Cubs

What CF will look like in aftermath of Byrd trade

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What CF will look like in aftermath of Byrd trade

With Marlon Byrd shipped to Boston, the Cubs now have a bit of a void left in center field.

Most fans are clamoring for the organization to bring up top prospect Brett Jackson and let him start everyday. Just judging by the Cubs' 4-11 record, that would seem to make sense.

But it doesn't for a lot of other reasons, including financially and Jackson's development, as David Kaplan points out.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer won't rush Jackson up, so don't count on him patrolling center field at Wrigley Field until sometime this summer. The Byrd trade does ensure there will be room for Jackson in June and July, if they choose to go that route, however. With Byrd on the roster, there wasn't an opportunity for Jackson to play everyday in the majors.

While the Cubs wait for Jackson to be ready, they will go with a platoon of Tony Campana, Reed Johnson and Joe Mather in center field. All three are capable defenders out there, and Campana's speed should make the Cubs even better defensively in the outfield. Byrd was playing some great defense so far, but Campana can cover more ground.

Offensively, the Cubs will seemingly be better, given Byrd's 3-for-43 start at the plate. The crazy thing is he had an RBI single in the first game of the season, and then had just two hits the rest of the way in a Cubs uniform.

Campana won't slug the ball or draw many walks, but his speed is a huge asset both in the batter's box and on the basepaths, as his two infield singles Sunday showed.

Mather is very fundamentally sound and while he's not particularly great in any one area, he is decent across the board. He can hit for some power, show some speed in the outfield and on the bases and can work the count with some good at-bats.

Johnson's role probably won't change a whole lot. He will still likely be the fourth outfielder and spend a lot of time as a defensive replacement in left field for Alfonso Soriano late in games. He will still probably start in place of David DeJesus in right against lefties more often than not. With Byrd gone, Johnson just has more opportunity to get some at-bats.

All three guys can play all three positions in the outfield, something that will be very valuable to manager Dale Sveum.

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had already hit a combined five home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Tony Sylvester, Eric Lewis and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red). Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state playoff field and beat Back of the Yards. In the second round, they lost to Evergreen Park.

2019 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 30 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 6 vs Lisle

Sept. 13 @ Ridgewood

Sept. 20 vs St. Edward

Sept. 27 vs Westmont

Oct. 4 @ Christ the King

Oct. 11 vs Guerin Prep

Oct. 18 @ Chicago Christian

Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara

Biggest storyline: Last year, the Tigers had their best season on the gridiron since 1985’s 12-1 state semifinal team. What will this team do for an encore? Can they go deeper into the state playoffs?

Names to watch this season: Senior quarterback Mike Stranski and wide receiver Keon Grimes

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to find some new faces to bolster the defensive line and at the linebacker positions.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a banner year in 2018, as Elmwood Park advanced to the their playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in school history. Coach Dylan Mack’s program has some momentum will have a very good chance to make it three state playoff appearances in a row later this fall.