Managing Alzolay's Innings, Little's Eye-Opening Appearance, Heyward's Rookie Parallels, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Managing Alzolay’s Innings, Little’s Eye-Opening Appearance, Heyward’s Rookie Parallels, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

It’s been a really long time since I was deeply into college basketball – there are only so many sports I can invest in at any given time – but it sure seems like a lot of friends are really happy about Illinois crushing Michigan. So bully for you all!

•   Adbert Alzolay looked as good and fine as a guy can look in his first 10-pitch appearance in Spring Training. The Cubs are going to take it very easy with him this spring, knowing that he is going to throw some very important regular season innings for them, but also knowing that the total volume of those innings is going to be limited. Here’s how he and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy described innings issues to

“We have a plan,” Alzolay said. “We just want to take it easy during Spring Training, you know? Because to be honest, the innings that matter are during the [season]. Here, it’s just like, just work, do my job over there [in the game] and then whatever I have to work on, I know that I can do it all in my bullpen [session] …. If I’m healthy, I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep pitching [in the regular season]. Because at the end of the day, we just want to win. So if I’m healthy, I know there is a lot of possibilities that I can keep pitching.”

“Right now,” Hottovy said, “I think you’re going to see Adbert make starts during the season, and I think you’ll probably see him make relief appearances during the season. I think you could say that about 10 guys we have in camp.”

•   When it comes to artificially limiting a guy’s innings, while also trying to make sure he’s available throughout the year, you’re pretty much talking about two routes: either he takes long breaks between starts (difficult to coordinate, and easy to get a guy off his routine), or he kinda goes in and out of the rotation, appearing at regular intervals, but sometimes making “starts” of five-ish innings, and sometimes making relief appearances of two to three innings. That, too, can be challenging to coordinate, but it’s probably the better approach if you can pull it off.

•   More from Alzolay:

•   Arizona Phil is the man, hooking us up with radar readings for yesterday’s game, since it wasn’t active for the broadcast. Generally, everyone seems surprisingly high for the first outing of the spring, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a hot gun. It could just be some extra-hyped guys trying to show out a bit? Or arms are extra fresh (relative to a normal spring schedule) because of the light year in 2020? Alzolay was 93-95, which is probably a click higher than you’d expect right now, but he’s been grinding all winter, so maybe he’s really going to sit 94-97 when the season starts? That’d be nuts. Dillon Maples and his new short-arm delivery was sitting 95-97 mph already, which would put him in a really good spot. Dan Winkler was touching 94 mph, according to Az Phil, which is where he was topping out last year.

•   And then there was Brendon Little, whose performance looked just about as good as Dillon Maples’, and was at least as pleasantly surprising. The 2017 first rounder has been brought along slowly as a starting pitcher, with the Cubs knowing all along that he was a bit more raw coming out of the draft. I don’t know if they’ve decided to flip the switch to relief, but he was already sitting 95-96 mph out of a good slot and throwing a nasty curveball on two planes (Phil calls them all a slider at 84-87 mph, but I think there were some curves in there – I guess we’ll see). One game, but it was our first look at a guy who hasn’t pitched above A-ball, and the *pitches* looked like big league pitches. He might not make the Opening Day pen, but if he’s fully been switched to relief, it’s possible he starts the season all the way up at AAA.

•   Fun and interesting read over at FanGraphs on Jason Heyward’s 2020 season, and how it looked a lot like his (excellent) rookie season in 2010:

•   Among the reasons explored for the similarities: Heyward swung WAY less often, hit far fewer fly balls, and his under-the-hood splits against lefties were really not that bad. How much of that will sustain over a non-small-sample season? Well, I’d like to think some, as Heyward’s skill set at the plate (line drive-oriented, good plate discipline) can age well as he gets into his 30s, and he’s shown steady improvement in his time with the Cubs. Would it be wise to project a repeat of 2020’s rate stats? Oh, probably not. He won’t do a 27+% line drive rate again, most likely, which will mean his big BABIP bump will pull back. But the improvements he saw in walk rate and ISO? Those might just be legit.

•   You know, this is interesting to see, but it would be nice to know what will REALLY happen to the playoff format this year before we start wondering these things:

•   Oakland and Atlanta standing tall behind the Dodgers, eh? That’s interesting. If I had to guess, these simulations love when you can enter the postseason with some truly dominant starting pitchers, because of the way that plays out in a postseason series (and the simulations are seeing lots of upside on that front in those two rotations).

•   Just odd, man:

•   Cubs brought in ANOTHER reliever:

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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.