MESA, Ariz. – The analytical and emotional sides of the brain – the Big Data influence and obvious intimidation factor – are leading Joe Maddon to this conclusion: Kyle Schwarber should be the leadoff guy for a thumping Cubs lineup.
"Schwarber is the frontrunner," Maddon said Thursday at the Sloan Park complex. "You could always consider (Ben) Zobrist if you wanted to. You could talk about Jon Jay. I'd say they're the leaders in the clubhouse right now. But primarily I like the idea of 'Schwarbs.'"
Because that would fit the Bill Jamesian ideal of lineup construction – put your best hitters at the top to get them more at-bats – as well as force the opposing pitcher to worry about Schwarber, reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant and Silver Slugger Anthony Rizzo in the first inning.
"None of it's attractive," Maddon said. "There's pause involved there, because if you don't want to pitch to him, then the guys coming up behind are really pretty interesting. It's formidable, so it's uncomfortable from the other side."
That left-right-left balance would set up the switch-hitting Zobrist, a World Series MVP known more for his patience, clutch-time nerves and contact skills than brute force.
"When people say cleanup hitter or third-place hitter, everybody's applying conventional means from several years ago," Maddon said. "My thinking is more: Better hitter, get on base and then who can actually protect Rizzo. Who's going to make them pitch to Rizzo as often as possible?"
The conditionals: The Cubs are a deep team built around versatile players with a seven-month marathon in mind. Schwarber is coming off a traumatic knee injury that limited him to two regular-season games and designated-hitter duties during the World Series. Daily matchups and inevitable injuries will shape the lineup.
Still, Maddon said 140 games "sounds like a nice number" for Schwarber, who has five homers and a 1.178 OPS in 51 career postseason plate appearances.
"He's everyday, but you have to do that with some kind of foresight," Maddon said. "You don't want to beat him up and have that knee bark on him. You give him his day off probably against a tough left-hander you just don't want him to see. And then you just do something differently. But otherwise you'll see him up there."
The Geek Department still needs to send more information to Maddon, but the Cubs are toying with the idea of again hitting the pitcher eighth, in front of the Jay/Albert Almora Jr. platoon.
"I'm just waiting to hear back from the boys if there's a significant bump or difference in that or not projection-wise," Maddon said. "This would be theoretically perfect, in a sense, where either like Almora or Jon to Schwarber to KB. That's kind of nice.
"The only concern I have there is who's hitting seventh. We have a nice lineup, so the seven-hole hitter then would lose some benefit by having the pitcher hitting eighth. So that's the give-and-take with something like that. And it has nothing to do with the eight-hole and hitting sooner and all that. My concern is who's hitting seventh and what that's going to do to that."
The Bulls turned into sellers ahead of the NBA's trade deadline.
According to CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill, the Bulls have traded Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. The Vertical first reported the trade.
Both Gibson and McDermott had been on the trading block, as Goodwill reported last week.
Payne, 22, was drafted by the Thunder in the first round (14th overall) in the 2015 NBA Draft. In 20 games this season, Payne is averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game.
Lauvergne, 25, was acquired by the Thunder from the Denver Nuggets prior to the 2016-17 season. In three seasons, Lauvergne is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
The 31-year-old Morrow is averaging 5.8 points in 40 games this season.
Bulls GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson will meet the media following today's 2 p.m. deadline.