Uh oh, the Brewers won again yesterday, so the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central is down to just a half game (two in the loss column, though). It’s still a little early for AGGRESSIVE scoreboard watching, but that day is coming. Here’s hoping that, when it does arrive, we are frequently talking about the size of the Cubs’ lead, and not a deficit to surmount.
- Kyle Hendricks suggested after yesterday’s low-velocity start that he could be getting more velocity, but it messes up his mechanics when he tries (ESPN). Unfortunately, that doesn’t really answer any questions you might have about the “why” of the velocity decline, because that could be equally consistent with natural aging decline, or a mechanical issue that could be fixed in time. Just two years ago, Hendricks used to sit around 90 mph with his sinker. Now, he is routinely at just 85 mph. Yesterday, he averaged just 84.75 mph on his sinker.
- He made it work again yesterday, though, as the only damage he gave up came on a couple Daniel Murphy homers. Seven innings of three-run ball against one of the best offenses in baseball is really fantastic. Then again, giving up homers can be disproportionately damaging (it was the difference in the game yesterday, after all), and one of the risks of serious velocity decline – especially in the era of a juiced ball – is more homers given up. Hendricks is giving up 1.27 homers per nine innings after giving them up at a rate half that level for the first 2.5 years of his career. It is not reasonable to not be concerned about the velocity at this point. The only reasonable questions are about the cause and about whether we’re looking at a one-year issue or a new normal.
- The Cubs don’t believe Addison Russell’s foot injury is serious, but they’d rather rest him now than let it linger (CSN). With the disabled list minimum just 10 days, and when a guy with a minor injury is going to sit out a few days at least anyway, all you really lose in these situations is about a week of play. This should be the default for minor, nagging injuries in the new world of a shorter disabled list.
- Joe Maddon talks about Carl Edwards Jr.’s recent command troubles, though he seems to think it’s more of a confidence issues than anything else (CSN). No one should be caught off guard by the issues, as this was always part of the package with Edwards – though it was only when he stayed in the strike zone for extended stretches last year and early this year that he was truly an elite reliever. The variance with him, based solely on his ability to throw pitches in the strike zone, is enormous. Because when he’s in the strike zone, he simply does not get hit hard, if he gets hit at all.
- Goodbye Dylan Floro – the up and down Cubs reliever was claimed on waivers by the Dodgers. Because it was the outright assignment variety of waivers, not August trade waivers, Floro is gone.
- Fanatics revealed its top three jersey sellers for July, and the Cubs are still mighty popular, behind only Aaron Judge – the Yankees young masher came in at number one, but Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were numbers two and three.
- Speaking of Judge, his performance in the first half was so mind-boggingly good that a comedown was inevitable, but his second half so far is a reminder that all young players face adjustment periods – he’s hitting just .174/.333/.348 with a 34.5% strikeout rate.
- And speaking of second half strikeout rates, Kyle Schwarber’s is a terrifying 40.3%. Yes, he’s absolutely destroying the ball when he makes contact – 56.7% hard contact rate – and that’s buttressing his performance to a solid .255/.339/.545 batting line, but when you’re starting from a place where 40% of your plate appearances end in an out without even putting a ball in play, you’re eventually going to be in trouble. I tend to think Schwarber is just going through a process of finding that balance of improving volume of contact (which he did well earlier this year) while also maintaining a high quality of contact (which he did not do well before he was sent to Iowa).
- We have spoken a great deal recently about the challenge ahead for the Cubs’ front office in maintaining a quality farm system (currently ranked in the bottom three) while continuing to compete at the MLB level. A random example to note on that front: Ronald Acuna is rocketing up the prospect rankings for the Braves on the strength of an unbelievable breakout season, and the team signed him for a mere $100,000 out of Venezuela a few years ago. Superstar, impact prospects can still be found, even without high draft picks or max IFA dollars.
- That is nuts:
Exactly 35 Years Ago, Joel Youngblood Got Hits for Two Teams in Two Cities … On the Same Day https://t.co/3JtkYU7Pdo
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 4, 2017
- I miss Eloy so much:
— Ian Clarkin (@iClarkin) August 5, 2017
- Over at TYL, Jay Cutler might not be done playing after all, among other bullets.
- I was in Chicago for a seven days last week, and the only suitcase I brought with me was this backpack, which is on a huge sale at Amazon. Caveats: I have toiletries already there in Chicago, and I basically only wear t-shirts. But still, I brought my laptop, clothes, and snacks all in that backpack. I love my backpack.