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Schwarber’s Experience, Lester’s Pick-Off, Cubs Dynasty, Machado Blows Up, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News, MLB News and Rumors

The Littlest Girl is home with me today, and The Mom just got here to help me out. It’s nice to have them here, even if in the background as I work. Though I do need to focus while I’m working – it’s not all pajama pants an Funyuns – it does sometimes get a little lonely throughout the day. Hearing sounds from the other room is a bonus.

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  • Brian Duensing, who pitched to Kyle Schwarber on Monday, thought the now-left-fielder looked good behind the plate (Tribune). I also thought he looked fine, and it was funny to see his comment in the Tribune about “giving the big dogs a rest,” which is why he was catching. Schwarber, coming back from a massive knee injury, is the one giving other guys rest …
  • Speaking of Schwarber, who ripped a three-run shot last night to become the fasted Cub ever to reach 20 career homers (just 97 games), he had some exceptionally well-put thoughts on his struggles of late (Cubs.com): “I just have to stick with the process. I can’t be outcome-based to where you focus on just numbers. That’s why it’s called ‘average.’ It’s an accumulation of something over the course of time. It’s a game of millimeters. I feel like I’m putting some swings on balls and I’m just fouling them right back. I’m going to make a few adjustments here and there.” That is all spot on, dude. Stick with the process, don’t live and die by the day-to-day results (that’s our job).
  • Also, I said it last night, but I’ll say it again: although it feels like Schwarber has been around for a long time, he has played only 97 big league games, and that was interrupted by a major knee injury. Some allowance for development is a given. Heck, the guy didn’t even have a full minor league season before he came up to the big leagues! (He’s appeared in less than half the big league games that Matt Szczur has, for example!)
  • If you missed it earlier, the Cubs’ World Series trophy got a little dinged up.
  • We’ll have more on Jon Lester’s start in a bit, but a funny anecdote he dropped about his single up the middle – apparently he said he just can’t swing at curveballs, and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske told him “Well, just swing at it.” (Cubs.com) Lester did last night for whatever reason, and got a hit up the middle.

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  • Also fun on the Lester front: he picked off another runner (kinda), and it involved an overhand throw to a base (kinda)! Someone finally did the thing I’ve been wondering about for years: Aaron Altherr took his lead, and then simply kept going, even though Lester was looking right at him. It was the ultimate dare about whether Lester could throw *at all* to a base. And Lester proved that he could, albeit with a charge at the runner and then a gentle overhand toss, get the ball to second base. I’m very glad someone finally tried it, and I’m even more glad Lester could take care of business. That very well could shrink some leads.
  • The Cubs’ Farm Director, Jaron Madison, spoke to the Des Moines register about a handful of Cubs prospects, including Eloy Jimenez (still no time table on his return from a bone bruise in his shoulder), and Dylan Cease (“When he’s locked in and throwing strikes, it’s unhittable. It’s two big-league plus, plus pitches and he’s still working on a changeup that has a chance to be average. Ingredients to be a starter and then we’ll just tell if the fastball command comes around and just consistency of his pitches. He has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation-guy.”) On Cease, having the plus-plus big league fastball and curveball would make him a super elite reliever if paired with even moderate command. Having that third pitch, even if only big league average, is what’s key to allowing him to be a starter long-term. He threw some good changeups when I watched him in Arizona, but also some duds. It’s clearly a work in progress, but hey, that’s the point of being in full-season Low-A ball right now. The future for him remains very bright one way or another.
  • If you missed the Minor League Daily today, Ian Happ has hit the disabled list at Iowa with a bruised thumb. Keep in mind, the DL is used much more liberally in the minor leagues, both because it’s only seven days, and also because the focus is player development (and, embedded within that is health), not maximizing the roster for wins. Which is not to say Happ’s injury is not concerning (or that it is!), and is instead only to say that it’s best to reserve concern on these non-obvious types of injuries until more is known or until he’s been out a good long while (like, unfortunately, Jimenez has).

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  • It seems a bit premature for this concern, especially given that it would necessarily mean a couple more World Series titles for the Cubs in the interim:

  • Sitting here today, you’d book a Giants streak of three titles in five years, right? Even if it meant some really ugly potential stuff on the back end? (Seriously, have you considered how precipitously things could fall for the Giants right now, given Madison Bumgarner’s injury, Buster Posey’s and Hunter Pence’s age, Johnny Cueto’s opt-out, the lack of quality prospect depth, etc.? It’s not inconceivable, if the right combination of awful comes about, that the Giants could be the worst team in baseball this year, with a multi-year rebuild in the offing. Of course, if they get the right combination of good stuff, they could still turn things around and be a Wild Card team this year.)

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  • You may recall that, after Manny Machado slid cleats up into Dustin Pedroia (to me it looked more careless than malicious) last week, the Red Sox responded by way of a series of Eduardo Rodriguez pitches at his legs, and then a Matt Barnes pitch at his head. It was not cool. Barnes was suspended, and that seemed to be that. But then Dylan Bundy hit Mookie Betts yesterday in such a way that it may not have been an accident, which led to Chris Sale throwing behind Machado again tonight. To say Machado was extremely pissed would be an understatement of the highest order:

  • If I could channel Machado for a moment: I’d be pretty [expletive] pissed the [expletive] off if he were seriously [expletive] injured by a fastball, and then couldn’t play for a long time. Both teams: stop the [expletive] [expletive] and just play the game.

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  • In response to the fly ball revolution, Eno Sarris has started digging into the subject in a fascinating new way: by looking at the launch angle where individual players’ best contact appears to cluster. In other words, at what angle (groundball type, line drive type, fly ball type, speaking broadly) do certain players consistently make their best contact? And if we can study this type of thing, can we figure out whether it’s even worth a player trying to become more of a fly ball guy, or if he’s just going to fail and get further away from the type of innate hitter he is? Conceptually, it’s something we talked about for months about Jason Heyward in the pre-2016 offseason. Can he just elevate more and take advantage of his size and long levers? Surely he could hit for so much more power if he just elevated more. And then 2016 happened. That may have been a combination of an injury and resulting swing changes, but it does make you wonder if Heyward is an example of a guy who just needs to be who he is – more of a line drive, groundball guy – to be the best version of himself (even if that’s less than what you’d dream on him being). Fascinating stuff. How can you not love data?

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  • Lids just released a new “metallic collection” of MLB caps, and, because of their logo, the Cubs ones don’t necessarily do justice to how different these look:

  • No, this is not an infield fly rule situation:

  • Over at TYL, Luis has a look at why the Bears preferred Mitch Trubisky so strongly to the other QBs in the draft, and also checks out the undrafted free agents signed by the Bears so far.
  • The Wife and I are unapologetic lovers of the Sonicare line of electric toothbrushes (why would we apologize for such a thing!?), and they are a deal of the day at Amazon today. Some people resist electric toothbrushes because they feel like they want to do the work of brushing their teeth so they know they’re getting clean. I understand this feeling, and resisted for years myself because of it. But I didn’t realize I totally misapprehended what these toothbrushes are about. You still brush vigorously, just like always! It’s just that the super-fast vibration gets the teeth EXTRA clean in the process. Use it once, and you won’t ever not use it again. The difference I feel on my teeth is significant. Yes, BN gets a little cut when you buy stuff at Amazon via our links, but sincerely, I give this same sales pitch to everyone I know. Electric toothbrushes for life.

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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