It feels like there’s some volatility in all of these, until you get to Kyle Hendricks. Since coming up full-time in 2015, Hendricks has put up 3.2 and 4.2 fWAR every season except ’17 when he was hurt for a month, and he would have then as well. His K/9 has been between 7.2 and 8.2. His BB/9 between 1.63 and 2.15. ERA never over 4.00, and not even over 3.50 since his rookie year. FIP never over four either. Hendricks might be the one Cub where you can definitely say what you’re going to get.

Kyle Hendricks 2019

30 starts, 177 innings

3.46 ERA   1.13 WHIP   3.61 FIP

7.63 K/9   1.63 BB/9

41.3 GB%   10.4 HR/FB

79 ERA-   4.1 fWAR

Lost in the Cubs mass pants-pissing in 2019 was that Hendricks might have had as good of a season as his Cy Young finalist year of 2016. His ERA didn’t approach that level, but his FIP did, his WAR did, and he walked far less hitters last year than he did in that campaign. He gave up four more homers, but with a vastly different and misbehaving baseball, so the 19 he gave up last year might be better than the 15 he gave up in ’16. And Hendricks put up those numbers while getting away from his grounder-heavy ways, and yet somehow still got a ton of soft contact with fly balls. Which normally would make you think he’s flirting with danger, except Hendricks never does.

YES! YES! YES!: Again, this best-case/worst-case scenarios for Kyle are a little silly, because you know pretty much what you’re getting. So in order to be on the high end of that window, he needs a touch of BABIP luck (but not a whole lot, given how he specializes in soft contact). He even got a touch unlucky last year with that .287 mark, as that’s ten points over his career BABIP against.

There’s been talk that Hendricks is in better shape this year and is throwing harder, which is fine as long as he doesn’t lose movement. But no pitcher is more attuned to his mechanics and stuff than Hendricks, so it’s unlikely he would sacrifice that for a couple more MPH. He’s given up a run in nine spring innings with 8 Ks and one walk, so all good there.

Hendricks has lost a little of his strikeouts the past couple seasons, so if he gains those back he could once again threaten the Cy party again. You know the walks aren’t coming.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Anything that sends Kyle’s season off the rails has little to do with him. It could be rotten luck with contact or the defense behind him, but that’s unlikely in at least the infield. Hendricks saw his line-drive rate go up last year, but then again so did pretty much everyone. Maybe the greater amount of fly balls he gave up last year turn into homers simply because the gods are assholes, or weird Wrigley wind patters, or both.

Health isn’t a concern as other than 2017 Hendricks has always made 30 starts. Maybe added velocity does take off some movement, which keeps his pitches in the middle of the zone, which would be a problem. But Hendricks would probably just start it closer to the corners and still get movement to off the plate. It’s just hard to pinpoint how the floor would move from beneath him until age is a problem. Which it won’t be for a while.

DRAGON OR FICKLE?: Even I, the most skeptical of humans, have taken Hendricks at full value. He is an anomaly in today’s game, not just deriving success from pitching to contact and using his brain but massive success from it. It bears repeating: Since he started full-time in ’15, Hendricks in top-10 in ERA (min. 800 innings), FIP, and WAR. He’s been that good, and considering six or seven other pitchers in that list of 10 make $30M a year or thereabouts, Hendricks might just be the biggest bargain in the league right now.



Funny that this one comes a day after Steven Souza Jr. As at this time last year, Yu Darvish was viewed kind of in the same light, except with a much heavier contract and much more pressure. He was injured, and we didn’t know if he would even be upright much less effective. First he was upright. Then he was very effective. And now it’s a given he will be again. Do we know that? We don’t know anything. We’ve spent twelve years proving that.

Yu Darvish 2019

31 starts, 178.2 innings

3.98 ERA   1.10 WHIP    4.18 FIP  

11.5 K/9    2.82 BB/9

45.5 GB%   22.6 HR/FB%

91 ERA-    2.6 fWAR

Overall, the numbers don’t actually look that great for Darvish for 2019. They’re certainly good, but what has everyone excited and confident is the second half, where Darvish ran a 17-to-1 K/BB ratio, held hitters to a .254 wOBA, and ran an ERA and FIP under 3.00. Now, the 17-to-1 ratio is a completely bonkers number that would be asinine to think he could approach again. But he doesn’t have to be really good. The home run ball was still a problem for Darvish even in the second half, but that seems to be a weird spike more than anything else and should come down just because.

