Cubs

Cubs-Mets: The mind-blowing statistics that prove Daniel Murphy just might have a deal with the devil

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Cubs-Mets: The mind-blowing statistics that prove Daniel Murphy just might have a deal with the devil

It would probably be safe to say half of Cubs fans didn't even know who Daniel Murphy was before the MLB playoffs started this season.

That's not a knock on Cubs fans - Murphy has been a solid (yet unspectacular) player for the Mets for seven years and the Cubs just do not see the Mets often enough for casual fans to take notice.

The entire country has certainly taken notice now. Murphy is hitting .357 this postseason with a .929 slugging percentage while leading all of baseball with five playoff homers.

It's not just the power that has been impressive. It's been who he's hit the homers off of - Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

In fact, he's the first player to homer off all three top Cy Young candidates (Kershaw, Greinke, Arrieta) this season.

Murphy's been so hot, the Cubs actually intentionally walked him in the third inning of Game 2. That's not a common occurrence for a guy with only 62 career homers and a career high of 14 longballs in a season (set this year).

[SHOP CUBS: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

"He's locked in," Cubs catcher David Ross said. "We're not scared of anybody. We're gonna try to put ourselves in the best scenario to win, whether that's to pitch to him or around him. That's for him to figure out and us to know.

"He's obviously feeling sexy right now, so we're gonna try to change that."

Murphy's homer off Arrieta in the first inning of Game 2 was maybe his most impressive. It came on a courveball on a 1-2 pitch that sat at the knees and on the inside portion of the plate.

On 1-2 counts this season, Arrieta allowed just one homer, a .102 batting average and a .156 slugging percentage.

The pitch was so low, it was only 12.76 inches off the plate. Which makes Murphy's homer even more improbable. From FoxSports:

 

According to the data mined from PITCHF/x via Baseball Savant, major-league hitters swung at 14,318 pitches that were as low or lower than Arrieta's curveball to Murphy. Seventy-four percent of the time, they swung and missed, because simply putting the bat on the ball down there is difficult. Sixteen percent of the time, they fouled the ball off. Only 10 percent of swings -- 1,457 to be exact -- ended up resulting in a ball in play. 

 

So it's rare enough to take a pitch that low and hit it fair, but Murphy didn't hit it, he elevated it. And that's pretty amazing too. 

 

Of the 1,457 balls in play on swings at pitches no higher than 12.76 inches off the ground, 73 percent resulted in ground balls. Even hitters who made contact at swings in these locations almost always hit it on the infield, which makes perfect sense given how low these pitches are. Only 12 percent of balls in play on these low swings resulted in a fly ball or a popup, and that's 12 percent of the subset of swings that put the ball in play to begin with. As a percentage of total swings at pitches that low, only 1.2 percent resulted in a fly ball or pop fly. 

 

In terms of exit velocity, the numbers don't exactly back up Murphy's homer, either. He hit the ball at just 91 mph, according to Statcast, which is right around the average exit velocity for a ball put in play in the MLB this season.

Murphy's bomb was only the 46th homer over the fence on a ball hit 91 mph or less in all of baseball in 2015.

So maybe Murphy does have a deal with the devil? Either way, Cubs' Game 3 starter Kyle Hendricks knows he needs to be careful.

[RELATED - Kyle Hendricks welcomes pressure of pitching in 'must-win' game]

"He's swinging a hot bat," Hendricks said after the Cubs' workout Monday at Wrigley Field. "Sometimes, the best thing to do is pick your spots. See when guys are on base, when they're not, when you can pitch around him.

"Regardless, when he comes up, you've definitely got to be careful. You can't make any mistakes with him. But you do want to get the ball down.

"That one yesterday was down, but it was coming towards him and he just got to it. So hopefully I can stay on the edges more and keep it down with him."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”