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The Cubs are just making this all weird
Did you miss the convention? No. And you won't miss whatever the UNconvention is.
Hopefully you’re not too bleary-eyed and hungover this morning from all of the excitement of day one of what the Cubs are calling their “UNconventional.”
It appears to be a thrown together, half-assed repurposing of content they had laying around and giveaways of stuff they found in a closet they just opened to see if any of the pipes that run through it had frozen.
It started yesterday with a Clark The Cub heavy set of “programming” on Instagram and TikTok. You all remember Clark, right? He has a fan club you can sign your kids up for with a name that can easily be pronounced “Clark Screw” and he’s known to drive around the neighborhood in something creepily named “Clark’s Cruiser.” (It might also be pronounced “Clark Screws Her,” I really don’t want to know.)
Nothing says family friendly like a pantsless bear trying to get your kid and their friends into his windowless van.
Nobody’s quite sure why the ‘n’ is capitalized in UNconventional, but it apparently goes on all week.
It’s pretty telling that the Cubs are touting a week of team focused content and programming on their team operated social media channels and team owned TV network as something unique, instead of, you know, what it’s there for in the first place.
It’s kind of like how they finally filled out their roster with some fringy, cost-effective veterans and wanted us to applaud them for suddenly finding the money to acquire such superstars as Cameron Maybin and Brandon Workman.
It’s already been a long year, and spring training’s like four days old. Pace yourselves.
Maybin was a pretty useful player when he came over late in the season from Detroit. He can play all three outfield spots, and he got on base against lefties last year at a .364 clip. OK, it was only 22 plate appearances, so…I have no idea.
For his career, the right handed hitting Maybin has actually been better against righties (.715 OPS) than lefties (.667). Neither of those numbers is really very good.
The Cubs had already signed Phil Ervin and Jake Marisnick before Maybin. Marisnick is more of a legit centerfielder defensively at this point in his career than Maybin, but he’s never really hit all that well, (.638 OPS v. righties/.711 v lefties). Phlervin at least has hit lefties in his career (.811) but he was DFA’d to make room on the 40 man roster for Marisnick. It’s the third time in less than a year that Phlervin’s been DFA’d so there’s probably a chance he passes through waivers and spends the spring with the Cubs. Dare to dream.
One of these three guys is going to make the club, and quite possibly two. Does it make any sense for a big league team to carry both Marisnick and Maybin and their comparable skill sets? Not really. Does it mean the Cubs will?
Given the struggles all three of the Cubs starting outfielders (Joc Pederson, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward) have hitting lefthanded pitching, the Cubs probably should carry two other outfielders who can hit it. They just need to find some.
The Cubs have basically told Joc they’re going to let him try to prove he’s an everyday player, and that’s great—even though it’s probably not going to work. But Heyward? No. The Cubs have five seasons of him proving he can’t hit lefthanded pitching to fall back on. Any time they let him face a lefty it’s a wasted at bat.
Well, almost any time.
Wait, didn’t we just watch that homer against Hader last week? Well, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it will ever get old.
Anyway, this is when you think to yourself, “Yeah, but Heyward had a good offensive season last year. I’ll bet he hit lefties adequately.”
Well, Heyward did hit .265/.392/.456 last year for an OPS+ of 129 which is easily the best he’s hit for the Cubs.
But, he didn’t do that because he hit lefties worth a shit.
Heyward was .297/.432/.505/.937 against righties.
And, .167/.262/.306/.568 v southpaws. Ugh.
So, no. Just, no.
Then again he also slugged .609 on the road and a paltry .321 at Wrigley. So play him against righties on the road and he’s unstoppable!
The Cubs rounded out their bullpen by taking a flier on Brandon Workman, who had been a useful part of the Red Sox bullpen in 2017 and 2018 and then was suddenly a full-blown stud in 2019. He pitched in 73 games that year and had 10 wins and 16 saves with a 1.88 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 72.1 innings. It’s the only the second season he’s had in the big leagues with more strikeouts than innings pitched, the other was his rookie year in 2013 when he had 44 strikeouts in 41 innings. So it was a big jump.
And shockingly, he wasn’t able to reproduce it in 2020.
After just seven appearances the Red Sox traded him to the Phillies where he posted a whopping 6.92 ERA in 14 games. Overall in 2020 he allowed 31 hits in just 19.2 innings, with nine walks and only 15 strikeouts.
The Cubs believe the struggles were due to Workman throwing far fewer curveballs than he did in 2019.
Do we really think this happened?
JT Realmuto: “Hey Brandon, what’s your best pitch?”
Workman: “Oh, it’s definitely my curveball, I didn’t give up much of anything on that pitch last year.”
Realmuto: “Why aren’t you throwing it this year?”
Workman: “I guess I just keep forgetting to.”
Realmuto: “Well, I’m not going to remind you.”
Seems plausible to me.
Jake Arrieta seems pretty happy to be back with the Cubs. He says he’s finally healthy again after dealing with a torn meniscus in 2018 and having bone spurs scraped off of his elbow in 2019. He didn’t mention what injury he was struggling with in 2020, but the stats show that the repaired meniscus and bone spur removal didn’t put any MPH back on his pitches.
Then again, if the Phillies weren’t bright enough to remind Workman to throw his curveball, who knows what kind of crap they forgot to tell Jake. Maybe signing Phillies pitchers and reminding them to do things is the new market inefficiency.
The Cubs also have phormer Phillie Adam Morgan in camp. Don’t remember who Adam Morgan is?
Well, go back and watch the first Heyward video again.
Yeah, that’s him. Maybe the Phillies phorgot to remind Morgan that Heyward couldn’t hit lefties? Man, no wonder they’ve only won two World Series in 138 years.
Anyway, Jake has taken Adbert Alzolay under his wing, which is pretty cool. Hopefully he’ll pass on some of his general badassedry to Adbert and not the part where it took him five seasons to figure out how to pitch effectively in the big leagues.
If Adbert starts warming up before games like this, we’ll know Jake’s getting through to him.
Check out Miggy and Mike Borzello. Miggy is clearly going, “I have no idea what the fuck that is.”
The Pointless Index returns tomorrow with takes on the fill-in announcers Marquee announced last week, Ian Happ winning his arbitration case, Tony LaRussa not just being a grumpy old dick already but a tardy one, too. And more.
And, our second Movie Deep Dive Podcast posted last week and it’s on Moneyball. I highly recommend it. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, go rectify that immediately, and if you have, well, you could just listen to it again.
Oh, and at the end of the podcast we reveal what movie we’re going to do next.
You’ll just have to listen to the end.
But here’s a hint:
It’s gonna be great.