Cubs

Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
9:30 a.m.
By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Being your friendly barkeep requires many different talents, that most of them are hidden is a cross that I must bear. The most obvious attributes of someone who dares to serve alcohol to adults is their appearance and the ability to communicate. Since Im a little challenged in one of those areas, I find the need to over-compensate in the other. (You guess which is which!)

Anyway, being known as the sports guy means that I need to be well versed in the wide world of sports and need to stay current. This enables me to give an opinion when asked, and for some reason, Im asked a lot. Never one to want to disappoint, my Clavinesque knowledge of the days events are a constant cause for concern, at home anyway. Does the word issues ring a bell? Why do I know these things? The ability to share my take though never gets old, and as long as Im the one dispensing the libations, its never WRONG either!

The sudden retirement of Jerry Sloan really resonated with me. It told me how old I am, and maybe how out of touch with todays athletes. For guys like me, Sloan represented the old school approach: Direct, no-nonsense and in your face. What a great way to treat pampered multi-millionaires! Its amazing that he lasted so long, because we know, no players will quit on their coaches faster than NBAers. The one thing that Sloan had besides his unyielding will, was the total support of his owner, Larry Miller, until his passing that is. Short of Phil Jackson, I dont think any NBA coach had more control of his situation. With Miller gone, and the battles with players constant, it looked like he just got worn out. Regardless, I will always look back at him as one of ultimate competitors as a player and coach, in any sport.

The Albert Pujols saga? Speculation is always the most fun game we play, and figuring out where Albert will end up is at the top right now. (Sorry Carmelo Anthony, your story bores me. Wake me when its over.) He is NOT going back to St. Louis. If he is true to his demand to be paid as the games best player, and he is the best player, its not going to happen there. St. Louis believes that he will never be as good as he was during his first ten years, and mathematically, that it probably correct, but he has earned the right to be paid. Add to it that he has been grossly under-paid during the length of his current 7-year deal, and Im convinced that he has been dancing in a towel screaming Show me the money!! at his agent. Who will benefit from this high-stakes game of chicken? Dont look now, but the team that makes the most sense, on so many levels, is your Chicago Cubs. Ill let that thought marinate for a while before I devote about 10,000 words to it in your near future!

Does it get any more fun than Bill Murray winning the pro-am at Pebble Beach? Carl Spackler is an icon to any guy whos ever swung a golf club, in addition to being a big-hitter.long! Im sure there were tears in his eyes as he realized by winning, his playing partner, Cinderella-boy D.A. Points qualified to play at Augusta. Would the par-3 be ready for the two of them? I hear its being played on Briar. Theres a pool and Ikes pond, which is perfect for me! And just because I have to: Its in the hole!! How bout a Fresca?

Interesting move with the Bears Mike Tice. He was as valuable as any person in that organization. Did anyone expect the O-line to play well at all, let alone not get Jay Cutler killed? That being said, I always thought that the etiquette was to let a coach go if he could get an upgrade in responsibility. Keeping him is a smart move. Keeping him and making him happy is even smarter.

Why are people asking me about Tiger spitting? Tiger has never been one for manners on the course, unless that is someone tries to take a picture during his backswing. Glad to see he is trying to act beyond reproach as he tries to fix his image, along with his swing. For the record, I have no problem with spitting on the course, as long as there arent 100 cameras focused on you. And in that case, if you really have to, dont do it on the green. Seems simple enough.

Hey, did you see Peter Forsberg is returning to the NHL? What? He already retired again? Didnt see that coming!! LOL! Kris Versteeg to the Flyers? Nice! GM Paul Holmgren is getting it done, although Im still convinced that my heart is going to get ripped out, AGAIN, but we have plenty of time to talk about that.

Speaking of my heart getting ripped out, those who know me cant wait to mention the Phillies rotation this year. The eternal optimist in me (I heard that!) cant wait for this magical season to start. The realist, (Real Frankie O?) cant wait to see how the lack of right-handed hitting will doom them once again. Im sure the 78 games last year of scoring 3 runs or less was just an aberration. Whatever!

