week, in the last pre-playoff matchup for most leagues. Go big or go home. One thing to keep in mind in a must-win matchup -- trust your studs. You're here for a reason.

Start 'em
Cecil Shorts, WR -- JAC (@ BUF)
The Bills are right about league average at defending wide receivers, but Shorts has emerged as the go-to guy in Jacksonville. Don't be ashamed if you hadn't heard of Shorts before this season -- most people hadn't. Over the last six games, Shorts has 28 catches for 542 yards and 4 TDs. Extrapolate that out for a full season, and you have 74 catches for 1,445 yards and 10 TDs. Sound like a must-start guy to you?
Andy Dalton, QB -- CIN (@ SD)
The red-headed assasin has been great lately, with 9 TDs and no INTs. The Bengals are gunning for a playoff spot in the crowded AFC, and they will lean heavily on their second-year QB to get them there. Start Dalton with confidence this week.
Chris Johnson, RB -- TEN (vs. HOU)
The Texans have been unbelieveable against the run this year, allowing just two rushing TDs (both came on Thanksgiving against the Lions). Only one opposing RB has totaled more than 85 rushing yards against Houston, but luckily that running back was CJ(1?)K, who ran for 141 yards against the Texans in Week 4. Johnson has been very solid lately after a slow start, so if you're in a must-win situation, stick with the guy that helped get you here, even in a tough matchup.
Sit 'em
Brandon Myers, TE -- OAK (vs. CLE)
Myers has emerged as one of the top tight ends out there, but not this week. The Browns have allowed just two touchdowns to opposing tight ends, and only one since the first game of the season. Cleveland is the best in the league at limiting tight ends, so if your season is on the line (like mine is going against Masaki in our CSN league here), don't trust Myers.
Josh Freeman, QB -- TB (@ DEN)
Freeman was on a roll until he hit the wall that is the Falcons' defense. The Broncos have not allowed a 300-yard passer all year (topping out at 299 Week 9 against Andy Dalton). Denver has not surrendered 15 points to an opposing QB since Week 5, when Tom Brady put up 18 points. Stay away from Freeman if you can.
Bryce Brown, RB -- PHI (@ DAL)
Brown took the football world by storm with his fantastic performance on Monday night, but don't buy into it all just yet. LeSean McCoy, a definite Top 3 pick this season, has struggled to run in this offense all season, so don't think Brown will suddenly put up 100 yards and multiple scores each week. Plus, he has some fumble issues. I'm not saying he'll be bad this week -- the Cowboys are a solid matchup -- but he likely won't meet expectations.
Mark Strotman (Week 12: 16 points; Season total: 150 points)
Start 'em
Greg Jennings, WR -- GB (vs. MIN)
Jennings is likely to return from an abdomen injury that has kept him out since Week 4. While conditioning may be an issue, the Packers will be looking to rebound from last Sunday night's debacle in New York. That means plenty of pass attempts from Aaron Rodgers, who still loves to look Jennings' way more than any other receiver.
Vick Ballard, RB -- IND (@ DET)
Consistency is huge down the stretch in fantasy, and while Ballard won't shock anyone with Doug Martin-like numbers on Sunday, he's a good bet to see 15-20 carries and 50-80 yards. If he can find the end zone, he's well worth a start in your flex position.
Chad Henne, QB -- JAC (@ BUF)
This is definitely a risky play if you want to trail my first-place picks, but Henne keeps getting the job done. Of course he wasn't going to keep up his 30-point pace, but he had a solid 16-point showing against Tennessee and, as long as MJD is out, Henne will keep looking to pass. Cecil Shorts' and Justin Blackmon's recent success have both been helpers.
Sit 'em
Pierre Garcon, WR -- WAS (vs. NYG)
Maybe I watched too long as the Giants' pass rush and secondary absolutely shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but I don't trust any opposing offense heading into the Meadowlands as of late. That means Garcon, fresh off a 4-catch, 86-yard and one-score outing on Thanksgiving Day, while intriguing, should probably move back to the bench. But it's close.
Shonn Greene, RB -- NYJ (vs. ARZ)
The Jets' situation as a team is ugly, yet somehow their fantasy running back situation is even uglier. Combined, Greene and Bilal Powell make for an outstanding duo. But trying to pick between one or the other (the starter Greene or the goal line back Powell) is one to stay clear of. It's nice to have a starter (Greene) in your lineup, but he just isn't finding the end zone and faces a tough Cardinals' defense this week.
Mike Wallace, WR -- PIT (@ BAL)
This almost seems like a surefire benching, but fantasy rankings still have him around the 20's, which is considered borderline WR2Flex start in most leagues. I'm here to tell you that Charlie Batch is not getting any younger between you reading this and Sunday afternoon. Fantasy owners with Wallace just need to pray Ben Roethlisberger is back sooner than later.

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

kyle_schwarber.jpg
USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

jarrieta.jpg
USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.