TBL Special: September Baseball Viewing Guide For Cubs Fans

Posted: September 8, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Sports, Through Both Lenses
Tags: , , , , , ,

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

I know. The Cubs fucking suck. I get it. For those brave souls who would venture into Cubs September baseball, I offer you a congratulations of sorts. That kind of dedication is commendable in some respects. Some circles would call it lunacy, stupidity, and just plain pathetic. Me? I call it being a Cubs fan.

I digress.

You want to know what to watch for in September. Who are the kids that you should be paying attention to. What should you, the Cubs fan, try to find in the mire. Well, I can help you out with that. First things first though.

PUNCHING PEOPLE IN THE FACE ISN’T GOOD BASEBALL.

I can’t stress this enough. If I were on the Cubs it would take a lot of willpower for me to not go around and punch people in the face because of the frustration level would be building to a critical level. Seriously, I would probably go around trying to start fights out of sheer boredom and stupidity.

But I’m not a player, I’m just a fan.

Fan logic is the worst kind of logic. It’s blind and completely based on personal experiences rather than the realities of the game they are watching. For example, whenever a player is negotiating for more money the fan logic says: “I would play for free! These jokers are greedy and should just take whatever’s given to them.” The cousin to this logic is the ‘ole “draw parallels from their job to yours” technique, ala “I show up to work everyday and I play hurt.”

This is incredibly stupid. Nobody pays 40 dollars a ticket to see you work, let alone 30,000 people. Nobody tunes in to watch you work, let alone a million viewers. You have almost zero advertising value compared to a professional athlete, thus their rules are extremely different. Also, their job is incredibly difficult and requires a certain level of health to perform. Trust me, it ain’t easy being a pro athlete. It takes a shit ton of work.

Similar fan logic dictates that players should start fights when they are bad to light a fire under the team and that will magically lead to winning. I call this the “Da Fire and Passion” logic.

Baseball is a sport of relaxing and concentrating. As the original Baseball Annie once said, “Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate.” This applies to all of baseball. You have to find a good zone to be in. Trying harder rarely leads to better results, as odd as that sounds. Trying harder leads to becoming too tight, holding the bat too tightly and reducing the flexibility in your wrists which will lead to an almost zero percent chance of making contact. It means you’re pressing and that’s the wrong thing to do in this game.

So, punching someone in the face? Wrong thing to do in baseball. It’s cheap. What the Cubs did was bush league. It’s going to lead to some really bad blood for a few years. Harper said it best: “I think I’d be pretty [ticked] off if I was getting my teeth kicked in all [week], too, but you can’t lay down.”

Let’s get to the important hitters:

Starlin Castro

Did you notice that Starlin Castro’s approach got better? No? Ok. Well it did, in a tiny sample. Starlin Castro got to 500 hits, which is great. Castro’s defense has been improving, which is better. The approach has also changed and it looks like he has a plan at the plate, which again occurred in a small sample size. The approach would be amazing if he can hold on to the gains. Castro’s BA took a dip. This is fine. The power is showing up more often and his OBP has actually maintained itself from the early months.

Consider this:

From the first half to the second Castro lost almost 30 pts. of BA, but gained 3 pts. of OBP. Look at August, his BA was .252, but his OBP was 10 pts. higher than his May OBP when he was hitting .304. Castro isn’t a finished product, but he’s slowly putting the pieces together in his age-22 year. This could be big.

What to watch for in September:

It wouldn’t shock me if Castro absolutely broke out in the month and tore it up. He looks relaxed at the plate right now, and it doesn’t look like he’s thinking about the approach, it looks like he’s just doing it. Look for his walk rate, his power, and his average. If those all take a positive up-turn in this month it’s not crazy to think that he can build on it and carry the gains into 2013. I’m not predicting a McCutchen break out year in his age 23 season, but I don’t think it’s crazy to see him turn in a .290/.340/.440 season next year.

Anthony Rizzo

The kid can play, and that’s a big relief. Rizzo had an awful year last year before adjusting at the plate and changing his stance. The swing is compact and it generates real power from the left side. The funny thing with Rizzo is that there isn’t a really good comp for him, so I won’t force it (#Goldstein). Rather, I hope he turns into Paul Konerko, a good sometimes great hitter with a terrific approach. He is having his struggles of late, but that’s to be expected. He wasn’t the guy who put up .330/.375/.567 in July, but he isn’t the .252./.300/.342 August guy either. Oddly enough, he might just be exactly what his .298/.349/.480 2012 slash line suggests: an above average 1B.

What to watch for in September:

Power. The old axioms suggest that power truly shows itself by a player’s age 25 year. Rizzo flashes it every so often as he is capable of hitting absolute screamers out of the park. It might not be in his swing to hit light tower shots, but a hint of the 30+ HR power potential would be nice to see in this month. Rizzo is a good hitter with power, rather than a classic power hitting 1B. I personally think he can be a legit power threat, meaning hit 30+ HR’s consistently.

Brett Jackson

Brett Jackson is hitting .191 and would strike out 220+ times in 500 PA’s and it is glorious. Jackson is an athletic prospect with a vastly under-developed hit tool. The approach, believe or not, is actually pretty good for a rookie. He will take the walk and he knows what he wants to hit. But wanting and doing are two completely different things. He has obvious speed, but his base running IQ isn’t there yet. He’s like the inverse of Scott Rolen in that regard, all speed no smarts.

What to watch for in September:

Assuming health…

I’m on the record quite a bit for hoping Jackson can be Tigers-Era Granderson, or Mike Cameron. Maybe he’s just Dexter Fowler (if you followed all of that, I love you).

Look for his hit tool to either improve or collapse. In an extremely small sample it’s trending downwards, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Pay close attention to the BB-K ratio and that Batting Average. It was the right move to bring him up and see what he is. Handling Major League pitching is a bitch, that learning curve doesn’t get much steeper. If he can be a guy who hits .250 with speed/walks/power, that’s a win. I don’t know if he can though.

Josh Vitters

Josh Vitters has a sweet swing, the type of swing scouts fall in love with. He’s also 1-for-27 against lefties and doesn’t fare much better against righties. Vitters is a project, and he always takes a step back before taking a step forward when he goes up a level. Age used to be strongly on his side but that time has run out. Vitters isn’t making good contact and he’s striking out at an alarming rate. He’s overwhelmed right now and just looks lost.

What to watch for in September:

He needs to hit the shit out of the ball to warrant any regular playing time. The Cubs could be looking at bringing Ian Stewart back again if they don’t think Vitters is ready. He doesn’t look anywhere close to ready either. I’m in the Chase Headley in 2014 camp, so anything Vitters does in the short-term is a bonus. He’s a bit statuesque at the hot corner, but he is sure handed. I don’t know about this guy.

…and the one pitcher worth watching,

Jeff Samardzija

Raise your hand if you thought Jeff Samardzija would turn into a reliable starter when he came out of Notre Dame.

Liar.

Shark is having a breakout year. No really, how many times can a reliever whose career was in serious question 2 years ago give you 165 innings of solid, sometimes good/great, baseball? Not too many. His periphs are solid, the velo is solid, and his control didn’t completely collapse.

His control hit a critical moment in June and he posted the ugly 10.41 ERA and saw his WHIP balloon to 2.06. When his command is there, Shark is a very effective pitcher. I do think the bouts of inconsistency are something Cubs fans are just going to have to live with, but he’s moved up from “Maybe a 5 starter” to “A 3 starter that sometimes pitches like a 2.”

What to watch for in September:

He’s not an ace, so don’t act like he is one. Even if he emerges as the Cubs best pitcher that still doesn’t make him an Ace (intentional capital A). You’re going to have to watch the command. I think he retains the solid control and maybe even lowers his BB/9. If he isn’t given the Strasburg treatment look at his armslot late into September. When it dips, his command goes away, when it’s consistent he can put up some good numbers. The fastball combos he employs are the key, coupled with his cute slider. The strikeouts are there, he needs to keep on limiting the walks.

 

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