Whammy! Cubs 4 Mets 1

I could watch that all day. Anthony Rizzo‘s was impressive as well, but Javier Baez‘s home runs are never cheap it seems. I am not sure if Javier Baez is going to be a unicorn or a bust, but it is fun to watch him destroy baseballs. The other 8 and half innings were okay for the Cubs as well.


Source: FanGraphs

Power Arms
Kyle Hendricks delivered another sterling effort, but I want to talk about the Cubs hard throwing duo of Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon first. Neil Ramirez’s velocity dropped and then he was sent to the minors but not really and ended up on the disabled list. He came back and his velocity remained down. Today though was what we had been treated to earlier in the season with a fastball consistently hitting 94 and 95 mph with a wipeout slider. Hector Rondon continues to be the greatest Cubs rule 5 draft pick (it is rule 5 by the way and not rule V) since Hack Wilson. Relievers are fickle, but these two provide the Cubs their best 1-2 punch in the last two innings since Marmol and Wood?

Kids Report Card
Arismendy Alcantara line score looks terrible at the end of the day, but it wasn’t a terrible performance by him. He finished 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts, but the two strikeouts came on called pitcher’s strikes. Javier Baez also had two strikeouts, but the home run reminds us of why he is so excited. The pitch was a mistake, a belt high fastball over the heart of the plate, but Baez punishes mistakes like few can. The defense from the pair didn’t result in any highlight reel plays today, but has been better than I think most expected.

In Defense of Castro
The focus has rightfully been on the offensive renaissance of Starlin Castro, but not enough attention has been paid to the defensive improvements that Castro has made this season. Castro has drawn some warranted and some unwarranted criticism for his fielding, but the calls for moving him off of shortstop have all but stopped this year. The series in New York has been a bit of tour de force for Castro’s glove, but the slick play Castro made in the seventh to finish Hendricks night. The errorless streak was ended earlier, but his fielding percentage is up dramatically.

Play It Again Sam
Ricky Renteria earned some criticism earlier in the year for his use of challenges. I recall more than a few comparisons to Lovie Smith, and not entirely unwarranted criticism mind you either. Today he made two good challenges and was rewarded on one of the two. I also would like to point out just how quick the umpire in New York was on making the calls. We’ve witnessed more than a few that have dragged on, but the reviews were timely and logical which are two things that we haven’t been able to describe replay a number of times. Games like today leave me confident that MLB will get it right eventually with replay.

Random Reference
My thoughts drifted to the Simpsons again when thinking about this game in my head. Treehouse of Horror III was the episode in which Homer has an exchange with the owner of the House of Evil( “your one stop shop for evil”). The exchange in my head goes something like this:
Owner: The Cubs hit two home runs.
Homer: That’s good.
Owner: The Cubs struck out 11 times.
Homer: That’s bad.
Owner: But Kyle Hendricks pitched seven innings and only allowed one run.
Homer: That’s good.
Owner: Hendricks only struck out three and walked two.
Homer: That’s bad.
Owner: But the Cubs won.
Homer: That’s good.
Owner: This meaningless, marginal win potentially cost the Cubs draft position and potentially millions in the draft signing bonuses.
Homer: (silence)
Owner: That’s bad.
Homer: Can I go now?

Three Stars
Third Star-Kyle Hendricks (7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K)
Hendricks earned yet another win and another quality start. The results have been beyond belief so far. The Duda homerun was a mistake that was crushed, but otherwise Hendricks was nearly perfect today.

Second Star-Luis Valbuena (3-4, 1 RBI)
Valbuena tied the game with a single. He also made a nifty play to help Hendricks out in what was a solid night. Bat flip game was weak, but we will over look that in awarding him second star.

First Star-Anthony Rizzo (2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 HR)
The emerging super star that is Anthony Rizzo did it all. Great defensive plays, scored the tying run and hit the game winning home run is all in the days work for the Rizziah. I don’t believe in clutch as an ability, but Anthony Rizzo is starting to move into Alex S. Gonzalez territory in challenging that belief. It seems like nearly every home run that Rizzo is hitting is either a game tying or one to take the lead.

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  • Thanks for the recap! I believe Hendricks being able to change speeds and locate will compensate for not missing as many as bats. He is so intelligent hitters will more times than not be out in front or late due to his change-up and ability to locate the fastball anywhere. He may have a high contact rate but the balls won't be hit with as much authority. I'm glad the Cubs have him!

  • In reply to David23:

    Concern over Ks is just stupid. More arms( Kerry Wood) have been ruined buy emphasis on Ks than any other cause.. There are 8 guys out there to get outs. I believe pitching to contact is a far superior strategy.

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    In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    That emphasis on K's is responsible for arm troubles is highly debatable. Clayton Kershaw, and Yu Darvish both played through their danger years with no problem, whereas Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker go down.

    Overuse as an younger pitcher seems a more important factor.

  • I will say,.... Hendricks is fun to watch,.... and so are Rizzo, Castro, Baez and even Alcantara,.....

    So - how long until we start the Jorge Soler watch and first game played pool?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Iowa fell 2 games out of first. If they don't make the playoffs, could happen sooner rather than later.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hate to root against the guys in Iowa,.... but that would be one consolation I suppose.

  • Great stuff, Gunther. I noticed, with a bit of alarm, the decline in Ramirez's velo his first time out. Back to 'normal' today. If both of them can stay away from walks they're pretty much nails!!

    Hendricks has been a wonderful surprise (or sorts). The lack of a put away FB is a tad worrisome, but his intelligence, control, and command continue to amaze. Some pullback is coming... but I don't imagine, with his moxie and intelligence, that it'll be long term.

    I've never listened to the critics of Starlin's defense. It's been noticeably improved this year, almost from the outset. The sloppiness on throws has stopped for the most part. Very impressed.

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    I predict he'll be called up 8/25. Why? I noticed that they like to call guys up before they go on the road. And that is an off day before a road trip starts. And I'd also like to see him next week

  • Saw a tweet from a Mets writer aye Baez hit his home run that said something like "and Javier Baez, the future Mets shortstop smashes a home run"

    Thought that was funny and hopefully not accurate!

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    Beat writer or blogger? I've noticed Michael Baron is fond of referring to Javier Baez as a future Met.

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    So they gave up on getting Castro?

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    In reply to stix:

    I read somewhere that it is Russell or Baez that they want. We'll wait and see what they offer, I would wait to see how bad they want one of those 2...

  • In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    I admit to bias as I am a big fan of Castro - and I concur with many here that Baez has an amazing ceiling,....

    But if one of those 3 is going - at this point I would have to say Russell,.... but only because I haven't seen enough of the guy to get attached to him yet.

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    Who would youb rather have Javier Baez or John Lester? No contest.

  • OMG one of my favorite Simpsons Halloween vignettes ever. You nailed it!!!

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    In reply to JamesInFLA:

    What makes Hendricks smart? Wasn't a power pitcher like Randy Johnson smart? Or Roger Clemons?

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    In reply to Dave Boer:

    What makes Hendricks smart? For starters, he graduated from an esteemed institution of higher learning, Dartmouth. I would assume one must have a fairly high degree of smarts to do so. More importantly, Kyle Hendricks also spends countless hours in the video room, watching film and looking over scouting reports from the team's advanced scouts. He is always soaking up advice from his coaches and he does everything in his power to get the absolute most out of his talent. That's what makes him so smart.

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    In reply to Dave Boer:


  • In reply to JamesInFLA:

    Thanks James. Have to be honest that exchange hit me half way through writing this recap, but was inspired by some of the exchanges I've had online. Either way I am glad some appreciate my weird connections of Cubs baseball to television I've watched.

  • I think one thing I'm especially excited about in thinking about Hendricks is almost no one thinks he projects as a #1 or #2, but his stuff will play like that from time to time due to his ability to locate and change speeds so well. When he is on the ball dances so much a result will be like a #1 or #2 pitcher.

    Maybe I'm wrong, and of course they'll be some drop off, but what he can do with the ball isn't found too often on major league staffs.

  • In reply to David23:

    According to Bill James' GameScore stats any pitcher capable of putting up perennial values over 60 is an ace... it is very difficult to accomplish. Jake Arrieta currently sits at 60.7 for 2014; Kyle Hendricks is at 63!

    Yeah I know SSS, but if Hendricks is a fringe BOR starter I want the Cubs to have four more in the rotation just like him.

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    So, it was another game that Cubs pitching held the other team to 4 hits or less. What a nice surprise! We keep doing that and get our offense in sync, we'll end the season on a very positive note!

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    In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    That was 4 games in a row that the Cubs pitchers have help the other team to 4 hits.

  • A Rookie Pitcher throws 7 innings of 1 run ball and he only gets #3 star status.

    Maybe we are getting spoiled with our great pitching already.

    I still have a lot of questions/concerns about Baez. I truly believe that if any of the 3 SS's get moved, he would be the one.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Think that is more of a statement over the hitting depths the Cubs have. I debated a bit on flip flopping Valbuena and Hendricks for what it is worth, but Anthony Rizzo to me was no doubt choice for first star.

  • Interesting post out on Fangraphs about how MLB pitchers had a scouting report on Baez from Day One, and they've been very careful about giving him anything in the zone.


    Reading this, we should thank our lucky stars that the FO emphasized pitch selection for Baez, or else he'd be striking out 75 percent of his ABs. That being said, it's also clear that the Baez hype has deprived him of the usual rookie diet of meatballs. Junior Lake is even worse in terms of pitch recognition, but pitchers gave him plenty to hit in his first few weeks. It's going to take a while for Baez to adapt to the way they're pitching him in the bigs, but once he does... look out.

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    I agree that Baez might be the ss to get traded. His wow factor might cause another team to overpay. With heavy strikeout players around the field (including Bryant), if they trade a potential 200k/year player for high-quality arms, then that sounds like a huge win.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    I agree. I worry about trading Starlin.....he's a known commodity and a pretty good one at that. Easy to forget he's only 24. If he makes a similar improvement next year like he has this year he's one of the elite shortstops in the league.

  • Following today's Baez home run, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs had this to say: "Often when Baez connects, he connects in the way that meteorites connect with the surface of Earth."

  • In reply to October:

    Very interesting article. Not totally surprising, but very interesting. Thanks for linking.

  • Wheeler & Syndergaard for Baez & Olt....I'm trying to decide which side says no...or perhaps it's a good deal for both teams. The Mets have Harvey, Gee, Neise, DeGrom, Montero, and even Colon for another year, with a stable of young arms in the system. The Cubs have Castro as SS now, Russell for the future, Bryant for 3rd, Tons of quality OF's to choose from (Soler, Almora, Schwarber, McKinney, etc) and Alcantara could go right back to 2nd base where he profiles as a stud defensively and at least above average offensively...plenty good enough until Russell gets here and Castro moves to 2B where he will be a better defender.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I think the Cubs say no. I don't think they want to trade Baez. Just make NY squirm if they want one of our SS. Tell them that Tulo is available. The longer Theo waits the higher their offer will get. Should be entertaining. I can see this going for a while.

  • In reply to John57:

    I tend to agree with this.

  • There is no doubt Baez can launch bombs but do it more often be for we get jacked up. 1 for 5 and 2 whiffs. Go to put ball in play more

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    While I have been one of Hendricks' supporters throughout I can't help but look at his stat line and say he got very lucky today. To go 7IP and only have 3K that is A LOT of balls in play. To me I need him to have close to a 2.5 or even 3-4:1 K:BB ratio. All the smarts in the world aren't going to keep a guy with low K totals and almost as many walks as K's in the win column for long. I am hoping this was a case of "winning with less than his best stuff" but the Mets are far from a juggernaut and that has me concerned. While I agree that pitchers can do things to result in weak contact those can sneak through for hits too, even doubles sometimes if they are well placed.

    That being said, it was just one game. It was also a win. I'll take that.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I noticed more than a few pitches up. Not sure that I am hyper-sensitive to it from a control guy like Hendricks or it it is something that Hendricks needs to worry about in all honesty, but elevated cutters on the inner half of the plate is something I see far too much for my liking.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    I was thinking about that during the game. I don't know what numbers he normally runs of groundouts to flyballs, but seemed like more than a fair share. He still seems to get out of it most of the time, but need more ground balls.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    How many ML pitchers have a 3-4 K:BB ratio? As long as Hendricks keeps the BB ratio down, and doesn't serve up the long ball (he had a very low HR9 ratio in MiLB), he'll be fine. There will be games where he'll get squeezed by the umps or balls in play will fall for hits. Still, his control is so exceptional, I think these will be more the exception, not the rule.

    He's just getting to work with Bosio, who's a genius. I wouldn't be surprised if offseason work with Bosio doesn't improve his curveball next season. Also, they mention on Chicago Tribune Live that for the first time in his career, Hendricks is getting advanced scouting reports on hitters. They don't have those things in the minors. They also said the guy is like Thibs watching film of the hitters he will face. This is a pitcher who will be well prepared every start. It's like a QB who goes into a game and knows the other team's defense inside and out.

  • I've bought into the 'don't develop pitching' mantra.

    Any way the cubs continue to 'bend the rules' of baseball by giving some pitchers 2 years for 55M or 60M -- or some very high per year value on a short term contract? This takes advantage of their available cash without reducing their flexibility.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    I am all on board the don't buy pitch until you are ready to make noise in October train, but that is not a very large train apparently. I'd be lying if the meatball part of my brain doesn't want the Cubs to pay 50 million a year for 2 TOR arms, but the logical part just wants to continue to make these upsides plays with a few calculated gambles on long term deals for proven arms.

  • I think any Baez trade talk is really premature. When he got called up, I (along with most people) thought he would hit some monstrous HRs but have a low BA and strike out a lot. Admittedly, he's struck out more than I'd like, but he's adjusted at every previous level. Granted, this is the hardest level, but give him some time. Like John (I think?) said before, he's a trial and error type of learner. Hopefully over the next few weeks, he'll start to adjust and the K rate will start going down some. But he's already shown the ability to hit mistakes to the moon. That's special power you don't trade unless you're getting a huge return.

  • Just wondering if Neil Ramirez shoulder is OK how long would the changeover process be for him to build up arm strength for a starters roll . He has done it before and the Cubs seem to have a gaggle of possible relievers coming up Armando Rivero, Arodys Vizcaino, Kyuji Fujikawa, Blake Parker, and several already here Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, Hector Rondon with several more on the way Corey Black, Zac Rosscup and others.

  • In reply to Andrew444:

    And don't forget about Cervenka. Lots of potential there IMO.

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    Stinnett promoted?

  • In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    yes, it was listed on the league transactions page yesterday.

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