Cubs

How Cubs, White Sox fared in 2016 MLB simulation

How Cubs, White Sox fared in 2016 MLB simulation

The Cubs have won the World Series!

That message flashed across the screen four times in 10 separate seasons of our MLB 16 The Show simulations.

On the other hand, the White Sox didn't make the playoffs ever in those 10 seasons, earning a record above .500 just once.

Obviously, this is just a video game and it cannot be taken as gospel. After all, the White Sox beat the Cubs in the World Series in one simulation.

But posting eight losing records in 10 seasons paints a pretty bleak outlook for the Sox in 2016 while simultaneously ramping up the excitement for Cubs fans (they won the World Series almost half the time; that's nuts.)

In all, 10 simulations of the 2016 season is hardly a large sample size, but we figured it was a nice, round number. (What were we going to do, simulate 100 seasons on The Show? We have stuff to do, like trying to analyze who it was on the receiving end of Negan's beatdown in "The Walking Dead" finale.)

[RELATED - MLB 16 The Show: Cubs-White Sox World Series showdown]

Ten simulations was also enough to stir up some crazy moments, including Avisail Garcia winning two (two!!) Gold Gloves and the Cubs trading Ben Zobrist for Bartolo Colon midseason (for reasons we can't even imagine) and then going on to win the World Series while Colon won a Gold Glove. The world of virtual reality is something, isn't it?

Here's a season-by-season recap of the simulations:

Season 1

CUBS

All-Stars: Hector Rondon, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward

Final record: 102-60, 1st place, 16 games ahead of STL
Runs scored: 710 (2nd in MLB)
ERA: 3.10 (3rd in MLB)

Postseason: Beat WAS in NLDS (4 games), beat LAD in NLCS (4 games), beat CLE in World Series at Wrigley Field (7 games)

Notes: Rizzo NL MVP (.307 AVG, 42 HR, 122 RBI); Kris Bryant World Series MVP; Jake Arrieta missed two weeks during the season with a hip injury

Thoughts: One simulation down, one World Series for the Cubs. This is easy!

WHITE SOX

All-Star: Dioner Navarro

Final record: 64-98, 5th place, 20 games back
Runs Scored: 598 (22nd in MLB)
ERA: 4.42 (30th in MLB)

Notes: Adam Eaton missed several months with a broken leg; Jimmy Rollins missed several months with a broken foot

Thoughts: Yikes. It’s hard to see a White Sox team with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon and a solid bullpen having baseball’s worst ERA, but apparently, The Show doesn’t like the Sox rotation as much as their 2015 numbers would suggest it should. Also, the 598 runs would be a 24-run dropoff from 2015 and are as many as the 99-loss White Sox scored in 2013.

Season 2

CUBS

All-Stars: Jake Arrieta, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 104-58, 1st place
RS: 726 (3)
ERA: 3.04 (4)

Postseason: Beat NYM in NLDS (5 games, came from down 2-0 in the series), Beat LAD in NLCS (7 games, came from down 3 games to 1), Beat TOR 4-0 in World Series

Notes: Kyle Schwarber missed 2 months (fractured hand); Addison Russell named WS MVP

Thoughts: Two simulations, two championships for the Cubs! What's all this about a World Series drought? They were able to accomplish the feat without Schwarber for 2 months, though that's hardly comparable to getting injured in the third game of the season.

WHITE SOX

All-Star: Chris Sale

Final Record: 76-86, 5th place, 14 GB
RS: 599 (18)
ERA: 3.99 (27)

Notes: Alex Avila missed a month (MCL sprain)

Thoughts: A 3.99 ERA is more like it, even if it’s 27th in the majors (where’s the offense?). The White Sox had a 3.98 ERA in 2015 and went…76-86. So we’ll call this an accurate enough simulation, even if it’s not exactly flattering to the White Sox

Season 3

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 99-63, 1st
RS: 678 (6)
ERA: 3.18 (5)

Postseason: Swept by LAD in NLDS

Notes: Jorge Soler missed 4 months (fractured shin + fractured arm); John Lackey missed 4 months (head fracture)

Thoughts: Lackey fractured his head?? Ouch! No wonder why the Cubs didn't wind up anywhere this season. Also interesting to see Jason Hammel as an All-Star, but he put up All-Star caliber numbers in the first half last season and his downspins usually don't begin until the second half historically.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale

Final record: 63-99, 5th, 32 GB
RS: 572 (24)
ERA: 4.45 (30)

Notes: Adam Eaton, Garcia earn Gold Gloves; Navarro missed 2.5 months (fractured shin); Melky Cabrera missed 2.5 months (broken shin)

Thoughts: Another simulation with a bad ERA. But Avisail Garcia winning a Gold Glove? Maybe if Melky Cabrera has to miss an extended period of time he’d get to see the field, but through three games in 2016, Garcia hasn’t played the outfield yet. Also, he’s -24 in DRS and -23 in UZR for his career, which isn’t close to Gold Glove material.

