Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Mariners

Was the last time the Mariners reached the postseason. It’s the longest active playoff drought in MLB; and would also qualify in the NFL, NBA, and NHL. Surprisingly, the M’s 253 wins are the fifth most in the American League during the past three seasons.

The year Seattle opened Safeco Field. The Safeco name is no longer after the insurance company decided not to renew its agreement with the club. The park’s now called T-Mobile Park — at least for the next 25 seasons.

Is when GM Jerry Dipoto began chopping older, expensive players from his 25-man roster. He made nine trades that moved players the likes of Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, Alex Colome, and Mike Zunino.

Is when Dipoto signed 27-year-old Yusei Kikuchi — one of Japan’s top pitchers. The lefty has 4 quality starts in 7 outings, but has allowed 17 ER in 33.2 IP, including multiple home runs allowed on three occasions.

Mike Leake has pitched 7 consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts and 50 or fewer walks — a feat matched only by Greg Maddux who pitched 13 such seasons consecutively.

Now in his 15th season, Hernandez makes his third career start against the Cubs on Tuesday; the last one coming at Wrigley Field in 2016. Hernandez has pitched to a 3.91 ERA in 5 starts covering 25.1 IP; he’s struck out 21 and walked only 3.

The Mariners lead all of baseball with 59 HR.

9 – Bruce
8 – Vogelbach
7 – Encarnacion
7 – Haniger
6 – Beckham
6 – Santana
5 – Healy
5 – Narvaez

La Crosse, WI native, Scott Servais, played his college ball at Creighton under then head coach (and former Cubs GM) Jim Hendry and eventually would play for the Cubs from 1995-to-98. He began his coaching career as the Cubs Roving Catching Instructor in 2003-04.

This is Servais’s fourth season skippering the Mariners, and he received a multi-year contract extension last July while the team was in the thick of the postseason race. Despite finishing with 89 wins last year, their highest win total in 15 seasons, the M’s ended up third in the AL West.

Seattle (18-13) jumped out to an impressive 13-2 start this year, but are 5-11 since; and scheduling appears to have a lot to do with it. The M’s are 18-5 against clubs with a losing record and 0-8 against teams with a winning one.

The discrepancy in win-loss records is one reason why we should expect Seattle to be sellers at the trade deadline. And there’s plenty of name value that will potentially end up on the trading block: King Felix, Edwin Encarnacion, Dee Gordon, Mike Leake, and others of course…

Jim Brower is in his first season as the M’s bullpen coach … the previous two seasons he was the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator.

Mike Cameron recently joined the staff as a Special Assignment coach. He’ll work with the club’s minor leaguers on defense and base running, two areas in which Cameron shined during his playing days with Seattle (2000-2003).

Ichiro retired following the Mariners opening series in Japan (a perfect sayonara). He currently resides in his home country but is expected to rejoin the Mariners organization as a Special Assistant to the Chairman.

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.29.19

2nd; -2.5
Streak: W W

After dropping the series opener on Friday, the Cubs rebounded to win the next two and the series. Consecutive victories pushed the Cubs back over .500 and they remain unbeaten in their last 6 series.

-Fri: D-Backs win, 8-3
-Sat: Cubs win, 9-1
-Sun: Cubs win, 6-5 *15 innings

FRIDAY: Kyle Hendricks had an off night and the Cubs dropped their second in-a-row. The Professor allowed 7 ER in five innings. Kris Bryant homered, his first since Opening Day, and Javy Báez belted his 9th HR of the season. It was Arizona’s fifth-straight win; the Cubs dropped to .500.

SATURDAY: David Bote had his first-career multi-HR game and drove in a career-high 5 RBI to lead the Cubs to a big win. Bote hit a three-run homer in the third — estimated by Statcast at 469 ft (nice) — and later smashed a two-run homer in the fifth. The benches cleared in the seventh when reliever Matt Koch hit Bote with a pitch during his third at-bat. But the dust settled just as quickly with no punches thrown. Yu Darvish didn’t have his best command, but easily had his best outing this season allowing one 1 R in 6.0 IP.

SUNDAY: Ben Zobrist’s double in the top of the 15th drove in the go-ahead runs and the Cubs survived a 5:36 marathon to earn the series win. The Cubs squandered several prime scoring chances in extras, twice failing to score with the bases loaded. Home runs from Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the 4th; however, Eduardo Escobar touched up Jose Quintana for two home runs, a solo in the 4th and a two-run shot in the 6th, to even things, 3-3. The clubs traded zeros for the next 8 innings until Zobrist reached third on the throw home in the 15th. Bryant followed with a sac fly to give the Cubs a 6-3 cushion, which turned out be the winning run, as the D-Backs scored twice in the bottom of the inning, but ultimately fell short, 6-5.


Schwarber 5-10 2 2B
Rizzo 4-16 HR (5) 2 2B 3 R 3 RBI
Bryant 3-14 2 HR (3) 2B 3 R 5 RBI
Baez 4-14 HR (9) 2B 3 R RBI


Hendricks 5.0 IP 7 ER 10 H 1 BB 3 K
Darvish 6.0 IP 1 ER 2 H 4 BB 8 K
Quintana 5.2 IP 3 R 5 H 0 BB 2 K

The series marked the Cubs first time playing on artificial turf since facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in September of 2017.

D-Backs reliever, Matt Koch (9.15 ERA), who hit Bote with the pitch on Saturday to ignite a benches clearing stare-off, was DFA following the game.

D-Backs catcher, Caleb Joseph, toed the rubber in the 9th during Saturday’s blowout loss. He retired Báez, Heyward and Bote on six pitches.

With Saturday’s victory Joe Maddon became the third fastest manager in franchise history to reach 400 wins; behind Frank Chance (1909) and Cap Anson (1885).

The Cubs went 2-for-15 with RISP on Sunday.

Zobrist entered Sunday’s game hitting .105 in his previous 12 games. He went 2-for-2 in the series finale, including his first extra base hit, the clutch two-run double in the 15th.

Walks continue to haunt this Cubs bullpen. Collectively, they’ve allowed the third most walks in the NL (57) trailing only Atlanta and Milwaukee; the Braves have played one more game than Chicago and the Brewers have played three more.

The ‘pen deserves a tip of the cap for Sunday’s outing: 9.1 IP – 2 R, 7 H, 11 K … but they also combined to walk seven batters.

Since being call-up on Friday, Dillon Maples has walked 5 batters in 1.2 IP.

Tyler Chatwood’s heater has been impressive. He touched the upper 90s again on Sunday and used four-straight fastballs to strike out John Ryan with the bags full to end the bottom of the 13th.

The division leading Cardinals are (8-2) in their last 10 and have the second-best run differential in the NL (+28) behind only the Dodgers (+31) … Cubs (+26).

Milwaukee is (3-7) in their last 10 and have an overall run differential of (-7); Christian Yelich left Sunday’s game in the fifth with lower back discomfort.

The Pirates are two games below.500 and in a (2-8) stretch in their last 10; their overall run differential is (-21); and against teams with a record better than .500 they’re (1-11).

Cincinnati is (6-4) over their last 10 with an overall run differential of (+10); the Reds Expected-Win-Loss-Record based on Runs Scored vs. Runs Allowed is (15-12).

NEXT – Tue. at SEA, 9:15 p.m. CT
Cole Hamels (3-0, 3.16)
King Felix (1-2, 3.91)

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.27.19

*Scheduling note: no Bullpen Session on Sunday the 28th…
A weekend wrap-up on Monday…
Know Thy Enemy–Seattle addition on Tuesday…

Tied 3rd; -2.5
Streak: L L

CHC 3 – ARZ 8
Kyle Hendricks had an off night and the Cubs dropped their second in-a-row. The Professor allowed three-spots in the first and fifth, and departed having allowed 7 ER in five innings. The D-backs had five extra base hits and went 6-for-19 with RISP. Kris Bryant homered, his first since Opening Day, and Javy Báez belted his 9th HR of the season. Arizona has won 5-straight and 10 of 12; the Cubs are back to .500.

Almora: 4-5, R
Báez: 2-4, HR (9), RBI
Brayant: 1-3, HR (3), 2 RBI

Hendricks: 5.0 IP – 7 ER, 10 H – 1 BB, 3 K
Bullpen:     3.0 IP – 1 ER, 1 H – 5 BB, 3 K

After an 0-for-15 skid, Almora has 5 hits in his last 6 at-bats.
Including a four-hit night on Friday, matching a career-high.

Still have doubts with this bullpen. It’s been a good run the past couple weeks.
But there are cracks:

Tyler Chatwood was back to his usual tricks on Friday: 2 walks in  1.0 IP.
That’s 9 walks in 13.0 IP this season.
In a key spot … I wouldn’t trust Chatwood for a second.
Brad Brach: 11 walks in 10.2 IP.

Allen Webster: 11 hits in 6.2 IP.
Steve Cisheck: 10 hits in 9.2 IP.
Randy Rosario: 8 hits in 7.0 IP.
Tim Collins: 5 hits in 3.1 IP.

Following Thursday’s game Rosario was sent to Iowa; Dillon Maples was called up.
Maples replaced Hendricks on Friday. He walked the first two batters then struck out the side, stranding the runners.

NEXT – Sat. at ARZ, 7:10 p.m. CT
Yu Darvish (1-3, 5.96 ERA)
Zack Godley (1-1, 6.67 ERA)

Joe Maddon’s new Wrigleyville restaurant will serve Italian and Polish cuisine.
The doors officially open on Tuesday, May 14.


Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.26.19

Tied 2nd; -2.5
Streak: L

LAD 2 – CHC 1
The Dodgers avoided a sweep and snapped the Cubs three-game winning streak. Alex Verdugo tripled off Jon Lester in the fifth and scored when Javy Báez misplayed a groundball to short. Cody Bellinger’s bases loaded sac fly off Kyle Ryan in the 8th put the Dodgers ahead, 2-0. The Cubs offense sputtered against starter Ross Stripling and LA’s bullpen; 0-for-6 with RISP and 8 men left on base. Albert Almora made things interesting in the bottom of the 9th with a solo home run off closer Kenley Jansen. But it was too little too late as Jansen struck out David Bote to end the game. The Cubs finished the homestand (4-2) and depart on a five-game road trip through Arizona and Seattle; a 10-game homestand follows.

Jon Lester appears to be healthy after making his first start in 17 days.

5.0 IP – 1 R, 4 H – 0 BB, 5 K – 79 pitches

We can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The Cubs scored 12 of their 15 runs in the series with two outs.

The Cubs 58 runs scored with two outs ranks 4th in the majors.

Kyle Schwarber (1-for-2) doubled for the second time this season, and the first time since Opening Day at Texas.

Ben Zobrist has 15 hits on the season — none for extra bases.

Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4) has hit safely in his last six games.

Despite making a costly error on Thursday, his third of the season, Báez has accounted for five defensive runs saved — tied for the league lead among shortstops.

Báez: 5-11

2 HR (8)
3 R, 4 RBI

Rizzo: 3-11
HR (4)
2 R, 3 RBI
BB, 2 K

Heyward: 2-10
HR (5)
R, 3 RBI
2 BB, 2 K

In the past 12 games, the Cubs rotation has a 1.80 ERA.

NEXT – Fri. at ARZ, 8:40 p.m. CT
Kyle Hendricks (1-3, 3.54)
Robbie Ray (0-1, 3.95)


Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.25.19

Tied 2nd; -2.0
Streak: W W W

LAD 6 – CHC 7
The Dodgers took a 3-0 lead with Walker Buehler on cruise control through five innings. The Cubs put the brakes on Buehler in the 6th. Javy Báez launched a majestic three-run homer to left to tie the game; and three batters later, Jason Heyward lined his own three-run shot into the left field basket for a 6-3 lead. Anthony Rizzo tacked on an RBI double in the 7th. Alex Verdugo answered for the Dodgers with a three-run homer off Steve Cisheck in the 8th , pulling LA within a run, 7-6. Pedro Strop worked around a leadoff walk to Max Muncy in the ninth to earn his third save in four tries. The Cubs moved two games above .500 for the first time this season.

*A fine gesture by the Cubs to play a video from 1998 of Vin Scully leading the stretch at Wrigley. We miss you, Vin.

Báez: 1-4, HR (8), 3 RBI
Heyward: 1-4, HR (5), 3 RBI
Rizzo: 1-3, RBI, BB

Hamels:  5.1 IP — 3 R, 3 H — 6 BB, 7 K
Bullpen: 3.2 IP — 3 R, 3 H — 1 BB, 2 K

An uncharacteristic start from Cole Hamels, whose string of 22 consecutive innings without allowing a base on balls came to an abrupt halt. Hamels issued a season-high 6 free passes, his highest total in the last three seasons.

Every starter experiences pitch command issues. Still, it remains his responsibility to figure out a work-around in those situations—which Hamels did on Wednesday, gutting out 112 pitches in 5.1 innings. It won’t go down as his prettiest outing this year, but it was productive, nonetheless.

Cubs have scored 14 runs in two games against LA … 11 were plated with two outs:
4 runs on Tuesday and all 7 on Wednesday.

Heyward –in the best possible way– is unrecognizable at the plate. Not long ago we cringed when he came up in a big spot. Now, not so much.

April – Heyward:
.340 avg./.485 OBP
5 HR, 11 RBI
14 BB, 8 K

His 3R HR Wednesday off left-hander Scott Alexander was his first against a southpaw since his epic walkoff grand slam against the Phillies Adam Morgan last June.

You can’t read about Javy. You can’t read about him. You’ve got to watch him. You’ve got to watch what he’s doing. You’ve got to watch how he’s thinking on the field.” —Heyward


Has only two multi-hit games all season; however, he’s recorded at least one hit in three straight games: a single, 2 doubles and a HR.

Bryant has two multi-hit outings in his last five games — and only one strikeout.

In his past 18 games, only once has he gone two consecutive games without recording a hit.

Whereas there are signs of a breakthrough at the plate with Rizzo and Bryant, Kyle Schwarber is leaving much to be desired.

April – Schwarber:
16 games
8-for-56 (.143 avg.)
1 HR, 3 RBI
5 BB, 19 K

*The total number of bases i.e. one base for single, two bases for double, etc.
61 – Báez
42 – Contreras
37 – Heyward
33 – Rizzo
30 – Braynt

Is back on the bump Thursday afternoon for the first time since straining his left hammy in the Cubs home opener on April 8.

He’s on a precautionary 75-80 pitch count.

NEXT – Thur. vs. LAD, 1:20 p.m. CT
Ross Stripling (1-1, 3.07)
Jon Lester (1-0, 2.57


Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.24.19

3rd; -2.0
Streak: W W

LAD 2 – CHC 7
The Cubs sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning, scored four runs with two outs, and staked Jose Quintana to a 4-0 lead. Willson Contreras doubled to score three and Daniel Descalso added an RBI double. Anthony Rizzo went oppo taco in the second and the Cubs chased Kenta Maeda after four. Javy Baez reached base three times, including an imaginative juke move at first base, and hit a solo home run in the 7th. Quintana used an array of pitches to keep a dangerous Dodgers lineup off balance to earn his third straight win. The Cubs have won 6 of 7 and are above .500 for the first time since winning on Opening Day.

Báez: 2-3, 2 R, RBI, BB
Contreras: 1-3, R, 3 RBI, BB, 2 K
Rizzo: 1-4, HR (4), 2 RBI

Quintana: 7.0 IP — 2 R, 4 H — 2 BB, 7 K
Bullpen:   2.0 IP — 0 R, 3 H — 0 BB, 4 K

When the Cubs parted with Eloy Jimenez this is the Jose Quintana they were expecting in return.

I love that Q lasted 114 pitches, and I love that Maddon stayed with him. If a guy’s dealing, let him pitch.

The Bellinger comebacker was a heart stopper.

Cubs pitching staff in the last 10 games: (7-2, 1.39 ERA).

So much of it is innate. Some guys have it (Baez) some don’t (Starlin Castro). What other player pulls off the deke move at first the way Javy did? Báez brings it all : defense, speed, power, IQ … A special player.

His three-run double in the first was a huge difference-maker. It came on a 0-2 pitch … that he didn’t hit it that hard … but was able to keep it fair down the third base line. It’s an example of why making contact is so important, albeit underrated at times in today’s game. Schwarber, hitting ahead of Contreras, struck out with the bases juiced … the home run swing wasn’t necessary … making contact was.   

