Paul (DC): Marcus Semien made a cr@pload of errors, ok 'only' 35 actually, at short. Please evaluate his defense skills.
Sahadev Sharma: Hmmm... I was thinking a Cubs/Pirates chat, but what the heck, I'll do more stuff. Christina Kahrl wrote about this, Semien has really improved defensively in the second half, a lot of that has to do with working under Ron Washington. I was doubtful, but apparently he's someone they believe can really stick there now.
mmarsden (Chicago): Alvarez and Ramirez on the bench the right move for Pitt?
Sahadev Sharma: I have to say I'm really surprised, especially with sitting Alvarez. If there was one guy I was going to pick to do some surprise damage after Cutch, it would have been him
Josh (Chicago): Seems like Pittsburgh is valuing Defense over offense and Cubs are doing the opposite valuing Offense over Defense. with the lineups tonight. Thoughts?
Sahadev Sharma: I think the Cubs are taking the right strategy with this. Arrieta is a GB guy, but he also strikes out his fair share. I say go with the offensive edge and hope you can build a lead. Then bring in the D later.
Marcus (San Francisco): Thoughts on the OF lineup for tonight? Big risk or much ado about nothing?
Sahadev Sharma: I honestly don't think it's much of a risk for the Cubs. It's what I was expecting and I think it makes sense to put Schwarber in right due to less space to cover in PNC. Bryant can play anywhere and do a strong job, IMO. Great athlete.
Lucas (Philadelphia): Think Castro can be starting 2B next year? Does he have more value on roster than in trade? Does his postseason performance change either of these questions?
Sahadev Sharma: Great question and really tough to answer. A few months ago I thought chances of him sticking with the club was zero. Now I'm wondering if they use Baez and/or Soler as bait to bolster the staff and keep Castro at second. Or perhaps it's Soler and/or Castro who could be moved. I expect a big offseason from this club. I'm going to write about it in detail, but they can't sit on a 97-win season, it's where they go from super talented and good and a little lucky, to great. They can be a powerhouse for a few years if they nail this offseason.
mlermo (Chicago): Drink of choice tonight/this afternoon?
Sahadev Sharma: No drinking in the press box. But I guarantee I'll have at least one after I'm done writing for the day. I think you all should drink whatever you want. But preferably a solid craft beer or a damn good bourbon.
Josh (Chicago): What do you think the Pirates' game plan against Arrieta is?
Sahadev Sharma: Oh man... You know what? I think the best plan of attack is patience. Make him throw strikes. It may not work, but I've noticed he's stayed away from the strike zone of late. I haven't actually double checked that with the data, but just from watching and glancing at his charts, it's seemed that way.
Greg (Stillwater): Who's your pick to click, non-pitcher wise?
Sahadev Sharma: I think Coghlan gets a big pinch hit and KB shines in the spotlight. He was built for it.
Clive (Lousville, KY): Do you think the Reds find a taker for Phillips in order to give Suarez a full time job ?
Sahadev Sharma: Saw a lot of Suarez when watching he Cubs and I was impressed. I guess the question is *can* they find a taker for Phillips... I really like Suarez though, curious as to what his ceiling is.
BC (Urbandale): Who wins between the wild card winner and the cardinals?
Sahadev Sharma: WC winner. I've been down on the Cards all year and finally bought into them in September and they started to falter like I thought they were going to earlier. They're the Cardinals, and it's hard to doubt them, but I don't think they're invincible and I think either of these teams take them out in no more than 4 games.
Jerry (Minnesota): Granted this season is probably an anomaly, but does it make a good case for the league to consider fielding playoff bracket by record, not division winners? Cubs-Pirates in NLDS, while Kershaw-Harvey/Syndergaard play one game to face Cardinals.
Sahadev Sharma: I don't think they should change the fact that winning the division is a big deal. That's why they expanded the playoffs to 10 teams in the first place. It stinks that two of the three best have to play a one-gamer, but if we're going to fix this, I say a re-seed for the LDS. Cubs/Pirates shouldn't have to play the Cards.
grogg (KC): This is anecdotal at best, but whenever I've watched Chicago play at PNC it feels like the Cubs hitters crush the ball to center for loud outs. Cole has transitioned into a fly ball pitcher with a career low 4.1% HR/FB ratio which seems to match up with what I'm seeing. Is pitching to the deep part of a ballpark a sustainable strategy or is allowing 380ft fly balls playing with fire?
Sahadev Sharma: I've noticed this as well, and yes, purely anecdotally on my part. But yeah, I think if you're a fly ball pitcher, you better strikeout a ton of guys. Otherwise, yeah, you're playing with fire.
Paul (DC): Please rank these three AL rookie starting pitchers (who all did well in getting more than just a cup of tea this year) going forward: Luis Severino, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Lance McCullers.
Sahadev Sharma: Hmmm... McCullers, Severino, Rodriguez. But I'm also probably not the guy to be answering this, haha. I do really love McCullers though, one of those kids who kind of developed and took it to another level when he reached the bigs
Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Sahadev, It's Keeper Conundrum time again! I've got Cobb coming back from TJ, Tanaka perhaps headed there, and Gausman spinning in circles. How would you rank them in a keeper league?
Sahadev Sharma: I'm a big Cobb guy in general and kind of down on the other two. So I'd go Cobb, Tanaka, and Gausman. But man, I'm not good at fantasy recommendations. I usually win my league, but I just never am good at giving advice for it.
Lucas (Philadelphia): Any idea about what the current relationship between Cubs and Shark is like? He seemed a little peeved when he was traded, would it impact negotiations to sign him in the off season?
Sahadev Sharma: I know the Cubs aren't holding a grudge for anything he's said. They love his competitiveness and they obviously like his injury history, something they always look at with pitchers. I think Shark's number one goal is to find a team that he's going to win with. And money, of course. But after money, he wants to win, so any grudge or bad feelings he may have had are gone. If they offer him fair market value, he'll come to CHicago because he knows he can win there now
Colin (Chicago): It's the least of my concerns at this point, but the fact that the draft order is based on record, yet the division winners have all the advantages once they reach the postseason, seems to be a pretty large oversight.
Sahadev Sharma: I thought the same thing when I saw the draft order... I agree that division winners should get the lowest pick (in order of win total) and then go with the WC teams. Makes a lot of sense to me.
Cory (Oakland): What does the Giant rotation look like next year ? Bumgarner, Leake, Cain, Lincecum, Free Agent ?
Sahadev Sharma: Well, Leake is a FA as well, so no guarantee he returns (unless I missed some extension in the last 24 hours). Hmm... that's a lot of holes to fill. I think they do add a big name and because there are so many holes, I guess I can't assume Lincecum won't be in the rotation, especially since Cain is a HUGE question mark. I guess I haven't really looked at that rotation for 2016 and now I'm completely flabbergasted as to how they'll look next year.
jburnes (Cities): The last handful or so Arrieta starts I've caught there's been mention of his own throwing problems to the bases. Actually an issue or amplified by Lester's issues? Pirates' lineup makes more sense if they plan on running and Arrieta struggles throwing over.
Sahadev Sharma: He has no issues throwing to the base. Guys run on him pretty well, but he's actually done a better job of late holding runners.
John (Springfield, MO): Any concern about a Pirates alternate game plan (using bunting more frequently) that could potentially take Arrieta off his game tonight?
Sahadev Sharma: Josh Harrison is talking about this right now, trying to rattle Jake with the running game or by bunting. No. You can't rattle Jake Arrieta. But it can't hurt to try and shake things up, so I guess the Pirates will do what they must. Just know this guy is extremely athletic and any suggested issues throwing to bases are not accurate, IMO
Darth Stout (Chicago): Under what circumstance would you want the Cubs to use Lester out of the bullpen tonight?
Sahadev Sharma: If Jake gets hurt during warmups or real early in the game. Or I guess if it goes 17 innings and Hendricks can't go any further.
Lucas (Philadelphia): Between Travis Wood and Carl Edwards Jr. who has best chance to get back into starting role? Think either will get shot during spring training?
Sahadev Sharma: I think Carl is a reliever going forward and Wood likely is as well, at least with the Cubs. As I mentioned earlier, I think the Cubs add more pitching via trade and/or looking at mid-tier arms on the market. They have four guys for next year and I think they add two more names to make sure they have legit depth.
Sylvain (Granby,QC): Hello Sahadev, Who should I pick between A.J. Reed and Greg Bird in my points based fantasy keeper league where rbi's and hr's? Worry that Reed end up DH?
Sahadev Sharma: Hmm, Astros have a lot of options to play 1B, but everything I hear is that he's the real deal while stuff I hear on Bird is a bit lukewarm. I'd lean Reed.
Paul (DC): Delino Deshields or Odubel Herrera as the perfectly cromulent league average-ish centerfielder of choice?
Sahadev Sharma: Herrera... I like the odd stance.
Jake (Northern suburbs): Thoughts on Rays going forward? Also, thoughts on Samardzija's go-around with Sox that we occasionally butted heads about?
Sahadev Sharma: Like the pitching for the Rays if it can stay healthy. Obviously Samardzija had a rough go-around on the South Side, but I still disagree with your assessment on him overall as a pitcher. I think someone gets a real nice buy-low guy with him.
Jonathan (New York): Have you heard any buzz about Jeimer Candelario since that amazing run he had in Tennessee to end the year? Myrtle Beach is a tough place to hit so I'm inclined to feel more positively about his numbers there than I might otherwise, but still - the batting line at Double-A is completely different, and I have no idea whether it's reflective of a change in approach or if it's mostly noise.
Sahadev Sharma: The buzz faded for him last year, but I think a nice bounceback this year brought him back as a legit prospect. Question is still D, but people are starting to buy the bat again. I don't think he's an impact prospect though.
Lucas (Philadelphia): Are players excited about renovations to clubhouse facilities? Also anyone in the press box have to pee in a cup opening day? I came real close.
Sahadev Sharma: Players are definitely excited for the clubhouse renos, it gives them more places to hide from us. I kid, I kid, most of them are actually really great at making themselves available for interviews, I give them a lot of respect for that. The press box does have only one bathroom, but we had no issues Opening Night.
Jake (Northern suburbs): Boston or Baltimore, who needs to make bigger changes in upcoming offseason? Boston's pitching staff is a sham and Ramirez/Panda moves didn't work quite well. Have a few prospects that could fix rotation woes but pen equally murky. Baltimore is in need of org-wide rebuild and farm is in a state of post mordem, need Machado to sign extension and do something
Sahadev Sharma: I think Boston can just buy an arm or two and look a lot better. I mean, it's not *that* simple, but I'm concerned that Baltimore may waste Machado. He's so amazing and completely overlooked at the moment. He'll probably win an MVP soon enough. You know what, I may pick him now for next year! Boom, random prediction!
Michael (Santa Rosa, CA): Let's grab a beer sometime at Russian River Brewery
Sahadev Sharma: YES!!! My wife is going to Sonoma soon for a bachelorette party and she said someone recommended "some brewery called Russian River." She loves good beer, but now I'm a little angry that she's gonna get to try Pliny before me.
Josh (Chicago): Do you expect a lot of aggressiveness early from The Cubs when it comes to plate approach. or do you think they'll try and be more patient and work up the pitch count?
Sahadev Sharma: I expect them to try and jump on the fastball. They've been patient with Cole and it was a 'meh' approach. It wasn't bad, but I think they believe that if they can attack the fastball, they'll score early runs and not worry about that slider wiping them out (well, at least as much as it normally does).
Jake A (Chicago): No question....just wanted to point out that my beard > your beard
Sahadev Sharma: Jake, come on man. We've talked about this, I shave mine every morning and by the time I get to the clubhouse it's this black beauty that everyone marvels at. Don't make me give you the Theo stare, Jake.
mlermo (Chicago): What do you make of Cervelli starting in place of Stewart? Anything? I saw an interesting tweet that Cole's splits with Cervelli behind the plate are markedly worse than with Stewart. Cause for optimism, or is there another explanation for the variance?
here's the tweet: https://twitter.com/bradrobinson8/status/651831545636982784
Sahadev Sharma: I didn't expect Stewart to start. Cervelli is a great framer, solid with the bat, I think he's the right choice. I wouldn't read much into how a certain pitcher has done with a certain catcher unless there is an actual reason why it happened that you can point to.
jaycon11 (la.): Whats the post-game beer lineup looking like in the greater Pittsburgh area?
