Cubs

Colvin steps up big at first in Cubs win

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Colvin steps up big at first in Cubs win

Tuesday April 5, 2011Posted: 4:35 PM Updated: 7:40 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Pena emerged from the training room on Tuesday with his right hand bandaged, keeping it compressed so that his thumb doesnt swell up. This is why the Cubs took out an insurance policy with Tyler Colvin.

The pain isnt overwhelming, but the Cubs are being cautious with their first baseman. Pena is listed as day-to-day with a mild sprain of his right thumb, and that gave Colvin a chance to test out everything he relearned in spring training.

The Cubs arent certain what theyll do at first base once Penas one-year pillow contract expires at the end of this season. Either way, Colvin figures to be a big part of their future.

Colvin showcased himself as the left-handed run producer the Cubs envision in a 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He launched a two-run homer into the right field bleachers, drew a bases-loaded walk in the pivotal seventh inning and handled everything thrown his way at first base.

When you looked out across Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon, you saw these players developed by the organization Colvin at first, Darwin Barney at second, Starlin Castro at shortstop and Andrew Cashner on the mound.

Youre always talking about that in the minor leagues, Man, once we all get up there, Colvin said. Thats the way you have to think. (And) I think thats the way you win (by) having homegrown players who have grown up together. (You) get up here and play the same game. You know what to expect out of them.

Teammates tease him about how the front office talks up Camp Colvin, the strength and conditioning program he followed to great effect at the teams Arizona complex.

The Ricketts family uses Colvin as an example in their stump speech, and the marketing department features him in promotional materials. Colvin is low-key and doesnt seek out the extra publicity, but hes comfortable enough with it.

The way Colvin sees it, thats much better than not being noticed at all.

Colvin had the same sensible approach to working out again at first base, a position that until this spring he hadnt really played since his sophomore year at Clemson University. He learned from a Gold Glove defender.

I like him out there, Pena said. Naturally (he) does a pretty good job there, but there are a couple things that we discussed and hopefully I helped him out a little bit. Hell be fine.

Colvin looked smooth at first base on Tuesday, scooping several throws out of the dirt and initiating a key double play in the eighth inning.

At 6-foot-3, Colvins a big target, and hes athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. That could be where he remains long-term, though the Cubs still need to protect themselves.

Penas injury isnt considered serious. But the Cubs watched Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee struggle through thumb problems last year. Lee even needed offseason surgery. Those issues sabotaged their offense.

Pena told manager Mike Quade that he was ready to go on Tuesday and available to pinch-hit. Pena called it a freak thing and wants to play Wednesday, though with an off-day scheduled for Thursday it could make more sense to give him extra time to heal.

Pena injured his thumb during the seventh inning of Mondays win. Pena made a play and tossed the ball to pitcher Sean Marshall, who was covering first base. Pena braced for the fall and landed awkwardly on his glove hand, bending his thumb back.

If he walks in here (Wednesday) and says Im 100 percent, he plays, Quade said, (but) I dont want him to come back and have something thats going to linger for weeks or more.

Pena laughed when a reporter asked whether he was worried about being Wally Pipp-ed. Colvin isnt about to challenge Lou Gehrigs streak of consecutive games played.

The Cubs hesitated to mess with Colvin and move him to first base late last year. But now he certainly doesnt look out of place.

I guess he was ready, huh? Quade said. He did a wonderful job over there.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had hit a combined six home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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Yu Darvish's Cutter Might Be What Turns His Season Around

Yu Darvish's Cutter Might Be What Turns His Season Around

Over the past two starts, Yu Darvish has walked three batters. That stat isn’t going to catch too many eyes until you realize that in the two starts prior, he walked 11. And the two starts before those? 7. 

Control issues have plagued Darvish all season, and if the season ended today, he’d set a career-high in BB% (16.6). He’s walked at least four batters in all but three of his starts. It’s been a mess so far, but it might not be for much longer. Look at how Darvish’s pitch selection has changed over the last eight weeks:


That’s a mighty big increase in two-seamer usage. Darvish was throwing his cutter barely 5% of the time at the start of the season, and now he’s throwing it basically once every four pitches. The cutter seen a 10% increase over the first two months as well. A game-by-game breakdown shows you just how much Darvish’s approach has changed of late: 


So, things look a little different now. That spike in sinker usage came against the Marlins, when he only got through four innings while allowing a run with six walks and seven strikeouts. He admitted after the game that he got too cozy with the pitch. 

More notably, Darvish’s cutter usage continues to steadily rise. That’s good news for the Cubs, because since over the last two years, it’s been one of his more effective pitches. 

It’s also probably not a coincidence that in Darvish’s best years, his cutter has been one of his most accurate pitches. The stretch from 2013-2016 (he missed all of 2015) saw some of the lowest BB% for his cutter: 

“I just think he has better command of that pitch,” Joe Maddon said. “I think he has a better idea of where that pitch is going. I think that’s the biggest difference with it. Because of that, it’s been more effective because he can throw it where he wants to. I think that’s the primary difference. 

News and notes

  • The Cubs called up Tim Collins and Dillon Maples before Saturday’s game. Collins was up briefly in mid-April, pitching 3.1 IPs in four outings. This is also Maples second time up this season, after making three appearances in late-April/early-May. “We had to,” Joe Maddon said about calling up the pair. “There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, a lot of usage. We’ve been in nearly every game we’ve been playing, so it’s difficult to give guy breaks.”
  • The corresponding move saw the Cubs option OF Mark Zagunis to Triple-A Iowa. In 29 games this season, Zagunis slashed .257/.333/.343 with a .676 OPS. “We’ve had these young guys that have not had a chance to play with regularity,” Maddon said. “It’s wonderful for them to be in the major leagues, but developmentally sometimes it can really hurt them. He’ll be back.” 
  • With a short bench, Maddon admitted that pitcher Tyler Chatwood could be a pinch hitter. “He’s legit,” he said. “I don’t know when or how, but he definitely has to have his spikes on.”
  • Pedro Strop is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday. They have another one scheduled in a couple of days. Maddon noted that he’s getting close, and mentioned the end of next week as a potential timeline to when they’d more about his rehab assignment plans.