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What Exactly Is It About Even Year Magic? Will the Cubs Shake It? and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

I remain consistently impressed by how ‘Better Call Saul’ lives in the ‘Breaking Bad’ world, but continues to be its own show. I hope that, as it gets closer chronologically to the timeline of the show it is preceding, the producers resist the urge to make it blend more with the style of ‘Breaking Bad.’ It totally works as a quieter, more contemplative, more deliberately-paced show.


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  • Having never won a World Series in our lifetimes, virtually all Cubs fans are wholly unfamiliar with “the year after.” Although I explored at length the personal and emotional ramifications, it was always going to take actual game play to get a real sense of what the baseball, itself, would be like. Would the players be as energized? As effective? Is there really a hangover effect? Consider the very team the Cubs are playing – we liked to be sarcastic about the even year magic, but might there be a reason the Giants were able to win in 2010 then not make the playoffs in 2011, win in 2012 then not make the playoffs in 2013, and win in 2014 then not make the playoffs in 2015? Was it just a coincidence? Sure, the winning the World Series part requires a lot of luck, but I mean the fact that they weren’t able to follow each World Series run with a great season.
  • Some thoughts on that here at CSN, including from Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Among Epstein’s remarks: “[The players are] a little frustrated, as anyone would be with how we’re playing, but they have a lot of heart and they really care. I think they know how good they can be and they want to attain that level. There’s no lack of urgency. There’s no complacency because we won last year. There’s also confidence in what we can and will do when guys hit their stride. There’s no panic, but there’s also a lot of guys in there who care about playing up to our capabilities …. You don’t know when it’s going to happen. You never quite know where the bottom is. You never quite know what catalytic event is going to turn things around.”
  • Something I consider in relation to this issue, but that I haven’t quite fully figured out into complete thought: baseball is exponential in so many ways. For example, we know that the more really good hitters you add to a lineup, it actually increases the team’s offense exponentially, not just linearly (because more guys on base, means more other guys get on base at a higher rate, means opposing pitchers work harder, means they pitch less effectively sooner, means a host of other things). For another example, we know that great defense improves pitching not only by limiting runners and scoring opportunities, but also by saving pitches. Anyway, I’m wondering if there’s something to this concept, but in reverse. Like, if a lot of guys on the team are just a little bit less of what they were the year before (worn down a bit, slightly less enthusiasm, older, etc.), the overall impact on the team could be more pronounced than just that “little bit.” Even if it might not be perceptible on an individual player-by-player basis. Like I said, it’s not fully fleshed out. But there might be something there.

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • Last night’s game – 2 hours and 5 minutes – was baseball’s quickest this year. When almost all the scoring comes via homers, without much other offense, and two great pitchers are working quickly without much need for the bullpen, that’s what you can get. Personally, I want to thank both teams: since the game was set to start an hour earlier than the night before, I was really looking forward to an extra hour of sleep. Then the rain came, and I was all kinds of sad. Then … hooray! Zzzzzzzz.
  • The duo showed it off again last night, as Willson Contreras nailed Eduardo Nunez trying to steal in the 5th inning, as the Giants were threatening; you simply cannot run on Jon Lester as much as you think you can. This ESPN write-up gets into why, and of course, Contreras is a huge part of it. Conteras’ 36.4% caught stealing rate is 8th best among catchers who’ve started at least 25 games, and his 12 total caught stealing is only one behind baseball’s leader, Yasmani Grandal.
  • Interesting side note in that piece is the quote from Contreras about the pickoff plays at first – when Lester is pitching, in particular, Anthony Rizzo is simply ready at all times for the throw from Contreras. It’s not necessarily a set, called play.

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  • We’ll have more on Lester’s outing later today, but one thing to note, since Buster Posey brought it up: he said Lester really had his changeup working, and was throwing it more often than usual (Cubs.com). Sure enough, Lester threw the changeup 14 times, and netted a ridiculous five whiffs. That 14 times going to the changeup is more than he ever used the pitch in his first two seasons with the Cubs (most starts were right around five or so). But here’s an interesting thing: after using double digit changeups just six times combined in his first two seasons with the Cubs, Lester has gone double digits on the changeup six times already this year! That’s a trend, folks. And if it’s a good pitch for him? Hello.
  • Joe Maddon on Kyle Schwarber’s monstrously long home run (Cubs.com): “It got small fast. It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek,’ when it came on, and the Enterprise would just fly by and get really small.”
  • Patrick Mooney explores theories on why the Cubs’ defense hasn’t looked like it did last year (or anything close to it, really), though it’s difficult to pinpoint, and is probably a combination of lots of things. At least they’ve looked really good in the last few games, haven’t they? Not just the great plays – and there have been a lot – but they also have just one error in the last three games combined.

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  • The Cubs’ bullpen did it again! GIF:

  • I think Carl Edwards Jr. might like Skittles:

http://www.instagram.com/p/BUcpNrKFuz0/?taken-by=edwardskiid&hl=en

  • Michael gettin’ silly:

  • Earlier, Luke checked in on the farm system, and David Ross finished in second place.
  • Over at TYL, Mike Glennon finally spoke about being the Bears’ QB1 for 2017, but against the backdrop of what the Bears surprisingly did in the draft.
  • Any swimmers among you? Speedo stuff is a Deal of the Day at Amazon. The Wife is a big swimmer, and I am not. I wouldn’t say it was ever a problem for us, but it was definitely always something where she was always so much better than I was that it made me feel a little weak. Oh man, just typing that, I remember now that I got pulled into a swimming competition in college – fraternities against each other – and I volunteered for the breast stroke leg of a relay race, because I was a dumb college kid and assumed I could do it. In front of tons of people (The Wife, then The Girlfriend, included). The way I recall it, I finished my leg about the time that every other team was finishing up the whole dang race. It was mortifying. Wow. I’d really tucked that memory away and totally forgotten about it until now. Thanks for bringing me down, Deal of the Day.

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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.