I watched ‘Stranger Things’ this past weekend, mostly because I didn’t want to be left out of the conversation. There was a lot to like about what the show was going for – mostly executed very well – though it was hard not to feel, eventually, like you’d seen it all before. More like ‘Pretty Typical Things.’
(OK, so that’s intentionally over the top. It was good. I enjoyed it. I am not good at hot takes.)
- Having reached the 80-win plateau first in baseball this year, there are a whole lot of fun things to note about the Cubs:
- Those 80 wins put the Cubs 35 games over .500, their high water mark for the year.
- The win, paired with the Cardinals loss, puts the Cubs 13.5 games up in the NL Central, also a high water mark for the year. (Last year, the runaway Cardinals were never up more than 9.0 games, and that came in June.)
- The cellar-dwelling Reds are now closer in the standings to the second-place Cardinals than the Cardinals are to the Cubs.
- This is the fastest the Cubs have reached 80 wins since 1929 (Cubs.com).
- The Cubs have the best record in the NL by 7.0 games.
- The Cubs’ .640 winning percentage puts them on pace for 104 wins, the most in baseball since the 2004 Cardinals won 105 games.
- The Cubs can go 15-22 the rest of the way and still win 95 games.
- At 99 pitches and working on a shutout, it’s pretty understandable that Jake Arrieta was not happy about being pulled from last night’s game after eight innings (CSN). But he knows what’s up, and Joe Maddon reminded him that the plan it conserve for, and build toward, October. Arrieta is on board with that plan, and if he can get better and better as October approaches … happy days.
- Arrieta discusses his appreciation for Kyle Hendricks’ pitching style and execution here at the Tribune.
- One more on Arrieta: he had seven “balls” called last night that were actually in the strike zone, which is crazy (the Padres had just one). You’ll recall, the same level of what-is-going-on occurred in his seven-walk start against the Brewers, which was his first with Willson Contreras behind the plate. The sample is just two games, so we can’t go crazy, but this is something to watch. “Stealing” strikes with framing is a nice additive feature, but being able to ensure that strikes are called strikes – even when the pitcher misses his spot with some seriously nasty movement – is critically important. It’s also the kind of thing that we wondered in advance of Contreras catching Arrieta whether he was ready for that challenge. I still don’t think we’re at the point where we can question anything about this pairing, but two games in a row with this level of one-sided head-scratching calls from behind the plate does make you pay attention.
- John Lackey, who is on the DL with a shoulder strain, played catch yesterday and felt good (Tribune). He’ll do it again today, and if he still feels good, he’ll have a bullpen session this weekend. And if that goes normally, he could be right back into the rotation that next week. The Cubs will still be cautious, because they have the luxury, and late-September/early-October is when you really want him going full speed ahead. Hector Rondon (triceps) also played catch yesterday and felt good (Cubs.com), and Joe Smith (hamstring) threw a bullpen session.
- I really enjoy reading pieces like this about Addison Russell’s burgeoning stardom. It was true, of course, long before his second half breakout in 2016, but it’s definitely cool that the guy who was dumped on as an undeserving All-Star has hit .283/.352/.543 as a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop since the break.
- Aroldis Chapman pitched last night for the first time in a few days, after he was given some rest (he wound up not being needed anyway). The good news is that his velocity was back up in the 99 to 102mph range, but the bad news is that his control was all over the place. He might just be going through a period of adjustment, although, even in his short time with the Cubs, it’s become fair to wonder if he’s just a guy who isn’t super comfortable coming into a game with runners on base, or going multiple innings (he’s said as much), or getting up and down multiple times in the bullpen, or anything that isn’t a traditional get-up-and-get-ready-for-your-one-inning-to-close-out-the-game-type appearance. I remember how oddly he was used by the Reds, under both Dusty Baker and Bryan Price, where it seemed like they weren’t taking full advantage of his abilities, frequently avoiding using him in the 8th inning where a tight spot called for the best pitcher on the team. It happened all the time against the Cubs. Maybe that wasn’t entirely old school thinking by the Reds, and was partly in service to using Chapman where he would be at his best. To be quite clear, I’m not concluding anything here about Chapman’s comfort or ability in non-traditional save spots, and the sample size with the Cubs is tiny. But, so far, it seems like he’s had his rougher outings when the situation has been atypical.
- A little league coach paid his pitcher a mound visit to tell him he loved him. That pitcher, of course, was his son.
- If you missed it this morning, Eloy Jimenez won all the awards, and the Cubs’ best pitching prospects were dominant.
- Are you a Burt’s Bees person? If so, the stuff is 20% off today at Amazon. I always try to steal The Wife’s lip balm.