Lester Leads the League, Heyward Returns with a Bang, and Other Bullets

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Lester Leads the League, Heyward Returns with a Bang, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jason heyward cubs roadGawker.com closed up shop yesterday, which marks the fascinating death of another online institution. There was a whole lot that Gawker got wrong – including the decision to publish the Hulk Hogan thing that ultimately, eventually, led to their demise – and I’m not going to defend their editorial ethos from top to bottom. I did often enjoy the site, though, and there were often times when they (and the sites under their umbrella, including Deadspin, which lives on) got at something important that no one else was going to touch. I don’t like the way things ended, and I find very unnerving the potential for other media to be chilled.

  • Jon Lester, who is not a fan of the quality start statistic, is now tied for the league lead in that statistic, with 20. It’s definitely a flawed stat (strongly preferable to the pitcher win, but only in the sense that a pile of deer poop on your doorstep is strongly preferable to a pile of elephant poop on your doorstep), but, for Lester, it does speak to the consistency with which he gets the Cubs into those later innings. Lester’s performance last night dropped his ERA to 2.81, 9th best in baseball, and far lower than his 3.67 FIP and 3.52 xFIP. We’re seeing a lot of that with the Cubs’ starter this year, which is almost certainly because of a combination of a historically good defense, a group of pitchers that are legitimately good at limiting hard contact, and randomness. In any case, the point here is generally that Jon Lester is very good, and was very good again last night.
  • I don’t think anyone can say for certain that Jason Heyward’s weekend-long break, and then home run last night, will somehow send him off on a hot streak to close out the year. But it was nevertheless nice to see him get that moment. My sense of how these things usually play out is that it’s going to continue to be a slog offensively for Heyward this year, so everyone – Heyward, included – is simply going to have to appreciate those times when it goes well. An offseason to reboot and retool the swing will, I suspect, get him back on the right course. Until then, you just hope he gets some bounces, improves even just a small bit, and continues to play stellar defense, run the bases well, and do whatever else he can to help the Cubs win. And when those quality offensive moments come, celebrate them.
  • More from Heyward and Joe Maddon on his break and return to the lineup, and the six weeks to come, here at CSN.
  • A very interesting read over at The Athletic on Aroldis Chapman’s low (for him) velocity in his last outing, which may have been tied not only to how many times he’d warmed up in the game and how often he’d pitched in the days before it, but also because of the low temperatures at game time. And if it did have to do with temperatures, is it a concern heading into the postseason, when it can often be quite cool at Wrigley Field? I’m not sure there’s quite enough data on this to know for sure yet, but it’s definitely an interesting question, especially for a guy who has not typically been pitching well into October in his career.
  • A dog cannot throw you out from center field if you try to stretch a double into a triple, but it can, apparently, grab the ball, chase you down, and physically tackle you before you reach third base. Sign him! New market inefficiency!
  • Don’t look for quotes from Tommy La Stella, who played with the Iowa Cubs last night for the first time since he refused to report there in late July:

  • Players aren’t quite expected or obligated to speak to the media in the minors in the same way that they are in the majors, and I can understand La Stella not wanting to deal with the questions right now. But, at the same time, it strikes me as the better approach to resuming normalcy to just start laying out your message now with a relatively limited and open-minded media presence in Iowa, rather than waiting for the crushing surge of attention that will come when he arrives back in Chicago. I am not a PR expert, though, so maybe I’m wrong. I guess we’ll see what happens. Mostly, though, I just want to see that he sets things right with his teammates – whatever form that takes – and then resumes being an excellent bench bat/spot starter for the Cubs.
  • A Kris Bryant fan Q&A at ESPN, including which Cubs pitcher would strike him out looking (Kyle Hendricks), and which would get him swinging (Jake Arrieta). On the substantive front, Bryant acknowledged that quality changeups are getting him a bit this year, but notes that last year, back-foot sliders from lefties were a real problem for him, but he adjusted, and he hasn’t had an issue with them this year. And, I’ll tell you what: I’m not sure I can remember seeing a player make adjustments as quickly and effectively as Bryant (sometimes even within the same game), so it would not surprise me in the least to see him go from struggling against changeups this year to destroying them next year. And then pitchers will just have to try to figure out the next plan of attack.
  • Fun, fun, fun:

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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.