I’m on my way back home after a rain-soaked visit to Arizona that didn’t feature any actual Spring Training, but did feature a Tom Ricketts interview (and an impromptu interview with one of the Cubs’ folks behind the @Cubs Twitter account).
- Cubs Insider is rolling out a multi-part interview with Mike Bryant, aka Kris Bryant’s dad, aka Kris Bryant’s swing instructor, and it’s a must-read situation. Last year at this time, there was a whole lot of attention paid to the “leveling” of Bryant’s swing, theoretically intended to cut down on some of the swing and miss in his game (and it would also have the byproduct of maintaining power production regardless of any weather conditions at Wrigley Field). Sure enough, Bryant’s contact rate soared from 66.3% in his rookie year (worst among all qualifiers) to 73.3% in his MVP sophomore campaign (still in the bottom 25 in baseball, but hardly a level where you’re concerned that it will derail his production (obviously)). Moreover, Bryant’s strikeout rate dropped from 30.6% in 2015 (third highest in baseball) to just 22.0% in 2016, which was barely higher than league average (21.1%). Most importantly, it wasn’t mere contact Bryant was making – after all, many players could improve their contact rate and drop their strikeout rate if they sacrificed a little of the power they could otherwise generate in the process. Not Bryant. Not only did his power not suffer for the increased contact, the dude actually *increased* his ISO by nearly 50(!) points.
- Even if you set aside the other ways Bryant’s game improved in 2016, the significant improvement in contact while also significantly improving power production was jaw-dropping. That’s the kind of thing only the truly elite can pull off, and Bryant is clearly among them. But you already knew this. His 2016 MVP award was no fluke, and he should enter 2017 the favorite to repeat.
- More on the development of Willson Contreras as the Cubs’ starting catcher, including his expected work with Jon Lester.
- A great read from Andrew McCutchen at the Player’s Tribune about his offseason, which featured endless trade rumors and speculation (what’s it like for a player to constantly live under the expectation that he’ll be traded somewhere?), and then being informed that he was being moved from his long-time position in center field to right field. McCutchen’s affection for Pittsburgh is strong, and through that lens, it was a particularly difficult offseason for him.
- Baseball players are receiving barbed-wire-covered baseball bats, and I am scared. Wonder which Cubs player is gonna get one of these.
- Earlier, if you missed it, the Cubs want to get you HYPED with a new hype video using the “That’s Cub” slogan.
- A whole bunch of Kindle books are a deal of the day at Amazon, except the Amazon thing I’m compelled to share with you today is a “wow that exists” situation, which sprouted up because of this joke I made on Twitter during a boring Slam Dunk contest:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) February 19, 2017
- To which BN’er Courtney, sensing my cold and gross fingers, tweeted this:
- And sure enough, Courtney’s right. Here’s the Oreo dipper (that’s the five pack, because savings!), for which the reviews are amazing: