Playoff Referendums, Baez's Mistake, Heyward's Heat, and Other Bullets

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Playoff Referendums, Baez’s Mistake, Heyward’s Heat, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

jason heyward cubs roadThe Little Boy is in a “going through our drawers” phase right now. Thankfully, I don’t have anything incendiary (literally or figuratively) in there, so it’s not really a major concern. He also hasn’t figured out how to cover his tracks yet, because I keep coming up to bed at night only to find my drawers still pulled open. It’s one thing to be a criminal, but it’s another thing entirely to be a really bad criminal. Maybe it’s comforting to know he won’t have a future in it.

  • The Dodgers held the Cubs down this weekend, and they did it without using Clayton Kershaw (DL with a back injury) or Rich Hill (started before the Cubs series), and it’s not at all difficult to see how they could be formidable on the pitching side by the time the playoffs roll around, especially if Julio Urias is able to keep it up down the stretch. Of note, though, I just mentioned three lefties who could plausibly be the top three starters for the Dodgers in the playoffs. If it plays out that way, and if the Cubs and Dodgers did face each other in the playoffs, I think it’s worth noting that the Cubs, overall, are hitting a healthy .266/.355/.457 against lefties this year, good for a 116 wRC+. The Dodgers’ lefties are very good, but the Cubs are not especially pre-disposed to struggling against them. Righty Brock Stewart, however, seems to be another question.
  • (Also notable: how susceptible do the Dodgers seem against lefties, eh? Many of their best hitters are lefties with a strong platoon split, which is probably why they’re posting an awful 76 wRC+ against lefties this year as a team. That’ll be something to keep in mind if the playoffs roll around and there happens to be a matchup with the Dodgers.)

  • All that said, it would be a bit silly to think of this weekend’s series as any kind of playoff referendum on either team, not only because all three games were close enough to essentially be coin flips, not only because neither team was aligning its rotation like they would in the playoffs, and not only because the games came at the end of a West Coast road trip for the Cubs, but also because it’s August, and each team has dramatically different agenda items right now. I saw a lot of nervous chatter last night about how this series portends troubles for the Cubs in the playoffs, and boy I just don’t see it at all. There’s virtually no overlap between what happened in that series and what might happen in the playoffs. The samples are tiny, the pitchers are different, the locations are different, the timing is different, and on and on.
  • Yesterday’s game was not solely lost on the play that gave the Dodgers their only run (there were other opportunities), but, well, when that’s the only run of the game, that one play gets a lot of attention. Resetting the scene: the bases were loaded with two outs, and Adrian Gonzalez bounced one to third baseman Javy Baez:

  • Because of the shift, second baseman Ben Zobrist was far from the base, and because Gonzalez doesn’t run well, the play clearly should have been to first base (even if, without a shift and with a faster runner, the play would be to second base). Baez made a mistake, throwing to second base, where Corey Seager – who was not being held at first base because the bases were loaded – beat the throw by a fraction of a second. After the game, Zobrist tried to take the blame for not communicating with Baez before Gonzalez’s at bat to remind him that the play is to first (CSN). And, sure, often you do see guys chatting about that stuff, especially in that spot with defenders shifted around, but it’s hard to say it was Zobrist’s fault more than anyone else for not proactively talking to Baez about one very specific potential batted ball. For his part, Baez said he forgot about who the batter was (in terms of his speed), and he saw Zobrist streaking toward second base (which was where Baez’s momentum was taking him), and in that moment he made the throw. It was a mistake, it didn’t work, and I’m not going to dwell on it. Baez is so good defensively, but he’s going to make mistakes. They won’t always lead to a run scoring, let alone the only run of the game in the 8th inning. The good news is that now, you better believe all these guys in the infield will be all the more proactive about communicating going forward. Better a mistake like that in late August than in October.
  • It’s a tiny sample (6 games, 23 PAs), but everyone understandably wants any glimmer of hope we can find: since his weekend off, Jason Heyward is hitting .348/.348/.565. And the first b-hole to say something about no walks gets a boot to the fanny. Part of the reason Heyward isn’t taking any walks lately is because his offensive struggles had become so pronounced that the scouting report had clearly become: fastballs in the zone, and he is not going to hurt you. You won’t get many walks that way; the walks come as a byproduct of pitchers having to work you a little more than that. So, yeah. Don’t be that b-hole. Just be happy that we’re seeing some hard contact lately.
  • Kris Bryant notched a couple hits yesterday, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. It almost feels strange to point out a 10-game hitting streak for a guy who’s been as blistering hot as Bryant has been all year.
  • The Athletic has a fun on-this-date look back at the time Mark Bellhorn homered from each side of the plate
  • The Cubs’ onesie trip was last night, but apparently thanks to aggressive security at Dodgers Stadium, there aren’t too many shots of the team out there. You can see a nice gallery at that link (Ben Zobrist’s Rocky onesie wins), and also these:

(Via @arizz_44) Happy birthday to our strength coach the BUSSMAN!

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Twins. & save it. #JB9 (via @javy23baez)

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  • Thanks to everyone this weekend for the kind words, helpful tips, thoughtful feedback, etc. regarding my stupid, annoying, surprisingly painful back injury. In the past year, since I’ve been more dedicated to regular, vigorous exercise, I’ve never felt more fit, flexible, strong, etc., so it was especially disheartening for this injury to happen when all I was doing was trying to remove a stroller from a car. I feel like I was already doing all the things you’re supposed to do to prevent lower back injuries (including pilates as one of the workout classes in my regular rotation! I’m just like Jake Arrieta!), and it still happened because of one careless lifting motion that I’d probably done 50 times in the last year without an issue. Lesson learned, I guess, about not being careless with your back no matter how strong you think you are. In the meantime, I’m getting some relief from a foam roller, alternating ice and heat, and taking some anti-inflammatories. I was even able to take a 20 minute walk yesterday evening, so that was some nice progress. Everyone always says it, but it’s because it’s true: you don’t appreciate how well things are working until something isn’t.
  • Today’s Deals of the Day at Amazon are a bunch of big ticket items, and I wonder if that’s not a coincidence. Is there some research that indicates today, for whatever reason, is a big day for big purchases?


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.