The Cruel Javy Fly Ball, KB MVP, Maples and Steele Ridiculousness, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Cruel Javy Fly Ball, KB MVP, Maples and Steele Ridiculousness, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

As I was doing my final edit of these Bullets, I caught a misspelling that I’d almost published. That happens sometimes – and I don’t always catch the typos, with apologies – but it would’ve been particularly bad this time. The word I’d misspelled was the word embarrassing. Which, would’ve been, well, yeah.

•   Part of the pandemic-related travel issues this year, as I understand it, is that road team broadcasts sometimes have to borrow the local broadcast and run their own commentary (if you’ve wondered, at times, why the shots were so focused on the other team when on the road, there you go). So I direct my beef at the Reds’ feed for the cruelty they inflicted on us last night.

•   As the Cubs were trying to come back in the 9th, with the bases loaded and Javy Báez up, I thought for a second he’d done it. I mean, I stood up. Báez sent one in the air, and although it didn’t have that great sound, the combination of his reaction, the pitcher’s reaction, Boog Sciambi’s initial voice raise, and – most importantly – the camera shot making it look like Báez had just sent the thing 500 feet, I thought it was a miraculous tie game. 9th inning grand slam Javy!!! … instead it was actually just an ultimately harmless sac fly:

•   I mean, that wasn’t even close. Why did you do that to me, camera person?

•   Kris Bryant raked again last night, finishing the first month of the season at .322/.412/.667, with a 188 wRC+, 8th best in baseball and the 3rd best in the NL. His 1.6 WAR is 4th in baseball among position players, trailing only Ronald Acuña Jr. (1.8) in the NL. For the first month of the season, Kris Bryant played at an MVP level. That’s just a factual statement. He also continued to add an extra layer of help to the Cubs by bouncing between third base, left field, and right field without missing a beat. When Bryant is healthy, he’s an elite player. It’s always been true, he just hasn’t always been healthy. I don’t know what you do with that information going forward if you’re the Cubs or if you’re Bryant, but it’s a data point that needs to be accepted widely.

•   My favorite from last night was the final strikeout, where Dillon Maples busted out an 83 mph curveball that the batter had absolutely no prayer of doing anything with because it was nasty as hell, and also he’s on high alert for the 96 mph fastball and the one-of-a-kind frisbee slider:

•   Like most of you, I’m slow to buy into Maples finally being the guy we’ve hoped he could be for half a decade, but the fact that his results this year are coming paired with such a significant change in his delivery are making me slightly quicker to accept it. Also a factor? His pitch mix has evolved so much over the past three years, where he’s now incorporating that curveball so much more, he’s heavily deploying a sinker in addition to the four-seamer, and the combination of those make his elite slider all the better. In addition to his extreme wildness and the walks it yields, a big problem for Maples has been how hittable his fastball is. Traditionally, while it’s got good velo, he can’t locate it – so capable batters will simply spit on the slider completely, and wait for a fastball (his xwOBA over the years on the fastball is egregiously high). But if he can at least have two slightly different shapes on the fastball, *AND* incorporate the curveball more, then he’s going to have so much more success, even if he’s still walking guys.

•   On that front, Maples still sports an obscene walk rate on the year (18.4%), but his strikeout rate (40.8%) is equally obscene, and the best it’s ever been. I’m not sure the whole package will play as a true setup man if that strikeout rate doesn’t come down at least a little, but the strikeout rate is 8th highest in baseball. The walk rate is only 9th highest. *puts on shades*

•   SPEAKING of fun strikeout rates, after five more last night, Justin Steele’s strikeout rate is up to 40.9%, just a click better than Maples, though in half the innings. You can’t go too far in saying what Steele is just yet, but he looks better each time he takes the ball, including what was absolutely most impressive about last night: he was getting the strikeouts on his fastball. Guys were just staring at it or way late because they have to respect the awesome slider and curveball, and then the fastball just explodes late on them thanks to the elite spin:

•   If you missed any of the minor league roster announcements yesterday, you can see them linked at the top of this post on the Tennessee roster from Bryan. The minor league seasons begin in THREE DAYS.

•   When I first saw this clip, I just automatically assumed it was three bad calls from throughout a game, and then I quickly realized they were all the same pitcher … in the same at bat … in 1-2-3 sequence. This is embarrassing:

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.