Pressed into service yesterday by rotation beset by injuries, Alec Mills made his first big league start for the Cubs … and the dude looked good.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 24, 2018
Over his 5.2 innings, Mills allowed just one earned run on three hits and one walk, and he struck out eight. To be sure, that’s not a juggernaut Reds lineup he was facing, but getting 13 whiffs in 84 pitches is ridiculous. You can’t fake that against big league hitters.
Now, then, can I tell you he’s THIS guy now, suddenly breaking out after mediocre results at AAA in his age 26 season? No, I think that would be a stretch. I also think that, even as he did an excellent job commanding five different pitches (two-seamer, four-seamer, slider, changeup, curveball) in this one, it would be tough to sustain this level of swing-and-miss with your fastballs averaging under 91 mph.
That said, Mills has always been a good command guy, and with that diversity of pitches plus the movement he showed yesterday? What can I say? The guy looked like a legit big league starter yesterday, for whatever that one start is worth.
And apparently, Joe Maddon agreed. Really, really agreed:
Alec Mills made such an impact on the Cubs with his outing Friday, Joe Maddon is already alluding to a 6-man rotation when Mike Montgomery comes back, instead of simply bouncing Mills.
"Alec really permitted us to think different thoughts."
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) August 24, 2018
Hey, I mean, there’s no bigger proponent of the six-man rotation out there than me, but am I ready to say one good-looking Alec Mills start means the Cubs should change their rotation? That’s a risky business here in the final month of the season. Then again, with a 23 games in 23 days stretch, the starting pitchers probably could use an extra rest day, right?
Moreover, I suppose I could understand the Cubs wanting to get another look at him in the big league setting – some guys rise to the occasion, and, as we’ve noted before, Mills’ peripherals at Iowa have been better than his results. I suppose it’s also fair to point out that it looks like he’s changed his game pretty significantly in the last year and a half, becoming more of a flyball pitcher (executed properly in the launch angle climate, you can be very successful up in the zone like that … of course, if you don’t have elite command and spin, it can be a disaster).
All that said, with Montgomery throwing off the mound yesterday, if he’s ready to take his next turn in the rotation, it’s possible Mills will be optioned back to Iowa today, with another pitcher coming up to help out the bullpen. From there, Mills could return when rosters expand in September, which, at this point, is just a week away.
Whatever happens, it was a fantastic start for Mills, and huge for the Cubs. He’s one of those depth guys that will remain in the conversation for a rotation spot when the spring rolls around.
BONUS! BN’er Pronk thought there was no chance Mills would last 5.0 innings in the start (in fairness, that was a tall ask considering all circumstances), and he paid dearly for his doubt. Good man:
— James Tracy (@pronk22) August 24, 2018