Something that makes me laugh? Mario Lemieuxs indignation at how the NHL handled the fallout of the Penguins-Islander brawl last week. Hey Mario, when you stopped whining, did you stop to consider the irony in your rant due to the fact that you employ one of the top cheap-shot artists in the league in Matt Cooke. Now thats funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny.

Oprah in a sports blog? What? Seems the QB for the Eagles was supposed to appear on her show and has since backed out. I personally think that Michael Vick should talk to her. I just dont think a live audience should be included. Oprah has earned the right to be an inquisitor, most of her audience probably not. In the court of public opinion, I dont think a lot of people believe he has paid enough for his crimes. He should be able to go public, in a forum that crosses over from the comfort of the sports world to do that. It should not include an entire room stacked against him that can interject their opinions without recourse. If he truly wants to walk down the road of redemption, there are more prices to be paid. I think the O would be relentless with her pressure, but would do it with a class that befits someone of her stature. Two more things: I only know how Oprah is because my wife watches her every day and I can hear it in the background. And, I still cant believe I have to become versed in everything Vick, but being an Eagles fan has long since gone beyond normalcy for yours truly.

For something more positive, I could write about the merits of Derrick Rose every day. I hope we all realize how special the metamorphosis we are watching truly is. He will not stop trying to get better. I almost like seeing him have a bad game, because you know he is going to come back with a vengeance. A lot of talk about whether the Spurs game before the break has any additional significance since the San Antonio has the best record in the league. I dont think so, especially since, barring any further injuries, this is not the Bulls team that will have to be reckoned with during the spring. But D-Rose thinks its a big game, so there you go. 42 points, and a 10-point win against the team with the best record in the NBA? I guess it was a statement game and one was made. Gotta love that guy!

Had enough yet? Thought so. Remember, Im always here for you, whether its behind the bar or online. All you have to do is pull up a stool or send me an e-mail at frankieo@harrycarays.com and let er rip. But, you should ALWAYS be careful what you wish for, I have a habit of giving you just a little bit extra!

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

"BINGO!"

Joe Maddon couldn't contain his glee as he was told there is actual scientific evidence that proves the Launch Angle Revolution has not had any impact on the uptick in homers over the last couple seasons.

The reason MLB players were hitting the ball into the bleachers more than ever before in 2017 was because of the way baseballs are made now, reducing the wind resistence and causing balls to carry more.

But all these players changing their swing path to get more lift on the ball? Not a thing for the group as a whole (h/t MLB.com):


But in analyzing Statcast™ data from the measurement tool's 2015 inception through 2017, the committee found no evidence that batter behavior, en masse, has been a contributing factor toward the homer surge. In fact, exit velocities decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, spray angles from the time studied were stable and a small increase in launch angles was attributable primarily to, as the study refers to them, "players with lesser home run talents."

Basically, the long-ball surge was global, affecting players from all spectrums of homer-hitting ability and irrespective of their approach.

"Going into this, I thought that was going to be the magic bullet, the smoking gun," Nathan said. "But it wasn't."


Hence the "BINGO!" cry from Maddon, who has been very vocal in the fight against the Launch Angle Revolution this season.

The end result is the study will eventually lead to baseballs being returned to normal levels and a more uniform way of storing the balls moving forward. Thus, homers figure to eventually return to normal levels, too, and everybody who was caught up in the Launch Angle Revolution may be left behind.

It's the changing landscape of baseball and we've already seen the after-effects this year: April was the first month in MLB history where there were more strikeouts than basehits.

Why? Because strikeouts are a natural byproduct of the Launch Angle Revolution as players are swinging up on the ball more and sacrificing contact for power and lift.

That, coupled with an increase in velocity and higher usage of relievers, has led to more strikeouts.

It makes perfect sense — it's tougher for a player to try to catch up to 98+ mph at the top of the strike zone with an uppercut swing.

"It's one of those things that sounds good, but it doesn't help you," Maddon said of launch angle. "There's certain things that people really want to promote and talk about, but it doesn't matter. When a hitter's in the box, when you're trying to stare down 96 or a slider on the edge, the last thing you're thinking about is launch angle.

