Baseball

Yesterday was likely one of the hardest days in Cubs history. The trade deadline we’d had circled on the calendar finally happened, and despite knowing for months exactly what was gonna happen, it didn’t make saying goodbye any more painful.

Jed Hoyer sent away not one, not two, but ALL THREE of the core players from the 2016 World Series team that had expiring contracts after this year, over the last 48ish hours. He also sent away the three key pieces that made the Cubs bullpen so nails during the start of the season, and also Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams, if you got attached to those guys. (I didn’t.)

Despite knowing it was coming, it’s still extremely difficult to say goodbye, especially because fans aren’t sure if there will ever be another Cubs team like the 2015-2017 teams. There may not be, and the future is now filled with question marks and unknowns for Cubs fans. Hatred toward the Ricketts family for not adequately building around for the core post-2016 is now the norm for any North Sider, and distrust that he will be able to build a core that strong again is certainly rampant throughout the fanbase.

There are many players to say goodbye to, so let’s get going.

Joc Pederson – Though he was sent away a while before the trade deadline, he deserves a space in this eulogy just like anyone else, I guess. He was our starting left fielder for the first half of the season, and though he was overly hyped to begin the season thanks to a crazy spring training, his offensive numbers were just about always in the top five of Cubs players: runs, hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs — he’s there for all of them. (Granted, the team’s offense overall this season has for all but one month been in the bottom of the league standings, but at least he was trying.)

Pederson now plays for the Atlanta Braves, where he has 17 hits, 2 homers, and a .288/.333/.441 slash line in 14 games, because of course he does. Pederson was always going to be short-term, signed on a one-year prove-it deal, so Cubs fans can say goodbye and good luck to the outfielder as he continues his MLB career elsewhere.

Andrew Chafin – Though shaky early on, allowing eight hits in April, Chafin quickly turned into a bullpen staple and was continually relied upon to get outs, arguably a little too much. He ended his Cubs career with a 2.03 ERA out of the bullpen, pitching almost 40 innings and allowing only 21 hits and 9 runs. As a native of my home state who played baseball at my college, Chafin was a favorite player of mine the last few seasons. I wish him all the best as he…attempts to make the playoffs with the A’s, I guess?

Ryan Tepera – Another bullpen staple was moved mid-game Friday across town to the White Sox, to the behest of many angry people on Twitter. (There were a lot of them yesterday.) Although Tepera didn’t do too well in his White Sox debut yesterday, not being able to get any outs and allowing a run, Sox fans will soon come to like him as he had a 2.91 ERA for the Cubs over 43 innings pitched. If you need an inning from him he can usually provide one without giving up any runs in the process. In fact, prior to yesterday’s game, he hadn’t given up a run since June 28, right before he was put on the IL.

Anthony Rizzo – Despite being out of Friday’s lineup for a “scheduled rest day,” the announcement that he had been traded — to the damn Yankees, of all teams — still felt like your guts were getting ripped out when you heard the news.

Like many sportswriters have pointed out before me, Rizzo will never have to pay for dinner in this city for as long as he lives. For nine years, he was the face of the greatest Cubs run in history. He caught the final out, hit 242 home runs (6th all-time for the club), drove in 784 batters, got MVP votes in five straight seasons, is a four-time Gold Glover, and appeared in three straight All-Star Games. This doesn’t even get into his charitable foundation, all the money he raised and all the smiles he put on children in hospitals all across Chicago.

Although his WAR suggests he’s on the decline, and his back will likely continue to keep him out of the lineup for short stretches, Rizzo is a veteran presence and a shakeup the Yankees infield probably needs. He also slashed .248/.346/.446 this season, better numbers than the rest of the Yankees’ first basemen this season combined. Take care of him, Yanks. We’ll miss him.

Craig Kimbrel – Moved on trade deadline day to the White Sox to join Ryan Tepera, Kimbrel was another pitcher acquired by the Cubs who started things off quite rocky but ended up straightening the ship, being incredibly reliable when called onto the mound and continuing his hall of fame career with the Cubs.

When coming over from Boston in 2019, Kimbrel was shaky, posting a 6.53 ERA. Everyone shuddered when Maddon would put him on the mound that year; I know I was. However, Rossy had confidence in him that the fanbase didn’t have, and he was eventually right on that one for once. He posted a 5.28 ERA in 2020, allowing nine runs in eighteen appearances, but has returned this season to a form that he’s never really been before. His 0.49 ERA is astounding considering the team behind him, and his best ERA since his MLB debut for the Braves in 2010, despite having only half the number of appearances for Atlanta that year.

