Rizzo’s Record-ish Homer, Crowd Helped, Spin Caution, deGrom, Brewers, and Other Cubs Bullets
The Cubs and Brewers held serve yesterday, staying tied atop the NL Central standings. I’m not yet saying it’s going to be a two-horse race, because as far back as the Cardinals and Reds have fallen, it’s still early enough that neither is necessarily going to make the “sell” decision just yet. But for now, the Brewers are obviously the other team you’re watching on a daily basis if you just can’t help yourself …
• Anthony Rizzo played hero yesterday, working a 14-pitch home run to tie the game late, and building up the buzz as the at bat went on. Here’s all 14:
Man creates electricity. #CubTogether pic.twitter.com/vubKzaGwav
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 11, 2021
Anthony Rizzo just homered on the 14th pitch of a PA, to tie the game for the Cubs
That's the most pitches into a plate appearance that a Cubs player has hit a HR since pitch counts have been tracked (1988) pic.twitter.com/hq6CIhLUXT
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 11, 2021
What a perfect picture:
Tell me Rizzo tied the game without telling me Rizzo tied the game… #CubTogether @cubs #reopening @ARizzo44 @BleacherNation @realcubsinsider https://t.co/1bT2qJX9Jx pic.twitter.com/7weFppYVL3
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) June 11, 2021
• Like we’ve all noted about the very-streaky Rizzo (when it comes to power production), there wasn’t much reason to doubt that he’d start hitting ’em deep soon enough after a month-long hiatus from dingers. That’s now two homers in just a few days, and his season slash line is back up to .263/.355/.449 (121 wRC+).
• After the game, Rizzo spoke not only about the heroics and the fully-re-opened Wrigley Field, but also his statement earlier in the day that he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19:
Context on Rizzo & vaccine from his earlier interview & post-game comments, in a write-up at The Athletic. Where you can get the COVID vaccine safely, you should. Like I said earlier, however, I don't know how it cuts for a cancer survivor and have been open to more info. https://t.co/hVLTvtNoqU pic.twitter.com/0i8lEdgY27
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) June 11, 2021
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) June 11, 2021
• I’ve been pretty transparent about my belief – which is rooted in science and empathy – that if you can safely get this vaccine, you should absolutely do so. Whether Rizzo can safely get it is a little unclear from his responses and doctors(?), so while I have not heard of a situation where – for example – a cancer survivor could not get the vaccine, I also want to be a little careful about going too nuts. Any player who can safely get the vaccine and simply chooses not to is very, very disappointing to me, not only because of the impact it could have on the team (it’s a competitive disadvantage to still be subject to the protocols), but also because the more people who get the vaccine, the less breeding ground left for the virus.
• Back to the heroics part, here’s Rizzo on what he was feeling in that long, clutch, late-game at bat, with the crowd increasingly going nuts (Cubs.com): “It almost in a way helped me calm down and relax and just stay in the moment. I just kept saying to myself, after I fouled off pitches, ‘Stay locked in, stay locked in.’ And, ‘Calm down.’” Kudos to the fans for being the 10th man.
👀 https://t.co/xDTZ0FPv6S pic.twitter.com/AhHhQfuhfq
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) June 12, 2021
• Yadier Molina averages about eight or so errors per season, and about five or so passed balls per season. I bet he’s only VERY rarely ever had both in the same game, much less the same inning. I don’t know how to research that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if yesterday was his first ever.
• It’s data that I was planning to look at anyway, given how wild he got, but in the current climate, you have to be careful any time you mention spin rate. Because, yes, it’s possible guys were previously using illegal grip substances, and now that MLB is going to be enforcing its rules, they’ve decided to go forth and sin no more. But just because you notice spin rate changes, alone, is not necessarily enough to draw a conclusion – instead, it’s just worth noting the data for the purposes of evaluating performance and projecting the future. OK? So now when I tell you that Kohl Stewart’s spin rates were waaaaay down from his earlier outings this year, I don’t do it so that you can jump to conclusions. I do it instead to say that something was clearly off with him yesterday compared to his earlier starts. The spin rates were way down, the movement was waaaay down, but the velocity was waaaay up. And obviously the control, well, you saw it – he just repeatedly lost pitches, as if he didn’t have a good grip.
