It’s one of those Saturday’s where the crush of Kid Activities is almost overwhelming, and we’re gonna be running around all day. It’s all good stuff, though, so I don’t mind. I just means I’ll have the head on a swivel.
• There seem to be only moral victories this year for the Cubs, and last night’s installment was 10 innings of one-run ball at Yankee Stadium for the Cubs’ bullpen (with the one run coming on a non-obliterated* home run off of Daniel Norris, who had to come quickly into the game after Wade Miley’s injury). They all looked good, too. Chris Martin looked ready to rock, despite his layoff. Mychal Givens did this weird thing where he did not throw a single fastball in his effective inning (so that was interesting). David Robertson had the best movement on his curveball I’ve maybe seen all year. Brandon Hughes and Rowan Wick held their stuff through two innings apiece. Scott Effross, I mean, he does what he does.
• Even Norris, who’s had a disappointing year overall, was once again showing nasty stuff. Did you even notice that he has a 34.1% strikeout rate this year? Heck, his 4.35 ERA in relief isn’t even THAT bad (just 5% worse than league average). If your WORST reliever is just barely below average and strikes out more than a third of the batters he faces, I’d say you’ve crafted a pretty good bullpen group. And that’s despite long-term injuries to Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck, Manny Rodriguez, Ethan Roberts, and Adbert Alzolay!
• Stray fun(?) fact on the Cubs’ bullpen overall this year: they have the best xFIP in baseball, which is THEORETICALLY a measure of FIP that tries to strip out the flukiness of home runs (sometimes the exact same contact leaves one ballpark but wouldn’t leave another, sometimes there is weather stuff, sometimes there is ball stuff, etc.). In other words, if home run rates operated as expected for the Cubs, they would have the best bullpen in baseball. But, by ERA, they’re actually just barely inside the top half in baseball. That’s all a long way of saying: the Cubs’ bullpen has been great, except they have given up a lot of home runs. So that might be terrible or it might be flukey or it might be a combination of the two. Do with that what you will.
• *(Speaking of non-obliterated home runs at Yankee Stadium, I just noticed that the Jason Heyward one was only 96.3 mph off the bat and had an expected batting average of just .330. I swear I don’t work overtime to be hard on Heyward. I just saw it while perusing the Statcast data and, well, it stood out for obvious reasons.)
• Chris Morel just keeps streaking and impressing and being kind:
22 game on-base streak! pic.twitter.com/iaGg50rfI6
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 11, 2022
.@Cubs standout rookie Christopher Morel is appreciating every moment of his young MLB career and tonight he checks another dream off his list, playing at Yankee Stadium.#MLBNOffBase | @LGRed | @Keith_McPherson | @Anthony_Recker | @ellen_adair pic.twitter.com/1JaLXWRRe9
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) June 10, 2022
Chris Morel remains unfailingly kind. pic.twitter.com/QHLEbraB8q
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) June 10, 2022
• Now past the 100 plate appearance mark, Morel is hitting .303/.388/.528/154 wRC+, which is just ridiculous. Even more impressive to me, given the trajectory of his development, is that he’s walking 11.7% of the time and striking out just 21.4% of the time. He hasn’t had a better walk OR strikeout rate since HE WAS 18 IN THE DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE. I just blew my own mind looking that up.
• Generally speaking, guys who hit the ball as hard as Morel does, and who put up those kinds of discipline numbers are stars. I still don’t know if he can keep it up for the rest of the season, but when you do it past that 100 plate appearance mark, it’s meaningful.
• Willson Contreras was relieved not to have to go through with the arbitration hearing against the Cubs. Per NBC, he wasn’t worried about it, but he didn’t necessarily want to hear negative things about himself and then have to think about them afterward.
• Heads up – Homage is doing buy one, get one 40% off today with free shipping. Tons of baseball gear (though tons of other random fun stuff, too).
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) June 11, 2022
• Kevin Alcántara, who still isn’t fully filled out, has so much power it’s ridiculous. Opposite field, significant loft, no-doubter:
Kevin Alcantara’s seventh big fly of the season is a two-run homer.
Pelicans 3, Mudcats 1 in the bottom of the fourth. pic.twitter.com/EOjndsMwlG
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) June 11, 2022
• We keep seeing this story play out over and over again on the farm this year, and it’s EXACTLY what you want to see: Guy forces a promotion, struggles initially at his new level, and then breaks out after a slow week or two. (This tweet was inspired by Alexander Canario, who is RAKING at Double-A now, but could have been about any number of prospects.)
• You’ll have to click through to the tweet to see the full quote, because it goes on and on and the image cuts off, but here’s Tony La Russa still trying to defend his decision to intentionally walk Trea Turner in a 1-2 count with two outs so that he could match up against Max Muncy, who subsequently homered:
— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) June 10, 2022
• Terrible news for 2017 first overall pick Royce Lewis, who’d come back this year looking so good – after not playing since 2019 – only for this to happen:
Royce Lewis has a partial tear to the ACL in his right knee, the same one he had surgically repaired last year. Rocco says he’s headed for another ACL reconstruction surgery.
Estimated recovery time is 12 months for now for the #MNTwins No. 1 prospect.
— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) June 10, 2022
• It was a bad day for first overall picks. The guy who was taken first the very next year? He’s getting Tommy John surgery, albeit in a unique situation:
Asked A.J. Hinch why it can take so long to determine surgery is needed. Mize first went on the IL on April 15 and was shut down twice in his recovery.
Hinch answered the question as best he could. Mize still doesn't have a torn UCL. Just a ligament that isn't functioning. pic.twitter.com/vRDnqYpkXi
— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) June 10, 2022
• I really am just in awe every time I see Aaron Judge. Frank Schwindel is NOT a small dude:
Aaron Judge makes Frank Schwindel look like Frank Madrigal. pic.twitter.com/DbuFcHyX6H
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) June 10, 2022
• Just wait until Khalil Mack lines up next to Aaron Donald some day down the road:
It is time. pic.twitter.com/FaCYFiemo5
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 11, 2022
• Ben Joyce, everyone’s favorite fireballing college pitcher, is now being stretched to over 60 pitches in an appearance:
Ben Joyce's 29 Pitches at 101mph or higher (not including pitches that had no on-screen gun reading). pic.twitter.com/UHiyiA2KaP
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2022
• There is going to be a team that wants to give him a chance to start in the minor leagues, and is therefore going to draft him as high as those compensatory/competitive balance picks after the first round. I just suspect it. I don’t think he’ll still be on the board by the time the Cubs pick in the second round, and I also am not sure you could justify using the pick there on him if you think he’s relief-only. Dang if he’s not fun to follow, though.