I’ve got about an hour between soccer and baseball games, so let’s get after it here, shall we. Friday was nothing short of wild across MLB, starting with the Cubs hanging on for a narrow victory over the Pirates that ran their win streak to four and saw them tighten up the NL Central standings. After failing to hit well for the first half of April and intermittently thereafter, the Cubs boast one of the best lineups in baseball.
Since April 17, Cubs have scored 16 more runs than any other team in the majors.
Where Cubs lineup ranks in MLB in that span:
R – 1st (112)
H – 2nd (159)
HR – 2nd (27)
BB – 3rd (76)
AVG – 4th (.260)
OBP – 1st (.346)
SLG – 1st (.470)
OPS – 1st (.816)
wRC+ – 1st (122)
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) May 7, 2021
Part of the reason they’ve done so well is the outstanding play of Jake Marisnick and Matt Duffy, both of whom are absent from Saturday’s lineup. But part of the reason those players, particularly Duffy, have been able to get so much time is that Kris Bryant can play all over the field. He hasn’t manned third base in nearly three weeks, during which time he’s started at four other positions.
Bryant back in CF today. Entering today, here's his innings by position this year:
• 69 in LF
• 41 in RF
• 18.1 in CF
Ross, Friday: "I think his versatility lends to even more talks of MVP if he continues to put up the numbers he’s putting up.”
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2021
He’s displayed similar versatility in the past, logging 453.1 outfield innings during his 2016 MVP campaign, but now he’s already exceeded his previous season-high for innings in center. Bryant heads into Saturday’s start with 18.1 innings there, just barely above the 18 he played in 2015, and he is on pace for roughly 9.0 fWAR. That’s a mark reached only 23 times by 12 players since 2000 and just nine times by five players since 2010.
Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez account for five of those seasons and Barry Bonds has four, but no one else has done it more than once. Sammy Sosa is the only Cub on the list. For what it’s worth, Bonds has the top three seasons and four of the top five during the span from 2001-04 during which he accumulated 47.3 fWAR. Only 219 players in MLB history have higher marks for their full careers, so steroids or no, what Bonds did was beyond compare.
In any case, Bryant has been very good and he’s showing each day why the Cubs should make him a sizeable offer to remain with the team long-term and be the centerpiece of the next contender. If they trade him or let him walk, they’ll never recoup the value he provides as a great ballplayer and excellent ambassador for the organization.
Bryant’s not the only former top draft pick bouncing back from previous injuries to perform at an elite level. Carlos Rodón was non-tendered by the White Sox but chose to come back and prove himself, which he’s done by throwing a no-hitter and becoming an early Cy Young favorite.
The big lefty is 5-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 44 strikeouts to just nine walks over 31 innings. His stuff is nasty and he’s throwing his fastball harder than ever with better results than ever. He has generated more value with the heater than any other pitcher in MLB and hitters are finding it nearly impossible to square up.
Getting prepared to talk some White Sox baseball, this is eye-catching from Carlos Rodon fastball:
BA .267 / SLG .467
Avg EV. 91.5 mph / Whiff 14.3%
BA: .089 / SLG .161
EV: 88.6 mph / Whiff 33.1%
— Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) May 8, 2021
When it comes to per-pitch value, however, there is one hurler with a far better fastball than Rodón. Yep, it’s…
Wade Miley no-hitter alert
His career wouldn’t have been possible had the US decided to adopt the metric system, but the well-traveled lefty became the latest in a parade of unlikely no-hitters. Miley faced just 29 Cleveland batters Friday night, striking out eight with one walk en route to the no-no.
It probably helped that Cleveland no longer has all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was making headlines with the Mets for something other than his play.
I smell a rat
There was some kind of commotion taking place in the tunnel Friday night as several Mets players rushed to intervene with what ended up being a fracas between Lindor and second baseman Jeff McNeil. Rather than own up to it or refuse to talk about the incident, the Mets players claimed it was an argument over whether a rodent in the tunnel was a rat or a raccoon. Lindor ain’t no rat, that’s for sure.
Lindor and McNeil going at it in the tunnel? 👀 pic.twitter.com/VnAcOWIXBY
— Master flip (@Masterflip_) May 8, 2021
“We were going back and forth debating if it was a rat or a raccoon,” Lindor explained after the game. “I was mad on the field because I didn’t make the play…and Jeff [McNeil], obviously because I was going against him whether it was a rat or a raccoon, of course he’s going to be mad.”
Even if they were at odds over what was happening on the field or in the clubhouse, the Mets players were quick to present a united front when it came to their classification warfare.
“Rats in New York are a thing, I saw what I saw and that’s the way it is,” McNeil said, going along with the ruse. “[People] can believe whatever they want.”
Given how frequently the Mets have played dead over the past few years, I’m surprised they didn’t say it was a possum.