It’ll be time for me, The Wife, and The Littlest Girl to head home from the hospital later this morning, and it’s going to be very exciting to bring her into our home, where she’ll join a very excited Little Boy and Little Girl. Of course there will be trying times – we have no illusions otherwise, with three kids, one of whom is an infant – but there’s also going to be a lot of warmth and joy.
I hope you’ll forgive my indulgences in sharing that kind of thing up here at the top of the Bullets from time to time, but it’s hard not to. This place, and the community of readers and commenters, means so much to me that it only feels natural to share.
- Jake Arrieta’s start yesterday unfortunately featured many of the same signposts of the trouble with which he’s been dealing for much of the second half of this season. Primarily, the fastball command was not consistent, and so many things happen from there (walks go up, inefficiency goes up, hard hits go up because of missed spots, offspeed/breaking stuff becomes less effective because it can’t be played off the fastball, etc.). You can read Arrieta’s and Joe Maddon’s thoughts here and here, though they should be largely unfamiliar to you by this point. As I said yesterday in the EBS, it’s not impossible that Arrieta picks things up in the last two starts before the playoffs and then dominates in the biggest games like the guy he was in the second half last year, but that tends not to be something you see flip on a dime like that. Instead, the reasonable hope here is that things tighten up just a little bit, Arrieta’s killer stuff stays killer, the walks drop a little bit, and the difficultly batters have always had in squaring him up continues. If he’s just that guy, together with the Cubs’ defense, he can win some games in the playoffs for the Cubs.
- I apologize in advance for what I’m about to show you: Arrieta, by the way, hasn’t posted more than eight strikeouts in a game since June 15. In those 15 starts, he has a 4.19 ERA, a 4.63 FIP, a 4.40 xFIP, a 19.7% strikeout rate, and an 11.0% walk rate. All that, with a microscopic .216 BABIP (which we believe he earns, at least in part, because of the weak contact – but the point here is that his numbers are still very ugly, despite that beautifully low BABIP). The 68.7% left on base rate is definitely some bad luck, but it’s not like the peripherals have otherwise been good in this stretch.
- We’ll see if Jorge Soler is back in the lineup today and tomorrow after leaving Friday’s game with side tightness. Joe Maddon doesn’t sound very concerned (CSN), but when a guy has missed as much time already in his young career like Soler, you understandably getting a little more tense when he’s pulled from a game. That said, we are in the part of the season where, arguably even more than Spring Training*, it does not make a lick of sense to send a guy out there unless he’s at 100%. The final few games of the year, when you want to make sure he’s on rhythm for the playoffs? Sure, then you might consider letting a guy play even if he’s shaking something off. But right now? Mid-September, already clinched? No chance. That is to say, even if Soler doesn’t play today or tomorrow, I still won’t be worried about his playoff chances unless I’m told otherwise.
- In the meantime, Soler’s replacement in left field yesterday, Chris Coghlan, went deep for the first time with the Cubs this year (94 plate appearances). In terms of results, it’s going to be a very forgettable year for Coghlan, who was quietly so good at the plate in 2014 and 2015 with the Cubs, and has been so loudly terrible in 2016. But it’s worth noting that, in his injury-riddled time with the Cubs this season since an early June trade brought him back, he’s hitting .244/.362/.372, which is good for a 99 wRC+ (100 is average). Not what you’d want from a platoon-protected, bat-first left fielder, to be sure. But also not brutal at all. I don’t think there’s any question that Coghlan will make the playoff roster at this point, which should give the Cubs as many as three quality left-handed bat options off of the bench (or, possible starters, depending on match-ups): Coghlan, Miguel Montero, and Tommy La Stella. If the Cubs opt to go with eight relievers instead of seven, then it becomes a little trickier to carry all three.
- *(I say arguably there because the Cubs do still want to be sure to secure the best record in the National League, which not only affords them home field advantage in a possible NLCS, but also ensures that they face the Wild Card Game winner, rather than the (probably) Dodgers or Nationals, in the NLDS. We’ll get back to Scoreboard Watching on that front tomorrow morning, but for now, suffice it to say that things have tightened up just a little bit – the Cubs lead the Nationals by 6.0 games.)
- I suspect we’ll be seeing something of this soon, not unlike the previous very enjoyable segment on the Late Show featuring Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Jake Arrieta:
What is @CubsJoeMadd doing buying a hot dog?
— MLB (@MLB) September 17, 2016
- Big sale on fall jackets at Amazon today only, so you’ll want to check it out if you’re thinking about getting yourself ready for the weather change.