"Now when it comes to practice, you could not necessarily work on angles — your body works a certain way. Like I've said before, there's guys that might've been oppressively bad or they just had groundballs by rolling over the ball all the time So of course you may want to alter that to get that smothering kind of a swing out of him.

"But if you're trying to catch up to velocity, if you're trying to lay back and I could keep going on and on. It sounds good."

The idea of hitting the ball hard in the air has been around for decades in baseball, pretty much ever since Babe Ruth on some level. It just wasn't able to be quantified or accessed by the public as easily until Statcast came around and made it all mainstream.

The Cubs, however, have been anti-launch-angle to a degree this season. They let go of hitting coach John Mallee (who liked players to hit the ball in the air and pull it) and replaced him with Chili Davis (who teaches the full-field, line-drive approach).

The effects haven't yet yielded results in terms of consistently plating runs or having a better performance in the situational hitting column, but the contact rate is, in fact, up.

Here is the list of Cubs hitters who currently boast a career best mark in strikeout rate:

Kris Bryant
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Even Ben Zobrist is very close to his career mark and Anthony Rizzo is right at his career line.

Some of that jump in contact rate can be attributed to natural development and maturation of young hitters, but the Cubs are buying into the new way of doing things and it's paying off.

It's also probably the way the game is going to shift, with an emphasis on contact going to become more important the less balls are flying out of the yard.

The Cubs have seen firsthand how to beat the best pitching in the postseason and they know that cutting down on strikeouts and "moving the baseball" (as Maddon likes to put it) can help manufacture runs in low-scoring, tight affairs in October.

Now science is supporting those theories and Major League Baseball teams will have to adjust. 

The Cubs, however, are at least a step ahead of the game.

It's a long game — the offensive strides will take time to fully take effect even for the Cubs, who are at least a full offseason and two months ahead of the curve in terms of bucking the Launch Angle Revolution.

Maddon concedes that launch angle is a cool stat to see on the video board after homers, but other than that, he doesn't see much of a use for it, pointing to Kyle Schwarber's laser-line-drive homers having the same effect as Kris Bryant's moonshots.

However, Maddon does believe there's a place for launch angle and exit velocity in the game, though mostly for front offices trying to acquire players (think "Moneyball").

"As a teaching tool, you either come equipped with or without," Maddon said. "It's like you buy a new car, you either got this or you don't. Sometimes you can add some things occasionally, but for the most part, this is what you are.

"I like inside the ball, top half of the ball, inner half of the ball, stay long throughout the ball, utilize the whole field. I still think that's the tried and true approach and I'm not stuck in the mud on this by any means.

"The harder pitchers throw the baseball, the more laying back is going to be less effective."

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

No, the Cubs are not currently talking to the Baltimore Orioles about bringing Manny Machado to the North Side of Chicago.

So says Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who met with the media at Wrigley Field ahead of Friday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

Epstein vehemently shot down the notion of trade talks and specified the major diffence between trade rumors and trade talks, while refusing to comment on Machado in particular.

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," Epstein said. "I would never talk about that in a million years. The simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs.

"There's a real disparity between the noise and the reality and unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. And that's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series and we really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency. Constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now."

The Cubs have presented a united front publicly in support of Addison Russell, whose name has been the one bandied about most as a potential leading piece in any move for Machado.

After all, the Cubs have won a World Series and never finished worse than an NLCS berth with Russell as their shortstop and he's only 24 with positive signs of progression offensively.

Trading away 3.5 years of control of Russell for 3-4 months of Machado is the type of bold, go-for-it move the Cubs did in 2016 when their championship drought was well over 100 years.

Now, the championship drought is only one season old and the window of contention is expected to remain open until through at least the 2021 season.

Epstein likes to point out that every season is sacred, but at what cost? The Cubs front office is still very much focused on the future beyond 2018.

"Everybody's talking about making trades in May — the first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are," Epstein said. "What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club gonna be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook? What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?

"All those things. It's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kinds of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."

So there's no chance we could see the Cubs once again jump the market and make an early deal like they did last year for Jose Quintana or five years ago for Jake Arrieta? Will they definitely wait another five weeks until July to make a move?

"It's just the natural order of things," Epstein said. "We wouldn't be opposed to doing something, but that's not the case right now. It's not happening."