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Arrieta’s Good and Bad Innings, Hendricks’ Rehab, State of Rotation, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

The nominal first half, mercifully, ends later today. The Cubs can’t seem to win back-to-back games anymore, so the least they can do for us today is not lose back-to-back games. If they pull of the win, they’ll finish the first half at .500, which would seem at least as appropriate as finishing two games under.


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  • Jake Arrieta had good command and great movement on his pitches through five innings yesterday. Given how great he was in Cincinnati the start before, it was looking like he was really getting back some of the magic. And then he got hit hard in the sixth inning, and it felt like it all evaporated. Maybe, in hindsight, that’s being a little too hard on Arrieta, who was over 100 pitches at that point, and whose velocity had dropped a couple MPH from the previous inning. Interestingly, from a strategic standpoint, Arrieta was almost exclusively a two-seamer/sinker guy yesterday: PitchF/X at Brooks had every single fastball Arrieta threw as his two-seamer/sinker, and no four-seamers – and a whopping 83 of his total 107 pitches. It’s been a steady trend for him this year: the sinker usages has gone up as the four-seamer usage has gone down. I’m thinking he’s getting more of a feel for the sinker (which has so much movement it can be tough to command), and, not coincidentally, his groundball rate has been climbing (including 50.0% last night).
  • Huh. I came into that first bullet thinking I was going to end up really down on Arrieta, but that all actually made me feel better.
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
  • Kyle Hendricks is headed out on the rehab trail – while his teammates are resting up during the All-Star break, Hendricks will head to AA Tennessee for a rehab start on Monday. There’s a chance he could return to the big league rotation after that, maybe even as soon as the Baltimore series right after the break (Grote).

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  • Mike Montgomery will be available out of the bullpen today (Davis), which doesn’t necessarily mean anything with respect to his rotation spot coming out of the break, but I do think Hendricks’ spot will come from either Montgomery or Eddie Butler. Here’s the dilemma the Cubs face: Montgomery is pretty clearly and easily the better starting pitcher at this point, but he’s also very valuable out of the bullpen. So which is better for the Cubs: Montgomery in the rotation and a AAA depth middle reliever in the bullpen (with Butler back at Iowa), or Butler in the rotation with Montgomery ready to pair with him out of the bullpen (Middie Butgomery)? I could argue either side if you pushed me, though I’m relatively firmly on the Montgomery-as-a-starter train that I’d probably go that route. Plus, I like a lot of the Cubs’ AAA reliever options.
  • Extremely notable:

  • So, in the current offensive environment – what with the improved homer rates, harder contact, and juiced baseball – if you’ve got an ERA under 4.00, you are getting solidly above average results.
  • Awkwardly fun fact: Eddie Butler’s 3.86 ERA is the best among Cubs starting pitchers. He currently has a 13.0% K rate and a 12.1% BB rate, and his 32.1% hard contact rate is essentially league average. Baseball.

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  • Hey, how great was it to see Kyle Schwarber hit the ball with authority twice to left center?
  • It would be an exaggeration to say there is no Cubs prospect you’d more want to see succeed this year than Thomas Hatch, but only barely. Consider that the 22-year-old righty was not only the Cubs’ to draft pick from the 2016 draft, but he was also not taken until the very end of the third round. If the Cubs could hit on a guy like that – a pitcher, no less – it would go a long way to bridging what would potentially be a significant prospect gap in the farm system, given the early graduations of several early round picks from the drafts that preceded 2016, and the slow development process of younger, later round picks and international prospects. Consider me very happy, then, to see Hatch deservedly win Cubs pitcher of the month honors for June. Contributing at the big league level in 2018, even with continued excellent development from here, is probably a stretch, given that Hatch is in his first professional season and is still at High-A. But it’s not inconceivable, and the Cubs are going to need a wave of young pitching to finally arrive very soon.
  • The Fox broadcast last night caught Cubs President Theo Epstein striking the perfect pose for this season, set against the perfect white board backdrop:

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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.