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Too Many Foul Balls? Padres New Pitching Coach? Outsider Impact? And Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Got a really nice dinner with The Wife last night, which means there’s a really nice set of leftovers waiting for me today for lunch (as long as she doesn’t poach ’em first).

•   The Cardinals have their new manager, and the Padres are joining them in being among the first teams to hire a new … pitching coach? Don’t get me wrong, we know that organizations choose the pitching coach these days outside of the manager, but it still seems a little odd, when both spots are open, to land on the new pitching coach before the manager. But that’s reportedly the deal for the Padres, who are set to hire Ruben Niebla, formerly an assistant pitching coach with Cleveland. I can’t think of a job quite like that of the Padres pitching coach, where he’ll be charged with fixing a staff that absolutely disintegrated over the past 18 months due to injury and underperformance. It’s a *loaded* group of names on that pitching staff, virtually none of whom are a sure thing to be healthy and effective in 2022.

•   Travis Sawchik is the latest to write about the increasing length of postseason games (all games, really), and while much of it is stuff we’ve talked about before, he does touch on something new and simple that I totally hadn’t thought of before: more foul balls! Anecdotally, you already know that a foul ball “takes longer” than a ball or a strike (and it isn’t an out). So if there are more foul balls, the length of the game increases (and the action proportion decreases). The change in foul balls is not as dramatic as other factors, but it’s definitely not zero. From Sawchik at The Score:

In 2017, foul balls outnumbered balls in play for the first time in the regular season, according to Baseball Reference data that dates back to 1988. I wrote about that trend before the 2019 campaign, and fouls have outnumbered balls in play each year since. In 2019, a record 28.2% of strikes were foul balls. There were more than 126,000 total foul balls hit in the majors in every full season since 2016. This year, 28.1% went foul, compared to 26.9% that were put in play.

•   The foul ball rate has ramped up even further in the postseason (over 30%!), so it’s even more noticeable. I don’t really have a specific proposal related to foul balls, though I would note that many of the other pace-of-play changes designed to reduce the advantage of high-velocity pitchers and put more balls in play would probably have an impact on foul balls just as much as whiffs. So that is to say, I don’t know that this is something you even have to address separately. It’s just a byproduct of other issues. (But, hey, if you want to offer up some crazy, foul-ball-specific rules suggestion, I like fun …. )

•   Obviously we don’t need to expect 2021 baseball to look like 1927 baseball, but this does underscore just how dramatically the pace of action has changed:

•   As noted by Cespedes Family BBQ, new Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was drafted two spots ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the 2007 MLB Draft. You could say the Red Sox made the clearly better pick, but if Marmol winds up a superstar manager and wins 10 World Series, who is to say, right? (Random aside: the pick sandwiched between the two was first baseman Matt Rizzotti, the only other player in the draft with a “Rizzo” in his name. Right next to Anthony Rizzo. I’m gonna choose to believe the Phillies meant to take Rizzo, also a first baseman, but said the name wrong.)

•   Computers, furniture, and Funko Pop are among the Epic Daily Deals today at Amazon. #ad

•   Over at Cubs Central, Todd Johnson writes about some of his top storylines heading into 2022, including all the prospects returning from injury, the challenge of player development after losing short-season Low-A, and the impact Carter Hawkins could have as GM. It’s been a while since the Cubs had such a different set of voices at the highest level of the organization:

It will be interesting to see Hawkins’ philosophies, along with those of new Assistant GM Ehsan Bokhari, implemented in the coming year. Whether that is in player development, trades, pro scouting, international talent, or the draft, Hawkins is going to have an impact almost immediately on which players the Cubs are going to acquire. His evaluative skills are going to come into play if the Cubs deal major league talent for minor league talent or vice versa. His impact will be felt as soon as the World Series ends and free agency begins five days later. When it comes to 40-man roster decisions, he’s going to have his own instincts and just exactly who he thinks is worthy of a spot. An outsider’s view of the Cubs’ roster might be better than the Cubs’ own office people who have seen these same players year after year.

•   A reminder there if you missed it Friday night: Jason McLeod is leaving the Cubs after a decade with the team. So, in the last couple years, the Cubs will have lost the voices of McLeod and Theo Epstein, with Randy Bush also stepping back. Then as outside voices, you have Hawkins and Bokhari, and perhaps more to come? It’s really substantial change among the top five or six voices.

•   A big heads up on the prospecting content side:

•   This is good internetting:



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.