As the 108th most influential Cubs blog, we have a sworn duty to stay in our lane and only give you the highest quality of Cubs analysis. However, I just can't get over Kyle Freeland for some reason. Yes, he's not on the Cubs, and yes, he only played the Cubs once (game score of exactly 50). What's interesting to Kyle Freeland is that he is seemingly the best case scenario of every Cubs pitcher of the last generation: that is, he doesn't ever strike anyone out.
The league is striking out more and more frequently. The league is walking more and more frequently. The league is homering more and more frequently. Kyle Freeland, however, stands out in stark contrast to this trend.
|Miguel Gonzalez||White Sox||24.01%|
Freeland doesn't lead the league in No True Outcomes percentage (though he's pretty close). He walks too many people for that to be the case (9.1% of PAs end in a walk). The interesting thing about Freeland in this regard is that he plays half of his games in Coors Field, which is a notorious launching pad for hitters. Freeland gets around this by inducing an obscene amount of groundballs:
|Marcus Stroman||Blue Jays||0.316||2.61||16.60%||60.30%||23.10%|
That's generally good company to be in. The easiest way to get by without striking people out is to prevent balls from going in the air; that's doubly important when playing in Coors Field. Put together, he actually pitches better at Coors than on the road (.712 opposing OPS home, .817 away). While groundballs result in hits more often than flyballs, flyballs go for home runs at an ever increasing rate (a combination of a juiced ball and more athletic hitters). Freeland, to this point, is showing the way to be successful despite the obvious deficiencies in a put-away pitch (which he'll likely never have).
In an attempt to bring this into at least quasi-relevance for the Cubs, I think this underscores the importance to limiting flyballs in particular. While it's true that pitchers only have limited control over their batted-ball profiles, it's self-evident that they can influence it somewhat – if they couldn't, there would be no variation from pitcher to pitcher. Pitchers like John Lackey are almost entirely useless simply on the basis of the fact they allow too many flyballs – even yesterday, it was clear to see that Montgomery allowed a home run to Stanton that was a double any year before 2015 or to any other hitter besides Stanton. The rules of the game are changing, and changing quickly. The pitching staff needs to be aware of that, and they need to make changes in approach if at all possible. There's at least some viable path forward if you can induce groundballs and reduce flyballs – at least there is until Freeland regresses to the mean.