Cubs

Cubs admit Jon Lester has a problem ... now what?

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Cubs admit Jon Lester has a problem ... now what?

LOS ANGELES — The Jon-Lester-has-the-yips story really gained momentum on “Sunday Night Baseball,” ESPN setting the agenda for Cubs-Cardinals during the 2015 season opener.

Almost five months later — and back in the national showcase as a legitimate playoff contender — the Cubs still don’t have any easy answers or a long-term fix.

David Ross still looks like an obvious part of any solution, and the personal catcher’s absence was noted during Saturday’s 5-2 loss at Dodger Stadium. With Ross on the family medical emergency list, the Dodgers stole four bases off Lester and Miguel Montero, who also got called for catcher’s interference.

Lester and Ross have worked together so long that they almost have their own language. Montero, a two-time All-Star, admitted that “I was a little bit lost” with some of the signs. Manager Joe Maddon had to visit the mound during the fourth inning to get everyone on the same page and reinforce how certain messages would be relayed from the dugout. During his postgame media session, Maddon said it looked like Montero was rushing his throws. When a reporter mentioned that observation, Montero gave an honest answer.

“I’ve got to rush,” Montero said. “There’s not much I can do. I try to do my best. When you know they’re going to go and you still have to make a perfect throw to maybe throw the guy out, as a catcher, you just try to do your best. And just try to be as quick as possible. There’s not much you can do.”

[MORE CUBS: Jon Lester sees losing streak as part of the roller coaster]

Ross can’t play forever. He is 38 years old and has one more season left on his contract (at $2.5 million for 2016). His outgoing personality and leadership skills make him look like a future manager.

If the Cubs have any plans to get Lester more comfortable throwing to someone else — or find another way to get Montero’s bat in a playoff game — it sounds like it will probably have to wait.

“You know me,” Maddon said, “I’m just more concerned about short-term right now.

“Long-term, you can talk about spring trainings and conversations and different work that you can do to hopefully get the issue resolved over the next year or so.

“For right now, let’s get David back. Let’s get David back there with him and just play it from there. That’s my only concern right now. Honestly, I haven’t even considered beyond that.”

[MORE CUBS: Did Cubs ever really have a chance to get Chase Utley?]

Lester’s issues throwing over to first base and controlling the running game didn’t stop him from earning two World Series rings with the Red Sox and getting that six-year, $155 million contract after an intense bidding war.

Lester has been a very good pitcher in the first season of that megadeal, going 8-10 with a 3.59 ERA while getting little run support, giving this rebuilding project some credibility and setting a professional tone inside the clubhouse.

“I pretty much followed his plan, which I did agree (with) on most of the hitters,” Montero said. “Obviously, we probably haven’t worked enough together to be 100-percent confident in what I call, which is OK. It’s understandable. For the most part, we worked pretty (well together). I think we were on the same page, for the most part.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs will push Javier Baez in first wave of September call-ups]

It’s not like this happened overnight. Maddon saw it up close while managing the Rays in the American League East.

“We were aware of all of that,” Maddon said. “You still got to hit the guy. There’s different nuances of the whole thing that even if a guy gets on, even if you were to steal, it just depends on the number of outs, who’s hitting, the different things you can do to prevent a run, plus Jonny’s abilities.

“Like Dwight Gooden, when he pitched for the Mets, it was stolen base after stolen base against the guy. But let’s go ahead and drive them in. That’s another issue. So I know it’s out there, obviously, prominently. To this point, I thought we’d done a pretty good job of dealing with it.

“We’ll get David back here. We’ll get it all straightened out.”

Who Knew? Baseball oddities from Daniel Palka, Anthony Rizzo and more in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who Knew? Baseball oddities from Daniel Palka, Anthony Rizzo and more in Chicago baseball

After a two-week hiatus, “Who Knew?” is Back!  Time for our (usually) weekly journey through the improbable, inane & obscure of Chicago Baseball.

All notes are through Sunday’s games.

Extra Innings… Extra Runs

Last Monday the Cubs beat the Brewers 7-2… in 11 innings.

They have three wins this season in extra innings.  By 4, 5 and 6 runs!  Their four extra-inning losses this season are by 1, 1, 1 and 2 runs.

No other team has won an extra-inning game by at least 5 runs this season.  The Cubs have done it twice.

Inning Checklist

Anthony Rizzo homered in the 11th inning in that Monday Cubs win.  He has now homered in every inning from 1 to 13 in his career, joining Ron Santo & Sammy Sosa as the only players in Cubs history who can make that distinction.

One-Two Punch

Tuesday night, Yoán Moncada & Yolmer Sánchez led off the game with back-to-back home runs.

It was the fourth time in franchise history the Sox led a game off with consecutive homers.

Sánchez hit the second home run each of the last two times they did it (also September 2, 2017 after Alen Hanson)

It was the FIRST time in Major League history two players whose first name begins with the letter Y had hit consecutive home runs to begin a game.

What’s the Catch?

439 players have had at least 30 at-bats this season.

The best batting average of those players belongs to Kevan Smith (.441 but in only 34 at-bats)

In the Park

The most batters faced without allowing a home run this season is 149, by Dylan Covey. He allowed 20 Home Runs in 70.0 Innings in 2017.

Through the Draft

Friday night:

Javier Báez Cubs’ 1st round pick in 2011 (9th overall)  reached base 3 times (including two walks!)
Albert Almora Jr. Cubs’ 1st round pick in 2012 (6th overall)  reached base 3 times
Kris Bryant Cubs’ 1st round pick in 2013 (2nd overall) homered
Kyle Schwarber Cubs’ 1st round pick in 2014 (4th overall)    homered
Ian Happ Cubs’ 1st round pick in 2015 (9th overall)   homered

Double Time

José Abreu has 21 doubles since May 8th.

You could chop off Abreu’s first 31 games this season and those 21 doubles alone would be enough to tie Ozzie Albies & Nick Markakis for the FULL season National League lead this season

Palka Party

Daniel Palka’s 7 batted balls of at least 115 mph is the 4th highest total in MLB (according to the available data at baseballsavant.com).

But look at how many more plate appearances this season the other guys have had!

  Batted balls of 115+mph  PA
Giancarlo Stanton    10 294
Joey Gallo   9 286
Aaron Judge     8 300
Daniel Palka     7 154

                                                

By the way, the rest of the White Sox team has a combined 3 batted balls of 115+ MPH this season.  Palka is clearly a special talent.

Cubs still owning second place in the NL All-Star vote standings

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USA TODAY

Cubs still owning second place in the NL All-Star vote standings

One Cubs player is within shouting distance of starting at the 2018 MLB All-Star game. But this time around, as compared to last week, the vote deficit is a bit larger.

MLB updated its second round of All-Star ballots for the National League. Catcher Willson Contreras trails Giants catcher Buster Posey by 90,000 votes. The margin was only 22,000 votes at this time last week.

And for other Cubs players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and others, the margin is a little more substantial.

Rizzo is behind Braves first basemen Freddie Freeman by nearly 870,000 votes. Baez trails Braves second basemen Ozzie Albies by 148,000 votes.

Bryant trails Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado by 447,000 votes. At shortstop, Addison Russell is in third place, trailing the Dansby Swanson of the Braves and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.

In the outfield, Jason Heyward moved up to the seventh spot with 447,359 votes, dropping Kyle Schwarber to eighth with 442,471 votes, and Ben Zobrist ranks ninth with 434,943 votes.

There will be another All-Star ballot update for the NL next Monday, and voting ends on July 5 at 11 p.m. Central.