God bless The Wife. She’s taking the kiddos to the zoo this morning (recall, she’s due any day now with kiddo number three) while I write and go exercise. Hashtag blessed.
- Yesterday I talked about how Jon Lester has injected himself into the NL Cy Young conversation, not only because he’s been extremely good of late, but because the field is so mashed together with a group of nine or ten guys with a plausible argument for the award. David Cameron wrote about the issue at FanGraphs, noting the difficulty in picking a clear leader at this point, especially when there are still a lot of reasons to believe the award should go to Clayton Kershaw, who hasn’t pitched since June. I get the sense from Cameron’s piece that we’re going to see the Cubs’ elite defense working against the pitchers in these conversations – how much can we “trust” the incredible rates at which the Cubs pitchers convert balls into play into outs when they’re *all* doing it? That suggests it’s more defense than pitching, which … well, I’m not so sure, given that those same Cubs pitchers are among the best at inducing weak contact and limiting hard contact. That’s going to make for a tough discussion if guys like Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Lester all stay among the league leaders in various results stats. Someone, perhaps, just needs to pull away from the crowd.
- This time last year, that someone was Jake Arrieta, who was in the midst of arguably the best half-season of pitching in baseball history. This year hasn’t quite been that, though he has still inarguably been a highly-effective starting pitcher. Yesterday’s outing reminded me a great deal of his early-season starts, where the stuff looked good, the command looked off (but not scary off, like it had been midseason), but the opposing team was fouling off so many pitches. It wound up costing Arrieta an inning or two, but the final line was definitely solid, allowing just four hits and two walks over six innings, with seven strikeouts. It’s hard to put the first or third run on him, and without those, Arrieta probably manages to go seven innings allowing just one run. It was a very good start. It wasn’t a 2015-OMG-JAKE-ARRIETA-HOW-DOES-HE-KEEP-DOING-THIS start, but it was a very good start. No one else has every single start dissected and classified to this extent.
- We could see some of the troubles Willson Contreras had handling Arrieta’s stuff yesterday, but how was his framing? Recall, in previous pairings, there were an unusually large number of “balls” called that were actually in the strike zone. Yesterday, Arrieta lost only two strikes that were called balls, but it’s hard to say if that was an improvement or just another case of the umpire being a different human being – because the overall zone yesterday was really good. A few missed calls here and there (the Giants also lost a couple strikes that were incorrectly called balls), but there’s no real pattern to pick out where calls were blown when it was Arrieta/Contreras, and not blown otherwise.
- Hector Rondon won’t be going to Iowa to rehab his triceps injury after all – insert the joke you know you want to make – after throwing a bullpen session yesterday and feeling good to go (CSN). If he feels fine today, it’s possible he could be activated and back in the bullpen tomorrow. As always, there’s no need to rush.
- In that same CSN piece, Joe Maddon compliments Rob Zastryzny once again for his makeup, which does seem to matter a good bit for high-leverage relievers (should Zastryzny be used in that role, this year or in the future). So far, through 10.1 big league innings (which have not been match-up protected), Zastryzny has a 0.87 ERA, 1.70 FIP, and a 2.67 xFIP, with a 29.3% K rate, and a 7.3% BB rate.
- Billy Hamilton got taken out by an umpire, which was a little funny, and Logan Schafer got taken out by nothing at all, which was extremely funny.
- A great shot of Javy Baez’s dash home yesterday (video here if you missed the incredible play):
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) September 4, 2016