Dave Kaplan had me on his Cubs podcast this week, and Kap was a little too good at pinning me down on some positions. You know me, I usually like to really “both sides” everything, so this is probably worth a listen if you want to hear me landing a little more firmly on a variety of topics that’ll probably turn into freezing cold takes in a couple months.
- With all the eyes on the electronic cheats of the baseball world, and with the knowledge that of course teams beyond the Astros and Red Sox did some things that were probably illegal, Michael Baumann writes at The Ringer about how MLB can address the wider issue of using electronic means to cheat. In his piece, he lists a bunch of teams that have, at various times, been mentioned as possible offenders: “[H]ours after Monday’s report, veteran infielder Logan Morrison named the Yankees and Dodgers, in addition to the Red Sox and Astros, as teams that have used cameras to steal signs. An October article on electronic espionage in baseball by Scott Miller of Bleacher Report cites league sources who also think the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rangers, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Nationals have dabbled in the electronic dark arts. Belleville News-Democrat and MLB.com reporter Jeff Jones added the Brewers to that list shortly after Miller’s piece.”
- You likely remember the Brewers being named previously, but that big list of teams in the middle – which includes the Cubs – probably doesn’t ring familiar. It didn’t to me. So I checked out the source report from Scott Miller to find the mention of those teams – back in October – and it’s pretty thin on the Cubs and Nationals: “But given assurances of anonymity, several league sources indicate the Astros, Dodgers, Red Sox, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks have been especially adept with technological surveillance. One source mentions the Cubs and Washington Nationals dabble a bit ‘but not as much as others.’ Another source says the Indians, while still another notes the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers once were suspected as well.”
- If the Cubs knew when a fastball was coming, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber would have each had 15 homers of 600+ feet. Oh, and they’d probably have fewer ugly strikeouts …
- To be clear, the Cubs are trying to get every edge they can, and they are out there 100% trying to steal signs on the field. I have seen indications that Cubs runners at second base are signaling (maybe legit, maybe they’re just effing with the opposing battery (remember that time with Jason Heyward and Kenley Jansen?)), and they’d be crazy not to try. Moreover, I guarantee they are breaking down video before and after games to try to make on-field sign stealing more actionable (as well as pitch-tipping cues). None of these things are problematic, and are exactly what teams should be doing before and after games with the video and manpower available.
- It doesn’t happen every time I think about the Astros cheating, but about every fifth time I think about it, Yu Darvish comes to mind and how things could have played out so differently:
"Darvish did the unimaginable and inexcusable, following one historically atrocious start with another ….," I wrote after the 2017 World Series. We now know it was more complicated than that, but the damage has been done: https://t.co/Y4TZFpfQZA #Dodgers #Astros
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) January 15, 2020
- A fun read at MLB.com on the best hitters against the various pitches in 2019, with Willson Contreras showing up as the single best hitter against curveballs last year (by a healthy distance, too – he just obliterated curveballs). Interestingly, Nick Castellanos shows up in the top five against four-seam fastballs, too.
- Buster Olney writes about how the role of the catcher will change dramatically after the introduction of electronic balls and strikes, potentially as soon as 2022 (the first year of the new CBA). Obviously, pitch-framing value will go to zero, though it’s still going to be very important for the next two years. Contreras, you should note, is under team control for three more seasons. Tricky timing, eh?
- Among the bizarre potential milestones this year? Anthony Rizzo entering the top 20 all-time in HBP. He needs only 12 HBP to do it, and he hasn’t had fewer than that since his first full season.