The Strike Zone, the Arrieta Adjustments, the Losses, and Other Bullets

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The Strike Zone, the Arrieta Adjustments, the Losses, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jake arrieta cubs road blueA win today sure would be nice. It doesn’t salvage the series for the Cubs or anything like that, but it would certainly make the next 36 hours much more tolerable.

  • I know there have been other things in this series to seize upon, but I keep coming back to the fact that the Cubs are 0-17 with runners in scoring position. In some ways, that’s galling as hell, because with two one-run losses in the series, you know that the Cubs could have won both of those games if they’d just had a measly two or three hits in those RISP spots instead of zero. (Heck, four hits in 17 tries is just a .235 average. Give me that!) In other ways, though, the RISP woes in the series are heartening, because it underscores how close the Cubs have been to winning these games, despite the feeling, perhaps, that the Cubs have been dominated. That’s really not the case.
  • … that said, a loss goes into the standings as a loss, however you parse it out. And in their last 13 games, the Cubs have 9 losses. However big their lead might be in the Central, that stings.
  • Seeing Jake Arrieta fail once again to turn that corner – that corner we know he can turn! – also stings. After the game, another in which he fell behind hitters and could not consistently locate his fastball, Arrieta said much of the same as he’s said after the last two starts – he needs to be more aggressive early, his timing is off, the command is off, etc. (CSN). Arrieta expressed plenty of confidence that he’d get things back, and also downplayed the recent talk of him fixing something mechanically with Chris Bosio, noting that if you try to make too many adjustments or emphasize too many things mechanically, it can have the opposite of the desired effect.
  • On that part, it was hard not to feel like that was an issue watching Arrieta last night, especially in the first inning. I am #NotAScout, so I won’t be able to articulate this perfectly, but it looked like there was a lot of effort in how Arrieta was delivering his fastball in that first inning – not the kind of effort you see to generate velocity, but the effort designed to time certain things in the delivery. It just didn’t look quite natural or typical for Arrieta, which I suppose is what you’d expect it to look like if a guy was trying to tweak something mechanically to improve the timing of his delivery. The result was a fastball that sometimes was spot on, but other times missed its mark by a ton. In the middle and later innings, when Arrieta looked more natural and smooth, the fastball still missed at times, but it missed by a lot less.
  • In the end, we have to remember that Arrieta has (1) a complicated delivery, (2) premium velocity, and (3) tons of movement. I think what we’re seeing right now, when things are just a touch off, is why the Orioles perhaps tried to simplify the delivery for Arrieta when he was younger (which actually wound up having the opposite of the desired effect). Those three things, including the crossfire delivery that makes it difficult for batters to get good wood on Arrieta, all make it very difficult to have pinpoint command. But, as we’ve seen, they’re also what makes Arrieta super elite when everything is working together smoothly. I remain confident, as Arrieta is, that things will click in due time. I never thought it was fair to expect second half 2015 Arrieta forever and always (the best half of pitching in baseball history), but I do think he is fundamentally a different pitcher than he was when the Cubs picked him up as a “failed” starter from the Orioles in 2013, and I’m not worried about Arrieta completely “losing it”, so long as he’s healthy. There will be good days again.
  • Sure, I’ll grouse about individual pitches while a game is happening, like any baseball fan would, but the reason I’m reluctant to call a zone total garbage overall immediately after a game when I’m writing the EBS is because I’ve seen this happen too many times. Everyone thought Laz Diaz’s zone last night was terrible, and clearly favored the Mets, but checking Brooks this morning … it’s really not that terrible. What I suspect was standing out to us was the inconsistency of the calls on the outside of the zone to righties (but that went both ways, and, on looking, actually wasn’t as inconsistent as I thought it would be), and the fact that the two most egregiously bad calls both went against the Cubs. So, my conclusion looking at the zone and pairing it with what happened in the game: it wasn’t as consistently terrible for the Cubs as it seemed, though a few calls did go against them, and it might have thrown a batter or two off. That could mean a lot in a one-run game, but I just can’t say it was a deciding factor. It rarely is.
  • For his part, Joe Maddon said after the game that the strike zone was “amorphic” (Tribune), as in, its shape was hard to discern.
  • Carl Edwards Jr. looked good again last night, for what it’s worth. And his opportunities in key moments are clearly expanding.
  • We’ll see if there’s a roster move today, with Chris Coghlan exiting last night’s game with discomfort in his rib cage. Apparently he’s been dealing with it for a little while, and it might require a DL stint ( Tommy La Stella is likely to be ready to return to the Cubs soon – today? tomorrow? – so it might wind up being a one-for-one swap.

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.