Cubs

Cubs: Scott Boras is thinking big with Jake Arrieta

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Cubs: Scott Boras is thinking big with Jake Arrieta

LOS ANGELES – Super-agent Scott Boras hasn’t engaged the Cubs in any preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Jake Arrieta, who sooner or later could get paid like a superstar pitcher. 

“I think teams know us and we know them,” Boras said Friday inside his corporation’s Dodger Stadium luxury suite. “We’re trying to focus on the season and performance.”

But Boras is always thinking big and planning for the future. Remember, Max Scherzer once reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer to extend with the Detroit Tigers before Boras delivered a seven-year, $210 million megadeal from the Washington Nationals last winter.

Arrieta is now tied for the major-league lead with 16 wins in another breakthrough season – 2.22 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in a career-high 174 innings – that has put him in the National League’s Cy Young Award conversation.

There’s no rush with Arrieta, who’s making $3.63 million as an arbitration-eligible player this year and isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2017 season, when he will be in his early 30s.

[MORE: Cubs trying to fix what went wrong with Fernando Rodney]

The Cubs might want to prioritize investing in another frontline pitcher to join Arrieta and Jon Lester at the top of their rotation during this open window of contention. And Boras typically steers his clients onto the open market.

“I always tell teams when they talk long-term, we’re always happy to stay long-term,” Boras said.

Boras credited Theo Epstein’s front office and pitching coach Chris Bosio for allowing Arrieta to be himself and pitch to his strengths after such an up-and-down beginning to his career with the Baltimore Orioles.   

Boras appreciated what the Cubs did in that 2013 Scott Feldman trade, a deal that accelerated the rebuilding plan and helped turn the franchise into a playoff contender.

At this point, Arrieta doesn’t have as much wear and tear on his right arm after pitching only 740.1 innings in the big leagues. Like manager Joe Maddon, Boras believes there is another level to Arrieta’s game.

“It’s like Scherzer,” Boras said. “The great thing is that Arrieta doesn’t have many innings on his arm.

“I always tell owners: The best bet for you when you want to sign players is ones that are proven – but yet are proven with lesser innings.

“Max Scherzer. Pitching odometer. He had 1,200 innings. You find me a guy that has Cy Young capabilities with only 1,200 innings in the big leagues.

“Most guys have to have nearly 2,000 innings and they’re throwing much earlier in their careers. So the idea of it is this is not an age component as much as it is a durability component.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Arrieta is a fitness/nutrition freak with supreme confidence, an analytical sense and a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame.

“Yeah, some guys are just off the charts,” Boras said. “They’re going to be magically durable. They’re one of those arms. But the truth of the matter is, when you do all the studies, the hardest thing for a pitcher to do in the major leagues is to get past the fourth year.

“If you get past the fourth year, and you’re a healthy guy, you’re probably going to pitch – the numbers show – over 10 years. So we have all the data.

“It’s kind of ideal for the free-agent dynamic, because he’s a brilliant talent, and he’s had to utilize fewer innings to find the station of a No. 1 pitcher. And I think we can say that about Jake Arrieta. He’s reached the status of a No. 1 pitcher.”

It sounds like you have one of those big free-agency binders already written for Arrieta.

“We’ve done this a few times,” Boras said. “There’s a very low probability of players that can get to these levels and meet the metrics of what we’re talking about here.”

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Apple Podcasts listeners can subscribe at the show page.