 

Season 4

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Rizzo, Bryant, Heyward

Final record: 97-65, 1st
RS: 739 (1)
ERA: 3.04 (2)

Postseason: Beat WAS 3-1 in NLDS, lost to LAD 4-3 in NLCS

Notes: Bryant won the Hank Aaron Award (.332, 37, 110)

Thoughts: The Cubs essentially dominated the regular season, sporting the league's best offense and nearly the best pitching staff. Bryant turned in a monster season, but apparently wasn't enough for MVP honors. The Dodgers' megapayroll won out in the end to deny the Cubs a third World Series victory in four simulated seasons.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier

Final record: 84-79, 3rd, 9.5 GB
RS: 718 (3)
ERA: 4.01 (26)

Notes: Abreu MVP (.296, 45, 131); Sox still missed out on playoffs; Navarro missed 2 months (fractured wrist); Eaton missed 2 months (torn labrum)

Thoughts: An 84-win season is a positive simulation, but the way to get to this one is strange. If the White Sox finish third in runs scored but 26th in ERA, it’d be a major shock. But then again, if Jose Abreu hits 45 socks 45 home runs, anything is possible.

 

Season 5

CUBS

All-Stars: Hammel, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 106-56, 1st, 9 gms
RS: 762 (1)
ERA: 2.95 (1)

Postseason: Lost 3-1 to LAD in NLDS

Notes: Miguel Montero missed 3 weeks (MCL sprain)

Thoughts: Well, another Hammel All-Star appearance and now this Cubs team was the top offense and defense, but none of it mattered as they ran smack into the brick wall that is the virtual Dodgers in the postseason once again.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale, Abreu

Final record: 81-81, 4th, 12 GB
RS: 663 (10)
ERA: 3.73 (18)

Notes: Cabrera missed 1 month (dislocated shoulder); Jose Quintana missed 3 weeks (inflamed hip)

Thoughts: Decent pitching and offense combine for a .500 season, a mark the White Sox haven’t hit since 2012. The Sale-Abreu All-Star duo is an easy call, even in April.

 

Season 6

CUBS

All-Stars: Lester, Rizzo, Bryant

Final record: 93-69, 1st
RS: 729 (1)
ERA: 3.27 (6)

Postseason: Lost 3-2 to WAS in NLDS

Notes: Rizzo won the Silver Slugger Award

Thoughts: Another strong regular season, but comes up short in the playoffs. Though, losing to the Nationals is a rather easy pill to swallow given Bryce Harper and Co. were seen as the World Series favorites before 2015 began.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Robertson, Navarro

Final record: 61-101, 5th, 32 GB
RS: 534 (27)
ERA: 4.45 (30)

Notes: Garcia missed 3 weeks (shoulder strain)

Thoughts: This would qualify as the fourth-worst season in White Sox history. Another simulation in which The Show doesn’t like White Sox pitching. The back of the rotation is an unknown, yes, but bad enough to have the White Sox have the worst ERA in baseball? That seems extreme.

 

Season 7

CUBS

All-Stars: Lester, Rondon, Rizzo, Bryant

Final record: 101-61, 1st
RS: 751 (1)
ERA: 3.00 (3)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-1 in NLDS, lost 4-1 to LAD in NLCS

Notes: Bryant won Hank Aaron Award; Kyle Hendricks missed 1.5 months (fractured hand), Hammel missed 2 months (broken hand)

Thoughts: Would it be a disappointment in real life if the Cubs won 100 regular season games before being ousted again in the NLCS? Probably...

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Robertson, Rollins

Final record: 64-98, 5th, 22 GB
RS: 563 (25)
ERA: 4.16 (28)

Notes: Garcia Gold Glove; Robertson Delivery Man of the Year Award; Rodon missed 4 weeks (strained pectoral)

Thoughts: Jimmy Rollins makes an All-Star team and Garcia wins a Gold Glove. If either of those things actually happen in 2016, the White Sox probably will be feeling better about their chances than this 98-loss simulation suggests they should.

