CubsHQ Mailbag: Wrigley Field home advantage, Roster shakeup after 2021 season
|Sunday, June 13, 2021, 5:00 PM- -|
Let's get right into the CubsHQ mailbag for this week.
Q: Does moving to Stage 5 give these teams an advantage in terms of motivation by the increase of fans?
Anthony: For many, this question is an interesting one that comes to mind as stadiums of full capacity begin to appear more regular as cities and states continue to open up after the pandemic. For the Cubs, stage five began on June 11th, and fittingly, the Cubs hosted the Cardinals at Wrigley Field for a 1:20 contest. Home field advantage exists in many sports, and if you do not agree, just look at the Cubs numbers at home. In 2019 — the last season with full capacity — the Cubs were 51-30 at home, the second-best mark in the National League. So far this season, with fans allowed at a limited capacity and now a full capacity, the Cubs lead the National League with a 22-10 record at Wrigley Field. The discrepancy? Last season. Without fans, the Cubs were just 19-14 at home — still above .500 and a division-winning team, but not showing the same type of dominance the Cubs have been known to show at Wrigley Field as of late.
If you want to know whether or not the fans can influence the game for the Cubs, look no further than the Cubs’ 8-5 win over the Cardinals on Friday afternoon. After trailing 5-1, the Cubs pulled off the biggest comeback of the David Ross era with seven unanswered runs — including a go-ahead, a two-rbi double from Joc Pederson, and a game-tying homer on the 14th pitch of a sixth-inning at-bat by Anthony Rizzo. The fans were loud and into the game, fueling the Cubs’ comeback, and the team noticed. David Ross kept it simple post-game but said: “Those fans helped us win that game.”
Q: At what point do you consider keeping this core and adding to this current roster? Is Joc Pederson a long term option?
Anthony: The Cubs have played great baseball since April 17th. After a historically bad offensive start and a starting staff ranked last in the MLB in ERA, the Cubs have found the brand of baseball that works for them, and they have since been the top team in the MLB. Aside from a series loss against the Giants in early June, the Cubs had lost just one series since May began (a two-gamer in Cleveland). The Cubs have seen MVP-like production from Kris Bryant and nice offensive performances from Javier Baez and young players like Patrick Wisdom. Despite battling injuries, the offense has stayed solid. While the starting pitching staff has had its fair share of struggles, David Ross boasts the National League’s second-best bullpen — a unit that threw nearly 40 consecutive scoreless innings in May.
While the Cubs entered this season appearing like a cost-cutting team ready to sell, the performance on the field makes that approach nearly impossible to execute. Instead, the Cubs should be asking themselves what they can do to keep Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo instead of what they can get for them. Jed Hoyer mentioned that the Cubs do have some payroll flexibility, so as the Cubs sit in first place with the deadline a little more than a month away, they find themselves in a position to add at the trade deadline. Of course, Hoyer would be hard-pressed to trade some of these players away, but at the same time, with an eye on the future, it still might make sense regardless of where they are in the division come the end of July.
Additionally, part of the question marks around the roster and the flexibility come with the fact that the Cubs have more than half of their 25-man roster set to be free agents after the season ends. It gives the Cubs the ability to sell rental pieces or cut ties with underperformers after the season — but with success from these players, it will only make those players harder to re-sign and thus give the Cubs more holes to fill. For example, Joc Pederson was brought in to replace Kyle Schwarber and essentially audition to be an everyday player on a one-year deal. After Pederson’s very slow start, Joc has turned it on as of late, bringing his average up to .250 with eight home runs and 25 RBI, primarily out of the lead-off spot in the lineup. Pederson has seemed to fit well with the Cubs culture and loves the fans — so he may be a player to explore keeping in Chicago after the 2021 season.
Part 2 of CubsHQ Mailbag coming tomorrow!