There was a lot going on in the NL Central Wednesday in addition to the Cubs’ come-from-behind win over the Brewers that resembled a dinosaur (see below). As such, I wanted to slap together a quick post on three observations from the evening. But first, we need to take a look at how the win probability shifted last night. Wow.
— Randall J. Sanders (@RandallJSanders) July 6, 2023
Elsewhere in the division, the Reds kept up their winning ways against the Nationals in DC, and they did it behind yet another outstanding performance from phenom Elly De La Cruz. But not before a bit of drama. The towering shortstop has what appears to be a Blast Motion sensor for measuring swing stats during BP on the knob of his bat. While he can’t have the device during games, MLB provided the Reds with clearance to keep the housing on when he hits.
Nats manager Davey Martinez asked to have the bat checked and the umpiring crew, which hadn’t been informed of MLB’s decision yet, had De La Cruz remove the housing. He struck out in that at-bat, after which the umps got word that it was okay for him to put the little sleeve back on. De La Cruz then blasted a 455-foot homer and asked Martinez whether he’d like to check the bat again prior to beginning his trot.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 6, 2023
De La Cruz also hit a pair of doubles as he builds a reputation for being one of the most fun players in the game to watch right now. Outside of Shohei Ohtani, I don’t know that there’s another player who alone is worth the price of admission. Your mileage may vary on that one, but Cincy has quickly become one of the most exciting teams in MLB and that pains me to admit.
You know who’s not fun? The Cardinals. They never have been to anyone who’s not already a fan of theirs, but this year’s team is just awful. And in very un-Cardinals fashion, they keep finding new and worse ways to lose. If you haven’t already seen it, watch how they choked away the game on a three-base error.
Marlins win… Like this hahaha.
Unreal. This Marlins team is something, and this Cardinals team is something else. pic.twitter.com/VPHCAeoiuz
— Isaac Azout (@IsaacAzout) July 6, 2023
You have to credit the Marlins too, as they are now 21-5 in one-run games and currently sit second in the East with a strong grip on the top Wild Card spot. They’re doing what the Cubs were supposed to do and, even if that stellar performance is unsustainable, it’s clear they’ve got a team that can leverage the little areas around the margins.
Bringing it back around to the Cubs, there’s a sense that they might be trying a little too hard at times to create advantages rather than just letting things work. Take Jameson Taillon, for example. Much was made about working with him to develop a sweeper, which was a really interesting endeavor for a guy who’d just spent two years with an organization known for teaching that pitch. While it was said that injuries limited Taillon’s ability to tweak his stuff during his time with the Yankees, the change was worth noting.
The Cubs are now 2-12 in Taillon starts and the big righty is walking more batters than he has since his sophomore season in 2017 while also allowing more homers than ever. Is that just a matter of the Cubs trying to add or tweak a pitch? Probably not, though it’s more than reasonable to wonder whether subsequent mechanical changes followed from the sweeper experiment.
I get working with young pitchers on adjustments when they’re coming up and still figuring things out, but it’s counterintuitive to pay someone a bunch of money in free agency and then try to “fix” him proactively. The idea was to set up a different pitch that played well off of his other offerings, and maybe this was something that was going to happen no matter what Taillon did during the offseason. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether we’d be dreading every fifth day if the organization had just left well enough alone.
It doesn’t help that several other free agent pitchers from last winter’s class are pitching really well for their respective teams, though that involves a lot more context than we can dive into here. That’s all I’ve got for now, though I may revisit this Taillon stuff in greater depth at some point in the future.