The Rundown: Kyle Hendricks on Bandwagon, Szczur Trade Rumor, Grandpa Rossy Goes Hollywood

From the sound of it, it’s not just fans jumping on the World Series champs’ bandwagon. Even the players themselves are getting caught up in the hype, as Kyle Hendricks explained to media members after his most recent start (video from ESPN’s Jesse Rogers below).

“Yeah, 200 innings, especially with this staff we got,” Hendricks said. “Everybody holds each other pretty accountable. If we’re going deep in games, I definitely want to be on that bandwagon.”

Wait, that’s not quite the same as the accusations so frequently leveled at Cubs fans. Hendricks is, however, trying to be like the cool kids and put up some big counting stats. It’s about more than chasing an arbitrary number, though, as a high innings total is indicative of overall strong performance.

“Other than that, numbers-wise, I don’t focus on too much,” the Cy Young candidate continued. “More the pitches I’m making and that kinda thing and the numbers will come. But yeah, innings I think you can focus on. Getting deep into games it’s obvious you’re doing something right.”

The 200-inning mark would be a natural progression for a guy who threw 180 innings (32 starts) in 2015 and 190 innings (31 appearances, 30 starts) last season. That breaks down to roughly 5.6 and just over 6.1 innings per appearance, respectively, over the last two years.

Adding credence to the idea that he can increase his workload and maintain efficacy is the fact that Hendricks averaged over 6.5 IP/start in the second half of 2016. Extrapolated out over 31 starts, we’re looking at 202+ innings. We could push that out a little further and assume that Hendricks may be able to go as high as 6.66 IP/start average (which he carried from August on). Much of that has to do with greater reliance on his secondary pitches.

“I’m getting more comfortable throwing (the curve) behind in counts in spring and throwing it to more right-handed hitters,” Hendricks said.

It was evident last year that the confidence to utilize more of his arsenal in more situations made Hendricks a different pitcher. The ability to mix speed and location, and to do so regardless of the count, will allow him to maintain a high level of production deep into both games and seasons.

Before long, it won’t be a matter of Hendricks jumping on the bandwagon. He’ll be out front driving the darn thing.

Cubs expected to keep Szczur despite Braves’ reported interest

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. Matt Szczur has been in somewhat of a limbo for the last eight months or so, unable to really carve out a spot on this talented roster. As such, he’s become the subject of speculation when it comes to the configuration of the 25 men who will break camp when the Cubs leave Mesa.

Through April 12 of last season, Szczur was slashing .317/.368/.508 with 5 home runs and a 131 wRC+ that had him looking like one of the best bench bats in baseball. Over the rest of the season, however, he slashed .136/.190/.169 with no homers and a wRC+ of -5. Seriously, that’s not a typo. And for those unfamiliar with the breakdown of that stat, it means Szczur was 105% worse than the average hitter in that time.

But which is he, the guy who got bad-lucked to death with a .174 BABIP in that later stretch or the one who rode the good fortune of a .361 BABIP prior to that? We could pick apart the nuances of either sample all day, but the fact remains that Szczur is an outsider when it comes to an outfield that features at least four, if not five, players ahead of him on the depth chart.

The popular prediction has been that the Villanova product will end up as trade bait as the Cubs look to augment their pitching staff moving forward. While he’s not likely to be the centerpiece of any significant deal, Szczur could certainly offer value to teams, particularly those looking to add depth without bumping the bottom line too much.

And there you have it. What’s really interesting here is the part at the end, though it’s not only about what it means for Szczur. When we looked at potential roster configurations a short while back, it basically came down to a choice between the backup outfielder and Tommy La Stella. It’s possible to keep both if the Cubs opt to break camp with only 12 pitchers, but they’re going to need extra arms eventually.

If Rosenthal is right, it could spell the end for La Stella, who’s aversion to playing for anyone other than the Cubs has been well documented. Then again, this could all be a ploy to drive Szczur’s value just a little higher. With final decisions looming, we should find out soon enough.

Grandpa Rossy’s story getting the Hollywood treatment?

David Ross has been everywhere since playing the role of Game 7 hero and going out with a bang last season. His Dancing with the Stars stint has been nauseatingly, er, highly publicized and he’s got a gig as an ESPN analyst this season. Oh, he’s also coming out with a book, Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, that uses that final game as the crux of the story.

And now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, that story is being turned into a movie. Looks like Radar Pictures beat Kevin Costner to the punch. Unless, you know, he’s hoping to play Ross in the film. Hmmmm.

If I’m being completely transparent with you, I’m just not sure how to feel about such a movie. The real thing was so dramatic and emotional that it seems impossible to recreate without a loss of fidelity. But I suppose there are some untold stories and angles that could yet be leveraged. I have no doubt I’ll be seeing it if and when it comes out, especially if the production company sees fit to provide esteemed bloggers with access to an advance screening.

More news and notes

  • It looks and sounds as though Brett Anderson will be the Cubs’ fifth starter
  • MLB Trade Rumors’ Chuck Wasserstrom relays the real story of the Cubs’ 2006 signing of Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III
  • The US will face Javy Baez and Puerto Rico in the finals of the World Baseball Classic tonight at 9pm ET
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