Dealing with Escalating HBPs, Cubs Prospect Injuries, Big Promotion, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Blackhawks season is at a wrap, which means Mario’s first season covering the Hawks here at BN is also in the books. Brighter days are ahead for this young group, and I am really excited that Mario’s gonna be the one leading our coverage on that front, including on into the offseason. Great season, Mario, and thanks for all the hard work!

•   No one will be surprised to learn – well, certainly not Cubs fans – that, in tandem with throwing harder than ever, pitchers are also throwing with the least control ever as it relates to hit by pitches (from Ken Rosenthal): “While the season is less than six weeks old, the rate of hit by pitches entering Sunday was the highest in Major League Baseball history, and last season’s rate was the highest since 1899, according to STATS Perform.”

•   As we’ve seen with the Cubs over the last few years – and especially with Willson Contreras and the Brewers – the thing you run into is that pitchers, armed with more velocity, see increasing value in going up and in, where a batter cannot barrel the pitch. They’re just pitching to the scouting report. But the problem is that it’s the most dangerous area to locate your wild 98 mph fastball. It’s easy to say, “If you cannot command the pitch, then you cannot pitch in there anymore” – and that was my basic position with respect to the Brewers and Contreras and the protective-pitch-behind-Brandon-Woodruff that followed – but it doesn’t really feel like a solution to what is becoming an increasing problem. Add it to the list of things MLB needs to work on: somehow better incentivizing pitchers to pitch safely when it comes to fastballs up and in.

•   To that end, on first blush, this seems like a pretty good suggestion:

•   That’s definitely a drastic disincentive there, since pitchers are clearly fine with risking one base right now by pitching up and in with increasing wildness. Would they be as willing if it were two bases? And what are the unintended consequences there? What about a curveball that just gets away? How should runners on base be handled? How exactly do you draw the line at “above the waste,” and is it a replay review situation? Definitely some questions to be fleshed out.

•   Would an automatic warning work as well? I.e., you hit a guy above the belt and it’s your first warning, automatically. Hit another guy after that, anywhere, and you’re ejected. Would that create just a little more caution? Just thinking out loud at this point.

•   Dang it:

•   So that explains why we haven’t seen an assignment for Cruz, who was a breakout guy before baseball shut down. And Luis Vazquez, you might recall, had started turning heads in 2019 as a 19-year-old who was so steady that the Cubs wound up using him as their deploy-throughout-the-system guy (he saw time at every single level that year except High-A). This year, he was set to be a regular at High-A on a more traditional development track. His season isn’t over, obviously, but you just had to see any lengthy interruptions right now.

•   Vacuums and puppy toys are among your Deals of the Day today at Amazon. #ad

•   One of the best prospects in baseball is arriving soon:

•   Kelenic, you’ll recall, was at the center of the comments that got the previous top Mariners exec fired (he essentially admitted publicly that the Mariners planned to hold Kelenic down for service time reasons … which, by the way, they ultimately did). The Mariners, a game over .500, are about to emerge from their teardown and rebuild process, which really only took them a couple full seasons once they committed thanks to some exceptional trades and a scouting group that is reputed around baseball to be among the best. All that complimentary stuff said, the organization hasn’t made the playoffs in 20 years, so, yeah, they better hope this version works.

•   Ah, the ole anthem standoff:

•   “It was a strike”:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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