Wow, that was a wild one. There are so many things that could be said about a game that saw big swings both metaphorical and physical all night, but I’ve tried to narrow it down. Even so, I’m not sure I’ll do a good job of keeping it brief. Y’all been warned.
Farts are great tension breakers
Ripping ass may be euphemistically known as cutting the cheese, but it can also cut the tension of a tough line of questioning. Not that the Cubs had reason to be uptight after coming out on top of Wednesday’s slugfest, but Yu Darvish had given up seven runs on four homers and was discussing his performance and the Cubs’ playoff race when…
Sahadev Sharma tweeted that it may have actually been Rowan Wick, but I don’t think he made good on his claim that he were working to confirm. Regardless of the clubhouse culprit, it was pretty evident who was stinking it up on the mound for most of the game. And don’t worry, we’ll get back to the Dutch Oven in a bit.
Haha thanks. Yes of course i fart on the mound who doesn’t. I fart anywhere and everywhere. Just blame someone else hahaha
— Derek Holland (@Dutch_Oven45) November 29, 2018
Darvish extended his walk-less streak to 126 batters, over which time he’s struck out 46, but he’s also allowed nine homers. Of the four he surrendered Wednesday night, three came with a man on. The Giants seemed to know what was coming, though it wasn’t a matter of Darvish necessarily tipping his pitches. Well, not in the sense that he had a physical tell.
It appears as though Giants hitters may have been sitting on spin, so to speak, knowing that Darvish favors his breaking stuff in two-strike counts and as the game wears on. David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out that Darvish goes with “nearly 80% off speed pitches” when he has a two-strike count on any hitter and that three of the home runs he allowed came under those specific circumstances.
We just did the research here in the studio @NBCSChicago. This season when he has any 2 strike count on a hitter, @faridyu is throwing nearly 80% off speed pitches. 3 of the HR’s he allowed tonight were with 2 strikes and those 3 all were off speed pitches. #YuTooPredictable
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) August 22, 2019
But Darvish was having none of it and came back at Kap with evidence to suggest his non-fastballs are much better options with in strikeout counts.
Not including tonight’s game.
Against lefty after two strilke.
Off speed pitch .137AVG .205OBP .222SLG .427OPS
4 seam .350AVG .435OBP .650SLG .1085OPS
Which one is better choice🤔 https://t.co/gJQRZiMbJD
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) August 22, 2019
When Kap came back to point out that Darvish was only citing stats against lefties, the pitcher countered by saying that Kevin Pillar was the first righty batter to hit his splitter all season. That said hit went for a game-tying home run is unfortunate on many levels, one of which is that it exemplifies the lack of novelty in the longball as a result of MLB’s tinkering with the Rawlings product it now owns.
"Including" tonight's game
Splitter aginst righty's .030AVG .030OBP .121SLG .152OPS 20Ks.
So Pillar is first righty to hit my Splitter this season. https://t.co/CkCI4qCsVe
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) August 22, 2019
Here’s the thing: No one here is either completely right or totally wrong. It’s possible that both Holland and Wick popped butt in the clubhouse, just as both Kap and Darvish might be onto something. The whole thing about great pitchers isn’t that they fool hitters, but that they can still beat hitters even when everyone in the ballpark knows what’s coming.
You think guys were guessing something other than cutter against Mariano Rivera? C’mon, no way. So it’s not a matter of Darvish getting away from breaking stuff in two-strike counts, but of executing properly, which is where the incredible walk-free stretch comes in.
It’s almost as though Darvish has gotten to the point where he’s focusing on not walking guys rather than executing his pitches, which may be leading to him hanging a few of them in hitters’ happy zones. Too many walks will kill you, but handing out a free pass every now and again may serve to keep batters on their toes and prevent them from sitting on what they know will be a strike.
Nicholas Castellanos is on one
There’s already been quite a lot written here and elsewhere about Castellanos, but his performance last night merits a little more. By going 4-for-5 with his eighth Opening Day homer since the Cubs saved him from drowning in Detroit, the outfielder is batting .392 with a 1.214 OPS and a 207 wRC+ over 84 plate appearances.
He’s well ahead of pace to double the 11 home runs he’d hit in 439 PAs with the Tigers, so he should blow our predictions out of the water. In fact, his home run rate with the Cubs would be good for 64 dingers if maintained over the course of an entire season. Not bad.
Castellanos has also become an emotional leader with the team, as evidenced by the unadulterated joy he displayed while watching the game-winning home run fly into the bleachers.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 22, 2019
Kris Bryant is clutch
A lot of people got upset about the suggestion that Bryant is performing well in big moments, but it’s kind of difficult to keep denying it when he’s jacking game-winning homers. One person actually called the KB hero turn about an hour before it happened, right after Holland farted on the mound.
KB is winning this game
— Nick V (@Nick_VMachine) August 22, 2019
Derek Holland should never face another righty (or maybe any batters)
After that Pillar homer tied the game, Joe Maddon called upon Holland to face his old team because two lefties were scheduled to bat. Picked up because of his relative success against left-handed hitters, it was made very clear by the front office that Holland was to be deployed in limited situational duty. That hasn’t exactly worked out.
While four of Holland’s appearances in a Cubs uniform have seen him face just one batter, the other seven have seen him face at least six batters. Wednesday night was the third time he’s gone up against at least five separate opponents, not all of whom batted from the left side. In fact, Holland has faced more righties (17) than lefties (16) so far with Chicago, and that’s after a 1:4 ratio in his last appearance.
Almost before I was able to hit send on a tweet wondering why Holland was being left in to face a righty with two on and one out, Austin Slater shot a fat outside sinker into the right field corner for a go-ahead double. It’s as though fans aren’t just basing their complaints on the results.
To be fair, that was only the second hit Holland has given up to those 17 righties he’s faced. Both of those went for extra bases and drove in multiple runs, though, which doesn’t seem like an acceptable risk. With the understanding that there were two more lefties up after Slater, there has to be a better option from among the 14 pitchers on the roster.
But hey, all’s well that ends well, right? As for how things will end with Holland, well, I’m not sure. Even if Brandon Morrow being shut down provides a little more leeway, the roster is probably going to be balanced out here soon and Holland isn’t a high-leverage option.
The biggest takeaway is that the Cubs managed to battle back after blowing a huge lead. While it might not be the “season-defining moment” Bryant said Anthony Rizzo was calling it, Wednesday’s game was indicative of the kind of baseball the Cubs can and should be playing more frequently. Not in terms of having to claw back, but just in not giving up and finding ways to win no matter what.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been holding something in for way too long and I’ve got to let it go.