Almora v. Buxton: Showdown at High Noon
Here’s a grab bag from recent days in the Iowa bush leagues:
*Junior Lake looks like a ballplayer but needs polish. He’s been getting on base a lot but his hits have included a swinging bunt here, a deflected ball there, a well-placed bloop, etc. With the glove his best game was in right field where he made multiple good plays. At 3B he’s made some diving and leaping stops but the arm’s erratic to the tune of five errors in less than a week. Still, he looks the part of a prospect.
*Took me a while to notice but The Cub Way no longer includes knickers in the farm system. Apparently the short pants look left town along with Oneri Fleita.
*Status quo with Brett Jackson. The other night his first three at-bats went as follows: solo homer, struck out swinging with the bases loaded, walk (stolen base). Also saw him throw a guy out on the fly tagging up at 2nd on a fly ball to medium depth CF.
*Took the day off today and roadtripped the hundred miles to Cedar Rapids to eyewitness the battle of AA vs. BB, last year’s #’6 and 2, respectively, overall draft picks. This round went decidedly to Byron Buxton who led the hometown/first-place Kernels to a 6-2 win over visiting Kane County. Not only did he single, double and triple at the plate, he also made an astounding Superman circus catch in the top of the 2nd; back-to-the-plate, full sprint, all-out dive robbery of extra bases as he skidded across the warning track to a stop against the wall. Proving he’s a nineteen year-old human in his first full season of pro ball, he was picked off first after his single.
Almora went 1-4, hustling a seeing eye single into a pants-ripping double when the Kernel infield left the bag at 2nd unprotected in pursuit of his bouncer up the middle. He also drove Buxton to the track in deep center on his hardest hit ball of the day but that running catch was ho-hum compared to the earlier highlight reeler. Almora was not tested defensively but I did notice how he positioned himself for a routine catch with a man at 2nd in such a way that he was perfectly aligned for the throw to 3rd.
Has it been mentioned previously how much Vogelbomb resembles Chris Farley? From my seat several rows behind the Cougar dugout it appeared that he, AA and Rock Shoulders are three amigos. Several times when Kane County was hitting and none of them was at the plate, on deck or in the hole, there they were; side-by-side on the top step with their elbows resting on the dugout railing. Almora was doing most of the talking. Far, er, Vogey laughed a lot.
The kid Amaya who plays 2B and bats leadoff ahead of Almora? Don’t know much about him but he made a sparkling play to snuff out a threat when the game was still scoreless and drew three walks, each of which included multiple foul balls. In his other AB the count went full before he lined out.
Pierce Johnson started for KC and looked good until Buxton busted the game open with his bases-clearing double in the 5th.
2nd in defensive WAR, NL.
6th in NL in RBI
Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.