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).

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"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."

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans. 

 

 

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 48th homer of the season came off of the St. Louis Cardinals on August 19, 1998, in a 6-8 loss.

With two-outs, Sosa sent a deep shot off of Kent Bottenfield.

The home run was even more special for Sosa, due to it coming against the Cardinals and Mark McGwire, his home run adversary for the year. 

In the game Sosa went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the exact same stat line McGwire finished with.