Cubs Are Loaded with First Rounders, What Matters for the Quality of a Pitch, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Littlest Girl has started to get into ‘Peppa Pig,’ which means I will now be saying things to my family in an overwhelmingly British accent, punctuated by snorts. I can’t help it. It just gets stuck in my head. I’m sorry, family. *snort*

•   Clearly the Cubs are STACKED:

https://twitter.com/jasoncollette/status/1486128090015227904?s=21

•   I kid, obviously, but that is just kinda funny. There’s a flukiness to it – only two of those first rounders were Cubs selections – but I think the one thing it does underscore is the lack of international free agents the Cubs have signed, developed, and deployed in the big leagues over the last decade. Willson Contreras is there, though he was signed 13 years ago(!). There are no homegrown IFA positional talents on the cusp of a debut, either, with Miguel Amaya (Tommy John surgery) and Christopher Morel (needs more Triple-A experience) likely a year or more away.

•   Some of that is having traded Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres, but it’s also just a lack of success on the developmental side with IFA prospects. They are, unquestionably, higher risk and variability than drafted stateside players because of their ages and the nature of the highest level of play before signing, but still. It’s been a big gap, and it shows up in the lineup. Here’s hoping, after the last few classes fully develop, we’ll start to see more homegrown international players making their debuts for the Cubs (it’s such a long process … ).

•   A crew at The Athletic took some mailbag questions on a host of statistical issues, so if you want to know more about various advanced stats, it’s a great primer. Even for someone like me, who fancies himself relatively knowledgeable about advanced stats, I learned something really significant, and it came from this chart:

•   Stuff+ is a metric used only at The Athletic, for now, developed by pitching expert Eno Sarris to evaluate the true quality of a pitch and/or a pitcher’s arsenal. What jumped out at me – and you, I expect! – was that top bar. We all knew that the velocity difference between pitches was a substantial factor in pitch quality, but holllllly smokes it is by far the most impactful factor. I mean, it’s nearly twice as impactful as the velocity, itself! It makes intuitive sense – if all a guy can do is throw a straight 98 mph fastball, we know he gets blown up, despite that being premium velocity. Without more, it’s just not a good pitch. But if he can pair it with a good breaking pitch or a changeup, then the batter cannot sit on the velocity … and that mere fact suddenly makes the very same fastball a more quality pitch.

•   As for the other factors, I’m struck by – again – how much more impactful the difference in the movement of your pitches is than the raw movement, itself. If you’d asked me sight unseen which was more important, I probably would’ve said the raw movement, and I would’ve been wrong! Note that they are all very similar in that yellow tier, but still. It’s notable: it’s more important that your other pitches move a lot *relative* to your primary fastball, rather than just move a whole lot. Makes pretty obvious sense now that I think about it.

•   Vertical movement being far more important than horizontal movement makes a lot of sense, given the nature of the bat path in a swing. (It’s fun to WATCH a two-seamer that moves a ton laterally, but that doesn’t impact the batter’s contact quality nearly as much as, for example, a ton of late drop. Just think about the barrel of the bat, and the difference between its length and its width. A lot more margin for error horizontally than vertically!)

•   Babe Ruth teaching kids how to throw pitches (pfft, not a single mention of maximizing spin efficiency, for shame):

https://twitter.com/nut_history/status/1486500455798693896

•   While the new MLB rule that requires organizations to provide housing for minor league players is a great and necessary step, an advocacy group wants to make sure there are no potential loopholes:

•   A good reminder there that, even if the policy is a good step, there will have to be some monitoring throughout the year to make sure it is ACTUALLY helping minor leaguers. Relatedly, this reminds me that I’m glad to see that the Cubs provided full housing and meals for the prospects that they brought in for their extra long offseason camp.

•   I will always enjoy:

•   Condolences to the family and friends of Gene Clines:

•   Trying to keep up on the latest in the head coaching search world:

•   Randomly stumbled on this, and while I think living in a castle would – at times – be awesome, I do wonder if I would pay *extra* to live with a ghost:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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