Cubs

Cubs: Rizzo wanted to 'kill someone' after Cardinals threw at him

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Cubs: Rizzo wanted to 'kill someone' after Cardinals threw at him

Before the season, Anthony Rizzo put the target on his back when he predicted the Cubs would win the National League Central.

Eight months later, the target was still on his back as the Cardinals ignited a beanball war with the Cubs Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field by throwing at Rizzo.

Rizzo has walked the walk after talking the talk and he didn't hold back when asked about the incident with the Cardinals.

"Obviously at that moment, I want to kill someone because I know it was intentional," Rizzo said. "At the moment, you wanna go out and strangle someone.

"But it's not necessary right now, especially the position we're in. We have a good opportunity to put a lot of pressure on Pittsburgh."

[MORE CUBS: Heads up: -The Cubs are coming after the Cardinals]

Rizzo didn't actually try to strangle anybody in Friday's game. He walked toward the mound after getting hit in the leg, but things didn't escalate any further.

Joe Maddon was fired up in his postgame press conference and Rizzo appreciated that his manager had his back.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't get into a war of words with Maddon.

"Do what you gotta do," Matheny said before Saturday's game. "That's what it comes down to. He knows what he's doing. He's been doing it way longer than I have. ... He's gonna do what he feels is right for his club."

Maddon, Rizzo and Friday's pitcher Dan Haren all reinforced the point that the Cubs clearly weren't throwing at Matt Holliday on purpose and Rizzo even said it was "scary" to see the Cardinals slugger get hit in the head.

Haren - who came up in the St. Louis system and understands "The Cardinals Way" - warned Rizzo he might get thrown at later in the game.

[MORE CUBS: Redemption - Starlin Castro has game of his life as Cubs beat Cards]

"They felt the need to throw at me - whatever," Rizzo said. "I think sometimes teams overreact when people get hit. You guys have seen me get hit 29 times this year and we've not thrown at one person.

"There have been other issues where we felt teams were intentionally throwing at me, as well. Sometimes teams take care of things different ways. I don't want anybody to get hurt."

Rizzo joked that he's only one hit-by-pitch away from joining the 30-30 club (he also has 30 homers). The Cubs' MVP candidate said he thinks beanball retaliation will continue to be a part of the game, even though Maddon ripped the outdated way of thinking.

"I don't make the rules," Rizzo said. "It's been going on forever. I don't see it going anywhere. We play the Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers and Reds 19 times a year. Guys get sick of each other."

The Cubs went on to beat the Cardinals Friday and moved to within six games of the division lead and one game of the wild card lead after the Pirates lost to the Dodgers.

For the Cubs, this issue is over. They're focused on the standings, not igniting a beanball war.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

"As far as I'm concerned, that's over with," Maddon said. "Keeping with the mantra, I want us to play well on Saturday. It's all about today. I said what I wanted to say [Friday]. 

"It's time to move on. Just play some good, solid baseball. We've been doing that for a bit. I just want our guys to keep doing what they have been doing.

"Our concern is still to catch them - the Pirates first and Cardinals second. We still have time to do that."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Fred Mitchell, Seth Gruen and Jason Goch join David Kaplan on the panel.

The Cubs bats come alive against the Giants while Theo says there have been plenty of trade rumors but no trade talks. Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

Plus, Ray Ratto joins Kap to talk about the Warriors struggles and the guys debate if LeBron is playing his final game in a Cavaliers uniform.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

"BINGO!"

Joe Maddon couldn't contain his glee as he was told there is actual scientific evidence that proves the Launch Angle Revolution has not had any impact on the uptick in homers over the last couple seasons.

The reason MLB players were hitting the ball into the bleachers more than ever before in 2017 was because of the way baseballs are made now, reducing the wind resistence and causing balls to carry more.

But all these players changing their swing path to get more lift on the ball? Not a thing for the group as a whole (h/t MLB.com):


But in analyzing Statcast™ data from the measurement tool's 2015 inception through 2017, the committee found no evidence that batter behavior, en masse, has been a contributing factor toward the homer surge. In fact, exit velocities decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, spray angles from the time studied were stable and a small increase in launch angles was attributable primarily to, as the study refers to them, "players with lesser home run talents."

Basically, the long-ball surge was global, affecting players from all spectrums of homer-hitting ability and irrespective of their approach.

"Going into this, I thought that was going to be the magic bullet, the smoking gun," Nathan said. "But it wasn't."


Hence the "BINGO!" cry from Maddon, who has been very vocal in the fight against the Launch Angle Revolution this season.

The end result is the study will eventually lead to baseballs being returned to normal levels and a more uniform way of storing the balls moving forward. Thus, homers figure to eventually return to normal levels, too, and everybody who was caught up in the Launch Angle Revolution may be left behind.

It's the changing landscape of baseball and we've already seen the after-effects this year: April was the first month in MLB history where there were more strikeouts than basehits.

Why? Because strikeouts are a natural byproduct of the Launch Angle Revolution as players are swinging up on the ball more and sacrificing contact for power and lift.

That, coupled with an increase in velocity and higher usage of relievers, has led to more strikeouts.

It makes perfect sense — it's tougher for a player to try to catch up to 98+ mph at the top of the strike zone with an uppercut swing.

"It's one of those things that sounds good, but it doesn't help you," Maddon said of launch angle. "There's certain things that people really want to promote and talk about, but it doesn't matter. When a hitter's in the box, when you're trying to stare down 96 or a slider on the edge, the last thing you're thinking about is launch angle.

"Now when it comes to practice, you could not necessarily work on angles — your body works a certain way. Like I've said before, there's guys that might've been oppressively bad or they just had groundballs by rolling over the ball all the time So of course you may want to alter that to get that smothering kind of a swing out of him.

"But if you're trying to catch up to velocity, if you're trying to lay back and I could keep going on and on. It sounds good."

The idea of hitting the ball hard in the air has been around for decades in baseball, pretty much ever since Babe Ruth on some level. It just wasn't able to be quantified or accessed by the public as easily until Statcast came around and made it all mainstream.

The Cubs, however, have been anti-launch-angle to a degree this season. They let go of hitting coach John Mallee (who liked players to hit the ball in the air and pull it) and replaced him with Chili Davis (who teaches the full-field, line-drive approach).

The effects haven't yet yielded results in terms of consistently plating runs or having a better performance in the situational hitting column, but the contact rate is, in fact, up.

Here is the list of Cubs hitters who currently boast a career best mark in strikeout rate:

Kris Bryant
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Even Ben Zobrist is very close to his career mark and Anthony Rizzo is right at his career line.

Some of that jump in contact rate can be attributed to natural development and maturation of young hitters, but the Cubs are buying into the new way of doing things and it's paying off.

It's also probably the way the game is going to shift, with an emphasis on contact going to become more important the less balls are flying out of the yard.

The Cubs have seen firsthand how to beat the best pitching in the postseason and they know that cutting down on strikeouts and "moving the baseball" (as Maddon likes to put it) can help manufacture runs in low-scoring, tight affairs in October.

Now science is supporting those theories and Major League Baseball teams will have to adjust. 

The Cubs, however, are at least a step ahead of the game.

It's a long game — the offensive strides will take time to fully take effect even for the Cubs, who are at least a full offseason and two months ahead of the curve in terms of bucking the Launch Angle Revolution.

Maddon concedes that launch angle is a cool stat to see on the video board after homers, but other than that, he doesn't see much of a use for it, pointing to Kyle Schwarber's laser-line-drive homers having the same effect as Kris Bryant's moonshots.

However, Maddon does believe there's a place for launch angle and exit velocity in the game, though mostly for front offices trying to acquire players (think "Moneyball").

"As a teaching tool, you either come equipped with or without," Maddon said. "It's like you buy a new car, you either got this or you don't. Sometimes you can add some things occasionally, but for the most part, this is what you are.

"I like inside the ball, top half of the ball, inner half of the ball, stay long throughout the ball, utilize the whole field. I still think that's the tried and true approach and I'm not stuck in the mud on this by any means.

"The harder pitchers throw the baseball, the more laying back is going to be less effective."