Happy Star Wars Day, fellow nerds! May the Fourth Be With You and all that jazz. Presumably in honor of the day, one of Amazon’s lightning deals today is on lightsaber BBQ tongs, which makes me chuckle a great deal. Because they exist.
Meanwhile, I’m on my way to Chicago today. Hope to catch some of you in the right field bleachers for the first couple games against the Nationals.
- It’s hard to even discuss Jake Arrieta starts usefully at this point, because drooling on my keyboard doesn’t actually translate to the screen, and there are only so many ways to describe a pitcher who is consistently avoiding hard contact, getting a solid number of strikeouts, not giving up many walks, and getting the ball on the ground. You do a couple of those things, and you can be very good. You do them all, consistently, and you’re fantastic. What else is there to say usually?
- So, then, we nitpick. Of his command issues early last night, Jake Arrieta said he was getting too much movement on his sinker (two-seamer), and he had to make an adjustment (ESPN). Sahadev Sharma pointed out yesterday before the game on the latest episode of our podcast, Limited Range, that Arrieta has mentioned this issue before, and actually dealt with it last time out against the Brewers. Very few pitchers have a plus four-seamer on which they can fall back if their plus two-seamer isn’t going to work for them on a given day, and Arrieta also has the experience and confidence to make an early adjustment like he did last night. Hopefully he gets the feel back for the sinker/two-seamer in short order, because it’s a brutal pitch off of which hitters slugged – yes, slugged – just .277 last year. (The four-seamer, by contrast, last year, was at .486.)
- Meanwhile, the Cubs have won the last 19 games Arrieta has started, which is a new club record (Cubs.com). We will soon run out of ways to describe just how absurd this long stretch of dominance has been.
- I know he hasn’t looked quite as effective this year, but it was fun to see Trevor Cahill hitting 95mph on the gun last night, and giving the Cubs two innings of work to finish off the game. His 10 appearances out of the pen so far this year trail only Travis Wood (12) and Pedro Strop (12), but the sample is still too small to be worried about the walks, and the two homers he’s given up are kind of skewing the rest of his numbers. I still believe in the stuff for Cahill – but, then, the Cubs appear to have a bullpen so loaded with talent, and a starting staff that keeps going at least 5/6 innings, that there are only so many innings to go around.
- Jeff Samardzija channelled his former teammate, Carlos Zambrano, last night after an ugly strikeout.
- Ryan Kalish’s long journey up and down from the minors, through serious injuries, and in winter ball this past offseason had him simply looking for a chance with an organization this Spring. The Cubs took a look, thought he looked as good as he has in a long time, and gave him the minor league deal (Cubs.com). At the time – with an overcrowded outfield at the big league level, and with guys like Shane Victorino and Matt Murton already in on minor league deals – it couldn’t have looked like the easiest path to a return to the big leagues. But this is why you do whatever you can to create additional depth before the season begins, even in the upper minors. You just never know when a guy will break out and/or when a need will develop at the big league level. With all of Kyle Schwarber, Matt Szczur and Jason Heyward hurt right now, there is a serious need. Hopefully Kalish takes to the bench role in the same way that Szczur did, and covers the Cubs as well as he did for the next two weeks.
- Speaking of Szczur, he said his hamstring was already feeling better by yesterday (Cubs.com). It’s rare that even a mild hamstring injury keeps a guy out for under a few weeks, but hopefully Szczur’s case is extremely mild, and the DL stint was forced on the Cubs a bit by the fact that Heyward is also hurt right now, and the Cubs could afford to play two guys down for multiple days.
- Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, and Dexter Fowler show up as April All-Stars for David Schoenfield.
- This stat is just mind-boggling, and they can thank the Cubs for a healthy chunk of that:
Reds bullpen gives up a run for its 21st straight game, a new MLB record
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) May 4, 2016
- I know it’s not “the thing” they do anymore, but I still enjoyed this from last night:
OMG Jake Arrieta helmet rub. pic.twitter.com/g3E9xSz6rq
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) May 4, 2016
- Earlier today, Luke hit up the Minor League Daily, including a Gleyber Torres bomb.
- Some of what you may have missed yesterday:
- The Cubs-Pirates rivalry now has a little extra tension to it, but that doesn’t mean things have to get out of hand.
- The Cubs will be among the teams scouting Tim Lincecum as he comes back from hip surgery.
- Willson Contreras is still scoring hot, and hit his first homer of the year.
- MLBits, including extremely interesting reads on the success of youth in baseball and the surprising lack of success with shifts.
- The Szczur/Kalish/Villanueva roster moves.
- And the Cubs beat the Pirates comfortably once again.