In what came as something of a “Well, duh” moment following Wednesday’s game in which the Cubs jumped in front 4-1 and then allowed eight unanswered runs, Joe Maddon said youth and lack of experience are to blame for his team’s inconsistent play.
“Happ didn’t play in the big leagues last year,” Maddon told the media. “Contreras played half a season. Schwarber did not play at all. Baez was a backup player and Almora came up in the middle of the season. What you’re seeing is young guys battling to get back to where we had been last year without the benefit of having veteran experience.”
I get that and it makes sense, but there’s something a little off about the way it’s being positioned 60-plus games into the season. And this is, if you recall, a season in which the Cubs are defending World Series champs. Yes, they won it all last season. With all those same players Maddon mentioned above. All of whom actually had less experience last year.
“There’s a certain unpredictability about us,” Maddon continued. “That’s why we’re a .500 ballclub right now. That’s what happens when you’re .500. You don’t play that same good game every day.”
That’s a nice euphemism and a sound theory, but it’s getting too late in the game to blame things on the same youth that drove last year’s title or that had some of these players called up earlier than expected. It’s hard to say that Ian Happ’s inexperience is leading to his inconsistent play while in the next breath talking about how he forced himself into pretty much an everyday role.
I won’t go so far as to say it’s disingenuous, because it’s not. In fact, it’s as genuine as can be. Happ, along with the rest of the players named above, are there because their talent merits it. And they’re inconsistent because their youth dictates it. And they’re sticking around because, well, because even a bunch of super-talented guys who aren’t putting it all together regularly are better than a bunch of schlubs who play to their low ceilings every night.
Thing is, the ability to wave this all off as a product of youth and inexperience loses a little bit when viewed in the light of last year’s successes. Baseball’s a weird sport, though, and momentum — while overblown terms of its affect on the moment — really does matter. That ability to establish a rhythm and to get all facets of the game working at once is something that’s largely gone missing this season.
The good news in all of this is that it won’t take much time to regain that confidence and establish a new sense of consistency, particularly with the Brewers only two games up in the Central. The Cubs look like a little kid wobbling down the street after his or her training wheels have been removed for the first time. All it takes is a little boost and a few solid rotations of the pedals and they’ll be off.
Zobrist could hit DL with sore wrist
Ben Zobrist’s wrist (his Zobwrist?) has been bothering him since he tweaked it on an awkward swing against the Dodgers’ Alex Wood in late May. He’s been fighting through it ever since and the versatile veteran admitted prior to Wednesday’s game that it’s not getting better and that he’d undergo testing to determine the extent of the injury. If things look dicey, he could go to the DL retroactive to Tuesday.
Okay, I don’t understand why there’s even a question of him going on the shelf or not. If the wrist is too messed up to allow him to swing from the right side, or at least to do so with any real efficacy, he’s already in a platoon situation. And if the determination won’t be made until Friday, with a start date retro to Tuesday, you’ve already burned nearly half of the shortened 10-day timeframe.
Inconsistency or no, Ian Happ and Javy Baez can easily fill the void left by Zobrist for at least a week. This is the stuff that can really hamper a team, the whole playing through an injury and not allowing it to heal up. Zobrist provides that veteran steadiness that seems in short supply, but any of that is sapped by an injury that hampers his ability to bat from one side of the plate.
It’s easy for me to say as I sit here with no access to the test results, but it seems pretty clear that Zobrist needs to take a few days off, rest up, and get right. Until then, he’s just as guilty as the young guys when it comes to fueling the Cubs’ inconsistent play.
Weird home run facts
- Including spring training, Anthony Rizzo has led off the 1st inning for the Cubs three times. He has hit three home runs. I think that means he should stay there forever.
- Kyle Schwarber, the kid who only hits homers, picked up a hit that wasn’t a home run Wednesday night, making it the second time he’s done so since May 17
- Kris Bryant isn’t getting too many chances to drive in runs. Despite a .211 average since May 17, Bryant has an .883 OPS, .378 wOBA, and 133 OPS and had notched 11 hits that aren’t home runs. None of those have pushed runs across, though.
The last time Kris Bryant had an RBI that did not come on a HR was May 16 when he knocked in Tommy La Stella with a 6th-inning double.
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) June 14, 2017