Cubs

Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

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Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted 12:19 p.m. Updated 5:21 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. As the manager at Triple-A Iowa, Mike Quade would turn to WGN Radio once his game was finished. Like Cubs fans everywhere else, he immediately knew what was going on by the tone of Ron Santos voice.

It wasnt manufactured for the booth, Quade said. (Id) listen to three words out of Ronnies mouth, three groans, and I wasnt sure how bad we were losing, but I knew it wasnt good. And if he and Pat (Hughes) were having fun, then we were in good shape.

They all have stories here about the towering figure that walked around on prosthetic legs and maintained a childlike enthusiasm for the Cubs that was in Quades words exceptional and sincere.

The Cubs began a season-long tribute with Thursdays Ron Santo Day at HoHoKam Park. There was a No. 10 painted behind home plate. The Cubs also wore No. 10 hats during their workout. That matched the patches on their sleeves for their All-Star third baseman and long-time broadcaster, who died last December from bladder cancer.

We hurt for our dad, Jeff Santo said. Theres mixed emotions. Its a great day, seeing that his number and his life will live on for many generations. Its an honor to us, but it also gets overwhelming, too, because we miss him so much.

Ron would have turned 71 last month, and at this time of year he would get sick of sitting on the couch watching movies.

Every spring it brought a smile, Jeff recalled, because he was ready to come to the park and (see his) second family. That smile and that optimism (he) brought is kind of gone now.

Jeff chronicled his fathers amazing life in the 2004 documentary This Old Cub. He plans to film an update this year, adding footage from the funeral and the statue dedication outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10.

Now Keith Moreland has to replace a legend in the radio booth. Jeff endorsed the choice, saying that Moreland was his favorite player on the 1984 team: He played with the same kind of heart as my father.

That spirit might one day be recognized by the Hall of Fame, though the family long ago built their own Cooperstown at Wrigley Field, with a retired number and soon a statue. In a sense the 2011 Cubs season is dedicated to Ronald Edward Santo.

My dad would be content just knowing (this is) happening, Jeff said. This means everything.

Quade vs. Ozzie

As a Chicago guy, Quade gets it Santo, the entire WGN catalog and the rivalry with the White Sox. As a kid, hed watch Santo and Bozos Circus.

Ringmaster Ned and Bucket No. 6, right? Quade said. Are you kidding me? Absolutely. We got tickets I never (went, but) I think my little brother (got) to go. Somebody in this family finally ended up going.

Quades friends from Prospect High School are still divided Cubs-Sox. On Friday hell bring his team to Camelback Ranch and use the designated hitter, what he described as a little bit of gamesmanship.

Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen enjoyed going back and forth, and even did commercials together, but the 51st manager in Cubs history is probably going to stay out of it.

Well let Ozzie try to steal all the headlines, Quade said. Hes something and I do get a kick out of him, but I dont know hed have to really come after me (to) get much out of me.

All is Wells

Randy Wells was in a good mood after Thursdays 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians and a workshop on dealing with the media held in the Cubs clubhouse that morning. Wells, who enjoys sparring with reporters and making Major League references, has now thrown nine scoreless innings this spring.

Do you think you have the inside track to one of the two open spots in the rotation?

I have no idea, Wells said. Thats not up to me. I learned that in the (session), too. Stay away from vulnerable questions.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Fred Mitchell, Seth Gruen and Jason Goch join David Kaplan on the panel.

The Cubs bats come alive against the Giants while Theo says there have been plenty of trade rumors but no trade talks. Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

Plus, Ray Ratto joins Kap to talk about the Warriors struggles and the guys debate if LeBron is playing his final game in a Cavaliers uniform.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

"BINGO!"

Joe Maddon couldn't contain his glee as he was told there is actual scientific evidence that proves the Launch Angle Revolution has not had any impact on the uptick in homers over the last couple seasons.

The reason MLB players were hitting the ball into the bleachers more than ever before in 2017 was because of the way baseballs are made now, reducing the wind resistence and causing balls to carry more.

