“You are young and you are the future, so suck it up and tough it out and be the best you can” – John Mellencamp, Minutes to Memories
It’s quite possible that working out of the bullpen earlier this year prepared Justin Steele to be a better starter. The rookie left-hander sure looked impressive escaping some nail-biting jams in the four innings he worked last night. Though he was hung with the loss in another bad display of baseball by the Cubs, Steele was long removed from the game when Chicago’s bullpen imploded, allowing the Reds to cruise to a 14-5 win.
Most of the staff here at Cubs Insider have pointed out on a few occasions that there are reasons to watch the Replacement Cubs, even when they are piling one loss on top of another, and Steele is one of those reasons. The 26-year-old is going to be part of the rotation the rest of this year and beyond as Jed Hoyer prepares to build the organization’s next competitive team. That may seem light years away for many of us, but Steele gives us a glimpse of the future and the notion that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
For his part, Steele knew he was playing with fire at times.
“Throwing in the bullpen earlier this year helped me a lot with multiple things, along with getting out of tough situations like that,” Steele told Tony Andracki of Marquee Sports after the game. “All the routines and stuff that I learned in the bullpen, I’ve translated it over to being a starter and it’s really helped.”
“In those situations, you have to be a little finer with your pitches, locate a little bit better. Just some gritty moments you kind of have to bite down and get after it. “I’m not going say I like those moments, but I like getting out of those moments.”
Working with teammates Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, and Ryan Tepera before the trade deadline selloff surely helped Steele to get big outs when they’re most needed. Imagine picking the brains of those guys while waiting your turn in the bullpen. The lefty stranded six runners in his first three innings of work, now it would be nice if he learns how not to put himself in dicey positions as he gets acclimated to starting. Then again, the Reds have a deep lineup of good hitters, so limiting the damage to two runs should be considered a raving success.
Those situations also allowed the young pitcher to unveil his full arsenal, thanks to a wipeout slider that seemed to be missing in his previous start against the Brewers. When his slider is on, it pairs nicely with Steele’s big fastball because it generates whiffs and forces batters to respect his curveball and sinker.
Justin Steele, 95mph Paint. 🎨🖌️ pic.twitter.com/xmCMhz5JOX
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 17, 2021
Justin Steele had four swings and misses total in his last start against a whiff-happy Brewers offense. He's already at nine through three tonight. Just using a completely different arsenal, pairing the four-seam and slider nicely. Last time he leaned on the sinker, esp early.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 17, 2021
Despite the nice outing by their young starter, the Cubs continue to set new lows with each loss. Their losing streak now sits at 12 games, two away from the team record, and they’ve lost 42 of their last 56. That’s not a small sample size, so we can say with confidence that the Cubs are a team that can be counted on to lose 75% of the games they play. Those early season sweeps of the Mets, Dodgers, and Cardinals now seem centuries ago.
Cubs News & Notes
- With Steele, Keegan Thompson, and Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs could be on the verge of a rotation youth movement behind Kyle Hendricks.
- As the losses mount in record numbers, Tom Ricketts and his family decided to honor themselves for all of their *ahem* accomplishments, specifically the Wrigley Field renovation project, since purchasing the team.
- I’ve said it before, but the Ricketts family really needs to find a new PR person.
- The Cubs will face the Reds in next year’s Field of Dreams Game. If last night was a preview, that’s going to be a bad look for baseball.
- David Ross would like Hoyer to acquire a big time arm to help speed up the rebuild.
- CI’s Todd Johnson took a very deep dive into the Cubs’ farm system and resurfaced with 24 prospects who could be ready to help the Cubs as soon as 2023.
- Chicago is now just 0.5 games behind the Nationals for the fifth overall pick in next year’s draft. For those thinking the Cubs might catch the Pirates, you can kick that dream to the curb. If the Cubs go 10-31 they’d finish 62-100, and the Pirates would have to go 21-22 to finish ahead of them. It’s not happening.
- The Padres have signed Jake Arrieta to a minor league deal, but will select his contract in time for him to start Wednesday in Colorado. Arrieta was released by the Cubs over the weekend and has given up 58 runs in his last 58.1 innings of work.
Odds & Sods
I’ve got nothing.
just getting caught up on this extremely disturbing thing from last week pic.twitter.com/rtMvaMV3my
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) August 17, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“There you stood, everybody watched you play; I just turned and walked away.” – Bob Seger, Still the Same
- Games Played: 120
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,443
- Total Strikeouts: 1,183
- Strikeout Rate: 26.6%
- Team Batting Average: .229
After news broke about the Ricketts family dedication I couldn’t watch last night’s game. It feels almost Faustian that we once revered Tom Ricketts and if this is the price for breaking that championship curse, often it seems the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.
How About That!
Cole Hamels has an arm issue, stopped throwing after one inning of a simulated game, and will not pitch for the Dodgers this season. Los Angeles is on the hook for the $1 million they gave Hamels to sign.
The Mets have fallen 3.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East as their season continues to spiral out of control.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone isn’t certain Clint Frazier will be able to play baseball again after the outfielder was pulled from a minor league rehab assignment Monday amid continuing issues with his vision.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Jonathan India – The Reds third baseman plated five runners in last night’s win over the Cubs, going 3-for-5 with a home run and a double.
- Kris Bryant – Two homers, including a 414-foot bomb to center field in the 5th inning. O, death, where is thy sting?
- Brandon Lowe – The second baseman also went deep twice in the Rays’ 9-2 win over the Orioles. With 79 losses, Baltimore is one game behind the Diamondbacks for the first overall draft pick and on pace to finish the season with 110 losses.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Baseball has lost 11 million fans since 2007. Duration of games and increasing costs are among the oft-cited reasons for the decline.
Bryant wants us to remember the good times. When asked after the game if his agent would prevent him from signing an extension with the Giants, Bryant replied “I run the show.”
Homers in back-to-back ABs for KB. pic.twitter.com/LGmSrxXsuZ
— MLB (@MLB) August 17, 2021
They Said It
- “I thought [Steele] was pretty impressive. I thought he had electric stuff. I thought he moved the fastball around really well. Pitched out of some jams, made pitches when he had to.” – David Ross
- “Anytime you have a pitch working, it’s going make your other pitches better because it’s going to get [batters] timing off on the other pitches. But I was very pleased with my slider today. There were some good curveballs as well, but I had a little more feel for my slider, so I was throwing it a little bit more.” – Justin Steele
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Paper in Fire by John Mellencamp – The Cubs have certainly torched it this season. Here’s hoping Hoyer can build a team worthy of next year’s Field of Dreams game.