After a week of rainouts, off-days, boring games and a loss to the Atlanta Braves, I am especially excited for the upcoming week of Cubs baseball.
Over the next two weeks, the Cubs will play (what is likely to be) their biggest competition in the the NL Central, the Pittsburgh Pirates, six times and (what could be) their biggest competition in the playoffs should their get there, the Washington Nationals, four times.
It’s our first, early season gut-check time, and I’m ready for the Cubs to take on some serious competition. (Yeah, you heard me, St. Louis.).
All right, let’s get to some news from around the league ….
- One of the more common refrains regarding Jake Arrieta’s historic ascent into baseball prominence over the past two seasons is something close to “What were the Orioles thinking?!?!?!lol!!!??” Of course, they gave Arrieta a chance for quite some time, and sometimes a change of scenery/coaching is what it takes to get a guy going. You can’t blame every team for giving up on players they’ve tried with for years. But one of the unknown – at least to me – parts of this story was recently relayed by Peter Gammons. Namely, the Houston Astros turned down Jake Arrieta in a deal with the Orioles, before he came over to the Cubs. Given the Astros’ early-season pitching struggles (25th in ERA, just 1.1 fWAR so far), that has to be an especially stinging revelation.
- Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias has been placed on the 15-Day disabled list, retroactive to Tuesday, April 25, with an impingement in his right shoulder. Although the Reds are largely rebuilding (so competitiveness isn’t the absolute top priority), losing any time for a young pitcher like Iglesias is a bummer. On the season, Iglesias, 26, has a 3.49/3.60/3.43 pitching slash line (ERA/FIP/xFIP) and has already been worth 0.5 WAR in just five starts. RHP Tim Adleman was called up from AAA to replace Iglesias, although the expectations are that he will not be out for too long.
- Here’s a mystery slash line from one player’s month of April: .229/.327/.313 (.279 wOBA, 65 wRC+). If I gave you 100 guesses, I don’t think you’d be able to get it right without already knowing, so I’ll tell you: that’s Joey Votto. And apparently, he’s not too happy about it. “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table,” Votto told C. Trent Rosecrans at Cincinnati.com, “than play at a poor level.” Now, it’s not usually news that a player is slumping, even when it’s a star (everyone goes through it), but Votto is different. Never the single best player in baseball, Votto has been so unbelievably consistent over the past few years that any negative variance in his production is actually quite surprising. His *career* walk rate is 15.8%, for Pete’s sake. So, this slump is relatively interesting, because it’s not something we see from Votto very often or for very long. And frankly, I wouldn’t expect it to continue much longer.
- One more Reds bit: you have to admit, this Brandon Phillips behind-the-back play is ridiculous.
- Jung-Ho Kang’s minor league rehab assignment continues on, slowly but surely. Lately, he’s been starting two out of every three games, while coming in as a pinch hitter late in the third game. The Pirates still aren’t sure when he’ll return from his assignment, but even after he does, he won’t likely start every single day – at least, right away. David Freese has been doing well in Kang’s absence (.293/.387/.402), and a slower start will help ensure a permanent return to the Majors for the second year infielder who had a brilliant rookie season in 2015.
- Carlos Martinez has been dealing with some eyebrow-raising off-field accusations lately, but on Sunday he was dealing with something else entirely: the flu. After losing about 5-10 pounds in a short span, Martinez woke up Sunday morning feeling well enough to convince Mike Matheny to let him start. However, it may not have been the best decision, because Martinez’s start resulted in a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
- Also out of St. Louis, Jhonny Peralta is getting closer to making a return and even fielded ground balls at shortstop for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery on March 10. The Cardinals are likely pining for his return, at least defensively, after nine errors were made from the shortstop position in the month of April. Although they may have some time yet, because according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, the club projects Peralta’s rehab assignment to begin around May 21. When Peralta is ready to come back, the Cardinals will have to figure out what they want to do with breakout youngster Aledmys Diaz.
- Lastly, at Baseball is Fun, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz put the rivalry aside to create a very special night for a young fan who recently lost his father. Good stuff, gents. Good stuff.