A couple good friends of mine are moving to Chicago in a couple weeks, and, being both a good friend and a good salesman, I’m trying to hook them on the Cubs. To that end, because I’m not so subtle, I’m trying to come up with a Cubs-related going away/housewarming gift that will be useful to them, but is also related to the Cubs. So, I’m searching all things Cubs on Amazon but I don’t even know how I want to narrow things down. Anyone have any clever ideas for things that they could use in the city (they’re moving from a more suburban area) but that are somehow Cubs-related?
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- Through 12 starts, Kyle Hendricks has been phenomenal. He’s got a 2.28 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3.92 xFIP over 75 big league innings. Importantly, with each start, the BABIP against has been creeping up (now up to .271), and the most obvious “but it’s just luck!” rebuttal fades. The one piece to which you would point is the enormous 14.9% infield fly ball rate (i.e., easy to catch pop-ups), which will probably come down some over time. But looking at the last five years or so of IFFB rates, there are a number of pitchers who have been able to sustain a rate in the 12% to 13% range consistently. What do you notice about the guys at the top of that list? Lots of successful pitchers who have done it without a ton of strikeouts. If Hendricks keeps that groundball rate up, sustains an elevated IFFB rate (weak contact), and doesn’t walk anyone (microscopic 4.7% this year), he can continue to succeed at a high level in the big leagues. Lots of ifs there, but, in my mind, Hendricks has ticked up from “back-of-the-rotation at best” to “yeah, he could possibly be a legit mid-rotation guy” – and that’s really significant.
- By the way: last night was really his first start against a cupcake lineup. Until then, it seemed like he was consistently facing quality lineups and playoff contenders, showing up each time with the same steady, studied performance. It’s easy to describe how a guy without overpowering stuff can succeed at a high level: have a solid plan for each hitter, locate and mix pitches well, and execute every pitch well. Very, very few pitchers can actually pull that off. So far, Hendricks is pulling it off with aplomb.
- Of the opposing pitcher last night, Reds manager Bryan Price, who’s seen Hendricks a couple times now, said (Cubs.com), “He’s been very, very good. It’s not because it’s smoke and mirrors. It’s just because he’s a very talented young guy that understands how to pitch.”
- One thing Hendricks did last night that didn’t elicit smiles was his bunt in the second … but that wasn’t Hendricks’ fault, of course. With men on second and third and one out, Hendricks was tasked with a safety squeeze. That’s one of those bunt situations that I don’t love, but can live with, especially if it’s a pitcher at the plate who hits poorly and bunts well. Hendricks squared on the first pitch, which went well wide, and he pulled back. Ok. Opportunity over. Probably should just swing away at that point, because otherwise, everyone knows the squeeze is coming, which makes it far more difficult to pull off. And then he squared again on the next pitch, and pulled back. Ball two. Then he is ready to swing, and takes strike one. And then he bunts the next pitch back to the pitcher. He’s thrown out, and no one advances. It was a very bizarre sequence, and, I would have preferred Hendricks was swinging away after the first pitch.
- Speaking of DON’T BUNT, that’s a prominent subject in the latest episode of BNTV, which you can and should watch below. Subscribe to BNTV on YouTube, too, so that you get all of the episodes.