Cubs

Remember That Guy: Steve Trout

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AP

Remember That Guy: Steve Trout

Steve Trout's father was Dizzy. Seriously. Paul Trout was a major league pitcher from 1939-52 and again for two games in 1957. His nickname was Dizzy. In fact, Trout, not Dean, was the Dizzy with the most career wins - 170 to 150.

Steve was born in 1957 - the year his father returned to the majors for two final games with the Baltimore Orioles. He was born in Detroit, which is where Dizzy had his best seasons. Steve grew up in the Chicagoland area while his father worked in the White Sox front office (Dizzy died when Steve was in eighth grade), and the White Sox drafted him eighth overall out of Thornwood High School in South Holland in 1976.

From the 1982 White Sox media guide:

"There are those who think the nickname 'Dizzy' also applies to Steve, but only one to a family, he is stuck with the nickname his teammates at Thornwood High School (South Holland) hung on him: 'Rainbow.'"

The 6-foot-4 inch southpaw made his MLB Debut for White Sox July 1, 1978, tossing the final inning of an eventual 10-0 blowout loss at Minnesota. He was sent back down to the minors but returned in September and went 3-0 in three starts to finish the season.

A highlight from 1980: on July 13 at Comiskey Park, Trout and the Yankees' Rudy May locked up in a pitchers' duel where May took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Trout took one into the eighth. The Yankees ended up a 3-1 winner.

1981 might have been Trout's best season with the White Sox if not for the strike. He had a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts prior to the stoppage, but he struggled to a 4.39 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) after play resumed.

In January 1983, Trout was involved in a crosstown trade, heading to the Cubs along with Warren Brusstar in exchange for Scott Fletcher, Randy Martz, Pat Tabler and Dick Tidrow. Trout spent the next four and a half seasons on the North Side. He led the 1984 division champs in innings (190.0), while posting a solid 3.41 ERA. He got the win with 8 1/3 innings of five-hit, two-run ball in Game 2 of the NLCS vs San Diego, then recorded two outs of relief without allowing anything in Game 5.

1985 had promise, with a career low 3.39 ERA, but Trout only made 24 starts due to ulnar nerve problems in his left arm. He also missed a start on Sept. 8 against the Reds due to a bicycle accident (rumor was that he fell off a stationary bicycle). When Pete Rose saw the news that Reggie Patterson was starting in place of Trout, he inserted himself into the lineup and ended up with career hit No. 4,190 and 4,191, which tied Ty Cobb's career total (or it passed Cobb... the story of Ty Cobb's disputed career hit total is a subject for another day).

In 1986, Trout had a rough 4.75 ERA in 161 innings, but he did have a 98-inning streak without allowing a home run from May to early August. Trout was stingy with the home run ball during his career, but particularly to lefties - he allowed only 10 home runs to lefties in 1,191 plate appearances against.

At the All-Star break in 1987, the Cubs were 47-41 but were 10 games back, and Trout was unloaded to the Yankees for Rich Scheid, Dean Wilkins and newly-named Cubs mental skills coordinator Bob Tewksbury. The Cubs sold high, as Trout's final two starts with the team were complete game shutouts. No Cub has tossed consecutive shutouts since. The Big Apple wasn't a good fit for Trout; he was 0-4 with a 6.60 ERA in 14 games (nine starts) to finish the season for the Yankees.

After the season, Trout was traded to the Mariners, where he struggled for a season and a half. He hung it up after a four-game trial for the Cardinals' Triple-A Louisville team in 1990.

Trout attempted a comeback with the Pirates in 1997, but never caught on. He has served as a coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League), and at Moloka'i High School in Hawai'i, among other places.

Since wrapping up his MLB career, Trout has displayed a passion for teaching the game, running baseball camps throughout the world. Trout has also authored two books - one a children's book called "Loosey-Goosey Baseball," and the other one he wrote about himself and his father. That book is called "Home Plate: The Journal of the Most Flamboyant Father and Son Pitching Combination in Major League History."

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19 for '19: Can Jon Lester and Cole Hamels fight off Father Time for another year?

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USA Today

19 for '19: Can Jon Lester and Cole Hamels fight off Father Time for another year?

Talking about aging athletes is an abnormal experience. 

For instance, both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels are 35. That is objectively -- in baseball terms -- old. Of course, 35 is not actually old, because as I approach 30 I'm realizing that it's the new 20 and that's what I'll say about that. 

This discussion, however, does take place within the realm of baseball terms. So for now, we'll say 35 is old. Sorry, Jon. Sorry, Cole. 

The saying goes that Father Time is undefeated, and unless you go to Germany for magic knee surgery or Massachusetts for weird Alex Guerrero massages, it's held pretty firm. Most of the Cubs' starting rotation has bigger immediate concerns (like Joey Votto or Paul Goldschmidt or Christian Yellich or Yasiel Puig), but they're also pitching against Father Time. If that sounds overly dramatic it's because hell yeah, baseball *is* overly dramatic. The Cubs need Lester and Hamels to be good this year - there's no path to an NL Central pennant without them. With each nearing the wrong side of 30, is there enough left in the tank? 

Lester

At this point in his career, Lester's value lies in his durability. He's pitched at least 180 innings in each of the last 11 seasons, while breaching 200 innings in eight of those. That's 2282.2 innings over the last decade +, and only five other qualified starters have logged more in that time. 

You don't need to look too hard to see Lester's decline. Since coming to Chicago, his K/9 has dropped almost two full batters while his BB/9 has risen proportionally. A 5-win player at the peak of his career, Lester's at best a 2-3 win player now. Homers are starting to be an issue, as 2 of the 4 seasons in which he's averaged more than one home run per nine innings have come in the last two years. The amount of hard contact he allows grows each season, though it should be noted that even Lester's "bad" contact numbers are still mostly better than league average; they're just trending in the wrong direction. 

Lester's decline is not news, nor should it be. Throwing a baseball over and over and over again is taxing, and Lester has done a whole lot of that over the last decade. The Cubs aren't paying Lester $22.5 million this year for the pitcher he was - they're paying him that because he has a 2.51 ERA in 154 playoff innings. He was masterful in the Cubs' season-ending loss vs. Colorado, striking out 9 over six innings of one-run ball. He's one of this generation's premier postseason pitchers, and that alone is worth twenty-two million dollars. He's earned his Opening Day start, and with the injury woes surrounding others within the Cubs' rotation, getting 6+ innings from Lester more often than not is infinitely valuable. 

Hamels 

So, turns out that Hamels and Lester have basically had the same career: 

Hamels (13 years): 2553 IPs, 3.40 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 23.0 K%, 6.8 BB%, 1.17 WHIP
Lester (13 years): 2366 IPs, 3.50 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 22.3 K%,  7.8 BB%, 1.25 WHIP

Hamels time in Texas was quite ugly, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him turn it around once he was traded to the Cubs. Some reasons for concern remain, though: he stranded runners on base at a clip (82%) that he hadn't since his time with the Phillies in 2014. That's likely to regress back closer towards his career norm, which sits at 76%. His Cubs' ERA was almost a full-run lower than his Cubs' FIP, another sign that he had a nice run of luck. At this stage in his career, he's most likely not a sub-3 ERA pitcher, like he was during his 76.1 Cubs innings last season. 

The optimist would point out that Hamels has talked at length about how a lingering oblique injury messed with his mechanics and left him searching for answers for the better part of two seasons. They'd say that getting out of Texas, where he was allowing almost 2 home runs per 9 innings, will do him wonders. They'd have a point; as he continues to distance himself from that disaster of a 2017 season, it's looking more and more like an aberration than a sign of things to come. His velocity was back up, and the renewed confidence in his four-seamer, along with a tinkered approach to right-handed hitters, did wonders. 

At this point in their window, the Cubs are relying more on veteran experience than they are raw talent - and that's fine. Not every team has the luxury of having four World Series titles between two starters. They may not be Cy Young candidates, but that's what Yu Darvish is for anyways! 

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Kimbrel, blisters and the business of baseball

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Kimbrel, blisters and the business of baseball

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki tackle all the pressing topics surrounding the Cubs, including the Brewers' reported connection to Craig Kimbrel (:45), Yu Darvish's blister woes (5:15), how the current run of extensions in MLB will affect the Cubs in the future (9:10), and Tony makes the case for Kris Bryant to be the regular lead-off hitter (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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