Even Struggling Teams Have Bad Luck Moments, Too, and Other Bullets

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Even Struggling Teams Have Bad Luck Moments, Too, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Stay tuned for a big announcement later this morning. If you have been around a year or two, you probably know what it is, and it’s a joy to unveil it every year. Having crazy fun for a good cause gets me excited.

  • Overall, I thought Jon Lester looked really sharp yesterday, so I momentarily had trouble understanding how that disastrous 4th inning happened. In fairness to the Rays, they really strung together a lot of hard contact, so they deserve credit. But let’s consider that, of the Rays’ nine hits on the day, five happened in succession, broken up only by the one walk Lester gave up on the day. That’s really bad sequencing luck on its face, which is supported by Lester’s left on base rate for the day, which was a meager 46.5% – his lowest in any start this year. Moreover, the .471 BABIP the Rays had was Lester’s second worst, despite the fact that he’s had five starts with more hard contact, and the hard contact rate on the day (27.8%) was not anything outrageous. Throw in the fact that he netted 16(!) whiffs on the day, and it’s easy to see that he pitched well, and got bit by the bad luck sequencing bug.
  • (And before any bing bongs slide into the comments to make grand pronouncements, let me be crystal clear that this analysis of ONE start by ONE player in ONE game is not an excuse for the entire season, which has been DISAPPOINTING and LARGELY DESERVED BY THE POOR PERFORMANCE. It turns out, though, that a team can suffer from bad luck moments WITHIN a bad performance season. Also: the Cubs still could have won that game, and failed to come through when they had chances.)
  • Lester said something similar after the game (CSN): “I hate to go back to it. I don’t want to sound like a broken record. I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses. But it just seems like balls are kind of getting out of guys’ reach.”
  • Lester went on to point out the big thing about sequencing luck: every pitcher makes mistakes. Every pitcher gives up some hard contact. And sometimes, you need to get away with mistakes. Sometimes you will, sometimes you won’t. And sometimes the mistakes and hits will be spread out.
  • Cubs farm director Jaron Madison says it shouldn’t be too much longer before Kyle Schwarber returns to the big league team (Cubs.com): “He’s feeling really good. His swing is way more balanced. He feels he’s pretty close to where he wants to be. I wouldn’t expect it to be too much longer. He still has some things to work on and get some at-bats. The at-bats I saw were in control and he was driving the ball the other way.” After today, the Cubs will face only right-handed starting pitchers until the break, so there may come a natural time to bring Schwarber back. Or, it’s entirely possible the Cubs wait until after the break. Schwarber is currently hitting .333/.459/.733 at AAA, and those huge strikeout numbers from his first few games have faded (17.6% in his last four games). That didn’t seem like something that was going to be a long-term problem against AAA pitching.
  • Kyle Hendricks threw successfully in the bullpen yesterday, so that’s a good next step in his recovery and preparedness for a return hopefully soon after the break (Cubs.com). With perhaps one more bullpen, he could be ready for a minor league rehab start, and then he might be able to return to the rotation after that – maybe even that first turn through the rotation after the break.
  • The Rays and starter Chris Archer view yesterday’s win as a big one for them, for whatever solace that’s worth. “Really like the way [Chris Archer] battled through that sixth inning to find a way to get out after first and second, no outs, and nobody comes across to score right there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, per MLB.com. “That’s pretty telling. Big moment in his season.”
  • A fantastic long story read at SI about a 45-year-old writer who wanted to hit a home run in a big league stadium, and about the unbelievable amount of work that went into trying to get there. Not only will you enjoy the read, but it will also give you an even greater appreciate for how freaking hard it is to do what professional baseball players do.
  • If you missed it over the holiday, some Cubs-Verlander-Avila rumors popped up, but the Tigers may not be realistic (yet) in their pricing strategy.
  • So far, the trade action on Sonny Gray has been limited:

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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.