Bulls

Volstad losing grip on spot in Cubs rotation

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Volstad losing grip on spot in Cubs rotation

Chris Volstad hasnt realized the potential the Cubs saw when they made him part of the Carlos Zambrano trade with the Miami Marlins last winter.

Volstad needed 58 pitches to get through two innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. With an 0-6 record and a 7.46 ERA, he appears to be losing his grip on his spot in the rotation.

After an 8-7 loss, manager Dale Sveum was planning to meet with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to discuss their fifth starter.

Well get together as a staff and talk to Theo and Jed and evaluate the situation, thats for sure, Sveum said. Well see what our options are and go from there.

The Cubs paid more than 15 million to get rid of Zambrano, whos now 1-2 with a 1.87 ERA through seven starts, numbers that are hard to imagine him putting up on the North Side without old friend Ozzie Guillen and the benefit of a fresh start.

Volstad loaded the bases in the first and second innings and gave up four runs on six hits and three walks. Sveums review: Theres just no life, no command.

Volstads winless in his last 19 starts dating back to July 17, 2011. He was asked if hes anticipating a change.

Im working (and) trying to show them I deserve to be in the rotation, he said, but I dont know what kind of answer youre looking for there.

The change of scenery that seemed to help Volstad during spring training hasnt carried over to the regular season.

I was a little more relaxed in spring, he said. I think Im trying too hard, trying to do different things, just a lot of forcing instead of just letting my ability take over. I know its in there. Its just a matter of tapping into it and finding it.

Volstad is only 25 years old and a former first-round pick, upside that pretty much got him the job once he landed in Arizona. But Sveum was still running through potential replacements during his postgame news conference in the interview room.

Casey Coleman? Sveum said: Yeah, definitely, he could be one of the options, theres no question.

Travis Wood? A key piece to the Sean Marshall trade with the Cincinnati Reds is at Triple-A Iowa and performed well in a spot start earlier this season.

Its a logical choice, no doubt about it, Sveum said. Now, we got to make a decision quick. Im not sure exactly when his next outing is. Thatll come into play, too.

A reporter mentioned that Wood also pitched on Thursday night.

Well, then, were in good shape, Sveum said.

How Bulls’ Kris Dunn carved out NBA niche in resurgent 2019-20 season

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USA Today

How Bulls’ Kris Dunn carved out NBA niche in resurgent 2019-20 season

NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Kris Dunn.

Past: Zach LaVine | Coby White | Tomas Satoransky

2019-20 Stats

7.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.0 SPG | 44.4% FG, 25.9% 3P, 74.1% FT | 14.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 26

July 2016: Dunn signed a 4-year, $17,488,287 rookie-scale contract with Minnesota Timberwolves

2020-21: RFA (QO: $7,091,457)

(via Spotrac)

Strengths

Seeing the ball, attacking the ball and stealing the ball. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-9 wingspan, Dunn doesn’t discriminate when it comes to ripping opponents — he owns the length and physicality to swallow up guards and hang with wings of all shapes and sizes. In 2019-20, amplified by defensive schemes that demanded aggressive blitzing in pick-and-roll scenarios, Dunn currently sits tied for second in the NBA in steals per game, seventh in steal rate (34.1%) and fourth in deflections per game (3.7)… All in spite of logging only 24.9 minutes per contest across 50 games.

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And even in an underwhelming team-wide season, Dunn’s contributions were impactful. The Bulls were 6.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively in 2019-20 with Dunn on the floor than off, and played their best basketball after he was inserted into the small forward slot of the starting lineup on Nov. 29 with injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, going 7-7 in December and bumping their defensive rating to as high as second in the NBA. He was an anchor for a squad that turned opponents over — and scored off said turnovers — at a higher rate than any team in the league by a wide margin.

Most importantly for Dunn, he found his niche, despite coming off an offseason littered with trade rumors. He’s a ball hawk and a bonafide perimeter stopper at a level few in the NBA can boast. A legitimate All-Defense candidate. Just ask Trae Young, Paul George or anyone else that had the misfortune of happening across his path this season.

Areas to Improve

Dunn is a serviceable playmaker in spurts, and actually improved his finishing drastically this season on cut-back volume. But for him to ascend from defensive specialist to truly valuable role player on a winning team, he’s got to find a jump shot.

It’s not just that in 2019-20, he regressed from a 32.3% career mark from 3-point range to 25.9% (24.1% on NBA.com-defined “wide open” long-balls). It’s that other teams stopped treating him as an even marginal threat from outside, opting instead to sag off, hone in on other creators (read: Zach LaVine), and muck up driving and passing lanes. It’s a testament to just how great Dunn’s defense is that he’s still an impactful NBA player at his position despite that deficiency. But no matter how stingy a defender Dunn is, it’s hard to survive in the modern NBA with more than one non-shooter on the floor.

Ceiling Projection

Exiting his rookie contract, Dunn is 26 and coming off a sprained MCL sustained Jan. 31. He'll be a restricted free agent when the offseason begins, but due to his mixed bag of attributes and the Bulls' uncertain position, the market for his services is unclear

As for his individual ceiling: Any point guard of the future premonitions have passed in Chicago. And that’s OK. If he can pull off a Marcus Smart-ian turn as a long-range shooter to at or close to league average, it doesn’t feel outlandish that Dunn could compete for All-Defense consideration as a reserve on a good-to-great team through his prime.

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Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Ozzie Guillen had a famous saying about A.J. Pierzynski that you’ve probably heard before.

"If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

It would be hard for any player to match Pierzynski’s reputation, who was (and continues to be) beloved in Chicago but was booed and despised in almost every other MLB city.

And yet, here comes Tim Anderson.

“When you play against him, you kind of want to fight him all the time,” White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday.

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Keuchel has experience playing against Anderson and now he is teammates with him, seeing a different side of the White Sox shortshop that won the American League batting title last year.

“He’s definitely misunderstood,” Keuchel said.

Comparing Anderson to Pierzynski isn’t exactly apples to apples. Pierzynski’s reputation was a little more convoluted, while Anderson just likes to have fun with general disregard for baseball’s outdated “unwritten” rules. His bat flips catch the attention of much needed younger sports fans, yet also seem to trigger just as many old-school players around the league. Just ask Royals pitcher Brad Keller.

RELATED: Why Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Keuchel now has the perspective of being on the same team as Anderson and he means well when he says the opposition wants to fight his new teammate.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you see the passion he plays with, you see how much he loves the game,” Keuchel said. “It definitely gets under your skin, which can help him.”

The former Astros and Braves pitcher even had examples.

“I remember a few times where we'd be going over the scouting report and (the report said) you can go in this area if you're ahead of the count, or if you're behind in the count, you can go in this area,” Keuchel said. “And then all the sudden I'm going in those areas and he's pulling a groundball double down the line and I'm just dumbfounded. But now I see where he's at. His mindset, the way he's trying to be more knowledgeable about the game about his at-bats.”

The White Sox hope Anderson picks up where he left off last season, and he’s showing early signs of that, even delivering a signature bat flip – er, throw – in an intrasquad game. But at this point, Anderson has earned the right to flip, even if opposing pitchers hate it.

“That's where you get the true professional,” Keuchel said. “You put the talent with the mindset and the knowledge to get better and you're sitting pretty, you're sitting with a batting title, you're sitting with respect around the league. I think he's going to be a force to reckon with and someone who some of the younger guys can even learn from.”

 

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