View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



February 2017



Things To Know for Tuesday

Written by , Posted in General

Repeatable. Of the 112 World Series that have been contested since 1903 (in 1904 the Giants refused to play the American League champ; in ’94 no Series was played because of the baseball strike), 21 have resulted in a repeat win by the team that won the year before. Only 109 of the 112 could have resulted in a repeat. So, 21/109 results in a repeat winning percentage of about 19%. While not predictive of the Cubs’ chances for a repeat this coming season, it does give some useful perspective. This year will be a challenge for the team and fans.

The curious case of Hector Rondon. Last May 12, August Fagerstorm wrote for Instagraphs that Hector Rondon had been the second most effective reliever in all of major league baseball for the preceding season. In the early weeks of the ’16 season, Rondon was even more effective. At that point, Rondon had faced 43 batters, striking out 21, while yielding no walks and only 4 singles. His FIP was negative, -.015. Although Rondon was throwing more strikes than ever, batters were swinging less than ever. His rate of called strikes was the highest in the majors.

Then something began to change. The batters started swinging. Rondon’s numbers began to deteriorate. Not a lot. But enough to be noticeable. It seems the league may have made an adjustment. He was throwing more strikes than in the past, and when they swung, the hitters were hitting the ball harder. For the balance of the season, Rondon’s hard contact rate was the highest of his career. He finished the season with a hard contact rate of 32.6%.

Of course, Aroldis Chapman was acquired mid-season and that changed how Rondon was used thereafter. Comparing Rondon’s stats before Chapman joined the Cubs with after he joined the Cubs is not an apples to apples comparison. Then, on August 17, Rondon injured his right triceps. He missed the balance of August and early September. When he returned to the team, he was not nearly as effective as he was before the triceps injury. Still, he finished the regular season with some decent numbers: 18 saves, 7 holds and 5 blown saves. His ERA was 3.53. His strikeout ratio was 10.24 k/9. His WHIP was 0.98.

What many of us will remember most though were the blown saves, the home runs and Joe Maddon‘s loss of confidence in Rondon in the post-season. Joe did use him several times in the play-offs, but mostly not in leverage situations. And rightly so. Rondon was not the same pitcher after he came back in mid-September.

One of the the questions that interests me most about this season will be whether Rondon can return to form? He is 28 years old. How will he handle the challenges of 2017? He has the native ability to be a very valuable guy in the bull pen. And Wade Davis is long of tooth. Rondon’s success could be critical to the Cubs’ success this year.

The physics of baseball. The Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the Chicago Public Library will present Baseball: It’s Not Nuclear Physics — Or Is It? on Thursday, March 30, 2017. Check the council’s website for details.

There is no cost to attend. The presentation will be available on-line too, so don’t fret if you cannot attend in person. The speaker will be Alan Nathan, professor emeritus from the University of Illinois. In his day job, he was a particle physicist. But in his spare time, he is a die hard baseball fan. An unusually entertaining speaker, Dr. Nathan likes to quote Yogi Berra, “you can observe a lot by watching.”


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