The Juiced Ball Window, Cardinals Rotation, Bold Pitch Clock Prediction, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Juiced Ball Window, Cardinals Rotation, Bold Pitch Clock Prediction, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

So far, so good. Cubs haven’t lost a game all year.

  • Yesterday when I was looking at where Justin Steele’s 2022 performance placed him among the better starting pitchers, and where he WOULD be with just a slight improvement in his results, there was a name that stood out like a sore thumb in that about-25-percent-better-than-average-by-ERA-and-FIP group: Jose Quintana. I knew he’d had a very good 2022 season, but I guess I didn’t realize that it’s not like his results were THAT CRAZY OUT OF WHACK with his underlying peripherals. And I definitely didn’t realize how much he’d gotten back to looking like the guy he was in his best days with the White Sox, in terms of how he was getting the results. Jose Quintana was really good in 2022. Full stop.
  • I also didn’t realize just how pronounced his home run issues were with the Cubs compared to the rest of his career … and that his time with the Cubs EXACTLY aligned with the juiced ball era. You may not be able to see it in the Twitter embed below (sometimes the embed crops the image weird), but Quintana’s HR/FB rate was 8.7% pre-Cubs, and then 5.3% last year. With the Cubs? It was 13.4%! And almost all of his performance result issues came from home runs! You can see he even tried to give up fewer fly balls overall to counteract the higher proportion of fly balls that were leaving the park, but that wasn’t enough.
  • Based on Statcast’s expected homer metric, Quintana probably got a little lucky this year (expected to give up 3.3 more homers than he actually gave up, which was 10th highest in baseball), but it wasn’t all luck. This is a guy whose style seems to put him right there on the border where an extra 30 feet of fly ball distance, on average, can kill him. But you take that away, and he can be a stud.
  • Also, the juiced ball era – fits and spurts from mid-2017 through 2021 – was also a perfect fit for the Cubs’ decline, when their focus on power bats ceased to give them anything close to the offensive advantaged they’d hoped for (and somewhat realized) in 2015 and 2016. I’m not saying the juiced ball was the cause of the Cubs’ decline, of course. Just that the timing, for their bats and for a guy like Quintana, was pretty unfortunate in hindsight.
  • Maybe losing Quintana to the Mets will really hurt the Cardinals’ rotation or something. I’m half kidding – since it was a half season – but I do see a lot of risk there. They have health questions (Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz), age/decline questions (Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas), was-that-legit questions (Jordan Montgomery), is-he-gonna-develop questions (Matthew Liberatore), and how-much-does-losing-Yadi-hurt questions. I can see the offense being unbelievable, especially after Jordan Walker arrives. But I’m not sure the Cardinals have done enough for their pitching.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote five bold predictions for 2023, and I actually think he didn’t go bold enough on a couple of them (Shohei Ohtani will get $400 million? He might get $500 million!), and I think he’s going to be right about this:

The pitch clock will result in the most noticeable change to the game since drug testing

A turning point is coming. Starting this season, the pitch clock will change things for the better. Moment to moment, the game will have a bit more momentum. And there will be a meaningful reduction in time of game without losing any action. That’s great for fans and even for players, who may reduce wear and tear by spending less time on their feet. Within a month or two, the pitch clock will be so universally beloved, we’ll be wondering why MLB didn’t implement one earlier.

  • The part of that I hadn’t really considered, though, and why I’m sharing it here: the wear and tear argument. Is there a chance that the mere fact of games being shorter will, over the course of 162 games, improve player health in the aggregate? A little less soreness and tiredness here and there (which can, in the wrong circumstances, make an injury more likely)?
  • At first I thought that was a little pie-in-the-sky, but consider, if games are shorter by just 20 minutes, that’s 50+ hours less “work” for players in a season. In theory, you are chopping out dead time, so it’s really just standing around on the field – does that accumulate, over 54 hours, into any kind of meaningful wear and tear? What if it’s replaced by extra rest time? Extra recovery work? Extra stretching? I don’t know that I’m sold on player health being a benefit of the pitch clock, but it’s interesting to think about.
  • The tip of the cap is what gets me:

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.