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NLDS Game 1 Mailbag

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Playoff baseball is almost here and that is fantastic news for several obvious reasons. Here’s some Game 1 Cubs vs. Nats Mailbag to keep you from clawing your eyes out while we wait for first pitch on Friday. Follow me to play along throughout the postseason:

I’m not on the merch committee here at barstool sports believe it or not but at the same time I’ve made this the top question for a reason. I want merch. I need it. If it were up to me we’d have a pop up store in Wrigleyville right now and all I’d do sunrise to sunset is sling Cubs Barstool playoff merch. Until then, get yourself a clean Yabo shirt for what promises to be a dirty October run:

Don here is obviously talking about TBS’s soon-to-be favorite ancillary story line of this NLDS. It is inevitable that we will sit through replay after replay of Daniel Murphy tea-bagging the Chicago Cubs in the 2015 NLCS. There’s no avoiding it so just accept that he went 9/17 with 4 dingers in as many games and then got thirty seven million dollars to play for the Nationals where he now finds himself against the Cubs in the playoffs yet again. TBS will act like this was an act of fate.

It’s not.

He’s just a good player on a good team. But to answer your question, I’d prefer we don’t hit Daniel Murphy in the dick on purpose but maybe it’s not a horrible strategy with runners on base. Here me out: Daniel Murphy is an All Star second baseman and a fantastic fucking hitter. He hits missiles up the middle and the other way and blah blah blah. If you throw Daniel Murphy something to hit, he is going to hit it very hard. Respect where it’s due.

Caveat – Daniel Murphy gets extremely excited when he hits. It’s all he wants to do. He’s like buddy the elf when it comes to hitting. IT’S HIS FAVORITE. The solution? A heavy dosage of inside-inside fastballs. All. Day. Long. And not inside like on the inner third of the plate. I mean not-in-the-strike-zone inside. Belt high fastballs off the plate inside, under his elbow non stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just go right at Daniel Murphy’s right hip.

Evidence: Daniel Murphy is hitting .386/.456/.581 with runners on base. That is a Best Offensive Player Of All Time stat line. The reason is when runners get on, pitchers tend to go away with the fastball/soft stuff because that’s where you get your double plays. That’s just common sense. And unfortunately that’s Murphy’s sweet spot. His OPS is 1.051 in double play eligible at-bats. Barry Bonds’ career OPS is 1.051 More specifically, his OPS is 1.461 with runners on 1st and 3rd and less than one. Barry Bonds’ OPS in 2001-2004 when he won 4 straight MVP’s was 1.368. Follow me here folks: when there’s no where to put Daniel Murphy in 2017, he essentially becomes the best player of all time at peak steroid abuse.

FWIW, I did not like writing that paragraph any more than you liked reading it.

With no men on base, Murphy’s numbers drop to .272/.324/.513. To me that just means you can’t beat Murphy down and away consistently. It’s that simple. You can’t expect to do it when he expects you to do it. That’s the story behind these numbers. Don’t get me wrong… he’s still pretty good with bases empty but I’m not losing sleep. It’s just a different threat. And for comparison, here’s Rizzo and Bryant’s splits with men on vs. no men on:

Rizzo runners on: .267/.404/.489

Rizzo bases empty: .278/.381/.523

Bryant runners on: .281/.411/.481

Bryant bases empty: .305/.408/.573

Murphy trends way up with runners on. That’s the point. Give me Rizzo and KB all day over him. Just saying he turns into Babe Ruth with runners on and so the situation so heavily influences his success. By the way, Arrieta, CJ and Wade Davis are the only guys capable of throwing a slider into Daniel Murphy’s dick. That was not a consideration in writing this up but in hindsight I suppose their availability will dictate the strategy. Maybe with RISP and first base I’d say green light to redefine Dick Balling.

For right now yes. CJ is the NLDS 8th inning/stopper/first guy up in a big moment. He’s got the stuff for it, and you’re 100% right here: this is life in the big city at this point. This is what he signed up for and he’s by far and away the most electric arm not named Wade Davis. Bullpen electricity is so huge in October and CJ’s that guy. For better or worse due to experience but the bright side is the impact it can have on his career if things go well. The down side is Joe is probably going to play musical chairs if this playoff run goes anywhere anyways so who cares.

Pitching ahead in the count. Winning the proverbial “1-1″ battle on a consistent basis. Timely hitting. And generally just taking advantage of opportunities. That’s the mix.

Alternatively, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo can also mash this lineup through any pitching stuff under the biggest stage as evidenced time and time again in their young careers. That’s also a nice bonus that should help if they make it back-t0-back.

If Joe wants to take a step forward, yes. Kyle is a grown up and should be treated as such. Someone get that message to Joe for me thanks.

As the second shut down option behind CJ. He’s harder on righties than lefties, but tough on both if that makes sense. So I don’t want to make a meatball sandwich here and say he’s the #1 lefty on lefty reliever…. I think he’s just a very good relief pitcher that can go deep if necessary. I can see him coming in 6th inning for 7-9 hitters if they need him. I can see him pitching the 8th inning of a tie game too. That’s the beauty of Monty. I just wish he commanded his fastball a little better.

Significantly as he is arguably the most dominant right handed pitcher in baseball next to Corey Kluber. Pick one or the other IDGAF all I know is Scherzer is going to the Hall of Fame. He’s so filthy I don’t know where to start. It’s like a right handed Chris Sale with better fastball command and velocity. If he misses game 1 it’s going to be a significant change to the rest of the series regardless of what anyone says.

Max Scherzer is on top of the world right now re: being a big swinging dick starting pitcher. Not starting him Game 1 drastically helps the Cubs for the simple fact that the Nats become reasonably beatable in Game 1. If he goes game 2, the importance of winning Game 1 obviously goes through the roof. Advantage to the Nats would be trying to keep Scherzer fresh to make 3 starts in the NLCS if necessary. So basically right now I am accusing the Nats/Scherzer of faking this injury so they can preplan ahead. Play chicken with Joe Maddon to see what he puts out. That kind of shit.

Personally I think it’s absolute ridiculous to give him an extra 24 hours on the basis of an injury at this point. Don’t do that and tell me he’s healthy 100% on Saturday and not Friday. Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining. Max Scherzer wants the ball at all times. If he sits game 1 it’s because someone else thinks it is a good idea.

The unfortunate thing is I have absolutely no clue what impact that will have on the Cubs. If I were Joe Maddon, I would want Kyle Hendricks opposite Max Scherzer in Washington because Hendricks has the unique ability to suck the life out of a start within back-to-back 9 pitch innings. He’s a silent assassin and I think he can use his change-up really effectively in what promises to be a goddamn zoo in Washington. Hendricks can slow that down big and that’s why I want him against Scherzer.

1. Wade Davis

2a. CJ Edwards

2b. Monty

4. Everyone else

5. Justin Wilson

Idk how else to put it but Justin Wilson has not embraced playing in a pennant hunt. Funny how that works when you throw 98 from the left side but different story for different day I guess. Point is I think Wade Davis is as good as it gets. CJ and Monty have the type of plus-plus pitches (CJ’s cutter, Monty’s curve) when they are “on” that makes them so deadly. Honestly though at this point you can lump the next group of guys together after them. There is definitely depth… I’d just feel more comfortable if there wasn’t such uniform regression between last year and this season.

Because the defensive right fielder is getting paid twenty eight million dollars which looks like this: $28,000,000. Ricketts loves putting his investments to work and Heyward is no different. Also, Theo finds value offensively elsewhere, particularly catcher and in the infield. That allows for some flexibility throughout the rest of the lineup.

I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for Scherzer. You just put your best 8 ballplayers in the lineup and let them go at it. I really think it’s a mental thing when you’re against someone as dominant as Scherzer.

Strasburg is different. Strasburg is a glass house. He is a pussy. He is the guy who lived at home with his mom in college because he didn’t socialize with his teammates. Strasburg listens to Nickelback and still thinks about the girl who got away freshman year of high school. He’s emotional with a big arsenal of potentially plus-plus stuff. I say potentially because he needs to settle in to get comfortable so the Cubs should obviously be more patient first time through the lineup. Like show me Strasburg is command his fastball and getting ahead consistently. Then if he does that, you can make adjustments and be aggressive second time through.

To get that done, Maddon might consider this…

1. Almora – CF

2. KB – 3B

3. Rizzo – 1B

4. Willy – C

5. Schwarber – LF

6. Zobrist – RF

7. Russell – ss

8. Baez – 2b

Big theme for me here throughout the postseason will be that Albert Almora is ready to be the everyday centerfielder. And that’s a bold take. I don’t care. I read earlier from a notable Cubs beat writer that the Cubs should start Jon Jay at leadoff against Gio Gonzalez because he’s 4-15 lifetime and hey that doesn’t suck. My thing is that KB, Rizzo, Willy, Schwarbr, Baez, etc. are going to win this world series or not. You’re kind of stuck looking at the #1 spot and if you think like Bill James that it really doesn’t matter who leads off, then I have to go with giving Almora the opportunity.

This is such a huge opportunity for the young core players. Almora has been kept out of that group, albeit intentionally the last two years, but his time has come and I don’t think we need to fuck around with it anymore.

Schwarber’s in because he can hit 4 homers in a game plain and simple. That’s how playoff baseball works.

Love Ian Happ just don’t love him that much right now. He will have his moments and should be first available bat off bench and extremely valuable in double switches. But he strikes out a lot and we can’t have two guys striking out as much as Happ and Schwarber, and I have to go Schwarber.

Also – I’m a coin flip on Zobrist vs. Heyward. I love good defense and Heyward is obviously one of the best around, but you can’t beat an Evangelical Christian this time of year. Zobrist is a big Believer and that puts me over the edge from a confidence standpoint. I almost feel like this is his own platform to show the power of Christ, or something like that. In other words, I think he doesn’t care, at all, that he hit .232 this year. I think a clean slate goes a long way with the Zobrist kind of player. So he gets the nod but it’s honestly it really doesn’t matter in my opinion. I’m sure Joe will find a way to get everyone their AB’s in the best opportunity for them to succeed. Or something like that.