Well that could not have gone any better. Sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend was the perfect start to the second half for our Cubs. They looked like a professional team doing it too, which was the most encouraging part.
Solid starting pitching, timely hitting, smart baserunning, and mostly strong defense with the occasional brilliant plays shows that this team has the capability to really do some good things if they put their minds to it.
Having said all that, there were still a couple of things that need to be cleaned up if they want to keep the little blue train rolling. These are more picky things than big things but they bug me that they keep doing them.
I said earlier this week I would punch Joe Maddon if he put Jason Heyward in CF and Kris Bryant in RF again and so I now need to go to Chicago and find out what he's got. Besides the fact that this is a major physical accident waiting to happen, it weakens the outfielders defensively.
In the third inning both Heyward and Bryant let balls drop in front of them that should have been caught ultimately costing Jose Quintana three runs and a hit to his ERA. If Heyward is in right he makes that play, and with Albert Almora in CF he would have caught that ball, and Q is out of the inning with no damage.
We fans can see this, and I know Maddon has the stats at his disposal, so why does he keep putting Heyward in CF?
According to The Athletic's, Mark Simon, "Even in his 10th season, Jason Heyward is still an excellent right fielder, perhaps just a notch below what he was in his prime. But the Cubs have played Heyward in both right field and center field, and there’s a big difference in his performance at the two spots.
Heyward’s numbers in center are almost the direct opposite of his numbers in right, whether we’re considering his defensive runs saved or his Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays & Errors."
So I'm not the only one who's noticed. Drives me insane.
The other little thing that I've noticed this year is that Victor Caratini has terrible hands when he catches. He drops almost every other ball thrown to him. When the pitcher throws to him more go in the dirt than not. It's like he is catching in slow motion but the game is at regular speed.
The other time he drops them is on every throw to the plate from the fielders. He not only can't make the play because the ball is rolling around on the ground, but the runners end up advancing another base while he frantically is looking for it. Seriously, pay attention the next time he catches.
I guess if those are the two worst things we have to worry about in the second half then we'll be just fine, but they are easily fixable. It's the little things that ultimately cost you, and the little things can turn into big things if not addressed.
I said that the start of the second half was going to be important for the Cubs, and, so far so good. Now they need to stay focused and play the same against the Reds who have had their number so far this season.