Robertson Has Been Incredible, Roberts Velocity, Madrigal, Joyce, Moves Coming, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Robertson Has Been Incredible, Roberts Velocity, Madrigal, Joyce, Moves Coming, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have not lost a game this month. Incredible.

•   Speaking of incredible things – but seriously this time – David Robertson has been incredible so far for the Cubs. The guy just looks like the best version of himself, and maybe he was needing that Tommy John surgery for a while or something (so once he was fully recovered late last year with the Rays, he took off). The 37-year-old closer has allowed bupkis over his 10.0 innings, striking out 14 and giving up just one hit. The five walks are where you would make a comment, I suppose, but if you’re striking out that many guys (he’s near 40%), it’ll play just fine.

•   What’s interesting is that the strikeouts have actually almost all come in just his last four appearances (10 K), and what’s interesting about that is it’s when he started re-incorporating the knuckle curve. We *really* saw it in that April 27th game against the Braves:

•   Buckled the hell out of Andrew McCutchen with it (maybe*) to finish off yesterday’s win, too:

•   I say “maybe” because that theoretically could’ve been his slider. Thing is, Robertson has been throwing his curveball in the 83 to 87 mph range, and his slider in the 80 to 84 mph range. That’s kinda funky right there, so you have to identify the pitches by their vertical and horizontal movement (the curveball, when it’s right, will have a ton of vertical drop; the slider will have more lateral movement). So that pitch right there to McCutchen, which registered as the curveball, may have actually been the slider? You don’t usually see a guy having success when two of his breaking pitches have similar profiles, but it looks like the vertical/horizontal differences are enough to keep the pitches separate for the batters. Moreover, it’s probably handy to have them both for days when one is working and the other isn’t, or when you’ve got certain hitter profiles coming. Pair either one with the 92-93 mph cutter and you’re good to go.

•   Anyway, yes, I know what you’re all thinking, so I’ll say it out loud: if Robertson continues to look like this into July, and if the Cubs are out of the race, he will probably be a very valuable trade piece (especially because he’s being paid only $3.5 million this year). But, hey, can we root for the Cubs to be surprisingly competitive for a few more weeks at least? I’m gonna try!

•   I definitely saw a couple of Ethan Roberts’ cutters (it’s his primary fastball, like Robertson) touching 91 mph in his last outing, but I guess I didn’t think about how much of a fall-off that was:

•   Hopefully there are no structural, or even muscular, issues there at bottom for Roberts, and it truly is just a matter of a little inflammation or tendinitis or whatever in there, which can clear up with rest. Even if that’s all it is, when you see the velocity drop like that, it’s probably a situation where you’re going to want to be OVERLY restful for him, and I suspect we won’t see him for a few weeks, at least, at this point.

•   The Roberts IL move, and optioning Locke St. John back to Iowa means the Cubs are already done with their roster chopping from 28 to 26, which is required around the league by today (the Cubs have an off-day today). Pretty painless as far as the Cubs are concerned – no one released or hitting waivers just yet – but keep in mind that as guys are made available today around the league, it’s possible the Cubs will see it as an opportunity to acquire a player or two, which then WOULD mean they have to chop down another spot or two.

•   It’s very likely that it’ll all be marginal stuff, so not the kinds of things that will get non-uber-nerds excited, but I love it. Also: here’s hoping the Padres feel compelled to get something done on Dinelson Lamet by today.

•   Like I mentioned yesterday, at some point you at least have to consider the back-to-the-minors-for-a-reset situation with Nick Madrigal, but he’s not worried yet:

•   Madrigal, 25, is hitting .210/.269/.258 (56 wRC+) through his first 17 games with the Cubs. His 16.4% strikeout rate is more than double where he was in his first two partial big league seasons, his groundball rate is out of control, and the production is non-existent. He’s not even to 70 plate appearances yet, so this is all still very much within the small sample range. But for a guy coming off a major leg injury/surgery/missed time, who has very little big league experience, who has almost no Triple-A experience, and who is totally out of sorts, that minor league options conversation will have to come if this isn’t sorted out within a few weeks (especially if/when you want to see Jonathan Villar at second base more often, or if Andrelton Simmons returns and you want Nico Hoerner at second base more often, etc.).

•   I find Ben Joyce’s draft story to be fascinating. The Tennessee reliever is breaking records with his otherworldly velocity, but relief-only prospects are disfavored in the draft because their potential upside will always be lower than that of guys who MIGHT be quality big league starters. The Cubs actually drafted the highest relief-only prospect I can remember in the last few years, Burl Carraway, at number 51 overall in 2020, and that hasn’t gone very well so far. Of course, if you *knew* that Joyce was going to be peak Aroldis Chapman in the big leagues, he’d have to go in the top 10, right? Easy? But just because Joyce can throw heat like Chapman doesn’t mean he will develop like Chapman. I still don’t think Joyce goes in the first round, but I guess we’ll see. Even in the early part of the second round, I still think it’s awfully risky if you don’t think there’s any chance he could become a starter.

•   I expect this is an issue/error with application of the rule, rather than the rule, itself:

•   The pitch clock and a batter-get-ready clock – these are very, very good things. Mistakes by umps/players as they learn the system, however, are going to happen. When they do, it’ll look ugly, like the above video. That does not, however, negate the rule’s value. It would be like seeing a replay crew get a review wrong and then claiming that allowing any replay reviews is bad, rather than (correctly) noting that the rule is good, but there was clearly an error in its application in that instance. “I just got a ticket for speeding even though I was going 35 mph in a 40 mph zone! All speed limits must be abolished!

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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.