YES! YES! YES!: Trying to track what Darvish needs to do this year by looking at what changed for him halfway through last year can be a hilarious experience, because the dude throws like eight pitches. Which seemed to get him in trouble in the first half of last year, when he would Javy Vasquez his way through ABs and innings by having to show his entire arsenal within them. Even if he couldn’t control half or more of it.

Darvish leaned on his cutter and sinker more than his fastball when things took off, though this spring he has been going back to his four-seam which has touched 98. That seems unsustainable as Yu has never averaged more than 95 on it, but he is always tinkering to get more spin or movement and we all know the magical powers of PITCH LAB 2021 so maybe he’s found something. On any given day Darvish could have a different three pitches working than the last one, so it’s probably not even worth worrying about.

The only thing Darvish really needs to be the Cubs best pitcher is control. His first year here saw him walk nearly five hitters per nine. His first half last year was more of the same. When he stopped doing that, he was dominant. Some of that with Yu is confidence, as you can tell when he’s afraid to come into the zone or induce contact. And he still would rather strike everyone out than get grounders, so he might need to accentuate that a little more this year. But still, overall his K numbers and walk numbers were in line with what he did in his career, so it’s probably ok to expect what the Cubs got as the whole of 2019 than the last couple months of the season.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Well, the inverse of above, where Darvish can’t find the plate consistently with the fastball, or cutter, or sinker, or whatever else he might offer in the fastball category. Then he gets timid, and starts nibbling with sliders/cutters/splitters/whateverthefuckers, and the walks go up. And then a tendency to go up in the zone continues his home run problems of last year. And that’s been a trend that has risen every year for the last four, so that might just be part of the package now. But if those homers come after one or two walks, that’s an issue. If it’s the occasional solo shot, you can get around that pretty easily. Perhaps the additional smoke (WE WANT DA SMOKE) on his four-seam will allow him to pitch high in the zone with less battered baseballs heading up and over everyone’s head, but if that velocity doesn’t stick around we could be in for another homer-fest.

Additionally, health is always a concern. Yu still missed three quarters of a season recently, and missed a couple starts last year, and has only topped 200 innings twice in seven years. Starters going 200 IP is becoming less and less of a thing, and perhaps with Mills and one or two others lying around the Cubs are more buttressed for not having any starters who are going to go that far. But you also wouldn’t want to be tossing Alec Mills or James Norwood or some other jamoke for starts more than you absolutely had to.

Dragon Or Fickle?: Darvish is something of the de facto ace on this team, though really it has two high-end #2s in Yu and Hendricks and then two low-end #4s in Lester and Quintana (though Q has the potential to be more). Again, the unholy strikeout monster of last year’s second half is not what you’re going to get. But Darvish did have something click where the walks went away, and that feels like it’s more permanent. If he gets a little contact-luck he could flirt with an All-Star appearance, and “solid” feels like the absolute floor of what the Cubs will get this summer. If everything goes right, down-ballot Cy consideration is within range. The guess here is he’s just short of that, but everyone will be more than happy with what they get.


There’s probably more attention on Steven Souza than he would have ever guessed, or anyone who knows him would have guessed, simply because he was the only signing the Cubs made this year for the lineup (Jason Kipnis very well might not count). He’s also more of a symbol, which isn’t really fair to him as it has nothing to do with him, because it’s deflating that he’s the type of player the Cubs claim they’re only able to sign. Low-cost, low-risk, possibly high-reward. But you only sign those players when you have basically everything else set. The Cubs don’t. And they kind of need Souza to not only make it through the season without all of the king’s horses and all the king’s men being called, but they need him to produce. So they can say it’s “low-risk” but it kind of isn’t.

Steven Souza Jr. 2019

There wasn’t one

That’s the problem. And he didn’t even really play in 2018, either, with only 72 games chalked up. Souza missed all of April ’18 and basically all of June too, so he comes in with a very spotty health outlook. You have to go back to 2017, with Tampa, when Souza was a 3.4-WAR player thanks to a power surge where a quarter of his flies left the yard. He also totaled up 16 steals, which he won’t in Chicago thanks to his knee being discarded Reese’s wrappers at this point. So really, what the Cubs are asking is can he still hit the ball really hard, which he did once upon a time.

YES! YES! YES: Souza, to be effective, has to balance out his copious amounts of strikeouts with walks and power. He’s done that exactly once in his career, though again, we’re only talking about really three and a half years in the majors. Luckily for the Cubs, that was in his last full season, though that’s getting farther in the rearview. The good news is that Souza was making loud contact before the baseball became filled with flubber, so if he’s healthy it’s not really getting out over your skis to expect him to hit the ball really hard again. He’s able to do that without a bunch of wind blowing in on him at Wrigley to start the year, and he piles up a few more homers than one might expect.

