The kids have decided to start pranking us, which – among other things – meant replacing my toothpaste with apple sauce. They say you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, but apparently you can put apple sauce in there.
• Sure wish Alec Mills had looked better last night, as it would’ve bought me (and the Cubs?) more comfort about the rotation in this transitory period leading up to the Trade Deadline. If Mills can be that innings-eating, steady-enough guy for the next month, then the Cubs could take their time and wait for the right impactful starter trade. That can still happen – and Trevor Williams is starting his rehab assignment today – but I just … yeah, I just wish I felt better after watching Mills’ start.
• To be sure, he got through four innings allowing just the two runs, but he gave up EIGHT hits AND two walks over those four innings – I mean, 2.5 baserunners per inning should give you some context on the actual performance. Some outs via Willson Contreras’s arm, a double play, and some perfect luck on the sequencing of hits, otherwise that’s a blowout right out of the gate. Mills could not locate his pitches whatsoever, alternating between non-competitive balls and strikes that were nowhere near his intended target. I’m not sure what was going on for a guy who is usually commanding his pitches so much better, and for a guy the Cubs were no doubt hoping would impress over this period when he’s gonna get a few starts.
• Not every hit has been a rocket – though he also had a foul ball that maybe shoulda been a homer – but Jason Heyward now has multiple hits in three straight games, and over his last 10 days, he’s hitting .455/.538/.682 (235 wRC+), with a 15.4% BB rate and a mere 7.7% K rate. It’s his first even brief hot streak of the season, and it corresponds with him pulling the ball much less (40.0%) than he has the rest of the season (53.6%).
• I don’t love the 60.0% groundball rate during this stretch, though, as it’s not like Heyward is scalding the ball (his average exit velocity is actually down during these 10 days). So I guess we’ll see if the timing is coming back, or if this is just a balls-are-bound-to-find-holes-at-some-point flukey stretch. Hey, though, he’s finally outhitting his 2016 self by wRC+ (oof, imagine a full season worse than this … well, you don’t have to imagine, because it happened).
• We have talked about pitchers exploiting the hole in Patrick Wisdom’s zone – pretty much the entire upper-third of the zone – and there was a perfect(ly bad) example in the 9th last night, with Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford throwing three straight 93 mph fastballs in the upper third, middle of the plate, and Wisdom swung through all three. It’s not like it’s an uncommon issue for launch angle sluggers – get a decent fastball up there, and the swing plane just doesn’t catch up to it well – but it’s a serious problem if you can’t adjust. Is Wisdom going to get the time and the starts to make that adjustment in a season like this? Or is he going to hit enough of the mistakes to make up for it? In his last 15 games, Wisdom is hitting just .154/.233/.308 (51 wRC+) with a 46.5% K rate. That just won’t play. And if Heyward heats up, there could be more incentive to let Kris Bryant start more frequently at third base.
• The Cubs were having a brutal time seeing the ball out of Julio Urias’s hand last night, clearly having to guess on what was coming before he threw. The Cubs have a whole lotta strikeout guys, but watching that one, it was even more extreme than usual – taking fastballs right down the pipe, swinging at pitches that were never close to the zone. That’s what happens when you’re guessing it’s a big sweeping curveball and it isn’t.
• Brad Wieck got another four dominant outs last night, and extremely interestingly, threw nothing but his four-seamer. It’s a brutal pitch up in the zone because he is so huge, but you usually see him working in a healthy number of his big, beautiful curveball. Then again, he’s been trending down in his curveball usage this year, so maybe last night wasn’t so aberrant? By the way, Wieck is a great example of a guy who doesn’t have elite raw spin rates on either of his pitches, but DOES have a very high level of spin efficiency (i.e., how much his spin contributes to movement (if you spin it like crazy but you’re not actually spinning it in the right direction, it won’t help the pitch move how the spin is intended to help your pitch move)).
• Wieck, 29, is now up to 12.1 scoreless innings on the year with a 40.0% strikeout rate.
• Cubs shortstop prospect Ed Howard yanked the first homer of his professional career:
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) June 26, 2021
• Ah, but the crew in Los Angeles later got together and decided that it was foul. Tough luck, Ed.
• Yohendrick has a hose:
• Indoor grilling, bedding, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad
• This is extremely awesome for baseball and Trey Mancini, who is not only hitting well this year, but beat cancer last year:
Breaking: According to industry sources, Major League Baseball has extended an invitation to Orioles’ 1B Trey Mancini to compete in the 2021 Home Run Derby. The Orioles aren’t standing in his way. He’s psyched to do it. My column from earlier this week: https://t.co/epoDXmW8ZI
— Dan Connolly (@danconnolly2016) June 26, 2021
• This is a cool story, and I look forward to seeing it happen:
60 years later, in a new letter to Gwen from the current Yankees GM, Brian Cashman invites her to Yankee Stadium to fulfill her dream. pic.twitter.com/FHZK3SIfe5
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 25, 2021
• Tony Campana is hanging ’em up:
Congratulations to @Tcampana_24 on fulfilling a dream!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 26, 2021
• Enjoy Tony Campana hitting the fastest inside-the-park homer ever: