The Cubs-Pirates Wild Card game pretty much summed up my 2015 in a nutshell

   

  I didn’t want to make this about baseball.

But I’m totally going to make this about baseball.

Well, most of it.

I’m not sure anything represented what happened in 2015 for me than the Cubs/Pirates Wild Card game in Pittsburgh. Not necessarily that they won (though, that was fun) or I spent all night with friends (that, too, was fun), but the process in getting there.

Some of you know the story. Others don’t. But the short version is that sometime around the All-Star break when I figured the Cubs were going to be in some sort of postseason contention, I decided to start putting money away for a potential baseball-related destination trip. A little here and a little there helped. And if all else failed, I’d have a nice sum of money heading into the fall and winter.

But literally, everything came up Milhouse. The Cubs made the Wild Card game, played a team that was an affordable plane ride away and paid for a ticket on a secondary ticket-buying market that I would say favored buyers more than sellers. (Pretty sure my round-trip flight + game ticket cost less than what a StubHub ticket would’ve cost had the game been at Wrigley).

I put a goal out there, achieved it and received many fortunate bounces along the way.
(Seriously, I’ve never had more fun than I did during my 22-hour stint in Pittsburgh.)

And that’s pretty much what happened to me on so many levels this year. I really put myself behind achieving some goals this year. And not only did I do it, but I made a ton of new friends and had some unforgettable experiences along the way.

Anyone who knows me knew that last December I had my eye on writing again in 2015. And I was lucky enough to land at BN and BearsWire, with a Tribune byline in December being the icing on the cake. Obviously, I’d love to write more (and plan on doing so) in 2016. But on top of that, I want to achieve more on a personal level.

I want to be a better friend to those I’ve known for a long time and those I’ve met in recent years. 

I want to be a better son to my parents and grandson to my grandmothers. 

I want to be a better godfather to my goddaughter (that happened this year, too!). 

I want to be a better, more well-rounded person in the eyes of all the people I care about and the eyes of those who care about me.

Long story, short: I want to be better in 2016 than I was in 2015.
“No pressure.”

(See, I didn’t make it ALL about baseball.)

My favorite posts from Bleacher Nation (2015)

My 2015 was busy and wildly entertaining, to say the least. And nothing kept me happily busy like writing for BleacherNation.com this summer.

And with many people in a reflective mood as the year winds down, I thought this would be a good time to look back at my favorite posts of the year.

Let the record show that trimming it down to what it ended up being was no easy task. But in the end, I really wanted to use this to share some of the pieces I enjoyed the most and send my gratitude to everyone who made this year enjoyable.

Whether it was Brett, Michael, Luke, the group of readers, commenters, tweeters, Facebookers, etc. … I’m thankful for your eyes and attention. I look forward to another informative and entertaining year in 2016.

Moving on to my favorites….

Of Particular Importance to the Cubs: Improving Outfield Defense 

**I’m most proud of this piece because of the time I took coming up with the concept, making a phone call to interview Director of Baseball Operations/Field Manager Mike Pinto of the Southern Illinois Miners and getting from this piece what I wanted (and more). (11/5/15)

As a side note, I found myself truly intrigued by the Cubs catching rotation this year as I wrote about how teams valued pitch framing and highlighted the group of elite framers.

How Have $100 Million Pitchers Fared After Signing Their Big Deal? Were They Worth It?

**It needed to be written, so I did it. I also took a look at how older bats on the market aged after big free agent deals. (11/24/15)

Earlier in the offseason, I looked at the meteoric rise in the cost of free agent pitching. Before the trade deadline, I wrote about the high cost (in prospects) of acquiring pitching.

Who Does Number 2 Work For? A Deeper Dive Into The Cubs’ Second Batter

**Armed with an Austin Powers reference, an editor who totally picked up on it and a readership that welcomed it with open arms, I feel as if this piece flowed well and brought to the forefront what the Cubs were looking for out of their No. 2 hitter for the 2015 season. I also wrote about pitchers batting eighth, revisited it later and still can’t come to grips with the idea that 55% of MLB fans like pitchers hitting. (3/21/15)

 

 

A Slider is MLB’s Most Effective Pitch and the Cubs Are Good at Throwing Them

**I really found myself smitten with pitch values via Fangraphs and PITCHF/x this season. Nothing exemplified that like the above-linked piece about baseball’s most valuable pitch and noting which Cubs were good at executing that particular pitch. Probably not a coincidence that Cubs pitchers were good at throwing the most effective pitch in baseball. (9/30/15)

And while wicked sliders were all the rage in 2015, I noted that Jason Motte’s fastball might have led to Hector Rondon re-claiming his job as Cubs closer in August. It’s easy to forget that Motte was once an oddly effective closer for the Cubs.

Starlin Castro’s Resurgence, New Stance & Rising WAR Number 

**Following the Starlin Castro saga from his first-half struggles and eventual benching to his second-half renaissance was one of the storylines I enjoyed following the most. In this piece, I looked at some mechanical changes (with the help of Brett’s screen-grabbing abilities) Castro made and how it helped increase his effectiveness. Castro (and the Cubs) had come a long way since the Epstein administration took over in 2012. (9/11/15)

 

Postseason Teams Leaning Heavily on the Longball, None Moreso Than the Cubs 

**There is a segment of #BaseballTwitter that knows me from some of my postseason research projects. But between writing at BN and working at the Tribune, I couldn’t commit to another postseason of research and analysis. However, I was able to put together a piece in which I tried to portray how important home runs were to some of the offenses taking hacks in the postseason. And to think, there was a time in which this wasn’t the case. (10/17/15)

Facing Fire: How The Cubs Have Fared Against The Best Fastballs 

**I wrote this leading into Game 2 of the NLCS when the Cubs bats squared off against Noah Syndergaard. Going into the game, I found myself interested how the Cubs bats handled the best fastballs in baseball.  The Cubs were a pretty good fastball hitting team in 2015 (in fact, they held their own against some of baseball’s best pitchers) but didn’t put it together against anyone in that Mets series. Hence, they were swept out of the NLCS. Can’t say I didn’t warn you about those Mets bats… (10/18/15)

What’s Up With David Price’s Postseason Performance? Are There Legit Issues? 

**Back when I thought David Price was the best fit for the Cubs, I really wanted to dig into whether or not there was something more to his postseason struggles. Obviously, shelling out $200 million for a pitcher wasn’t in the cards for the Cubs. But despite Price’s playoff hiccups, he was the most worthy of that kind of deal. (10/24/15)

 

Theo The Shopper: A Look At Theo Epstein’s Trade History As A Buyer In July 

**Whether it was because of the research, writing or editing that needed to get done to put this piece together, this particular post took a lot of time finish. (Bonus: I also took a look at Jed Hoyer’s time shopping as a buyer while he was the Padres’ GM). (7/20/15)

Kris Bryant Day Brought Buzz and a Reminder That “It Feels Different” 

**This piece received the most response via social media as I claimed the buzz around Bryant’s debut marked the Cubs’ return to relevance. That didn’t go over well with some. Though the way it was covered by multiple national media outlets, the significant boost in attendance for a Friday 1:20 start in April against a non-rival and the increase in attention it received on social media from people who generally don’t care/post about the Cubs said otherwise. Dude had some crazy comps heading into the year. Seems like I wrote those pieces ages ago. (4/18/15)

Other favorites: