The Rundown: Eww .571, Darvish Sim Game, Cleanup on Aisle 21
If a baseball team went 4-3 every seven games and then added a win in game 162, they’d end the season with a very nice 93-69 record. That’s a game better than the Cubs finished last season and it’s a game shy of where their current .579 winning percentage says they should end up. Either way, it should be enough to win the division.
Thing is, a team can’t just repeat the same stretch 23 consecutive times over the course of the season. There will be streaks both good and bad that balance things out. There are also degrees of goodness and badness when it comes to performance, since not all opponents are created equal. And in winning only four of seven games against teams with a combined .348 winning percentage, the Cubs aren’t quite swimming in goodness.
Listen, there are times like last night when baseball is just going to baseball. Even the worst team, which the Royals’ 35-79 record says they actually are, is going to win 50-60 games and some of those are going to come against the best teams. That still doesn’t make a 9-0 shellacking feel any better, particularly when a supposedly potent offense looks like it needs one of those pills being hawked during the commercial breaks.
The Cubs do at least head into the weekend with more of a cushion in the division than they had heading into the series in KC, plus they’ve got eight more games remaining against the Brewers. But while this recent stretch against the two worst teams in their respective leagues (shout to Orioles, who are tied with the Royals) isn’t the Cubs’ obituary, it’s certainly a frightening diagnosis.
They need to get more consistent offensive performance up and down the lineup, period. Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez have been excellent and David Bote is a hard-hitting breath of fresh air, but several other hitters appear to be circling the event horizon of a black hole. Albert Almora Jr. in particular is in enough of a funk to be jamming Atomic Dog with George Clinton.
Almora’s posted a -0.4 fWAR and a 20 wRC+ over the last 30 days and the story gets even worse when he’s facing righty pitchers. The center fielder has posted a .100/.143/.100 slash with a .117 wOBA and a -37 wRC+ against righties in the last month (43 plate appearances). And while he’s the worst, he’s far from the only struggling hitter.
Addison Russell has seemingly forgotten how to hit and has accounted for -0.2 fWAR over the last month. He hasn’t homered since June 29 and has only two extra-base hits in his last 87 plate appearances. Ian Happ has likewise been worth less than a replacement player over the last month and hasn’t collected more than a single since July 24.
I could go on — Kyle Schwarber is barely positive — but the point is that several everyday players simply aren’t carrying their weight in the lineup right now. The flip side of that is the reality that these guys have to regress back to the mean in a good way. I mean, this futility can’t continue. Right? Right?
You shouldn’t be shamed for wanting to throw your hands up and bemoan the occasional suckiness of this Cubs team, but you’d still be foolish to throw their season out at this point.
Darvish sim game
The count has varied depending on when it was reported, but Yu Darvish threw 30-some pitches to a combination of Tommy La Stella and Victor Caratini Wednesday in Kansas City. The simulated game marks the first time Darvish has thrown to live hitters since a rehab start in South Bend roughly six weeks ago and it represents a big step forward in his recovery.
“I thought he threw really well, easy, not affected in any way,” Joe Maddon said of the short outing. “I think he hit 93 [mph]. Good curveballs and cutter. He looked loose and free to me. I thought it was a really good day.”
Though the Cubs had said last week that Darvish could jump to another rehab stint in the wake of a successful sim game, Maddon indicated that they’d probably opt for another fake outing first. That’s as much about being careful with the process as it is a matter of the roster, since moving straight to minor league starts would probably have Darvish back well before September.
The Cubs have been getting good results from Mike Montgomery and Cole Hamels and might not feel the need to rush Darvish back at the cost of a roster spot. Not that he isn’t worth more than the last reliever on 25-man *cough, Brian Duensing, cough* right now, just that they’ve got the leeway at this point.
That could all change over the next two weeks, though, so keep an eye on it.
With the game slipping out of hand, I figured I could pull myself away long enough to take a shower without missing much. And with the Cubs down 5-0 following a home run by Adalberto Mondesi — whose father Harry Caray referred to as “RAY-ool Mon-DEE-see” — I hoped my absence would spur a turnaround.
When I returned, Jorge Bonifacio was doubling to increase the Royals’ lead. Then Brett Phillips tripled to push things even further out of hand and I remember thinking, “At least Chatwood isn’t walking guys.” Oh how naive I was.
I had missed the part where he had walked Hunter Dozier on four pitches to lead off the 8th inning and how he’d walked Alex Gordon in the previous inning. I’ve been climbing further and further onto the limb all season calling for patience with Chatwood, but Wednesday’s effort produced a large crack and sent me hurtling toward the ground.
While I won’t go so far as to say the Cubs need to wash their hands of the whole deal, I can’t imagine a path by which Chatwood becomes an effective option for them in any role this season. There are just some times that you can’t fix a problem by working through it and I think this is such a time.
And maybe there’s no fixing it at all and this is a Rick Ankiel situation, but I do believe Chatwood’s stuff can still play. It just doesn’t at all right now and I think enough of that is mental that a break would benefit as much as anything.