The Little Girl has organized a Family Game Day today, and I have no idea what I’m in for. It involves lots of competitions, apparently, so I’m gonna need to smoke this crew.
• Kyle Hendricks is not on a dominant run, and I think it would be dishonest not to acknowledge that there have been some real issues with command embedded within an otherwise successful stretch. That said, looking at the results – especially in this rotation – it’s nice to see a guy post six straight quality starts (and seven of eight). He still hasn’t been the Hendricks we know and love, but he has annually been a guy who gets better as the season goes on, the weather warms up and his mechanics lock in. We’ll continue to observe his performance, obviously, but there is no particularly good reason to doubt that he won’t continue to be on a good run in the months ahead. It’s just what he does.
• That said, the other thing he does right now is get clobbered periodically – his 2.29 HR/9 leads the league right now by a healthy margin. There are just three starting pitchers above 1.78, so it’s kinda rare air at this point for a guy who, coming into this year, was at just 0.89 for his career. There are a lot of factors that go into that home run rate (pitch location is the one on his end), but it’s been a double-whammy: he’s getting, by far, the lowest volume of groundballs in his career, and his HR/FB rate is a whopping 22.9%. I don’t think any of that has been too complex: the sinker and changeup have been belt high far too often, and he, at times, has not had his curveball available to vary things. I still think these areas continue to improve as the season goes on, though, and that homer rate will come down.
• With another blast yesterday, Joc Pederson is on a three-game homer streak (and he almost homered twice in Saturday’s game). Despite the frozen start to his season, he’s now hitting .250/.320/.459 (113 wRC+), and is just about hitting at his career average levels. And since his return from the Injured List, which sure feels like more of his “start” to the season in early May, he’s hitting .298/.346/.554 (143).
• Speaking of guys who homered yesterday, who started out freezing cold, and who have been much hotter lately, Ian Happ is now up to .244/.346/.533 (140) since his breakout game in Cincinnati on May 2. Interestingly, since Happ initially got injured right around the time Pederson returned, they wound up switching spots in the batting order, with Pederson hitting a lot more leadoff and Happ hitting down in the middle of the order. Is that a reason each broke out? Oh, probably not. But you’re sure as heck not gonna mess with it.
• And further speaking of guys who homered yesterday, Sergio Alcantara is *probably* not going to continue to post a .483 ISO (lol), but, like I said before, when you consider his relative power breakout last year, over the winter, and this year at Triple-A and in MLB, you do start to conclude that he changed something fundamental (plus age/development) over the 2020 shutdown. Enough to make himself into a big league starter? I’m not sure about that (the early metrics suggest he’s been very lucky so far to have his extra-base hits plopping down where they’ve plopped down). But has he improved his power enough to post a respectable line as a utility infielder with a great glove? It sure is starting to look that way.
• Bonus fun … Arismendy Alcantara: 332 PAs with the Cubs, 0.4 WAR. Sergio Alcantara: 32 PAs with the Cubs, 0.5 WAR.
• The Cubs get Carlos Martinez tonight, who is always capable of being excellent, but who is coming off that 10-run debacle against the Dodgers, and then a rough five-runs-in-four-innings game against the weak-offense Indians.
• Cardinals rotation has serious issues:
This sums up the Cards right now: John Gant walked 5 in the 2nd inning tonight. The last time a single Cardinals pitcher walked five batters in an inning: Danny Jackson on Sept. 22, 1996 at Cincinnati.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) June 13, 2021
• David Ross updated some injuries, but they were mostly non-updates (which is kind of also an update when you extrapolate). Via his comments at NBCSC: Matt Duffy is getting close a rehab assignment, David Bote has started taking light swings, Nico Hoerner and Justin Steele are still strengthening their hamstrings. No explicit timelines mentioned for any of those four, but no setbacks. Bote was generally not expected back until July at the earliest in any case, and the two hammy guys are still only a few weeks-ish into their recoveries. Steele (May 20) would seem a possibility to be back in the coming weeks, whereas Hoerner (May 26, moderate strain) was always a better bet for July.
• More City Connect looks, which – in retrospect – always did look pretty darn solid on the players (with the accent colors more prominent than they were on the leaks of the singular jersey):
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 13, 2021
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 12, 2021
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 13, 2021
• They must have been pretty popular, because the MLB Shop has been sold out of most of the gear for days now.