Chicago Cubs

Stone's mailbag: Howry's return, Beckham's struggles

Stone's mailbag: Howry's return, Beckham's struggles

Friday, May 28, 2010
7:08 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Bob Howry, Freddy Garcia, and more!

Question from Kendra - Morris, IL: Steve....why in the world would the Cubs ever re-sign Howry? Are they looking to really get the bullpen's ERA to explode?
Steve Stone: I believe sometimes organizations will take a shot on a veteran pitcher who also happens to be a pretty good guy who was well liked the first time around with the team, and figured their other guys weren't getting the job done. They will take a shot, if it doesn't work out, most of what he is being paid is being paid by Arizona, and for them its a no-lose situation. You cant trust a pennant chase which is the way the
Cubs see this year playing out to rookies like Samardzija and they would rather add a veteran. There is no doubt his stuff is not what it once was, they are just hoping what he can give is better than what they have.

Question from David - La Grange, IL: Steve, do you think it's a good idea to bring up Andrew Cashner and pitch him as a setup guy?

Stone: So far the Cubs fancy him as a starter; I believe he would be very effective at the tail end of the bullpen. He will get to the majors, as far as the role is concerned, I am sure he would be as good a right handed setup man as they have. Bear in mind he has been used in the minors as a starter.

Question from Chris - Chicago, IL: Steve, a two-part question. First, do you see Freddy Garcia continuing to have quality starts through the rest of the year, and second, if Garcia does falter, can Daniel Hudson step in and be okay?
Stone: I think Freddy's stuff is a little short but he is long on heart and not afraid of anything. That being said, your 5th starter is usually there for a reason and cant throw as consistently well as the first 4 guys ahead of him. I cant tell if he will last all year but I think he is still a good addition. Over the long haul, I don't see his stuff stepping up. As far as Daniel, he is throwing it as well as he has all year and certainly will be one of the alternatives turned to if and when the situation dictates.

Question from Mike- Naperville, IL: Steve, should the White Sox consider sending Gordon Beckham to Triple-A?

Stone: If you have been watching, he has been hitting a whole lot better. He will be a very good player, but currently he is going through the growing pains that all but a select few go through. Mauer and Pujols didn't go through any, and are part of a small club who had big first years and continued on without any bumps in the road. He is a good
solid player, will hit a lot better than he does now, and I don't think sending him to the minors when he is getting every day bats in the majors would help him at all.

Question from Jay - Batavia, IL: Steve, what's your opinion on Sabermetric stats? Do you buy them at all?
Stone: I really believe that computers have a place in baseball and all of the stats currently employed by the computer people have some validity to them. One of the things a computer will never be able to do is tell you the size of a guys heart, quantity of intestinal fortitude he has, and will he be the same player for a contending team as he will be for a 4th, 5th, or 6th place team. There are a lot of players who thrive on teams that wont win. Put them on teams that can and will win and you will find that they just don't seem to play the same. When you look at the stats, they can only tell you what a player has done, what he has done in certain situations, what he has done against pitchers and other things computers do. It cant tell you if this guy is a pitcher, will he beat the Yankees in September if he is traded to the Rays or Boston?

The computer can only speculate on how a player will respond which is why very good scouts with experienced eyes should always have a place in the game and always be counted on heavily while evaluating a player. During my major league career, I played on some very bad teams, some very mediocre teams, some teams who were in it for a while who fell out and some exceptional teams, and I can tell you there are a lot of players that excel on those teams that end up 3rd 4th and 5th and because of that their stats look good, many of the Sabermetric categories, they are traded to teams that are in the race and they suddenly dissolve. That is where good old fashion scouting, knowing backgrounds, understanding his nightlife habits, which types of pitches he cant hit if he is a hitter, how difficult it is to get out quality hitters in a key situation; all of those things are difficult. A mixture of all the tools we have at hand now in baseball makes, to me, the most sense. There are a lot of young baseball executives raised with the idea that Sabermetrics is absolutely the way to go. I prefer a combination of good old world baseball evaluations along with the new world of computers. That combination seems to be able to get it done. Taking a look at good scouts sees what it does when the Twins have 5 everyday players that they developed for their own system and brought them to the major leagues.

Kris Bryant knocks out Brewers and knows what big-game experience means for Cubs

Kris Bryant knocks out Brewers and knows what big-game experience means for Cubs

MILWAUKEE – Teammates swarmed Kris Bryant in Miller Park’s visiting dugout late Thursday night, flinging sunflower seeds and forming a mosh pit around the National League’s reigning MVP.

Are you not entertained? The Cubs haven’t always played with this urgency or made it easy while nursing a World Series hangover. But they can feel it now, how close they are to October and how much they learned last year while making history.

It’s too early to pop champagne bottles, but the Cubs won a huge swing game in the NL Central race, beating the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th inning when Bryant blasted Oliver Drake’s 92-mph fastball off a beam underneath the gigantic video board.

The Cubs watched it ricochet back onto the right-center field grass for a go-ahead two-run homer, bumping up the division lead to 4.5 games while cutting the magic number to clinch the division down to six.

After a head-spinning 5-3 victory that lasted 3 hours and 57 minutes and ended at 11:08 p.m., Bryant didn’t sound surprised or overexcited, the same way he didn’t overreact when the Cubs struggled to gain traction before the All-Star break and the Brewers swept the defending World Series champs two weekends ago at Wrigley Field.       

“We’ve done that so many times,” Bryant said. “We’ve had a nice run with that. I guess it is experience. The heartbeats aren’t going too fast when the game’s on the line there. It kind of plays to our advantage.”

So did the Brewers pushing their bullpen so hard this week trying to catch up that Cubs manager Joe Maddon would have to admit “their A-listers were not available,” meaning Corey Knebel, Anthony Swarzak and Josh Hader. Classic response from Bryant, who has 28 homers and likes to think of pitchers as nameless, faceless opponents: “I didn’t find out their top three guys were down until after the game was over.”

Maybe that changes the ninth-inning rally against Jeremy Jeffress where Ian Happ sprinted for a “Respect 90” single and scored the game-tying run when Javier Baez delivered a two-out, two-strike single up the middle. But the Cubs are in their element now, playing games that matter, not what-if.

“I just think we like loud,” Maddon said. “I think we’re a little bit like adrenaline junkies with the fact we’re used to 40,000 people a night.”

Just look at the stone face Wade Davis made in the ninth inning, escaping a bases-loaded jam by striking out Domingo Santana swinging at an elevated 95-mph fastball and forcing Orlando Arcia to chop a 3-2 pitch back to the mound. The All-Star closer who’s 32-for-32 in save chances went back out for the 10th inning and struck out the side to notch the win. That is a five-out playbook Maddon can use in October.

“You definitely feel it,” Davis said of the playoff atmosphere in a road stadium filled with Cubs fans. “It’s a lot easier to get up for the moment itself instead of having to create it yourself. You feel that.”

As Cubs move closer to division title, Jake Arrieta looks ready for October

As Cubs move closer to division title, Jake Arrieta looks ready for October

MILWAUKEE – This was the type of game Jake Arrieta visualizes, a loud atmosphere with 35,114 fans on their feet and an opponent that really doesn’t like the Cubs at all.

This one would ultimately be out of his hands, lasting 10 innings and almost 4 hours on Thursday night at Miller Park, but Arrieta looked like a Game 1 starter as the Cubs roared back for a 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Those playoff plans are coming into focus, the magic number to win the National League Central title down to six and Arrieta managing the Grade 1 right hamstring strain that has been one of the biggest question marks hanging over the defending World Series champs.

“It’s just good to be back out there,” Arrieta said. “These are big games, and I want to be a part of as many as I can, especially to try and clinch the division as quick as possible and then kind of line things up for us in October. But we got to get there first.”

Arrieta threw his first real pitch in 18 days at 7:16 p.m., firing a 92-mph fastball toward Brewers leadoff guy Eric Sogard and giving the Cubs a shot of adrenaline. That always wears off, but the Cubs are a different team when Arrieta sticks his chest out and triggers his perfect posture into a crossfire delivery.

Arrieta looked sharp in his first real action since Labor Day, even as his five-inning, 71-pitch limit exposed how fragile this pitching staff might be right now. If it’s not Jon Lester laboring at the top of the rotation, it’s the softer spots in the middle of the bullpen, or questions about how much wear and tear the Cubs can take after a deep playoff run in 2015 and last year’s World Series madness stretched into early November. 

But Arrieta basically picked up where he left off as the NL pitcher of the month for August, realigning his unique mechanics and generating enough power from his right leg, restarting the momentum in a second half where he’s shown the flashes of dominance you saw during his 2015 Cy Young Award season. 

Arrieta exited this game with a 2-1 lead – before it spun out of control – and passed one test by hustling to cover first base to complete an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play in the fifth. He walked just one of the 20 hitters he faced and could really only regret one pitch in the fourth inning, the 92-mph fastball Domingo Santana drilled off the batter’s eye in center field.

“I felt OK,” Arrieta said. “I can tell that something happened. I think it’s just the residual feeling of something like a hamstring strain. But no pain, really no discomfort. That’s a good sign.

“Tomorrow is the biggest indicator moving forward of how we’ll be able to approach this. I don’t see any reason that I won’t feel good tomorrow.”

Arrieta is scheduled to make two more regular-season starts, but this dramatic comeback means the Cubs might be able to treat those as controlled experiments instead of must-win situations.

“Just an incredible baseball game,” Arrieta said. “This is a really awesome time to be in an organization like this, in a division like the NL Central, where there’s a couple teams that have playoff aspirations in mind. If we take care of business here over the next few days, we get a couple steps closer.”