Sahadev Sharma: Not sure, haven't scoped it out, but I don't believe it's a great craft beer city. I could be wrong though. I'll probably grab a beer with Mike Ferrin after I'm done writing. And he always has about 1000 friends with him, so whoever else joins in as well.
Grant (Houston ): If the Cubs get to the NLCS, who would they have a better shot against: mets or Dodgers? The mets are a very different team from early in the season, but that 0-7 record against U.S. has to be in the back of their minds
Sahadev Sharma: I think the 0-7 record is irrelevant right now. You're right, that team is completely different, and that offense has gotten scary. But I'll say this, I think their arms are tiring and that the Cubs bats can hang with anyone, and I'd give the edge to a Arrieta-Lester combo. If I'm a Cubs fan, and the NLCS is in your future, I'd prefer NYM over LAD
Lucas (Philadelphia): From the outside seems like Bosio is one of the best in the business at getting the most outta guys, are Cubs in danger of loosing him to promotion in another org.?
Sahadev Sharma: I'm not sure what that promotion would look like. I don't think he's up from managerial gigs. If anyone is going to be lost from this staff is Dave Martinez. After that, Brandon Hyde is a future manager that not many know about. This FO loves him and rightfully so. Communicates well and knows the game better than many realize.
Nate (Mpls): What's the ideal bullpen usage for the Cubs tonight if Maddon has to go to the pen before the 8th?
Sahadev Sharma: Man, if that happens something has gone very wrong for the Cubs. Depending on the score and who is up to bat, I'd lean towards Rondon, Strop, Wood and Cahill in high-lev situations. Rodney has been great for the Cubs, but I'm not sure if you go to him tonight. Maybe I'm wrong. But again, if the Cubs are going to the pen before the 8th, things aren't going well for them, imo
David (Delta airlines): What will it take to get Sommy Gray this offseason?
Sahadev Sharma: Hi David, can you get Delta to get some outlets on their planes? I was down to 1% after my flights today. In most cases, it would take such an insane haul to pry Gray loose that it wouldn't be worth it for the acquiring team. But this is Billy Beane so who the hell knows what he thinks is fair value.
Darth Stout (Chicago): Any idea why the Cubs nixed the viewing party at WF?
Sahadev Sharma: No inside info, but I'd guess it was logistics of putting something like that together on such short notice.
Scott (Lincolnshire): Feels like Maddon wants to keep a couple righties with pop on the bench for late in the game if you need a homer to tie it up, with Melancon being more effective vs lefties than righties. This isn't a question, I'm just so freakin' excited I can't stop typing
Sahadev Sharma: That's a possibility. I also think they're really high on La Stella tonight.
Teddy (Granville): How much doesthe front office influence roster decisions at this point in the season?
Sahadev Sharma: I'm not sure how it works with other teams, but I know that big decisions like roster construction are something the Cubs do as a group. Maddon and key FO guys chat and hash it out. My guess is it goes like this: Maddon meets with his coaching staff and gets all their POV. Theo/Jed/JMac meet with FO/developmental/R&D staff and get all that info. Then Maddon meets with Theo/Jed/McLeod and decisions are made
Jake (Northern suburbs): With the Rays ability to build arms and the Cubs interesting at times bullpen, could you see a Rays-Cubs trade in offseason involving Odorizzi and Boxberger for some of the Cubs blocked yet HQ prospects and talent?
Sahadev Sharma: Could make sense. I think the Cubs are going to be exploring a lot of areas for trades and getting pen and starter help will be high on their list.
Cal Guy (Cal): Sahadev, Boxberger held his closer job at the end of the season mostly by virtue of McGee getting injured. How do you see the TB closer situation working out in 2016?
Sahadev Sharma: It's the Rays. Guessing who closes by year's end is a big shrug. But I'd guess McGee.
Jake (Northern suburbs): For the Pirates, Cubs and Rays, which team's pitching "failures" do you lick your chops more for? Salazar or Carasco from Cleveland, Gausman from Baltimore, Hutchinson from Toronto or is there another quick-fix SP noone has caught yet?
Sahadev Sharma: Are Carrasco and Salazar failures? I wouldn't put them in that category. I think Cleveland has done a solid job with their arms. I like Gausman if you can get him out of Baltimore. Also wonder if Julio Teheran could be had.
cubzrule (los angeles): Who is your dark horse candidate for Cub hero tonight? Not sure why,but I keep coming back to Addison Rusell .. .
Sahadev Sharma: I think the Cubs have La Stella in there and batting in a key spot for a reason. What's that reason? Maybe just pure contact, but I think it's deeper than that and I don't think Maddon will be sharing it with us in the pregame.
Paul (DC): Nobody is moving Cutch off of CF, but in a perfect world, what is the correct Outfield alignment for the Bucs' optimal defensive value?
Sahadev Sharma: Yeah, I mean it's working great how it is now, but as far as PNC goes, I think you keep Polanco in RF and perhaps Marte is better in CF with Cutch in LF. But like I said, it's pretty damn good how it is.
Sahadev Sharma: Was talking to someone else about this. I don't see him being used for much more than an inning. And I'm guessing that it won't be back-to-back days. I just don't think he'll have the impact some are suggesting this postseason.
Bob E (Wrigleyville): Anything weird stick out in pirates roster or lineup today?
Sahadev Sharma: Lots. They have a catcher who has barely played as their third catcher. They have Sean Rodriguez playing first because Pedro Alvarez is terrible defensively. So bad that they're playing defense first at FIRST BASE. And Harrison in the lineup makes sense, but I would have gone with him over Walker instead of sitting Aramis
MylesHandley (Chicago): How quickly do you think Maddon will go to the bench in this game?
Sahadev Sharma: Not too quickly. I think it's a tight game and Cole stays in for a while, so I don't see a reason to go to the bench early.
Lucas (Philadelphia): If this Cubs team wins the WS and all the main contributors in the regular season show up big in the post season run, how many statues are put up in front of Wrigley and who are they of?
Sahadev Sharma: They all get statues. To get into Wrigley you will have to climb over statues of Clayton Richard, Jonathan Herrera and Chris Denorfia.
Jake (Northern suburbs): Has Don Cooper lost his luster as a PC?
Sahadev Sharma: I don't see how you can suggest that when Rodon developed really well, Sale has stayed healthy beyond everyone's expectations, Quintana is still a stud. Samardzija's struggles don't mean Coop isn't any good anymore. I saw someone tweet that they have the second-highest pitcher fWAR in baseball since 2006
Scott (Lincolnshire): Late game scenario: Schwarber singles, Berry comes in to steal 2nd, Bryant singles him in. Then you move Baez in to play 3rd base and Coughlin to play LF and Bryant to RF.
Sahadev Sharma: Hmm, Jackson to LF and KB to RF, Coghlan may get a key PH AB though.
Howard (Bottom of a bottle): I'm a sad Yankees fan today. What do you think about us in 2016? How do we work Greg Bird in the lineup with a healthy Tex, plus A Rod at DH? What about Aaron Judge in the outfield rotation? Does Rob Refsnyder start at 2B? Do we hit the free agent market or make any trades?
Sahadev Sharma: I think a lot of the older guys performing this year was unexpected and not something I'd bank on in 2016. So yeah, get Bird in there somehow (is Tex gonna be healthy?) and Judge should be ready as well.
Lucas (Philadelphia): Do the Cubs make a run at Cespedes this off season? Heard he is interested in stability and winning, would think Cubs could offer both. Plus we get the family bbq dudes, win win IMO.
Sahadev Sharma: Ha, doubt it. If they spend big money, it's because they got Price at their... um... price. Damn it, that's going to be annoying all offseason, isn't it?
Sahadev Sharma: All right, that's it for me, gotta head down for Maddon. It's been a blast covering the Cubs this year, I did pick the Pirates to win it all to start the season, but I don't want this Cubs season to end. Whatever happens tonight, we'll have it covered at BP and BPWrigleyville.com. I hope this isn't the last Arrieta start of 2015, we all need more of that sweet magic.