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I didn't think it would happen.
From The Cub Factor:
I find it hard to believe he's being seriously considered, but that's what reports say. Hey, Theo & Co. are far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far better talent evaluators than I am, and they have far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far more information than I do, but . . . really?
The guy essentially hasn't seen real pitching for a year, given that he was injured the first week of April. Now he's going to face a World Series-capable staff? Maybe he matches up well with Andrew Miller (Assignment Desk, activate!), but I doubt it, because as great a comic book hero as Schwarbs is, he was still a platoon player last year who couldn't hit lefties (.143/.213/.268).
And though he's been given surprise clearance to run as well as swing the bat, it's hard to imagine it's worth the risk to have him run with playoff intensity (apparently he's forbidden from sliding). So if he did get a hit (that was less than a home run), you'd have to pinch run for him and burn a guy on your bench. And in games at Wrigley, he'd only be available for pinch-hitting duties. So that's a roster spot that jams up virtually every way in which Joe Maddon has uses his bench, if you can even call it a bench because virtually everyone plays somehow, some way.
Then there is the question of who you would take off the roster to make room for Schwarber. The options would seem to be: Coghlan, Montero, Soler (who makes the most sense given that his role at this point is essentially to smack a pinch-hit home run) and only in the hearts of Cubs fans, Heyward. Then again, the Cubs could drop Rob Zastryzny and go back to the pitcher-position player ratio they used against the Giants. Zastryzny was put on the NLCS roster expressly to give Maddon another left-handed option against the left-handed Dodgers, and even then he didn't see any action.
The Cubs could also opt to drop Zastryzny and add back Matt Szczur or even Tommy La Stella, who would be a much safer pinch-hitting bet at this point than Schwarber.
Look, I love the idea of the Schwarber fairy tale too. I'm just kind of shocked at how seriously it's being taken. My read on the situation is that Schwarber got a surprising favorable doctor's report, he called Theo and begged to be considered, and - with nothing to lose and no reason to crush anyone's soul - they sent him to Arizona for a look-see. I could be wrong, but I don't think there's any way we see him in Cleveland.
Boy was I wrong.
Or maybe I'll be proven right!
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs saw it the same way I did in a thorough analysis, concluding:
I hope the Cubs put him on the roster. The spectacle would be great theatre, and he would make the series more intriguing. But from a pure baseball perspective, I might leave him at home, and give those Contreras at-bats instead.
The Tribune's David Haugh likes the move because it's "bold," which really isn't a good reason:
Activating Schwarber qualifies as a bold move, but the Cubs didn't win their first pennant in 71 years tiptoeing gingerly to the top. This would not be a regime anybody can call risk-averse. Whether trading for controversial closer Aroldis Chapman or reinstating AWOL infielder Tommy La Stella, the Cubs have been consistent letting baseball reasons rule their thinking. Schwarber is just the latest example.
Letting baseball reasons rule a front office's thinking is the opposite of bold, anyway; it's pragmatic.
Also, Haugh writes:
"The Cubs don't lose any versatility. If Schwarber requires burning a pinch-runner, so be it. That's the luxury of having so many players who play so many positions, making their roster more like a 28-man roster."
That's simply not true - none of it. The Cubs do lose versatility. It might be worth it, but a designated hitter/pinch hitter who can also play the field (and run the bases) is eminently more versatile, just by definition.
Finally, Haugh argues:
"We are talking about sacrificing the 25th man [I thought it was the 28th man!], in this case left-handed reliever Rob Zastryzny. Please avoid using the word unfair to describe how the unusual circumstances affect Zastryzny, the third lefty out of the bullpen who didn't pitch in the NLCS."
I have not heard or read anyone say the move was unfair to Zastryzny. Chances are he would have been left off the World Series roster even without Schwarber coming back.
Even the Fangraphs dude who watched Schwarber in his two Arizona Fall League games seemed half-hearted in his endorsement of adding him back to the team:
"[W]hile I can't deny the way Schwarber is running the bases is slightly disconcerting, I think there's enough juice in the bat right now to justify rostering him over either Chris Coghlan or Jorge Soler . . . Rostering him doesn't seem crazy to me."
The best case for Schwarber is simply this, which Haugh does also say: If he gets that one big hit, it could be worth it. And Cleveland will have to account for him. The Cubs braintrust obviously thought that was enough, and they haven't turned stupid overnight. Maybe we'll learn more about the internal discussions after the season.
Also at Fangraphs, Craig Edwards makes a (surprisingly) persuasive case that Cubs manager Joe Maddon should keep sending Jason Heyward out to right field.
"Would you believe me if I told you Jason Heyward's play hasn't cost the Cubs anything this postseason?" Edwards asks, knowing our answer. Here's his answer:
"In the games during which he's been benched, Heyward's replacements, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, have combined for an overall 0-for-17 mark with two walks, a sac bunt, and one double play (including all PA from Soler and Amora).
"Heyward hasn't had too many big opportunities in the field, but his 90-mph throw to nab Adrian Gonzalez at the plate in Game One of the NLCS was an important moment in that contest.
"And for as poor as Heyward's been offensively, he's at least been timely: two of his four hits have been of the leadoff, extra-base variety in one-run ballgames, so his WPA in the playoffs is actually the same as Ben Zobrist's (at -0.32) and not too far off of Dexter Fowler's -0.15 - to say nothing of the defensive plays not counted in WPA.
"Of course, looking at the past 10 games and counting a couple timely hits as worth more due to sequencing is a very poor way to make future decisions. If the Cubs knew in advance Heyward would hit that poorly in the first two rounds, they likely wouldn't have played him."
* SECCountry: Chicago Cubs Edge Cleveland Indians In SEC Representation for World Series.
Marty's Final Pre-World Series Hate List
Some readers are wondering where Marty is, seeing as I've handled Cub Factor duties the last two weeks. Well, Marty is on a years-in-the-planning family vacation to Disney World. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, it's too perfect!
Saddest e-mail ever:
I should see every game based on the story times
Sent from my iPhone
Maybe next year the Cubs can have Marty throw out the first ball.
Chris Matcovich of TiqIQ sent this along: At the current ask prices, '16 WS would be more expensive than 6 out of the last 7 Super Bowls.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 24, 2016
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Posted on Mar 15, 2019