When hitters slump we love to see them hit the ball the other way, which the slumping Rizzo (.200 avg.) did Tuesday with his HR to left field. We’ll take that as a positive. Rizzo’s nearing 100 plate appearances: 14 walks, 15 hits, and 16 strikeouts. The walks are nice, but hits would be better.

14 – Heyward
14 – Rizzo
12 – Contreras
11 – Bryant
09 – Zobrist

NEXT – Wed. vs. LAD, 7:05 p.m. CT
Walker Buehler (2-0, 5.40 ERA)
Cole Hamels (3-0, 2.77)


Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Dodgers


It’s been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. But for the past half decade they’ve been knocking at the door having averaged 94 wins per year and winning six consecutive division titles; they’ve reached the NLCS in three consecutive seasons; and were painfully close to snapping the championship drought the past two years, losing two consecutive World Series: Houston in 7 games and the Red Sox in 5 games.

The Dodgers (15-9) enter Tuesday’s series at Wrigley Field with the best record in the National League … winners of 7 of their past 8 games … having scored the most runs (136) in the NL … The pitching staff is second in the NL in avg. against (.231) and strikeouts (209).

Dave Roberts is in his fourth season as the Dodgers manager and signed a 4-yr contract extension in the offseason … He was the first skipper in Dodgers history to lead the club to the postseason in his first three seasons … Won the NL Manager of the Year Award in 2016 and finished second in the voting in 2017. Roberts has been staunchly loyal, perhaps to a fault, to an analytics approach to his (or the front office’s) daily lineups … no manager called for a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement more often than Roberts did in 2018.

Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Yasmani Grandal.

During the past three seasons Clayton Kershaw has averaged 25 starts and 162 innings … his fastball tops out in the low 90s, and the past two years he’s been prone to allowing the long ball (40).

The Dodgers have an ace-in-the-making in Walker Buehler and three established starters to round out the rotation: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda & Rich Hill (Hill’s nearing a return from an MCL strain) … 2018 All-Star Ross Stripling is a solid swing-man … as is former top prospect, Julio Urias, who has successfully returned from shoulder surgery to start four games (19.2 IP, 3.66 ERA).

Kenley Jansen converted 38/42 save opportunities last year … but also allowed the most HR of any NL reliever (13) … this season he’s 7/8 in saves and has allowed 2 HR in 11.2 IP … free agent Joe Kelly was signed to a 3-yr deal in the offseason to support Jansen … Pedro Baez and former Cub, Dylan Florio, anchor the middle relief innings.

Cody Bellinger, 23, is having a season for the record books. Through the opening two months, he’s hit 11 home runs and knocked in 28 RBI … He leads the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS … and leads the NL in on-base percentage … he took Josh Hader deep in Milwaukee last week … and for good measure, he’s capable of winning a Gold Glove at first base or right field. Bellinger is a one-man wrecking crew and a clear-cut front-runner to win the NL’s MVP Award.

Justin Turner, 34, recovered from a fractured left wrist last spring to post MVP-level numbers in the second half. He’s slumped much of this season (.260, 0 HR, 8 RBI), and is currently in a 1-for-14 skid with 5 strikeouts.

Max Muncy led the club last season in HR (35), slugging, OPS and OPS+ …
This year: .233 avg., 5 HR, 14 RBI.

Had Corey Seager not succumbed to both Tommy John and hip surgeries last May, Manny Machado to the Dodgers may not have come to fruition in July.

Although Seager is back to full-time duties, he’s off to a somewhat expected slow start offensively: .265 avg, 2 HR, 7 RBI … at least, slow for a player who won the NL’s Silver Slugger Award at shortstop his first two seasons.

The Dodgers have experienced significant turnover in the front office and coaching staff the past two years. Former GM, Farhan Zaidi, now runs baseball operations for the rival Giants; hitting coach Turner Ward departed for Cincinnati; and former third base coach Chris Woodward is in his first season skippering the Rangers … Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, however, is back for his 14th season.

Mark Prior is in his third season as the Dodgers bullpen coach …
Former Cubs catcher (2018), Chris Gimenez, is a first-year game planning coach …
Brant Brown (Cubs OF: 1996-98, 2000) is in his second season as a hitting coach.

Dodger Stadium will host the 2020 All Star Game … It will mark the third midsummer classic to be hosted in Dodgers history, and the second ever at Dodger Stadium.