Baseball

I’m going to have to keep doing this until it actually happens I guess, but as some in greater Cubdom try to rationalize trading Kris Bryant, which can’t be rationalized, I’m just going to have to sit here and tell you how stupid all they are. Because they’re stupid, y’see. And I’m not. Clearly.

The latest round of nonsense, which has been around for a while, is the Nationals somewhat panicking over losing Anthony Rendon and missing out on Josh Donaldson (if they do) and putting in an offer for Bryant. That’s nice. Everyone should at least call. He’s a great player. But the Cubs should immediately hang up the phone after telling GM Mike Rizzo to do one. In reality, that’s what they should do to every GM who calls, and the same to their shithead owner when he calls and says he doesn’t want spend the money and make him fire everyone, but I’m drifting into fantasy land again. I would even suggest taking that phone and hitting Tom over the head with it repeatedly, but I’m the angry sort.

The Nationals supposed “offer” would center around…well, centerfielder Victor Robles. That’s nice. Robles is nice. Everything’s nice. The appeal is that the Cubs would have centerfield locked down for a while, which they haven’t since…fuck, Bobby Dernier? Dexter Fowler was only here two seasons, so does that even count? It was where Corey Patterson and Felix Pie died. It’s where Albert Almora is currently dying. So on some level, I understand. You’ve never seen a regular CF at Wrigley for a decade. Just hasn’t happened. Might be cool to have. Everyone loves new, especially when you’ve waited so long.

When it comes to Robles, the first thing the supposed experts have to yell right in your face because that’s what they do is, “HE’S ONLY 22!!!” Hey, I miss being 22 as well. Well, not really, I kind of sucked at being 22. Late-bloomer, I am. I mean, I miss the not ever really being hungover, which I could do then. Can’t really now. I’m getting off point again, aren’t I?

Anyway, the thing about yelling about he’s 22 is trying to project how much Robles could improve. And that’s certainly possible. He already was one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, and the Cubs have undervalued their outfield defense some the past couple years. So with him and Heyward, hey that’s pretty good. And his defense certainly doesn’t figure to drop off through his 20s unless like, he gets hooked on Italian beefs and Off Color Brewery (it’s happened to many others).

But no one has any idea what he will be with the bat. Robles was below average offensively in his rookie season. He’s almost certainly never going to hit for power,, even if 17 homers at 22 looks promising. Everyone hit 17 homers last year. His hard-contact rate was simply sad at 24.6%. It’s just not really part of the projection. Maybe he’ll get there, but no one can say for sure. He hits a fuckton of grounders, which with his speed is fine, but I think we’d like to do a little better than fine when trading, y’know, the best Cub of all-time and fuck you.

Robles never walks, and probably isn’t going to either. He kind of did in a 40-game stint in AAA in 2018, but that’s 40 games. He doesn’t strike out much either, which again is nice, but it’s not like he’s making a lot of loud contact. He’s basically grounding out a lot. Maybe Cubs fans are getting Juan Soto and Robles confused. I’m not sure.

The thing with Robles is we don’t have a huge stretch of minor league performance to point to, which is what happens when you reach the Majors at 21. Which is a good sign in itself. He dominated in 77 games at High-A, but that’s High-A. He was just as good in 37 games in AA, but that’s just 37 games. And that was mostly on batting average and a decent number of doubles. Quite simply, no one can be sure of what he is and what he will be. Everyone’s guessing. You gotta do better than a guess for Bryant.

Robles screams of a plus-Juan Pierre or something, with actual very good defense but simply has to get up around 200 hits to be effective. Hard pass, thanks, because the Nationals literally have nothing else. Their best pitching prospects are probably two years away at least when Ricketts is going to let everyone walk anyway. The others have been bad at AAA. While Carter Kieboom would allow for a ton of Marvin The Martian jokes, he’s more contributor than centerpiece and isn’t that what Nico Hoerner is supposed to be?

If you’re somehow going to justify a Kris Bryant deal, and you never will, you better be getting three pieces back who are at least good and ready to be part of things no later than 2021. The Nats don’t have it. Move the fuck on.

