Baseball

The Cubs, a team that is not exactly outstanding while healthy, suck even more when they aren’t healthy. This series they played almost entirely without their two best hitters in Jake Marisnick (on 10-day IL thanks to yet another in a long line of hamstring injuries) and Kris Bryant (who was sick both games). Without them, the Cubs went on to get outhit by the 2nd-worst hitting team in the league, losing both games by just a single run and very impressively going 2-for-24 this series with runners in scoring position. But what else is new?

May 11, 2021
Cubs 2, Cleveland 3
WP: Bieber (4-2) LP: Alzolay (1-3)
Box Score

The Cubs’ injury woes only continued through this game, as Kris Bryant left mid-game and got replaced by Nick Martini after he was feeling “under the weather.” The lineup afterward (and the ensuing batting average of each player) was nothing short of horrific. I’m sure at the beginning of this season you were hoping to only watch Eric Sogard and Matt Duffy in intervals, in small doses, and only rarely on the field together. But for the last few weeks, they’ve been slotting in pretty much every day, at all sorts of positions, as Cubs players keep going down with injury.

And remember when it was DAVID BOTE’S TURN to be the full-time third baseman? It’s actually Matt Duffy’s turn now, everyone. Bote slotted in today as the DH, despite having a .184 batting average and gaining no hits. I guess that’s about the batting average a starting pitcher would have if the DH wasn’t a thing, so in that sense nothing was gained or lost with Bote as DH.

The Cubs of note who did good things this game included Willson Contreras, who singled in the 2nd inning to score Anthony Rizzo. After Cleveland homered in the 4th inning, Sogard made himself useful and hit a solo homer of his own in the 5th to put the Cubs back up. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the inning Cleveland hit a 2-run homer of their own to put the game away for good.

Adbert Alzolay continues to tread water in the pitching department; the team would like Alzolay to survive more than 6 innings during his starts, but he’s had yet to really do that this year. Granted, none of the Cubs starters have been able to do that this year, so we can cut him some slack in that regard.

Alzolay allowed no walks, but he also allowed five hits and the two home runs that won Cleveland the game. The Cubs then pulled him after the 6th inning to introduce Brad Wieck to his 13th inning over three seasons with the Cubs. (The team brought him up to help bolster the bullpen after Marisnick’s injury, opting to go for a short bench for a couple games while hoping Happ and Hoerner will be back this weekend.) Wieck pitched only one inning last season, but that earned him a solid 13.00 ERA on the year. Luckily, Wieck allowed no runs or walks, striking out one batter before handing the mound over to Rex Brothers for what ended up being the final inning for the Cubs, as Matt Duffy grounded into a double play to end the game.

May 12, 2021
Cubs 1, Cleveland 2 (F/10)
WP: Karinchak (1-0) LP: Thompson (1-1)
Box Score

Despite Kris Bryant being out of the starting lineup today, Cubs fans should have no fear; Javier Baez is here! Finally back after being out a few games, Baez characteristically struck out in the 1st inning as his “I’m back” gift to the fans. (Baez had only one hit today, but that was one hit more than six other players on the team.) Additionally, Eric Sogard started the day off strong with a fielding error in which he dropped the ball and allowed two runners to stay on base in a no-out situation. Will it ever end?

Willson Contreras and Joc Pederson could be found dragging the rest of the team’s dead weight offensively all game. Contreras had four hits, while Pederson had three hits and an RBI. The only offense for either team both came in the 6th inning, where Pederson was able to drive in Ildemaro Vargas for the Cubs’ only run. The lead didn’t stay around for long, however, as Zach Davies allowed two doubles to start off the bottom of the inning that scored Cesar Hernandez for Cleveland.

Zach Davies continues to try his best to impress Cubs fans with his pitching, but the fact of the matter is he’s just not Yu Darvish. He allowed five hits, a run and two walks in only 5.1 innings pitched. He also had four strikeouts, which I guess is better than none. After allowing Cleveland to tie the game, however, Justin Steele was brought in to close out the inning, as we got to experience some more of that Homegrown Talent the front office keeps trying to claim we have.

Steele wasn’t an eyesore, getting a strikeout, allowing a walk and getting another strikeout against the top of Cleveland’s batting order. (Once again, with a batting average ranked 29th in the league, that’s not exactly hard to do.) But Rossy didn’t push his luck, going with Ryan Tepera for the 7th inning, who also struck out two.

Andrew Chafin then pitched two innings of good baseball, striking out two batters and letting the defense behind him get the rest. His ERA is now down to 3.00 after this game. Rolling out the Homegrown Pitchers continued as Keegan Thompson was asked to do some extra innings pitching, and unfortunately things didn’t go well for him. After walking the first batter, Rene Rivera was able to sac bunt, putting two players in scoring position. Thompson intentionally walked Andres Giminez, loading up the bases, and in a two-out situation, Amed Rosario singled to walk off the game.

The Cubs get yet another day off, hopefully to heal most of their starting lineup, and then they face the Detroit Tigers in a 3-game series in Detroit. The Tigers aren’t much better offensively than Cleveland, hitting at a .216 team batting average, good for 27th in the league. Their batting has allowed them to fall all the way to the very bottom of the AL Central, with an atrocious 11-24 record, despite being on a 2-game winning streak that saw them beat the Twins and the Royals.

Hopefully the Cubs come out well-rested, healthier, and ready to win a couple of games over the weekend because if you can’t beat the Detroit Tigers I’m not sure who you can beat. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

The notably-injured Cubs were able to win the season series against the notably-injured Pirates, and it was just a relief that the Cubs won this series considering the injuries effecting this team and the people playing in their place. Today the Cubs even tried to stage a mini-comeback to sweep the series, but Kyle Hendricks had just pitched them into a hole bigger than they could get out of. But considering all the mainstays of this lineup that are currently injured, we’ll take a two-out-of-three. Let’s break down each game.

May 7, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Davies (2-2) LP: Cahill (1-4)
Box Score

Well, at least the Cubs seem to be back on their winning ways, starting this Pittsburgh series off on the right foot with a win. This win was quite a weird one, though, as every hit of the game was a single, except for 1 Pirates double in the 9th inning.

The good news I have to share regarding this game is that Zach Davies didn’t play horrifically. Yes, he had one strikeout, but he was able to keep all contact pitching on the ground, allowing all five of his hits to be singles and allowing 0 runs in his 7 innings of play. However, the bullpen nearly imploded in the 9th inning, as both Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera allowed one run each for the Pirates late in the game to make things interesting at 3-2. Rex Brothers was put in on a 2-out situation with a runner on base, and immediately gave up a single and a hit by pitch to load the bases up by the end. He was able to get out of it with a fly out to end the game, but still, good grief.

Everyone hit today as well, most notably Joc Pederson, who was garbage offensively to start the season before getting injured for two weeks. Pederson hadn’t had a hit since April 18, although he was on the IL for most of that time. Today, however, he got back on his offensive game, being a direct part of two of the Cubs’ three runs today. Pederson scored in the 1st on a fielding error and he singled to drive in David Bote in the 2nd.

Offense was created all over the lineup, as the Cubs had 9 hits this game, 2 RBIs and a walk. The only person who didn’t really contribute this game was Jason Heyward, who was left on base once. Defensively, however, the team was solid, getting pitchers out of jams when they needed to. The Cubs put up no fielding errors and made two double plays today.

May 8, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Thompson (1-0) LP: Howard (2-2)
Box Score

The Cubs completed their season-high 5th-straight win in a very contact-heavy day, filled with fielding errors and not very many home runs. The Cubs’ first run happened on a bases-loaded Contreras hit by pitch (surprised?) in the 1st inning, but that small lead didn’t last forever. Ka’ai Tom was able to hit a 2-run homer to put the Pirates ahead in the ­4th inning.

Eric Sogard hit a sacrifice fly that tied the game, making up for his fielding woes, most notably in the 1st inning when he couldn’t keep the ball in his glove for a second base steal. In the 7th, a Matt Duffy hit to right field was able to score Jason Heyward, who had been on second base, at a play at the plate in which it was now the Pirates’ turn to drop the ball.

Ildemaro Vargas came in for Javier Baez halfway through the game, as Baez was feeling some back stiffness that the Cubs didn’t want him to play through. With so many of the usual suspects out, the utility guys had to step up again, as Sogard, Vargas and Marisnick were playing the field. Despite Sogard’s error early on, they all looked fine in the field, but batting-wise they were not helpful at all today save Sogard’s lone RBI.

Meanwhile, Trevor Williams had another 6-strikeout outing today, but he also allowed five hits, a home run, and two runs total. He played just four innings before the Cubs pulled him to see more of rookie Keegan Thompson, who played the next three innings. Although Thompson is good at keeping runs down, he still has yet to regularly strike out players, only having 2 strikeouts so far this year and none of them coming from this game.

Additionally, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel pitched the last two innings respectively, and both of them gave up a walk and no hits to win the game. Kimbrel gains his 6th save of the year and still touts an impressive 0.64 ERA.

May 9, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 6
WP: Anderson (3-3) LP: Hendricks (2-4)
Box Score

This game went right off the rails early, and it was thanks to the 1st-inning pitching of Kyle Hendricks, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. After allowing two singles, a walk, an RBI groundout and another single, the Pirates quickly went up 3-0 on two outs. Hendricks allowed yet another single before an ugly throwing error by Ildemaro Vargas, who is still in at shortstop for Baez, made it 4-0 Pirates pretty quick.

Hendricks got three batters out on 7 pitches in the 2nd inning, but that throwing didn’t last very long. It continued to be ugly in the 3rd as Hendricks gave up a single and a triple back-to-back in order to make it 5-1, and a big-brained throwing error by everyone’s favorite fielder, Matt Duffy, made it 6-1. We spent the first half of this season so far complaining about the incompetence of our starting lineup, but then when a solid 37% of your starting fielders are out with an injury, you suddenly see yourself wishing for what once was, even when it’s not the best.

Speaking of starters, Jake Marisnick, who is STILL near-top on this team when it comes to batting average and OPS, went down on an injury in the 1st inning, which is why Matt Duffy even entered the game in the first place. The Cubs are pretty banged up now, and losing one of their top hitters, even if it’s a “utility player,” is certainly not helping things in any capacity.

At least Joc Pederson is still on his heater. He batted in the Cubs’ only run in the 2nd inning, and he also had a single in the 9th that scored Anthony Rizzo and started a Cubs mini rally. Vargas’s double in the 9th will erase in my mind — at least for now — his bad fielding play earlier in the game as he RBIed Bryant and Pederson to make it 6-5 Cubs. However, it was Javier Baez who was chosen to pinch hit in this two-out situation, and he grounded out to end the game.

The Cubs next face Cleveland for a two-game series midweek. They are second in the AL Central, behind the Sox from across town, at an 18-14 record. Cleveland just finished up their series against the other Ohio team, the Cincinnati Reds, in which they went from allowing a no-hitter against Wade Miley to crushing the entire Reds team offensively 9-2. (Their third matchup got rained out.) Hopefully a days’ rest is what some of these Cubs need so we can see some regulars back in the lineup sooner rather than later, as it will probably be the key to beating Cleveland this week. See you all then.

Baseball

Well, at least we know there’s a team somewhere in this league that sucks more than we do.

The Mets were honestly atrocious to watch nearly all series. Their fielding sucks, their batting sucks, their bullpen sucks…I was going to say their pitching generally sucks, but we didn’t see Jacob DeGrom this series. (And even when he does play, the Mets tend to lose anyway.)

At least the Cubs have won a series and looked…not horrific doing it?

April 20, 2021
Cubs 3, Mets 1
WP: Arrieta (3-1) LP: Walker (0-1)
Box Score

Contreras continues to be the biggest piece of trade bait on the Cubs. Although this 8-game hit streak ended the game before this, he was a part of two of the Cubs’ three runs this game. First he was able to reach first base in the 3rd inning, allowing Eric Sogard to score. He also walked in a bases-loaded situation in the 4th to score Sogard again.

Speaking of Sogard, yes, David Bote, was out of this game because he had some sort of stomach bug, and Sogard took his place. He was more than an able replacement, as he was able to top even Contreras as a part of all three Cubs runs this game. He scored twice and singled to score Heyward in the 4th. Other Cubs that got hits were Kris Bryant and Heyward, and that’s about it.

It’s been a hot minute since Craig Kimbrel had to make a save, but today was his big opportunity. He got himself into a bases loaded jam in the 9th, and every Cubs fan watching was probably at least a little skeptical about whether he could get out of it. But he was able to get a strikeout and a ground out to end the game, thankfully.

April 21, 2021
Cubs 16, Mets 4
WP: Mills (1-0) LP: Peterson (1-2)
Box Score

Good grief, the bats are either on it or they aren’t, huh?

The Cubs’ team batting average is officially at .201, thanks to a .12-point increase from this game alone. Things didn’t start out so pretty, however; the first inning started with a Mets home run off Zach Davies for the second batter to open scoring. Then we watched some hilarious Mets baserunning in the 2nd when Bote dropped the ball and couldn’t get the out at second base. The Mets baserunner, however, decided to run to third base anyway for kicks, where Matt Duffy promptly tagged him out.

The baserunning didn’t help the Cubs for long, as it only took some time in the 3rd for Davies to give up a single, a walk and a double to make it 2-0 Mets. Although the bats were dead for the first three innings, something sparked the Cubs in the 4th, because Contreras, Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled three guys in a row and were able to score two runs. It also didn’t help that the Mets made another egregiously horrible baseball play, as it was now their time to drop the ball at second base. Unlike the Cubs, however, quick thinking didn’t save them any outs.

Matt Duffy, in at third base today, was able to walk soon after that, and a Bote single (wow!) scored two runners. Jake Marisnick scored Duffy, Sogard singled to score Bote, Ian Happ singled to score Sogard and things started to look pretty good for us. I don’t Sogard after these two games, but also the Mets are a really bad baseball team. Let’s see some more from him.

At this point, the score was 7-2 and it seemed like this game was pretty much in the bag, even though Rex Brothers came in to replace Davies in the 5th and immediately gave up a single and a homer to tighten the score slightly to 7-4. However, more horrendous fielding screw-ups by the Mets and then a Duffy single was able to score two Cubs to make it 9-4.

In the next inning, the Mets bullpen allowed three walks to load the bases and then a Baez grand slam just completely slammed the door shut for any Mets comeback, the score being 14-4. The Cubs weren’t done yet; they had a walk and three hits in the 8th inning to score two runners for that final score of 16-4.

April 22, 2021
Cubs 3, Mets 2
WP: Winkler (1-0) LP: Diaz (1-1)
Box Score

Well, Joc Pederson is on the 10-day IL thanks to an injured wrist, which means Nico Hoerner is officially up and available to play for the Cubs. We’ll see how that goes; for tonight, however, Happ was shifted to left to replace Pederson, Marisnick replaced Happ in center field, Kris Bryant in right field to give Heyward the day off, and Duffy at third base.

The Mets continued to be absolutely horrendous on the field, allowing a Contreras infield hit to score a runner to put us on the board. Not soon after, Bryant was able to double and score two people thanks to another overthrow to the catcher. Contreras and Trevor Williams scored on this play.

Speaking of Trevor Williams, although his outing wasn’t the best, it certainly wasn’t his worst either. He had 6 strikeouts, 5 hits, only 1 walk and 1 home run allowed. His outings still greatly excite his father, who is still doing the scorebook, which is quickly becoming the staple camera pan during every Williams start for Marquee.

Things were going okay until the 4th inning when Pete Alonso hit a 2-run homer to make this game close. Soon after, a double was reviewed to see if it should’ve been a home run because it hit the outfield netting. Luckily, the double call on the field was sustained, allowing the Cubs to cling to the one-run lead.

Williams was pulled for the 6th, being replaced by Jason Adam, who struck out one guy and allowed the defense to clean up contact with a fly ball and pop-up. After hitting Jonathan Villar in the 7th, he was pulled for Ryan Tepera who gave up a big double to center field that allowed the Mets to tie it up. Andrew Chafin replaced Tepera to get the important out.

Baez got on base in the 7th as the go-ahead run; he hit a fly ball to center field but the incompetence of the Mets’ fielding allowed the ball to drop on the ground. However, the throw to 1st was almost in time and Javy almost got caught off the plate. The ruling on the field was out but after a challenge that was overturned. It didn’t matter, however, because then Baez actually got caught stealing second base. Fantastic job, everyone.

Kimbrel closing the 9th allowed us to get to extra innings. Marisnick had a huge triple to start off the bottom of the inning, but in true Cubs fashion they were unable to bat in the runner in scoring position and got tagged out baserunning because of course. The Cubs got out of a huge jam in the 10th thanks to a double play. Heyward pinch batting won the game, scoring Baez at third base.

Did you enjoy not having to watch a team from the NL Central for the first time in over a year? Too bad. The Cubs now must prepare to get skulled by the Brewers again, who are sitting at the top of the division with an 11-7 record. See you then.

Baseball

Ah yes, spring is in the air and the days are getting longer. That means baseball is just around the corner — tomorrow, in fact. The Cubs are opening their season against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the 162-game march to October commences.

Everyone knows the rule that you can’t put too much stock on how players are doing during spring training, but that’s exactly what we’re gonna do here. The Cubs have been busy playing a month’s worth of spring training games to prepare for this season. Some players have looked good, some have looked bad. Some have looked healthy, some have been injured. Let’s break down the starter’s roster so you know what’s going on when the Cubs take the field, assuming you’re watching.

Starting Pitchers
Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, Adbert Alzolay

Ready to watch fastballs that aren’t really fast at all this season? Of course you are, you’re a Cubs fan.

Old faithful Kyle Hendricks will get the Opening Day start now that Jon Lester has moved on. While Yu Darvish was getting all the glory last season, Hendricks was another pitcher that the Cubs could rely on. Last season he had a 2.88 ERA, a shutout, and allowed 26 runs, all of them earned. His spring training numbers are a bit uglier; he had a 6.39 ERA but had two wins. He will be our best starter this season.

Jake Arrieta hopes to rekindle what he once was in his glory years with the Cubs, and Ross seems to trust that he will be better this year. He had a pretty average spring training, with a 4.08 ERA over 5 starts, allowing 19 hits and 8 runs during that span. Baseball Reference projects him to have a 4.67 ERA this season; though not stellar, that would likely be an improvement on his 2020 season and look similarly to his 2019 season with the Phillies.

Adbert Alzolay has also been a part of Rossy’s fan club. He has the fastest fastball of anyone at this team, clocking in at an average of 95 mph, which he throws about half the time. He also enjoys his slider, which he throws 40% of the time. This is a big season for Alzolay, as he is going from 4 starts last year (and 2 the year before that) to being one of the more regular starters. Can he hold up having 10, 15, 20, maybe eventually 30 starts a year? We are all about to find out together.

Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Workman, Andrew Chafin, Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, Dan Winkler, Dillon Maples, Alec Mills

We’ve got some injuries in this area, as Rowan Wick and Jonathan Holder will not be ready to start the season. Wick was one of the best relievers on the Cubs last season with a 3.12 ERA across 19 appearances, so hopefully he will feel better soon. He has been working out with the team and “slowly returning to baseball activities.” Holder took some time off for a chest issue during spring training but is also getting back to throwing. He will likely start on the 10-day injured list this season.

If you’ve been kept awake at night this offseason wondering whether or not Craig Kimbrel will be a good closer in 2021, I am truly not sure what to tell you. He was injured/awful for most of last season until he got hot for the last month of it all. Now he’s back to letting 40% of the batters he faces get on base. And he has a 12.15 ERA in 7 games this spring training. But remember, spring training tells you nothing. Let’s try not to put too much stock into it. …Right?

Rex Brothers, a non-roster invitee, has found the good side of Rossy, even with his 8.10 ERA over three games played last season. He has been good during spring training, however. He played in 9 different games and has a 0.00 ERA over spring training. Let’s be cautiously optimistic?

