Hendricks' Latest Gem, Playoff Rotation Questions, Maples, Schwarber, and Other Bullets

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Hendricks’ Latest Gem, Playoff Rotation Questions, Maples, Schwarber, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

If you like the rivalry, here’s what the Cubs did to the Cardinals this week, in St. Louis: the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals from the NL Central, then the Cubs clinched the NL Central, then the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals from the Wild Card race. All in one series.

  • The hope remains that Jake Arrieta will make his final regular season start on Sunday, and it sounds like Joe Maddon is planning on that happening (Tribune). Arrieta conceded this week that his hamstring still isn’t 100 percent, and the health of that hammy will go a long way to deciding how the Cubs set up their postseason rotation. If Arrieta feels great on Sunday, pitches 5 or 6 dominant innings, then he’s probably going to be the guy.
  • If it’s not Arrieta going in Game One for whatever reason, might it be Kyle Hendricks, who was dominant again last night, whose fastball velocity is back in the 88-89 mph range where it was when he was at his best last year, whose offspeed pitches are thus playing much better, and who has a 2.19 ERA in 13 second half starts since returning from his hand injury? That wasn’t intended to be a rhetorical question – we talked about the complicated rotation decisions yesterday – but I don’t think there’s anyone who would freak out if the Cubs opted to give the ball to Hendricks for Game One at this point. To me, right now, if we set aside all the other stuff and ask simply, “Which guy would you want to make two starts in the series?,” there are only two choices as we sit here at this very moment: Hendricks or Jose Quintana.
  • As for Quintana, he makes his final regular season start today, and, other than health, I don’t think there’s anything he can do – pro or con – that would change wherever he’s going to wind up in the rotation. Just stay healthy, get your work in, and stay ready for the playoffs. The guy has been on fire lately.
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
  • I don’t know how many of you were zoomed in on the game last night – I definitely took liberties away at times, given the post-clinch and the Bears game on at the same time – but if you didn’t see Dillon Maples, I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and see him at some point. He walked the first batter of his inning, but then struck out the next three. What I find most interesting when watching him right now is that he’ll sometimes throw his slider/cutter right there in the middle of the zone, and it doesn’t immediately look like a nasty pitch (like if he buried it at a lefty’s back foot), but you can tell from the batter’s helpless swing that he cannot pick that ball up. It comes in at 88 mph – a perfect 10 mph difference from his 98 mph four-seamer – and moves laterally like a really strong cutter or a really weak slider. It just doesn’t quite look like either of those pitches, and batters clearly aren’t used to handling it. As I understand it, that was a new pitch to him this year, and a big part of his breakout, so hopefully Maples can continue to work it on into 2018, and hopefully batters don’t figure it out.
  • (Because it’s a slider/cutter type pitch, it’ll get compared to the Jake Arrieta slutter circa 2015, but to my eye, Arrieta’s pitch was more cutter-like, only about 5-7 mph different from his fastball, focused on inducing weak contact (unless he decided to make it more slider-like, which he did sometimes, and that generated the whiffs … damn he was so good that year). Maples’ pitch looks slightly more slider-like to me.)
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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.