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Arrieta’s Good and Bad, Heyward’s Injury, Mandatory Cup Checks, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

Ah, the dreaded off-day at the back-end of a particularly lousy stretch of baseball, and immediately following a particularly lousy loss.


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  • From an evaluator’s perspective – let alone a Cubs fan – The Jake Arrieta Story this season has been a really tough one. I know what the results are (terrible), and I know that the sample gets less small by the start. I also know what my eyes say (he’s looked better than most of last year, in my opinion, with his movement and command), and my eyes agree with the peripherals that indicate he should be getting much better results. To that end, I don’t know if I find it comforting or even more frustrating to hear both Joe Maddon and Miguel Montero say that they thought Arrieta, who gave up four earned runs on a couple homers, was at his season’s best yesterday (CSN). It’s basically what I’ve been feeling all season, despite what the results keep telling me.
  • To be sure, Arrieta still didn’t have great velocity yesterday (he was mostly in the 91-93mph range), he wasn’t getting whiffs (just six total), and he gave up six batted balls at over 100mph exit velocity. Were I looking only at those things, I’d say it may not have been a great outing. He did get the Cardinals on a whole lot of taken strikes, and, like whiffs, that can also be an indicator of good stuff.
  • … so, like I said, it’s just a tough one. We know what Arrieta can be, even without the premium velocity. But we know that the times he’s elevating pitches right now – the few times he’s really missing – he’s getting punished. Is that flukey bad luck? Pitchers make mistakes in every game, and the majority of those mistake pitches are not crushed. Historically, when we see pitchers with great peripherals who are still giving up a lot of runs, it’s usually a matter as simple as “they’re too easy to hit right now.” With Arrieta, I don’t know that we’re there yet, but I will say there are some bad indicators: .355 BABIP, 40.2% groundball rate (down over 10 percentage points, line drive and fly ball rates way up), 16.0% HR/FB, hard contact rate way up. Some of those numbers are equally consistent with just plain bad luck, which is what makes evaluating pitchers this early in the season so difficult. Arrieta might simply have had some flukey ill-timed hard contact that will naturally regress. Or, he might simply be easier to hit hard this year. Or, most likely, there’s a combination of things going on. Whatever the case, the Cubs cannot keep facing huge deficits early in every single Arrieta start if they want to compete this year. He’s too important and, in theory, too good.
  • Jason Heyward is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow (knuckle), but Joe Maddon suggested Heyward won’t quite be ready (Tribune). Heyward’s absence makes opportunities available for youngsters like Jeimer Candelario and Ian Happ, but I’d still like to see him back and healthy as soon as possible. Heyward admitted that his wrist injury last year played a direct part in the deterioration of his swing as the season went on and he locked in new bad habits. You’ll forgive me if I’m a little nervous about the potential for another injury to a part of the body responsible for holding the bat could also have season-long consequences. Cubs fans: once bitten, a million times shy.

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  • I wrote about the slide rule yesterday, and if I may be so bold, I think it’s worth your time if you didn’t check it out. Joe Maddon and Jon Lester were awfully chapped about what happened on Saturday, and understandably so. But Maddon wasn’t content to leave things there, as he continued on with some thoughts about how MLB could additionally “protect” its players, including face masks, helmets for pitchers, banned head-first slides, and mandatory cup checks (CSN). Maddon was being cheeky, of course, but I have no doubt it was an extension of his frustration about what he perceives to be too much “protectionism” in baseball’s rules. We’ll just continue to agree to disagree on that one (well, the slide rule, at least), as there are things that can be done in service of player safety without damaging the spirit of the game. Where that line is drawn will always be a matter of some debate.
  • An interesting read on the many off-the-field things Cubs players would like to do … but can’t right now because they have to protect their bodies. Skiing, extreme sports, etc. As the Madison Bumgarner dirt bike injury showed, having a little fun can have a serious consequence for a player and team. It’s kind of a bummer for the players while they’re playing, but they understand the issues at play.
  • But history! Eh hem:

  • If you missed anything this weekend, catch yourself up here. Luke’s got your latest from the farm here, including Eloy Jimenez’s hit-filled return.
  • I had never made Rice Krispie treats before this weekend. I’ve enjoyed them for decades, but I never actually attempted to make them myself, having heard that they can be something of a pain to get right. I have now made them twice, because I was awesome at it. The only thing that was not perfect is that our cookware is a bit on the old side, and the non-stick-ness of it has faded. I am therefore considering today’s Amazon Deal of the Day – a heavily discounted cookware set – as an upgrade. I don’t think I could get away with “less Rice Krispie treat stickiness” as the sole reason, though, when the charge shows up on our card.

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Brett Taylor

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