Football

The Bears season ended when Jesper Horsted couldn’t find Allen Robinson on a lateral. That’s a sentence I just wrote. And it’s true. And it probably sums up the absurdity of what this Bears season has been. In reality, the Bears were two to three plays short of extending their hopes another week. And that’s been the story all season. For all the misery, confusion, injuries, and whatever else, coming into this one the Bears were two or three throws from being 9-4. With a play or two more and some luck, they could be 10-4 now. However you want to go about it. But this is the NFL, that’s usually the difference for most teams. There are only a couple really good teams and a couple really bad ones. Everyone else just needed a handful of results on plays to go the other way and you’re a playoff team or you’re scouting the Senior Bowl.

It was ever thus.

I’ll clean it up the best I can.

-When you lose by one score, as the Bears have had a habit of doing this year, you can point to a variety of areas or players or decisions as the main reason. I’m looking squarely at the offensive line today. Mitch Trubisky was hurried, hit, or sacked on the first 12 dropbacks he made. David Montgomery was looking at people in his grill every run as soon as getting the ball. The Bears couldn’t do much in the first half simply because they couldn’t block it. But that’s been the story all season.

-Which made this another week that Matt Nagy was too stubborn in sticking to the offense he wishes to run instead of the one he can. We barely saw any of the rollouts, or play-action, or I-formation, or QB runs that were the order of the day against Dallas. The Bears couldn’t create a pocket, and yet Nagy didn’t think of moving it until it was too late. And I’ll argue that Mitch made a lot of plays where he simply had to improvise, which should have been by design. I’m not saying Mitch had a great game, and we’ll get to him in a minute, but once again he wasn’t given much help by his coach.

The process should be starting with what your QB and offense can do and do well and sprinkle in the other stuff you want to do in time. Nagy has spent all season starting with the stuff he wants to do and sprinkling in what his offense can. We thought he had turned a corner. He didn’t.

-We generally have a policy of not complaining about officials at the top of the menu if at all, but the call on Cordarrelle Patterson on the punt turned the whole game. It was a perfect play, it just looked like it wasn’t at first, and the refs went with their gut instead of the rules. Even in our dreamiest visions of the offense, they would need turnovers and short fields and turnovers to boost them. Even if that turnover resulted in a first down or two only and a field goal, and you chalk off the touchdown the Packers got right after, the Bears win. The Bears have only themselves to blame, but they didn’t get much luck either.

-Earlier in the season, I was would make dagger-eyes at the defense when they gave up a game-winning drive when it was in their hands, as they did against Oakland, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, and did their best to do against Denver. Still, they were holding opponents under 20, which is supposed to be enough.

Today, they got it up their ass on two drives on the third quarter, and a good portion of that was just not making tackles. And that isn’t anything other than just not doing it. You have to get guys to the ground and the Bears didn’t. Back that up with only getting to Rodgers a handful to times and sometimes on blitzes, and that’s not good enough. They made enough plays to keep the Bears in it and give themselves a chance, but that’s not enough. Look anywhere you want on the unit, but in this type of game you have to bring it all. They didn’t bring quite enough.

-Right, so Mitch. Hardly perfect, hardly a disaster. Certainly competed. Could have had more interceptions on another day. Was inches from a big play with Miller on the 4th down. Didn’t make the right throws on the other fourth downs. Did make some great plays on the run. If it were earlier in the season you’d say it would be enough to work with going forward. I don’t know what you say now. But…13 points isn’t enough. You have to finish. And he was only a couple plays from finishing enough to win, but that’s what we keep saying.

-So it’ll be another playoff-less year. We’ve seen far worse Bears teams. The expectations are what make this so disappointing. But there’s more than enough to build on with this team for it to contend next year. And maybe you just make the five plays you didn’t this year to get the three to four wins you don’t have now. Football’s weird. It also sucks.

Baseball

Took me a week and a half, but I’m finally getting around to the pitcher that MLB Trade Rumors has the Cubs picking up. And that’s Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson. It wouldn’t be the sexiest name, and it might not even get your pulse going above normal at all. Does it make any sense? Let’s dive in.