He’s also only allowed six runs total in 39 games he’s appeared in. The Sox are getting an amazing, hall of fame closer, making their pitching even more dangerous, as Kimbrel continues to climb up the all-time career saves list. (371, for those counting at home.) Best of luck.

Javier Baez (and Trevor Williams) – Baez is on the back of my jersey, and it’s because he made the game so excited to watch. He kept you sitting in front of the TV during the 3-hour slog that baseball games can sometimes be; his defensive plays often had you doing double takes, asking how on earth did he do that? His baserunning was magical, and the 140 homers he hit for the Cubs, his .262/.303./.474 career slash line for the club, and the ridiculously high 900 strikeouts were just another unique dimension to his on-field play.

Javy is going to be sliding over to second to play with Francisco Lindor on the Mets after Lindor returns from injury soon, and they will probably make some crazy highlight-reel plays together that will make you remember the good old days. He’s going to love playing with him, the Mets will likely offer him a bigger contract than the Cubs, and life will move on. I truly wish him all the best and hope he thrives there, as it’s certainly what he deserves.

As for Trevor Williams, his quality starts were few and far between for the Cubs, only three out of thirteen total. It probably wasn’t helped by his bout of appendicitis a quarter of the way through the season that shut him down for all of June. I’m sure his father is bummed Williams is leaving Chicago, but hey, New York’s…kinda fun too, I guess?

Kris Bryant – The prized trade chip — one who never wanted to leave the Cubs. When KB was drafted, he zoomed right through the minors and spent no time immediately becoming one of the best players in the league, winning NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in his time with the Cubs, a feat no other Cub has done.

Though he has dealt with injury issues throughout his career, his statistics over his seven years in the MLB are still really impressive: his .279/.378/.508 slash line, 160 homers and 465 RBIs were a huge part of what made the Cubs elite, especially in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. His career WAR is, boy howdy, 27.6. He was on a tear this season as well, hitting 18 homers and 51 RBIs despite some nagging injuries; his RBI numbers this year especially are on track to be better than he’s had throughout his entire career. For a lot of this season, Bryant was carrying the Cubs offense on his back.

Now he heads to the San Francisco Giants to chase another ring and hopefully beat down the Dodgers in the process. He wanted to stay in Chicago, and it was quite sad to see videos of him sitting in the dugout Thursday and getting the phone call Friday before the game. Bryant should’ve been a Cub for life because he was such a special one — for God’s sake, you could ask him to fill in at pretty much any spot on the field and he wouldn’t break a sweat. Hopefully he gets the money (and another ring?) that he deserves during his time with the Giants.

Jake Marisnick – Hoyer threw this one in at the end just to mess with us after all the other franchise-altering damage had been done. Marisnick played fine for us over his 65 games this year, never truly horrific in the outfield and putting up middling offensive numbers compared to the rest of his career. He’ll likely be remembered with a passing shrug by Cubs fans; now he’ll be with the Padres trying to chase a playoff spot. Say hello to Darvish for me.

We have some horrific baseball in front of us for the next few months, Cubs fans. I’d be lying if I said I even turned on yesterday’s game, though tonight’s showed a bit more promise. The good news is that former Cubs will likely be seen dotted throughout the playoff race, although you’ll have to decide which of the Yankees, Giants, White Sox, or Mets are the lesser evil when the playoffs do roll around. (I guess I’ll be cheering on the Sox for my colleagues’ sake. Let’s not spread the bad vibes across town, shall we?)

We now enter the great unknown; who knows what’s coming up next for the Cubs. I may as well stick around to see what happens. I hope some of you will too. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

The season really can’t be more kaput now. Anyone with half a brain knows exactly what the Cubs front office is thinking after the team put on this exhibition this week: three must-win games against the Brewers, and not one game was won. If the front office ships out everyone at the trade deadline, I will not bat an eye or be surprised, and I assume you won’t either.

To make matters worse, the team is significantly more injured where we stand today than where we started at the beginning of this series. When the Cubs media is writing articles about how much you miss Matt Duffy on your offense, something is wrong. Anthony Rizzo missed all three games in this series, and he’s currently second on the team in batting average and OPS and third on the team in slugging. Kris Bryant, first on the team in all of those categories, missed the last two games. Patrick Wisdom got rocked replacing them at first base, and did I mention our catching pipeline behind Willson Contreras is two guys on the 60-day IL and A Guy from Iowa?

There’s a lot more to be angry about here, so let’s break it down.

June 28, 2021
Cubs 4, Brewers 14
WP: Williams (5-1) LP: Tepera (0-2)
Box Score

I must admit, this was the kind of season-on-the-line fun I was hoping for this series — for the first seven innings, at least — with lots of back and forth between both teams in a close competition. Both starting pitchers left the game in a no decision, throwing 6 innings each. It wasn’t an immaculate night by Hendricks by any means, as he gave up seven hits and four runs and struck out only four people, but thanks to an absolute two-run BOMB by Patrick Wisdom, he was able to get off the hook for a loss of any kind.

The Cubs and Brewers both scored two runs in the 1st inning, respectively. After Joc Pederson walked, Ian Happ homered to score both of them. For the Brewers, a single, a double, a walk and another single tied the game, where it would stay until the bottom of the 3rd inning when a solo homer was hit against Hendricks. A single, a stolen base and another single allowed the Brewers to go up 4-2 in the 6th inning, but the aforementioned Wisdom home run tied it for the Cubs.

Pederson walked again directly after the home run, and Ian Happ singled after him. Unfortunately, Pederson was tagged out at third after a pretty miraculous play by the Brewers defense, and Javy Baez characteristically struck out swinging in a meaningful at-bat situation.

In the 8th inning, the Cubs were able to load the bases thanks to a double and a walk-a-palooza. Rafael Ortega, who has had a good record lately in the pinch-hitting position, was asked to RBI in someone, anyone, to put the Cubs ahead. In a full-count situation, however, he ended up grounding out on an easy routine play to first base.

The Brewers, meanwhile, wrapped everything up in the bottom of the 8th, after Ryan Tepera allowed two walks and a double to make it 5-4 Brewers. Then a sacrifice fly scored another Brewer to make it 6-4, and a double made it 7-4 Brewers. Tepera has been phenomenal for the Cubs all season, being one of the three Cubs relievers (beside Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel) who have nearly always locked down any games they threw if the Cubs were on top. He was put on the 10-day IL after this game, giving him some much-needed rest. Hopefully that will help him get back to the pitcher he’s been all season.

His replacement was Trevor Megill, who immediately intentionally walked Christian Yelich and allowed Willy Adames to hit a 3-run homer to blow the game wide open, 10-4. A walk, a single, a double and another home run later and your eyes were just glazing over. No surprise he was shipped back down to Iowa after this performance. No more Trevor Megill please.

June 30, 2021
Cubs 1, Brewers 2
WP: Woodruff (7-3) LP: Davies (5-5)
Box Score

At least this one wasn’t a total blowout. Brandon Woodruff is one of the better pitchers in the league, so I guess there’s nothing much to say offensively about his performance; both teams were outpitched generally by the starters.

Zach Davies gave up a run in the 1st inning, but other than that he kept things close between the teams; the offense just had a lot of trouble hitting the ball, as usual. The Cubs had only six hits, two coming from Joc Pederson. They also got walked seven times, and there were multiple RISP situations and one bases-loaded situation that they just couldn’t convert on. Ian Happ especially struck out swinging in that bases-loaded situation, ending the inning without being able to score a desperately needed run for the Cubs. What else is new with this team?

Baez struck out twice, but he also got a hit—a triple—and scored the Cubs’ only run. He also walked to load the bases, which is a true marvel for him in that situation. The team just seemed to sorely miss the bats of Bryant and Rizzo. The half-inning after the Cubs scored and tied it, the Brewers came back with a run of their own, a line drive that scored someone Davies had walked earlier. Despite nails bullpen appearances by Brad Wieck, Keegan Thompson, Dan Winkler and 31-year-old Adam Morgan, the Cubs couldn’t find enough runs to eke out a win.

June 30, 2021
Cubs 7, Brewers 5
WP: Richards (3-0) LP: Brothers (2-1)
Box Score

If you didn’t have enough of a reason to hate the Brewers, even after this week, then this game will make you hate them even more. Or maybe I should be directing my anger inward, toward the Cubs, who gave up a 7-0 1st-inning lead like it meant absolutely nothing to anyone.

