Sometimes I unconsciously – or consciously – rebel against the old stories we’ve always told ourselves about baseball, because my appreciation for statistical analysis has deepened my understanding of the game, and taught me that many of the narratives about heart and clutch and momentum and what-have-you are just bunk. But that’s not always the case. This is still a game played by human beings, and they – and the things they do on the field – cannot always be reduced to zeros and ones.
- So, when the Cubs won an absolutely crazy game against the Mariners a week ago today – down 6-0 early, and then coming back late to tie and and win in the most unpredictable of fashions – I blanched at the idea that it would somehow propel them to more wins. After all, there’s no mathematical reason to believe a great win will make a team somehow win the next day, too. And yet, here we are, a week later, and the Cubs haven’t lost since. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s mostly a coincidence (this is a great team that was always going to win lots of games, after all), but not entirely a coincidence. I think statistically-inclined people have to remember: the reason we became this way is because we were skeptical about many commonly-held beliefs about the game we loved, and we wanted to know more. That means, if we’re doing it right, we also have to be skeptical about the statistical things we’ve come to accept as obviously true.
- With yesterday’s win, the Cubs are once again at their high-water mark for the year, at 27 games above .500. They first reached that mark back on June 19. The Cubs, by definition, have been at .500 since then – which is fine for a stretch of the season! – and their lead on the NL Central has fallen only two games, from 12.5 to 10.5 games. Also interesting, that previous high-water mark came immediately before that horrifying 5-15 stretch by the Cubs.
- Jake Arrieta struck out just four over his eight scoreless innings yesterday, but he wasn’t getting squared up, and he indicated after the game that he’s not really going for strikeouts unless/until it’s necessary (CSN). Right now, especially with his fastball, he’s just trying to work down in the zone with sink, and get early weak contact.
- Kris Bryant says he’s not worried about a recent power slump (Tribune), which has seen him hit just one home run in the past month, pointing out the difference between a line drive and a home run can be a centimeter on the bat. And in that past month, there really are no concerns evident in Bryant’s numbers (a .295/.417/.389 line is fine in a stretch when a guy isn’t quite getting the ball out of the park, especially when you know the homers will come).
- Joe Maddon complimented Willson Contreras’s athleticism and said if he were a full-time outfielder, he could be a good one (Cubs.com). He also said this, however: “He needs to play more consistently and we need to get him into the catcher’s spot. This way we can utilize all our players.” When Contreras catches, obviously there’s an additional spot available in the outfield for Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan (or Javy Baez, by way of Kris Bryant or Ben Zobrist moving out there), but it also means that Miguel Montero or David Ross aren’t in the lineup. We can all see what the future is behind the plate for the Cubs, but it seems like it’s coming quickly. For me, the thought of Contreras as the starter next year, Montero as the veteran back-up, and maybe Kyle Schwarber working in once every 7 to 10 games … dang that sounds so very appealing.
- The Yankees are holding an Alex Rodriguez press conference today at 10am CT, and it could be to announce his retirement, perhaps at the end of the year like Mark Teixeira. After a post-suspension comeback in 2015, Rodriguez, 41, has been abysmal this year, hitting just .204/.252/.356.
- Giancarlo Stanton is absolutely ridiculous – he hit a 504 foot homer last night.
- I get to shop for outlet covers today, because The Little Boy, God bless him, sure likes to throw things into other things when he’s frustrated.
- Cubs were wearing 1981 throwback uniforms yesterday, if you didn’t see. None of them were harmed before the game:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 6, 2016