Afternoon Notes: Jason Heyward, Rain Delays, and Farm Business
After what was probably a late night for most of us, what with Mother Nature deciding to rain on our banner raising and game, let’s take a look at a few items of note this afternoon.
Heyward at the Plate
Much has been made about Jason Heyward‘s struggles at the plate last year, and toward the end of the year, it seemed like you knew the outcome of just about every single plate appearance: groundout, 4-3, with the occasional 3 unassisted. A look at his spray chart for 2016 shows us that this wasn’t all in our heads; it hard to discern any individual ground ball out to the right side of the infield. Overall, it seemed like he turned into more of a straight pull hitter as the season wore on, and he ended up with his worst rate of batted balls to the opposite field (22.7%) since 2013. With the new season, though, how do things look? Well, with a limited sample (23 PA in 5 games, not including the game against the Dodgers Monday night), J-Hey is going to the opposite field quite a bit more (35% of balls in play), but not at the cost of the pull field, which is still higher than previous years at 45%; the difference is how often he’s going up the middle, which is…not often, only 20% of the time so far. He’s still hitting quite a few ground balls, as well, but his results from the first two games of the year do skew the sample a fair bit there–it’s only been the last 3 games where we’ve seen him start getting balls in the air more. Even better, he’s not striking out much, with only one strikeout so far in his first 23 PA. Even with the one strikeout (so far) in the Monday night game, he would be under a 10% strikeout rate. In all, even if scouts and the talking heads on the TV don’t see much of a difference, Heyward seems to be improving, but only time will tell.
Rain Delays and Home Teams
Mother Nature has had her way with two Cubs games so far, Game 3 in St. Louis (postponed a day, well before the game started) and the home opener on Monday night. In both cases, it was forseeable that the weather could potentially be a problem, but the end result of that was different in each case. In the first case, we had a day game postponed roughly 2 1/2 hours before the first pitch, and in the latter, the game was delayed around two hours. In both cases, the next day was a mutual off-day in the schedule, meaning make-up is easy. But, until the lineup cards are exchanged an hour or so before the scheduled first pitch, the club can really decide what it wants to do.
Wait, the club? Yeah, the club, the home team, gets to decide if a game will go on as scheduled, be delayed, or get postponed, up until the lineup cards are exchanged (with the Commissioner’s office getting some say late in the season). It’s baked right in to the rulebook, and I don’t like that one bit. Why? Gamesmanship. Not to say that’s what the Cardinals were engaged in here–this early in the season, re-arranging off days a bit isn’t that big of a deal when the game can be made up right away, and having watched the radar most of the day there probably was no hope of getting the game in–but a decision like this later on in the season could lead to some difficult scheduling later on in the season.
I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Down On The Farm
Down at Iowa, Ian Happ has been making waves with a recent barrage of home runs, continuing a power display that had a lot of people wondering where he’d land when camp broke. It’s nice to see the power, but he is struggling with hitting for average right now, hovering at .211 after 5 games. If the Cubs have a need, maybe we see him, but he isn’t currently on the 40-man roster (nor is John Andreoli, who is posting a very nice average and OBP), which would complicate the prospect of bringing Happ up.
Of the starters down in Iowa, Eddie Butler–who had potentially been a candidate for the big league staff when the Cubs traded for him–is the only starter to not have been tagged for a run in his first start (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K). If he can remain steady, I would think there’s a good possibility he’s got the first chance to step in to the rotation should someone get injured or prove unreliable.
Stepping down to Tennessee, Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng have both been strong through their first starts. Underwood gave up 2 runs in his outing, striking out 8, while Tseng gave up only 1 run while striking out 7. Underwood is among the minor leaguers on the 40-man roster, though if we need to dip into the Double-A ranks to get bodies on the pitching staff, things are probably not going too well somehow.