Daily Dose: The other LaRoche

Leave a comment

Many people were quick to write off Andy LaRoche when he got off to a
bad start in the majors, batting just .184/.288/.272 in 111 games
between the Dodgers and Pirates. However, as awful as those early
numbers were LaRoche’s track record in the minors predicted long-term
success and sure enough he finally appears to have gotten on track at
the age of 25.

Pittsburgh showed patience when LaRoche started the season 2-for-22
and he’s responded by going 47-for-139 (.338) with 16 extra-base hits
in 40 games since, giving him a nice .304/.374/.435 mark overall.
LaRoche may never develop more than 20-homer pop, but he’s hitting for
a nice batting average, getting on base at a good clip, and playing
solid defense just like his minor-league stats predicted.

While the Pirates are rewarded for their patience with LaRoche, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Beginning the year with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in the
rotation hasn’t worked out especially well for Oakland, as the
21-year-olds have combined to go just 4-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 20
starts. Despite that manager Bob Geren revealed that the A’s will call
up 22-year-old Vince Mazzaro to make his big-league debut Tuesday
against the White Sox.

Much like Cahill and Anderson, Mazzaro is a good prospect who likely
isn’t ready to thrive in the majors yet. Taken out of high school in
the third round of the 2005 draft, Mazzaro posted ERAs of 5.05 and 5.33
at Single-A before going 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A
last season. However, at 22 years old with a 3.80 ERA and 71/26 K/BB
ratio in 90 innings at Triple-A rushing him seems silly.

* An MRI exam on Grady Sizemore’s inflamed left elbow revealed no
structural damage, but Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Monday that
he may still be facing surgery. Sizemore is expected to spend two weeks
resting the elbow and getting treatment, but if he doesn’t show
significant improvement during that time he’s a candidate for
arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for another 4-6 weeks.

* Edinson Volquez’s return from the disabled list lasted all of one
inning Monday, as he experienced numbness in several fingers on his
pitching hand and exited after getting swinging strikeouts on Rick
Ankiel and Jason LaRue. Volquez is set to be examined further Tuesday
and had been on the DL for two weeks because of back spasms.

* Rich Hill struggled in his start last week, but bounced back
Monday with seven shutout innings against the Mariners. Hill was one of
my favorite sleeper targets this year because he still possessed
big-time strikeout ability if the control issues that plagued him last
season could be cured. Spring elbow problems delayed his Orioles debut,
but he now has a 4.15 ERA and 22/12 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Joba Chamberlain likely quieted some critics
Monday by throwing eight innings of two-run ball … White Sox general
manager Kenny Williams said Monday that he never talked to the Astros
about Roy Oswalt … Coco Crisp will be away from the Royals for at least
the next few days following the death of his great grandmother … Jeremy
Bonderman (shoulder) threw eight shutout innings in a rehab start
Sunday at Triple-A … Victor Martinez started at designated hitter
Monday despite fouling a ball off his knee Sunday … Xavier Nady
experienced elbow pain while playing catch Monday, but will try to
throw again Tuesday as he attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery … Jarrod
Washburn lost his duel with Hill despite slicing his ERA to 3.22 with
seven innings of one-run ball … John Smoltz (shoulder) allowed one run
over five innings in a rehab start Sunday at Single-A.

NL Quick Hits: Carlos Beltran was once again scratched from the
lineup Monday with a stomach virus … Jose Valverde (calf) tossed a
25-pitch bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to do so again
Wednesday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) reported no problems following a
bullpen session Sunday and is on track to start Wednesday … Aramis
Ramirez (shoulder) said Monday that he’s still hoping to rejoin the
Cubs after the All-Star break … Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) is slated to
come off the disabled list to start Tuesday … Mike Cameron is
day-to-day after leaving Monday’s game with a knee injury … Ricky
Nolasco pitched well Monday in his second start at Triple-A, allowing
one run in seven innings … According to Jerry Manuel, Jose Reyes (calf)
could come off the DL as soon as Friday … Troy Glaus (shoulder) has
been cleared to resume throwing … Hiroki Kuroda came off the shelf
Monday with five solid innings against Arizona, allowing two runs.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.


The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Getty Images

After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder: