Early Struggles for Zobrist, Almora's Homer, Russell's Words, Iowa Bullpen, and Other Bullets

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Early Struggles for Zobrist, Almora’s Homer, Russell’s Words, Iowa Bullpen, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I should listen to the new Taylor Swift song at some point today so I’m not left in the cultural dust. But I’m also seeing ‘Endgame’ today, and I can only participate in so much of the zeitgeist.

  • It’s quietly been a rough start to the year for Ben Zobrist, who is hitting just .231/.320/.231 through his first 75 plate appearances. It’s very early, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old simply isn’t hitting the ball hard. His soft contact rate has skyrocketed to 24.6%, his hard contact rate has plummeted to 19.3%, his groundball rate is up, his fly ball rate is down, his infield pop up rate is up, and his average exit velocity and barrel rate are way down. Again, it’s still fairly early, but once you get close to that 100 PA mark, we do see stabilization in some of these rates. That is to say not that it means he’s stuck hitting the ball softly all year; it is instead to say that, once he gets past the 100 mark, we can’t necessarily just assume this is random statistical noise. There may be an issue – either physical or mechanical – leading to the results.
  • And speaking of rough starts, it was nice to see Albert Almora do this – off a very tough righty, too:

  • That was Almora’s first extra-base hit of the year. Hopefully it shakes something loose, because you really don’t want to have to start thinking about sitting him too much more than he already is, given his glove, and given Kyle Schwarber’s and Ben Zobrist’s struggles at the plate.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • I think we’ve passed the point where it’s reasonable to hope that Addison Russell will talk about his domestic violence suspension in a way that centers the victim(s) of that behavior – or at least stop talking about it like it was just a little mistake and everyone’s human – but I’m going to stop reading things like this and hoping it’s different this time:

  • I do get that Russell is now living his life in the context of trying to get back to the big leagues, and trying to focus on baseball. I don’t expect that he is going to become a crusader for domestic violence treatment and prevention in all phases of his life. I had just hoped, as a Cubs fan, that conditional second chance would show a little more publicly. Right now, it looks like it was (1) go see a counselor sometimes, and (2) serve your suspension. The Cubs asked to be held accountable if they were going to stick with Russell, and I’m not sure what that accountability – for them or for Russell – really looks like at this point.
  • The Iowa Cubs bullpen has so many arms that could conceivably contribute to the big league team this year:

  • Wick, 26, was acquired by the Cubs early in the offseason in a trade for third base prospect Jason Vosler. His numbers through 9.1 innings at Iowa are pretty stupid so far this year (including a 39.0% K rate against a mere 7.3% BB rate), and Tommy Hottovy had some extremely kind words about Wick before the season. He’s yet another guy who is going to get a shot at some point in the bullpen this year and beyond, as the Cubs are going to have a whole lot of openings in the bullpen next year.
  • Together with Wick, the Cubs currently have Carl Edwards Jr., Tim Collins, Tony Barnette, Dillon Maples, Dakota Mekkes, Brian Duensing, James Norwood, and Alec Mills working in the bullpen. Those are all potential big leaguers, and the Cubs’ big league bullpen is already one-too-full because Mike Montgomery is on the IL.
  • Speaking of all that: Randy Rosario got pulled quickly yesterday after five pitches that were not close, and you wonder at what point the Cubs will swap him out. Do they wait until Montgomery comes back? Or Barnette comes back? Or do they bring up one of the other young arms for a look? Maples has been awfully hot lately ….
  • While we’re on an Iowa Cubs kick, I’d been meaning to share this story:

  • Speaking of old friends, Tommy La Stella now has SEVEN home runs this year, which is more than he had the last two years combined. He’s also striking out so little that his batting average is almost 80 POINTS higher than his BABIP! I have never seen such a thing.
  • Wow. Got your next move lined up, Javy:

  • I think the Bears got a really, really good first rounder 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.