This will be a quicky because, well, I can’t seem to muster the requisite mental capacity for much else just now. Besides, it’s good to take a few deep breaths before things ramp up in a big way next week. The addition of Michael Fulmer to the bullpen might be the last external move of any note for the Cubs until the trade deadline, but they should still be engaged in internal discussions.
Or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe by Jed Hoyer, who has noted multiple times throughout the offseason that he’d like to have any extensions buttoned up prior to spring training. The president of baseball operations spoke about his preferred timeline back in November and has referenced it in subsequent interviews, including during Cubs Convention.
“Don’t hold me to this, but I don’t really love negotiating in spring training,” Hoyer told reporters at the GM Meetings. “The more I do it, the more I think it causes real tension. Guys want to start the season. I’ve watched many deals fall apart in spring training. I just don’t think it’s a great way to start the season. I think I’d like to push that up a little bit.”
Sorry, Jed, we’re going to hold you to it.
Here we are just a few days from pitchers and catchers reporting and nary a word has been mentioned about any sort of progress on that front. For all his talk, Hoyer may not be a man of action when it comes to working out the sort of deals it’s going to take to lock up either Ian Happ or Nico Hoerner beyond their current obligations. While I applaud how the front office has spread money around over the past few weeks, value has been at the heart of those deals.
Is Hoyer willing and able to stretch beyond what his Ivy system says are the appropriate terms for either big extension candidate? I remain very skeptical that he is, and failing to work something out with at least Hoerner would be a big whiff.
Pitch synergy and a new slash line
I was recently made aware of baseball research enthusiast Eli Ben-Porat as a result of his work on pitch movement synergy. Rather than getting into the weeds on the concept, I’ll nutshell it by explaining that it essentially says different pitches work best when they maintain the same vertical or horizontal synergy for as long as possible. Make sense?
Let’s say a pitcher has a fastball with big arm-side run and he pairs it with a really sweepy slider. Hitters will be able to better discern the different pitches right out of the hand and they can lay off the slider. Matt Brash is a great example here and the thread below offers more context, but Cubs fans might also be reminded of post-2016 Jake Arrieta. In addition to numerous other issues, hitters spitting on his slutter didn’t help.
As a starter, Matt Brash had over 30" of horizontal separation between his Fastball and slider. Home plate is 17" for reference. No one is thinking the fastball and slider are the same pitch out of the hand and when you know the pitch you don't chase.
— Tieran (@Tieran711) August 5, 2022
That pitch synergy post spurred me to subscribe to Ben-Porat’s blog, so I get frequent updates on his work. I’m really looking forward to his breakdown of the Cubs’ synergy, which is actually something I sort of wrote about last August after seeing Tieran Alexander’s tweets. Until then, I’ll subsist on stuff like BAPP.
Batting Average, Patience, Power is a new triple-slash line that gives a better idea than the traditional average/OBP/slugging line of describing a hitter. Ben-Porat is very clear that this is not meant to be a measure of value like wRC+ or other such metrics, just a more accurate way to see how a hitter does what they do. Average is the same in both cases, but subbing in walk percentage and ISO eliminates a lot of noise.
While I highly doubt it’ll crack the common nomenclature, I agree that BAPP is better. The one issue I have with it is that it’s very difficult to recalibrate your brain to see much lower numbers in the second and third sections. Since we tend to think of .300/.400/.500 as benchmarks for excellence, seeing .300/.125/.275 makes you think the hitter was bad. Even .311/.159/.375 doesn’t seem all that impressive, but it’s what Aaron Judge just did.
As I just said, I like having new ways to view the game and I think Ben-Porat’s site is a great space for like-minded people.
Bill Russell: Legend
It’s obviously not about the Cubs or baseball, but I just finished this Netflix documentary and I feel compelled to recommend you do the same. I was a Celtics fan for a long time because of Larry Bird and maintained my fondness even when I realized Indiana had an NBA team. As such, Russell has always been an iconic figure. It was only as I got older that I realized just how big a legend he was off the court.
The film details Russell’s basketball stardom, but it does an even better job of discussing the man and activist through a wealth of images and interviews. His balletic play on the court was fueled by an intense desire to win, and his work in the civil rights movement was driven by a need to ensure the world was a better place for everyone. It’s an emotional watch, for sure.
Have a great weekend, everyone.