The Cubs got only a small break from the NL Central with the Mets this week. Now it’s back to the Pirates, and another opportunity to knock down a divisional foe while also adding wins. Of course, if the Cardinals keep doing what they’re doing, the battle between the Cubs and Pirates might be better framed as involving the Wild Card spots.
- David Ross left yesterday’s game with abdominal tightness, which is an area that makes you nervous about a visit with the disabled list. The musculature in a guy’s core and torso can cause all kinds of problems at the plate (think of the torque a swing produces), and that’s why you see players out for so long when they have, for example, oblique problems or lower-back problems. It would seem to be especially tough, in that regard, for catchers. Fingers crossed that it’s a minor thing for Ross, but, if it’s not, the Cubs are the best-prepared team in baseball to handle a catching injury, since they already have three catchers on the roster. Indeed, one of the stated reasons for keeping Welington Castillo around was the possibility that, with two other catchers in their 30s – one of whom was in his late 30s – someone could get hurt. If Ross is out for an extended period of time, the Cubs will likely add another position player – could be an outfielder like Junior Lake, or a versatile guy like Arismendy Alcantara, if he’s ready to return – or they could make a decision in a few days if/when Tommy La Stella is ready to return from his own side/rib cage issue. It was a totally different injury (hamstring), but Chris Denorfia was ready to return to the big league team after just two minor league games. (Denorfia, by the way, is himself on the DL with more hamstring troubles. He’s not close to returning, though.)
- Before you ask, no, I don’t think the time would be right to bring Javy Baez back. He’s doing some good things at Iowa right now, working through some adjustments. It seems best to let him keep doing that on an everyday basis for now.
- If I told you that Kris Bryant recently exhibited a higher top speed on the bases than Dee Gordon or Lorenzo Cain? Well, you should believe me, because it’s true, according to Statcast. That doesn’t make Bryant faster than those two speedsters, mind you, because running the bases involves a lot of acceleration and deceleration, at which Bryant isn’t nearly as quick. But, still, it’s evidence proving what we’ve already seen with our eyes: Bryant is legit fast.
- I’ll have more on Travis Wood later today, but for now, here’s the Cubs.com take on his start, with his own thoughts on what’s plaguing him lately (in short: when he misses, they’re taking the ball out of the park).
- Joe Maddon is still a big Jorge Soler supporter, and it’s just a matter of getting him back to his patient approach (CSN). Soler is young, and it takes time. It was too easy for us to get ahead of ourselves on Soler, forgetting how little baseball he’s played over the last four years – and now he’s expected to keep adjusting quickly on the fly against the best pitchers in the world.
- A great read from Mike Bauman on Joe Maddon’s beliefs about the two-strike approach. It’s almost too simple: “[L]ook at the numbers with two strikes, whether it’s pure batting average or slugging percentage or whatever, they’re awful. So why wouldn’t you want to do something different with two strikes?” Maddon believes that there was a period in the sabermetric revolution where outs were treated equally, and strikeouts were no different (I remember this well, and he’s correct – I remember arguing that an out is an out, and strikeouts are no big deal because they’re just an out, and they prevent double plays). The big problem there is the lack of appreciation for balls in play. Things can happen when you put the ball in play. Good things. Some bad things, yes, but those are much more rare than the good things. Maddon even wants to see guys sometimes use their “two-strike approach” before there are two strikes if it’s a really tough match-up. Just a great read all around.
- I’m not sure what it will take for the baseball world to recognize that Jake Arrieta is one of the top starters in the game. This USA Today piece on James Shields’ success with the Padres – a kind of “what might have been” for teams like the Cubs, who failed to sign him – mentions the Cubs’ chance at a “dynamic 1-2 punch with Jon Lester”. The Cubs likely could have used Shields, don’t get me wrong. But Arrieta, man. Arrieta.