Missed Calls, Fighting the Yips, Brennen in the Hall, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Missed Calls, Fighting the Yips, Brennen in the Hall, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Hey, happy new year, folks. Like I said yesterday, I hope 2022 is good to you in any way that 2021 was not. Or, heck, if 2021 was great for you, then I hope 2022 matches it.

•   FINALLY. I get to start saying “this year” when referencing the 2022 MLB season, and “last year” when referencing the 2021 MLB season. I always hate having to be a little extra clear about which season I’m referring to in the period after the season ends, but before the calendar flips. It requires like a whole extra word or two! The horror!

•   I expect that a lot of this – most? – is just flukey noise:

•   Some of it has to be the catcher, sure (James McCann flipped to being a negative framer last year, though sometimes Stroman was getting Tomas Nido, who is an exceptional framer). And, again, some of it has to just be flukey noise that would land on some pitcher who threw a lot of innings. But I wonder if some of it is something peculiar to Marcus Stroman’s unique delivery funk? Or something about how, if he misses his spot, he misses in a way that makes it easy to call a strike a ball? Or something about the way he/the Mets were attacking hitters that led to the kinds of pitches that can be missed by an umpire? I don’t have the data to compare previous seasons, or HOW out in front Stroman was. Something to watch for, I guess?

•   This is a really good read at The Ringer on Tyler Matzek, one of the most important Braves pitchers in the postseason, who’d gotten himself out of a multi-year funk. Specifically, he’d developed the yips. It’s the kind of harrowing story we’ve seen and heard before – you’ll remember Jon Lester’s issues throwing to first base – but the detail in this article is really telling. You really get walked through how it can happen, how the anxiety issue produces a physical response, and how it can cause what we see as the yips: a professional baseball player who seemingly cannot do the most simple thing a baseball player should be able to do. It is apparently much more common throughout the minor leagues than we realize – sudden wildness is not always a mechanical or grip issue – and it’s the end of the line for a lot of players.

•   (A crazy Cubs connection in the story? Matzek, who’d been a solid rookie in 2014 for the Rockies, saw his yips first start to pop up in a big league game in his 2015 debut against the Cubs. You may not remember his outing – he hit Anthony Rizzo twice and walked three, but ultimately got through four innings allowing just one run in a Rockies win – but you definitely remember the series. It was the series that culminated in Dexter Fowler’s 9th inning home run off of LaTroy Hawkins to bring the Cubs back in that game, and get us all thinking that maybe things were different this year.)

•   Anyway, as for Matzek, he made a few more starts from there, but the yips overtook him. He was sent to Triple-A, the extreme wildness never went away, and he was out of affiliated baseball by the next year. For three years. He wound up finding a former Navy SEAL who’d dealt with yips when he was a pitcher, and that guy coached Matzek through it. And then Driveline helped him rebuild his mechanics and rediscover his velocity. Pretty wild story. Highly encourage you to read if you want to better understand the yips, and its relationship to anxiety responses of all kinds. We all deal with it on some level! Heck, Matzek’s description of getting on anxiety meds for the first time is EXACTLY the same response I had when I finally did it a few years ago, which I share so that if you deal with anxiety issues, maybe you go talk to someone:

He pitched well in both Double- and Triple-A, but when the season ended, he went to see a doctor in California who diagnosed him with a panic disorder. Basically, the doctor told him, he had panic attacks because he was afraid of having panic attacks. “It was a spiral,” Matzek says. The doctor prescribed him anti-anxiety medication. The panic attacks stopped.

“I never realized what normal was supposed to feel like,” he says. Once he got on the meds, he started to think, “‘Oh my God, this is how you’re supposed to feel?’ My whole life I’ve been dealing with this crazy-ass anxiety. And I just thought everybody was dealing with the same anxiety.”

•   Over at The Athletic, Bill Shea writes about the sports business stories to watch for in 2022, of which Regional Sports Networks are going to be a biggy. We just don’t know how dramatically the landscape is going to change, pending decisions on direct-to-consumer streaming, Sinclair’s group of RSNs (i.e., do they go bankrupt?), etc. And then there’s the lockout – how long does it go on, how many games does it cost the sport, and if any, how does it impact viewership?

•   Brennen Davis is already in the Hall of Fame! Well, his bat from the Futures Game when he hit two homers is there, anyway:

•   Imagine being able to consistently command a pitch like this – you would be unstoppable:

•   A better team this year is coming, right:

•   Putting it here for you fine folks, too:

•   If you missed the Bulls ending yesterday, fix that now:



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.