Souza wasn’t a platoon guy before, but he’ll be one here. In his one standout season, he hit lefties and righties equally as well, though he didn’t generate the same power against lefties as he did pitchers from the other side. He’ll have to do that here, otherwise the Cubs will be basically sending out two Almoras against left-handed pitching.

Defensively, at least going back three years now, Souza was a plus in right field in Tampa and utterly horrible in center, but the Cubs won’t be asking him to play center much if at all. Again, given the health problems the past two seasons the Cubs will probably be happy if he can stand in center and not have his shins shatter for the whole season, and when he plays the Cubs could feature Almora in center and Happ in left which would could cheat over to him a touch. Again, no miracles out there expected, but competence will do.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: First and foremost if things go TWANG! or BUST! on him, the Cubs’ “depth” absolutely erodes instantly. You’d be looking at Heyward playing every day, or Almora or Happ shifting to right against lefties. Or Bryant would have to play the outfield far more often, and you’d have holes at third and second, or at best you’d be “fine” there unless Nico Hoerner is actually a star (probably not) and pitchers keep throwing David Bote low fastballs just because he’s such a nice guy. It’s all a problem.

If healthy, but Souza can’t balance out his Ks with on-base skills he becomes a sucking sound anyway. He’s not going to hit for average, and his leg injuries might have sapped him of the ability to hit for power. So far he’s managed a couple doubles in Mesa, but spring training is hardly an indicator. The worrying thing is that in the one season when Souza was a weapon, most of his power came against breaking pitches. So did most of his whiffs. Which makes you think he just got a lot of mistakes to hit. And hey, you can make a career out of just hitting mistakes and that’s what the Cubs are hoping. But when your best numbers are on change-ups high in the zone…you can’t count on getting a bevy of those and at a constant rate.

Dragon Or Fickle?: This one’s hard to call. It’s hard to even know what Souza was as a player before he became bionic. He’ll tell you his 2018 was ruined by injuries, and of course he never made the post last year. When last seen healthy, he would be exactly what this team needs. But no one can tell you if he was that consistently. I don’t think he’ll be Descalso bad, and of course there’s the fear of his troubled body in the hands of a Cubs medical staff that couldn’t keep anyone healthy last year.

You’re probably looking at what he was in his first two years in Tampa. A part-timer with a little more pop than you would usually get from that role, doesn’t immolate himself in the field, and is worth about 1.0 fWAR. Maybe gets some BABIP luck or some friendly winds and is worth a touch more. And I think most would take that from a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Everything Else

Funny, when you’ve been doing this 12 years, you think about the end a lot. And then it gets here, and you still don’t know what to say.

So I guess it’s best just say it. Today is my last day captaining the good ship FFUD. The time has come for me to move on. It’s probably been so for a while, and finally an opportunity came up that I felt like I had to take. And that opportunity is that I have been hired to help resurrect Deadspin.

I know. I know the face you’re making. I made the same one when I got the first call. And believe me, this was not an easy decision. You know everything that would have gone into it, and I wrestled with it for a long time (and made McClure’s life hell with my Hamlet-like demeanor). Still, if you’re here, and you’ve read this site in its various incarnations for 12 years, you know me. You know what I do. And you know I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t been promised I would get to do everything I’ve done this entire time. And over several phone conversations and emails, that’s what I’ve been promised and assured. If that changes, we’ll deal with it. But that’s what I’m heading off to.

I know the challenges are massive. And I know they very well may be insurmountable. I know some will be disappointed, if not more. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. And I think given time, I can write stuff that will stand above and on its own. I at least have to find out. If you’ll allow me a metaphor, as much fun as this has been and as much as it’s meant to me and others, it’s limited in scope. I’ve been around the relegation zone and mid-table. I want to play Champions League football. This feels like my chance.

And while this has been a labor of love, it has not been a living for a while. You can only do that for so long. This is a chance for me to make a living again, and to have some things that I’ve never had. On some level I’m sure you understand.

So that probably leads to some questions from you. I’ll try and get through them. Yes, FFUD will continue. This is still a unique and wildly talented collection of writers, and they’ve expressed that they want to carry on (especially the White Sox contingent. Can’t imagine why). But we recognize that things will change, i.e. they have real lives which I never did and can’t provide the same or amount of content I did, at least at first.

So I’ve stripped off the subscription model (at least I think I have, tell me if I haven’t) and this site will be ad-based again. Some of the gameday stuff that I did will drop, but everyone here is going to do their best to keep this a bastion of original and entertaining thought. I have no doubts that they will. I’m really excited to see where it goes from here.

So, if you’ve recently signed up for a year subscription and you feel you’re getting shortchanged, no worries. Just email me at in the next few days and we’ll work out a refund.

The podcast will keep going as well, and I’ll continue to do Desipio’s as well when asked. We’ll figure out the former over the next week or so, might need a week off to totally figure it out.

It has been an honor to serve all of you from the original program/newsletter/drunken rag thrown at you by a derelict in the snow, to SCH to CI to here at FFUD. Anyone who says they don’t have regrets is full of shit, because we all make mistakes. There’s plenty of things I wish I’d done better either professionally, personally, or business-wise. But I know I did my best and what I thought was right at the time, and the wonderful thing about all of you is you never asked more of me or us than that. I hope you’ll continue to do that with the staff that remains here.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years, which flies by when you don’t ever feel like you’re really working. We’ve had an incredible time together, which I hope will continue in bigger pastures. Three Cups, a Cubs World Series, and…like a Sox draft pick? I don’t know, I’m sure they’ll tell me.

I’d like to think I’ve written some things people really enjoyed and remembered, and hope that I still will. I’ve met some incredible people and made lifelong friends., It’s hard to believe that the guy I started this all with while never having met him, I stood in his wedding two years ago and he’s about to have his first child, while I’ve…well, I’m still the same piece of shit I was then but like, I eat a little better?

Matt, Feather, Slak, perhaps too many others to count that I get to keep forever. All of you who took the time to write to tell me how much you enjoyed our work, and even those who took the time to told me to go fuck myself (I mean other than my immediate family), believe me when I say I read them all and they always made a difference. I’m humbled and delighted to have made even the smallest one in your fan experience.

Signing off. #YNWA (suck it, Kills).


It says something, though I’m not sure what, that in a winter when the Cubs main objective was to lower their payroll there was barely a whisper about moving Jason Heyward. After all, there can’t be a player who’s had more of a disconnect between his production and his paycheck. But some of that view of his production is skewed, by fans and by other teams. Some of it is use. Some of it is that Heyward has been such a mensch even while struggling that some people don’t want to say anything bad. Let’s see if we can’t cut through to the truth and what Heyward can be in 2020.

Jason Heyward 2019

147 games, 589 PA


.328 wOBA  101 wRC+

11.5 BB%  18.7 K%

-1.7 Defensive Runs

1.9 fWAR

Heyward’s 2019 numbers are tempting to reduce to this: .264/.365/.456 for a 115 wRC+. That’s his marks against right-handers only. It’s not dominant, but it’s more than useful. Heyward’s inclusion against lefties was partly down to the failures of others (Almora, Happ for the first four months), and maybe that won’t be necessary now. His defensive mark, the first negative of his career, was due to having to play center more often than ever before in Chicago. Again, that shouldn’t have to happen this year, but still could. Perhaps no player’s worth is going to be more determined by how he’s used, and how he has to be used, than J-Hey’s.

YES! YES! YES!: The optimal outcome is that Happ and Almora and Souza keep Heyward’s appearances against lefties to a minimum. Perhaps this is where the new three-batter rule comes into effect for Heyward, as there will be less and less LOOGYs around to ruin his last one or two ABs of a game. I suppose lineup construction would also come into this, where if Heyward were surrounded by righties it would be even harder to get lefties out of the pen to him. The make-up of the Cubs likely everyday lineup seems to make this likely. He could hit 9th with Bryant behind him, or between Contreras and Bote/Hoerner/whoever in the sixth spot.

Heyward’s production against righties has improved every year he’s been a Cub — 75, 94, 100, and 115 wRC+ marks. I don’t know that he can get up much higher than last year’s, but given his contact-type numbers last year you could also safely say it won’t sink too much either. Meanwhile, his four seasons here have never seen him be any good against lefties, so the Cubs should try and write off that possibility as much as they can.

His defense isn’t as much as a given. Even in just right field, his UZR and UZR/150 has dropped every season he’s been here, and at 31 in August he just isn’t going to be able to patrol center regularly (few in their 30s can, is what we’re learning. That doesn’t mean Cubs fans should expect him to look like Castellanos’s “Attacked By Bees” style out there in 2020, and maybe losing the wear and tear of starts in center helps a bit. He’ll still be a plus out there, he just might not be a force there anymore.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Again, this has more to do with what goes on around Heyward than himself. If Happ and/or Almora fall on their face again, he’ll have to play more center than is ideal. If Souza can’t form a decent platoon with him in right, he’ll have to play against lefties more often. While he’s only 30 right now, this is still Heyward’s 11th season, and those miles pile up. Restricting his workload a bit is probably key to keeping him fresh and spritely when he is playing. All of these are also dependent on everyone’s health. One injury in the outfield and the Cubs will have someone doing things that are going to be a bit out of water for them–Souza every day, or Almora every day, or Heyward every day and in center. Any of these things weaken the Cubs’ bottom of the order in a hurry, and their outfield defense. And the Cubs don’t have that margin for error.

Dragon or Fickle?: It’s always a bad idea to predict health for a team, especially when Souza has a bionic leg already. An injury or missed time for Souza the Cubs could probably deal with by having Happ slide to right and Almora in center against lefties. Anyone else and it gets tricky. But that’s what the Cubs are counting on.

If they get it, then Heyward will be the solid player he’s been the past two seasons. Reduced time means that 2.0 fWAR is probably what you’re looking at if everything goes well, along with the slowly declining defense (should be noted Statcast still likes Heyward defensively a lot). And you could certainly do a whole lot worse than that.

And hey, if it works, maybe you open up a market for him next winter to avoid having to trade players that are more important. But let’s run that kitten over when we get to it.


As Feather points out regularly on our podcast, “reading the tea leaves” has gotten frustrating and fatiguing. It’s just about all we can do these days, given how little the Hawks let out and what does get out never puts them in a good light these days.

To say Duncan Keith is tired of Jeremy Colliton’s act is pretty much in the same fashion as telling you tomorrow’s Tuesday. Last night’s dejection doesn’t really change that. You can watch Keith play his own game that has nothing to do with Colliton’s supposed “system” and know he’s got no use for him. It’s been pretty obvious since Colliton took over that Keith at best eyed him with suspicion and at this point openly despises him.

Toews has always been the tougher read, but seeing as how he wasn’t afraid to bus-toss his coach in the media all the way back in November, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to suggest he’s pretty much had it as well. Toews is the captain and will always do his best to hold things together, but he can also hear the clock ticking on his career, or at least his peak years, and a third-straight year of going home in mid-April is not something that’s going to sit all that well.

Patrick Kane has hinted at wanting to talk with the front office after the season. It’s the closest Kane has come to suggesting he wants changes and won’t be afraid to say so to the people in charge.

Brent Seabrook is a different kind of case, given he just has to get healthy and what the plan is for him here long-term. Corey Crawford’s is as well as he’s a free agent and can simply turn around and head somewhere else if he doesn’t like what’s on offer, either for him or the team as a whole.

We’ve briefly talked about it on the podcast, and maybe we’ll get to it again this week, but what will the Hawks do if the main three, or all five, demand changes in coach or GM or both? Would they even? Would they go over Stan’s head? We’ve seen them go around the coaches before, when everyone wanted Mike Kitchen punted off Joel Qunneville’s staff in that summer that nearly ended with Q in Montreal and the Hawks with a new coach.

As we’ve always said, the main three don’t have a ton of leverage. They could demand Colliton be fired or they’ll ask out, but the Hawks don’t have to move them in that scenario. It’s hard to fathom that any of them would go public with a demand to get out, and short of that it’s hard to see how they could force it. The markets on Keith and Toews would be limited, and though Kane’s would be larger any interested team would still have to perform a variety of arm-balances to get his cap number in.

The question is why would the Hawks even want to go down that road? You don’t want to have the inmates running the asylum and all that, but rare is the collection of teammates who all have three rings (two in Crow’s case), two Norrises, three Conn Smythes, a Selke, a Hart, a couple Jennings. If there’s any grouping of players that can justify demanding changes to an organization, it’s this one.

Beyond that, what would the Hawks be holding on to? Why would Jeremy Colliton be the coach you’d go to the mat with these players with? He hasn’t developed any player, as no player is any better than they were a year ago. Dylan Strome has been on a wing. Adam Boqvist has been scratched at times and still doesn’t run the top power play unit nor has he shown his puck-carrying abilities. Alex Nylander sucks. Kirby Dach was a fourth-liner for too long. The power play is right up there with touching your face right now. What is the sign that things could improve with this coach down the road?

