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Jake Arrieta and Hector Rondon Have Been Really Hard to Square Up Lately and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News
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Hey, a reminder to anyone who missed it: I’m going to be guest bartending with my friend Jim at the Nisei Lounge on Sheffield from 7pm to 9pm on Thursday, July 27 to raise tips for Make-A-Wish as part of the BN Blogathon. Come, watch the Cubs play the White Sox (they’re on the South Side that night), and see me try to make you some crazy drink that I will never get right in a million years but hey it’s for a good cause so don’t be so picky thanks I love you.

  • No pressure today for Jose Quintana in his Cubs debut today, but if he comes out of the gate with a great start, helping the Cubs pull off a sweep right out of the break? Yeah, that’ll get the good feelings flowing for everyone, and like we discussed yesterday, could actually have a long-lasting effect on the Cubs’ productivity.
  • Jake Arrieta pitched quite well last night, and the line – 6.2 innings, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K – doesn’t really tell the story, nor does the modest three whiffs he got in the game. Relying almost exclusively on his two-seamer, which was well commanded, Arrieta got a whopping 57.1% groundball rate in the game, which is more of the kind of guy he’ll probably have to be in a post-premium-velocity life. What really stands out about last night, though, is the insane volume of strikes Arrieta lost to a really poorly-called zone. Arrieta was hitting the low, outside corner consistently, and did not get the call, even when the ball was clearly very in the zone. I count NINE missed strikes last night for Arrieta in the rule book zone (not even the more generously-called typical zone). If he gets half of those calls, I bet his line looks much better.

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  • Since the start of June, a stretch covering his last eight starts, Arrieta has a 53.3% groundball rate, a mere 23.7% fly ball rate, an excellent 22.2% soft contact rate, and an absolutely ridiculous 20.7% hard contact rate. Remember how the big problem for Arrieta early this year was that he was simply getting hit too hard too often, especially in the air? Well, over these past eight starts, he’s done a 180.
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
  • Arrieta said after the start, by the way, that he continues to manage blister issues on his thumb, something he’s never dealt with before (Tribune). Given the blister outbreak around baseball that some are attributing to lowered seams on the baseball (which, in turn, could have some relationship to the juiced ball theories), you do wonder if there is something going on there.
  • Hector Rondon came into last night’s game chucking gas, sitting at 99(!) mph. He’s been steadily increasing his fastball velocity over the past few weeks, and it makes me wonder if he and the Cubs figured out a mechanical issue (finally?) that was holding him back a bit. Unless the ridiculous bite on his slider is going to return, or the pinpoint command of his fastball, then the only way he’s going to be consistently effective again is with the kind of ultra premium velocity that gives you a much wider margin for error. I’m not sayin’, but I’m thinkin’ about sayin’: since June 18, Rondon has a 1.64 ERA, a 50.0% groundball rate, a 29.3% K rate, a 9.8% BB rate, a tiny 20.8% hard contact rate, and hasn’t allowed a homer.

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  • Joe Maddon says there may come a time when he asks Wade Davis to get a four or five-out save, but now is not the time (CSN). It would take a situation where the Cubs were on a roll, the bullpen was gassed, and there was a clear opportunity to win a game late.
  • You can’t help but wonder if the Cubs were extra savvy to go early on Quintana, as the Yankees – a team rumored to be in on Quintana – have now lost Michael Pineda to a torn UCL. Side note: Pineda was looking like one of the more interesting free agents this year on the pitching side, given his great peripherals and youth. Tyler Chatwood also left his last start with an undisclosed injury, and he, too, was looking like an interesting target, given his youth. Gonna be a weird and wild free agent season, I think.
  • The Nationals have also lost Joe Ross to a torn UCL, which could put them in the market for pitching. You’ve gotta credit the Nationals: they’ve dealt with a number of significant injuries this year (Eaton, Turner, Ross), but continue to cruise.
  • Good catch here:

  • The big-time Joey Votto/Anthony Rizzo-style choke up with two-strikes doesn’t work for everyone, but the guys for whom it doesn’t sap too much power and allows greater bat speed and control should pretty much always be using it. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a regular thing for Schwarber, or if it is reserved for certain matchups only.
  • Travis Sawchik looks at the three most prominent MLB expansion cities – Montreal, Charlotte, and Mexico City – in a recent discussion on the topic of growing the league to 32 teams. It’s coming eventually, though probably not until the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved, so it’s still several years away.
  • Based on the start of the video, I expected a bat flip, but I did not quite expect that:

  • If you need a bathroom scale, the one we use is on a big 58% off sale at Amazon today. It is a perfectly good scale.

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  • Psst: ‘Game of Thrones’ is BACK TODAY. FINALLY. Winter is here.

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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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