Hey, maybe we Cubs fans think the biggest news of last night was Adbert Alzolay’s continued breakout, but I can put on the we-Bears-fans hat, too, and say holy crap I can’t believe they actually traded up to land Justin Fields (and that he slipped to 11 to make that trade possible). I am not stupid enough to think that this is guaranteed to play out differently than it has for basically every other Bears quarterback in my lifetime, but I am stupid enough to think there’s a chance that they finally got their franchise guy! I love that Fields has actually won at a major program, is actually an accurate passer, and has the kind of strength and athleticism that is so important in the game today. I like this pick a whole lot more than the last time, and last time, I definitely underestimated the risks in taking a guy based purely on projection and the ability to improve accuracy.
• Is Matt Duffy … decent? I won’t claim to know yet. Here’s what I do know: the Cubs didn’t necessarily expect Matt Duffy to make the team once they’d brought in all the possible pieces to Spring Training, and even Duffy conceded that he was surprised he made the team. David Ross was a big fan in Spring Training, though, and obviously Duffy *has* been a solid player in the big leagues when healthy enough to play. None of this is new in that regard. He just turned 30, so it’s not like he’s over-the-hill and it’s unrealistic that, now healthy, he could be a decent player again. I mean, heck, I dug the minor league signing when it happened for all these reasons. And yet here I am, kinda resistant to the idea that he’s actually worth of batting third multiple nights in a row on this Cubs team. I don’t know what that’s about – maybe I’m just concerned by what looks like a complete inability to drive the ball with authority, and I figure that’ll catch up to him at some point.
• For now, Duffy is hitting .286/.432/.314 with a whopping 15.9% BB rate and a tiny 11.4% K rate. Among hitters with at least 40 PAs, that strikeout rate is the 15th lowest in baseball. And Ross continues to like him enough that he’s been starting over
• Speaking of small-sample bench numbers … Just kind of a weird, arbitrary endpoints thing, but fun: going all the way back to September 24 of 2018(!), Jake Marisnick has been an above-average batter (104 wRC+). He also plays great defense. Now, there’s context there – lots of missed time, lots of platoon protection. But it’s just interesting to me that for so long, he’s been an above-average bat. He’s hitting .250/.318/.550 (133 wRC+) so far this year in part-time duty. Marisnick hit his second homer of the year last night.
• I’m not smart enough to know the implications here just yet, but for a guy who is worried that his pitches are flat and whose location is so very off, this seems notable:
Trip has added season aggregates to the polar plots (for any player, pick pitch types for a season). Now I can easily see that Kyle Hendricks has changed his arm slot. First plot is 2021, second is 2020. https://t.co/4ivlRDARjy pic.twitter.com/rj9f3mhTmb
— 𝔹𝕒𝕣𝕥𝕠𝕟 𝕊𝕞𝕚𝕥𝕙 (@TheMagnusPI) April 30, 2021
• Sahadev Sharma talks about a possible release point issue for Hendricks, so maybe we’re getting somewhere:
Hendricks mentioned his “checklist,” something he shared over the spring. In this case, they’ve focused on two items. The first is his balance point. When Hendricks brings his leg up during his delivery, he can get a little bit lazy and rush through the process. He needs to make sure that his knee is not coming up to his chest, but rather that he’s meeting his knee with his chest, almost hunching over a bit. When his back is straighter at this point, that’s something they know is throwing off the rest of his delivery.
The second point they’re watching is elbow flexion. Hendricks refers to this as where his hand is when it’s by his head. Essentially, where a pitcher’s arm is when their front foot plants is critical. A little behind and it can throw off everything significantly.
• I think Ryan Tepera is getting his cutter back. Overall, he’s not yet where he was last year, but his last couple outings, the pitch is starting to get its velocity and shape back. Given that it was the main component of his breakout last year (MVP VOTE GETTER!), he needs that pitch.
• Anthony Rizzo muscled one in the first, but Ronald Acuña Jr., the best player in the NL right now, made a heckuva catch:
• Pitchers always seem to struggle with this throw, so good job by Andrew Chafin, and also I chuckled:
(1) Nicely done, and (2) I like the slide. pic.twitter.com/c8nidoHPe1
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 30, 2021
• The last pitch here is just like wut:
As if throwing 101 miles per hour isn’t impressive enough, try it from this arm angle.
Eduardo Escobar looks like he’s contemplating retirement after facing the Rockies’ new reliever Justin Lawrence. pic.twitter.com/UndbIEmqlB
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) April 30, 2021
• Much love to ARam:
New @SABRbioproject: Aramis Ramírez debuted with the @Pirates as a teenager, then blossomed into an All-Star third baseman after a trade to the @Cubs. His 386 home runs are 6th-highest at the position in @MLB history. By @jfredland: https://t.co/CUZLe5d4UK #SABR pic.twitter.com/LWdLOPmbpw
— SABR (@sabr) April 30, 2021
• If you are among the Bears fans very pleased by last night’s developments, Obvious Shirts has you covered:
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) April 30, 2021