Mills' Great Night and Starting Role, the Whiff on Schwarber, Injury Updates, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Mills’ Great Night and Starting Role, the Whiff on Schwarber, Injury Updates, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Keep the folks in Louisiana in your thoughts today, with Hurricane Ida bearing down. It’s a scary situation.

•   Alec Mills was fantastic last night, going 8.1 scoreless against the White Sox, keeping the ball on the ground and keeping his pitches at the edges of the strike zone. He went into the 9th with an outside shot at a Maddux (he needed to get the final three outs on eight or fewer pitches), and although he couldn’t quite pull it off, it says a lot about the efficiency of his outing. Since moving into the rotation on June 15, Mills has posted a 3.68 ERA (10% better than league average) and a 3.26 FIP (22% better than league average).

•   Mills, 29, is successful thanks to a combination of a good pitch mix and good command. He can throw five different pitches (four-seamer, sinker, curveball, slider, changeup), and he usually locates them all quite well. Without overwhelming stuff or velocity, he’s at a greater risk for damage when he misses his spots, though, and his pitch-to-contact style always leaves him more exposed to luck variance on balls in play. That’s why you can see him out there throwing starts like his last two: against the White Sox, he was locating well enough to stay off the barrels (0 barreled balls in the entire game, which he pulls off quite often!), and also got some good luck on balls in play, which means he looked dominant. But the last time out, against the Royals, he gave up 12 hits in just 4.0 innings.

•   Most starts, though, aren’t as extreme as either of the last two. That’s why you see so many Mills starts that are about five or six innings, about two or three runs on about six or seven hits, with about one or two walks and about four or five strikeouts. Guys with a diverse pitch mix that they can actually command are a really good bet to succeed as 4th/5th starters (or swing men), because they are able to stay out of hitters’ counts, and are also able to avoid being too predictable even when they fall into one. I remain very fine with Mills, whose ERA and FIP are both right around league average this year (but much better as a starter, which is also true for his career), being considered a likely member of the rotation for next year, with the ability to move into a swing role if the Cubs make a number of additions.

•   Injury updates, with Willson Contreras not returning too soon (but still not really a longer-term concern – get him that rest!):

•   It’s been a great week (finally) for Ed Howard, who had a couple walks and a 420+ foot homer last night:

•   Kyle Schwarber was the hottest hitter in baseball for the month before his hamstring injury, and since returning (now with the Red Sox), he’s hit .385/.529/.641 over 12 games. He’s hitting .353/.453/.862 (236 wRC+) since mid-June, and .290/.395/.645 (172) since the last day of APRIL.

•   Maybe he doesn’t keep this up the rest of the way, but right now, Schwarber is hitting like the best hitter in baseball. We always knew the monster breakout was in there, but the Cubs could never quite get it out of him. If he continues to do this – and does it even more in the future on the big contract he’s about to get – it’s going to be a horrible reflection of their big league player development from 2016 to 2020. We already knew it was a sore spot (think of all the guys who came up hot and stalled out, relatively speaking), but man, Schwarber could wind up as stark as an example as there gets. Good for Schwarber, though. I don’t mean to imply that he doesn’t deserve most of the credit, because he does. I’m just saying, the Cubs clearly whiffed not only on what he could/would be in 2021, but also on the development process at the big league level (and not only with him). It’s very frustrating.

•   Kindle readers are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Are you kidding me with this? Maybe I’m easily mesmerized but this is incredible:

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.