Not sure if today’s game is going to go, based on the forecast. You can never tell for sure around Chicago, but it’s ugly now and it’s supposed to be ugly later on today (but *maybe* not until the game is over). It’s changing by the hour, though, so stay tuned.
- To my eye, Yu Darvish simply could not command his pitches yesterday. He was keeping them generally around the strike zone, but he could not put them exactly where he wanted, and it not only yielded deep counts and walks, but it also cost him whiffs. It’s interesting to review the strike zone after the game and see how many strikes at the top and bottom of the zone were called balls – I count a whopping nine(!) pitches that were in the strike zone (all along the top or bottom of the zone) but were called balls. Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t think the strike zone was poorly called. Watching the game, it felt like almost none of those pitches actually looked like strikes because Darvish was generally not close to hitting his target. Yes, Willson Contreras has to continue to work on presenting those pitches as strikes, but it’s hard to do it when you’re expecting something on the outside corner and then you get a 94 mph fastball down and in.
- All in all, it was a disappointing start for Darvish, who I’m sure wanted to make a good impression in front of the home crowd. Anibal Sanchez, however, carried the day. So well, in fact, and the Cubs’ bats struggled so much, that it didn’t really much matter what Darvish did in the final accounting of things. Can’t win when you score zero. I’ve heard that somewhere.
- The Cubs were hurt by a controversial balk on Darvish, which wound up leading to a run in the four-run 4th inning. We’ll get to whether that actually changed the game or not in a moment, but you can watch the play for yourself here. Darvish does pause his delivery, which you’re allowed to do (he does it all the time), but you aren’t allowed to throw a pitch while looking at a base (which is about as close as this could have been to a balk, since Darvish did VERY briefly glance back at second during his delivery – but then he turned back to the plate). You can review the balk rules for yourself here, and it’s really hard to say that something applies to what Darvish did, even if it sure did look wrong.
- Apparently the umpire told Joe Maddon the balk was because of the pause, which Maddon was adamant is incorrect. Perhaps the umpire just misspoke about the reason for the balk call, but again, it’s hard to know exactly what the balk was. Joe Maddon spoke at length about the balk call, the impact it had, and Darvish’s day overall:
- Things certainly did come apart for Darvish after that balk, with a wild pitch to score the game’s first run, though it’s always hard to say what the actual relationship was there. Darvish struck out Freddie Freeman after the balk, and then started giving up two-out hits after the run had scored on the wild pitch. It’s unfortunate that it played out that way, and maybe he doesn’t give up those hits if the runner is still on base, but I don’t think we can blame the outing on the balk call.
- Feels like the Cubs have given up a lot of three-run homers lately, and Maddon said to Cubs.com, “We’ve had this bad run of bad luck regarding three-run homers.” He’ll probably get some grief for that one, as it’s obviously not entirely bad luck when you give up a three-run shot – two guys had to reach base, and then, usually, a bad pitch gets crushed:
You won't always give up a dinger when you make a mistake, and there won't always be two runners on base when you give up a dinger. But a slider that hangs up in this spot is definitely a mistake that risks serious punishment. And yesterday, it was a three-run homer. pic.twitter.com/4anS5dsoDs
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 14, 2018
- So, yeah, there’s *some* bad luck involved in giving up a three-run shot, but obviously a bad pitch is a bad pitch.
- A fun stat in the early going: Kris Bryant has a 14.1% walk rate and a mere 12.5% strikeout rate. Coming up, I never would have thought it possible that he could become one of *those* guys, but he was at 14.3% BB rate and 19.2% K rate last year, so it really does seem possible. Can you even imagine if, in addition to his extraordinary power, Bryant become a Votto-Rizzo type of guy whom you just can’t ever seem to strike out?
- How about this: ever so quietly, and because early-season numbers are subject to huge swings, Ian Happ is now back to being a very-slightly-above-average offensive player this year (.244/.295/.439, 102 wRC+).
- Uh, careful guys – Cubs prospect Jason Vosler records the walk-off hit for the Tennessee Smokies, and then gets flipped by his celebratory teammate:
What an extra-inning comeback victory for @smokiesbaseball!
— The Southern League (@SLeagueBaseball) April 14, 2018