Something something Kylo Rendricks something something May the Fourth Be With You, to all who observe. Naturally, the Amazon Deals of the Day include Star Wars stuff, so make sure to check it out. #ad
• Well, at least this time he wasn’t fired by the same guys who hired him less than a year earlier:
The Mets have fired hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater tonight. Hugh Quattlebaum (minor-league hitting coordinator) and Kevin Howard (farm director) will take over, respectively.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) May 4, 2021
• Former Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis quickly found a new job with the Mets, but now that’s over. The Mets have been right around a middle-of-the-pack offense overall by the rate stats, depending on your metric of choice, but have scored the fewest runs in baseball (albeit in fewer games than most teams). Whether firing the hitting coach(es) will change any of that, especially in-season, is a matter of debate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the organization was going to be making big changes on that front anyway after the front office/ownership change. How familiar does this sound, by the way:
I asked #Mets GM Zack Scott if Francisco Lindor’s deepening struggles had any direct effect on the firings of hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater.
He didn’t say no. And then spoke about the need for a better “support system” for the players.
— David Lennon (@DPLennon) May 4, 2021
• When Davis was let go by the Cubs, the talk was about an inability to connect with the players (though that later became a question about whether the Cubs players were open to connecting on Davis’s ideas in the first place). In any case, Lindor has had a brutal start to his tenure with the Mets – .163/.284/.209, 51 wRC+ – which I’d probably attribute less to the hitting coach and more to the combination of small sample size and huge contract pressure (we’ve seen it before). You gotta figure Lindor will be fine eventually, but right now, his quality of contact is atrocious.
• All this got me looking back at the Cubs’ offense so far this year, and as expected, we’ve definitely seen some normalizing of the numbers. Far from the worst offense in baseball, the Cubs are now the 11th best offense in baseball by wRC+ (no pitchers), and fifth best in the NL. That actually sounds about right, given the mix of players.
• That, in turn, got me looking at the Cubs’ pitching. The problem for the Cubs, particularly lately, is that the starting pitching has been bad. Crazy bad. Worst-in-baseball-bad. The Cubs’ starter ERA of 6.00 this season is the worst in baseball, with only the Angels (5.76) even remotely close. At a -0.4 WAR, the Cubs’ starting staff is the only one performing at worse than a replacement level, which means, in theory, they would have been better calling up any random Triple-A journeymen and grabbing waiver wire guys to start for them. (Would that *actually* be the case? Oh, probably not. But, hey, that’s the idea behind “replacement” level – to see how players are performing relative to what you easily could have done instead.)
• How about this, too: since Zach Davies got bombed out in that Pittsburgh outing back on April 10 (so basically chopping off the first week of the season), Cubs starting pitchers are allowing a .292/.375/.539 slash line, and the ERA is a jaw-dropping 7.09, which is 1.14 runs worse than the next worse team. Chicago Cubs starting pitching hasn’t just been bad so far this year, it has been breathtaking.
• … and the organization will get no quarter from Cubs fans on that front, because it was the one group where they’d clearly made a decision to go with a very high-risk, low-cost strategy (and didn’t have the historical track record of success doing it like they have in the bullpen). To be sure, it would’ve been unreasonable to project Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies to be even close to THIS bad, but it was always fair to at least acknowledge that their style necessarily comes with a fine line between success and failure – sometimes the failure is gonna show up. The Cubs need big, big, big bounce-backs from those two if they want to have any hope of avoiding a July sell-off.
• It was very interesting to see Kris Bryant penciled into center field last night before the game was banged. Not only had Bryant not started there since early in his rookie season, but he was flanked by two guys who are (1) traditional outfielders (2) who have played center field more recently. Was the decision a credit to Bryant’s athleticism? A nod to Wrigley Field’s modest center field and more challenging corners? A question about the viability of Joc Pederson or Jason Heyward in center? Yes to all? Either way, it was odd, especially since it was done in order to keep Matt Duffy in the lineup instead of Jake Marisnick (otherwise, Bryant could’ve played third instead of Duffy, with Marisnick – an elite defender – in center). I really don’t get it, unless Marisnick is also a little banged up (that’s why Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner were out). And, no, I will not take the cynical approach and say that it has anything to do with Bryant’s perceived “value.”
• We’ll see what happens for today’s doubleheader (Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer), and if the lineup remains the same against Walker Buehler, who moved to Wednesday. I do understand that you’d want Duffy’s high-contact-against-velocity bat in there, but at the cost of center field defense (and the slight risk of something crazy happening to Bryant in the outfield, given his lack of experience there working between Pederson and Heyward)? I don’t know. I don’t love it.
• Speaking of the doubleheader, the Cubs get an extra player today, which you’d normally assume would be a pitcher, especially within only eight in the bullpen right now. But with seven-inning games and the Cubs possibly without Happ and Hoerner today, you might see an extra position player added.
• Minor League Baseball returns today, at last, and here’s your redrawn geographic map:
#MiLBMajorFun, from coast to coast!
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 3, 2021
• Obviously there’s a lot more space between concentrations of folks out west, so that’s a major component of why things look that way, but it’s also just a reality that when you contract from 160 affiliated teams to just 120, there are suddenly going to be large stretches of the country where no pro team is remotely close enough to go see. And that’s a real shame, and a potential problem long-term.
• A reminder of all the minor league rules changes coming this year, with management by none other than Theo Epstein.