jeff samardzija sharknadoI was told I “passed” Mother’s Day. Woo hoo. Only 364 days until the next test.

  • Welington Castillo suggests that, in his last outing, Jeff Samardzija’s cutter was going particularly well (Tribune), and it got me thinking about Samardzija’s pitch mix this year. If he’s throwing the cutter effectively, watch out. As Castillo notes, you pair a 91/92 mph that darts hard to the left with a 93/94 mph two-seamer that moves hard to the right? That’s a big part of how Greg Maddux worked batters on both sides of the plate (and effective against both lefties and righties), except several MPH faster. Interestingly, Samardzija’s wipeout pitch – his splitter – isn’t something he’s using nearly as much this year as he has in the past. I noticed he had some trouble throwing it for a strike (or close enough to entice hitters to swing) early in the year, and it’s possible he’s disfavoring it right now. But, like, think about that: Samardzija is performing as well as he ever has in his career without relying quite as heavily on his splitter. The more you can keep a pitch like that in your back pocket (assuming he can still throw it effectively (and the data say he still can)), the more you can use it in the most important situations.
  • On the Cubs’ continued struggles with runners in scoring position, Ricky Renteria tells Cubs.com: “We’ve got to do a better job understanding the situation and not getting ourselves where we’re too excited. Kind of take the emotion out of it a little bit. [Hitting coach Bill Mueller] and [assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley] actually talk to the players a lot about trying to take the emotion out of it, slow the game down, but it’s still a process and I think obviously we haven’t gotten where we need to be.” Although RISP is not a repeatable skill on the upper end (just look at the Cardinals this year – there is no such thing as “clutch,” in terms of consistently performing far better with runners in scoring position than you otherwise perform), there is something to the argument that some players may clam up a bit and perform slightly worse with RISP than you would expect. That’s why the best you can hope for is to simply perform as well as you always do (or maybe slightly better, because of a rattled pitcher and reduced defensive shifting ability). Just stay calm, stay within yourself, and focus on hitting the ball hard if it’s in your wheelhouse. Trying to do things “differently” because there’s a runner on base is almost always a mistake.
  • Some of you know, in addition to being a Cubs fan, I am a Michigan football fan. And, if you follow college football, you probably know that it’s been a really rough decade for UM, with a couple coaching transitions and an AD transition. You wouldn’t think it, given the extreme differences in college football and professional baseball, but the parallels in the rebuilding processes (with the bumps along the way) and the fan reactions are really striking. Check out this thread at MGoBlog about fans receiving solicitations to pick up a deal on season tickets – something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Change a word here and there, and the whole thing could have been taken from the comments section on a post around here at any point in the last few months. (You mostly just have to imagine that AD Dave Brandon is playing the part of Tom Ricketts, and head coach Brady Hoke (and Rich Rodriguez before him) is playing the part of Theo Epstein.)
  • For those of you who care about the Message Board (but don’t frequent it enough to have noticed the two recent posts about its imminent demise), this is a heads up that, in conjunction with the previously-discussed site infrastructure changes, the Message Board will be going away this Friday, May 16. You can read about the reasons here and here, but, for anyone who still wants to be a part of a laid-back, intimate-ish Cubs message board, I would recommend Sons of Ivy.

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