Mindfulness, Bounce Passes, Ugly Swings, and Other Bullets

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Mindfulness, Bounce Passes, Ugly Swings, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I removed the steri strips from the incisions on my foot yesterday, and blood didn’t spurt everywhere, so I reckon that’s a good sign for healing. The foot still looks vaguely Frankenstein-ish, though.

  • We mentioned the importance of meditation yesterday, as it’s something the Cubs have been incorporating for interested players over the past couple years. And although Joe Maddon doesn’t say it explicitly here to David Laurila at FanGraphs, the principle is the same: “A lot of times if a guy is not throwing strikes … the breath might not be where it needs to be …. If you’re not out there [on the mound] in control of your emotions, I don’t care how much work you’ve done mechanically. If you’re not in control of your emotions, your mind starts working too quickly, then your body starts working too quickly, and the body is probably ahead of the arm. And whenever you get too quick, you don’t see nearly as well.” All of that reads like he is stressing the importance of mindfulness. One of the many “next efficiencies” a club like the Cubs could attempt to be at the forefront: really getting buy-in from players on the mental and emotional connections in optimizing performance.
  • I actually see a lot of it in the way Jon Lester discusses his throwing issues, and the way the Cubs are trying to combat it, actually. Consider this quote to the Tribune after bouncing a throw in his start yesterday: “Obviously from the outside looking in, it’s kind of like ‘Why can’t you [throw to first base]?’ As I’ve said many times before, if I knew why the things (happen), obviously it wouldn’t be an issue. Just part of the game. When you’re able to be open about it and talk to your teammates and coaches, then we can combat it.” That kind of acceptance is an important tenant of mindfulness, as is the way the Cubs are attempting to deal with the throwing issue, having Lester just forget about making a “baseball throw” to first base, and just bounce it over there like Jordan to Pippen. Don’t try to fight the reality of Lester’s struggle at this point – just do something entirely different until you get somewhere that works for him. And if you never get there, that’s fine, too, as long as he can keep doing the other stuff well. (In theory, *truly* accepting that it’s all right if he could never make another throw to a base would probably help in addressing the underlying problem.)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
  • More on the Cubs and meditation here, including thoughts from one of the team’s mental skills coordinators, Darnell McDonald.
  • Well this chart certainly isn’t encouraging, given that none of these guys except Ron Fairly ever really got it back:

  • You can and should read Sharma’s piece to disabuse you of any lingering optimism you have for a definitely Heyward return to form. It’s absolutely *possible*, yes, and he’s working on it with Chili Davis, but expecting Heyward to be the guy he was before the Cubs again should not be your default setting, lest you just be frustrated and angry all season again. The part where scouts are shredding his easily-exploited current swing is especially discouraging.
  • Sharma does make one good point that we should keep remembering, though: Heyward’s swing has always been “ugly”. Even from his youngest days with the Braves, evaluators could see the problems in the swing – he just … made it work. Sharma even reminds us that the swing as recently as the home run Heyward hit off of Jake Arrieta in the 2015 NLDS, just before joining the Cubs, was ugly as hell:

  • I am #NotAScout, but I’ve seen enough baseball to know, from a technical standpoint, that’s one of the worst swings you’ll ever see in the big leagues. Yet it was the swing of a guy who was taking the Cy Young winner deep, and who was coming off yet another season of well above average offensive production. Baseball is weird.
  • A very scary read from the Sun-Times, as Willson Contreras is playing every day knowing that his brother, Willmer, is alone in Venezuela at a very dangerous time. He has been able to bring his parents to the United States, but not yet his brother, so Contreras knows that his brother is always at risk of being kidnapped and held for ransom (I’m guessing that risk only increases as Contreras’s profile rises). Imagine that being your daily life.
  • It’s hard to transition from that to lighter fare, but I did enjoy reading Bruce Miles’ profiles on four Cubs non-roster players who are trying to keep their dream going.
  • It’s looking like tomorrow’s game will feature a trio of debuts, with Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow taking the mound for the first time as Cubs, and Ben Zobrist finally getting into game action after dealing with a back issue.
  • Can’t believe the Cubs won last night:

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.