Fans Finally Attend an MLB Game, More Love for Alzolay and Player Development, and Other Cubs Bullets | Bleacher Nation

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Fans Finally Attend an MLB Game, More Love for Alzolay and Player Development, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

For the Amazon Prime users among you, today is Prime Day, so there are a boatload of deals over at Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, BN might get a cut of some of the revenue from your shopping, so thanks for the #ad support. The deals on Amazon devices, in particular, look ridiculous. Might be time to finally get a Kindle and see if that gets me reading more books.

•   Last night’s NLCS Game One was historic for reasons wholly unrelated to Walker Buehler’s incredibly tight pants. It marked the first game in 2020 to have fans – human ones – in attendance. The announced attendance for the game was 10,700, just over 1/4 of the full capacity at the new Globe Life Field. As for how it fared, it’s gonna be hard to say for some time, but ESPN estimated 75% of those in attendance complied with the mask mandate (seriously?). The sections were cordoned off to ensure social distancing, so at least there’s that.

•   Joe Morgan, one of the best second basemen of all-time and one of the voices of my baseball youth, passed away yesterday at the age of 77.

•   Morgan joins other Hall of Famers who’ve recently passed away, including Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, and Al Kaline. The awfulness of 2020 continues unabated.

•   Although Rick Renteria’s firing got most of the initial headlines, it’s worth pointing out that the White Sox also fired long-time pitching coach Don Cooper. Having survived multiple managerial changes, Cooper was an 18-year institution as the pitching coach, and had been with the organization for 30+ years. That’s a major change right there. As with the managerial opening, that’s gonna be a super attractive job – Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease, Garrett Crochet, Reynaldo Lopez. So much young pitching talent.

•   Speaking of the managerial gig, all we need now is for Michael Barrett to join the Cubs coaching staff:

•   More love for Adbert Alzolay, whom BA correctly named the Cubs’ Rookie of the Year. This, from The Athletic, gives you more context for just how much he improved this year (and also how the Cubs were working with pitchers at South Bend):

Overall, [Cubs Director of Pitching Craig] Breslow called it a “less than ideal” environment, but still “very productive.”

“We were able to generate material improvements in pitchers’ repertoires, and there were many who contributed to that effort, but none more so than the players themselves,” Breslow said. “It took a number of iterations, but ultimately we established a process and reached a cadence that was efficient and effective.”

Alzolay was one of those clear success stories and a perfect example of the collaboration needed to pull off these types of pitcher development transformations. Breslow pointed to [Cubs Coordinator of Pitching Development Casey] Jacobsen’s exceptional expertise with pitch design and pitch grips. [Cubs Assistant Analyst Ryan] Otero helped define the “optimal version of this pitch along the velocity/break spectrum” and [Cubs field staff James Ogden and Ron Villone] were committed to helping Alzolay make this newly designed slider a part of his repertoire.

“We outlined a sound process, and it would be impossible to give Adbert enough credit for his buy-in and work,” Breslow said. “We all served as resources, but Adbert was the person who made these changes. We are talking about a guy who shifted his grip, got his fingers more behind the ball to push the pace, threw the pitch in a bullpen session in South Bend, and then took it into a major league game three days later.”

Why did they believe this was the right pitch to work into Alzolay’s game? The group knew Alzolay had the ability to add another weapon to his arsenal and felt that a putaway breaking ball, specifically a mid-80s slider that had less size but more velocity than his curveball, would be a perfect complement.

“Given Adbert’s ability to throw his curveball for a strike, we were confident that if we could target the shape and velocity, he would be able to find the zone with it,” Breslow said. “In terms of why it’s played so well, I think there are two things to consider. One, in a vacuum it’s just a very good pitch. It gets a lot of two-plane break for this level of power. Two, Adbert added a two-seam that shows good sink and run, and in the last handful of outings his ability to command this pitch to his glove-side has given him a really intriguing weapon. The added slider pairs well with his two-seam, adding an east-west component to his repertoire.”

•   Something truly crazy to keep in mind about the development process for the Cubs: they entirely changed their prospect development infrastructure this past offseason. You know, before there was a pandemic and no minor league season. Does that mean development was even more of a disaster than it would have been? Or does it mean that it was even better? We won’t really know until next year and beyond, but the timing is just … man. What do you say? I guess the one thing I can say is I really like the way the Cubs have *talked* about what they were doing at South Bend and with prospects remotely. But they’ve pretty much always been good at talking about these things, going on ten years now.

•   Great shots:

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.