The answer is of course you wouldn’t. And it’s not like these players have a track record of downing tools or mutinies. Get a coach in here whom they believe in and respect and runs a system that they can see the benefits of, and they will suddenly form the kind of leadership any coach would dream of.

These guys are such loyal servants that I don’t know that stating Colliton and Bowman are going nowhere would cause them to agitate to move elsewhere. It feels out of character for all of them. But it’s clear they’re fed up. And Keith is definitely running out of time, and Toews and Kane can at least see the finish line for the first time. Crawford will have other offers. So if it would ever to happen, it’s going to happen this spring.

What would the Hawks do?


It all came crashing down on the Hawks this weekend, so who did what as yet another season is meaningless before St. Patrick’s Day, if it ever meant anything at all.

The Dizzying Highs

Corey Crawford – It feels like the Hawks are heading toward some sort of Bay Of Pigs with their veteran players, with at least Keith and Toews completely fed up with their coach. You don’t have to really jump that far on a conclusions mat to see that they might hint to the front office this summer they want this bespectacled doofus out on his ass or they’re going to be showing their thumb out of town as well. The funny thing is that Crawford’s name is never mentioned among “the vets” even though he’s only slightly less decorated than his cohorts. And Crow is the only one who could simply walk. Another week of a .917 makes him the biggest reason the Hawks could even mention the word “playoffs.”

There are certainly other goalies on the market, and Crow will be the oldest of them. Still, what if Crow joins his teammates and says, “I want to come back, I want to come back at a reasonable salary, but I don’t want to play for this guy?” What would the Hawks do? With every strong week, Crow strengthens his leverage.

The Terrifying Lows

Alex Nylander – I’m simply getting tired of putting Jeremy Colliton here, and he’s likely to get his own post later in the day anyway. He had two garbage-time points against Anaheim. And then in three important games, he didn’t do shit. Until the third one, where he gave the puck away in his own zone in the third period, and then was caught puck-watching while Alex Pietrangelo set up shop in the left circle to end that game. Keep in mind, Nylander spent the whole week on a line with Patrick Kane. And Dylan Strome, who seems to have struck up something with Kane since being moved back to center. Do you know how hard it is to go three games with a point with Kane on your line?

In a lot of ways, it’s not Nylander’s fault. He is what he is, and it’s not his fault the Hawks gave up on a useful d-man to bring him here to do nothing (other than get me a Greektown dinner). And the front office is almost certainly cramming him into the lineup to try and make up for the fact that they fucked up by punting Henri Jokiharju for him. I would have liked to see what Dylan Sikura would have done with the same opportunity. But he’s a symptom, or an example, of just how well and truly lost this organization is. Clueless in his own zone, costs too much, and not enough at the other.

As Fifth Feather pointed out in our private thread as the Hawks were spitting up to the Wings, that was a game where your depth should carry you through. A fourth line goal to get things going, or a third line performance because you just have better players there than a shit-assed opponent. Nylander is supposed to be that depth. He’s not. He sucks. And the thinking that brought him here sucks. And that’s why the Hawks lose these games.

The Creamy Middles

Patrick Kane – Four points in four games, but it sounds like he’s warming up to make some demands of his front office too. And he should, because he’s seen three seasons of his prime, and two of his most brilliant seasons, go in the toilet and for nothing. And while he might be as visibly seething as Keith or Toews, somewhat placated by playing 25 minutes a night, he’s already made noise about wanting to talk to the front office after the season and at least see if there is a plan. Kane is the only one who could ask out and probably find a host of suitors, which means he probably draws the most water. If he demands changes, the Hawks would have to listen. And if they choose this coach and GM over him, you’ll know they’re truly lost.


Perhaps we should have known things would go a little backwards on the Cubs in time when this regime’s first ever draft pick turned out to hit a bunch of ground balls, didn’t walk much, and was surprisingly slow. Kind of everything they told us they wouldn’t do when they walked in the door. Albert Almora has probably blown his chance to be a full-time centerfielder here. But he still very well might have a role to play with this team, and maybe as a part-time player he could possibly flourish. He’d hardly be the first. That’s the hope, anyway.

Albert Almora Jr. 2019

130 games, 363 PA


.271 wOBA, 64 wRC+

4.4 BB%  17.1 K%

-1.1 Defensive Runs

-0.7 fWAR

Well, that’s all terrible.

Almora had simply a disaster of a season, which caused Jason Heyward or Ian Happ to play much more in center than anyone had anticipated. And Almora can’t argue he wasn’t given a chance, because he was basically given the starter’s share of ABs in the first half…and he grounded it to short. And as we know, Almora isn’t going to beat anything out. Even his defense fell, though few believe that’s his permanent state. It was only a year ago he was worth 3.4 Defensive Runs, so that’s probably an anomaly. The Cubs aren’t counting on him now other than to relieve Heyward or Schwarber the duty of hitting against lefties once or twice a week.

YES! YES! YES!: We’re already getting “Best Shape Of His Life!” stories out of Arizona, as well as comments on how we’ll he’s hitting. Which means dick, because Almora has looked good in spring before. The first objective for Almora is to stop hitting the ball on the fucking ground. He’s seen over half of his contact turn the ball green the past two seasons, and you can’t make a living that way. The problem for Almora is at least last year, when he did hit the ball in the air he didn’t hit it very hard, leading to a .184 average on flies. I feel like we’re getting to that point when Homer was training as a boxer and Moe told him, “Ok, maybe punching isn’t your thing.”

Perhaps the commentary on the shape Almora is in is to increase the authority with which he hits everything, and that can only help. Really what Almora has to do is just be a line-drive hitter. He’s not going to bash 20-25 homers but spraying liners all over could see him get back to near a .300 average which he’s teased before. And he has to hit around that to be productive, because he probably isn’t going to walk much. Almora has never had an excessive line-drive rate in the bigs, but that needs to be the goal.

As you might expect with someone who hits the amount of grounders Almora has, he struggles with pitches on or just off either corner and below his waist:

So lifting those pitches is paramount, and Almora is already good at the top of the zone. That appears to be the crux of his work in the spring. Almora has also said he was in a bad mental place last year, which is fair enough. Getting to the ball more directly is a good idea, as coming out and around it was causing his grounder problem (same thing for Heyward in the past).

Almora had a rough go last year against lefties, but that was just part of the whole detritus. In the past he’s been more than effective against them, and only seeing them at least to start the season could be a boon.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Every spring is littered with stories about a guy being in better or different condition, or changing his swing or approach, or how well he’s doing in games that don’t count. This used to be Jason Heyward’s territory. Obviously we’re not going to believe it until we see it. If Almora can’t lift pitches low in the zone for at least line-drives and continues to pound things into the ground, his Cubs career is pretty much going to be over. He’s also going to need to improve his defense from last year, though that’s the easier task for him. He’ll see a lot of late-inning action out there with Happ sliding over to left when the Cubs have a lead.

Dragon Or Fickle?: I would guess that if Almora is restricted to only platoon-duty, with the occasional spot start else well, and no one gets hurt to force him into the lineup every day, he can basically be David Bote – Outfield Version. Which means he’ll be fine. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think his defensive game is going to be a minus again, because his instincts out there are just so good even if his feet aren’t all that quick. And mostly playing against lefties, he should be able to be average or more. And maybe that’s all he is. Maybe he forces his way into more playing time. But if he earns that, he earns that.



RECORDS: Blues 40-18-10   Hawks 31-29-8


TV: NBCSN (All Women Broadcast)

MOS EISLEY CANTINA: St. Louis Gametime

There’s not much I can add to Pullega’s wrap from Friday night. There could not have been a more clear illustration of every failing of this organization–players, coach, and front office–then puking up a game to one of the worst teams in history that you claimed you had to have because you’re trying to sell the fact that you’re in a playoff race that abandoned you long ago. The players weren’t ready, the coaches didn’t have them ready, and the front office provided a roster that couldn’t stomach the losses of a 19-year-old defenseman and another one that has played five NHL games. It feels like after that, if they didn’t before, everyone but the Hawks see them for what they are. And if the Hawks continue to ignore it, nothing will ever change.

And of course, here traipsing into town is the team we used to laugh at for never getting it, that have now gotten it while the Hawks lost the plot. You can’t help but see the symbolism and weep until you seize.

Since the Blues performed their latest third period live-autopsy of the Hawks after the trade deadline, they’ve won three of four from the New York teams and Dallas, but that hasn’t seen them pull away from the Avs for the top of the division. Colorado is two points back with a game in hand, and have the decided advantage in regulation wins so the Blues can’t tie on points. And winning the division certainly has its prize, as it’ll mean avoiding two weeks of mud in the tires against Dallas and getting a first-round matchup with whatever nitwit team finishes as the last wildcard. The Blues and Avs finish the season against each other in Denver, which could be spicy.

The only note about the Blues of interest is that in those four games since beating the Hawks, they haven’t gotten a goal or point from their bottom six. That could be a worry going forward, as last year’s torture was partly based on getting the occasional goal when they needed it from the support players.

