Cubs

Posnanski: Why Cubs' Jake Arrieta would get my Cy Young vote

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Posnanski: Why Cubs' Jake Arrieta would get my Cy Young vote

Let’s start with the obvious: All three pitchers are having Cy Young seasons.

Zack Greinke will finish with the National League’s lowest ERA and WHIP in 20 years, since Greg Maddux in 1995.

Jake Arrieta has more wins, more innings, three more shutouts and more strikeouts than Greinke, all while pitching in a tougher home ballpark for pitchers.

Clayton Kershaw, by several very significant measures, is having the best season of his entire career, and he has won three Cy Young Awards.

It’s tempting to say that there is no wrong choice here — but, of course, in sports there is ALWAYS a right choice and a wrong choice. That’s the allure of sports, right? Sports talk radio probably wouldn’t hold much of an audience with the hot topic — “Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: They’re both really good, right?”

...

This year, I don’t have a Cy Young vote. But if I did, as much as it pains me to say it — everyone knows I’ve been in the tank for Zack Greinke since he was a teenager — I would vote for Jake Arrieta.

Why? Well, I could give you lots of reasons why I would vote for any of those guys, but in the end the decisive factor for me would be how well they’ve pitched on the road. Dodger Stadium is a better pitchers’ park than Wrigley Field (though Wrigley, unexpectedly, does lean toward pitchers). It has been a huge advantage for pitchers going back to Drysdale and Koufax, and this year, Greinke has a 1.48 ERA there and Kershaw (as usual) has been almost unhittable there.

What about on the road, though?

Arrieta: 12-1, 1.68 ERA, 4.9-to-1 strikeout to walk, 4 homers allowed

Greinke: 9-2, 1.88 ERA, 4.2-to-1 strikeout to walk, 6 homers allowed

Kerhsaw: 5-4, 2.60 ERA, 6-to-1 strikeout to walk, 9 homers allowed

Road numbers are not everything, of course. But Arrieta’s road ERA is the lowest for any regular starter in the last decade (Greinke’s is fourth lowest, so he’s no road slouch either). All year, Arrieta has gone into some of the toughest ballparks in baseball and pitched incredibly well. His one time in Dodger Stadium, he threw a shutout.

Arrieta has been amazing at home too, let’s not forget that: His 1.97 ERA at Wrigley is the best for a Cubs starter since Greg Maddux in 1992. But in what I think is the closest and most fascinating Cy Young race perhaps ever, the difference for me is just how good Arrieta has been on the road. He’d be my Cy Young choice.

Check out Posnanski's full piece at NBC SportsWorld.

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

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Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below: