Showing posts with label Chicago Cubs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago Cubs. Show all posts

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yankees rally from 0-2 series deficit, upset Indians

Didi Gregorius
The Cleveland Indians once had a 22-game winning streak. They finished the season winning 35 of their final 42 games.

None of that means much now, does it?

The New York Yankees are in the ALCS after winning Game 5 of the ALDS, 5-2, at Cleveland on Wednesday night.

I felt as though the Yankees would be a dangerous opponent for Cleveland, just because New York is the one team that can match the Indians' bullpen arm for arm. However, I never expected the Yankees to pull this thing off, especially after Cleveland won the first two games of the five-game series.

New York rallied to win the final three games of the series, and sure enough, strong bullpen work was essential in the Game 5 victory.

That said, we would be remiss if we did not point out that Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia outpitched Corey Kluber, the Cleveland ace and likely Cy Young Award winner in the American League this year.

Didi Gregorius touched Kluber up for two home runs, a solo shot in the first inning and a two-run blast in the third. Kluber lasted only 3.2 innings and left the mound in the top of the fourth inning with his team trailing, 3-0.

Sabathia, meanwhile, allowed no runs on only one hit through the first four innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth, when he gave up two runs on four hits.

The Indians cut the New York lead to 3-2, and had runners on first and second with only one out. But former White Sox reliever David Robertson came in and slammed the door, inducing Francisco Lindor to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Sabathia struck out nine over his 4.2 innings pitched, and that's all the Yankees needed from him with Robertson and Aroldis Chapman coming out of the bullpen.

Robertson played the role of super reliever perfectly, navigating a scoreless 2.2 innings. He did not allow a single hit and protected that one-run lead through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

That got the ball to Chapman, who struck out four and did not allow a hit while recording a six-out save.

The Yankees got a little breathing room in the top of the ninth inning, when Brett Gardner's single on the 12th pitch of an at-bat against Cleveland closer Cody Allen produced two runs to make it 5-2. Gardner fouled off five consecutive 3-2 pitches before getting the base hit. Credit him for a terrific job against one of the better relievers in the AL.

In Game 5, the Yankees' starter outpitched the Indians' starter, and the New York bullpen was better than the Cleveland bullpen. Add in a big-time performance from Gregorius, and there's your upset.

The Yankees are headed to Houston to open the ALCS on Friday night.

Nationals force Game 5

So, I guess sending Stephen Strasburg to the mound worked out OK for the Washington Nationals, huh?

Strasburg struck out 12 over seven shutout innings Wednesday, and the Nationals beat the Cubs, 5-0, to tie the NLDS at 2-all. I don't think Tanner Roark gives you that performance, Washington fans.

We probably wouldn't be talking about a Game 5 back in Washington on Thursday night if Roark had started that game.

The Nationals are at home for this decisive game, which can only help them. But I still think the Cubs have the advantage pitching-wise. Kyle Hendricks was brilliant in Game 1, and he'll start Game 5 on regular rest. Can the Washington offense solve him?

Washington will have to go with either Gio Gonzalez or Roark, but Max Scherzer should be able to give them a couple innings of relief, if necessary.

Still, I'd give the edge to the Cubs. But don't listen to me. I thought the Cubs would close out the Nationals in four. I also thought the Indians would beat the Yankees.

The only thing I know is that I know nothing about baseball.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What is going on with Dusty Baker and the Washington Nationals?

Dusty Baker
Does Dusty Baker know that playoff baseball is different than regular-season baseball? Does he have any urgency to win whatsoever?

Baker and the Washington Nationals received a huge break Tuesday when Game 4 of their NLDS against the Cubs was postponed because of rain here in the Chicago area.

The Cubs lead the series, 2-1, and the Nationals are facing elimination in Game 4. The unexpected day off was a gift for Washington, because now it can start ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg on regular rest in this critical game.

Or so we thought.

After the postponement Tuesday, Baker instead announced he would be sticking with Tanner Roark for Game 4. That's the same Tanner Roark who has a 4.67 ERA pitching in the weak National League East this season.

Seriously, Dusty? That's the guy you want to pitch with your season on the line? Should this even be a debate?

Baker also claimed that Strasburg was battling illness, because there is a lot of mold in the air in Chicago at this time of year, and apparently the air conditioning wasn't working right at the Nationals' hotel or some such thing.

Talk about lame excuses.

I can attest that the mold count is a problem in Chicago right now. I suffer from a mold allergy, and I've struggled with it off and on for the past month or so. But you know what I do? I take some allergy medicine and go to work. It's kind of an annoying thing, but it's hardly debilitating. It doesn't prevent a person from doing his job.

Early Wednesday, Baker reversed course and announced that Strasburg will start Game 4. Duh. I assume someone from the Washington front office stepped in and knocked some sense into him. Even if Strasburg fails, this is an obvious move, and it should have been announced Tuesday to give Strasburg additional time to prepare himself mentally for the start.

But Baker isn't very good at strategy, and often fails to make the obvious move. Take Game 3, for example. With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Cubs had the go-ahead run on second base with two outs and Anthony Rizzo at the plate.

Baker had a number of options there. He had a solid reliever on the mound in Brandon Kintzler. He could have walked Rizzo and taken his chances with Willson Contreras, the Cubs' on-deck hitter. He could have brought in his best left-handed reliever, Sean Doolittle, to deal with Rizzo. Or, he could have walked Rizzo and brought in his best right-handed reliever, Ryan Madson, to deal with Contreras.

Instead, Baker opts to bring in 36-year-old journeyman lefty Oliver Perez, he of the 4.64 ERA. Rizzo singles on the first pitch from Perez, and the Cubs win Game 3, 2-1.

