The Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs play seven games in the next couple of weeks starting with four-game set in Wrigley Field that starts this Thursday and wraps up with a doubleheader on Saturday.
That's right, the Nats have Sunday off this weekend if you forgot about that little schedule quirk when the 2014 schedule was released this past winter.
The day night doubleheader is being played that day, as The Washington Post's James Wagner reported this winter, to, "... accommodate the neighborhood traffic and congestion as a result of Chicago’s annual Pride Parade on June 29."
It should make for a great day of baseball on Saturday and a nice Sunday of rest in the middle of the season. In anticipation of that series and before things start up in Milwaukee, we talked to one of the writers at The Ivy Drip, an online subscription publication with some great coverage of the Cubs and Chicago sports.
There's a link to the full Q&A below, and we've included two questions and answers here:
One player who is having a much improved year is Adam LaRoche, who is on pace to have a career-best year. What's different about him this season?
I think the biggest is that he's healthy. LaRoche, in 2012, hit a career-high in home runs, put up a .271/.343/.510 line, and finished a career-best +3.3 fWAR. Last season, however, he dealt with issues with his ADD medication, had trouble keeping weight on and after the season underwent surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, so I'm not sure if he was ever really healthy in 2013 and his production dropped significantly. He finished +0.3 fWAR with a .237/.332/.403 line and 20 HRs. He also struggled to hit lefties, putting up a .198/.254/.313 line vs LHP, down from .268/.319/.506 in the previous season. So far this season he has a .326/.446/.391 line vs LHPs. It's a small sample size of 56 PAs, of course, but he's looked much better at the plate overall and there are no issues with his health that have been reported thus far.
Maybe he's flying under the Kershaw-HudsonTanaka radar, but Stephen Strasburg is having a dominant season with an almost 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. How has he improved and why isn't he getting more attention?
Most of the attention he's been getting has been of the "Maybe he's not as good as we thought"-variety too, which is strange to anyone who watches him on a daily basis. While his ERA is the 23rd lowest among starters in the NL, he's got the National League's second lowest FIP (2.43) behind only Adam Wainwright (2.39). His 10.89 K/9 are the highest in the NL. He's tied with Wainwright for the NL lead in fWAR (+2.8). His 1.80 BB/9 are the 10th lowest in the NL. He has the highest BABIP in the NL right now too (.356), which is up over a .263 BABIP from last season and a career .301 mark, so that will likely come down at some point. I just think he's matured more, he's made some adjustments -- how he pushes off the mound -- (which has improved his fastball command), and a little bit further away from Tommy John surgery he's just continued to develop. Why isn't he getting more attention? He's been around for a while? There are new "next big things"?