We were watching a sorely needed burst of offense at first, after a myriad of singles, walks, fielder’s choices, steals, and wild pitches that saw the whole lineup go once through the order, with only Happ not reaching base. It feels like for any other team this would be an automatic win, but not here. Jake Arrieta, relic of a bygone era, put up a really difficult performance, surviving only 1.2 innings. He allowed a single and walked three guys in the 1st to make it 7-1 — no big deal yet because we have plenty of insurance runs, am I right? Horribly wrong. A single and a home run against Arrieta made it 7-3 in the 2nd inning. Then there was the walk, three singles, and fielding error that led (though not Arrieta’s fault) to Patrick Wisdom leaving the game at first base with an injury after colliding with a Brewers batter. Rossy yanked him after that one.

Wisdom was replaced at first by Taylor Gushue, playing in his first MLB game at 27. Gushue will also be playing the role of backup catcher now, as he fills in for Jose Lobaton, now on the 60-day IL, where he joins with the guy HE was filling in for, Austin Romine. Time to pray Contreras won’t get injured.

As for the entire lineup getting that burst of offense early? It lasted only that one inning, as the Cubs wouldn’t be able to score a single run for the rest of the game. Instead, the Brewers ran rampant on poor Rex Brothers and Tommy Nance. Brothers gave up the winning run in the bottom of the 4th after allowing a walk, a double and a single. He was then replaced by Nance, who was even worse, hitting two guys, walking another, and letting another one single. It was 10-7 Brewers before Willy Adames hit a grand slam to make it 14-7.

Adam Morgan was given another look tonight, because at this point everyone recognized the game and likely the season was now lost. He gave up a solo homer to give us the final score of 15-7. Then Eric Sogard got to pitch to end the game, as nothing pleases the masses more than when that happens. Just awful.

The Cubs are now 6 games back of the Brewers and don’t have a prayer of catching up at the rate these guys are playing and getting injured. So why not duke it out against the Reds for second place this weekend? The Reds are one and a half games back of us at exactly .500. More losses here would just be the icing on the Cubs cake — becoming loveable losers once again. See you then, as always. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

I guess a split is better than a series loss, even if the series is only two games. The Cubs certainly were hard to watch last night, with Javier Baez being the main storyline as he was benched for making the wrong offensive play. However, Kyle Hendricks and a late-to-the-party-but-at-least-existent Cubs offense were able to help them rise above Cleveland tonight, despite a sticky situation in a late inning with the bullpen.

Despite the recent streak of doing more losing than winning, the Cubs still find themselves tied with the Brewers for first in the horrific Central Division with a 40-33 record. The team is still too home run dependent, but it seems as though whenever they need a jolt to the offense all Rossy has to do is pinch hit a couple players who immediately make good contact with the ball. How long can he keep doing that before the trick doesn’t work anymore? Not forever, that’s for sure, but for now I’ll take all the help we can get.

June 21, 2021
Cubs 0, Cleveland 4
WP: Shaw (2-2) LP: Alzolay (4-6)
Box Score

The pitching did all they could for this one, and yet the Cubs couldn’t produce enough hits to get the job done.

Adbert Alzolay is finally back, being activated off the IR and starting this game. He went 4.2 innings tonight and he allowed three runs, all of them coming thanks to home runs. Alzolay was able to hold the Cubs in it for a solid four innings, only allowing the solo homer in the 2nd inning during that time. The offense was able to put players in scoring position in the 2nd, 5th, 7th and 9th innings — Willson Contreras in particular had two doubles and walked during his third at-bat — but nobody was able to convert.

After forgetting how many outs there were in the bottom of the 4th inning, Baez got doubled up in a play that ended the inning, jogging to third, which allowed a throw at 1st to get him out. Embarrassing for everyone involved and everyone watching, to say the least. Rossy immediately benched him in favor of Sergio Alcantara, who, like Baez, had no hits this game either.

After Alzolay gave up a two-run homer in the 5th, Keegan Thompson and the bullpen after him took over, allowing just two hits and one run in the process. Tommy Nance was the “worst” of the bunch, throwing a couple of wild pitches that ended up advancing and scoring a runner to make it 4-0. By this time the Cubs had seemed to give up, and another beer snake that had been forming in the outfield was eviscerated by a fan. The cups rained down onto the field, a good metaphor for how this game had gone on the Cubbies’ end.

June 22, 2021
Cubs 7, Cleveland 1
WP: Hendricks (10-4) LP: Morgan (0-2)
Box Score

Although Kris Bryant was able to get the Cubs ahead early in the game with a solo homer, it wasn’t until the 6th when Rafael Ortega pinch hit for Hendricks that the Cubs started to generate some real offense. Alcantara, who doubled before Ortega, got to third and was batted in by Joc Pederson as the next batter up in order to put the Cubs ahead 3-0. Bryant walked after that and then Baez’s ground rule double and Contreras’ single made it 5-0 Cubs.

The Cubs were able to wait so long in the game before producing offensively because Kyle Hendricks was able to add yet another game to his growing pile of quality starts for the Cubs, allowing only four hits and no runs in 6.0 innings. He had a habit of allowing hits off of the first batters he saw each inning but limited contact for Cleveland, able to get the three outs after allowing a hit to keep his shutout game.

Of course, the Cubs can’t have every part of their team working their best at the same time. It was time for the bullpen to have an off day, and when I say the bullpen I mean Ryan Tepera, who had an ugly outing, putting himself in a bases-loaded situation with no outs. He gave up a hit to score one Cleveland player and then a rocket to right field missed being a game-changing home run by mere feet. However, he was able to strike that batter out and get out of the inning with a pop fly caught by Jake Marisnick, and during the next half-inning solo homers by Contreras and Patrick Wisdom cemented the Cubs win. (The other relief pitchers, Andrew Chafin and Dan Winkler, allowed no hits in their two innings pitched.)

The Cubs have an off day tomorrow before it’s time to take on the LA Dodgers this weekend in California. The last time we saw the Dodgers was when we swept them during a slew of 7-inning games in early May, marking the beginning of the Cubs’ hottest win streak of the season so far. Since that series, the Dodgers have gone 27-13, healed up their injuries for the most part, and went on an eight-game winning streak.

This series will not be an easy one by any means, especially comparing their rotation to ours. Since Hendricks and Alzolay just played the last few days, it’s going to be a real sketchy weekend when it comes to our starters. Do you trust Zach Davies? I don’t. Jake Arrieta has gone only three innings for two starts in a row, allowing ten hits total. Is Alec Mills 100% healthy? Trevor Williams has resumed throwing, but he’s not known for his quality starts of any kind. Say a prayer for this weekend’s series and hope something good comes our way. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

“I don’t think a winning weekend series against this team is a lot for me to ask for.”

Well, do I look like an idiot now.

For the first time since we got similarly gut-punched in the playoffs last season, the Marlins came back to give us more of what we didn’t ask for. It was an offensive onslaught by Miami that the Cubs just couldn’t match, again. Our starting pitching let us down and even the defense you can usually lean on was spotty. The bullpen was trying its best to get everyone through it, but with no help offensively and a 3-inning start by Jake Arrieta one of these games they weren’t getting a lot of help from any other aspect of the team.

Time to wrap up these horrific games and get on with it. Don’t blame me if this is a short wrap, there was only so much of this baseball I could stomach and I’m sure it was the same for you too.

June 18, 2021
Cubs 2, Marlins 10
WP: Curtiss (3-1) LP: Davies (4-4)
Box Score

You absolutely could’ve justified taking Zach Davies out of this game when the Marlins scored five runs in the 3rd inning, but Rossy was once again trying to keep from overworking the bullpen. Davies was fine leading up to the 3rd inning, and pitched two more scoreless innings in the 4th and 5th after that. It was the 6th inning where he gave up two singles, a walk, and a home run that scored three more runners. It was more than enough to get the Marlins out of the game with a win.

The Cubs’ offense all came within the first third of the game. Joc Pederson solo homered in the 1st and 3rd innings to get the only Cubs runs. Meanwhile, the only other players who hit at all were Baez and Rizzo. Dan Winkler gave up two more runs in the bullpen and by that time if you were still watching the game you were subjecting yourself to psychological torture.

June 19, 2021
Cubs 1, Marlins 11
WP: Lopez (3-4) LP: Arrieta (5-8)
Box Score

Good thing there’s more of this dreck where that came from. Once again I must preface this by saying Jake Arrieta is cemented in Cubs legacy for his first tenure here in which he helped us win a World Series. But this is his second start where he’s been able to throw only three innings before completely collapsing, and this time he didn’t have the food poisoning excuse to help him out.

The Marlins took control of this game early and quickly, as Arrieta allowed six runs in the first three innings of the game, including a pair of two-run homers and two RBIs. After this game got safely blown open, Rossy gave Cory Abbott another try as a relief pitcher. He did well in his first inning in relief, but allowing a walk to Jesus Aguilar to start off the 5th inning would be his downfall. One fly ball and one single later and he allowed yet another Marlins run. In the 6th inning he allowed a double and two walks to make the game 8-0 Marlins before allowing a flyout and strikeout to end the inning. (He has since been optioned again.) He was replaced by Rex Brothers, who allowed a run of his own, Tommy Nance, who allowed two runs, and Eric Sogard throwing in the 9th inning, which pleased nobody.

The Cubs had hits this game from Sogard, Heyward, and Rafael Ortega while pinch hitting. Nothing to write home about by any means.

June 20, 2021
Cubs 2, Marlins 0
WP: Mills (3-1) LP: Thompson (1-2)
Box Score

This game at least had some — literally any — positives that came from it. The Cubs needed to bring in some bench guys to pinch hit to get the team going offensively, but hey, whatever works, right?

Patrick Wisdom was the one who started it off, and he’s honestly been someone I’ve really been liking. He had a super-hot first few weeks when he first came up for us, but even today his single started a spring of hits that gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead to win the game. Jake Marisnick, also pinch hitting, singled, along with Pederson singling to score Wisdom. (Pederson has been the only Cub this series with anything remotely representing consistent offense.)

The other Cubs run that happened earlier in the game was able to be scored without any hits at all. Heyward was able to walk, and after two strikeouts Pederson was able to reach on a fielder’s choice/throwing error. It only took a passed ball to score Heyward.

This was the defense’s best game, obviously, with Alec Mills allowing no runs on six hits and the bullpen not letting anybody score. It was all accented by a few Javy Baez highlight reel defensive plays, which are always fun to see. Craig Kimbrel closed it out on another solid, two-strikeout performance. For the second series in a row, a losing series ended on a high note.

This team is a streaky rollercoaster, but despite the win to cap off the weekend I am by no means feeling like this team is in a good place at all. They need more help than some Ricketts-approved trade deadline moves can make in the playoffs (which the team was fully hoping they weren’t gonna have to make come July anyway). The offense is still showing really bad cold streaks that we have seen year and year again. They will try to add at the trade deadline, and all we can do as fans is just pray that the offense clicks again like they were just a few weeks ago.

Despite the bad series, baseball goes on, as does life. The Cubs have a pair of games against Cleveland tomorrow and Tuesday to focus on now. Cleveland is behind only the White Sox in their division, as our friends from across town continue to cling to the first-place spot. Cleveland just lost a series against the Pirates this weekend but swept a series against the Orioles before that. Despite the losing series, Cleveland has scored 25 runs in their last four games, whereas it’s taken ten games for the Cubs to rack up that many. So if the Cubs want to win either of these next two games, the offense had better turn it on quick. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs got the three wins they needed to put them back over .500 and place themselves second in the division this week against the struggling Nationals. They did this while battling injuries; the injury bug continues to make its way around the clubhouse, as we continue to see new starting position players get injured in Anthony Rizzo and, most recently, Jason Heyward and Justin Steele. (Please can Kris Bryant NOT be next?)

Despite these injuries, the Cubs were able to outscore the Nationals 21-10 this series as the offense continues to putter along. The bullpen pitching is finally looking solid also, which is quite good considering our starters still can’t survive very long into any game, it seems. Without further ado, let’s break down this week’s games.

May 17, 2021
Cubs 4, Nationals 3
WP: Alzolay (2-3) LP: Lester (0-2)
Box Score

Things started off badly relatively quickly for Jon Lester, making his first start at Wrigley in a Nationals uniform. Just about everyone in the top half of the Cubs lineup was able to hit off him. First it was a couple of singles by the top of the order in the 1st and a sac fly by Anthony Rizzo to score a runner. Then Jason Heyward hit a two-run bomb to center to make it 3-0 Cubs in the 2nd inning. Contreras’s second hit of the night was a solo homer in the 3rd, and by this point just about everyone felt a little bit, just a teeny bit, bad for Jon Lester. But hey, at least Marquee didn’t cut to commercial in the middle of the 1st inning to show the fans of Wrigley giving Lester a standing ovation before he put up this performance!