Why A Spoon, Sire?: Maybe because they think he’ll be cheap. Gibson did not have a very impressive 2019. His ERA was a full run higher than it was in 2018, and he had health problems with a bout of ulcerative colitis, which sounds just about as pleasant as trying to make out with a wolverine (not THE wolverine, because who here wouldn’t make out with Hugh Jackman? I thought so). Gibson has claimed it stemmed from catching E. coli last offseason on a trip to Haiti and the Dominican, as this story just gets more and more pleasant. How healthy Gibson was for most of the year, he wasn’t shut down until September, seems to be open for debate. Gibson did say he’d lost about 10 pounds through the colitis and hadn’t slept well all season because of it, so do with that what you will. Which should be nothing because…gross.

Anyway, even with that, Gibson’s 2019 looks a little better under the hood than the surface numbers would indicate. He continues to get a ton of grounders, 51% of his contact in fact. He struck out a career-high rate, with nine hitters per nine innings or 22%, another career mark. And his 7.9% walk-rate was the second-lowest of his career. He managed to do all that while trying not to shit out his guts, so you have to give him something.

Gibson was undone by things that might not continue. One being a 20% HR/FB rate, as he perhaps got the business end of the homer-karma the Twins had as they were belting out 300+ homers as a team that made no sense. Gibson’s career number in that category is 14.1%, so he could see a drop in homers against simply because reasons. Gibson has given up over 40% hard-contact on fly balls for the past three years, so that rate probably won’t come tumbling down either, though. Gibson also had a 67% left-on-base percentage, which means he was getting some bad sequencing luck.

Gibby also was undone by some fiendish BABIP treachery, with a .330 BABIP that was 22 points over his career mark and 45 points above his 2018 finish. Again, that will come down simply because, and might even come down aggressively with a Cubs infield behind him (not that the Twins were defensive stiffs or anything near it). Still, an expected slugging of .428 and an expected-wOBA of .330 is not exactly encouraging.

Much like his teammate Jake Odorizzi, whom we focused on yesterday, Gibson found a little bump in velocity with his fastball and sinker this past season. His sinker and change are the main ground-ball weapons, but he also used a curve more and perhaps an enterprising team would try to get him to use it even more. Gibson’s curve has really picked up drop in the past two seasons, along with some horizontal movement.

He only threw it 13% of the time last year, and perhaps bumping that closer to 20% could see him improve. With a 40% whiff-per-swing mark on it, it could be more of a weapon than it is at the moment, or at least there’s a chance it could.

Ein minuten bitte, vous einen kleinen problemo avec de religione (he was from everywhere): Well, there’s the small fact that Gibson really only has two good years in the majors, and that was 2018 and 2015. ’16 and ’17 saw him have an ERA over 5.00 and the FIPs weren’t kind to him either. Even though Gibson has never walked a ton of guys, while also not being terribly miserly with his free passes, his WHIPs have been horrific because he gives up a lot of hits, whether he’s being beaten about in homers or not. And that’s because he just gives up a lot of hard-contact.

While his stuff has improved, at least the curveball, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be a dominate-a-lineup guy and more of a dance-through-the-rain guy. And the Cubs already have like, three of those.

Gibson is 32 now and will be for the 2020 season, so his window of improvement is very small if it exists at all. This is probably the guy you’re going to get.

Little Silver? Little Gold?: MLBTR has Gibson and the Cubs coming to a two-year, $18M deal. Which is certainly the kind of deal you’d give to “a guy,” which is pretty much what Gibson is. He’ll take the ball 28-30 times and…well, that’s really all we can guarantee. Maybe if you change his repertoire around a bit and maybe if he’s finally past his internal health problems you can get a little more, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll give you anything spectacular.

If you’re looking merely to plug a gap, Gibson can do that. If you’re looking to actually improve that gap, then there are myriad options out there like the ones we’ve discusses–Wheeler, Ryu, Odorizzi, and on and on. Gibson is basically a Jason Hammel, and the Cubs need more than that because they can’t guarantee Darvish’s health or revival at 33, and they have no idea what they’ll get out of Lester or Q.

Not enough…I need more…