• You could take all of that and surmise that it’s possible Stewart was indeed trying to adjust to a new grip situation. I don’t really need to go there to land where I want to land: I saw lots of individually great pitches yesterday, particularly the two-seamer at the top of the zone and a hard cutter away from righties. But I also saw the kind of command troubles – PAIRED with those far-too-frequent non-competitive balls – that left him behind in the count, and too frequently getting into just-throw-a-strike mode. That gets you unnecessary baserunners, and also gets you hammered. The Cubs and Stewart will have to figure out how to correct the issues before he can get another big league start.
• On the flip side of this topic, you had Tommy Nance once again showing enormous spin rate drops yesterday, but his effectiveness was right up there with how he’s been, and the pitches looked good to me. Importantly, his pitch movement didn’t change that much over the yearly averages. Like I said before, it’s something you watch for the purposes of evaluation and projection, not a situation where we necessarily need to drop accusations, particularly as we come to terms with how this subject has played out for pitchers over the last five years (and especially *IF* a guy then tried to fly right once it became clear that the rules, are in fact, going to be treated like the rules). Also, it’s important to remember that raw spin rate isn’t everything – it’s how efficient you can be with that spin (how much of the spin actually contributes to movement), and that is more about grip and mechanics than anything you could do with a substance.
• By the way, on this topic, I can’t help but think one side effect of pitchers having to change any sticky situations: changeups are going to get better (lower-spin is generally better), and sinkers might get better, too (depending on how you use the pitch, lower-spin can be better for a sinker, too). You’re gonna want to buy-buy-buy on pitchers who right now can pair really good fastballs (velo and command) with previously-mediocre changeups that they don’t use much. Because if they suddenly start to get more drop on the changeup? Relative to other pitches, it might become a boon for them.
• Random fun fact about the Cubs’ bullpen, which has the second best ERA in baseball: it isn’t just that they have a league-leading 29.3% K rate, they also have a second-best 48.4% groundball rate. It’s just really hard to do serious damage off of this bullpen group.
• Never root for injuries, but maybe Jacob deGrom needs to rest this one for exactly one week (he’s scheduled to face the Cubs next):
UPDATE: Jacob deGrom left tonight's game due to right flexor tendonitis.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 12, 2021
Luis Rojas on deGrom: "He expects to make his next start. I expect him to make his next start."
(deGrom is lined up for Wednesday 6/16 against the Cubs.)
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 12, 2021
Jacob deGrom is the 1st pitcher since at least 1901 with 100+ strikeouts & 26 or fewer hits allowed in any 10-game span (not just to start a season!)
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 12, 2021
• The Cubs had an easy May, so I am not complaining, but I am noting that from May 29-July 4, the Brewers play: Nationals (3), Tigers (2), Reds (6), Pirates (7), Diamondbacks (7), Rockies (7), and Cubs (3). Oof. They also generally got the benefit of their 7-game NL West series being the god-awful D-Backs and Rockies, while the Cubs got the Giants and the Dodgers. Anyway, this is all just kinda stuff to keep in mind as the two teams play things out over the next month. After this stretch, the Cubs’ schedule lightens up while the Brewers’ gets tougher.
• Cubs pitching prospect Max Bain gets the Pitching Ninja treatment for making a batter chuck his bat on a changeup:
• These were both called balks:
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 12, 2021
• Crossover Content:
.@justnfields received an ovation from the Wrigley faithful today ⚾️🤝🏈 pic.twitter.com/XdzYNeGOwI
— MLB (@MLB) June 11, 2021