That Hendricks Curveball Tho, Cotton's Odd Night, Braun's Issues, and Other Cubs Bullets

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That Hendricks Curveball Tho, Cotton’s Odd Night, Braun’s Issues, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Gonna have to reacclimate quickly to games and post-game coverage that goes to 11:30pm/midnight my time. Back in another life, the Cubs had announced that, for a big chunk of their season, night games were going to start at 6:40pm CT, rather than 7:05pm CT, and I’m telling you that was like mana from heaven for an ET guy like me. On most days, at least one of the kiddos is up and at’em by 6:30am ET, and I’m the on-duty parent at that time because The Wife generally gets in her exercise early in the mornings. So that often means, for a 7:05pm CT start (8:05pm my time), I’m not truly settled in bed with a chance to fall asleep until midnight, which in turns means if everything goes right, I max out at about six and a half hours sleep on those nights. Thus, getting back 25 of those minutes might mean very little to most folks, but to me, it was the difference between an almost normal night’s sleep and one that is just not quite right.

Unfortunately – on this point – the schedule has changed to really max out on 8:15pm-ish ET starts for TV purposes. So it’s gonna be a whole lotta zombie mode dad for the next few months. It’s OK, though. The season is very short, and I’ll glaaaaaaadly take this over the alternative presented by the past few months.

•   He wasn’t always locating it QUITE this perfectly, but this is what Kyle Hendricks’ curveball looked like last night:

•   The thing is, not only was there such a sharp break on the pitch, and not only was it tunneling well with the fastball, but Hendricks *threw it a lot*. By Statcast’s count, Hendricks threw the curveball 12 times out of 83 pitches (14.5%). That would’ve been one of his highest curveball usage games in 2019, and that was a year that he was steadily increasing his reliance on the pitch. Just a one-game fluke in an exhibition? I doubt it. This was Hendricks’ final prep for the regular season, and I’m thinking there’s no chance he throws the curveball that much – and it looks that good – if he’s not planning to deploy it a lot this year.

•   Hendricks had previously seen a ton of success leaning heavily on his sinker and his changeup because of his impeccable command and tunneling. But he also uses a four-seamer from time to time to change the perceived movement on his fastball, and he can also manipulate the changeup to make it move glove-side instead of arm-side. Add in a heavily-used curveball, and you’ve got a pretty darn deep repertoire for a guy with his command. I’m stoked, because he was already so good without consistently being able to lean on the curveball. But what he was showing last night? That was a very good pitch.

•   As for Jharel Cotton, who came into a dirty inning after being used in camp mostly as a back-up starter, he almost exclusively threw his slider (almost a cutter, because it was 90+mph at times if classified correctly) and his curveball. I feel like I saw more fastballs and changeups than Statcast logged (just two of each, compared to 18 sliders and 11 curveballs), but clearly they were limited. And yet those are his two primary pitches. Did he not have them last night? Was it just a unique scouting report situation? Or did the Cubs want, specifically, to see how he looked if he leaned instead on his breaking balls? It’s so hard to tell in exhibition games. Whatever the idea was, though, the White Sox were hitting absolute rockets.

•   Rex Brothers hit 97 mph last night, had his nasty slider, and netted 5 whiffs, 3 called strikes, and 4 fouls out of his 21 pitches. Man, I like him a lot. I understand what his control issues have been, but it’s clear he’s just a brutal at bat for guys when he can locate at all. Maybe he’s got it this year, and if so, the Cubs should just ride it while it’s working.

•   With the DH available full-time in the NL this year, one of the very first players you thought of impacted by the rule is Ryan Braun. The elder statesman of the Brewers can still hit a bit (.285/.343/.505, 117 wRC+ last year), but has always been a massive negative on defense no matter where he was hidden. So, then, Braun missing time this year would actually be a blow to the Brewers:

•   For your future meme’ing and captioning purposes:

•   I saw that really nice staplers were on a huge sale on Amazon today, which I did indeed want to pass on to anyone who might need a stapler. But mostly, I pass it on because it made me think of this, which never fails to crack me up:

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.