The Rundown: Expect Bounce Back Effort From Stroman Tonight, Questioning Managerial Moves, Buehler Twirls Gem, ChiSox Struggling
Marcus Stroman will get the start in Atlanta tonight coming off of two miserable performances that have nearly driven his ERA into double-digit territory. He’ll need to find his rhythm against the Braves to turn it around, and commanding his sinker will go a long way toward achieving that goal.
“Nothing seems synonymous,” Stroman said after a loss to the Rays in his last start. “Every pitch essentially feels like I’m doing something different mechanically. It kind of comes and goes. In stretches, I feel great for an inning or a few batters and then kind of just lose it.”
When the first-year Cub is on, he features an elite groundball rate and a better-than-average swinging strike rate that keeps his WHIP below 1.30. Though his defense struggled a bit against Tampa Bay, Stroman’s sinker too often ran arm-side against a Rays lineup that featured eight left-handed batters. That’s a recipe for disaster and the Cubs lost 8-2 in a game that was called early after a long rain delay.
Here's a look at Marcus Stroman's 24 sinkers today, and the heatmap for the same pitch in his two previous starts this year. Still hunting for command of that pitch out of the gates this season. pic.twitter.com/DtTpU5D8Sq
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 21, 2022
The stats are as ugly as his most recent performance. Through 13.1 innings, Stroman has allowed 22 baserunners and has given up three home runs, but all of that is correctable if he can start commanding the sinker. David Ross, who can find a silver lining in any dark cloud, felt his starter was able to go to his four-seamer to escape further trouble.
“The transition for me that looked really good, he spotted some fours down and away,” said Ross. “The direction seems OK and the way he’s working the stuff seemed to tick up a little bit as he was going. … Just got to find that consistency when he’s out there.”
Stroman’s self-critique plays well with his manager and probably goes a long way in the clubhouse, too. The 30-year-old righty has been a team leader almost since the minute he signed his contract at the end of November and has been a voice of positivity despite his early-season struggle. A 90-pitch effort over six innings tonight would bode well for Stroman and the Cubs. The Braves enter tonight’s tilt with a 7-10 record and a .231 team batting average, though they do lead the National League with 20 homers.
If Stroman is on, he’ll drive Atlanta batty with his sinker, keep the ball in the yard, and provide steady work for Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal. If he can’t find his command, it’s going to be another long night.
The Cubs will face some of the league’s best pitchers in their three-game sets with the Braves and Brewers, but I do like tonight’s matchup. Atlanta will counter with Max Fried, and Chicago’s lineup should do well against a guy who generally pitches to contact. Fried has a .327 BABIP as compared to a league-average .296, though he also induces a high number of grounders. I like the Cubs’ chances if they can elevate Atlanta’s total pitch count, with 165 or higher being the general barometer for victory.
Cubs News & Notes
- Is it time to start questioning some of the moves by Chicago’s third-year manager? Yesterday’s broadcast of The Rant Live put Ross to task a little bit after the Pirates took three of four from the Cubs.
- Keegan Thompson might help the Cubs a lot more if Ross moved him into the rotation.
- Stat of the week courtesy of Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports: “The Cubs are 6-9 when scoring 20 or fewer runs in a game this season.”
- The Cubs could really use a power hitter, and Baby Boomstick Nelson Velázquez was named to the prospect team of the week by MLB.com after going 10-for-22 with four taters and nine ribeyes.
- Putting the 21-0 pounding of the Pirates on Saturday aside, the Cubs’ offense is a lot better than advertised, except when they reach double-digit strikeouts, of course.
- Lefty reliever Sean Newcomb is pretty excited about his fresh start with the Cubs. It would be nice to see him do a little damage against his former teammates this series.
- It’s possible that the first 10 selections in this year’s minor league draft could be hitters.
- Outfielder Chase DeLauter or infielder Jace Jung could be options for the Cubs at pick seven, though I’d be shocked if they pass on prep arm Dylan Lesko if he’s available.
Odds & Sods
Joc Pederson would have been a Chicago legend if Jed Hoyer hadn’t sold him to the Braves for a guy who is not even one of the team’s top 30 prospects.
Joc Pederson shut up some heckling fans real quick pic.twitter.com/9H9Z9eyuYv
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 26, 2022
MLB News & Notes
A 10-WAR season by Byron Buxton, Albert Pujols topping Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, and Tony La Russa getting a midseason pink slip are just some of the bold predictions from ESPN’s beat writers.
The White Sox are struggling at the plate and have blamed the mental side of the game for wearing their hitters down.
The ChiSox have lost seven straight games and will entertain the Royals, losers of four straight, tonight.
The Yankees believe they are fielding a defense with nine Gold Glove candidates.
Mike Trout reached 50 career triples last night with a checked-swing squeaker that left his bat at a very pedestrian 57.4 mph. The only triples with lower exit velocities were 49.4 mph from Bryan Reynolds on Thursday against the Cubs and 55.2 mph from Jake Lamb on July 18, 2017.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Walker Buehler – Complete games are rare and will probably never happen in Chicago as long as Ross is managing the Cubs, but Buehler was stellar last night as he rang up 10 Arizona batters with no walks in a 4-0 win.
- Taylor Ward – The leadoff hitter was a one-man wrecking crew for the Angels, socking two home runs and plating three runners in a 3-0 win over the Guardians.
- Corbin Burnes – The reigning Cy Young winner didn’t figure in the decision, but Burnes had 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work as the Brewers took it on the chin in a 4-2 loss to the Giants.
Scoring 21 runs in one game kind of anesthetizes the positive impact and negative implication, but it’s a cool stat nonetheless.
Interesting MLB Stat of the Day:
Since 2011, there have only been two occurrences of a team scoring 84+ runs and having a .350+ OBP in the 1st 16 games of a season while having a losing record.
The Chicago Cubs did this in 2019 and again this season! @MLBRandomStats pic.twitter.com/yf6jGsCJxG
— Greg Harvey (@BetweenTheNums) April 25, 2022
They Said It
- “I’m a realist: It’s two bad starts. That’s all it is. I’m not someone to dwell. I’m going to do everything I can to work on things and improve as I would do if I had a great start. I’m always adapting and changing. This is not half a bad season. This is two bad starts, and I’m going keep it at that and keep moving forward.” – Stroman
- “We definitely run into people in life that want to make excuses or want to find a reason why it’s not their fault. The accountability thing [with Stroman] is No. 1 on my radar. When you see players take accountability for their performance, good or bad, [it’s] super exciting to see.” – Ross
- “I do think [the high contact rate] is a pretty sustainable trait. It’ll probably vacillate from time to time with different matchups and different handedness. But I do think that we should be a fairly high contact team — but with that, we’re not going to hit as many three-run homers as we once did.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Turn it On Again by Genesis – I’d really like to see the Cubs light up Fried tonight, and yes, I have been on somewhat of a Genesis kick recently.