But all these players changing their swing path to get more lift on the ball? Not a thing for the group as a whole (h/t MLB.com):


But in analyzing Statcast™ data from the measurement tool's 2015 inception through 2017, the committee found no evidence that batter behavior, en masse, has been a contributing factor toward the homer surge. In fact, exit velocities decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, spray angles from the time studied were stable and a small increase in launch angles was attributable primarily to, as the study refers to them, "players with lesser home run talents."

Basically, the long-ball surge was global, affecting players from all spectrums of homer-hitting ability and irrespective of their approach.

"Going into this, I thought that was going to be the magic bullet, the smoking gun," Nathan said. "But it wasn't."


Hence the "BINGO!" cry from Maddon, who has been very vocal in the fight against the Launch Angle Revolution this season.

The end result is the study will eventually lead to baseballs being returned to normal levels and a more uniform way of storing the balls moving forward. Thus, homers figure to eventually return to normal levels, too, and everybody who was caught up in the Launch Angle Revolution may be left behind.

It's the changing landscape of baseball and we've already seen the after-effects this year: April was the first month in MLB history where there were more strikeouts than basehits.

Why? Because strikeouts are a natural byproduct of the Launch Angle Revolution as players are swinging up on the ball more and sacrificing contact for power and lift.

That, coupled with an increase in velocity and higher usage of relievers, has led to more strikeouts.

It makes perfect sense — it's tougher for a player to try to catch up to 98+ mph at the top of the strike zone with an uppercut swing.

"It's one of those things that sounds good, but it doesn't help you," Maddon said of launch angle. "There's certain things that people really want to promote and talk about, but it doesn't matter. When a hitter's in the box, when you're trying to stare down 96 or a slider on the edge, the last thing you're thinking about is launch angle.

"Now when it comes to practice, you could not necessarily work on angles — your body works a certain way. Like I've said before, there's guys that might've been oppressively bad or they just had groundballs by rolling over the ball all the time So of course you may want to alter that to get that smothering kind of a swing out of him.

"But if you're trying to catch up to velocity, if you're trying to lay back and I could keep going on and on. It sounds good."

The idea of hitting the ball hard in the air has been around for decades in baseball, pretty much ever since Babe Ruth on some level. It just wasn't able to be quantified or accessed by the public as easily until Statcast came around and made it all mainstream.

The Cubs, however, have been anti-launch-angle to a degree this season. They let go of hitting coach John Mallee (who liked players to hit the ball in the air and pull it) and replaced him with Chili Davis (who teaches the full-field, line-drive approach).

The effects haven't yet yielded results in terms of consistently plating runs or having a better performance in the situational hitting column, but the contact rate is, in fact, up.

Here is the list of Cubs hitters who currently boast a career best mark in strikeout rate:

Kris Bryant
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Even Ben Zobrist is very close to his career mark and Anthony Rizzo is right at his career line.

Some of that jump in contact rate can be attributed to natural development and maturation of young hitters, but the Cubs are buying into the new way of doing things and it's paying off.

It's also probably the way the game is going to shift, with an emphasis on contact going to become more important the less balls are flying out of the yard.

The Cubs have seen firsthand how to beat the best pitching in the postseason and they know that cutting down on strikeouts and "moving the baseball" (as Maddon likes to put it) can help manufacture runs in low-scoring, tight affairs in October.

Now science is supporting those theories and Major League Baseball teams will have to adjust. 

The Cubs, however, are at least a step ahead of the game.

It's a long game — the offensive strides will take time to fully take effect even for the Cubs, who are at least a full offseason and two months ahead of the curve in terms of bucking the Launch Angle Revolution.

Maddon concedes that launch angle is a cool stat to see on the video board after homers, but other than that, he doesn't see much of a use for it, pointing to Kyle Schwarber's laser-line-drive homers having the same effect as Kris Bryant's moonshots.

However, Maddon does believe there's a place for launch angle and exit velocity in the game, though mostly for front offices trying to acquire players (think "Moneyball").

"As a teaching tool, you either come equipped with or without," Maddon said. "It's like you buy a new car, you either got this or you don't. Sometimes you can add some things occasionally, but for the most part, this is what you are.

"I like inside the ball, top half of the ball, inner half of the ball, stay long throughout the ball, utilize the whole field. I still think that's the tried and true approach and I'm not stuck in the mud on this by any means.

"The harder pitchers throw the baseball, the more laying back is going to be less effective."