Request for feedback: the upcoming season


Hey all.

HardballTalk is about to enter its fifth season of covering this wonderful little game, and because I’m both bored this afternoon and interested in some interaction, I’m asking for some feedback about anything specific you’d like to see as far as regular season coverage goes.

Not that we’re planning on any radical changes. Indeed, we’re basically of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset around here. But if there are daily or weekly features you think that would make life great for you, make an argument for them in the comments or hit us up at the “Feedback” button on the upper righthand corder of the main page.

In the past we’ve done power rankings, but those got stale. We often do look aheads to the night’s action, but not always. We obviously do the morning And That Happened/Settling the Scores stuff. But if there’s anything else you’d like to see from us, we’re listening. We may not do it because this ain’t a democracy, but we are listening. And stealing your ideas and claiming them as our own.

As the guy who does the And That Happeneds, a question/request for info: how many of you read it between 6AM and 8AM Eastern? How many of you save it for later? I ask because, as I often do at the beginning of the season, I’m thinking about how best to make that somewhat labor-intensive feature work for you guys and for me.

One thought I had was pushing it a tad later — say 8AM Eastern or so. Doing so would make my evenings much easier as I usually begin composing it as the games finish up. But it’s not just a convenience thing. If I started working on it in the morning when I woke up, I’d be able to see more highlights and read after game quotes before writing, and that may lead to a bit more insight, jokes and stuff. If the real point is having a post — any post — up at 6AM for you guys to crack wise in, I could maybe do something highlighting one specific/fun/random thing from the previous night as a placeholder until ATH is done. Just spitballin’.

I’m really kind of agnostic about it all. On the one hand, I know a lot of you read that post first thing in the morning. On the other hand, I sometimes worry that fatigue and things make it lose some momentum in the middle of the season.  I’m really just looking for your comments.

Thanks, all. Sixteen days until Opening Day!

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:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.