I can’t believe the Bulls won last night. Like Eli wrote, it’s hard to be *angry* about a team winning, since the players are there to win. But rarely do you get such a bright line between winning and losing, where losing just one game is so clearly the better thing for your organization. Alas. The Bulls were going to have to give up a pick for that trade eventually anyway, and the odds were against them actually landing in the top four anyway. So, sigh, I’ll just let it go. More importantly: a very, very transformative year for that organization, with brighter days ahead (I can confidently say that about THREE of the four teams we cover now! … but … um … ). Great work this year, Eli, and I can’t wait to follow along with even more transformation in the offseason.
• Turns out, a number of organizations wanted Matt Duffy this offseason … to join their front office or coaching staff. As his agent told The Athletic: “He just loves playing the game, and he really thinks through it in a respectful way. After things didn’t work out with Texas and the Yankees [in 2020], I probably had half a dozen teams reach out to me: ‘Would he be interested in joining our front office or our coaching staff?’ That’s the kind of impression this guy has made through his travels.” The guy still had some baseball left in him, clearly! And he’s only 30.
• The Cubs, it turns out, tried to get Duffy multiple times over the last couple years, but he saw the left side of the Cubs’ infield as an impediment to playing time (The Athletic). The Cubs kept on him, though, landing him on a minor league deal in December – not that anyone would’ve expected he would be the Cubs’ “starting third baseman” by May. Duffy still has plenty to contribute, on the field (where he’s hitting .284/.379/.370, 114 wRC+, 16.8% K rate), and in the clubhouse:
During Tuesday’s one-run loss in Cleveland, Duffy saw a frustrated Adbert Alzolay walk off the mound after surrendering the lead in the fifth inning. As Alzolay sat on the bench stewing over his mistakes, Duffy approached and directed the young pitcher to follow him into the tunnel for a chat.
“What a professional athlete,” Alzolay said. “I love just having those guys around. When you get in that situation, you know they got your back. He came down, talked to me and got me out of that hole I was getting into and brought me back to pitch in that sixth inning.”
Alzolay struck out the next three batters, completing six innings for just the second time in his career ….
• That whole Athletic piece on Duffy is a great read for more perspective on him as a player, and why the Cubs have wanted him in the house for as long as they have.
• More Duffy love here:
The Cubs offense has been one of the best in the game over the last month.
And Matt Duffy's contact-oriented approach is a big reason why.https://t.co/rmIG0D24qt
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) May 17, 2021
• As Andracki notes – and correctly adds that it goes beyond JUST the addition of Duffy to the regular rotation – the Cubs’ offense has been kinda killer for a month now:
Over the last month (starting with the 13-run outburst against the Braves on April 17), the Cubs offense has been among the best in Major League Baseball in just about every category:
OPS — .778 (1st)
Runs — 138 (2nd)
OBP — .341 (2nd)
SLG — .437 (2nd)
wRC+ — 113 (3rd)
BB% — 10.0 (4th)
AVG — .259 (5th)
• Interesting bit on Duffy’s success this year:
Matt Duffy's 3 hits Saturday came with 2 strikes. Has 190 sOPS+ with 2 strikes this year (90% better than MLB avg).
Credited work with asst. HC Chris Valaika: "I feel like I really have the ability to shorten up an exceptional amount."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 16, 2021
• Now, once again, you have to give a lot of credit to Kris Bryant, because he’s the guy who can move easily all over the outfield to make Duffy’s time at third base a possibility. Not every MVP-caliber bat, on the verge of free agency, is going to do that. For Bryant, he’s good enough at it that it probably enhances his free agent value, but again, a lot of guys would just say, hey, I’m a third baseman, that’s where I’m most comfortable and best defensively, so keep me there.
• In case you were wondering about seeing Keegan Thompson or Justin Steele in the rotation any time soon, David Ross says nah: “We have a lot of confidence in those two guys. I’m definitely not ruling anything out for either one of them, but right now, we’re going to continue to ride them out of the bullpen.” With Alec Mills on the IL, though, I would think Thompson – at least – is a step closer to getting a swing start if necessary. Steele feels more like a full-on transition into the bullpen for this season, because his stuff is playing up so much, even over multi-inning appearances (and he’d already kinda reached that point where you wondered if his long-term future was in the bullpen). Thompson, I suspect, is the more likely of the two to get another starting shot, if not this year, then heading into next year.
• Big day yesterday for Ian Happ, who sounds like he has the right mindset both with his slow start on the results side, and coming back from the injury. The day before his collision in Cincinnati, Happ was hitting .139/.292/.177 (48 wRC+). He went off in that game, but got hurt, and now has been back for just two games thereafter. So, in just those three games, he’s raised his line to .183
.309/.301 (78 wRC+). Still rough, but that’s a huge leap, and it’s been only 111 PAs (with peripherals that are QUITE a bit better than his results).
• It kinda sounds like Oakland is pushing back on the A’s intentions to explore relocation (i.e., maybe the leverage play will work … ). Basically, the city wants the A’s to agree to table relocation efforts while negotiations about a stadium deal resume.
• Mini fridges, card games, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad