Miley’s Excellent Rehab Start, Suzuki’s Zone, Wisdom, Prospects, and Other Cubs Bullets
I saw the new ‘Dr. Strange’ last night, and I’m reluctant to even say whether I liked it or not – that’s how seriously I take anti-spoiler-ism! That’s probably a bit too extreme. OK, I think it’s safe to say: I was pleased.
• Wade Miley’s rehab start with the Iowa Cubs could not have gone better. He was indeed around that 40 pitch limit, but he was so efficient that he went four innings in that time:
Wade Miley is, for lack of a better word, cruising.
Another 1-2-3 frame in the 4th. Ended it with a strikeout of Mark Contreras. Has now retired seven straight.
Current line in this MLB rehab start w/@IowaCubs: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 K, 0 BB. 41 pitches, 28 strikes.
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) May 6, 2022
Wade Miley is your @EMCInsurance Player of the Game, he struck out three batters over four scoreless frames tonight. pic.twitter.com/26AZrhEbru
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) May 6, 2022
• The question now will be how he feels today and tomorrow, since he certainly looked to have all his normal velocity and stuff last night. If he feels good, it’s conceivable he could simply return to the big league team for his next outing, which would line up perfectly with the day the Cubs next need an additional starting pitcher (Tuesday, May 10 in San Diego). If the Cubs prefer that he get up closer to 60 pitches in a rehab outing before returning, then it’d be another turn through the rotation. Since the Cubs have more or less been using an opener in one of the rotation spots for a couple weeks now anyway, I personally would probably go with Miley even if he had a hard 50-pitch limit. Again, assuming he feels good.
• Any time you say something furrows your brow, some folks will read it as, LOL WHY IS THIS IDIOT PANICKING OVER SOMETHING STUPID?!?, which, no, that’s not what I’m saying. Actual worry would take a wholllle lot longer. Instead, I am just noting that this stuff stood out – a bit oddly – to me as a way of talking about the adjustment phase Seiya Suzuki is going through (Cubs.com):
Suzuki said he has not seen “that much difference” in how pitchers have attacked him lately in comparison to early in the season. Cubs manager David Ross did not disagree, calling the recent offensive dry spell more of an issue with timing than anything else ….
“He does his own homework,” [Cubs hitting coach Greg] Brown said. “He doesn’t want necessarily a lot of information. Pitch types, obviously. Movement. Type of break. We watch video. And I think that, again, his mind works pretty fast. So, when he’s in there, I think that he sees and processes information really well.”
• This is the second time we’ve heard about Suzuki not really wanting much information/data/scouting/whatever from the Cubs about the pitchers he is facing. For now, I can still bucket that in, “It’s so early and he probably wants to see everyone first on his own for a while before he worries about digging into the nitty gritty – information overload could absolutely be a bad thing for a guy in his position.” But I’m keeping an eye on it, because there does come a point at which the onus is on an organization to make sure they figure out a way to put a player in his best position to succeed with the tools they have available.
• As for the comment from Suzuki and Ross that they haven’t really noticed pitchers attacking him differently, I feel like it’s been relatively apparent from the outside. As we’ve talked about before, through the Rays series (first 12 games), pitchers threw in the strike zone just 42.3% of the time. After that, because he was swinging so infrequently in the strike zone, they’re up to 47.3% (next 12 games). In the first stretch, he was seeing a first pitch strike just 52.2% of the time. In this stretch, that is up to 64.0%. He’s also seeing fewer fastballs (46.9% versus 51.0%; that difference gets even larger if you include cutters), and more changeups (7.7% versus 11.8%). And, as Jordan Bastian pointed out, the fastballs are being elevated much more frequently. Maybe that’s all more a product of the pitchers he’s been seeing in each stretch than anything else, which is the kind of thing you’ve always got to be cautious about when talking about 12-game samples.
• Also, keep in mind: they could just be saying one thing publicly, and saying/doing another thing privately. That would annoying as a fan who wants to consume everything, but I don’t know that there’s a competitive advantage in always being completely transparent.
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• What we’ve always said about Patrick Wisdom remains true – almost nobody in the game hits the ball as well as he does, when he hits it:
What has been true with him remains true: Patrick Wisdom’s contact quality is ELITE. The challenge is making just enough contact for it to play. (So far so good!) https://t.co/7jnFCxcXlA
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 5, 2022
• Status check: the strikeout rate is 40.0%, which I think would ultimately still be about three clicks too high to support a strongly productive offensive season if everything stabilized for Wisdom (right now, he’s slashing .247/.306/.532 (137 wRC+), which is obviously great, but the .359 BABIP is probably at least 30-ish points on the lucky side). Jonathan Villar’s inability to play third base (and, more recently, hit) is going to be present an issue for Wisdom’s offense, since the Cubs will be less inclined to hide him against righties who can really spin the four-seamer up in the zone (where, God love him, Wisdom simply does not have a chance). That means there will be more games in which Wisdom is hoping for mistakes, and otherwise striking out. On the one hand, that’s a bummer, but on the other hand, I don’t hate letting him see more of those guys to determine whether he can at least incrementally improve.
• Jason Heyward is staying positive, and if you look at the stream of replies, his teammates clearly appreciate it:
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• A month into the season and this guy is hitting .400:
PCA is hitting .400 after a bunt single on the first pitch of the night
— Jordan Miller (@Miller_MiLB) May 5, 2022
• Oh also, he walks a lot. Oh also, he’s hitting for power. Oh also, he’s super fast and plays elite CF defense. Oh also, he bakes incredible banana bread (probably).
• We’ve focused a lot on Brennen Davis’s slow start to the year at Triple-A following talks about “when” he would join the big league outfield in 2022 (still could happen, but we’re being reminded that development is not linear and all that). But what I hadn’t noticed is the same thing playing out with Pirates top prospect Oneil Cruz, who was a mild surprise to not make the team out of Spring Training. The 6’7″ shortstop who can hit the ball as hard as anyone in baseball is currently hitting just .159/.266/.256 (47 wRC+, 30.9% K rate) at Triple-A, and clearly the Pirates were right about the timing of his ascendance. There are also still those questions about how a guy his size could actually stick at shortstop for more than another year or two (he’s 23 at the moment), and if he winds up moving to the outfield, there will be even more pressure on the bat.