The Cubs will today try to make this a 9-1 home stand, and they’ve got Jake Arrieta on the mound. How could they lose?
Well, of course, that one loss on the home stand just happened to come in Arrieta’s previous start – the first time the Cubs had lost in an Arrieta start since last July. It would be pretty silly if the only two losses on this home stand came during two Jake Arrieta starts, right?
- I was very happy to see the effective Cubs pitching yesterday, not just because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but also because each of Jason Hammel and Hector Rondon were pitching for the first time since dealing with theoretically minor, but potentially unnerving, health issues. Hammel showed no ill-effects from the hamstring cramp that sent him out early in his last start (7.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 6 K). His slider command seemed off in the first two or three innings (considering how wet it was and how sloppy the mound looked initially because of the rain, it’s easy enough to explain away), but it tightened up from there, and he simply looked good. Fastball velocity was excellent. He got 12 whiffs. It was just a flat-out good start. Very encouraging.
- As for Rondon, who had been unavailable for a couple days with back stiffness, he pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, albeit with some hard contact in there. There’s not much you can take from eight pitches (no swings and misses), but the velocity looked normal. He says he was still feeling his back a bit out there, but not enough to impact his performance (Tribune).
- Hammel’s great results this year (2.14 ERA, most prominently) are an interesting mix of things that look like luck (his K rate is down from last year, BB rate is way up, BABIP is tiny, and LOB rate is very high) and good performance (limiting hard contact, few home runs, infield pop ups way up, groundball rate up). I think if I were looking at a pitcher on an opposing team with these numbers, I’d still say he was in for some pretty healthy regression, based mostly on what I view to be an unsustainably low BABIP and an unsustainably high LOB rate. Hopefully he can offset some of that by improving his K rate and reducing his walk rate, but if not, the ERA is going to climb in the coming months. And people will say things about “second half Hammel,” when it might actually just be a matter of the results normalizing to the underlying performance (which may not have actually changed).
- I love reading about how Hammel worked with pitching coach Chris Bosio to identify his weaknesses as a hitter, and figure out how pitchers were trying to approach him (Cubs.com). So far, it’s working – Hammel’s .269/.269/.346 batting line is the best of his career by a country mile. Of course, I’m not sure how long that .500 BABIP will last …
- The Cubs no longer have the killer bats they were seeing earlier this year from their pitchers, but they’ve still got the 6th best wRC+ in the NL … at 1. That’s a marked improvement from last year, when Cubs pitchers had a -26 wRC+, 6th worst in the NL.
- The Cubs will be wearing track suits with nicknames on the back for their upcoming road trip, which is going to generate some good pictures, I’d imagine. Jesse Rogers has the scoop on several of the nicknames. Dexter Fowler’s is just “Dex,” by the way, in case that disappoints you.
- What a fun story at ESPN on David Ross’s first career homer, which came off of former Cub – then-Diamondback – first baseman Mark Grace. I remember that pitching appearance well, mostly because of the face Grace made when he took the mound, but it wasn’t until the last couple weeks that I found out a 25-year-old Ross was the guy who homered.
- Ooh, up to 30% off Swiss army knives at Amazon today.