Cubs

Illinois ends season on 'all-time low'

948341.png

Illinois ends season on 'all-time low'

By Vinnie Duber
CSNChicago.com

EVANSTON -- A new era beckons, reads the T-shirt advertised on the Fighting Illinis official athletic site. The shirt features a picture of first-year head coach Tim Beckman.

Well, following the final game of the season -- a 50-14 loss to Northwestern on Saturday at Ryan Field -- Beckman is now Illinois second-year coach, and that new era is off to the same start as the previous one: without a single conference victory.

The loss sent the Illini to an 0-8 record in Big Ten play, the first winless conference schedule for Illinois since the first season of the Ron Zook era in 2005. Its the 14th time in school history the Illini have gone winless in conference play and the fourth since 1997.

Youre in this game for the players, Beckman said as he summed up the season. This game is an unbelievable game. You feel close to one another as a family. Kids coming over to your house and eating Thanksgiving dinner. All of those things. But the losing, really, it hurts. You want your kids to experience winning just like you want your sons to experience winning. We didnt experience winning this year. Its one of the hardest years Ive ever gone through.

Illinois loss in the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy was marred by the same kinds of mistakes that sent them to losses in their first seven Big Ten contests. Too many turnovers and too many penalties told the story. A pair of Illini quarterbacks combined for three interceptions, and a fumble on a kickoff return led to Northwesterns first touchdown of the day.

The Illini racked up eight penalties in the first half, totaling 88 yards in damage. Among the infractions was a pair of sideline interference penalties on Beckman and something called illegal numbering.

We had too many penalties again, certain things that you cant do, and we ended up doing those things, Beckman said. Turnovers, penalties, not tackling as well as were capable of tackling. All together, it wasnt one of our better games again. When youre playing a team that has won football games and is considered one of the Top 25 or 30 teams in the country, then youre going to have to play a lot better than we did.

Its those types of mistakes that have the Illini sitting at the bottom of the Big Ten. They have turned the ball over 19 times, a conference high, and they rank last in turnover margin, at -11.

Illinois allowed 50 points for the third time this season, and Northwesterns 338 rushing yards were the second most an opponent posted all season. How bad was it for the Illini? The Wildcats fifth touchdown of the day was a pass to Paul Jorgensen, a sophomore offensive lineman. And he was wide open, too.

According to freshman running back Josh Ferguson, the Illinois locker room was at an all-time low. Junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase called the last four months the hardest of his life.

Weve been disappointed and frustrated for a while just because we havent been producing the way we wanted to, Scheelhaase said. Obviously you want to finish on a good note, but it didnt happen today. Its something youve got to deal with, something youve got to eat. You have to take that mindset into the offseason. Thats the only thing you can do.

Talking after the game, Scheelhaase and the Illini were obviously looking ahead, and the quarterback must have said the word learning about a dozen times. The Illini see this disappointing season as a learning experience.

You learn not only what it feels like to lose, but you learn how small a margin of error there is with winning and losing, Scheelhaase said. Whether its a mistake here or a mistake there, or them not making a mistake or you not capitalizing on a mistake that they make, you learn how fine of a difference there is or how much momentum can change the way a game goes, the way a season goes.

As the Beckman era heads into its first offseason, much talked about will be the coachs job security. But after the game, players and coaches alike spoke highly of him.

I think we definitely believe in the coaches, Scheelhaase said. I have no reason not to believe in these coaches to a man. Im sure as coaches theres a bunch of things they want to do different, and trust me, as a player theres a lot of things that we could have capitalized on, not just this game but this whole season.

No one likes to lose, said defensive coordinator Tim Banks. No one wants to put so much work in and not come home successful. One thing I know about him: Hes no quitter. Hes going to continue to work, continue to fight, and hes going to continue to demand we put guys in positions to be successful. I think thats what a great leader does. Hell be fine.

Its important to note that Zook remained on the job for six more campaigns following his winless debut effort in the Big Ten.

Beckman pointed out that it takes time to turn things around, and he noted Northwestern as an example. He mentioned that Pat Fitzgerald has spent seven years bringing the Wildcats to the point theyre at now: en route to their fifth consecutive bowl game.

Were going to go back and do our plan. The plan, it does work. It has worked. Didnt work this year, but there are reasons that it has worked and theres belief behind it, Beckman said. And you believe in the things you believe in and go with it and you make sure that you recruit players that believe in the same thing.

