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Cub Tracks hits and runs

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The trouble with baseball and other bullets

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Four
regular Joe
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Last time through the gates, Cub Tracks held the ball. The Magic 8-Ball, that is, and the situation is still hazy. Nothing’s been decided yet, personnel-wise, and who knows when things will be settled?

“The trouble with baseball is that it is not played the year round.” — Gaylord Perry

While we await developments, I’ve collected this small assortment of bon mots, remarks, and japery. As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1948 - National League president Ford Frick steps in and pays $350 for funeral services, including the cost of a coffin, for the unclaimed body of Hack Wilson. The former slugger, who had died probably of alcohol abuse a few days earlier in a Baltimore hospital, is identified only as a white male.
  • 1960 - Moving from Washington, D.C. to an area near Minneapolis and St. Paul, known in Minnesota as the Twin Cities, the state's newly arrived major league team changes its name and will be known as the Twins. The new American League expansion team now in the nation's capital will continue to use the name Senators, but will be a totally different franchise.
  • 1961 - The Professional Baseball Rules Committee votes 8-1 against legalizing the spitball. Only National League supervisor of umpires Cal Hubbard votes in favor.
  • 1996 - With the owners' approval of the collective bargaining agreement, interleague play during the regular season and revenue sharing among owners along with payroll tax on players become a reality. The landmark agreement, voted down 18-12 three weeks ago, is ratified overwhelmingly by a vote of 26-4.
  • 2007 - The Cubs re-signed 30-year-old free agent Kerry Wood to a one-year, $4.2 million deal which includes additional incentives for closing games.
  • Happy birthday: Richie Hebner, Larry Gura

Cubs news and notes:

Cubs free agent Jake Arrieta figures to offer more “feast-or-famine probability” than any other free agent on the market, Daniel Kramer of MLB.com posits. Arrieta has exhibited a number of troubling trends since his dominant Cy Young campaign back in 2015. Kramer points out that the right-hander’s rate of hard contact allowed was once among the the lowest in baseball, but has since fallen to the middle of the pack. Arrieta has also lost 3 MPH on his fastball from 2015 to 2017; pitchers in their thirties typically don’t regain that velocity. Kramer digs even deeper, looking at Arrieta’s “topped ball” rate (balls hit directly into the ground), noting that his rate in this category has also dropped. These factors in tandem create a confusing and concerning picture when looking at the value Arrieta could provide over the next couple of years. It’s not all bad; Kramer also notes that the former Cy Young winner hasn’t lost his ability to put batters away on two-strike pitches, and he’s still got an excellent pitch repertoire to go along with a delivery that provides deception. Teams exploring a deal with Arrieta will face an interesting dilemma in trying to project his future performance. — Kyle Downing, MLB Trade Rumors.

“While it’s unlikely that Dillon Maples will emerge as the Cubs’ closer in 2018, it’s not at all a stretch to suggest he could become an important part of the bullpen, given his plus-plus fastball and plus-plus slider. The command isn’t there all the time for those pitches to be as effective as their velocity/movement suggest they should be, but Maples took a HUGE step forward in 2017 on that front, and if he takes even just a small step forward again this offseason, we could be looking at a dominant reliever. — Brett Taylor, Bleacher Nation.

  • Jared Wyllys (Cubs Den): Can Mike Montgomery join the rotation in 2018? “...the problem Montgomery has created is that what was a nice wipeout pitch in 2016 has become more hittable.”
  • Zack Moser (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): 2017 player profile: Hector Rondon. “For the second year in row, Rondón lost the favor of Joe Maddon and found himself as one of the last relievers sitting in the bullpen most nights.”
  • Todd Johnson (Cubs Insider): Cubs system position-by-position: Catcher has become a strength. “...there is no shortage of young catchers ready to step up...”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Ian Happ: Trade chip or building block? “...I can’t help but think he might be a better fit elsewhere.”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cardinals and Brewers look for creative ways to catch Cubs. “It’s easy to forget about the Cubs. They’re so 2016.”
  • George Castle (Chicago Baseball Museum): Doodling, dawdling starters and nervous managers inflate game times. “It’s the starting pitcher, stupid.”

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading.