Chicago took Game 1 behind the Jon Lester-David Ross battery and Javier Baez's power.
David Ross doesn’t play all that often these days, what with Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras penciled in above him on the Cubs’ catching depth chart, but when he does—almost always every fifth day, when Jon Lester is pitching—he takes to the task with enormous seriousness of purpose. In his final big-league season, it’s his only chance to contribute to what has been a charmed season. As the league became increasingly aware that Lester—for whatever reason—doesn’t like to throw over to first, and so became increasingly enamored of taking the big lead and getting the early jump when Lester was pitching, Ross decided to take what had been a weakness and turn it into a strength.
The high-end crop of starting pitchers will have no shortage of bidders/press, but how deep are the pitfalls for that next group?
Jason Heyward is the cream of this free-agent crop, but David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann are sure to grab a lot of the headlines this winter. It’s been a while since so many very strong starting pitchers hit the market during one offseason. At least two of those four guys will get nine-figure multi-year deals, and it could be all four. That’s sure to raise the hackles and the red flags of columnists everywhere. Every winter (even when there are only one or two major pitching prizes on the market, as there were last year), we get articles like this one and this one, which detail the dangers and the historical pitfalls of the $100-million contract for pitchers. This is as conventional as baseball wisdom gets: big free-agent deals are traps. They’re sucker’s bets. They’re bad, bad, bad.
Here’s the thing, though: any team needs to foray into free agency in order to thrive. It’s damn near impossible to draft and develop an entire team with a chance of winning anything, let alone to do so on an ongoing basis, repeating the feat. Trade is necessary for the growth of any economy, and outside talent is necessary for the growth and improvement of any organization. So the question isn’t whether large or long-term free-agent deals for pitchers fit the guidelines we use to define and identify financially savvy moves, but rather, whether those big commitments are really worse for a team than smaller ones. And the answer, as it turns out, is no. In fact, hooking the biggest fish (even at the biggest price) might just be the most successful strategy there is for supplementing organizational pitching depth with outside talent.
And sometimes when you're on, you're really f***ing on, and your friends they sing along and they love you.
If there were any doubts as to which Johnny Cueto would show up Wednesday night in Kansas City, he started to put them to bed with his eighth pitch. He had one out in hand, but the way Jose Altuve unraveled under the spotlight of a playoff series, that had come easily. George Springer was due up next, and Cueto fell behind him 3-1. Surely, there were plenty of nervous Royals fans watching, wondering whether the problematic Cueto, who had scuffled since Kansas City acquired him in July was back—and whether that was what the end of a season looked like.
These players vastly outperformed their draft position, making them the best fantasy values of the past season.
Trying to determine any Fantasy Baseball MVP is inherently difficult because the notion of what is the “most valuable” depends on the specific league settings, the makeup of individual teams, and even the type of draft. However, we can certainly highlight some of the players who carried significant surplus value by comparing the preseason average draft position (ADP) of a player and his end-of-season ranking. Those players, we can reasonably assume, impacted the overall success rate of fantasy teams more than other picks.
The Nationals move into first place, Cole Hamels and Tyson Ross duel in Philly, plus more from Wednesday and previews for today.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Nationals starting pitchers have issued four walks over their last 10 games. Combined. That’s four walks in 71 innings and just one in their last 54. Giants starter Matt Cain walked four Nats in the first inning of last night’s game alone, including the first three who stepped into the box.
The Reds' ace tosses another shutout, the Mets use a brand-new starter for the second straight day, plus other recaps and previews for the weekend.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Padres and Reds played two on Thursday, with the first matchup pitting Johnny Cueto and Ian Kennedy against each other in a matchup between baseball's ERA leader and its FRA leader.
Nick Bacarella mentioned in yesterday's WYNTK that Cueto entered Thursday as the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start a season with eight starts of at least seven innings pitched while allowing two or fewer runs. That streak continued after Cueto tossed his second shutout of the season on Thursday, and he is now the first starting pitcher since 1914 to start a season with nine such starts.