We have to move forward. Theres only one way you can go, is forward. So my coaching staff will be out on the road tomorrow, and were going to get it together and see what weve got to do to get players in here to the University of Illinois -- this great place, great institution, great football tradition -- and do what weve got to do to get this program back on top.

Who Knew? The week in Cubs stats and factoids

Who Knew? The week in Cubs stats and factoids

Welcome back to "Who Knew?" - a roundup of fun facts, statistics & oddities. Today, we're looking at the last week of Cubs baseball. While they went a disappointing 3-3 on the road trip, there was plenty of interesting nuggets of information to be mined. Let's get started.

Time to go to school

On Tuesday, Kyle Hendricks had a brilliant outing at Cincinnati where he tossed 8 innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits. But he also collected three hits at the plate himself!

Cue the Carlos Zambrano trivia.

Hendricks was the first Cubs pitcher with a 3-hit game since  Zambrano on May 26, 2011.

He was the first Cubs pitcher to get 3+ hits at the plate and allow 3 or fewer on the mound since Zambrano (8.2 IP, 3 Hits for, 3 against) 9/10/2010.

And Hendricks was the first Cubs starting pitcher to collect a hit in the 9th inning or later since Zambrano 9/25/2009... off Randy Johnson!

Back to the pitching for a minute - Hendricks started May with  three straight starts of 8+ innings, 1 or 0 runs & 1 or 0 walks. He's the first Cubs pitcher to do that in three straight starts since Mike Krukow in September 1981.

While Hendricks' start Sunday night didn't go quite as well, he still came away with a win, and he added on to an impressive run (before it finally came to an end).

From the beginning of May through the third inning Sunday, these are the pitch counts by completed inning (not counting the one batter in the 9th inning on Tuesday he faced before being pulled): 10, 6, 8, 15, 9, 7, 7, 9, 10, 15, 11, 12, 6, 12, 19, 15, 6, 11, 15, 7, 9, 16, 11, 13, 10, 11, 9, 8

That's a run of 28 consecutive completed innings under 20 pitches. And in 12 of the 28 innings, he kept it in single digits.

He finally tossed 21 pitches to get through the 4th inning Sunday night to snap the streak.

And by the way, Hendricks has put up an excellent 3.21 ERA and solid 1.179 WHIP this season despite not reaching 90 MPH on any of the 799 pitches he has thrown this season (though he did hit 89.2, 89.2 and 89.1 Sunday night). His max this season has been 89.3.

Going to 11

Anthony Rizzo homered Sunday night to bring his season total to 11. That tied him with THREE OTHER CUBS for the team lead, joining Javier Báez, Willson Contreras & Kris Bryant.

By the way, the most home runs in which four teammates in a season had the same amount (that's a mouthful) is 27. By the 2018 Yankees. Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius & Miguel Andújar all had exactly 27 home runs. But they didn't tie for the team lead! Giancarlo Stanton had 38.

Anyway, four Cubs have double digit home runs through 44 team games. And do you remember the last time they did that?

You do not. Because it never happened!

In fact, through 44 team games, these are the players with 10+ home runs during the Joe Maddon era:
2019 - 4 (Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo)
2018 - 1 (Javier Báez)
2017 - 1 (Kris Bryant)
2016 - 1 (Anthony Rizzo)
2015 - 0

They haven't had two double digit guys through 44 games since 2008 (Derrek Lee & Alfonso Soriano). They haven't had three since 2004 (Sammy Sosa, Aramis Ramírez & Moises Alou). And they have never had four. The Cubs National League lineage dates back to 1876.

And fun sidenote: through 44 games in 1998, the Cubs team leader in home runs was Henry Rodríguez with 9. Sammy Sosa had 8 before finishing the season with 66.

Schwarber's battle

On Friday night in the top of the 8th inning, Kyle Schwarber battled Kyle Barraclough until he finally homered on the 13th pitch of the at-bat. Pitch data is mostly complete to 1988. There are a few plate appearances for which we don't have pitch data. But of the at-bats that we do, it was the longest plate appearance to end with a Cubs home run since Gary Scott's April 20, 1992 grand slam off Kyle Abbott (also 13 pitches)

Bryant homers thrice

Kris Bryant homered three times on Friday. It was the second 3-homer game of Bryant's career.

According to STATS, Bryant was the 12th player in MLB history to homer in three consecutive innings (7th, 8th and 9th); the second (after J.D. Martinez) to homer in the 7th, 8th & 9th.

Bryant is the only Cub besides Sammy Sosa (3rd, 4th & 5th) on August 10, 2002 to homer in three consecutive innings.

