I’ve gotta hit up my morning exercise class because I want to look like Jake Arrieta (which will never happen, but a guy can dream (also: more on Arrieta’s latest gem later)), which means I’ll be unavailable for a stretch this morning. If additional Jason Heyward news comes out in the interim, I’ll have it up for you as soon as possible after I get my swole on*.
(*Yes, I said that with a joking wink.)
- It would be easy to miss in a game that saw Jason Heyward injured and Jake Arrieta dominate, but Jorge Soler had a fantastic night. Not only did he single and homer, but he also ripped two more liners that happened to find glove, he made two great catches at the wall in left (on balls that, in recent memory, he would have had trouble tracking, let alone catching – this one was awesome), and he ran the bases well. Joe Maddon was over the moon in his praise for Soler after the game (ESPN), and adding after praising Soler’s night through and through, “I want to believe he understands what we’re talking about. He went out and did it. That’s the kind of mental effort that can make him a superstar.” While you don’t want to read too much into one quote – and the tenor of the comments were clearly quite positive, so make no mistake – the implication there is that some of Soler’s struggles have been tied to the “mental effort” side of the game, rather than solely his physical ability. Of course, we know Soler has elite physical ability, so maybe it’s true that there’s just a mental/focus/preparation hurdle that he’s got to consistently get over in order to actualize all that latent physical ability. It’s not uncommon for younger players, adjusting to what it takes to succeed in the big leagues, to take a little time to get there. Given Soler’s uniquely erratic process of coming to the big leagues (and the fact that he only just turned 24), it wouldn’t be surprising if all of these adjustments (including the mechanical ones) take time.
- Something else I really liked about Soler’s night? That homer, that single, and one of those two liners? All three came on off-speed pitches. Given Soler’s infamous struggles with anything except fastballs throughout his big league time, that’s a very encouraging thing to see.
- Enjoyed this take on Ben Zobrist’s improvement even as he enters his mid-30s. There are some players who can offset the loss of speed and power by making continued and dramatic gains at the plain (in terms of discipline and hard contact), and Zobrist is looking like that guy.
- The Cubs’ bullpen has had some hiccups here and there, but Joe Maddon believes everyone is getting into a good place now (Sun-Times). In the last week, the bullpen’s ERA is a scant 1.06. Though the 3.50 FIP and 4.22 xFIP suggest there are some unsustainable peripherals in there (the .231 BABIP, 97.1%(!) LOB rate, and 16.4%(!) walk rate all jump out at me).
- Whoa, Javy Baez jerseys on a 60% off sale at Amazon today – I almost never see that big of a sale on jerseys unless it’s for a former player or a guy on his way out (do they know something we don’t? (no, they don’t – it’s just a great sale)).
- Although we joked about it in the latest MLBits, Adam Wainwright might actually be in the process of becoming dangerous again thanks to a recent mechanical fix.
- Crane Kenney spoke on the radio yesterday about the plaza fight (read about the fight here if you’re not aware of what’s going on), wanting folks to know, among other things, that the Cubs aren’t just looking to create a beer garden – the plaza is about so much more, and so many other types of events.
- This might be one of the most fun baseball plays I’ve seen in a long time: Vanderbilt pulled off a bases-loaded TRIPLE steal (yes, that includes a straight steal of home).