“Some fools fool themselves, I guess, but they’re not fooling me.” – Nazareth, Love Hurts
If I am being completely forthright, I was so disgusted with last night’s 4-3 loss to the Pirates that I just didn’t want to write this morning. But I slept on it and realized that this roster is built for mediocrity and that that means sometimes the Cubs will make inferior opponents look like playoff-caliber teams. Last night was one of those times.
Mark Leiter Jr. is never going to make the Cubs’ rotation any better, he’s just a placeholder until Caleb Kilian gets promoted. If anything, we’ve been indoctrinated into the types of outings he produces after a full season of Zach Davies in 2021. In fact, I’ve decided to preemptively seek other forms of visual entertainment when Leiter is scheduled to pitch, not just for my sanity, but for the wellness of those who follow me on social media.
Compounding things is the offensive funk Chicago’s North Side baseballers are dealing with. There was a lot of finger-pointing at the home plate umpire last night, and yesterday’s weaksauce offensive output had all of the Jason Heyward haters front and center. The Cubs struck out 10 times against five nondescript relievers and couldn’t muster a single hit after the 2nd inning. Calling out a slightly expanded strike zone and picking on a guy who did no better or worse than his teammates seems overly egregious. There is little perspicacity in collecting low-hanging fruit.
The Cubs are a confounding team. Last night aside, they control the strike zone much better this season even though only a few of their hitters are making consistently good contact. Because they lack a true power hitter, lackluster pitching performances like yesterday’s, or Wednesday’s 8-2 loss to the Rays, expose the team’s offensive flaws. Eliminating double-digit strikeouts has also eliminated those games where the Cubs can score 10 runs or more. That means that three runs may not be enough to beat a team like the Pirates unless Chicago is getting a stellar outing from its starters and relievers.
At 6-7, the Cubs are under .500 for the first time this season, making a tough short-term schedule that includes tilts with the Braves, Brewers, White Sox, and Dodgers seems overly oppressive. Few of us expect much from this team so the highlight of the season will be watching Seiya Suzuki, anticipating the big league debuts of Kilian and Brennen Davis, and monitoring trade rumors sites to see who will be leaving and who might stick around through the rebuild. Granted, it’s still taking some getting used to after 5-6 seasons of competitive baseball, but I promise we’ll come to our senses.
Cubs News & Notes
- Bryan Reynolds hit a triple last night that traveled 79 feet in the air at the lightning-fast speed of 49.4 mph.
- The Cubs aren’t using PitchCom yet, but they’re “getting close.”
- Ethan Roberts picked up the loss last night and though he’s taking his faith share of lumps, he knows it’s all part of the learning process.
- Kilian had his longest outing of the year for Triple-A Iowa Thursday night, going five innings and giving up just one run on three hits. He struck out four and walked one.
- Rafael Ortega was in the leadoff spot again last night, and though he had a 1st-inning single and scored a run, I’m perplexed that he’s “the guy.”
- Suzuki is ranked No. 3 in the initial hitter power rankings by MLB.com.
- Despite last night’s loss, the Cubs intend to remain patient at the plate and emphasize contact over power.
- Cory Abbott has been traded to the Giants for cash.
- The most recent mock draft by Prospects Live has the Cubs selecting the best hitter in this year’s class, shortstop Brooks Lee of Cal-Poly, who could be ready to play at the MLB level by 2024. He may end up playing third base as a pro.
- Here’s a comprehensive scouting report on the 21-year-old Lee.
Odds & Sods
Jed Hoyer was right when he said baseball is still not past its COVID-19 issues.
This is so ’22 Red Sox:
When series in Toronto’s over next week, Red Sox won’t fly out of Canada.
They will bus to Buffalo, then jet to Baltimore.
Because crossing Canadian border by land into US doesn’t require a negative COVID-19 test.
— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) April 22, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
- “Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan.” – The Doors, Riders on the Storm
The Cubs had 12 strikeouts last night, the third time in 13 games that they’ve hit double digits. Chicago was also 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and didn’t have a single extra-base hit. Suzuki struck out three times, giving him five punchouts in his last eight plate appearances.
- Games Played: 13
- Total Plate Appearances: 474
- Total Strikeouts: 104
- Strikeout Rate: 21.94%
- Team Batting Average: .254
MLB News & Notes
The Padres are the first MLB team to reach a uniform endorsement deal. They’ll advertise Motorola with a patch on their right sleeves in 2023.
Few starting pitchers are getting the requisite six innings to qualify for a quality start, another example of how analytics has changed the game (for better or worse).
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Daniel Vogelbach – His two-run homer seemed to take all the air out of the Cubs’ sails. That kind of voodoo deserves the top spot here.
- Sean Murphy – No ifs, and, or butts about it, the A’s catcher had every productive night, going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and three RBI in front of basically no fans. Oakland is averaging less than 8,000 fans per game over the last two seasons.
- Aaron Boone – He made the strategically sound move of intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera when the Detroit DH strolled to the plate looking for his 3,000th career hit with the Yankees down 1-0. The Tigers prevailed anyway and Cabrera will be on watch again tonight at home against the Rockies.
Of Cabrera’s 2,999 career hits, only one is a bunt single.
Your Friday morning feel-good moment is brought to you by BSmile Baseball.
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) April 22, 2022
They Said It
- “I’m going to learn every time I get out there. I think the biggest thing that I want to get over is just being confident in myself. It’s a hard game. If it was easy, everybody would do it. You hear that all the time, but it’s tough. It’s an adjustment.” – Roberts
- “Ethan is taking some bumps and bruises and trying to establish himself as a big-league reliever. I think that stuff takes time and you’ve got to go through some rough environments and try to get out of those.” – David Ross
- “It’s been a lot of fun so far that a lot of guys are buying into the team approach whether it’s just getting good pitches to hit and just battling our [butts] off in the box. We’re aggressive early, we’re selective when we need to be and I think we just have great makeup [in our] lineup right now. We’re never out of the game.” – Frank Schwindel
Friday Walk-Up Song
Hello, I Love You by The Doors – Two of my good friends went to Paris this week with the sole purpose of visiting Jim Morrison’s grave, That sounds a helluva lot more fun than watching a Cubs-Pirates contest.