PECOTA has been right on some guys, and way off others.
One of the more fun things to do right before the season starts is to take a deep dive into PECOTA and see what is foreseen for that upcoming summer. Whether it's discussing players who changed PECOTA's mind with one big year, exploring how a uniquely built team projects, or looking at some out-of-the-box projections, PECOTA can provide hours of entertainment. Of course, by the end of the season, going back and seeing just how accurate some of the projections PECOTA spit out is interesting as well.
But since I'm getting a little impatient, I'm not going to wait for the end of the season. I want to know how PECOTA is doing now.
Yasmani Grandal had a poor reputation for working with pitchers; now he doesn't. How did he get here?
In general, when you think of catchers leading a pitching staff for a playoff team, it's not the youngsters who come to mind. Names like current managers Brad Ausmus and Mike Matheny come to mind. Backstops like Yadier Molina or Russell Martin are the go-to active examples. Cubs manager Joe Maddon came to the North Side in the offseason, and along with his arrival, the team added two veteran catchers—Miguel Montero and David Ross—in an attempt to jump-start its ability to compete. It's worked thus far, and Maddon knows that developing a young catcher is a process, one that can be difficult for a team with playoff aspirations.
"When guys come to the big leagues as a catcher, they're so ill-prepared regarding calling a game, understanding a game, understanding a lot of stuff, because they don't do that in the minors," Maddon recently said. "You do it on a much smaller level; it's primarily a situation where you're trying to take care of physical fundamentals, as opposed to mental fundamentals. If you have a special catcher and a really good catching instructor or program in the minor leagues, that's essential. Because to me that's one of the hardest things, it's like a quarterback in the NFL, reading a defense. They talk about how it takes five years to really understand that stuff; it takes a couple years for a catcher to understand exactly what's going on. It may sound overblown, but it's true. I really think that coming into this moment, if you have somebody to really prepare you to understand what's going on here; 60 feet, six inches I know, 90 feet to the bases I know, the gun readings, everyone has seen that. But the game could not be any more different [up in the big leagues]."
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The Cubs are in the midst of a five-game losing streak that has exposed a weakness. Are there more pressing needs? They certainly have the right talent evaluators to make the decision.
The Cubs are entering a very crucial part of the season. They’ve wrapped up one of the tougher stretches of play that they’ll likely face all season, and despite entering Tuesday on a five-game losing skid, things aren’t as bad as they appear. Yes, the losing stretch exposed some of their holes, but that may turn out to be a good thing. If they can stay afloat through the All-Star break as the team gets healthy, these recent missteps could help guide the front office as they decide what weaknesses need to be addressed and in what way—via trade, just getting healthy, or by supplementing the roster through the minor leagues.
“Any time you can improve from within, that’s the best and most efficient way to get better,” Theo Epstein told reporters a few days before his team started its current losing stretch. “You can’t always count on that, but if you can improve from within—and we know we have a manager and coaching staff that help our players relax and play their best, so we can continue developing in the big leagues. That’s always beneficial to improve the organization from within. It doesn’t mean you stop considering what may help us improve from the outside.”
Jason Motte has his velocity back and a handful of saves, but it's not quite that simple.
Last night, Jason Motte locked down his second save of the season for the Cubs. Earlier that day, Sahadev Sharma took a closer look at his reemergence and the not-quite-so-straight line in which velocity returns post-Tommy John surgery. Now that Motte's velocity is ticking back up, he's worked his way back into an important role for the Cubs—though his one-note arsenal may be the thing that keeps him from reprising his dominant closer role from St Louis. Check out the full article, along with interesting quotes from Motte himself, here:
Groundballs may not be as sexy as strikeouts, but that hasn't gotten in the way of Dallas Keuchel's development.
What turns you on? No, not in that way; I’m talking metaphorically. What gets you going when watching a pitcher dominate? It’s likely a nasty slider or upper-90s heat or some other diabolical swing-and-miss pitch. But every once in a while, you’ll run into someone who likes it a little different.
“Strikeouts are definitely sexy,” Dallas Keuchel recently told me. “The baseball gurus love strikeouts and rightfully so. It’s nice to have a game where you strike out more hitters than innings pitched. But I’m trying to throw complete games. I want to look back on my career and see a lot of complete games. The strikeouts will come, but if I see complete games, that’s what turns me on, I guess.”