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Cubs Talk Podcast: Did MLB and MLBPA have a deal for 2020 season or not?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Did MLB and MLBPA have a deal for 2020 season or not?

David Kaplan and Cubs insider Gordon Wittenmyer discuss the report that a deal was in place between the MLB owners and the players, but was a deal actually ready? They discuss what remains an issue and the meeting between commissioner Rob Manfred and players union director Tony Clark.

Later in the pod, they discuss a trade that could have been between the Cubs and the Rockies for a swap with Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado.

(1:18) - What are the players and owners saying about the reported "deal"?

(5:54) - Is the new "deal" a win for the owners?

(11:01) - With the shortened season, is it possible to get a Cubs-White Sox World Series?

(14:24) - Cubs considered trading Javy Baez to the Sox

(21:56) - Kris Bryant could have been traded to the Rockies in February

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Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Usually when GMs, managers and fans get ready for a baseball season, any consistent production from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters is a luxury. In the Cubs’ case, it’s been an embarrassment of riches through two turns of the rotation.

Through 10 games, the Cubs are 8-2, good for the best win percentage in the National League. One huge reason for that has been the team’s incredible starting pitching. Kyle Hendricks set the tone early when he pitched a complete game shutout in the very first game of the season. Now, the Cubs’ starters lead MLB in ERA (1.95), batting average against (.156) and WHIP (0.780). They’ve done all that while also throwing 60 innings, second only to the Indians who have thrown 70 innings.

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At first glance you’d probably think, yeah, that makes sense with Hendricks starting the season the way he did, and Darvish getting back on track with six innings of two-hit ball in his second start. But surprisingly the only two clunkers came in Hendricks and Darvish starts. In fact, the analytics say Jon Lester and Alec Mills, the Cubs’ last two guys in the rotation have been two of the most impressive starters in MLB.

Let’s start by looking at the ERAs of all starters who have at least 8 IP, since the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. If 8 IP seems like an arbitrary cutoff… well, it is. But it seems like a fair number to assess quality pitchers who have made two starts in this shortened season with short leashes on pitchers. Among those pitchers, Lester and Mills each rank in the top-10 with ERAs of 0.82 and 1.38, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

So how are they doing it? Neither is a power pitcher who relies on strikeouts. In fact, Lester’s four punchouts place him tied for fourth-fewest in our split of SPs who have thrown more than 8 IP. Mills’ seven strikeouts (tied for 10th-fewest) aren’t much better. These guys succeed by keeping guys off the base paths, and not allowing hard-hit balls.

Looking at batting average against, Lester and Mills move into MLB’s top-five, according to our FanGraphs split, with each pitcher holding batters under .120. Since we’ve already established that neither guy is a power pitcher, when we filter further to just show BAA on balls put in play it should come as no surprise that Lester and Mills rise to No. 1 and No. 2 in all of baseball with .118 and .139 marks, respectively.

Great defense, like Javy Baez’s tag in Monday’s game, certainly helps the pitchers’ stats. But the starters also make things easier on the defense by inducing poor contact, regardless of whether the ball is hit on the ground or the air. According to FanGraphs, Mills ranks second in MLB by inducing soft contact on 33.3% of all balls put into play. In addition, he’s 11th in MLB with a 54.3 ground ball percentage. Lester ranks ninth by getting hitters to make soft contact 26.5% of the time, although he’s 11th in the league in getting batters to hit fly balls 47.1% of the time.

In the end the result is the same, with Mills and Lester combining to only allow four extra base hits in 24 IP. So although they aren’t typical “dominant” pitchers that teams like to make their aces, Mills and Lester have been two of the most effective starters in the game.


RELATED: How David Ross plans to fix Cubs closer problem with Craig Kimbrel in the shop

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Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong among Cardinals to test positive for COVID-19

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USA TODAY

Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong among Cardinals to test positive for COVID-19

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong are of the seven St. Louis players and six staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week.

Six of those players gave St. Louis permission to disclose their names. In addition to Molina and DeJong, the club announced Tuesday pitchers Junior Fernández and Kodi Whitley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and shortstop Edmundo Sosa tested positive.

The Cardinals released statements from Molina and DeJong:

"I am saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place," Molina said. "I will do everything within my power to return as soon as possible for Cardinals fans, the city of St. Louis and my teammates. As I recover, I request that you please respect my privacy and family in my absence from the team."

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"I am disappointed to share that I have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, even though I followed team protocols," DeJong said. "I will approach my healing as I do all other things in my life — with education, commitment, and persistence. I look forward to re-joining the team soon and ask that you respect my privacy at this time."

The Cardinals' reportedly have no new positive tests on Tuesday. The tentative plan is for them to resume play against the Cubs this weekend.

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