The Rundown: Cubs Beating Playoff-Caliber Teams, Wisdom Stays White Hot, Rule Changes Bring Excitement Back to Game
“Climbing as we fall, we dare to hold on to our fate and steal away our destiny, to catch ourselves with quiet grace.” – INXS, The Stairs
The Cubs took two of three from the Dodgers in what could have been a sweep, but let’s not dwell on the negativity. It’s important to remind ourselves that this is a transition year and that means a growing pain or two. I’m sure David Ross is getting plenty of feedback from the front office, so the hope is that he’ll make more sound decisions going forward. I do not like his Sunday lineups and it’s possible we overestimated the team’s depth just a little bit.
Two potential depth pieces could be just a phone call away, however. Christopher Morel is lighting it up at Iowa and playing with a heavy chip on his shoulder. He was slashing .378/.500/1.322 heading into yesterday’s action and doesn’t deserve to be playing at Triple-A. Matt Mervis has been an OBP machine for Iowa with a robust slash line of .293/.456/1.041 and he’d be an upgrade over the platoon of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. If you swap Mervis for Edwin Ríos and Morel for Luis Torrens, Chicago will have the type of depth that means fewer throwaway lineups.
Hosmer could then get just enough plate appearances to potentially make him a trade chip, or he could be used as part of a package to get a legitimate closer. Michael Fulmer could still be a savvy pickup, but he’s not missing very many bats thus far. I’d rather see Adbert Alzolay or Keegan Thompson closing games until Jeremiah Estrada is ready. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs take a run at David Bednar or Aroldis Chapman if they need a short-term answer. You don’t hear much about Chapman because he plays for the Royals, but he looks like he’s returned to form.
Finally, Dansby Swanson is in a bit of a funk lately. He struck out five times on Friday night and looked completely lost at the plate. I’ve mentioned he’s a very streaky hitter, but 13 punchouts in his last 32 plate appearances is a shocking run for him. Having better depth would lessen the blow of Swanson’s droughts at the plate. That said, the Cubs head to Oakland with an 8-6 record and the second-best batting average in the National League. With reinforcements in Morel and Mervis at the ready, Chicago could do some damage this summer.
Cubs News & Notes
- Not many expected it, but Drew Smyly pitched well enough to defeat Julio Urías in yesterday’s 3-2 win.
- The series win was Chicago’s first at Dodger Stadium since 2014.
- Brad Boxberger earned the save yesterday, but Mark Leiter was the difference-maker for the bullpen all weekend. “The Leit Show” had five strikeouts in 1.2 innings of work covering the Saturday and Sunday games.
- The Cubs have successfully deployed baserunning as a weapon thanks to some of the new rules changes. Nico Hoerner is on pace for a whopping 92 stolen bases this season, which would be a team record that goes all the way back to 1896 when Bill Lange swiped 84 bags.
- Chicago hit five home runs in Friday night’s 8-2 win.
- The combination of speed and power deserves a nickname like the “Shake and Bake” Cubs or something.
- While Morel’s strikeout struggles during the spring training slate have continued to a degree, he has also been drawing walks at a much higher rate. He had nine free passes in his first 10 games at Iowa, aiding an impressive .511 on-base percentage.
- How hot has Owen Caissie been for Tennessee? The slugging outfielder has started the season with a 1.269 OPS. I’m told that’s very good.
- Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to throw 30-35 pitches in a simulated game today in Arizona.
Odds & Sods
Hey kids…enjoy Pete Crow-Armstrong but don’t copy this slide. I’m shocked PCA did not get injured.
Cubs top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong with insane slide pic.twitter.com/I8bTg00XLo
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) April 15, 2023
- St. Louis: Fireballing reliever Jordan Hicks is really struggling this year. He’s not the only one, however. A third of the Cardinals’ staff has ERAs of 5.65 or higher. Sure the team misses Adam Wainwright, but they also have a new catcher this year. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
- Milwaukee: Brandon Woodruff has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 subscapular strain in his right shoulder. Surgery won’t be required, but Woodruff indicated that he is facing a lengthy stint on the injured list.
- Cincinnati: Joey Votto is facing an uncertain future now that his 20-day rehab assignment has ended. The organization has no current plans to move him to the roster.
- Pittsburgh: According to the Pittsburgh Stadium Independent Employees Union website, the Pirates’ stadium workers voted to strike immediately. Pittsburgh doesn’t play at PNC Park until Thursday against the Reds.
Climbing the Ladder
“He’ll save with a mighty hand every man, every woman, every child with a mighty Flash.” – Queen, Flash’s Theme
Patrick Wisdom has been white hot through the first two weeks of the season. He leads the team with six taters, three of which came in LA, and is batting what would be a career-best .255. He and Bellinger have been the nicest surprises to start the season, as the two have combined for 50% of Chicago’s home run output.
That’s not sustainable, and it would be sort of a big red flag in the power department if it was. You’d have to think there will be spots opening soon for Mervis and Morel.
- Games Played: 14
- Total Plate Appearances: 536
- Total Strikeouts: 120
- Strikeout Rate: 22.39%
- Team Batting Average: .274
- Runs Scored: 73
- Runs Allowed: 57
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 44.3%
How About That!
Thanks to new rule changes and emerging trends, baseball is a much different monster than it’s been in previous seasons.
Where are you on the “new baseball?” Thumbs up or down?
The Twins and Pablo López are closing in on a four-year contract extension.
One insider is already linking third baseman Matt Chapman to the Mets in next year’s free-agent market.
I did not know this but players are financially compensated for agreeing to be mic’d up during national telecasts.
Jamie Moyer turns 60 this year and I’m surprised he’s still not pitching. Today marks the 11-year anniversary of Moyer winning a game at the age of 49, the oldest MLB pitcher to accomplish that feat.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Gerrit Cole – A complete game victory with 10 strikeouts, one walk, and two hits allowed is a pretty good day at the office.
- Luis Castillo – The former Reds star had his best game as a Mariner, setting down the first 18 batters he faced in a 1-0 win over the Rockies. Castillo pitched seven innings of two-hit ball with nine punchouts.
- Wade Miley – The Brewers really need Miley to step up with Woodruff out, and the veteran did not disappoint. He outdueled Yu Darvish to beat the Pirates 1-0, recording eight strikeouts in seven innings of work. Darvish had a strong game, too.
Not a Star: Reds starter Luis Cessa gave up 11 runs and 14 hits in three innings of work in a 14-3 loss to the Phillies.
Remember when Jason Heyward was the talk of the Dodgers camp and Bellinger was the malcontent who left town? I’ll take Belli-bombs over 4-3 groundouts every day of the week. The outfielder is starting to look locked in.
I wonder if Heyward will get the same reception when he returns as Bellinger did in Los Angeles. In case you missed it, Dodgers fans gave the former ROY and MVP a huge ovation in his first at-bat at Dodger Stadium, thanking him for the memories, only for Bellinger to get an automatic strike for a pitch-clock violation getting into the box too late.
Name rings bells 🔔@Cody_Bellinger pic.twitter.com/KftmdCrreY
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 16, 2023
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Based on a consensus of several mock drafts, the odds favor the Bears selecting OT Paris Johnson Jr. with their first selection next Thursday.
- On Friday, Spanish extreme athlete Beatriz Flamini emerged from a cave she (voluntarily) stayed in for 500 days. That makes the weekend darkness retreat by Aaron Rodgers look like child’s play.
- Poor Billy Joel — his Madison Square Garden residency has been altered because the arena is booked solid with Rangers and Knicks playoff games.
- Thursday is 4/20, Ramadan ends Friday at sundown, and Saturday is Earth Day. Be sure to notate your calendars.
- Police are searching for a suspect that stole two million dimes from a truck in Northeast Philadelphia. That will buy a lot of Dunkin’ and WaWa coffee.
- Ted Nugent is about to embark on his “Adios Mofos” Farewell Tour, but let’s be honest…is Nugent ever really going away?
Apropos of Nothing
The Rundown is really becoming a long daily, and I am considering breaking it up into two articles. I have some work constraints now that we are returning to our offices, and I don’t want to truncate what I’m currently doing. I may toy with it starting tomorrow. The obvious option is to separate the preamble from the rest of the content, and have two 700-850 word posts per day. I may brand it (like The Rundown) or not.
They Said It
- “[Leiter] has been great. That’s why we went to him. I’m sure there were a lot of people questioning why with a lefty down there. But he’s been great, excellent. Just coming in, picking up Adbert [Alzolay] and getting out of traffic with the heart of their order. He’s done a really nice job for us.” – Ross
- “We’re nasty. We have a good team. We’ve got a lot of talented players. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are super talented and some old guys who have been around and done it for a long time. Everybody meshes really good. It’s a really exciting, fun team to be around. The culture is great. When you start knocking some series wins against teams like this, it takes it to another level. We are just as good as them.” – Smyly
Monday Walk-Up Song
The Cubs have now won three straight series against teams that were preseason favorites to make the playoffs. They head to Oakland to face a 3-13 team that has yet to get a win from any of its starting pitchers. Pedal to the metal.