With the Trade Deadline looming next week, I tend to expect that the coverage here this weekend will look more like a regular weekday than a typical weekend day. And that’s after this morning’s Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez news already.
- Edwin Jackson was great again last night, and he says he’s always been something of a second half pitcher (Cubs.com). Although his career splits don’t really back that claim up (to my eye, he’s actually been a touch better, historically, in the first half – but it’s quite close), he’s certainly making it true this year. Dale Sveum attributes some of the success to an uptick in Jackson’s velocity earlier in the games. “At the beginning [of the year], we saw 88 to 90 [mph] in the first couple innings [by Jackson], and now we’re seeing 93, 94 from the get-go,” Sveum said, per Cubs.com.
- On the year, Jackson’s ERA is now below five (4.89), and his 3.56 FIP is the 23rd best in the National League, just ahead of Cole Hamels … and he’s got the best FIP on the Cubs. A great deal of the “success” we’re now seeing from Jackson is really just a matter of bad breaks evening out. The truth is – as I’ve said again and again – he’s pitched well all year. The baseball card stats are simply now finally showing it.
- Kris Bryant hit his first professional home run yesterday for the Boise Hawks. You can watch video of that homer here, and read up on Bryant’s six weeks off from baseball. Essentially, he confirms what a lot of us suspected: it’s taking a little time to shake the rust off. But that’s no reason for concern, and was to be expected.
- Anyone else notice the shift in James Russell’s usage since the start of July? Coming into the month, Russell was used as a late-inning, full-inning reliever, as he has been for the last couple of years. But starting July 2, he has appeared in 12 games, and hasn’t gone more than 0.2 innings in any of them. To the outside observer, it would look like Russell has been converted from a late-inning reliever to a pure, situational guy. HOWEVA, there isn’t necessarily a conspiracy theory here (showcasing him as a LOOGY (how would that even make sense?), or protecting his stats). The start of July happens to mark the emergence of Blake Parker as a guy in whom Dale Sveum has confidence in later innings, and, more importantly, the arrivals of Pedro Strop and Matt Guerrier, two guys who have been lights out as Cubs. It would only make sense that, with so many effective late-inning options at his disposal that Sveum would use Russell in more advantageous match-ups. And Russell has responded well, for whatever it’s worth – since a shaky outing in Oakland on July 2, Russell has posted the old goose egg ERA with a mere .550 OPS against. We can’t bury our head and pretend that there aren’t trade implications here, but hopefully interested teams – if it comes to that – understand that the shifting role simply means Russell is flexible (and successful however you use him).
- Wendy Thurm explores the increasing possibility of a TV deal bubble for teams just now approaching the end of their current TV deals (for example, the Cubs’ WGN deal, which covers a little less than half of their games, is up after the 2014 season, and will likely be negotiated this offseason). The bubble has been expanding for a few years now, but as consumers become more and more resistant to having huge sports packages tacked onto their default cable offering (and the commensurate increase in price – what, you thought that huge Cubs TV deal was going to be paid for by the giving tree?), we’re going to see a reverse course at some point – indeed, some providers in smaller markets are already refusing to carry large, local sports networks (try watching a Padres game in San Diego). The size and scope of the Chicago market should help in that regard, but it’s hard to imagine there not being a fundamental shift in how these things work by 2019, the year the rest of the Cubs’ games – the ones currently held by CSN – come up for bidding.