Dillon Maples kind of sucked during spring training, but what else is new? He pitched 10.1 innings and allowed 8 hits and 9 runs, 6 of them earned. He has issues with control and seems to easily go from an 0-2 count at bat to walking the batter thanks to a HBP. In two appearances last season he gave up 1 hit and 3 runs for an 18.00 ERA. Ross says he’s throwing more strikes and will continue to improve.

Fielders
Anthony Rizzo, David Bote, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Joc Pederson, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward

This team needs to be nails defensively thanks to this wacky bullpen we are throwing in front of them. Luckily, defense is what the Cubs do well, most of the time.

I’m honestly not hating this outfield lineup at all. So far, Joc Pederson has been ripping it up offensively in camp, leading the entire team in hits with 17 and home runs with 8. If he continues go off like this during the season, he will be a great Schwarber replacement. Ian Happ also had a nice spring training, with 44 at bats, 14 hits, 15 runs, 2 homers, and a 1.002 OPS. Jason Heyward, not the player of yore, had 10 hits, 8 runs, and a .729 OPS, but hey, maybe those numbers will improve during the season.

Thought you’d be seeing Nico Hoerner at 2nd this season? You are incorrect. IT IS DAVID BOTE’S TIME, so he will be starting the season with the club. Expect Hoerner to come back up from minors regularly if anyone gets injured or things go sideways. The good news is that Hoerner crushed it during spring training, and Bote wasn’t too shabby himself. Hoerner had 16 hits over spring training and 2 homers for a 1.055 OPS. Bote had 14 hits, 3 homers, 7 runs and a .990 OPS. Neither of these numbers are bad. I think we have two great second basemen this season.

For some reason, the Ricketts family is not negotiating with face of the entire damned team, Anthony Rizzo, for a contract extension. Because reasons. Because money. Because the literal billionaire Ricketts family does not have money to sign an extension. Remind me why I watch this team again?

We’re all breathing a sigh of relief that Willson Contreras is still on this team. He is a rare catcher who is productive on offense and defense. He was also one of the better players at the plate for the Cubs last season, leading the team in runs scored and second only to Happ in hits.

Javier Baez is supposed to improve on this season now that he has the all-important video review at his disposal, but so far his spring training results are a little…meh. He did hit 2 homers, but he only had 9 hits in 52 plate appearances, making for a .184 batting average. Hopefully he figures it out and fast, because it’s a contract year, my friend.

I’d talk to you about Kris Bryant but he’ll be dealt by the end of this season anyway.

Bench
Eric Sogard, Jake Marisnick, Matt Duffy, and NEW SIGNING Tony Wolters

With Victor Caratini going the way of the western wind with our beloved Yu Darvish, the backup catcher role became whoever’s for the taking. Austin Romine, the veteran catcher, is currently sidelined with a knee injury (a recurring knee injury, so buckle up, everyone). We all assumed it would be PJ Higgins as the backup catcher while we wait for Romine to get better, but then just hours ago the Cubs announced the signing of catcher Tony Wolters, recently of Rockies fame.

Wolters’ numbers from last season kind of suck, but it seems like most teams are throwing those stats away and chalking them up to a weird year. He only had 10 hits all year with the Rockies for a .230 batting average. However, the rumor is Wolters is pretty good defensively, which is probably why the Cubs snatched him up. We love defense here, don’tcha know. His caught stealing rate is 32.8% lifetime, which is above the 27% league average. We’ll see how he fares as our backup.

Additionally, Jake Marisnick is an outfielder who, though missed some of spring training with an injury, came back and hit four home runs in only eight Cactus League games. Eric Sogard is a utility player who had 12 hits during spring training, along with a homer, for a .375 batting average. Maybe he can continue his hitting so his batting average improves on his abysmal .209 number with the Brewers last season season. Finally, Matt Duffy is another utility player who didn’t even play in the 2020 season. In fact, the 2018 season was his last season with major playing time, where he had a .294 batting average. He also has a track record of reliable defensive prowess, so hopefully that continues with the Cubs.

The season starts tomorrow. Check back to this glorious website after every Cubs series to get my thoughts on what’s going on. And if the Cubs bore you and you want to enjoy some exciting baseball, you can always turn on the Padres and root for Yu Darvish. Go Cubs go!