Rizzo Streaks, Abbott's Stuff, Happ's Production, Wisdom's Development, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Rizzo Streaks, Abbott’s Stuff, Happ’s Production, Wisdom’s Development, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The kiddos are still settling into their summer rhythms, which means I am also settling into a summer work rhythm. I love you so much, but also let me write in peace

•   Anthony Rizzo made the very rare biff last night, awkwardly dropping a foul pop up from Manny Machado, who immediately followed with a homer. It happens, and it’s been a little rough stretch offensively for him, too, but you wouldn’t start to worry about Rizzo (physically (i.e., coming back from the back injury)) for a little while yet. He hasn’t homered in over a month, but again, I don’t know that I would attribute that to the back at this point, rather than to Rizzo being unbelievably streaky when it comes to homers. He’s been this way for years, and although he goes through long stretches where his production wanes, he then goes through long stretches where he’s unstoppable.

•   The dinger came on a hanging slider above the zone by Cory Abbott, not a pitch you usually see sent out, but also about four feet higher than it was supposed to be. That was kinda the story with Abbott last night, where he was wild out of the zone, and then got crushed on a pitch that missed its location badly. Like I said in his first outing – and has kinda been the scoop on him for a couple years now – you can clearly see how he gets a lot of swings and misses with a funky delivery and great movement on his pitches (and perfectly solid velo). But he does a lot of north-south work, which exposes him to risk if he misses his spot up (hence a ton of strikeouts and also a ton of damage in the minors), and the pitch movement can mean that when he misses his spot, he misses it by A LOT. If the command is off, it kinda makes his great stuff play down more than you might expect when evaluating his pitches in isolation (reminds me a bit of how Tyler Chatwood wouldn’t just walk guys when he got wild, he would also get crushed, despite having absurd movement on his pitches).

•   The center fielder totally thought he had an easy catch right up to the final moment:

•   I know it became vogue to dump on Ian Happ earlier this year for some reason, but he is once again doing what he has done every single year in the big leagues: hitting at an above-average level. Since that big game in Cincinnati, Happ is hitting .244/.340/.524 (136 wRC+) with great peripherals across the board. He was off to start the season, without question, and you don’t get to just throw that out. But he’s a guy with a pretty decent track record of success now, and more importantly, a great track record of continuing to adjust to improve his game. Still a big Ian Happ fan right here. Maybe not as much as Michael, but that’s because his Happ fandom is borderline unhealthy

•   It’s been interesting to read about Patrick Wisdom’s evolution as a hitter, including having more comfort hitting with two strikes, and continuing to do his usual thing hunting drivable pitches and trying to drive them. Conceptually, that right there is a reminder that the ‘B hack’ is not necessarily the right approach for every hitter – some guys will have more overall success if they simply proceed normally with two strikes (Kris Bryant, for example), whereas other guys will have more overall success if they choke up and shorten the swing with two strikes (Anthony Rizzo, obviously). None of that is new information, but what’s kinda hitting me with Wisdom’s comments: what if it takes years to figure out which kind of hitter you are? What if you try for years to adjust your approach with two strikes, and it succeeds in fits and spurts, but then doesn’t, and it just kinda mucks you all up in realizing your best process up there? The one that works best, overall, for you? Everyone wants contact and the ball in play, but what if that approach just wrecks your overall production? Heck, what if trying to implement the approach actually makes you strike out even more because it’s not natural for you? One size does not fit all.

•   Taking it back to Wisdom, specifically, the split data we have available is really not enough to draw hard and fast conclusions, but it does track: prior to this year, with two strikes, Wisdom struck out more often, hit the ball on the ground way more often, and made much softer contact. Again, maybe that’s just an artifact of the small samples or other development in his game, but it does make you wonder. Maybe the key for him, personally, was almost ignoring the count altogether. Either they give you a great pitch to hit, or they don’t.

•   But anyway, what started me down this path was the intention to note that, yes, Wisdom is striking out a ton so far – 37.5% after another couple Ks last night, which is roughly what you’d project based on his career in the minors (maybe even a bit higher in the current environment). If he had enough PAs to qualify, that would be the highest strikeout rate in baseball. Indeed, there are just three qualified hitters in all of baseball who are above a 30% K rate but are still producing a wRC+ over 100: Justin Upton, Joey Gallo, and Javy Báez. That gives you a sense of what you have to do to make it work: you have to hit for a shitload of power and/or take a shitload of walks and/or post a holy-shit BABIP. Without at least two of those three things working for you, it’s just not possible to be productive while netting so many outs that never had a chance to be anything else.

•   I’m happy that the sport has these bright stars, but it does make me reflect on the Cubs’ 2015-16 class (when they blew out their bonus pool), which has produced some nice prospects (Miguel Amaya, Brailyn Marquez, Christopher Morel), just not remotely close to this tier:

•   Desks, clothes, exercise bands, and bidets(!) are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   May tonight bring brighter fortunes:

•   City Connect dropped:

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.