He was the first Cub since Dave Kingman (May 17, 1979 - 40 years ago to the day) to homer off three different pitchers in the same game.

He is the second Cub ever to homer three times in a game with none coming off a starting pitcher, joining Adolfo Phillips on June 11, 1967 (Game 2 of doubleheader). In fact, in each of the last ten Cub three-HR games, the batter hit at least two home runs off the starter.

He was the first Cub ever to homer three times in a game in the 7th inning or later, though Dave Kingman on May 14, 1978 homered in the 6th, 9th and 15th inning of a game.

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

deronluka.png
AP

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

NBA Draft capital is incredibly expensive these days.

It's never been cheap, but the cost up moving up continues to cost teams a pretty penny without a surefire promise of return on their investment. This proves to be incredibly risky when considering trading in the top 5.

One year ago the Dallas Mavericks, who were picking fifth, wanted Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. Knowing the Atlanta Hawks were eyeing a point guard, they put together a package that included the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected first round pick the following season in order to move up two spots. It was a steep price, as the Mavericks wound up with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft that will convey to Atlanta.

Consider two seasons ago, when the Philadelphia 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and the Kings' 2019 first-round pick to move up to No. 1. That Sacramento pick wound up being the No. 14 selection thanks to the Kings' surprise season out West, but at the time it was an incredibly valuable asset that many thought would yield a top-10 pick. The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz while the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum. Two years later, Tatum looks like a budding star while the Sixers traded Fultz and his bag of issues to the Magic in February.

In 2009, the Timberwolves traded two key rotation pieces to the Wizards for the No. 5 pick. In hindsight, trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller for a top-5 selection doesn't seem like a lot. But consider that Foye was a 25-year-old coming off a 16.3-point season, while Miller was a 28-year-old with a career mark of 40.1% from beyond the arc and averages of 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists to his name. The price to move up to No. 5 and draft Ricky Rubio - which they did a day later - was steep.

In 2005, the Utah Jazz held the sixth pick in the draft but desperately wanted to move up to get Illinois point guard Deron Williams. On draft night, they sent the No. 6 pick, the No. 27 pick and a future first round pick (Detroit's in 2006, which wound up being No. 30) to move up three spots to No. 3. They were able to grab Williams, and the rest is history.

So if we take out the 2009 trade that didn't include any picks, here's the history of trades involving top 5 picks:

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 5 overall, No. 10 overall the following season

Get: No. 1 overall
Give: No. 3 overall, No. 14 overall the following season

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 6 overall, No. 27 overall, No. 30 the following season

It's not cheap. And as we can see, the cost to move up is getting pricier. The 2019 NBA Draft won't be any different. We know that picks Nos. 1 and 2 are off the table. The New Orleans Pelicans will select Duke's Zion Williamson and the Memphis Grizzlies will follow a few minutes later by taking Murray State point guard Ja Morant. It's also pretty safe to say that the New York Knicks will draft Duke's R.J. Barrett with the third pick.

It gets pretty fuzzy after that. Picks 4-14 are all pretty much in the same tier, to the point that including assets to move up in a class that will be a major dice roll would be tough to justify. Then again, maybe the price to move up to No. 4 or 5 isn't as substantial because there isn't a sure fire player the other team would be giving up by moving back in the first round. In 2005, it was obvious the Jazz were going hard after Williams or Wake Forest's Chris Paul. The Sixers wanted to move up to No. 1 to get Markelle Fultz, who as funny as it seems now, was the consensus top pick. And the Mavericks were clearly eyeing Luka Doncic after the Kings passed on him for Duke's Marvin Bagley.

This time around? It's tough to say. The Bulls need a point guard in the worst way and Vanderbilt's Darius Garland will likely be gone before the Bulls pick at No. 7. It'd behoove the Bulls to jump in front of Phoenix at No. 6; the Suns have similar needs to the Bulls and are in similar situations as far as their respective rebuild goes. But the Bulls aren't once piece away from contending, and none of the players they would go target at No. 4 or 5 would really move the needle next season. That's critical, because they'd almost certainly be including next year's first-round pick in any deal (let's be real and say Kris Dunn's trade value is essentially zilch). If the Bulls were to attach even a heavily protected first round pick, they'd need to be certain they were going to have on-court improvement in the coming years. This is still a team that won 22 games a season ago.

It's too early in the pre-draft process to consider which teams may move back, and who teams trying to move up would want to target. That will happen in the coming weeks. For now, just realize that moving up in the draft costs a whole lot, and you'd better hit on the pick if you're going to give up assets during a rebuild.