Good to See Nico Back, Discipline, Bad Contracts, Stolen Bases, and Other Cubs Bullets
Just three more days … I am very ready for Opening Day …
- It was a relief to see Nico Hoerner back in the lineup yesterday after missing a few days with biceps tightness. Obviously Hoerner has dealt with a lot of random injury issues already in his career – some soft tissue, some just totally flukey – but last season we could all see how valuable he is over a full year when he stays healthy. The Cubs will need that again this year.
- A couple of interviews with Hoerner if you want to do some light reading. At The Athletic, Hoerner talked about leadership, extension talks (not that he was going to give anything up), and discipline at the plate. On the latter, I thought this was a mature way to think about it: “The only games I’ve left not happy with my day are when I feel like mentally I didn’t get to a place where I’m fully present and competing. It’s easy to say that in the season I’ll be totally locked in for every at-bat. But the reality is there are 600 at-bats. If you can shrink it from 30 to 15 at-bats to where you’re just not totally there, that kind of thing is a separator.” That’s some thoughtful candor right there.
- At FanGraphs, Hoerner talks all about hitting, and it’s a great read. I can’t even choose a pull quote to share as the thing that stood out to me most, because it was actually the overall sense that stood out. The sense that, for Hoerner, the single most important thing in his hitting approach has nothing at all to do with his swing – it’s all about the pitches he chooses to swing at. That’s what he wants to be right about, and that’s when he knows things are going well. We probably don’t focus on that enough when we talk about how well a guy is barreling the ball, for example. Sure, the timing and the swing matters, but each guy has a set of pitches that he CAN barrel well, and a set that he cannot. So making the right swing decisions is probably 80% of that battle.
- That seems fair after one year:
- A reminder that the Rockies signed lefty Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $121 million contract 23 years ago ($206 million in today’s money, accounting only for inflation and NOT accounting for escalating salaries relative to inflation). For that signing, they got a 5.75 ERA over 381.2 innings. They were able to unload a portion of his remaining a salary after those first two disastrous years, but they had to take back bad contracts to do it, and had to give up a young outfielder named Juan Pierre in the deal. For all our jokes about Pierre’s style, he was quite good in the years that followed that trade. So let’s just say Bryant has a long, long way to sink before he’s in the conversation implied by that tweet.
- Speaking of guys like Juan Pierre … This is fantastic, and I really hope we do see the return of 100+ steals:
- Totally expected, but nevertheless great, quotes from Rickey Henderson, who wants to see a few hundred steals added to his record 1406:
“I don’t like the bigger bases because I think I’m getting short-changed,” Henderson said, laughing. “But if it’s going to make the game more exciting, I’m in. They got to prioritize speed more. The game’s gotten away from that. I want to see the game be more exciting, hit and runs, squeezes instead of this one-dimension (offense) that’s been going on. Baseball has become boring ….
“The problem is organizations don’t let them run because of the launch angle stuff. They thought getting thrown out at second base would take away from a guy who may hit a home run that’s up at the plate,” he said. “But you gotta let these kids run. Let the kids run, that’s what I think.”
- You do wonder if some of the behavioral changes tied to stolen bases and the new rules will actually take a long time to shake out – yes, there are immediate impacts, but what about changes in the way players are scouted and selected and developed? If speed becomes more valuable, that might take quite a few draft cycles to shake out into the big leagues.
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- The Braves revealed their City Connects today, and they’re more like a throwback than something totally new (I get the tribute, and they look nice, but doesn’t quite seem the point):
- Catcher’s gotta help his pitcher out a LITTLE bit, c’mon man:
- Uhh. Holy crap. He also pitches quite well. Draft eligible in 2024. Cubs should probably tank again:
- Tons of snacks and oatmeal and cereal and granola bars are on sale at Amazon today if you want to stock up. #ad