We knew the road trip would be tough. I said a 3-4 outcome wouldn’t actually be all that bad. Still true, though it now means the Cubs have to win 3 of 5 the rest of this West Coast swing …
• Jake Arrieta offered an explanation for his miserable performance last night (Cubs.com): “Apparently, what I had for lunch today made me pretty sick. I threw up before the game and then a few times after I came out of the game. I was really weak. I tried to go out there and do what I could. I wasn’t able to, unfortunately.” I suspect this explanation will not be well-received among fans, both because they generally dislike excuses for performances that aren’t that much worse than what has been shown already, and also because it’s frustrating to know that a guy was trying to pitch through something and was terrible. This is the second time in a month we’ve heard this from Arrieta after an abysmal performance (he previously tried to pitch through a cut on his thumb and got bombed out in Cincinnati). Doesn’t mean he’s not correct that he was impacted last night.
• Whether the temporary illness (like the finger cut) explains how bad last night was or not, it hasn’t just been a one or two-start issue with Arrieta this year. Four of his last six starts are what I would describe as “non-competitive,” and even if he’s a long-time favorite, we have to be as honest about his position as we were with Trevor Williams when he had a stretch like this. The question is, how long is the leash? Arrieta has reached a point in his career where the command – the pitch location, the pitch tunneling, the release point, etc. – needs to be better than average if he’s even going to survive as a back-end starter. So far, we just haven’t seen it consistently. And even with good movement on his pitches and the deception in his delivery, a 90 mph pitch up over the heart of the plate is still gonna get crushed sometimes, particularly when it comes in a hitter’s count.
• The hope in signing Arrieta post-Phillies was that the Cubs could help him transition into being a command/control contact-manager type. He’s got five useable pitches, he has good movement on the sinker, he has the experience and confidence, etc. It wasn’t a bad idea. The rub, though – and what the Phillies already may have tried and failed to help him pull off – is that Arrieta’s mechanics and delivery are complex, making it hard to sustain command (especially as he gets older). The risk, then, is that you get a guy with a command/control pitch mix and velo, but without actually having the command. You do that, and you get blown up:
We knew all this based on his time with the Phillies (and it's likely why they kept trying to tinker with his delivery). In any case, it's a monster problem when he doesn't have command now.
Without it, this happens: pic.twitter.com/bs5kGZ4oC0
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) June 5, 2021
• Meanwhile, the Cubs continue to self-impose a competitive disadvantage:
MLB and MLBPA announced 20 teams are at 85% threshold of Tier 1 personnel being fully vaccinated while 2 more teams have hit mark with final doses & restrictions will be relaxed within next week.
Cubs among 8 teams that haven’t reached vaxxed threshold & remain under protocols.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 4, 2021
• The vaccinated players who are willing to talk about it all stick to the expected line – it’s a personal choice, I’m not going to force it on anyone else, we don’t even talk about it in the clubhouse, etc. Good read on that here at NBCSC. I’m long past the point of expecting any kind of change, and instead just hope the Cubs don’t run into a positive test that shuts down five players for multiple days for contact tracing (when 22+ other teams would not suffer the same fate if there was a positive in their clubhouse). Decisions and behavior have consequences. It’s incredible to me that so many guys care about fake science more than they care about their teammates, but hey, I’m just a dummy with a keyboard. Moving on.
• I was reading yesterday about how the Cardinals are pretty openly trying to add starting pitching externally right now because of all their injuries … and then ANOTHER starting pitcher left early last night. Kwang-Hyun Kim left with a lower back issue, and although the Cardinals are optimistic that he might not miss much time, this was a rotation that already had like four guys and then a question mark. I’m not saying I feel bad for the Cardinals or anything – a lotta teams are dealing with a whole lot more injuries this year – but it’s definitely worth paying attention to as they try to hang with the Cubs and Brewers in the months ahead.
• Speaking of the Brewers, they’ve gotten sufficiently hot (albeit against crummy teams), that they’re now just a game behind the Cubs. They were never gonna just go away given that pitching staff, and if Christian Yelich gets back to being near the best version of himself? Watch out.
• Ooh, minor league playoffs back on the docket? Here’s hoping:
Minor League teams have been told to leave dates in mid-September open.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) June 5, 2021
• This says a LOT:
“I don’t want your moral opinion. I want your baseball opinion.” A haunting line delivered after Astros execs Brandon Taubman and Kevin Goldstein tried to talk Jeff Luhnow out of trading for Roberto Osuna. pic.twitter.com/LPttuuLLqj
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) June 4, 2021
• Some of these pitches, my word:
• How about a perfect game on your birthday in the College World Series:
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 5, 2021