There is an old adage that defense and pitching wins championships and if that’s truly the case, David Ross has his players firmly rooted in that axiom. As much as I love watching the big sticks that make up the Cubs’ deeply talented lineup, it is their defense that has inspired me to add a new section to this column, aptly titled “No Glove, No Love” (see below).
After last night’s 2-0 win over the Royals, the Cubs sit at 8-2 with three more games against Kansas City Those are followed by three in St. Louis with a Cardinals team that will have been idle for a full week before returning to play, so the North Siders can make some headway in the NL Central. Getting off to a quick start is key in a shortened season and the Cubs deserve high marks from the front office on down for this sizzling start.
I want to focus on Alec Mills and the rest of the starting rotation for now, though. Mills operates on five speeds ranging from his low-90’s fastball to whatever the heck that thing is that he tosses up to the plate at about 64 mph. I don’t know how a hitter can get comfortable in the box with that type of variance in speed, especially from a guy who looks so unimposing. If Kyle Hendricks is the team’s Professor, Mills can only be its resident Poindexter. Talk about your Revenge of the Nerds.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 4, 2020
Believe it or not, the Cubs now have three starters in the top 10 in NL ERA, anchored by the lower end of their rotation:
Using baseball’s new math where one win represents 2.7 theoretical wins, Chicago now sits at a lofty 22-5 and possesses a 92% chance of making the postseason. The last time the Cubs played this well was 2018, when they improved to 58-40 with a 7-2 win over the Cardinals on July 17. The last time they started 8-2 was in 2016.
And that’s the thing: 10 games into this season the Cubs are carrying the same swagger as they did during their championship run. That’s something they kind of lost, even when performing well in ’17 and ’18. It goes without saying that anything can happen in what has already been the most unpredictable of baseball seasons, but gold glove defense and stellar pitching usually portend great things, and yes, championships. You can’t lose if the opposition doesn’t score.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ross calls Mills his “bullpen saver.”
- Though the Cubs are among the league’s best teams, Kris Bryant says there is an uneasiness to the season due to COVID-19 that provides cause for continued concern.
- Bryant hit his first home run of the season in yesterday’s game.
- Chatwood has been impressive throwing his cutter this season, whiffing opposing batters at three times the league average when throwing it.
- Rowan Wick earned the save in last night’s game and, after Jeremy Jeffress earned the win in Sunday’s extra-inning affair, Ross has suddenly deployed a “closer by committee” strategy while the team tries to get Craig Kimbrel untracked.
- Shortstop Javier Báez once again demonstrated the quickest tag in baseball last night. “Believe it or not,” Báez said, “I practice this.”
- Hendricks takes the bump tonight for his third start of the season. The Professor is practically lights-out when pitching at Wrigley Field and he’ll be opposed by Royals rookie Brady Singer. The 2018 first round draft pick has looked solid in his previous two starts and I worry this is a trap game for Chicago, since they’ve yet to see Singer.
Apropos of Nothing
Just a personal observation, but Mills pitches with a look on his face like he’s wearing an undershirt that says “Who the F*** is José Quintana?”
No Glove No Love
David Bote gets the belt and crown this morning, though El Mago was equally deserving for his gem.
David Bote *again* with the exceptional footwork and throw to nail the league's fastest guy pic.twitter.com/yVwurNiGTU
— Brendan Miller (@brendan_cubs) August 4, 2020
Odds & Sods
It’s true, the continental breakfast at the Pfister Hotel allegedly features cereal selections Count Chocula, Boo Berries, and Frankenberry. Someone criticized me yesterday for posting the name of the hotel where Cardinals players are staying. I’m not sure I “broke” that story, nor did I realize this column had that kind of reach.
Prayers to the Cardinals for having to stay in that haunted ass hotel in Milwaukee for so long.
— Coach Trev (@trevorplouffe) August 4, 2020
How About That!
The Cardinals learned yesterday that nearly 25% of their roster has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Though supposedly unrelated to the pandemic, the Field of Dreams game between St Louis and the White Sox scheduled for August 13 has been postponed until 2021.
The Cubs’ series with the Redbirds, set to start Friday, has not been postponed, though MLB is actively monitoring the situation.
Cards executive John Mozeliak said contact tracing has led the team to believe that their outbreak seems to have started in St. Louis, diffusing rumors that some team members and/or staff may have been infected while attending a Minneapolis casino.
Marlins’ CEO Derek Jeter discussed his team’s battle with C-19 yesterday. The Marlins haven’t played since July 26 and will look to finally resume their season tomorrow night in Baltimore. Jeter emphatically stated that rumors about his players becoming infected while partying in Atlanta are false.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Gerrit Cole – Baseball’s wealthiest starter became the American League’s first three-game winner last night while winning his 19th straight decision, beating Jake Arrieta and the Phillies 6-3.
- Sonny Gray – The Reds starter also improved to 3-0 in beating the Indians 3-2 last night. Gray went six strong, scattering four hits while punching out eight Cleveland hitters.
- Jacob deGrom – The righty has been the game’s most consistent starter for three seasons and one of the few bright spots for the Mets organization. Last night deGrom whiffed 10 Atlanta batters in six innings of work, earning his first win of the season.
My new nickname for Len Kasper is ‘Nuff Ced.
Sliding Into Home
The psychologist my physician requested I see for being repressed and depressed asked me to find something motivating to give me a sense of purpose or belonging, so I have been compiling song playlists for my social media friends. Each gives me three songs and I build a two-hour mix based on their suggestions, my contention being that my knowledge of music is much stronger than any iTunes or Spotify algorithm. I cannot overstate how much fun I am having, and the recipients have been kind enough to tip $5, $10 or $20 into my GoFundMe. Though some of the requests are challenging, I believe I’ve curated some great stuff.
Saving the best for last: Much love to Torque — and well, to all of you — for the generosity. I hope one day you will all have strong, wonderful memories of me, but I hope the day I become the CI in memoriam reference is at least a decade or two away. I’ve been disguising it pretty well, but I’ve been in a really dark place lately and you have all helped pull me out a little. There’s still a way to go, but I can finally see the sun.
This is everything I dislike about social media summed up in one tweet. There is a hint of narcissism, a whisper of passive aggression, and for dessert, deft sleight-of-hand with a nod to, or swipe at, Marxism, depending on how one interprets it.
As a true leftist I only eat real proletariat food: stewed salted beets, a single cabbage leaf boiled in well water, and black bread. Anything besides these three foods is bourgeois decadence
— j̵͍̎i̸̗͛z̵͔̎z̴̗͌w̴̥̽i̵̛̮t̷̛̟c̶̣͝h̸͉̍ (@spermatomancer) August 3, 2020
They Said It
- “My job is to make it hurt whenever I face [the Royals].” – Alec Mills
- “If you do feel something, just stay away and take it as seriously as possible. That’s the only way we’re going to really get through a World Series. I just think it’s important. Put your pride and egos aside. It could end up helping the rest of your teammates.” – Kris Bryant
- “We understood there were going to be risks…just the inherent risk playing in the middle of a pandemic. Would it make it easier if we said, ‘Oh somebody went to a strip joint?’ ” – John Mozeliak
Tuesday Walk Up Song
The Sun is Shining Down by JJ Grey & Mofro – “Glory glory hallelujah. The sun is shining down and I’m alive.”