 

Season 8

CUBS

All-Stars: Rizzo, Zobrist

Final record: 97-65, 1st
RS: 755 (1)
ERA: 3.02 (2)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-1 in NLDS, beat SF 4-2 in NLCS, beat BOS 4-0 in World Series

Notes: Heyward World Series MVP; Dexter Fowler missed 3 weeks (finger contusion), Cubs traded Zobrist for Bartolo Colon; Colon won Gold Glove

Thoughts: First off...BARTOLO COLON?? Very weird. With no major injuries to the starting rotation, was Colon just in relief? And if so, how was that worth trading Zobrist for? Just an odd move from the AI there. But, guess all's well that ends well, right? The Cubs won it all, so maybe the AI was on to something?

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Quintana, Abreu, Eaton

Final record: 67-95, 5th
RS: 611 (20)
ERA: 4.24 (28)

Notes: Danks missed a month (inflamed hip); Navarro missed 2 months (fractured leg)

Thoughts: Another season with 95 or more losses. For what it’s worth, FanGraphs projects the White Sox to finish 81-81.

 

Season 9

CUBS

All-Stars: Rondon, Rizzo

Final record: 100-62, 1st
RS: 648 (14)
ERA: 3.11 (4)

Postseason: Lost 3-0 to SF in NLDS

Notes: Zobrist missed 2 months (broken shin)

Thoughts: Who would figure the Cubs offense would be in the middle of the pack, yet they'd still win 100 games? Either way, it was a fruitless postseason that provides flashbacks to 2007-08.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Navarro

Final record: 62-100, 5th
RS: 613 (20)
ERA: 4.43 (30)

Notes: Danks missed 3 months (torn groin); Sale missed 3 weeks (pulled hamstring)

Thoughts: Missing Sale for three months would hurt, but not as much as the torn groin video game John Danks suffered here. Ouch.

 

Season 10

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Jean Machi, Rizzo

Final record: 99-63, 1st
RS: 686 (9)
ERA: 3.08 (4)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-2 in NLDS, beat LAD 4-1 in NLCS, beat CLE 4-2 in World Series

Notes: Rizzo World Series MVP; Lackey Gold Glove; Hendricks missed 2 months (fractured wrist)

Thoughts: Wait a second...Jean Machi an All-Star??? That's weirder than seeing Bartolo Colon winning a Gold Glove on the Cubs. But hey, maybe the weirder the better? In both cases, it led to a Cubs World Series.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale

Final record: 69-93, 5th
RS: 660 (11)
ERA: 4.25 (29)

Notes: Rollins missed 3 months (fractured forearm)

Thoughts: Welp.

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

As the Cubs peruse over their list of managerial candidates, one name reportedly made a strong impression following his interview with the team.

According to NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, Astros bench coach Joe Espada left the Cubs front office “exceptionally impressed” following his interview on Monday.

Espada, 44, has spent the last two seasons as Astros bench coach following three seasons as Yankees third base coach. He is one of MLB’s more sought after managerial candidates this winter and one of three known external candidates for the Cubs’ opening, along with Joe Girardi and Gabe Kapler.

Former Cubs catcher and current front office assistant David Ross has been the presumed front runner for the Cubs' opening. But based on Kaplan’s report, Espada clearly has given Epstein and Co. something to think about, which makes sense, considering Espada is coming from an innovative Astros organization.

Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference that there’s no timeline for the Cubs’ managerial search. However, MLB prefers teams to not make big announcements during the World Series, which kicks off on Oct. 22. Thus, the Cubs may not make an announcement for little while longer, though this is purely speculation.

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The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

brad_wieck_curious_case_slide_photo.jpg
AP

The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

If anybody thought the Cubs' 2019 season was a roller coaster, it was nothing compared to what Brad Wieck has gone through this year.

Wieck — the 6-foot-9 left-handed reliever — went from a cancer diagnosis to a Padres cast-off and wound up finishing the year carving through the heart of the Cardinals order in the eighth inning of a must-win game in late-September for the Cubs.

Wieck began 2019 with a testicular cancer diagnosis in January and underwent surgery shortly after. That left him playing catch-up all spring training, unable to lift, run or throw off a mound for a month after the surgery. He only ended up facing live hitters twice before the regular season started and was never able to recover with the Padres, putting up a 5.71 ERA in 34.2 MLB innings. 

