travis wood beardSo, the sickness that I mentioned coming down with late last week has proved to be hand, foot and mouth disease. (That “disease” word at the end makes it sound more serious than it is.) It’s pretty common for kids to get it, and then they pass it on to their parents. Thing is, most adults get it without any symptoms. If the symptoms hit you, though, it kind of sucks – fever, malaise, wicked sore throat. Eventually you start to get the hallmark symptom: sores on your hands and feet and in your mouth (and on your butt, but I guess they didn’t want to call it hand, foot, mouth and butt disease). So far, my feet and butt appear safe, but my mouth’s got ’em, and my hands are starting to get them. They kind of hurt, and a couple are on the ends of my fingers, where I type. Kids are awesome, man, but they are just mobile instruments of germ warfare.

  • It’s amazing how one loss – one one-run loss – can change your perspective. Had the Cubs won yesterday, they would have been winners of their last three series, and within just five games of .500. As it stands, they’re just 5-5 in their last 10, and just 8-9 in May. Doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it?
  • The essence of Travis Wood’s game is summed up in his quote about the two-run homer he gave up on a bad changeup yesterday. “I wish I could have that pitch back,” Wood said, per CSN. “I went with the changeup and was trying to get it down. I just happened to leave it up and he put a good swing on it. As soon as it left my hand, I didn’t like it. I was hoping he would pop it up or something, but he didn’t.” Travis Wood is extremely effective when he’s locating his pitches, and throwing them all with good action. But his stuff is not so overwhelmingly strong – particularly because of the velocity – that he can get away with too many mistakes.
  • Wood did extend his consecutive quality start streak to nine to start the season. The last Cub to do that? Three Finger Brown in 1908. He also displayed the athleticism that helps him succeed at the margins – he made a nice play in the field on a comebacker, and hit a two-run homer that cleared the bleachers.
  • Sahadev Sharma on Starlin Castro’s early-season struggles, and his increase in pitches per plate appearance this year to a very nice 3.82. That’s about the only thing that has improved this year, though, as Castro’s overall numbers are weak, and his walk rate – 3.7% – is anemic.
  • Remember pitching prospect Josh Conway? He was the first round talent whom the Cubs got in the 4th round in 2012 because he’d just undergone Tommy John surgery, and who came back quickly and strong this Spring. He was pitching well in Extended Spring Training until early this month when a “pop” ended his final start. That pop, it turns out, was a fracture in his elbow – one of the bone pieces that was holding his ligament replacement together broke off – which is actually much better news than most feared. Conway told the Herald-Mail that he’ll rehab for about three months before he can start throwing again, which means there’s a chance he might be back in time for instructionals this Fall (or if you’re crazy optimistic, some late-season rookie league action).
  • Speaking of Extended Spring Training, TCR/Arizona Phil has your stats update, which you should take with the largest possible grain of salt. The stats, because of the competition and the sample size, are virtually meaningless. But they’re still highly interesting and fun.
  • Len Kasper lauds the Anthony Rizzo extension while pondering extensions for Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza.
  • If you’re going to reach for a home run ball and inadvertently spill your beer on your wife in the process, at least catch the ball. Because she’s going to return the favor with her beer.
  • Don’t forget: I’m doing a Q&A/chat on Twitter and Facebook today, starting at 1pm CT. Come ready with your questions and we’ll make it fun/informative.
  • Andrewmoore4isu

    I saw the lady spill her beer on the man during the live broadcast. All I could think of was if my wife had purposely spilled her beer on me, I would divorce her!

    • Kevin

      I saw the beer spillage too and thought it was pretty epic!

      • jay

        I would divorce her anyway unless she lost about 40 pounds.

    • Blublud

      Yeah. I can take my wife spilling something on me, but wasting a perfectly good beer could probably be considered irreconcilable differences.

      • Berselius

        On the other hand, it was probably Old Style so “perfectly good” does not apply

        • jay

          Dog Pile

      • CubFan Paul

        Wasting a perfectly good beer is my definition of alcohol abuse.

  • LouCub

    Brett, I don’t buy that margin of error…he made one awful pitch in that whole game and if the Cubs could have plated any of those leadoff doubles, that game is won….Sweeny’s crap slide didnt help either….ugliest slide ever

    • Andrewmoore4isu

      He was also safe with his crap slide lets not forget. The umpire made the wrong call if I’m talking about the same slide

      • jay

        He was safe, but with no outs he shouldn’t have been going to 3rd unless he was walking in. Cardinal rule of baseball and one I subscribe to.

        • Cedlandrum

          He could have walked in or made it a lot less close if he wouldn’t have broke stride and stumbled. He didn’t slide as much as fall into the bag.

          • jay

            Then slow runners shouldn’t be trying for 3rd unless the OF has a fainting spell.

    • Cyranojoe

      You don’t follow Brett on Twitter — few days ago he had a gif of some dude literally faceplanting against third base. THAT was the ugliest slide ever.

      • Cubbie Blues

        You mean this one?


        • Brett

          That’s the one. Ian Kinsler.

    • Kyle

      Don’t mistake only getting punished for one bad pitch with only making one bad pitch. He was getting lucky all day with bad pitches.

  • jay

    If they’d actually been able to put the bat on the ball with guys on 3rd, the homer wouldn’t have mattered.

    Meanwhile, Castro is exhibit A of over coaching. He was the second coming of Vlad Guerrero and they neutered him. Some batters just need to HIT, not worry about how many pitches they see per at bat. He hit .300 before people started filling his head with crap. And it’s not like he’s walking more now. Just put him in the 5 hole and let him swing the damn bat.

    • Blublud

      I completely agree. I thought Castro was a pretty good contact hitter, but he seems to be striking out much more. He just need to have the freedom to swing, and his stats will look much better. He’ll never be a big OBP guy, .310/.340 is not all that bad.

      • jay

        They’ve got him all messed in the head about “seeing pitches”. WTF? The only pitch you need to see is the one you hit. If it’s the first one, then hit the damn thing. Kid’s hand/eye coordination is off the charts and if you hang a breaking ball he’ll put it in the seats. Let instinctual baseball players use their instincts.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Castro is whiffing at the same rate he always has, or at least at an indistinguishable rate. We expect Castro to have 23-30 K’s in half of his 191 PA sequences and he has 30. His K’s would have to be up in the upper 30’s before they’d be at a point where we didn’t expect to see a 191 PA stretch like that yet in his career.

        Castro’s walks (7) seem pathetically low, but you expect 7-11 walks from him in 191 PAs (again, half the time). At his low walk-rate, he’d have to have only 2 walks before we’d raise our eye-brows after 191 PAs.

        Castro actually has been an amazingly consistent hitter. If you look at his month-by-month stats, they fit the expectations for a consistent BA of 0.300, consistent K-rate of 14%, consistent walk rate of 5%, etc., almost text-book well. I would expect more variation simply because of month-to-month variation in the quality of opposing pitching. (I’ve been toying with how to best model that in my head for a while.)

        But here is the kick: even though we do not expect his BB rate to change, we do expect his BA given Contact rate to change as he gets more power. (BABiP excludes HR, and the “luck” factor in BABiP pertains much more heavily to singles than to doubles/triples) However, we have not seen any sign of that yet with Castro, at least not since his first season.

        • BABIP (MichCubFan)

          He just isn’t making hard contact. Lots of soft pop outs to right field and weak ground outs. He needs to drive the ball.

          I do think he is having trouble adapting to taking more pitches. He is also starting his stride too early, which isn’t common because most people stride to late. He needs to let the ball travel into him more and take a quicker swing.

  • Jim

    I was thinking “how many baseballs could they have bought for the price of beer they spilled?”.

  • robert w pfauth cedar spring / grand rapids michigan

    your dude sweeny was safe how can umpires mess this one when every one including lyn casper saw it two lol i bad pitch by wood it happens other then that hes realy good again wow how we panic over a opps but we have garza back and if he dose what hes known to be a studd pitcher then we could have a realy good staff even over the bad boys of the south yup WHITE SOX it should be funn and maby are turn to bragg lolo : )

    • MichiganGoat

      HEY another Grand Rapids BNer – BEER CITY USA

      • TWC

        And clearly doing the Grand Rapids School District proud.

  • ssckelley

    When I first seen that beer being tossed I thought she did it because he didn’t catch the ball. It was not until they showed her wiping herself off did I realize she got wet as well. So it was totally justified, if I was to ever spill a drink on my wife (especially going down the front of her shirt) I could expect similar repercussions.

  • ssckelley

    I loved in the first inning they showed how successful the Cubs have been in scoring the runner on 3rd with less than 2 outs and then Rizzo proceeds to strike out. But I was shocked at that graphic, it seems like the Cubs are always stranding the runners on 3rd with less than 2 outs.

  • CubFan Paul

    The best part of Sahadev’s piece: Quality Wood.

    Get well soon Brett.

  • baseballet

    To put Castro’s offense in perspective, among qualifying MLB shortstops he ranks 9th in OPS, so he’s struggling and maybe the career ceiling is sagging a little lower than we had hoped. I’m encouraged that he’s taking more pitches–he’s not pressing despite struggling on offense. I think the defense is improving but we don’t know if he will be able to walk and slug enough to become a perennial All Star.

    • CubFan Paul

      I don’t think he’s “taking more pitches”, he’s just not swinging at the first pitch anymore (under orders?).

    • Norm

      His defense is improving?
      I’m definitely not seeing that.

      • jay

        Castro’s one of those guys you just have to let play. He’s a natural talent and all this over-coaching is just making him mediocre. Don’t think his long term future is at
        SS but whatever—the guy is a .300 hitter and will develop into a 20 homer power threat which plays anywhere on the diamond. I’m still high on him.

  • Smitty

    How does Slugging Percentage work? Looking at Shawon Dunston Jr’s Line below it says he is slugging .564 but he has only 3 triples out of 16 hits. That doesn’t seem like .564 to me.

    LAST TEN GAMES: 517/516/724
    44 PA (14 GAMES)
    16-39 – 0 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 8 R, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP, 1 SF, 1 SB (0 CS)

    • DocPeterWimsey

      SLG = TB / AB or (H + 2B + [2X3B] + [3xHR])/AB. 16 for 39 is a 0.410 BA, and 22 TB in 39 ABs is a 0.564 slugging.

      • Smitty

        Thanks Doc. Thought it just looked at Xtra bases and not the singles.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          That would make more sense, wouldn’t it! After all, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn always had good SLG because their BA was so high. You will see isoSLG (or isoS) for SLG – BA, or “isolated slugging.” That gives you the average number of “extra” bases per AB, and that’s when the sluggers separate from the non-slugging high BA guys.

    • Norm

      You can have a ton of singles and still have a high slugging percentage.
      “Slugging” doesn’t necessarily measure “power”.
      Even ISO (which removes singles from the equation), can be misleading if you have a fast guy that gets a lot of triples.

    • mak

      Haven’t done the math, but his BA is 410 and with very few AB’s, its conceivable.

  • fromthemitten

    Is Travis Wood too young to start referring him as a “crafty lefty”?

  • college_of_coaches

    Just looked at the TCR/Arizona Phil link, good stuff there. Interesting though, I didn’t see Junior Lake’s name anywhere.