Nice move, Dusty, nice move. I guess he was saving Doolittle for the ninth inning, huh? Maybe you do that in the regular season, but certainly not in the playoffs.

Honestly, is there a manager out there who is a worse tactician than Dusty Baker? My goodness ...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The offseason's most lopsided trades

Wade Davis
Wade Davis is 32 for 32 in save opportunities for the Cubs this season, and that got me thinking about some of the most lopsided trades of the past offseason.

I'm came up with three of them, and two of them benefited NL Central contenders. I'm not talking about veterans-for-prospects trades here. Most baseball trades these days fall into that category, and it will be three or four years before we can fully understand who "won" those deals.

No, I'm talking about the "good, old-fashioned baseball trades" that involve major leaguers changing teams.

I uncovered three such deals, and two in particular, that were horribly one-sided.

1. Boston Red Sox trade 3B Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers for RP Tyler Thornburg

Milwaukee has been perhaps the biggest surprise in the National League this season, if not all of baseball. Did you think the Brewers would be only one game out of the second NL wild card spot on Sept. 20? Did you think the Brewers would be only 3.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central at this stage of the season?

Me neither.

And all Shaw has done is hit .275/.349/.523 with 30 home runs, 32 doubles and 96 RBIs. Milwaukee's rebuilding effort has been accelerated by Shaw's breakout season in the middle of its lineup.

Thornburg? Well, he hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox this season. He's out for the year after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Red Sox are leading their division despite this lopsided trade, but if they are being honest with themselves, they'd have to admit they missed Shaw for much of the season. Third base was a black hole in Boston until prospect Rafael Devers was called up from the minors to man the position.

Boston's three-game lead in the AL East might be a little bigger right now if it had kept Shaw as its third baseman to start the year.

2. Kansas City Royals trade RP Wade Davis to the Cubs for OF Jorge Soler

Simply put, the Cubs would not be in first place by 3.5 games had they not acquired Davis in the offseason. He has been outstanding, and he is the reason the Cubs are 73-1 when they take a lead into the ninth inning. You can't do better than 32 for 32, right?

The only game the Cubs lost when leading after eight wasn't Davis' fault -- Hector Rondon blew that one.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Royals thought Kelvin Herrera could close games. They were wrong. Herrera has a 4.56 ERA, almost two runs higher than his career norms, and he's blown five saves and lost his job as closer here in September.

The Royals are 73-77 and have faded from playoff contention.

Soler? Injuries have limited him to 32 games, in which he has hit .151/.255/.269 with two home runs and six RBIs. Good job, good effort.

What a steal for the Cubs and what a disaster for the Royals.

3. Seattle Mariners trade OF Seth Smith to Baltimore Orioles for SP Yovani Gallardo

It isn't even that Smith is any good. He's his usual mediocre self -- .257/.341/.434 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 108 games.

But it's insanity for anyone to think trading for Gallardo is a good idea. The washed-up right-hander has been a predictable disaster for the Mariners, going 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA. Mercifully, he's been removed from the Seattle rotation after a performance similar to that of James Shields throughout the year.

What do you think? Am I missing any trades that were woefully one-sided?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Backtracking a little bit: Avisail Garcia is injured

Avisail Garcia
Amid all the trade news and excessive hype surrounding a noncompetitive Crosstown Classic, I failed to comment on this bit of news: The White Sox's lone All-Star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, went on the disabled list this week with a strained ligament in his right thumb.

We can't say Garcia's absence was the reason the Sox lost, 6-3, to the Cubs on Thursday. His replacement in right field, Willy Garcia, went 1 for 3 with a solo home run off Jon Lester to provide one of the few positives from the game and that series overall.

The bigger issue is we're once again starting to wonder who the real Avisail Garcia is. He had a torrid first two months, but he's been badly regressing in recent weeks. He was in a 1-for-30 slump leading up to his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Immediately after the break, it looked as if he might be emerging from the slump. He went 5 for 13 with a pair of home runs in a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. His swing seemed to be getting back to where it was at the start of the season.

Alas, Garcia went right back into the slump once Seattle left town. He was 3 for 24 with not a single extra-base hit in the six games before he went onto the disabled list.

Here are Garcia's splits by month:

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs
June: .293/.340/.444, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs
July: .216/.259/.333, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs

The July decline in production sticks out like, well, a sore thumb. Could these struggles be the result of a nagging injury? Absolutely. Could these struggles be the return of the old, disappointing Avi? Unfortunately, yes. It's hard to tell.

For me, it's hard to pencil Garcia in as one of the core players to lead the way during the Sox rebuilding phase because he has a habit of ending up on the disabled list. This is his fourth full year in the big leagues, and only once has he played in more than 120 games. He still could surpass that plateau this year -- we'll see how long this injury sidelines him. The Sox say two weeks, but based on their track record of fibbing about injuries, that could mean two months. At that point, the season would be almost over.

The question is, what do you do with Avi? Do you hope he gets healthy, hope he finishes up strong, then trade him as a "sell high" guy this offseason before he regresses or gets hurt again? Do you believe the April, May and June Avi is the real Avi and extend his contract, believing he's a significant piece of the outfield puzzle going forward? Or, do you do nothing, and just allow him to be the placeholder right fielder during the rebuild and then move on from him when (hopefully) one of the prospects is ready to replace him?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

James Shields is pitching? I'd rather watch 'Alf'

Wednesday night's White Sox game provoked a text conversation among my friends and I where we asked the question, "Could Alf hit a home run if he had a chance to face James Shields"?

Or better yet, could the 1980s TV sitcom character pitch well enough to earn a spot in the Sox bullpen?

Why Alf, you ask?

Well, reruns of that program air in syndication on MeTV at 8:30 p.m. weeknights in the Chicago area. And 8:30 p.m. is about the time when the average Sox game goes to hell, and fans start reaching for the remote control to find something else to watch.

So, flipping channels, you might find yourself watching "Alf." Did you know that when Alf gets the hiccups, the only two cures for him are cat juice and spinach?

Ah, that crazy Alf! You never know what he's going to do next.

Would Shields pitch better if we provided him with some cat juice and spinach before his next start?

The erstwhile right-hander got pummeled again Wednesday in an 8-3 loss to the Cubs. He made it through three innings unscathed, but he gave up a run in the fourth and four more runs in the fifth without recording an out. Shields, an alleged "innings eater," once again lasted only four innings and left a depleted Sox bullpen with five innings to cover. Alf eats more cats than Shields eats innings. It's a miracle the Sox only lost by five.

In his past four starts, Shields is 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00. This is not a new trend. Since he was acquired by the Sox in the middle of the 2016 season, he has gone 6-15 with 6.49 ERA in 32 starts.

How much longer do we need to put up with this? Shields profiles as a relief pitcher at this stage of his career. He can only get through a batting order one time before he implodes. Why do we think he's getting knocked out in the fourth or fifth inning every time he goes to the mound?

Thank goodness the "Alf" reruns come on about the time the fourth inning starts.

In all seriousness, it's time to remove Shields from the rotation and replace him with Reynaldo Lopez, who has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level.

Lopez fanned 10 more hitters in his latest start Wednesday with the Charlotte Knights. He has compiled a 1.96 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 36.2 innings over his past six starts.

It's time to make a change. The Sox have a prospect who is forcing the issue. If Lopez is on the mound, I won't be switching over to watch "Alf," I promise.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Not sure what to make of Carlos Rodon's crazy day ...

Carlos Rodon
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon on Tuesday became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 11 batters in a start that lasted only four innings.

Congratulations to Rodon on becoming an answer to a trivia question.

His performance in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs was baffling. He obviously possessed enough stuff to generate plenty of swings and misses. Normally, when a guy strikes out 11, you're looking at a dominant outing, if not a victory.

Not so here.

Rodon faced 22 hitters -- only eight of which put the ball in play. (He also walked three.) But seven of those eight balls in play resulted in Cubs hits, and four of those seven hits went for extra bases. The biggest of those was a three-run home run by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in the bottom of the first inning. The North Siders led from that point forward.

It's almost as if Rodon has become a three-outcome pitcher: It's either a strikeout, a walk or a cannon shot. Weird.

The other thing about Rodon's day: He collected his first major league hit: a two-out, two-run double in the top of the second inning off John Lackey. The Sox were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the loss, and Rodon's hit was the "1."

It could have been a different game. The Sox hitters blew chance after chance after chance.

Bases loaded in the fifth after Lackey hit three batters in the inning. No runs.

Second and third with nobody out in the sixth inning. No runs.

First and third with nobody out in the eighth inning. No runs.

There was nothing doing in the clutch for the Sox in this game. Maybe they would have lost anyway because, well, they did give up seven runs. But things would have been far more interesting with even average offensive execution.

As for Rodon, he's the one remaining starting pitcher who is supposed to be a piece of the future. He's got to start being more efficient with his pitches. It shouldn't be taking him 30 pitches to get through the first inning. He shouldn't be piling up 98 pitches to get through four innings.

The Sox need him to be a six- or seven-inning pitcher, not a four- or five-inning pitcher like some of the retread veterans in the rotation. If he needs to pitch to contact more, so be it.

I read this morning that Rodon is averaging 4.24 pitches per hitter. That's up from 3.90 in 2016. (League average is 3.88).

In fairness to Rodon, he hasn't pitched much this year. He's been hurt. This was only his fifth start of the season. Hopefully, the lack of command is a sign of rust.

The Sox are clearly bottoming out right now in their rebuilding phase, and it would be nice to see a few signs of progress from some younger players who are expected to become cornerstones. Rodon is one of those guys. The team needs more from him, both now and in the future.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Surprisingly, Miguel Gonzalez baffles Cubs in crosstown opener

I apologize for previously including Miguel Gonzalez on my list of washed-up White Sox veterans.

Unlike starting rotation mates James Shields, Mike Pelfrey and Derek Holland, Gonzalez occasionally comes up with a well-pitched ballgame against a good team.

The right-hander came off the disabled list July 18 and fired six innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he backed that up with another strong outing Monday -- pitching 7.1 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 2017 Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field.

With the win, the Sox (39-57) broke a nine-game losing streak and collected their first victory since the All-Star break. Gonzalez (5-9) also became the first Sox pitcher in 30 games to have an outing of seven innings or more.

It wasn't easy.

The key moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Sox leading 2-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for Anthony Rizzo, and with the Sox bullpen depleted because of trades, manager Rick Renteria had little choice but to stick with Gonzalez.

With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, Rizzo flew out to the warning track in center field to end the threat.

The conditions did not stop the Sox from hitting a pair of home runs. Rookie center fielder Adam Engel's drive in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) got into the left-center field bleachers to give the Sox the lead for good at 2-1.

Matt Davidson added a 476-foot solo shot off Koji Uehara in the top of the eighth inning to complete the scoring. That one was going to be a home run on any day, at any park, in any conditions.

Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak picked up his first save in 226 career relief appearances. He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before Kris Bryant reached on an infield single and Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras came to the plate representing the winning run, but Swarzak overmatched him with two blazing fastballs right on the black of the outside corner, the second of which was strike three called.

Contreras didn't think they were strikes, arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and breaking his bat in frustration after the out was recorded. Alas, they were strikes. Those pitches looked good to me, and good to K zone on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast, too.

Hey Willson, now it's your turn to cry.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

White Sox trade Jose Quintana to Cubs for four prospects

Jose Quintana
Shock and disbelief are reverberating throughout Chicago, after the White Sox traded left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to the crosstown Cubs on Thursday.

