MLBits: MLB Meets Over Rule Changes, MIL In One-Run Games, Ohtani Optimism, Archer, Britton, Rondon, More

I mentioned this briefly on Twitter earlier today, but it bears repeating: after Jason Heyward’s walk-off grand slam and last night’s come from behind victory over the Brewers, I feel like the Cubs 2018 season is finally taking on an identity.

Maybe we don’t all experience things the same way, but I always feel like it takes at least through June to really get a good sense of what this season will feel like, but I think we’re already there with this team. The Cubs experienced some struggles early on – both in the rotation and offense – but I think it’s pretty obvious now that they are definitely one of the best teams in baseball, and possibly the best team in the National League.

That does *not* mean anything is guaranteed – far from it – but given what I’ve seen, I think it would be extremely disappointing and even more surprising if they didn’t reach the postseason.

  • Major League Baseball’s “Competition Committee,” which yes is a thing, will meet in New York today (as part of the owners meetings) to discuss possible changes to the sport. One of the rumored topics, according to Andy Martino, is limiting or eliminating defensive shifts, but apparently other sources “strongly cautioned that it was far too early to characterize any one issue” as the most important or most expected. It was not listed specifically, but you can bet many pace-of-play issues will be brought up by the committee.
  • But before you get worried about this mysterious committee and their plans, know this: the 16-member group was reimagined last year and includes a number of high-profile faces from around baseball including …. Theo Epstein. It’s not just executives though, as former players (John Smoltz), current managers (Buck Showalter, Dave Roberts), and even owners who’ve done a bit of both (Derek Jeter) are on the committee. It’s a pretty good group and I’m excited to see what they come up with. Speaking of which, it’s still very early on for them, but we can apparently expect recommendations by the offseason.
  • For what it’s worth, it sounds like Jeff Passan has heard some proposed ideas from Nick Elam, “a professor at Ball State, a Ph.D. who specialized in educational leadership, a former high school baseball coach, a part-time groundskeeper for the Cincinnati Reds, a Mensa member and, most relevant to the conversation, an innovator in the sports world who created what many believe to be a reasonable alternative to the boring, time-consuming, intentional-foul-laden end of basketball games.” You’ll have to click through and get the full details of each proposal, but you can see some of the big ones right here:
  • At FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe has a really interesting look into the battle for supremacy atop the NL Central right now and how the Brewers’ unusually good record in one-run ball games has kept them afloat. Although, as you might expect and as Jaffe points out, having dominant bullpens can help explain some unusually good luck in one-run ball games, but those types of records tend to hit regression. So while we can’t say the Brewers haven’t earned those wins, it’s probably fair to say that having a disproportionate amount of one-run wins doesn’t necessarily bode well for the future. The entire study is much deeper and broader than that, but that’s just one part that stood out to me.
  • The Cubs have beaten the Brewers eight times already this season, and they’ve won each of those games by an average margin of 3.25 runs. They have also, however, beaten the Brewers in one-run games twice, and their only loss was a one-run loss. Not sure I have any conclusion there, just thought it was interesting.
  • According to Jon Morosi, there’s cautious optimism that Shohei Ohtani will return to the Angels *this season* as either a pitcher and hitter, or at least a hitter. On top of that, the Angels GM, Billy Eppler, is pumping the brakes on those early and scary rumors: “There have been no changes in Ohtani’s diagnosis, and neither our physicians nor medical staff have recommended [Tommy John surgery] or said it’s likely.” I’m pretty happy to hear it. I wish Ohtani never got hurt in the first place and I hope he comes back soon and continues to dominate. What he’s doing on both sides of the ball is just truly game-changing. [Brett: Buuuuut, fans of the sport should still guard their hearts. The Angels have little to lose on the timeline if they try treatment first and then see where things stand late this season – surgery now or surgery then, he’s still gonna be pretty much entirely out until the 2020 season. Usually, these kinds of UCL injuries lead to surgery eventually.]
  • Chris Archer injury update:
  • The Rays will likely want to the option to move Archer this July, but if he’s not back *and* proving how good he is/can be with enough time before the deadline, they’ll once again hold off until the offseason. Obviously, there’s a bit more urgency from buyers to trades in July (and there’s also a million free agents tis winter), but if Archer isn’t healthy or pitching well, agreeing on value will become nearly impossible given his past success and contract. And sure, Archer still comes with three years of team control after this season, so the Rays “have time,” but he’ll be 30 before the 2018 postseason begins and has not gotten the results he’s used to seeing lately. In other words, he’s not the same 26-year-old the Cubs were after a few years ago.
  • The Orioles have reinstated free-agent-to-be and former Cubs trade target Zach Britton from the disabled list. He’ll basically use the next month and a half to audition for whichever team the Orioles trade him to. Or, you know, don’t trade him to, because they make weird decisions all the time.
  • Craig Edwards (FanGraphs) tries to determine whether the lack of a Spring Training for those free agent hold outs had a negative effect on their season. Survey says … probably not?
  • This is just … yikes:
  • In almost EVERY circumstance, I’m happy that a former Cub I used to like is off dominating with his new team, especially when that domination comes with a team in the other division. But I wasn’t particularly excited when the Cubs cut bait with Hector Rondon this winter, so this is a little more tough than usual to enjoy:
  • Maybe Rondon never figures it out with the Cubs, maybe Trevor Bauer was onto something and they all manipulate their spin rates in artificial ways, but I just think Rondon is a pretty great pitcher who happens to have re-found whatever it was that eluded him his past season and a half with the Cubs when he battled injuries.
  • Last night, the Florida Gators beat the Auburn Tigers to advance to the College World Series and it provided not one, but TWO must-see Baseball is Fun moments. I know we always share some BIF post in the MLBits, but these ones are both really great.
  • First, a trick play that helped a runner on third steal home with ease was executed to perfection:
  • And second: the Tigers’ right fielder let a ball bounce “off his mitt!” and over the fence – Jose Canseco style – for a WALK OFF HOME RUN. Yeah. It was a wild one:
  • written by

    Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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