Cubs

Jon Lester sounds off on MLB's pitch clock: 'Baseball is baseball. You're not going to speed it up'

Jon Lester sounds off on MLB's pitch clock: 'Baseball is baseball. You're not going to speed it up'

Count Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester as someone who is not in favor of MLB's new pitch clock.

Following his spring training debut in which he pitched two scoreless innings, Lester shared his thoughts on MLB's addition of a pitch clock.

"Baseball is baseball. You're not going to speed it up. You're not going to change it," Lester said. "You can put the pitch clock there and the game is going to flow the way the game flows.

"If you have a 6-5 game, it's going to be three and a half hours. If you have a 2-1 game, it's going to be two hours and 50 minutes.

Last week, MLB announced that it is implementing a pitch clock for all spring training games this season. While no decision has been made yet, there reportedly is a strong possibility that the clock will be used in the regular season, too.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested that the league is focusing more on pace of play rather than bigger changes, such as adding a designated hitter to the National League. 

Lester suggested that baseball would be better off trying to boost its on field product rather than make games go by faster.

"I think we kind of need to get over the whole mindset of changing the pace of play, as opposed to the product on the field," he said. "I think if you have a product on the field, fans show up and they'll be there for the three hours."

Lester on projections for Cubs' pitching staff

It's no secret that Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system projects the Cubs to struggle in 2019. The system projects the Cubs' pitching staff to allow nearly 100 more runs in 2019 than they did in 2018.

Lester alluded to the unkind projection on Monday, joking that critics view the team's rotation negatively due to its age. Lester, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana are all at least 30 years old, while Kyle Hendricks will turn 30 in December.

"Apparently we're just old and ready to be on the backside of our careers. I'll let a computer program tell me whether or not I'm going to be good this year," Lester said sarcastically.

"I think the key to us is just being healthy. You lose [Yu] Darvish for three quarters of the year, that's a huge knock on our rotation.

"He looks great; We get [Brandon] Morrow back to solidify that back-end of the bullpen. I love where we're at. I love us as a staff. It's just a matter of going out and pitching now. I'm not too worried about our guys."

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Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Craig Kimbrel’s debut season with the Cubs didn’t go well. The closer on a Hall of Fame trajectory went 0-4 with a 6.53 ERA (8.00 FIP) and 1.597 WHIP in 2019, converting 13 of 16 save tries.

Kimbrel had an abnormal preseason last year and didn’t make his season debut until late June. 2020 is a clean slate for the right-hander, but Major League Baseball is looking at an unorthodox season due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whenever the season starts, Kimbrel has the chance to start fresh and put last year’s struggles behind him. Until then, here’s a few things to know about him:

1. Kimbrel was born in Huntsville, Ala., and played quarterback as a junior and senior at Lee High School. Per a Q&A on his website, the school featured a run-oriented offense, and Kimbrel said he "wasn't really good." Alas.

2. Post-grad, Kimbrel attended Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. He went 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA as a freshman, leading to the Braves selecting him in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft.

Kimbrel returned to school and improved his draft stock, going 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 81 innings as a sophomore. Atlanta drafted him again in 2008, this time in the third round.

3. Kimbrel’s pitching stance is notorious — he bends his torso parallel to the ground and dangles his arm at a 90-degree angle. But he doesn’t do it for kicks. It became too painful for him to hold his arm behind his back in 2010, when he suffered from biceps tendinitis.

Opposing fans have made fun of the stance, but hey, it’s unique.

4. During his time with the Red Sox (2017-18) Kimbrel and his teammates — including David Price, Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts — became avid fans of “Fortnite,” the multiplayer-focused video game that took the world by storm two years ago.

“Let’s say we get back at 11 p.m. from a game, we’ll play until 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m. depending on what time our game is the next day,” David Price told The Athletic in 2018. “But day games or off days, we can put some time in.”

Same, David. Same.

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How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

The Cubs made the playoffs four times in five seasons under Joe Maddon, receiving contributions across the diamond from All-Stars and role players alike.

Some players, of course, had bigger impacts for Maddon's Cubs, even in smaller sample sizes. Jesse Chavez and Cole Hamels weren't Cubs for long, but the two 2018 trade deadline pickups helped the North Siders reach the postseason for a fourth straight year.

These are the top 25 players by WAR (wins above replacement) from the Maddon era, according to Baseball Reference.

Top 25 Cubs, according to WAR, from 2015-19

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