I'm probably not as stunned as some people are. If you watched any of the Sox-Rockies series over the weekend, you might have heard Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone talking about how it would be "crazy" for the Sox not to entertain trade offers from the Cubs.

Harrelson, for better or for worse, has long been regarded as a mouthpiece for Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Listen carefully to the oracle, and you might be able to read the tea leaves. If Harrelson is talking about a potential Sox-Cubs deal, then you shouldn't be shocked when one occurs.

Let's take a look at the four guys the Sox acquired:

  • Eloy Jimenez, OF -- The best prospect in the Cubs' system, the 20-year-old outfielder is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. Jimenez, who was on the World roster for the Futures Game, was hitting 271/.351/.490 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 42 games with Class-A Myrtle Beach this season. 
  • Dylan Cease, RHP -- The sixth-round pick of the Cubs in 2014, Cease was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the North Siders' system. He is ranked as the No. 83 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. In 13 starts with Class-A South Bend, Cease had a 2.79 ERA and 1.258 WHIP with 74 strikeouts.
  • Matt Rose, 1B-3B -- The 22-year-old was an 11th-round pick in 2015. Rose had a .227/.281/.481 slash line with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs in 65 games at Myrtle Beach this season.
  • Bryant Flete, IF-OF -- The 24-year-old has played both infield and outfield positions. He was slashing .305/.355/.425 with six home runs and 37 RBIs in 70 games at Myrtle Beach.
People who know me will probably not be surprised that I'm less than enthusiastic about this trade. I'm not going to say that Sox general manager Rick Hahn did not acquire good prospects in this deal -- he did. He said he was looking to get the top two prospects out of an organization in a Quintana trade, and the Cubs clearly met his asking price.

That said, while Jimenez and Cease are high-quality prospects, neither is close to MLB-ready. Both still need significant development time in the minor leagues, and the Sox are going to have to coach these guys up in order for them to reach their potential.

Based upon what you've seen over the past 10 or 15 years, what have the Sox done to earn our faith as fans that they can develop this talent? Very little in my estimation, and that's why I'm less than excited about this haul, just as I wasn't overly enthused about the haul the Sox get in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades.

It's nice to have a highly regarded farm system, but that doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the Sox do not handle these prospects correctly. I will continue to be skeptical until I see results at the major league level, and I think we all understand that it will be a few years before we can make any firm judgments on that.

As I've said before, it's not the rebuild itself that offends me. It's the actors in charge of the rebuild who concern me. The fan base seems to be in favor of this trade, and frankly, I've surprised by the lack of skepticism among Sox fans these days.

In the past, we as a fan base have always been willing to ask tough questions, to not just take things on faith or face value. In this rebuild, we are putting a lot of faith in the same people who brought us Jeff Keppinger, Adam LaRoche, James Shields and assorted other bums.

We can only hope their judgment of young talent, and their development of that young talent, is much better than their judgment on which veteran players to pursue in trades and in free agency. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The White Sox's alleged 'refusal' to make trades with the Cubs

Jon Garland -- drafted by the Cubs, won a title with the Sox
It's going to be a long summer for White Sox fans. Our team is not good. We've acknowledged it on this blog countless times. The losing has started, as the Sox have dropped five straight after Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

But it's going to be a long summer in other ways, too. For instance, it's only May 12, and I'm already sick of reading articles and hearing radio talk criticizing the Sox for their alleged "refusal" to make trades with the crosstown Cubs.

I'm not going to link to any articles, because this topic doesn't merit more web hits than it's already getting. But if you've been paying attention, you've no doubt heard the discussion.

Let's clear up one thing: Geographical rivals in Major League Baseball rarely trade with each other. The Yankees don't make a lot of deals with the Mets. The Dodgers don't trade much with the Angels. The Orioles and Nationals don't have each other on speed dial. You think the Rangers are going to be talking trade with the Astros anytime soon?

Me neither.

So, it's true the Sox are unlikely to make any deals with the Cubs this year, or any other year, but this is not a unique situation in the game of baseball. So why is the local media making it out as if Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf invented the concept of not making major trades with a close geographic rival?

Your guess is as good as mine. We can only speculate. There are many legitimate criticisms of Reinsdorf and the Sox. We've made some of those criticisms here on this blog, but not making more trades with the Cubs is not a legitimate gripe.

Let's clear up another misconception: At this time, the Sox and Cubs are not a good match as trading partners.

That's right, I said it.

It is true the Sox are interested in dealing starting pitcher Jose Quintana. It is true the Cubs are off to a slow start this season relative to expectation, and lackluster starting pitching has been the main reason for their struggles.

However, many media types are operating under the myth that the Cubs have a "deep farm system." This is false. Of the two Chicago teams, the Sox actually have the higher-ranked farm system -- they are in the top 10, and in some cases the top 5, in a lot of rankings.

The Cubs, in contrast, are ranked in the middle of the pack, because most of their top prospects have now graduated to the big leagues. The North Siders also paid a high price to acquire relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman at last year's trade deadline. The Cubs sent shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees in that deal. Torres is now the top prospect in the New York system, and many believe the Yankees have the best farm system in baseball.

You look at the Cubs, and they have two really good positional prospects -- outfielder Eloy Jimenez and second baseman Ian Happ. But after that, it thins out significantly. To acquire Quintana, the Cubs would have to part with at least one of those two players, and potentially both. Do you think that's a price they want to pay, given that their system is significantly thinner than it was at this same time last year? I doubt it, especially since their tremendous depth was among the reasons they won the 2016 World Series.

You know who else needs a starting pitcher? The Yankees, and as I mentioned, their farm system is regarded by many as the deepest in the game. Don't be surprised if Quintana ends up there midseason. Even though it's lost on the Chicago media, the Sox and Yankees match up much better as trade partners than the Sox and the Cubs. There is no question New York has more trading chips to entice the Sox than any team in baseball, including the Cubs.

I know, I'm destroying the narrative with logic and facts.

You see, there's tremendous risk for both sides when you trade with a close geographic rival. If you make a bad move, or a lopsided move, it can haunt you for years. We still hear talk of how the Sox traded Sammy Sosa to the Cubs -- that trade has been cited this week, in fact. And it was cited to claim the Sox are reluctant to make a move with the Cubs because they were burned on that one, way back in 1992. There's no arguing the Cubs "won" that Sosa deal, steroids stuff aside.

But, let me fill you in on a little secret: Jon Garland was once a first-round draft choice of the Cubs. He also is the proud owner of a White Sox World Series ring. Garland pitched 13 years in the bigs, and he was a two-time 18-game winner with the Sox, including during the 2005 championship season.

The Sox would not have won that championship without Garland, and they would not have had Garland had the Cubs not foolishly traded him to the South Side.

That logic works both ways, but we rarely hear a levelheaded analysis of it. It's much more convenient to accuse Reinsdorf and the Sox of being petty and refusing to deal with the Cubs. That narrative is fiction, and with this blog entry, I've already given it way more discussion than it's worth. So I'll stop right now. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yoenis Cespedes returning to Mets; Edinson Volquez to Marlins; Jon Jay to Cubs

Yoenis Cespedes
Finally, a few free-agent signings to talk about.

The biggest bat on the market is no longer available. Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday agreed to return to the New York Mets on a four-year, $110 million contract, pending a physical.

This is a good move for both player and team. The contract is worth $27.5 million a year on average, which is the highest ever for an outfielder in MLB history. Cespedes has to be happy with that, and he also has to be pleased by the full no-trade clause included in the deal.

It's a good move for the Mets because the commitment is four years to a 31-year-old player, not five or six years. That's palatable, especially since New York is 106-74 with Cespedes in the lineup and 18-23 without him since the Cuban slugger joined the team in a midseason trade in 2015.

Cespedes finished eighth in the NL MVP balloting in 2016. He hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs, 86 RBIs and 25 doubles.

Volquez to Marlins

The Miami Marlins signed veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal worth $22 million.

Volquez, 33, had a good season in 2015 for the Kansas City Royals, recording a 3.55 ERA over 200.1 innings and helping the team to its first World Series title in 30 years. But he regressed in 2016, posting a 5.37 ERA while allowing a league-high 113 earned runs.

You can't blame the Royals for moving on. Kansas City has Jason Vargas coming back from arm surgery, and he'll be their No. 4 starter behind Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy. The Royals still have one spot open in their rotation, and I'm sure they believe they can do better than the declining Volquez.

The Marlins? They need pitching help of any sort after the shocking death of Jose Fernandez in late September. They'll be hoping Volquez can return to his 2015 form with a return to the National League.

Jay to Cubs

I'll call it right now: If the Cubs want to repeat as World Series champions in 2017, they need to re-sign center fielder Dexter Fowler, who ignited their offense in 2016 with a .393 on-base percentage, 84 runs scored and 45 extra-base hits in 125 games.

Apparently, the Cubs are thinking of moving on, however, since they signed veteran Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million deal. Perhaps the Cubs consider Jay a stopgap measure until prospect Albert Almora is ready for a full-time role.

Jay is capable of playing all three outfield spots, and as a left-handed hitter, he hangs in there nicely against left-handed pitching - .288 lifetime vs. righties, .284 vs. lefties. In 2016, Jay hit .311 against lefties and .282 against righties, so the Cubs don't need to platoon him.

This is a player who will do a decent job for the Cubs, but if Fowler leaves as expected, the North Siders will almost certainly have a lesser offensive player batting leadoff next season.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs rough up Indians starter Josh Tomlin, force Game 7 in World Series

Addison Russell
Well, Game 6 of the World Series sure was boring, wasn't it? The Cubs trounced the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, on Tuesday to even the series at 3.

This one was lopsided from the outset. So lopsided that I don't have anything nuanced to say about it. (Not that I ever do.) It was a strong performance by the Cubs, and a poor performance by the Indians. How's that for analysis?

Game 7 is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

You could tell that Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin just did not have it pitching on short rest from the very start of this game. Sure, he retired the first two hitters, but he hung a sloppy 0-2 curve to Kris Bryant, who deposited it in the left-field seats for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Tomlin then hung a curve to Anthony Rizzo and left a changeup high in the zone to Ben Zobrist. Those two at-bats resulted in singles for the Cubs, and placed runners on first and third. The Indians' defense then failed Tomlin as center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall stood and looked at each other as a lazy fly off the bat of Addison Russell fell in for a "two-run double."

Just like that, it was 3-0 Cubs. The game was essentially over there, but for good measure, the Cubs blew it open with four runs in the third inning

A walk and two singles to load the bases ended Tomlin's night, and Russell cleared 'em off with a grand slam off Cleveland reliever Dan Otero. 7-0. No drama on this night. Jake Arrieta worked 5.2 innings of two-run ball to get the win.

I did think it was interesting that Cubs manager Joe Maddon used Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The Chicago closer entered with two on and two out in a 7-2 game, and finished that inning by inducing a groundout by Francisco Lindor.

Chapman also pitched a scoreless eighth. After the Cubs got two in the ninth on a Rizzo home run, Chapman returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff man before departing. He threw 20 pitches and was charged with Cleveland's third and final run, which came across after he left the game in the ninth.

I'm certain Chapman will be available for Game 7. It's all hands on deck in these situations. But it's worth noting that Chapman threw 42 pitches in an eight-out save in Game 5, plus the 20 pitches in Game 6. That's a greater workload for him than usual. Will it matter? We'll see.

You can't really blame Maddon, because you can't win Game 7 if you don't get to Game 7, and I've never faulted a manager for going to his best reliever in a must-win situation. I do think there is some chance fatigue will catch up to Chapman, if he pitches Wednesday -- and I assume he will.

Momentum is on the side of the Cubs at this point. They've won the past two games. This victory in Game 6 was an overwhelming one. The Indians will now be forced to go to their ace, Corey Kluber, on short rest for Game 7. Kluber won Games 1 and 4 for Cleveland in this series, and like Chapman, we also have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. His mound opponent will be Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Two things that could help the Indians: 1) They are playing at home. Cheering fans don't win games, but all things being equal, you'd rather be at home than on the road in Game 7. And 2) Cleveland's top three relievers -- Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw -- did not appear in Game 6. They will be rested and ready to go. Indians manager Terry Francona could turn the game over to them as early as the fifth inning, if necessary.

So far this series has featured two epic games -- Games 3 and 5. Each team won one. The other four games have been lopsided, with each club taking two one-sided victories. Here's to hoping Game 7 is a close one, and not another snoozer.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cubs get away with two egregious mental mistakes, stave off elimination in Game 5

Anthony Rizzo
The 2016 Major League Baseball season will continue for at least another day, after the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians, 3-2, on Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the World Series.

Cleveland's lead in the series is cut to 3-2. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.

The Cubs got this win with quality pitching. Jon Lester did what he is paid to do -- pitch well in big games. He limited the Tribe to two runs on four hits over six innings. He struck out five and didn't walk anybody. After a brief relief appearance by Carl Edwards in the seventh, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman recorded eight outs to pick up the save.

It was not easy for Chapman. The Indians got the tying run to second base in the seventh inning, and they got the tying run to third in the eighth. Both times, Chapman turned them away. The hard-throwing lefty then worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out Jose Ramirez to close out the game.

The Cubs got three runs in the fourth inning off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, highlighted by a solo home run from Kris Bryant. Addison Russell had an RBI on an infield single, and David Ross added a sacrifice fly.

That said, I thought the Cubs were fortunate to get away with two egregious mental mistakes that just can't happen at this time of the season. One miscue was made by Anthony Rizzo in the fourth, the other by Chapman in the eighth.

After Bryant's home run tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Rizzo was the next hitter. He put a good swing on a pitch from Bauer and drove it to deep right field. He stood there, watched the ball, admired it, then slowly started to jog toward first base. Too bad the ball wasn't gone. It hit the wall, and Rizzo suddenly had to hustle to get into second base for a double.

The Cubs are fortunate Cleveland right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall made a poor throw back into the infield. Any kind of decent throw to second base and Rizzo would have made an embarrassing out. Rizzo later scored the go-ahead run in that inning on the Russell single, so if he's out at second base two plays earlier, that three-run inning doesn't happen, and it's anybody's guess whether the Cubs are still in the hunt today.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. Throughout these playoffs, we've seen Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler and now Rizzo not hustle out of the box after making contact. That's embarrassing for your team, even if you don't get thrown out, when you're competing for a championship. It's also a poor reflection on manager Joe Maddon. If one guy pulls that crap, it's the player's fault. But when it's a team-wide thing, the manager better do something. The Cubs can't afford that sort of mistake if they hope to win two games in Cleveland. Next time, Chisenhall might make an accurate throw.

Chapman nearly cost himself the lead, too, when he failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield by Rajai Davis. Rizzo made a terrific stop on the play, preventing the ball from getting down the right-field line for extra bases. But when he got up to make a feed to first base, Chapman was nowhere to be found and Davis was easily safe.

Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases this season, and he predictably swiped second and third base after Chapman gifted him the infield single. From Day 1 of spring training, pitchers work on getting over to first base on grounders to the right side. For Chapman to fail to get a good break off the mound in that spot is inexcusable. It's inexcusable in any situation, let alone in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with a one-run lead, in an elimination game with everything at stake. That miscue cost the Cubs three bases. It could have cost the game.

Fortunately for Chapman, he did have his best stuff on the mound, and he got Jason Kipnis to pop out weakly and struck out Francisco Lindor looking to strand Davis at third.

Again, though, that's a mistake the Cubs better not make once they get to Cleveland. I think the Cubs need to play not one but two clean games Tuesday and Wednesday in order to win this series.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indians push Cubs to the brink with dominant Game 4 win

Corey Kluber
First things first: Can we please stop with the narrative about Cubs pitcher John Lackey being great in the postseason?

Yes, Lackey has had some good playoff moments, such as this game, but he's also gotten his butt kicked in some playoff games, such as this one that is fondly remembered by all White Sox fans.

I keep hearing from both local and national media that Lackey is an awesome playoff pitcher, but frankly, at age 38, it looks like his best days are past. The right-hander has been nothing but mediocre for the Cubs in the postseason. He hasn't worked past the fifth inning in any of his three starts, and he's posted a pedestrian 4.85 ERA in only 13 innings.

Lackey was once again so-so Saturday night, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits over five innings in the Cubs' 7-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 4 of the World Series.

The Indians now enjoy a 3-1 series lead and have three chances to close out the Cubs. Game 5 is Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

Lackey was outpitched by Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one, while improving to 4-1 with 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts. Kluber pitched on three days' rest, and will be prepared to pitch again in Game 7 if the Cubs somehow extend this series that far.

Kluber left the mound after the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead, and the Tribe broke the game open moments later in the top of the seventh on a three-run homer by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Cleveland got Lackey out of there after five, then capitalized for four runs off Chicago middle relievers Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood.

The Cubs had somewhat of a moral victory in the eighth when Dexter Fowler homered off Andrew Miller, thus proving the Cleveland relief ace is mortal. Miller already has set a record for playoff strikeouts in a single season with 29, and that Fowler homer was the first run he has allowed in 17 postseason innings.

Having a 7-2 lead allowed the Indians to rest closer Cody Allen for a night. Dan Otero closed out the ninth inning with no difficulty.

We can't count the Cubs out of this yet, as they have the edge in the pitching matchup in Game 5. Ace Jon Lester is going for the North Siders, and he'll be opposed by the one Cleveland pitcher who has not been doing his job in these playoffs, right-hander Trevor Bauer.

We'll see if the season ends Sunday, or if there will be a Game 6 on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cody Allen closes out dramatic ninth inning for Cleveland in Game 3

Cody Allen
Saw an interesting stat today: The Cleveland Indians are 23-0 when relief pitchers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller pitch in the same game.

I always say the longer a streak goes in baseball, the more likely it is to end. The Cubs had a chance to end that streak Friday night, but Allen slammed the door on them, striking out Javier Baez with two outs and two runners in scoring position to preserve a 1-0 Cleveland victory in Game 3 of the World Series.

With the win, the Indians hold a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

Even if you don't care about either of these two teams, the ninth inning of Game 3 was as dramatic as it gets in a non-elimination game.

Cleveland scored the lone run on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Coco Crisp. The combination of Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen had combined to keep the Cubs off the board through eight innings.

Allen, the Cleveland closer, struck out Kris Bryant on a nasty curve to end the bottom of the eighth inning, but he found himself in immediate peril after giving up a leadoff single to Anthony Rizzo in the ninth.

With Chris Coghlan running for Rizzo, Allen bounced back to get the first out on another good curve that caused Ben Zobrist to swing and miss. Coghlan advanced to second on a weak groundout by Willson Contreras, which set up the drama of having the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth.

Jason Heyward came to the plate for the Cubs with the game hanging in the balance, causing audible groans throughout the Chicago area. The $184 million man is 2 for 31 this postseason, and he's probably the last player the Cubs wanted up in that situation. Heck, they've got some pitchers who have been swinging the bat better than Heyward.

This time, the Cubs lucked out when Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli booted what should have been a routine grounder off Heyward's bat. Suddenly, the Cubs had first and third and the much more dangerous Baez at the plate.

Heyward stole second and got into scoring position representing the winning run, and Baez jumped ahead in the count, 2-1. It was set up for the Cubs to possibly steal this game, but that's when Allen got tough.

The Cleveland reliever went back to his curve on 2-1. It broke hard and down in the dirt, and Baez could not check his swing. Strike two.

Gutsy pitch, because remember the tying run is on third base. If Indians catcher Yan Gomes doesn't block the ball, the game is tied. Gomes made the block. Cleveland got the strike, and Allen had succeeded in changing Baez's eye level.

With two strikes, Baez had to be thinking about that curve ball. After all, Allen had recorded three outs to that point -- all on curve balls. So what did Allen do? He pitched Baez backward. He went away from his preferred out pitch. He probably figured Baez would be protecting against the low breaking ball, so he threw a high fastball, above the hands. And he blew it right past Baez. Swinging strike three. Game over.

Brilliant pitching and a dramatic end to a great baseball game between the two top teams in the sport this year. Who says a 1-0 game is boring? Not me.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cubs don't look as if they are going to choke

Kyle Schwarber
One of the main questions I had about the Cubs coming into the playoffs was whether they'd be able to deal with adversity.

Most of their fans would probably never admit to this, but the Cubs faced no adversity whatsoever all season. They played a soft schedule -- 106 of their 162 games were against losing teams -- and dominated a weak NL Central. St. Louis had a down season by its standards. Pittsburgh's pitching staff fell apart. Milwaukee and Cincinnati weren't even trying to win.

The Cubs won their division by 17.5 games, and it was every bit the cakewalk that figure represents. So, I wondered how the Cubs would respond when they were placed in a situation where they had to win a game, because there wasn't a single time during the whole regular season when they were seriously challenged.

So far in these playoffs, the Cubs have been seriously challenged twice. Give them credit, because they've responded both times. Once, on the road in Game 4 of the NLCS, where they were trailing 2 games to 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers after having been shut out in Games 2 and 3. They trounced the Dodgers, 10-2, in that game and went on to win the next two to claim the NL pennant.

The other challenge was Wednesday night. After the Cubs were clobbered, 6-0, in Game 1 of the World Series by the Cleveland Indians, how would they respond in Game 2? Quite well, as a matter of fact, as they collected a decisive 5-1 victory to even the series.

Previous Cubs teams have always choked when they get in these tight situations where they need to win in the playoffs, but this group shows no sign of that. They got a good performance from Jake Arrieta, who is basically a five- or six-inning pitcher these days, but he gave the Cubs an effective 5.2 innings Wednesday. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when the Indians scored a run off him and manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen.

Arrieta doesn't have the same command of the strike zone he had during his 2015 Cy Young campaign. His walk rate has nearly doubled. His ERA and home run rates are up, his strikeout rate is down. He needs more pitches to get through innings, and he can't get as deep into games as he might like, but he doesn't give up a lot of hits -- only 6.3 per 9 IP this season -- and that's been his saving grace.

Wednesday night, Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman provided 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, and that made a winner out of Arrieta, whose performance was far superior to that of Cleveland's Trevor Bauer.

Bauer needed 87 pitches to record only 11 outs. The Cubs scored two runs on six hits against him in 3.2 innings. The North Siders then added on with three in the fifth off Cleveland relievers Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw, although the run charged to Shaw was unearned.

Kyle Schwarber, just back from a major knee injury, is becoming the story of the series for the Cubs. He went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI singles in Wednesday's win. He became the first non-pitcher in the history of baseball to record a hit in the World Series after not getting a hit in the regular season. He has shown that he is healthy enough to be an effective DH in an American League park. That can only help the Cubs, if the series heads back to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7.

Big question for Maddon for Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field: Can he put Schwarber in left field?

There's no getting around the fact that Schwarber was a butcher in the outfield even before he got hurt. Putting him out there would significantly weaken the Cubs defensively, but there's also no getting around the fact that he's a difference maker with a bat in his hands.

Schwarber is the kind of player who can hit a three-run homer off a good pitcher and win a ballgame for his team. He's also the kind of player who can misplay a routine fly ball, cost his team runs and lose a ballgame. 

Will Maddon choose to use his best offensive lineup? Or will he opt to put the best defense on the field?

Personally, I subscribe to the philosophy of putting the best defense out there. Of course, I'm not the one being paid millions to make these decisions, so what do I know?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The World Series Game 1 hero is ... Roberto Perez?

There are three players in Cleveland Indians franchise history to have a multi-homer game during the playoffs: Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and, of course, Roberto Perez.

Cue Cookie Monster and his famous song, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other Things":




Indeed, Thome has 612 career home runs. Ramirez has 555 career home runs. Perez has, well, 11 career home runs. But the career .220-hitting catcher managed to go deep twice Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series, becoming the unlikely hero in Cleveland's 6-0 victory over the Cubs.

Perez also became the first player in World Series history to have a multi-homer game while batting in the No. 9 spot in the order. Not bad for a guy who is "Plan C" for the Indians behind the plate. Perez is only playing because Yan Gomes has been a combination of injured and bad all season, and because Jonathan Lucroy rejected a trade to Cleveland at the deadline and went to play for Texas instead.

In the biggest game of his life so far, Perez clubbed a solo home run off Cubs ace Jon Lester in the fourth inning to increase Cleveland's lead to 3-0. The home run had an exit velocity of 112.9 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball off Lester all season, according to Statcast.

Perez capped his night by hitting a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning on a hanging slider from Cubs reliever Hector Rondon. That made the score 6-0 and took all the drama out of the ninth inning.

Cleveland pitching was good again in this game, with Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen combining to strike out 15 Cubs hitters. Kluber had eight strikeouts through three innings and finished with nine Ks in six innings. Miller pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the seventh, striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to close the inning. He also struck out Kyle Schwarber with two on and two out to end the eighth and snuff out the Cubs' last legitimate chance to get back in the game.

Game 2 is Wednesday night, and the start time has been moved up an hour to try to avoid a weather delay. Rain is in the forecast for Cleveland. The Cubs will try to even the series behind right-hander Jake Arrieta. The Indians will counter with right-hander Trevor Bauer.

The best news for the Cubs right now is the fact that Kluber won't pitch in Game 2. And, Miller might be limited, as well, after throwing 46 pitches over two innings of work in Game 1.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Indians clinch AL pennant; Cubs get even with Dodgers

Andrew Miller
Down is up and up is down in the MLB playoffs, so I was snickering to myself Wednesday afternoon when I heard expert after expert assure me the Toronto Blue Jays were going to win Game 5 of the ALCS.

The Cleveland Indians were starting rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who had thrown all of 11 major-league innings in his career, while the Blue Jays were throwing Marco Estrada, who has been their best pitcher in these playoffs.

No way Merritt could hold up against the hard-hitting, right-hand-dominate Toronto lineup, right?

Wrong.

Merritt gave Cleveland exactly what it needed, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout, two-hit ball. The Indians' seemingly omnipotent bullpen took it from there, securing a 3-0 victory and sending Cleveland to its first World Series since 1997.

Once again, the Blue Jays had no answers for Cleveland relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The trio combined to pitch 4.2 innings, allowing no runs on four hits with five strikeouts.

Miller was named ALCS MVP, and why not? He appeared in each of the Tribe's four victories, tossed 7.2 shutout innings, allowed just three hits and struck out 14.

The Indians won this series, 4-1, despite scoring only 12 runs total in the five games. The MVP needed to go to a pitcher, and certainly Miller was the best guy on a Cleveland staff that limited Toronto to just seven runs in this series.

One other key: I think it really helped Merritt that he got an early lead. The Indians scored single runs in three of the first four innings. Mike Napoli had a two-out RBI double in the first. Carlos Santana homered in the third. Coco Crisp homered in the fourth. An inexperienced pitcher is more likely to relax and execute if he has some margin for error. Merritt had the lead before he set foot on the mound, and he did what he needed to do to protect it.

The Indians will now have five days off before the World Series begins Oct. 25, and they'll have at least two more NLCS games to watch and scout their next opponent.

Cubs 10, Dodgers 2

Speaking of the NLCS, the Cubs are even with the Dodgers at 2-2 in the series after their bats finally woke up Wednesday in Game 4.

The North Siders were held without a hit by Julio Urias for the first three innings, but they exploded for four runs in the fourth inning, then roughed up the Los Angeles bullpen with another run in the fifth and five more in the sixth.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell -- two hitters who had previously done nothing in the playoffs -- came up big for the Cubs. Both were 3 for 5 with a home run. Rizzo had three RBIs, and Russell knocked in two runs with his homer to cap the four-run fourth. Chicago also got two-hit games from two other struggling hitters, Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler. We'll find out in Game 5 whether this was the breakout night those four guys were looking for.

Jason Heyward? Well, he was 0 for 5 again. For those scoring at home, Heyward is scheduled to make $28 million in each of the next two seasons. The Cubs are fortunate they have enough good players that they can probably overcome the fact that Heyward is a colossal waste of money.

The stage is set for a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night, and the Cubs have the advantage in the pitching matchup with ace left-hander Jon Lester on the mound. He'll be opposed by Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda.