On the Strike Zone, the Playoff Feel, Hammel's Performance, and Other Bullets

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On the Strike Zone, the Playoff Feel, Hammel’s Performance, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

hector rondon cubsIt’s an off-day for the Cubs and a travel day for me, which means I’ll be in and out. No worries, though, as there will still be plenty to read around these parts throughout the day …

  • I saw a lot of folks griping about the walk in the 9th to Bryce Harper by Hector Rondon, which ultimately led to his blown save, the tied game, and then the loss for the Cubs. I’ll beef a bit in the moment when a call looks wrong and MLB’s Gameday tracker confirms my beef, but I try to reserve official positions until I can see the real Pitch FX data the next day. So I checked out Brooks, and sure enough, two of the “balls” in the Harper at bat were awfully close. They were close enough that I don’t think it’s fair to pound fists and scream and rage and say that the umpire cost the Cubs a win, but one of the two, in particular, really should have been called a strike. It is true, then, that if the zone had been called by the book in that particular at bat, the Cubs probably win that game. It was a bit of an erratic zone all night, though, in both directions. I guess it was just such a crazy game, and ultimately a good test for the Cubs (and good fun for baseball) that I find myself struggling to be too upset this morning.
  • For his part, Rondon said after the game that everyone is human, including the umpire, but “he missed that call.” (Cubs.com) Rondon is correct, and it is unfortunate for him that a mistake in that situation is magnified so intensely. But even a game like that could have turned on so many other singular moments – including mistakes that the Cubs, themselves, made – so again, I find myself struggling to be too upset about the missed call. Which is unlike me. What’s wrong with me today?
  • Maybe I just enjoyed the playoff-like feel of that game, without the playoff-like stress. The Cubs all seem to have felt like that one had a playoff buzz to it (CSN), which is going to be helpful going forward. I suspect the team will need to face some adversity this season to be in the appropriate headspace heading into August/September/October.
  • About the bullpen: this will require a much longer conversation at some point, but, from where I sit, it’s fair to be concerned about the struggles of guys like Adam Warren and Justin Grimm, each of whom was expected to be a killer late-inning option for the Cubs, and hasn’t quite pitched like it. It was also already fair to be concerned about Clayton Richard, too, which means there are legitimate concerns about a healthy chunk of the bullpen. But each of those three has the ability to be perfectly fine going forward, and there’s not a bullpen in baseball that doesn’t have any question marks. This is normal, even for good teams. But it’s also something that a team with playoff aspirations will have to monitor closely and guard against implosion. And the Cubs will.
  • Joe Nathan is throwing in Arizona, and could see game action there tomorrow (ESPN). The Cubs signed the 41-year-old reliever earlier this year to a big league deal, so there’s a tentative expectation that he’ll be able to work his way back and contribute in the second half of the season. You can read more on Nathan’s progress and decision to sign with the Cubs here.
  • Miguel Montero caught some heat for trying to tag up at first base on a fly ball to deep center, which Ben Revere caught and then threw to second, easily retiring Montero. Given his lack of speed, it was probably not a good decision by Montero, but it was certainly a defensible one. Why? Ben Revere may have the worst outfield arm in all of baseball. What he did in yesterday’s game, even on a routine, but deep, fly ball, and a throw to the relatively close second base, was extremely unusual for him. As I said: probably not a good decision by Montero, but defensible.
  • Jayson Werth, after his walk-off single last night:

  • Hey, how about Jason Hammel last night? This is another thing that’ll require more individual attention at some point, but I thought he looked really good, and it was kind of a microcosm of his season. For the game, he had an ERA of 1.29, a FIP of 1.99, and an xFIP of 3.40, all of which tracks his season line (2.26/3.55/4.14), and reflects the triple good fortune he’s had this year (extremely low BABIP (.250), very high LOB rate (84.7%), and low HR/FB rate (8.0%)). There is going to be regression there, and if all three areas regress in the second half, people will call it “second half Hammel” rather than just the kind of normalization in results you’d expect from a guy with Hammel’s peripherals. To be fair, though, he’s pitching in front of a very good defense, his groundball rate is way up this year, and it does seem like he’s doing something to limit hard contact (the batted ball numbers all back that anecdotal feeling up, by the way). He could be a guy whose ERA outperforms his peripherals all season, even if not quite to this extent.
  • I can’t vouch for the Anker speaker personally, but I know some people love it, and they’re on a ridiculous sale today ($44.99 instead of $119.99), so I thought I should give folks a heads up if you’re someone who’d been thinking about getting one. The other versions are on sale, too, including the pocket-sized one, which is just $19.99.

Author: Brett Taylor

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