The Rundown: A Tale of Two Kyles, Happ To Lead Off, MiLB Players To Be Exempt from Fair Wage Standards

Yu Darvish is good, right?

Now, I don’t want to temper anybody’s excitement, but the players are about as done with spring training as we are right now. Not that you’d know it from the way they’re pitching. Darvish’s recent outing served as another shining example of how the Cubs rotation has dominated pretty much all spring.

  • Darvish: 16.1 IP, 4BB 20 K
  • Hendricks: 15 IP 0 BB 21 K
  • Chatwood: 16 IP 8 BB 20 K
  • Lester: 15 IP 5 BB 15 K
  • Quintana: 9 IP 2 BB 9 K

That Hendricks line? Wow.

“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The methodical and consistent right-hander has posted a career 11.8 WAR with a 2.94 ERA and a 3.43 FIP but has never been much of a strikeout pitcher. He is frustrating to hit against because he changes speeds and moves the ball well. He has pinpoint accuracy and a knack for keeping hitters off balance because he knows and understands each batter’s weaknesses. Rarely has a guy with such a pedestrian fastball made hitting look so futile and torturous.

I don’t like the comparisons to Greg Maddux, but the peripherals certainly line up and Hendricks is actually better at this stage of his career than Maddux was. The strikeouts, though, could be a game-changer. If Hendricks is going to whiff batters with this kind of consistency throughout the season, he may win the Cy Young award. (As I reread this paragraph I feel like I channeled Steve Stone).

“There is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.”  – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

No one can blame Kyle Schwarber for wanting to move on from last season. After being recognized as a genuine folk hero for his 2016 World Series performance, Schwarber hit .211 and was sent to Triple-A Iowa for a time last year. He struck out 38 times in the first 25 games of the season. From May 3 to June 3, Schwarber got just nine hits in 76 at-bats.

But Schwarbs is really mashing this spring. “I think (his swing) is more under control – more hands, less arms,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “With that, he’s doing it easier. I thought there was more body involvement, just a more grinding approach, and it’s eased up a bit. That’s what we’re seeing, and better adjustments with two strikes.’’

The fact he has been consistently good this spring justifies the Cubs’ belief that he’s going to have a big rebound year.

“It’s baseball, so you never know,” said Theo Epstein. “I just know we really believe in the person, and we really believe in the hitter. Yes, I’ve been wrong. But I’ll bet on this guy.”

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs want to get off to a fast start this season, much like they did in 2016 when the team won 25 of its first 31 games.

Ian Happ will be the Cubs’ primary leadoff hitter, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Happ hasn’t been officially named to the role, and manager Joe Maddon likes to switch things up a bit, so others such as Albert Almora Jr. and even Schwarber or Anthony Rizzo will hit leadoff from time to time. Still, the expectation is that Happ will lead off the majority of the time that he’s in the lineup. “You’ll probably see him there a bit,” Maddon said Wednesday. “I really haven’t finalized anything.”

Schwarber and Kris Bryant homered in yesterday’s 5-1 win.

How About That!

The White Sox enter the 2018 season with a long line of promising prospects to go with a strong belief that they are setting themselves up to make a big jump in the standings. ”We’re going to shoot high and we’ll see where it falls,” manager Rick Renteria said.

After surrendering three homers in an inning in each of his past two starts, Jeff Samardzija started a Triple-A game against the Cubs on Wednesday with three fantastic innings. But he lost it in the fourth, giving up two more taters to prospects Bijan Rademacher and P.J. Higgins.

The national spending bill that’s expected to pass Congress later this week includes a provision exempting minor-league baseball players from labor standards, which means that paying those players paltry wages would go from being an incredibly stupid tradition to actual federal law. It is a sad reflection on baseball.

The Astros’ and Cubs’ successes have birthed a tanking backlash, but the sport’s non-competitive class is neither new nor detrimental.

Bleacher Report provides quick run through of the new pace-of-play rules that will be implemented during the upcoming season.

The Hall of Fame will no longer use the Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo.

The Brewers did their own version of iconic baseball movie The Sandlot as part of the team’s 2018 marketing campaign and in celebration of the movie’s 25th anniversary, and the video has gone viral.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Bullpenning – using a mixture of relief pitchers every 5th day to limit starting pitchers’ exposure while optimizing reliever use.
  • Sorry, haters: The Yankees are loaded — and there’s more talent on the way.
  • Entering Thursday, Kyle Schwarber is hitting .429 with a .500 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching. Maybe the rest of the team should have the same thing for lunch that Schwarber does. “Chicken. Lots of chicken.” It worked for Wade Boggs.

They Said It

  • “These guys absolutely get it. They’re on a mission, no question. They want to go back to what happened in 2016. They didn’t like what happened last year, but they kind of understand what did (happen) and how we worked through it and eventually almost got back to our goal.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I don’t like when hitters swing at a baseball. Hit it, strike it, throw the head at it. I think [Schwarber’s] doing more of that. He’s not swinging at it with his arms.” – Joe Maddon
  • “Some form of bullpenning is the future of baseball. It’s just a matter of the extremity.” – Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto.
  • “The manager in today’s world is an extension of the front office’s philosophies and the front office’s efforts and someone that you can collaborate and work with.”  – Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

Thursday Walk Up Song

For The Love of Money by the O’Jay’s featuring Daryl Hall. You go MiLB.

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