Four years ago today, the Cubs celebrated their NL Central title – clinched overnight by a Cardinals loss – with a Miguel Montero walk-off homer against the Brewers. It was awesome. And I didn’t see any of it, because we were welcoming The Littlest Girl into the world. It was a very good time.
We didn’t know then that she’d been born with a rare chromosomal disorder that would impact her, and us, in so many unexpected ways. We all have visions for the life ahead of us, but the neatest trick – if you are fortunate enough to pull it off – is simply observing the life you have. And the life I have is made so much more rich and wonderful by Lucy’s proximity to it. She is the warmest little friend I’ll ever meet, and she’s had to work so hard, every day, for four years now to get to where she is. Although I know that she was delivered to live her own life, not to be some guidepost for mine, I can’t help but be so grateful for how she fundamentally changed the course of my health, mental health, and experience of joy in this experience. Her strength inspires me. Her presence lightens me. Much love to you today, Littlest Girl, and a very Happy Birthday.
And on to the baseball …
• Dare I note that the Cubs fell behind the Indians last night 3-1 … then came back. Took the lead, only to give up a game-tying two-run homer late, and then have to win the game thereafter. Something something World Series parallels something something! Pretty sure the Cubs didn’t win that one on back-to-back HBPs, though.
• Of *course* Jeremy Jeffress had a rough outing the very night I’d just written about Tommy Hottovy’s fairly compelling discussion of why his “expected” metrics didn’t necessarily portend doom, given how far away they were from his actual results. To be sure, a bad night – including giving up a homer to a superstar like Francisco Lindor – doesn’t alone make you worried. I think, at most, it’s just confirmation that nothing is absolute: Jeffress probably does outperform is peripheral metrics for legit reasons to some extent, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune from getting blown up sometimes just like any other pitcher who allows so many balls in play and doesn’t have an elite walk rate.
• All that said, the bit about last night that was mildly concerning tied to something Hottovy said that didn’t concern him about Jeffress’s elevated walk rate: Hottovy had said that you don’t worry as much about it with a late-inning reliever when the walks are “competitive.” In other words, when a pitcher is out there locating where he wants, trying to get the batter to extend, and yields a 3-2 walk or whatever, you aren’t freaking out. That’s just the batter winning the day, and so long as you’re winning more often than the batters, it’s fine if that walk rate ticks up above 10%. But Jeffress’s two walks last night in the 9th were wholly noncompetitive. He was just flat out wild. He threw ball one to every batter in the inning, and also fell behind at least 2-0 to every batter except the last one. It was a very bad inning in isolation. Hopefully we can just leave it at that, and he’ll figure out what was so off.
• A random thought on Javy Báez’s latest wonderful adventure on the basepaths, scoring from first base on a steal, strikeout, and throw into center: although I loved the pure craziness and ballsiness of it, what I loved most was that Báez busted it from second to third on the wild throw – something almost no runner would do – because he was already thinking about the possibility that he might also try to take home. That’s the thing about the crazy and ballsy things Javy does on the bases: he sets himself for them by his hustle, and his baseball IQ. He *knows* an outfielder is thinking, “Welp, this guy is going to third. Dang. Oh well.” So he hustles to third on the overthrow just in case he sees an opportunity to exploit a defender’s routine play. It was the same thing this weekend when he “stole” home after the sac fly was completed. Dude was just watching the whole thing unfold, thinking ahead to how that play “normally” unfolds, and was ready to take off.
• Speaking of Javy Báez, who had a couple hits including a MONSTER homer, he was moved further down the order last night, and that seems to be just fine:
Today, Rossy moved Báez to 6th and kept Contreras in cleanup spot. Could more lineup tweaks be coming over the final games as Cubs plan for October? pic.twitter.com/A3BwbbqEN4
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 15, 2020
• Insert question about Kris Bryant, who did have some good results last night, but also looked very un-Bryant-like at times. If you stretch yourself, you say, ooh hey, Bryant’s got a 119 wRC+ over the last 10 days! … but then you look at the line (.296/.387/.407), the strikeout rate (38.7%), the ISO (.111), and the BABIP (.533!), and you realize it probably isn’t real.
• But I do like seeing this from Bryant, who really needs to believe this right now so that he can keep contributing in whatever ways he can:
Kris Bryant: “When we all look back on this season, it’s not going to be about your numbers. It’s going to be about how we came together as a group and got through something that was a crazy time.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) September 16, 2020
• Fun read here on Alec Mills’ no-hitter, unlikely for so many reasons:
The Unlikeliest No-Hitter https://t.co/DVnLsbHEZN
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) September 15, 2020
• In the Statcast era (last five years – there have been 15 of ’em), Mills’ was the most unlikely no-hitter in terms of exit velocity and launch angle all turning into outs (1 in 9600). It doesn’t contemplate directionality, which I’d argue a pitcher’s command does have some impact on (particularly in relation to how you’re shifting and trying to get a batter out), but the point generally remains: do that exact outing 100 times, and it probably generates no other no-hitters. Hat tip to the defense and the BABIP gods.
• (Fun stat factoid from the piece: “Of course, all no-hitters require good fortune. A pitcher could strike out 21 of 27 batters, have six batted balls with just a 10% chance of going for a hit, and still only have a 50/50 shot at a no-hitter.” In other words, you could pitch the BY FAR best game ever pitched, and still have only a 50/50 shot at a no-hitter. (Kerry Wood Game forever.))
• To Mills’ credit, though, his execution in the start was extremely, extremely strong. Look at his pitch location on the balls in play, and note the giant hole in the center of the zone: