Cubs

Why Joe Maddon sees Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff guy in Cubs lineup

Why Joe Maddon sees Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff guy in Cubs lineup

MESA, Ariz. – The analytical and emotional sides of the brain – the Big Data influence and obvious intimidation factor – are leading Joe Maddon to this conclusion: Kyle Schwarber should be the leadoff guy for a thumping Cubs lineup.  
 
"Schwarber is the frontrunner," Maddon said Thursday at the Sloan Park complex. "You could always consider (Ben) Zobrist if you wanted to. You could talk about Jon Jay. I'd say they're the leaders in the clubhouse right now. But primarily I like the idea of 'Schwarbs.'"
 
Because that would fit the Bill Jamesian ideal of lineup construction – put your best hitters at the top to get them more at-bats – as well as force the opposing pitcher to worry about Schwarber, reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant and Silver Slugger Anthony Rizzo in the first inning.     
 
"None of it's attractive," Maddon said. "There's pause involved there, because if you don't want to pitch to him, then the guys coming up behind are really pretty interesting. It's formidable, so it's uncomfortable from the other side."
 
That left-right-left balance would set up the switch-hitting Zobrist, a World Series MVP known more for his patience, clutch-time nerves and contact skills than brute force.
 
"When people say cleanup hitter or third-place hitter, everybody's applying conventional means from several years ago," Maddon said. "My thinking is more: Better hitter, get on base and then who can actually protect Rizzo. Who's going to make them pitch to Rizzo as often as possible?" 
 
The conditionals: The Cubs are a deep team built around versatile players with a seven-month marathon in mind. Schwarber is coming off a traumatic knee injury that limited him to two regular-season games and designated-hitter duties during the World Series. Daily matchups and inevitable injuries will shape the lineup.   
 
Still, Maddon said 140 games "sounds like a nice number" for Schwarber, who has five homers and a 1.178 OPS in 51 career postseason plate appearances. 
 
"He's everyday, but you have to do that with some kind of foresight," Maddon said. "You don't want to beat him up and have that knee bark on him. You give him his day off probably against a tough left-hander you just don't want him to see. And then you just do something differently. But otherwise you'll see him up there." 
 
The Geek Department still needs to send more information to Maddon, but the Cubs are toying with the idea of again hitting the pitcher eighth, in front of the Jay/Albert Almora Jr. platoon. 
 
"I'm just waiting to hear back from the boys if there's a significant bump or difference in that or not projection-wise," Maddon said. "This would be theoretically perfect, in a sense, where either like Almora or Jon to Schwarber to KB. That's kind of nice. 
 
"The only concern I have there is who's hitting seventh. We have a nice lineup, so the seven-hole hitter then would lose some benefit by having the pitcher hitting eighth. So that's the give-and-take with something like that. And it has nothing to do with the eight-hole and hitting sooner and all that. My concern is who's hitting seventh and what that's going to do to that."

Classic Cubs games we'd like to watch again during baseball's hiatus

Classic Cubs games we'd like to watch again during baseball's hiatus

Man, do we miss baseball. All we have for now are rebroadcasts of old games, but those can be a lot of fun to watch as well.

In the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, the Outside the Ivy guys — Danny Rocket, Luis Medina and Michael Cerami — discuss which old Cubs games they would like to watch again. We asked the members of our Cubs content team to tell us what past game is must-see (again) TV.

Gordon Wittenmyer — vs. Pirates, Sept. 24, 1984

Even three months after joining the Cubs in a trade from Cleveland, Rick Sutcliffe didn’t understand the historical significance of the playoff berth he was driving the Cubs toward in September of 1984.

As he walked to the bullpen near the stands at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium for his final start of a Cy Young season, Sutcliffe saw a family of Cubs fans holding up a sign: “39 Years of Suffering is Enough.”

“I always used to find a kid to give my warmup ball to. And as I got done warming up, I brought the dad and kid down,” Sutcliffe recalled during a recent spring training. “And I said, ‘What does that sign mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we haven’t been to the playoffs in 39 years.’

“I wasn’t trying to be cocky or anything, but I said, ‘Here, hold onto this ball, because I’m telling you right now, after tonight that’s all going to change.’ “

RELATED: 13 best trades in Cubs franchise history

Talk about making good on a promise. Sutcliffe drove in the second run of the game with a two-out single in the second and pitched a complete game that Sept. 24 night to earn a 4-1 victory as the Cubs clinched their first playoff berth since 1945.

Sutcliffe, who struck out nine without a walk in a two-hit gem, picked off Joe Orsulak at first to end the sixth and then retired the final nine batters he faced. The only run he allowed scored on a grounder after a leadoff triple by Orsulak in the fourth.

History? Playoffs?

“Until that time, I didn’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t a real history guy.

“I came from Cleveland so we didn’t need to worry about playoffs.”

Tim Stebbins — vs. Mariners, July 31, 2016

If you watch this game with zero context, you'll think I'm crazy. The Mariners jumped out to a 6-0 lead after three innings, hitting three two-run homers off spot starter Brian Matusz — whom the Cubs signed to a minor league deal a month prior.

Trailing by three entering the ninth, the Cubs plated two runs off Steve Cishek to get within one. Down to their last strike, they knotted things at six on a Cishek wild pitch (emphasis on wild). A Jason Heyward double put the Cubs in business in the 12th, and after advancing to third on a flyout, Heyward scored the winning run on a Jon Lester walk-off bunt.

Yes, a Lester walk-off bunt. 

RELATED: All-time best Cubs players by jersey number

Before the exciting finish, Joe Maddon moved reliever Travis Wood (who already tossed 1 1/3 innings) to left field, and Wood made a catch against the ivy in the seventh that would've been tough for an actual outfielder. 

A Jon Lester walk-off and Travis Wood outfield appearance? This game was something else.

Nate Poppen — vs. Brewers, Sept. 12-13, 1998

The back-to-back walkoff wins against the Brewers Sept. 12-13, 1998 at Wrigley. Orlando Merced’s three-run bomb on Saturday capped a five-run bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 15-12 win. Then on Sunday, Mark Grace’s solo shot in the bottom of the 10th was the difference in an 11-10 victory. Fifteen-year-old me had no idea September baseball could actually mean something.

Lou Melgarejo — vs. Cardinals, April 22, 1980

The 16-12 win over the Cardinals on April 22, 1980. Barry Foote hit a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie it at 12, and added a walk-off grand slam in the ninth as the Cubs erased a 12-6 deficit to win 16-12. By the way, Foote went 4-for-6 with 8 RBIs in the contest.

Jeff Nelson — vs. Mets, Aug. 7, 1984

I was lucky enough to attend the Aug. 7, 1984 doubleheader against the Mets at Wrigley. The Cubs scored six times in the fifth inning of the opener and went on to an 8-6 win. In the nightcap (or daycap, since Wrigley didn’t have any lights at this time), the Cubs scored five runs off Mets starter (and future Cub GM) Ed Lynch in an 8-4 victory.

The division lead was up to 3 1/2 games, and the Cubs never looked back en route to their first playoff appearance in 39 years.

Mike Piff — Sept. 28, 1998

Sept. 28, 1998. Game 163 at Wrigley between the Cubs and Giants. Michael Jordan, wearing a Sammy Sosa jersey, threw out the first pitch. Steve Trachsel threw 6 1/3 shutout innings, Gary Gaetti homered and Rod Beck got the save as the Cubs won 5-3 to advance to the playoffs.

RELATED: How Cubs’ Nico Hoerner is making an impact in Chicago during shutdown

Joe Collins — Sept. 27, 2003

Sept. 27, 2003. The Cubs swept a doubleheader from the Pirates, winning the opener 4-2 with Mark Prior getting his 18th win of the year. Then in the nightcap, a five-run second inning propelled them to a 7-2 win, clinching the NL Central. I went as a fan for both games, and immediately after the final out I went to work for CLTV gathering postgame sound. Fun times.

Lou Melgarejo — Oct. 1, 1932

Oct. 1, 1932. Game 3 of the World Series between the Cubs and the Yankees. Did Babe Ruth really call his shot? The television broadcast is sure to give us an answer.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Outside the Ivy crew explores ways to start the season

wrigley_field_shot.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Outside the Ivy crew explores ways to start the season

In for David Kaplan, Jeff Nelson is joined by Luis Medina, Danny Rocket, and Michael Cerami of Outside the Ivy as they discuss creative ways Major League Baseball can start its season, how has this impacted baseball fans everywhere, and will the new rules the MLB will use will benefit new manager David Ross.

(1:20) - Staying busy with no baseball to talk about

(8:00) - How will David Ross manage in his 1st year?

(14:00) - How can baseball start without fans?

(21:20) - Electronic strike zones possibility

(27:00) - Mic'ing players up who would sit in the stands

Listen here or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.