baseball

Taillon and Homers, Taylor Trade, Wick as an Option, Ross’s Optimism, and Other Cubs Bullets

After literal months, I did it. I could not be more proud of myself. Many said it couldn’t be done. My friends judged me. My family built me. But I made it happen.

My browser tabs are finally down to one.

Now it’s time to build back up to 40 so the cycle can begin anew…

  • This is such a simple thing, but it’s a fascinating look at how various free agent pitchers could see some of their results change dramatically by virtue of their new home ballpark:
  • Oof for Carlos Rodon, potentially. And if you see a massive breakout for Michael Lorenzen this year with the Tigers, you can vaguely remember that there was something about moving from Anaheim to Detroit and his home run rate. (Of course, the Tigers are finally changing the shape of their anti-Coors ballpark, so maybe this won’t apply.)
  • As for our interest, it’s fun to think about Jameson Taillon looking better by the results with the Cubs simply by getting out of Yankee Stadium, though I would point out that Wrigley Field’s home run park factors swing pretty wildly from year to year because of the weather. It’s a bit of an outlier in that regard.
  • THAT SAID, if Taillon saw a 16% reduction in homers allowed at his home ballpark in 2023, he would give up 2 to 3 fewer homers, which my very-back-of-the-napkin math says would be about a 25 point drop in ERA over 177.1 innings (what he threw in 2022).
  • A rare intravisional trade:
  • Taylor, 31, is a superlative defender in center field (with a solidly below-average bat), and was pretty clearly a luxury on a rebuilding Royals team. As Luis quipped in a text to me yesterday: “Hey, someone’s gotta play the 81 games Byron Buxton will miss.” As for the return, it’s a couple upper-level relief prospects with big league potential, but who were – as a reference point – unprotected and undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft. So this is a pretty modest deal that is unlikely to impact either club significantly in the long-term, which is why you’re seeing division rivals get together on it.
  • Rowan Wick, 30, was once seen as a pretty clear back-end relief option for the Cubs in the years to come, but injuries really limited him in 2020 and 2021, and his results seemed to degrade along with the health. In 2022, he was healthy, but posted a 4.22 ERA and 4.19 FIP, each of which were slightly below the league average. Not something you can accept from a back-of-the-bullpen arm.
  • Not that you’re closing the door on a guy who clearly has very good individual pitches:
  • Wick has played around with a cutter and/or a slider as a third pitch, especially the cutter and especially against lefties. Last year, it got OBLITERATED. So on a day when he didn’t have the fastball or the curveball, he was pretty much going to get wrecked. As Brendan points out, late in the year, he had a lot more success because he did have the fastball and curveball working more often (and the slider started to produce as it became more of a sweeper), while mostly ditching the cutter.
  • Although Wick has a minor league option year remaining, so he doesn’t have to make the Opening Day bullpen, I suspect he will if he’s healthy. I can still see a successful reliever there – never bet against a guy who has a mid-90s four-seam fastball with great late life – but he’ll have to get the knuckle curve back to being a wipeout pitch, and he will probably also have to have that slider/sweeper in his back pocket as a reliable third pitch. As for the cutter, well, for as much as it has some nice pitch characteristics, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Sometimes the batters tell you that.
  • Cubs manager David Ross on the optimism he feels for the season ahead, but where he also tries to keep himself in check (Sun-Times):

”I have optimism in everything that I do and have gone in with the highest of expectations every single year that I’ve had this job,” he said. ”But are those expectations more realistic now? Probably so.

”We still have to have a lot of things going right. I don’t get as excited, maybe, as the fans might with the names we’ve brought in because I know how much work we still have to do, the holes we still need to fill. I’ve learned so much every year as a manager — and I’m definitely getting better — but I’m constantly looking at, ‘Where are we going to get better?’ ”

  • It is definitely more realistic to have higher(er) expectations this year than last year, though I am glad Ross is being honest about how much has to go right for the Cubs to compete. Be honest about that in January, set yourself and everyone else up to understand the work that has to take place over the next several months to even give the team a chance to meet those expectations.
  • Take care of young/high school pitchers – it’s not just about their arm health, it’s also about their mental health:
  • Seems like not the answer you’d want to hear:
  • One of these things is not like the other:
  • I wouldn’t even regard myself as a Chip hater, but I don’t necessarily find him to be among the better play-by-play broadcasters out there. Also, he hasn’t been with the Cubs in almost two decades, so there are just so many ways that him joining the Cardinals is not even remotely a big deal.

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