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Lackey’s Strong Effort, Maddon’s 1000th Win, Bryant’s Return, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

That was a fun win for the Cubs last night, and I think the reason is pretty obvious: after the first inning, the Cubs never trailed, and in fact were rarely even just a run ahead. It would be nice to get more of those, because they allow you to enjoy the game throughout without feeling that constant sense of tension and/or dread. Sure, *some* tense, taught, comeback-potential games are nice, but it seems like that’s been every single game lately (of the games the Cubs were in at all, that is).


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  • On a warm night with the wind howling out, I really do think John Lackey pitched well against a surprisingly decent lineup last night. It looked like it was going to be a nightmare after Zack Cozart crushed the first pitch of his first inning at bat, and it well could have been, given the conditions. But Lackey managed 5.1 innings and allowed just two more runs, one of which scored only after a bloop that should have been caught was dropped, and then Willson Contreras couldn’t corral a swinging third strike. Lackey’s had an interesting season so far, with his peripherals all nearly identical to last season with two exceptions: his BABIP is up 50 points, and his HR/FB ratio is up there at an insane 20.0%. When you see those two things in tandem, you worry a bit about simple old fashioned “he’s become too easy to hit,” but I don’t think that’s the case with Lackey: his groundball rate is up, his line drive and fly ball rates are down, and his hard contact is down. You may not be seeing or feeling it, but I think Lackey has actually pitched really well this year.
  • Kris Bryant returned to the lineup last night, knocking a single and a double, and taking a walk. We now know the illness that kept Bryant out all weekend, and it was a potentially bad one: upper respiratory infection and early pneumonia (Cubs.com). That’s one you definitely want to get knocked out completely, or else the impact can linger for a long time, especially given how physically demanding a big leaguer’s day to day schedule is.
  • Elsewhere on the injury front, Jason Heyward was able to take batting practice yesterday, and could return at the end of this week (Cubs.com). The Cubs just want to make sure there isn’t a “relapse” of the knuckle pain that’s been preventing him from swinging the bat. Jon Jay (back) is now fully available, and Ben Zobrist (back) is a guy Joe Maddon said he simply wants to be very careful with. Understandable, given Zobrist’s versatile value, and his age (36).

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  • A big congrats to Joe Maddon, who has now been the manager for 1,000 big league wins, and celebrated with a nice glass of wine:

  • A great read from the Statcast crew on our improving understanding of a catch’s quality, based not on how it “looks” (the did-he-really-need-to-dive issue) but instead based on the ball’s speed, location, trajectory, and outfielder’s distance from it. They have some examples in there that are fairly eye-opening – the exact same ball to the same spot and distance, with wildly different “looks” from the outfielder. Some guys really do make tough catches look easy, and others make easy catches look tough. This is not new, of course, but we’re now able to put more meat on the bone.
  • A lighter fare ESPN interview with Cubs closer Wade Davis (not actually a cyborg, apparently), where he mentions the current Cub who’d be most uncomfortable to face at the plate. This sounds about right: “That’s a tough one. I think the most uncomfortable would be Rizzo. He’s right there on top of the plate, so it’s an awkward visual – some things there would make me uncomfortable. You want to go down and away on him but, he’ll hit that so it’s tough either way.” Rizzo’s unique spot in the box is, in part, designed to do precisely that: if you try to go away, that’s like the heart of the plate to him; and if you try to bust him inside, he can get his hands in quickly enough, or you’ll just hit him.

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  • Good shots of Happ’s shot:

  • The irony there is that, had Javy Baez been the defender at the base there, he probably gets Harrison with one of his lightning tags.
  • Maybe it’s because I’m a baseball nerd, but I found this video showing the whole process of making a baseball to be absolutely fascinating.
  • Over at TYL, a look at past 3-13 teams and how some – yes, some! – have bounced back to compete the very next season.

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  • Ever check out the coupon deals at Amazon? It’s sort of a whole different section of the site, where you can get discounts by “clipping” the coupon – examples today include a big ole thing of Goldfish, and also the electric toothbrush that I will evangelize until the day I die.

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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.