Love For and From Darvish, Alcantara’s Power Burst, Crazy Fan Catch, and Other Cubs Bullets
June 10th, first place Cubs. I keep wanting to make a mental note of the date when the Cubs are in first, because apparently I’m a fatalist and I keep wondering whether today will be the last day the Cubs are in first. They’ll at least remain tied through today’s off-day, though, so … June 11th!
• David Ross summing up how everyone felt about Yu Darvish (Cubs.com): “You just miss his smile. And definitely when he takes the mound, it’s a nice comforting feeling from a manager standpoint.” It’s all still a little melancholy to think about Darvish’s time with the Cubs and then the trade that sent him to San Diego …
• General love from Darvish after facing the Cubs for the first time (ESPN): “Looking back, I had some ups and downs in Chicago,” Darvish said. “Good times and bad times, looking in retrospect. But what I find is that the fans, the organization, and even the media members there – I had tremendous amount of support to get through my years there. So there’s a sense of, I guess, gratefulness there.”
• Sergio Alcantara was a glove-first, high-contact, slappy switch hitter in the Diamondbacks and then Tigers’ farm systems. There was a belief that he could become a big leaguer in time, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of expectation – or evidence in the data – that he could hit for enough power to be a regular. It’s not about the power production, itself, mind you. Instead, it’s about hitting the ball with enough authority and depth to keep defenses and pitchers honest – without it, you simply become too easy to attack and defend, and absent an ability to post an extraordinary line drive rate against the best pitchers, the slash line is just going to be brutal. This was a guy who was consistently posting ISO’s in the .050 range in the minors (albeit at a young age), and I don’t recall reading much about physical projection.
• Fast forward to 2020, and you’ve got the Tigers deciding to jump Alcantara to the big leagues straight from Double-A for a cup of coffee, presumably in part because they knew at the time that he was about to be out of minor league options (an arbitrator later ruled that he, like Adbert Alzolay, would actual qualify for a 4th option year). Interestingly, he did hit for more power during that very brief big league look – his only stateside action that year. Then he went to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball, and hit for far more power than he ever had in that league before. Then the Cubs grabbed him when the Tigers figured they couldn’t carry him for the season, and he kept on hitting for power at Triple-A. Now, with the big league Cubs, it seems like he’s only hitting for extra-bases (including his first homer yesterday).
• What do we make of this? Well, first and foremost, it’s all small sample. Even across all the mentioned levels from 2020-21, we’re still talking about only about 200 plate appearances. Caution, caution. Second, though, we are talking about a guy who was 23-24 during this potentially evolutionary period. It wouldn’t be crazy for a guy to develop a bit physically and mechanically at those ages, especially as he passed through a new organization. Third, most of that time was all shut down and invisible to us, so who knows how he developed in ways that might otherwise make you say, oh, this actually ISN’T just a small sample situation? Again, make sure to keep in mind that I’m not talking about Alcantara becoming a home run hitter. I’m just saying it looks like he’s added some power (i.e., more hits in the air, more extra-bases, more caution from pitchers, more respect from defenses that open up more base hits, etc.). On the whole, it’s been a really interesting start to the year for him from Iowa to Chicago. Given the versatility and the glove, he doesn’t even have to hit like this to be a great player to have for the next several years.
• Gonna get absolutely creamed for this, but it’s just data (if you don’t click through to see full charts, suffice to say Woodruff and Burnes have seen very recent, very STEEP drops in their spin rate on their flashy pitches):
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) June 10, 2021
• Important: This is going to be noticeable on lots of teams for lots of pitchers (including Cubs!). I just think it’s worth noting now, not to get mad or righteous, but instead just to track/project future performance. Heck, you could make an argument that the guys for whom we see steep drops this month are the “honorable” ones – the guys who were previously just driving with the flow of traffic, and are now trying to stick to the posted speed limit signs, so to speak.
• If and when we do see changes in pitching performance relative to a decreased use in sticky stuff, I wonder if there are types of hitters who will disproportionately benefit, or if the “gains” will be fairly evenly distributed. I have thought about it, but I’m not sure I can’t convince myself that every type of hitter could benefit.
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• Did you see the crazy fan catch yesterday? Baby in arm, ball snagged after all kinds of ricochets:
Ball security is job security pic.twitter.com/MiTg63rG6z
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 9, 2021
• Patrick Wisdom did not homer yesterday, so this little stretch is over, but wow:
After his 6th-inning homer tonight, Patrick Wisdom of the @Cubs now has 8 home runs in 36 plate appearances as a starter this year.
He's the first player in the modern era to hit 8+ HR in his first 36 PA as a starter in a season (rookie or not).
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 9, 2021
• Tweet copy good, but also just enjoy the clip, which was Joc Pederson imitating Fernando Tatis Jr.’s stutter step on his homer yesterday:
Heading back to a full house at Wrigley Field like 💯 pic.twitter.com/JsjlkXFdfK
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 10, 2021
• “I see Tatis. He has a lot of homers. He’s done it,” Pederson said. “He’s having fun out there. He’s got some of the most swag in the game. So yeah, our team’s just having fun. It kind of just happened in San Francisco. I don’t know – just kept it going. If I keep hitting homers, I’m going to keep doing it.”
• MVP votes coming:
Ryan Tepera threw 24 pitches in two innings. He got six whiffs on 12 swings. Struck out three and faced the minimum.
He's 4th in MLB relievers and 1st on Cubs in Win Probability Added: https://t.co/BfCHsGXcbz
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 9, 2021
• Quite an ending:
Game over 👏
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 10, 2021
A bad ERA+ is 75.
An average ERA+ is 100.
A good ERA+ is 125.
Jacob deGrom’s ERA+ is 626.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) June 10, 2021