Merry Krismas

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant is getting the call up. If you follow NL Central Hub, then you follow baseball. And if you follow baseball, you already know about Kris Bryant.

For those who don’t, a little background. Depending on the source, he’s either the #1 or #2 prospect in baseball.

When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the reins of the Chicago Cubs a few years back, they immediately started to do the right thing. The overdue thing. Rebuild.

Rather than throwing money at free agents year after year, hoping to catch a few breaks and manage to be a .500 club, they finally stripped everything down to its core, tanked, and rebuilt the team via the draft.

God bless Jim Hendry, who seemed like a nice guy and all, but looking at some of the contracts he was giving out was just painful to witness. But then I want to see every GM be a little more sabermetrically-inclined and have an actual plan in place. Watching the way the Cubs management run their team was like watching those cartoons where somebody tried to stop a leaking damn by plugging their fingers into holes. Their actions were aimless and doomed to end in failure.

Bryant was selected #2 overall in the 2013 draft and he’s pretty much torn it up at every level he’s played at along the way.

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In 2013, he hit .336/.390/.688 for a 1.078 OPS with 9 HR in 36 games across rookie ball, low A, and high A. In the fall league, he had a 1.184 OPS in 20 games with 6 HR.

In 2014, between AA and AAA, he hit .325/.438/.661 with a 1.098 OPS and 43 HR (tops in the minors) in 138 games.

Yes, things can happen. He could get injured and his game forever altered, although hitters are far less prone to career-derailing injuries than pitchers are.

But the kid can flat out rake and he should be injecting a whole lot of excitement into the division.

I won’t bother getting into why he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster. We’ve talked enough about the trade off of 12 days of Bryant versus one extra year in his prime. That’s not even an argument worth having. Anybody worth their salt will tell you the Cubs did the right thing in delaying his promotion.

When Cubs fan see Addison Russell get the call up to play short and Starlin Castro is moved to second, things will get even more interesting on the North Side of Chicago.

I know folks tend to be down on Castro, and he’s not a Gold Glover at short, but I think his numbers would play excellently at second base. Also, with Arismendy Alcantara‘s struggles at the plate and Javier Baez trying to figure things out at AAA, having an infield of Anthony Rizzo, Castro, Russell and Bryant could be pretty appetizing for Cubs’ fans.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals took the rubber game of their series against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday afternoon, besting them 4-0. 36-year old veteran starting pitcher John Lackey (W 1-0) went 7 innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 8 for his first win. Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta had two more hits and are each hitting .364 this season, while Mark Reynolds and Yadier Molina also each had a pair of hits.

It was Carp’s 4th straight game with multiple hits. His slash line is now .364/.432/.586 for a 1.018 OPS to go along with 4 doubles.

Yadi has been another good example of why folks shouldn’t panic about stats early in the season. He went 0-for-10 in his first 3 games and was hitting .143 after his first 6 games. He’s now up to .276 after going 5-for-8 in his last two games. .276 in today’s era is above average. Couple that with what he does behind the dish and Molina is still the front-runner to be the Catcher for the NL Central Hub’s All-Division Team at year’s end.

* * *

Much has been made of the increased tendency towards defensive shifts. Eyebrows were raised when incoming commissioner Rob Manfred said he would consider banning shifts in order to bring the league’s waning offensive numbers back up.

The thing is, I see this in every sport. I’ve seen offensive schemes in football that just couldn’t be beat, like the pistol offense. Well, that lasted about one season before defenses adjusted during the off-season. The pistol isn’t a magic bullet (sorry for the pun) that it was made out to be.

I read something similar about an NHL team a couple of years ago and I’m sorry that I can’t remember who the team was, but the gist was that they had come up with a way to really shut down their opponent’s offensive chances. That unbeatable team was ousted in the first round of the playoffs and I haven’t heard about this again.

The point is, every time something comes up in sports that starts to tilt things one way or the other, people get in a big huff about how rules need to be changed because this will forever change the way things are done.

And it just never seems to be the case. Folks will figure out the shift like they do everything else in sports. Sports are all about making adjustments. Something happens and the opposition reacts.

Miles Wray, at Fangraphs.com, points out one thing that could affect the shift. And I’ve seen this come up in at least one other game during the first week of the 2015 season, where 3rd base was left wide open due to the shift.

This is something that base runners are going to need to be aware of when the guy at bat has a shift being placed against them. If a base runner is on first and there’s an extreme shift to the right side, you can really mess with that shift by breaking for 2nd base. Batter drops a base hit into the outfield or to the opposite side of the infield? Again, you should be looking for the chance to sprint for an unoccupied 3rd base.

Granted, these opportunities are more likely to be exploited if the man on base is fast enough to sneak in there, but it’s still the sort of thing that could really “break the shift”.

Read the whole article here.

* * *

Tony Blengino took a look at Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Adams‘ batted ball profile, concluding:

Adams is going to need make some strides with his BB rate, and he had better learn to selectively pull the ball in the air for power

Check out the full article here.

* * *

Things keep getting worse for the Brew Crew, as star center fielder Carlos Gomez has been put on the DL with a slight “tear” in his hamstring.

You can read more about it at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This was going to be a long, painful season for Milwaukee even if they stayed healthy. An injury to Gomez just makes it that much worse to endure.

It will be interesting to see when teams like the Brewers and Reds throw in the towel this season, see who is dealt, and see if they show signs of building towards the future.

There’s a lot of stiff competition in this division and those two franchises need to figure out how they’re going to join the fray.

* * *

Schedule

6-4 San Diego Shields (1-0, 2.08)
5-3 CHICAGO Hammel (1-0, 4.50)
1:20 PM CT
2-7 MILWAUKEE Nelson (1-0, 0.00)
3-6 PITTSBURGH Locke (1-0, 3.00)
6:05 PM CT
5-4 CINCINNATI Cueto (0-1, 0.64)
5-3 ST. LOUIS Wacha (1-0, 1.42)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Chicago Cubs 5 3 W1
St. Louis Cardinals 5 3 W2
Cincinnati Reds 5 4 0.5 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 3 6 2.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 2 7 3.5 L2
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