If I told you in this space that tomorrow night’s opener had been postponed due to expected severe weather in St. Louis, and was rescheduled for Monday night at the same time … would you believe me?

Tell me you’re more on guard today than that.

  • Joe Maddon says neither catcher nor center field will feature strict rotations or platoons (Cubs.com). Albert Almora Jr. will start more frequently than merely against lefties, and that may very well include tomorrow night against Carlos Martinez. Miguel Montero could rotate in to catch any of the non-Jon-Lester starters, depending on that day’s match-up. So long as the players all feel comfortable and are put in a position to succeed, I love the flexibility. Maddon must feel like a kid in a candy store with this roster the last couple years.

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  • Kyle Schwarber feels good after his three innings of catching (Cubs.com), and called it a nice tuneup for the regular season. You’re not going to see him catching hundreds of innings this year, but a strategic switch in-game? A start here or there to optimize a matchup? It’s still very possible.
  • Schwarber offered positive thoughts on Hector Rondon, whom he caught in that game (Cubs.com). Joe Maddon did, too, saying that Rondon is healthy, and just needs get the command right. Perhaps that will happen when the regular season begins, offers Maddon. As I said yesterday, that’s all very much possibly true. We won’t know until he has a chance to right the ship in the regular season. But, it’s fair to be a little nervous.
  • We know that home runs were up MASSIVELY last year (if you didn’t realize, the home run rate in baseball last year was right up there with the peak of the steroid era), and we still don’t entirely know why. The MLB.com crew decided to ask a bunch of players, particularly several who saw their own homer rates spike, what they think was behind the surge. For the most part, the answers are what you’d expect: very idiosyncratic to the player (health, diet, etc.) and/or baseballspeak (“I was just better”, “I don’t know, I see the ball and I hit the ball”). But Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Jedd Gyorko specifically mentioned trying to improve their launch angle to get more balls in the air (a league-wide trend we talked about yesterday). I’m loving Turner’s thoughts on the old saw about hitting down on the ball to create backspin, which makes the ball travel further – yes, it’s true, but it requires the hitter to be so perfect. And if you are off by just a little bit, hitting down on the ball simply generates another groundball.

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  • Interestingly, Kris Bryant talked about his increase in home run rate last year, and he was the only guy to say that he was actively trying to lower the launch angle of the ball off of his bat. You may remember it: Bryant worked to flatten his swing a bit to create more contact, and also to lower the angle of his ball at Wrigley Field, where those majestic moonshots he was hitting in 2015 simply won’t go out if there’s a decent breeze blowing. As the article notes, Bryant did significantly reduce his launch angle at Wrigley Field in 2016, but I would point out that he actually hit fewer homers there in 2016 (21 versus 17). It was actually his ridiculous increase in homers on the road (from 5 in 2015 to 22(!) in 2016) that bumped up his total so much. Whatever the case, it’s quite clear that Bryant’s swing changes, overall, were pretty darn successful in 2016, as he improved his offensive game in virtually every noticeable way.
  • BN dealz:

  • With the regular season just about to begin, that means the minor league regular seasons are also just about to begin, which in turn means we’re going to see a wave of minor league roster moves coming. The Cubs loaded up on so much upper level depth over the offseason that I don’t think they’re going to have room to roster everyone they’ve added, as well as everyone who was already in the organization. That is to say: you can expect some guys to be released or injured in the next week.
  • The Pirates have named youngster Tyler Glasnow their fifth starter.

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META: With the season very nearly upon us, a reminder for the comments: we cannot have nudity, near nudity, strategic-covered nudity, extreme focus on the boobs, etc. on the site. Not only do I not particularly want it, but our advertising partners are quite strict about it – if you post those kinds of GIFs, you can seriously harm the site. Please don’t do it. We will be strictly enforcing it this year, even in the celebratory game threads. If the GIF is sexually-focused, just don’t do it. If the GIF is boob-focused, just don’t do it. You can have plenty of fun with the literal billions of other GIF possibilities than just a lazy GIF of some girl’s chest bouncing. (Violations will get a warning, and repeat offenders will be bounced from the site. No exceptions. I never thought I’d have to play this part, but here we are. Also: if you see GIFs/images that are no-nos, please flag them (not just downvote, but actually use the flag option), and remind people of the rules. Help each other out.)


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