The Blues are back at it at home tomorrow against the Panthers, a game they’ll probably view as the harder of the two so the Hawks might get to see Jay Gallon tonight.

For the Hawks, Adam Boqvist will return to the lineup but Carlsson won’t, which means Nick Seeler can continue to make Connor Murphy question every decision in life he’s ever made. Seeler had an absolute disaster against the Blues last time, because he doesn’t have the feet, hands, or brain to deal with the Blues furious forecheck. Other than that, I can’t see a problem for him.

The Hawks will try and tell us that if they win tonight, it’s still six out of eight points this week which would have been the goal anyway. And they’ll tell you they still have the Sharks and Senators up this week. They’ll tell you, while really trying to convince themselves, that it’s still on. But their performance on Friday told you what they really think. A team that thinks it has a real chance doesn’t lay that egg in the home of the biggest collection of trash and discarded gum posing as a hockey team in recent memory. They know they’re done and the second of a back-to-back was simply too much work for them to be bothered to do.

Perhaps they’ll have the decency to try and save some face tonight, knowing they embarrassed themselves on Friday. Combine that with every effort against the Blues this year being sad in its own way, and they should be somewhat inspired. Whether that matters against a genuinely superior team who actually has something to play for, well… I think you know the answer to that one.

It’s something of a landmark night, as least in broadcast terms, as NBCSN will fully broadcast and produce the game with an all-female crew. If you can ignore the large swaths of both fanbases proving how adult they can’t be, it should be enjoyable. Maybe it’ll even cause Jeremy Roenick to finally immolate himself. One can only hope.


When a GM is in a job for over 10 years, as Blues GM Doug Armstrong will pass into this summer, it’s either a sign of an organization’s inertia or incompetence, or a sign of sustained success. Or in the case of the Hawks, both. And it may be that’s the case in St. Louis as well.

Armstrong ascended to the GM chair while the Hawks were on their way to their first parade, and as things always worked with the Blues, everything they did seemed to be not to measure up to the class of the division (it was Detroit in the past), but to be in opposition to it. Of course, the Blues set some of this in motion when former GM Larry Pleau took Erik Johnson instead of Jonathan Toews.

But while the Hawks and others were getting faster and more skilled, the Blues seemed determined to plod and crush their way to success, which had predictable results. They hired Ken Hitchcock, which only made them more defensive. We know they emphasized size and GRITHEARTFAAAAART. And while they have been a consistent playoff team, there was only one conference final appearance.

It was the kind of record that usually gets GMs fired, and so would have the coaching boondoggle of installing Mike Yeo as an heir apparent to Hitchcock, and then watching all of that go to shit when the players rebelled against both of them. It culminated with the Blues missing the playoffs in 2018.

But that kicked a new direction and sense of urgency for Armstrong, something we’d love to see around here. Maybe he knew his job was on the line. But they traded for Ryan O’Reilly and signed Tyler Bozak to give them the center depth that they’d lacked and the Hawks or Sharks or Predators had picked apart in years previous.

A shift in drafting before that though were the real tracks. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Vince Dunn, and an absolute theft of Brayden Schenn out of Philadelphia set the Blues on a path to be fast, dynamic, and skilled. All the things they hadn’t been before. And clearly, Armstrong was rewarded.

The final stroke, and perhaps the act of a man who was sure he was headed for printing up a bunch of CVs, was correcting the mistake of installing Yeo as coach after the players had turned on him and giving Craig Berube the job. Suddenly the Blues were playing faster and more aggressive, because with the speed Armstrong had installed in the lineup they could. We know how the rest goes.

Only Armstrong and his bosses will know how close he was to the axe, but everyone seems to think it was very much on the cards had the Blues not turned around at New Year’s last year. Armstrong deserves credit for realizing the mistakes of the past, seeing how his team had to adjust, and not being afraid to switch gears. Perhaps the Blues ownership deserves credit for letting Armstrong have the time to do it all.

Would that work here? Hard to say. Stan Bowman’s recent drafting record is already a strike against that. Recent player acquisitions would suggest they haven’t even diagnosed the problem yet. He’s made his coaching change. though Armstrong has been allowed three. And for every Armstrong who’s been allowed to dig themselves out, there’s Boston, Pittsburgh, Carolina and others who have found success changing things in the front office. There’s no set model for it.

What a state of affairs when you look down I-55 and wonder why things can’t be like that here. Life is meaningless.