Cubs

Jake Arrieta fires back at questions about his velocity

Jake Arrieta fires back at questions about his velocity

MILWAUKEE – Jake Arrieta is a nonconformist, trolling opposing fans on Twitter, developing his own Pilates/nutrition program, posing naked for ESPN the Magazine, openly talking about his contract and apparently reading what’s written about him.   

Or at least this article on FanGraphs – the website devoted to statistical analysis – caught his attention: “What on Earth Happened with Jake Arrieta?

Arrieta speaks in full paragraphs, looks like he could be heading toward the zone that once made him a Cy Young Award winner and dismisses any questions or theories about his low-90s velocity readings.

“Everybody wants to talk about this,” Arrieta said after Sunday’s 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “There’s FanGraph articles. I don’t care about that.

“I know that kind of stuff can come and go from time to time. I had periods last year where I was at the same spot I am right now. I had one in June, near the All-Star break. It is what it is. I still have good feel for everything. Movement is really good. The command’s good.

“When the 95-to-97 comes back, it’s going to be tough for teams. And it still is.”

Manager Joe Maddon put it this way after watching Arrieta use 98 pitches to get through seven innings and finish with 10 strikeouts against only two walks: “I’d much rather see what we saw today than 94-95 (mph) all over the map, absolutely.”

Even during an All-Star year that saw him beat the Cleveland Indians twice in the World Series, Arrieta had too many of those unpredictable stretches where he lost command and that air of invincibility.

The Cubs staked Arrieta an early five-run lead and he didn’t allow another hit after Ryan Braun’s three-run homer in the third inning. Whatever the radar gun says, Arrieta is starting his salary drive at 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.  

“Where I’m at now in my career, I don’t worry about it, because I know that I’m smart enough to work around that,” Arrieta said. “The velocity’s still good enough to get it by guys and to do certain things in certain situations with it.

“If I’m commanding the ball on the inside part of the plate to left-handed hitters with some sink – like I was able to with a couple big strikeouts (where they’re) taking third strikes in – that’s a big deal.”

In Arrieta’s mind, he has an array of weapons, from a curveball he can drop at 75 or 82 mph, a cutter that can be effective in the right spot at 84 or 90 mph and a changeup that he’s still trying to sharpen.

Arrieta’s case for a long-term megadeal that could take him into his late 30s revolves around his baseball IQ, superior conditioning and relatively low pitching odometer.

“Some guys would call it like a ‘dead arm,’ but I feel good,” Arrieta said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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