You Cannot Hit Kyle Hendricks Hard Right Now and Other Bullets

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You Cannot Hit Kyle Hendricks Hard Right Now and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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  • Although it wasn’t entirely lost in the shuffle of the big trade that was breaking as the game ended, it bears repeating: the Cubs beat the Mets yesterday. Setting aside whatever narrative demon-exorcising you’d like to attach to that, the win gave the Cubs their second straight series win coming out of the break, which is about as good as you could have realistically hoped going into that break. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the four days off “fixed” the Cubs. I do think it’s fair to say, given the spiral that preceded, notching two series wins against good teams is a fantastic turn of events for a team that, while still holding a significant lead in the NL Central, had demonstrated that it can fall away.
  • Even more importantly, with another killer outing from Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs are six for six in good starts coming out of the break. You could argue John Lackey’s four earned runs against the Rangers made his a not-so-good start, but he went eight innings, struck out eight, walked only two, and generally looked good.
  • Speaking of Hendricks, his performance not only extended a streak of 22.1 innings of not allowing an earned run (seriously!), but it also extended all of the things we’ve been saying about him for weeks. He has lowered his ERA to 2.27, third best in baseball behind only Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. Although his FIP (3.33) and xFIP (3.78) are a decent clip higher, I’m not so sure the ERA isn’t mostly deserved, given how well Hendricks avoids hard contact (25.1% – 4th best in baseball) and induces soft contact (26.7% – best in baseball).
  • I noticed in the comments (shoutout to HerpyDerp (yup)) some discussion of Ben Zobrist’s rough go lately, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by most Cubs fans, but I’m not sure everyone realizes just how long and deep it’s been. Imagine if this were the first two months of the season: .176/.287/.338, with a 67 wRC+ over his last 171 plate appearances. Think Jason Heyward was getting creamed for his slow start with the Cubs? Those Zobrist numbers are even worse, and if they’d been the first numbers, I’m sure he’d be getting creamed, too. But, there are a couple things to keep in mind: (1) all the numbers count, and Zobrist was so blisteringly hot to start the year, especially in May, that his overall line is still solid; and (2) I dug into the peripherals during this down stretch and I don’t really see a ton of alarm bells – the walk and strikeout rates are still good, the contact rates are not out of whack, the ISO is still normal. The bad results are almost entirely driven by a .175 BABIP, which seems really flukey given everything else. I am not concerned. For now.
  • Seeing Anthony Rizzo homer in his second and third at bats yesterday against Bartolo Colon was funny, because Rizzo jumped on the first pitch he saw from Colon in his first at bat, clearly getting exactly what he was hoping to get (elevated fastball). Rizzo just got under it, and you could see immediately from his reaction that it was the pitch he wanted, he was ready for it, and he just missed it. He didn’t miss the other two.
  • If you missed it last night, Theo Epstein strongly suggested the Cubs are not done exploring the trade market.
  • I nearly spit out my coffee when I read John Lackey’s response when Jesse Rogers asked him about Pokemon Go.
  • Looks like the authentic New Era Cubs cap is on sale today at Amazon (the discounts vary based on size, but I’m seeing 37% off on a bunch of them).
  • We’ll have more on breakout, dominating pitching prospect Jose Paulino soon (and Luke touched on it this morning in the Minor League Daily), but for now, I wanted to make sure you saw this, because it’s so awesome:

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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.