I guess I’ll be happy tomorrow when Cubs baseball is back on the TV, but tomorrow isn’t now. I want to be happy now!
- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is planning on meeting with various players throughout the league to discuss the importance of pace-of-play (as well as how they can help address it). This plan, presumably, was born out of the fact that pace of play/time of game was slightly better in 2015 (when new rules were first introduced), before taking a big step backwards last season. Manfred has said a lack of attention and focus has contributed to that, so this is him ramping back up.
- “We’re going to work with [MLBPA executive director] Tony [Clark] and try to get small groups of players together to show them the research we’re looking at, the fan research that we’re looking at, so they’re seeing the same data that we’re seeing,” Manfred said via ESPN. Manfred went onto suggest that changes will be coming next season (if he gives the Players Union a one-year head’s up, he doesn’t need their approval), but he hopes the players are on board. For the sake of peace, I hope so, too.
- After qualifying as a finalist for the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, Zack Greinke signed a massive $200+ million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks before the 2016 season. He then proceeded to have one of the worst seasons of his career: 158.2 IP, 4.37 ERA (4.12 FIP), 2.2 fWAR. This Spring, eyes were once again drawn to Greinke (and his struggles) as his recorded velocity dipped well below its usual levels. But in the first game of the season, Greinke’s velocity was a bit better. In fact it was only down about “a half-tick” from last year’s overall average according to FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, which, on the surface, appeared to be a good sign. Velocity tends to improve as the season goes on, so if his average velocity in the first start of the year was close to last season, the Spring results may feel like a distant problem. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. Sullivan noted that of the eleven pitchers who threw in that game, all but Greinke’s velocity was actually higher than their 2016 average. To Sullivan, that means one of two things: 1) Everyone but Greinke throws harder now, or 2) The reported velocities are a little hot, and Greinke’s “true” velocity was down even more. According to Sullivan, the second is more likely and that’s why Greinke is not yet out of the woods, so to speak.
- And speaking of those velocity spikes, there seems to be some known-changes that could account for them. Apparently, MLB has changed the way velocity is tracked this year, meaning that we should probably expect some higher readings than we’ve seen in the past. And, sure enough, the data reflects that. According to Dave Cameron (FanGraphs), fastball velocity is up an average of 1.1 MPH this year, compared to last. The same is true for curveballs, sliders, and cutters, as well. But although you may have heard some announcers suggesting that MLB has simply changed the point of measurement, that’s not exactly the case. Instead, it seems that the switch from PITCHf/x to Statcast is the main culprit (which does, in part, come with a point of measurement change).
- You can (and should) read more about it at FanGraphs, but the bottom line is that you should expect to see fastball readings that are about 1.0 MPH greater than what you’re used to seeing (unless there’s some change in the interim – this is kind of a fluid situation). Eventually, we may simply have to adjust to the new readings, but for now, keep that in mind.
- [Brett: Also, we’ll dig into this more in the coming days, I’d expect, as it’s more Cubs-specific, but the published velocity data for Jake Arrieta last night was … a bit alarming. Despite the great performance (and no indication from the hitters that Arrieta’s velocity was down), the published data show his fastball was down as much as 3 MPH from last year, which would be even more concerning given that numbers are supposed to be up. Jeff Sullivan digs in, noting as Michael did earlier in our Arrieta post that the changes in tracking this year and incomplete data from last night that complicate matters. The upshot? We can’t know if something was truly off last night, but this is definitely something to watch.]
- The poor Mets. Seth Lugo – who came out of almost nowhere last season, recording a 2.67 ERA over 64.0 IP – has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL. Surgery is not yet necessary, but it is still a possibility. In the meantime, he’ll receive a plasma injection and rest for at least two weeks. If you recall, the Mets also lost left-hander Steven Matz just before the start of the season, and have dealt with countless pitcher injuries over the past few years. Although it’s completely speculative, it’s becoming fair to question either 1) the Mets ability to target healthy pitchers, or 2) their pitching program. For as lucky (skilled?) as the Cubs have been health-wise over the past few seasons, the Mets have been equally and oppositely unhealthy.
- Japanese star pitcher/hitter Shohei Otani has technically recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the World Baseball Classic, but he has not yet returned to the mound. So far he’s exclusively been used as a designated hitter (naturally he’s gone 8-16 with a HR to start the season), and no timetable for a return to the mound has been arranged. It does not appear likely that he’ll abandon pitching (at all), but if and when he moves to the states, he could theoretically be asked to drop one half of his game, and focus on the other … even though it’s so much more fun when he does both.
- If you’ve been paying attention to the league lately, you’ll have undoubtedly noticed that the Yankees have been making some serious moves to get younger, cheaper, and more dynamic – the deadline deal of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs last season was only one part of that. But if you’re wondering how the an organization as synonymous with success and going-for-it-all-the-time as the Yankees managed to sell a rebuild, Travis Sawchik has your answer: Brian Cashman.
- Former Cubs’ reliever/part-time closer Jason Motte has been released by the Colorado Rockies, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
- Speaking of the Rockies, Ryan Braun was robbed of a hit in back-to-back games (and back-to-back at-bats), by Rockies Gold Glove third baseman, Nolan Arenado.
- Braves social media doin’ work:
On the mound tonight at Citi Field for your Atlanta Braves: pic.twitter.com/C8HNUBbzMr
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 5, 2017
- And finally, this poor girl:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) April 5, 2017