The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes. The way is shut.
The Cubs’ fall from grace was fast and frankly, expected—they haven’t won a series yet this year outside of their first against the Brewers, catching them when Milwaukee’s pitching seemed to think the season started a week later than it really did. The Brewers are back to the top of the NL Central standings and their pitchers are back to shutting the Cubs out, outscoring them this past weekend 20-4. The defending World Series champion Braves also mostly dominated the Cubs, winning two out of three games. There’s not a lot you can do against a team with multiple Gold Glove winners—the Cubs aren’t that team anymore.
Slightly more concerning is the fact that the Cubs pitching continues to be a rollercoaster ride I’d prefer to get off of. The starters largely haven’t been able to hold things together, meaning the bullpen is eating innings like nobody’s business. And we saw exactly what happened when this same scenario went down for the Cubs last year, and that was a significantly better team than what we’re trotting out this year. We are still without staples like Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Wade Miley, but so far the starters who were supposed to be holding it down largely aren’t doing that right now.
- Mark Leiter Jr. finally got optioned, as the Cubs tried to cram him in as a starter despite him not having played in the MLB since 2018. It went about as well as you’d think, as he took the mound against the Braves on Wednesday trying to improve upon his ERA of 11.05. He stayed in for the first 2 innings, which took him 45 pitches to get through, and only four of them were called strikes. He then came in as a bullpen guy on Friday after Hendricks had already given up 7 runs. Leiter Jr. pitched one inning in which he had three strikeouts and only one hit. He seems to be better and more comfortable there, and if he does get called up again that is a better place for him to stay than as a starter.
- Marcus Stroman has been an experience for the Cubs, being objectively bad all the way up until Sunday’s game when he finally got his first win of the season. Stroman can at least throw strikeouts, but the hits he gives up can get dicey, especially if Michael Hermosillo is playing at center and has to field just about every ball in just about every at-bat. It got almost comical on Tuesday. I’m just praying Stroman can build on Sunday’s win, where he pitched 7 innings and only allowed two hits. That’s the kind of performance he needs to be consistently putting up if this team is going to not be shit for the next 5 months.
- Even Seiya Suzuki cooled down a bit this past week, with eight strikeouts in his past six games and a three-game hitless streak Saturday-Monday. He’s also only had one walk since April 21, showing that pitchers around the league have started to figure him out a little bit. This is what I was expecting to start out the season, as players are streaky throughout the year. But the Cubs are better when Seiya is hitting, and he is still 16th in the league in OPS, so hopefully he’s able to get hot again soon.
- Comparing Anthony Rizzo’s offensive numbers so far this year against Frank Schwindel’s brings me great sadness.
The Cubs play the White Sox (9-13) and the Dodgers (14-7) this week. It will probably go as bad as you can imagine against Los Angeles, but if the Cubs can get quality starts they might have a chance against the Sox. But quality starts are really a necessity at this point. Go Cubs go!
Now that we have over a week of baseball under our belts, the Cubs have begun to fall closer to where they were expected to be—tied for 2nd (with the Pirates?) in this shitty division with a 5-4 record. The Pirates no longer seem like the world’s easiest team to beat, and the Rockies look to have only about 3 men that can definitely be counted on for offense, so any Cubs issues with pitching seemed to just level themselves out in the end as the team went .500 overall this week.
While I’m still not inclined to say the offense is “fixed”—Coors Field is a hitting anomaly, after all—it still seems like the Cubs are getting the runs and offense they need from players across the board. I’m hoping that some of the dicey pitching we saw was also a Coors Field anomaly, though whenever we can get some of our regular guys healthy again, both in the rotation and the pen, would be incredibly helpful. To the bullets!
- Kyle Hendricks didn’t look too good against the Pirates, allowing 7 hits and 6 runs in 3.2 innings, taking the loss for the team. He threw way less strikes than he did on Opening Day, and his number of swinging strikes between those two outings plummeted from 17 to 6—yikes. Though weak contact is Hendricks’s whole MO, we need all the strikes we can get from him now with the Cubs field being bereft of Gold Glove defensemen. He’ll be on the mound again tomorrow and hopefully give a better performance.
- Seiya Suzuki’s two solo homers on Tuesday were the sole reason why the Cubs didn’t get swept entirely by the Pirates. If the team hadn’t signed him, this season would be a lot bleaker. But other teams have begun to catch on, especially to the fact that Suzuki absolutely refuses to swing at anything outside of the zone, and when he does swing, he’s dangerous. The Rockies intentionally walked him twice this series in big situations with runners on base, and his next at-bat last night after being intentionally walked gave him his 4th home run of the season. He’s no secret at the plate around the MLB, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from getting on base. Keep ‘em coming.
- I was ready to throw the book at Patrick Wisdom, but it looks like he’s just going to continue to be his incredibly streaky self. He started out the season with only 1 hit in 23 plate appearances and a .048 batting average, but then racked up 6 hits in the final three games against the Rockies to bring it up to .233. If Wisdom can carry on his more recent streak of hitting well, that would be great, because when he’s not on it’s painful to watch, especially when he’s making mistakes in the field as well, which happens more often than any of us would prefer.
- Any time Jonathan Villar did anything at shortstop on Thursday I just wished Javy Baez was back—did you ever really appreciate the crazy plays El Mago would make before he left? While Javy is a tough act to follow, sometimes Villar just couldn’t make those plays you took for granted. His one error of the season so far came at short on Thursday—it seems like 2nd base is where he should be playing from now on. He also had 8 hits this weekend while not even playing last night, which makes any smaller defensive fumbles easier to turn a blind eye to for now. And yes, those hits were still at Coors Field, and things could change at the drop of a hat, but for now it’s too early for me to judge him.
- Kris Bryant had 5 hits this series, all of them beauties. They could’ve been for the Cubs. I miss him. Fuck Ricketts.
Next up this week the Cubs will play three games against the Rays and Pirates, two teams who are either at or just a hair above .500 this season. The Rays lost their weekend series against the White Sox, though their one win last night was a 9-3 crushing. Other than the Sox, the Rays have had what would seem like an easy schedule to start the year with games against the Orioles and Athletics, and yet are still coming out the other side at only .500, so that’s where that team’s at. Since we last saw the Pirates earlier this week, they won 3 of 4 games against the Nationals.
Go Cubs go!
Well, the good news is that things are off to a better start than last season.
The Cubs reaped the benefits of the Brewers fumbling their Opening Weekend series, as their starters kind of threw three dud games in a row despite the lofty expectations from their fans and around the league. In addition, the surprising offensive performances by the Cubs were beyond any expectations I had, especially for this series against probable contenders.
What did not surprise me, however, was the tomfoolery that ensued in Saturday’s game with four players total getting hit by pitches and the benches-clearing “brawl” that commenced. The Brewers just love to hit the Cubs, especially Willson Contreras, and just about everyone has had enough of it, especially Willson Contreras. But the Cubs came up on top in the win column, which is truly all that matters. Fuck the Brewers, and to the bullets!
- I wasn’t expecting much from Ian “Kirby” Happ to start the season, and made my feelings known in the preview. The Fels Motherfuck continues to haunt this website, however, as Happ made me look like a fool. He currently leads the team with five hits and has the best slash line on the team: .714/.778/1.778. He also has 4 RBIs, good for second on the team, and is the only player yet to strike out this season. Luckily for us the Brewers fucking drilled him in the knee with a pitch on Saturday and Rossy pulled him from the game as a precaution. He also didn’t play on Sunday, and though they were playing the B Team that day anyways, it’s obviously a bit of a concern. Hopefully Happer can continue to be a surprise offensive force, because we will need all the help we can get in that department to continue winning games.
- Seiya Suzuki—what a guy. What plate discipline! He’s played in all three games so far this season in right field and has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I genuinely thought he’d look a bit worse to start the season off as he adjusted to MLB baseball, but he looks very comfortable here so far. His three-run bomb on Sunday was just about the only good thing I saw in the 5-4 loss, and he also leads the team with 6 RBIs. More, more, more please.
- Our bullpen couldn’t suck more if it tried, God save us. With Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck and Adbert Alzolay on the 60-day IL, the only good/memorable pitching I’ve seen out of the pen has been from 37-year-old closer David Robertson, who collected his first save of the season on Thursday, and Keegan Thompson, who just got suspended three games for throwing at Andrew McCutchen (don’t talk to me about it, I’m still pissed). Jesse Chavez particularly was a tire fire on the mound on Sunday and couldn’t throw a strike to save his life, and when he did it was right down the middle and rocked for a home run. He gave up 3 runs in 0.2 innings pitched, good for a sparkling 40.50 ERA right now. Figure it out, people.
- Marcus Stroman didn’t have a bad Cubs debut, and I loved that he caught a line drive on Sunday instead of ducking to avoid it like MLB pitchers are so very wont to do. He was able to execute a double play because of it, and I was pleased to see it.
- The Cubs B Team Lineup (B for Bad, I guess) got rocked pretty hard on Sunday, especially on the offensive front. Alfonso Rivas, Suzuki, Yan Gomes, and Nico Hoerner had the only Cubs hits for the day. Suzuki was wholly responsible for 3 of the 4 Cubs runs, and the 4th and final Cubs run was scored by pinch hitter Patrick Wisdom after getting walked as the Brewers showed us they have the parts to make up a shitty bullpen as well (besides Josh Hader, who I will forever see in my nightmares). I will reserve my judgment for some of these Cubs for later on down the line, but it’s not looking great so far.
The Cubs season continues tomorrow with a back-to-back against the Pirates (1-2) and then they travel to Colorado for a weekend series against the Rockies (3-1) and Kris Bryant, who we will miss forever. After this performance against the Brewers I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs dropped a stinker or two this week, but I’m hoping they can build on this newfound offense and hopefully find a bullpen pitcher who can actually throw the ball. God willing.
Go Cubs go!