Cubs

Like it or not, Silvas got competition

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Like it or not, Silvas got competition

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 8:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Silva is a proud man, emotional and sometimes defensive. He doesnt understand why reporters keep asking him about this competition at the back end of the Cubs rotation.

Silva will turn 32 in April and he overlooks the way last season ended. He doesnt need to take anything for the heart procedure he underwent, and says his elbow is fine. Those health issues limited the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound right-hander to 5.1 innings combined last August and September.

I dont think its a reason to take me out of the rotation, but theyre the boss, Silva said Tuesday. Theyre the ones that make the decision. If I have to win my spot, Ill do it. I have no problem with that. (But) for me, theres only maybe one spot open, because I am one of the starters.

In Silvas mind, he is the pitcher who reached the 2010 All-Star break at 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 17 starts. He dismisses any concerns about his physical conditioning.

The only thing you need to do is put zeroes on the board and everybodys going to be happy, Silva said. Youre going to have perfect weight, the best-looking face. Youre the perfect guy. (It) was two-months-and-a-half like that.

Everybody cheered for Carlos. Something bad happened: Boom, you need to lose weight, you need to do this (and that).
Only in Chicago

Silva instantly grew close with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who helped him clear his mind on the mound. Rothschild eventually left to take the same job with the New York Yankees, and a new pitching coach (Mark Riggins) is one X-factor in this search process.

Riggins was the St. Louis Cardinals minor-league pitching coordinator when they made Braden Looper the third overall pick in the 1996 draft. Looper is 36 now with graying hair. He disappeared last year when he didnt receive an offer he liked after making 34 starts and winning 14 games with a 5.22 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Looper lives in Chicagos south suburbs with his wife and three kids and eased toward retirement. He coached his son in Little League, and didnt watch much baseball, except for the two field trips his team took to White Sox games. His kids are in school, and in pitching for the Cubs he wouldnt have to completely uproot his family.

This was the one situation that worked out perfect, he said.

Looper, who has saved 103 games in his career, isnt inclined to return to the bullpen, nor is he looking to showcase himself for another team if it doesnt happen with the Cubs.

I prefer starting without a doubt, he said, but the best way I can put it is this is the one team (where) I would consider anything. Well just cross those bridges when we come to it.

Somebodys going to be disappointed

Mike Quades right in saying that. Heres what else we know: Andrew Cashner and James Russell will be stretched out, but could slide back into their bullpen roles if they dont stick as starters. Jeff Samardzija, who is out of minor-league options, is being ticketed for the bullpen. The rotation will most likely be five right-handers.

And the manager will place a premium on experience when evaluating the fourth and fifth starters.

So you shouldnt discount what Randy Wells has done the past two years, or the more than 1,200 innings Silva has thrown in his career. Not to mention the 6 million of Silvas 11.5 million salary the Cubs will have to pay this season. (The Seattle Mariners are picking up the rest of the tab as part of the Milton Bradley deal.)

Its realistic to take different pieces of a guys career, including his current health and status and performance in spring training, Quade said. But the balance probably is based more on what a guy has done at the major-league level in the past.

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
Anthony Rizzo
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. are close to their career marks, too.

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."