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john baker cubsLooks like it’s going to be a busy day today, both in the Cubs’ world – a rare scheduled doubleheader – and in coverage here at BN. So stay tuned.

  • John Baker is not with the Cubs for his bat, which has been apparent for most of the year. Also apparent? He does things well behind the plate, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s been a part of Jason Hammel’s breakout success this year (Baker catches Hammel every time out). In other words, Baker’s a pretty solid back-up catcher, and not someone you’d expect to go 3-3 with a walk and four RBI. That’s what he did yesterday, raising his slash line from .160/.223/.181 to .186/.252/.216 – an OPS jump of 64 points in one late-June day. His wRC+ went from 6 (94% worse than average) to 26. Again, this is not a dude who’s here for his bat, but it’s nice to see him have a big day. Also …
  • “[Today] was great. I was really happy. I had to contain a smile,” Baker said after the game, per CSN. “This whole year for me, I’ve hit the ball pretty hard most of the time and when you don’t have success — we joke about it often as baseball players where you want that check mark or something like ‘oh, I hit the ball and it counted for a base hit.’ But that hasn’t happened to me all year.” I had to fact-check Baker on that one, and he’s actually right. Not only is Baker’s BABIP (.273) some 45 points below his career average, his line drive rate is actually crazy hit: 25.8%. That’s a top 20 rate in all of baseball (if he were doing it in a regular role). Among the regulars with a line drive rate at least that high, not a single one has a BABIP below .302! So, yeah, I guess Baker probably has been pretty unlucky.
  • If Jason Hammel winds up being traded to a team without a quality back-up catcher, you wonder if Baker will be moved in the deal as well.
  • A really fun read from John Sickels looking back at Jeff Samardzija as a prospect, and tracking his progression. Like so many others, his story is a reminder that you can’t just scout the stat line as a guy moves up through the system. Sometimes the eyes can see things that the numbers won’t yet tell you.
  • Junior Lake tells Cubs.com that he feels good after colliding with the outfield door two days ago. The Cubs are going to discuss whether they should put padding on the outfield doors (insert joke about City approval). I say that’s all well and good, but that’s a tiny portion of the outfield wall … which is otherwise brick. That ivy doesn’t do much (when it’s in bloom) to protect players. Outfielders just have to understand that, while it would be great to make an amazing play, it’s better not to break your body. You gotta pull up when you’re at Wrigley.
  • Pitching prospect Dallas Beeler makes his big league debut today for a one-start deal, but, even still, he says he’s on cloud nine. Enjoy it, young man.
  • Even Neil Ramirez thinks that the “win” he got Thursday – he threw two pitches and got one out in relief of Travis Wood – is kind of stupid (Carrie Muskat). It was the first “W” of Ramirez’s career. Rightly, he says the team “W” is the stat that really matters.
  • I was on WDWS to talk various Cubs things yesterday, and they were kind enough to pass around audio of the appearance, so you can check it out if you weren’t able to listen live yesterday.

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