Eight days from Opening Day, which will be a normal schedule at home ballparks (except Toronto) in front of some capacity of fans. It’s weird, but it’s happening. I’m ready.
• The big news last night is that Adbert Alzolay *does* have an option year remaining, which means he does not *have* to make the Opening Day roster, which means the Cubs *can* keep an additional reliever who might otherwise have been lost to waivers or an opt-out. Just reiterating here in case you missed it, because it changes the calculus on roster construction, and also allows the Cubs to more strategically deploy Alzolay’s innings this year. For example, if you know he can give you only about 120 innings this year, and if you believe he’s going to keep getting better, then you can now plot out a course where he’s giving you most of those innings at the big league level in a starting role later in the year (as opposed to having to keep him in the bullpen right now, and swinging him in and out).
• I cannot recommend this article more aggressively, because not only is it really interesting and useful on Trevor Williams, specifically, but it also walks you through – in great detail – how things can go awry for a pitcher’s mechanics:
Trevor Williams hopes he can reach "the next level" with a new slider he's continuing to slowly work on. But for now, getting his old mechanics back and using his entire arsenal are big pieces to future success that he's already figured out this spring. https://t.co/KqK7m7Sbs2
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 23, 2021
• It’s just fascinating to see the interrelationship between an injury, then a rehab, then mechanical issues, then hitter behavior changes, then pitch mix changes, then sequence changes. So, for the Cubs and Williams, the process has been identifying the mechanical changes, identifying how his pitches can better work off of each other with proper mechanics, and improving the shape of his pitches to get a little more success. You pull off all those things, and boom, a guy is back to who he was in 2018 when he was a better-than-average MLB starter. Always easier said than done, but this is how it can sometimes really help a guy to get into a new organization – the process of breaking it back down all the way and building it back up with fresh eyes.
• On the pitch mix piece, it’s important to remember that it’s never as simple as cutting out an “ineffective” pitch, or changing the location on a pitch – because the whole has to work together. For example, in 2018, Williams’ best year, he was still throwing his sinker a lot, despite the fact that it was easily his least effective pitch in isolation. Moreover, its xwOBA of .352 might tell you things are about to get ugly if he throws that pitch too much. In 2019 and 2020, the sinker progressively disappeared from his mix because it was getting hit even more … but his previously dominant four-seamer started getting hammered. Clearly, there was a relationship there, and Williams suggests if he can get right mechanically on his sinker, it’s worth having it in there because of the way it improves the effectiveness of his four-seamer.
• Jake Arrieta heavily praising Kyle Hendricks is nice:
When I was writing my feature on #Cubs Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks, read it here (https://t.co/e1HBVbjaYJ), Jake Arrieta told me about what he loves about Kyle and what he wishes more people got to see.
This is just what didn’t make the story. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/42OE5LQzB0
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) March 23, 2021
• Sound on, I am crying:
Here's the play where Tatis got hurt today. And since it looks like he's going to be okay, I was able to have a teeny bit of fun with today's highlights for @10News. (sound up) pic.twitter.com/zMoSQcrTB2
— Ben Higgins (@BenHigginsSD) March 24, 2021
• Not QUITE as funny, but also sound on for some enjoyment:
#Mariners manager Scott Servais with some comments after his team hit three HRs against Trevor Bauer.
Bauer had said he wasn’t really trying.
— Robert Flores (@RoFlo) March 24, 2021
• This deal is unique to the Yankees because of the relationship with Amazon, but it’s not hard to imagine a world where the Cubs (or other big market teams) wind up doing something like this down the road:
Yankees, YES Network revive plans to stream 21 games on Amazon Prime Video. Deal was to start last year, but was shelved following big pandemic readjustment to 2020 MLB season. Amazon is an equity partner in YES.
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) March 24, 2021
• Previously, the deal was to make the games *exclusive* to Amazon Prime, so if you were a Yankees fan who wanted to watch those games, you had to get Prime (for which Amazon was presumably paying a pretty penny). Not sure if that’ll stay the case, and also not sure if it’ll stay the case that the games would be available to stream only in Yankees “territory.” That would obviously greatly neuter the impact of being able to have your games on a national streamer.
• And since streaming came up, no, I do not have any update on streaming deals. At present, YouTube TV and Hulu+ Live TV do not carry any regional sports networks (like Marquee), and the hope is that the end of Spring Training will apply pressure for them to pick up the channels. There have been no public updates on negotiations, but often in these situations – well, with cable providers of old, anyway – it’s like the final three days before Opening Day (or some other sports season starting) where you do start to see the biggest push. Then again, you often see the advertising ramp up (“contact your this or that!”) by this point.
• Kitchen appliances, Melissa and Doug toys, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad