The first two night games of the year left me to re-adjust to being all hyped up at night, and then doing various coverage things, such that I couldn’t quite get to sleep mode until about midnight my time. I know that’s not too late for most of you, but the kids are raring to go at 6:30 am or so (plus I like to go to the gym even earlier if I can), so I’m gonna have to re-locate that rhythm, and also not get myself quite so amped up for every single April baseball game …
• Speaking of being amped up. I am glad that things last night didn’t spill over into anything worse, and I’m especially glad that Willson Contreras was uninjured despite another high and tight fastball hitting him. Will things be cool and calm today? I hope so. But like I wrote last night, sometimes teams will send a message not because they are trying to retaliate, specifically, but because they want the other team to know, “Hey, you guys need to start being more careful with your pitches, because this is getting ridiculous.” The Cubs have just not been much of a team to hit batters on purpose the last decade or so, but they’ve gotten into this kind of beef before, once with the Pirates (plunking after plunking after plunking, some of which may have been tied to that Chris Coghlan slide), and once with the Cardinals (Joe Maddon’s “we don’t start stuff but we will finish stuff” line). Those were about the only times I can recall when I thought the Cubs (1) might intentionally throw at a team, and (2) would be close to being justified in doing so.
• To be quite clear, I fall just shy of actually endorsing throwing at guys. It’s just too dangerous. I can’t say it’s OK. But I do understand, as David Ross said last night, that you cannot have an opponent out there constantly unable to command their pitches inside … and then keep going back there again and again. We’ll see what today’s game brings. Maybe the public discussion will have been enough.
• I don’t think the Brewers keep TRYING to hit Contreras, and yet I very much understand his frustration. He’s getting hit A LOT, and he’d just been hit in the head the night before. He struggled badly against inner third pitches last year for whatever reason (that isn’t necessarily a historical trend for him), so teams are going in there more and more:
Historically, Willson Contreras has not been all that bad against inside pitches. But for whatever reason, he REALLY struggled against them in the short season last year (and teams busted him inside more and more frequently, leading to more HBP). Not sure what changed last year. pic.twitter.com/9oF4hYtY9t
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 7, 2021
• He’s going to have to adjust to the inside stuff if he wants to reduce some of the incentive to get pounded way inside. Again: better command, ye heathens of Milwaukee! But also, they’re allowed to shoot for the inside edge.
• A general reminder on the early struggles from Ian Happ (Cubs.com): “That’s the beauty of 162 games. If this happened in the middle of the season, you wouldn’t blink. But when it happens early on, it just magnifies it. That’s part of sticking with the process.” And at least this year, five games isn’t nearly 10% of the season.
• Love to see the manager immediately acknowledging a goof he can learn from:
Reflecting on last night, Ross said he should've pulled Trevor Williams after he got out of 6th inn. jam. He knew he'd made a mistake when Williams walked the first batter in 7th. Ross talked about it with Williams today.
"I'm going to mess up too. …I learned from last night."
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 6, 2021
• I tweeted in the first inning that I thought we might see Dillon Maples for a couple innings, which was not necessarily me being prophetic so much as me seeing that Adbert Alzolay wasn’t going to go 6+ and the Cubs might not have a lead in the middle innings. Based on how he was used in the Spring, it was clear that the Cubs wanted Maples to be a multi-inning guy, which might seem strange given his stuff and wildness. But you have to keep in mind, the Cubs kinda just wanted to make sure they could keep Maples, who is out of options. So, if you want to keep him, give him a chance to face big league batters and try to turn that corner with a new delivery, then you put him in low-leverage spots. And in a year where you need to cover lots of innings, fine, you also make that guy a multi-inning reliever. He’s the low-leverage long man right now, which also helps explain why Alec Mills has twice gotten very traditional one-inning appearances.
• For now, the Padres and Fernando Tatis Jr. are holding off on shoulder surgery, which could’ve ended his season. They say it’s not necessary at this time, just an IL stint to calm the inflammation. But the risk is if his shoulder keeps popping out and keeps doing a little more damage each time, you don’t know what happens to the long-term prognosis for the 22-year-old (note that I am just speaking GENERALLY about recurrent shoulder issues, not Tatis-specific stuff). I totally get not wanting to lose one of your best players in one of your balls-out competitive years, but this is also a $340 million player who is supposed to anchor you for more than a decade. I’m sure these are some very difficult conversations.
• Five Cubs pitching prospects I’m particularly excited to follow this year, all within one set of shots from minor league spring training:
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) April 7, 2021
• It’s different here:
Willson Contreras gets it. pic.twitter.com/1AePQ8OPFp
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 7, 2021
• That’s on our Instagram page, by the way, if you would like to follow.
• He got 1 out of 6 calls wrong? For an entire game? That is borderline impossible to do:
Yesterday, Umpire Angel Hernandez was responsible for the worst called game of the season so far. He missed 24 calls with a correct call percentage of only 83.2%.
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) April 7, 2021
• Very cool, and very important:
— Lauren Comitor (@laurencomitor) April 7, 2021