Jason Hammel's Struggles, Jake Arrieta's Mechanics, and Other Bullets

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Jason Hammel’s Struggles, Jake Arrieta’s Mechanics, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jake arrieta spring trainingNormally, today would be all about the opening of the new International Free Agency period, but, for reasons laid out in this morning’s primer, the shine is off for the Cubs right now. It’s still worth following, though, because, as we’ve seen in recent years, the open of the period can kick off a little trade activity.

  • Speaking of the shine being off, today’s starter for the Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta, has been working through some issues lately, even by his own admission. The righty is still very hard to hit, but it’s no secret that his ability to command his pitches to maximize efficiency, reduce walks, and pitch deep into games has not been at its peak in his last five or six starts. To that end, Arrieta recently discussed what he believed would be an easy fix to his approach, but, as we saw in his start this week against the Reds, it wasn’t quite like flipping a switch. Pitching coach Chris Bosio spoke to The Score this week after that start, saying that it isn’t just a matter of tightening up Arrieta’s mental approach (presumably he meant attacking the zone), but also that it was a specific and correctable mechanical issue. They’ve been working on it this week after Bosio saw it in the data (which makes me wonder, was it a timing thing? a release point thing?), and he called it “fixable.” Maybe it shows up as soon as tonight against the Mets. What we’ve seen so far this year is that, without peak command, Jake Arrieta can still be a very effective pitcher. He just might not giving you more than five or six innings, and he’s not going to dominate every time out. When he’s got peak command, though? He’s literally as good as any pitcher in the game. Hopefully we see that guy again soon, like we saw in the second half last year.
  • After last night’s ugly performance, Jason Hammel’s season numbers ballooned dramatically, and they’re even worse if you look after April: 4.41 ERA, 5.27 FIP, 4.59 xFIP, 18.2% K rate, 7.1% BB rate, 1.74 HR/9. These are not good. Interestingly, even if you clip out last night, the peripherals stay pretty close to the same level (with the FIP and HR/9 obviously being the huge movers). Here’s Hammel’s line after April (which was very good for him) and before last night’s start: 3.27/4.37/4.42. Because he hasn’t been a guy among the leaders in soft contact this year (or limiting hard contact), that line screams impending regression, where the ERA will eventually rise to meet the FIP and xFIP. It doesn’t always happen within a given season, but, eventually, over a large enough sample, it does. For Hammel, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, his season ERA is still a full point lower than his FIP and xFIP. Without a fundamental change in his performance (more strikeouts and/or fewer walks would be the big ones), the balance of evidence suggests that ERA will continue to climb. I’ve said it before with Hammel: he’s shown the ability to be very good. When he’s commanding the fastball down in the zone, and he’s got the sharpness on the slider, he can be downright nasty. He just hasn’t shown it with consistency in a while.
  • Of the bad stretch here for the Cubs in general, Joe Maddon pointed out to the Tribune that at least the young guys are getting a real chance to play in meaningful, tight games, and get exposure to the ups and downs that accompany the long Major League season. I have no doubt that it does make a difference come August or September (or next year) when they’re counted on even more. All things equal, health and winning is better … but the development is a silver lining if you have to find one.
  • Ti-hi-hi-hi-hi-ny sample (5.2 innings), but how nice is it to see Carl Edwards Jr.’s early strikeout rate (40.0%) and walk rate (5.0%) with the big league team? Neither is sustainable for him, of course, but he’s got the talent to stay in the 30% and 10% range, respectively. And if he does that, he’s a late-inning option without question.
  • Spencer Patton, whom I mentally group together with Edwards right now in terms of wonder if he can be a breakout, late-inning guy this year for the Cubs in the second half, hasn’t shown the same success in his 5.2 innings of work (example, 16.0% K rate, 12.0% BB rate), but he’s shown flashes of being big league capable. And we know the numbers at AAA have been absurd.
  • A great start to the fundraiser for Make-A-Wish, and you’re already 1/4 of the way to making me up my Blogathon commitment from 24 straight hours to 30 straight hours:

  • Amazon’s got a Lightning Deal on LED bulbs, which is a super dorky thing to get excited about, but I’m a big fan. I’ve been slowing phasing out all other lights in our house over the course of the last year. You don’t realize how many bulbs are in your house until you start replacing them.

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.