Dreaming on Darvish’s Changeup, Russell’s Physical Bounce Back, and Other Bullets

The Wife is off today for President’s Day, so we’re going to go to a workout class together – my first since the foot surgery. I’m going to be extremely limited in what I can do (pretty much only upper body and core, sitting and laying down), but it’s gonna be nice to feel one more step in that return to normalcy.

  • This includes takes from catcher Chris Gimenez, so it’s a different way to sum up Yu Darvish’s arsenal of pitches beyond just looking at the data:
  • I especially liked hearing that the duo are already working on his changeup to try to get it more consistent and usable this season. Among his primary pitches, batters had the worst slugging percentage (.214) against his changeup, and the 16.07% swinging strike rate was right there with his curve and his cutter, and ahead of his devastating slider (14.46%). Despite all that, Darvish either didn’t consistently have the feel for the pitch (it was up about 1 mph for the year, which is not necessarily what you want (though his two-seam fastball was up, too, so the spread remained about the same), and it didn’t have quite as much drop last year), didn’t feel he could use it more without sapping its effectiveness, or simply wasn’t called upon to use it more: he threw it just 1.7% of the time. If it stays an effective pitch for him, increasing the usage just a touch could not only improve the value of that pitch, but also of his fastball, depending on how the sequencing plays out in a give plate appearance.
  • Addison Russell told NBC he heard the trade rumors over the offseason: “There was a lot of trade talk. My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure.” Having been traded once already in his career, Russell is probably more attuned to the reality of baseball moves than some others, but hopefully he really was able to mostly tune that out and focus on what could be a critical year in his development.
  • A nagging shoulder injury and plantar fasciitis in his foot cost Russell a lot of playing time last year, and who knows how much production. He hit just .239/.304/.418 (84 wRC+), the worst of his three big league seasons. He also dealt with the end of his marriage, domestic violence allegations from a friend of his wife, and an investigation from MLB into that matter (the resolution of which is still unknown). It was not a good year for the then-23-year-old shortstop. Perhaps year 24 will be much better.
  • Joe Maddon believes that health in the shoulder, which will improve the throws, will in turn improve other parts of Russell’s game because he won’t be worried about the shoulder (Cubs.com).
  • Gordon Wittenmyer reports that the new contract escalator clause in Tyler Chatwood’s deal (remember how the BBWAA/MLB had an issue with the clause that would have raised his salary if he received a single Cy Young vote?) gives him the escalators if he finishes in the top 10 in Cy Young voting and is named on at least two ballots. Fair enough. It would be awesome if he earned that.
  • We all hope that, Benjamin:
  • It was a fairly busy weekend, what with so much activity still to wrap up the offseason and also it being the first weekend of Spring Training. Catch up on the headlines here if you missed anything.
  • OK, this is actually good:
  • I spent about 20 minutes this morning perusing the Cubs shop on Amazon, just enjoying the absurd range of things you can associate with the Cubs if you’re so inclined. From a Cubs neck pillow to Cubs work gloves to a Cubs spatula to the OFFICIAL Cubs fake arm tattoo sleeve.
  • Also: there’s a 20% off all orders sale going on for President’s Day today at the MLB Shop and at Fanatics. Slide on over, and get your new Cubs gear on a discount.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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