Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'

966909.png

Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'

Always fun to visit Thursdays at 10 a.m. with Danny Mac and Spiegs on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 The Score and today was no exception.

Maybe fun isnt exactly the right word, considering the down state of matters at Halas Hall. Mac was sputtering at how Mike Tices offense continues to ignore the receiving talents of Matt Forte and Spiegs wondered if this offense and the way it blocks is really a fit for Forte.

My thought on using Forte as a receiver is that it actually has changed of late; Forte caught six passes at Minnesota and five against the Packers, which is more than one-third of his entire receiving total (30) to that point of the season.

But the bigger point, as I discussed in a previous look at how Cutler is in fact very involved in game planning, is that this is absolutely not all on Tice. Cutler, and assistant Jeremy Bates, are involved in the game plans and then Cutler also has the option of audibles, which Tice gave him.

If Forte is not getting the ball, a major part of that rests with Cutler simply by virtue of the offenses structure.

And maybe Forte works better in a scheme like the zone-blocking system that works so well for Arian Foster, as Spiegs noted. Unfortunately thats not going to happen in Chicago unless there is a complete offensive overhaul. A key for Forte is staying with his one-cut strength and get away from the jump-stop-cut that James Allen once epitomized in the Bears offense of a year ago.

Spiegs also mused on what the Bears in fact could do for an offensive coordinator if Lovie Smith is retained. Smith with one year remaining on his contract will have a tough time selling the O-coordinator job, as Dick Jauron once did and had to promote from within in the person of John Shoop.

The options could be to hunker down and live with Tice, who certainly was a positive influence on the offense under Martz, or promoting Bates from quarterback coach to coordinator. Have to think about that one.

That led into thoughts of whether the Bears can or will win the final two games, and Mac was spot-on in sensing that the conventional thinking that Detroit will be the rougher one may be off base. This will not be a dance by any means, was his observation. That would be a yes.

The Cardinals are a better defense than the Lions, and with the state of the Bears offense right now, Chicago scoring is difficult to envision.

Well see. Curious to see where things stand next Thursday after the Arizona game has been played and Detroit remains.

Follow in-game with me on BearsTalk BearsPulse at CSNChicago.com. Ill be doing the game coverage via Twitter (@CSNMoonMullin) with added info and well have other coverage folded in as well.

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

lackey.jpg
AP

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs have scored zero runs through 18 innings at Dodger Stadium this weekend and still haven’t faced Clayton Kershaw yet. Neither game got tense enough for star closer Kenley Jansen and the sound system blasting “California Love.”

Of course, the Cubs survived a 21-inning scoreless streak last October and came back to eliminate the Dodgers and win their first National League pennant in 71 years.

But the Cubs have to keep saying this is a new year, even as a grueling schedule approaches the Memorial Day mile marker for a 25-23 team. And you could see the frustration during Saturday’s 5-0 loss in front of 48,322 and a national TV audience.

John Lackey walked off the field and down the dugout steps after the fifth inning and slammed his glove to the ground. A one-run game had turned into a 5-0 blowout as Lackey walked pitcher Brandon McCarthy and Chris Taylor then drilled the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats. Lackey screamed into his glove after Chase Utley knocked a two-out, two-run single into right field and Dodger Stadium got loud.

Lackey is now 4-5 with a 5.18 ERA for a team that had been built around reliable starting pitching. The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon in what should be a must-see Kershaw vs. Jon Lester matchup.

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

LOS ANGELES – Scott Boras waved a Cubs beat writer over toward the VIP section behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. Holding a smartphone in hand, the super-agent started rattling off data points on Saturday afternoon, making the case for Jake Arrieta once he hits the free-agent market after this season.

Boras pushed back on the idea that Arrieta is something less than an elite pitcher and compromised by diminished velocity, launching into a defense that lasted roughly 15 minutes and drew in two more Chicago reporters before a security guard told the media to clear the field because it was an hour before first pitch.

Once again, Boras used 2014 Max Scherzer as a reference point, detailing five of six starts between May 21 and June 17 in which a Cy Young Award winner gave up seven runs, five runs, four runs, four runs and 10 runs. That didn’t stop Scherzer from making another All-Star team, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, leading the Tigers to another division title and jumping to the Nationals for a seven-year, $210 million megadeal.

“I just remember going through this,” Boras said, “because when Detroit came to town, I got the ‘Oh my God, the ship is sinking.'"

The night before, Boras sat in a front-row seat with his entourage watching Arrieta during a 4-0 loss that saw aging Dodgers Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez crush fastballs over the center-field wall. One theory – floated by the media and essentially confirmed by manager Joe Maddon – is that Arrieta (4.92 ERA) will have to learn how to pitch in a new reality where he can’t automatically unleash a 95-mph fastball.

“That is so far remote from the truth,” Boras said. “To create a voice to your fan base to suggest that Jake is not Jake – Jake is throwing at frankly better levels than what Scherzer did. And the reality of it is that Jake has this history.

“He’s got a great history that goes on, like (Clayton) Kershaw does, like (David) Price does, like (Zack) Greinke does. These guys have not done this for one year. He did it ’14, ’15, ’16.”

Here’s how Brooks Baseball’s online database has tracked Arrieta’s average velocities across the last three-plus seasons:

2014

Four-seam: 94.59

Sinker: 94.49

2015

Four-seam: 94.93

Sinker: 95.21

2016

Four-seam: 94.32

Sinker: 94.44

2017

Four-seam: 92.64

Sinker: 92.50

Here’s the Brooks Baseball analysis of Scherzer’s fastball from 2012 through last season’s Cy Young Award campaign: 94.97, 94.46, 93.88, 94.67, 95.23.

[MORE: Scott Boras doesn't believe Jake Arrieta is feeling pressure of free agency]

Boras dismissed a question about Arrieta’s inconsistencies at the beginning of his career as he shuttled between the Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate and how that could impact the perception of a 30-something pitcher.

“I’m looking at a three-year window coming into ’17,” Boras said. “When you’re elite, you have not done it once. You have not done it twice. You’ve done it three times. Jake has had three premium years. He’s in the Cy Young voting three years in a row. That puts him in a class of all these people.

“(One) comment is: ‘Oh my God, he’s dropped in velocity.’ Fair observation. My point is they all drop in velocity. All the elite pitchers drop in velocity, because they come in the league, they’re throwing 96, they’re throwing 95, then they’re down. But what are they all doing? They’re all (within) the ranges, probably close to 92 and 93.5.”

The Boras Corp. pitch to owners and executives this offseason will also revolve around durability, advanced stats and postseason experience. Arrieta has made 25, 33 and 31 starts across the last three seasons, ranking second in the majors in WHIP (0.97) and third in soft-contact percentage (22.6) and pitching in six playoffs rounds.

Where Kershaw and Price have repeatedly had to answer questions about their big-game performances, Arrieta can cue up the highlights from the 2015 wild-card game in Pittsburgh and show off his 2016 World Series ring.

Boras clearly has an agenda, but all this is worth remembering amid all the instant analysis and overreactions to how the defending champs are playing now. It might also reinforce why Theo Epstein’s front office could view this as a bad investment and keep rolling the dice with change-of-scenery guys and trading from their surplus of hitters. 

“We’re going to sit here and evaluate a player on a 60-day moment or a 10-start moment when he has three years of his history?” Boras said. “Don’t do it. That’s not fair. It’s not an evaluation, because all their velocities drop.

“All these guys are all still doing well and all their velocities dropped. The key thing is they were able to do what they did three years running. What does Jake have an advantage over all of them at? What does Jake do better than anybody? He wins big games.”