Then the Cubs came calling.

While the rest of Cubdom was understandably occupied on Trade Deadline Day celebrating the Nick Castellanos move, Theo Epstein's front office made a smaller move with the San Diego Padres. And Wieck wasn't even the central focus of that trade, as more of the emphasis was on the departure of Carl Edwards Jr. — a polarizing figure in the Cubs bullpen the last few seasons, including throughout the 2016 World Series run.

Yet Epstein's front office didn't treat Wieck like a throw-in. From Day 1 with the organization, the Cubs handled the southpaw more like a first-round draft pick.

Right after the trade, Wieck was immediately assigned to Triple-A Iowa, where he made a pair of appearances against the Tacoma Rainiers. From there, he was invited to Chicago to meet with the Cubs front office and throw a bullpen off the Wrigley Field mound.

"So I got here and they had a whole presentation of what my current curveball looked like and what they would like the shape of it to look like and so we just started messing around with grip," Wieck said. "I went to a spike curveball grip and we got in the lab and we started throwing it more and we came up with consistent break of what we thought was gonna be a better break than the curveball that I had.

"Just trial and error, honestly. We just looked at Rapsodo stuff and saw what spin efficiency is doing and spin rate and trying to get my curveball spin to replicate the exact opposite of my fastball. That's what our goal was."

That led to a trip to the "Pitch Lab" in Arizona where Wieck worked with Josh Zeid, the Cubs' pitching analyst, to continue to mess around with the new curveball grip and add a new, consistent weapon to his arsenal. 

If the term "spike curveball" sounds familiar, it should. It's become the unofficial pitch of the Cubs (you know, if organizations defined themselves by just one pitch). Rowan Wick — Wieck's former roommate in the Padres system — broke out as a trusted big-league reliever in large part because of the emergence of his spike curve. Craig Kimbrel throws one and also taught the pitch to Yu Darvish, who added it to the plethora of options already at his disposal. 

Wieck's time in Arizona was about getting comfortable with the new pitch and not worrying about facing hitters or pitching in a game. After a couple weeks in the desert, the Cubs threw him back out on the mound in Iowa, where he made four appearances before getting the call to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September. 

Right off the bat, we got a look at that spike curve and there is no doubt it can play at Wrigley Field, especially when the shadows roll in:

Just like that, a new weapon was born and Wieck developed more confidence in that reshaped curveball.

"I like that they're forcing me to throw it more because I've been a fastball-heavy pitcher my whole life," Wieck said. "I trust my fastball with my life. To have a catcher get back there and make you throw it, that's really good."

The Cubs' confidence in Wieck also grew as the month went on. He emerged alongside his buddy Wick as vital pieces of the late-season bullpen while Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler dealt with injuries. It got to the point where Joe Maddon kept Wieck in to face the Cardinals' big boppers (Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna — both right-handed hitters) with a 1-run lead in the eighth inning on that final homestand. We all know how that game ended (Kimbrel served up homers on back-to-back pitches for another gut-wrenching Cubs loss), but Wieck did his job and proved he's far more than just a lefty specialist.

This fall was the first time Wieck had been a part of a playoff push and that outing against the Cardinals was only the 46th MLB appearance of his young career. Moving into 2020, the 28-year-old southpaw looks to be one of only a few arms penciled into the Cubs bullpen. 

The Cubs had their eyes on Wieck for a while before they were able to trade for him and they don't plan on rolling out a big presentation for each acquisition or ask every new arm to start throwing a brand new pitch or completely remake one of their existing pitches. This was a unique situation, but it's one that already paid dividends in a short period of time and could help set up the bullpen for the future. 

It's also another indicator that the "Pitch Lab" can work, as Wieck joins Wick and Kyle Ryan as products of the Cubs' new model they hope to fine-tune and grow. Epstein will hire a director of pitching for the organization this winter and the Cubs are hoping to change the narrative surrounding their shocking lack of pitching development under this front office. 

In Wieck's case, it was a group effort from the Cubs — the front office, research and development department, big-league coaching staff (led by pitching coach Tommy Hottovy), the pitching analytics unit based in Arizona and minor league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara all teamed up to make it happen for the tall lefty in only a month's time.

It's a model the organization will attempt to duplicate moving forward, beginning this winter.