That being said, our starter, Adbert Alzolay, wasn’t exactly nails either. Although he kept things scoreless through the first two innings, he allowed a Trea Turner home run in the 3rd inning to give the Nationals a little bit of life. To rub salt in the wound, Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run homer in the 3rd inning to cut the Cubs’ lead to only one, but the Nats’ bats would die after that.

The Cubs scored one run per inning in the 6th, 7th and 8th. Javy Baez hit a solo homer in the 6th to give the Cubs some insurance. Eric Sogard was able to single on a ground ball to Schwarber, which scored Nico Hoerner. Finally, in the 8th, a Heyward single was able to drive in Anthony Rizzo, who had a double of his own earlier in the inning.

Alzolay survived five innings and didn’t put up a single walk during that span. He had five hits and two home runs, and limiting those homers is something he can work on in the future. The bullpen pitchers that were trotted out after Alzolay did well allowed only one hit between the four of them.

The Cubs also saw a new pitcher make his major league debut, as Tommy Nance pitched the 8th inning. Called up since Alec Mills was put on the IL, Nance isn’t exactly young at 30 years old, but he’s definitely a new face to Cubs fans unless you frequent Iowa Cubs games. He struck out his first big league batter and had some pretty sweet pitches, including this nasty one:

May 18, 2021
Cubs 6, Nationals 3
WP: Thompson (2-1) LP: Harris (0-1)
Box Score

The Cubs put up another win in this game, pushing the team to back over .500…again. Zach Davies, the starter of the day, allowed all three Nationals runs in 5 innings pitched. He allowed a homer, a walk, and 7 hits total. Luckily for the Cubs, the bullpen and the offense were able to come through for the win this game.

Scoring for the Cubs started in the 3rd inning when David Bote and Nico Hoerner both singled. Willson Contreras singled after a Davies sac bunt to score both of them.

After the 4th inning, Anthony Rizzo left the game to deal with back tightness as a “precautionary measure,” because the injuries won’t stop rolling in for the Cubs. Kris Bryant moved over to first base, because the man can play anywhere nowadays, and Jason Heyward went to right field.

Immediately after, at the top of the 5th, the Nationals were able to get three singles in a row against Davies which tied the game up. Never fear, however; MVP Kris Bryant is here! (For a few more months, at least). He was able to bat in both Hoerner on a ground ball to give the Cubs the lead.

The game continued to stay tight as the top of the inning featured an immediate solo homer by the Nationals to tie the game up again. After Davies allowed another single right after that, he got yanked in favor of Keegan Thompson, who got the three outs for the inning with two strikeouts.

Bote homered at the bottom of the inning after a Matt Duffy walk, and the Cubs never looked back. Ian Happ had a solo homer in the 8th to make the final score 6-3. The bullpen pitched well generally, allowing two hits and striking out six batters between the four of them. They also allowed five walks, but the defense prevailed this game, as is wont to do with the Cubs.

May 19, 2021
Cubs 3, Nationals 4
WP: Scherzer (4-2) LP: Arrieta (4-4)
Box Score

Runners in scoring position once again killed the Cubs this game, as any other competent team would’ve made something happen in the bases-loaded situation in the 6th inning. However, Contreras and David Bote could not convert enough runs to beat the Nationals’ four. Ian Happ, at least, was able to single to make it 4-2 then, and Javier Baez hit a solo home run in the 9th to make this game at least seem close. However, when you’re facing really good pitching on the mound, sometimes the offense just shuts down.

Max Scherzer, hall-of-famer that he is, struck out eight Cubs, allowing five hits and only two runs. The Cubs had similar issues with the Nats’ bullpen tonight, not being able to convert when in RISP situations and getting struck out five times in the final 2.2 innings of the game.

At least Joc Pederson showed signs of life offensively, after being in the leadoff position for a few games. He had two hits today, leading the team. Poor David Bote was left on base on four separate occasions today, and Arrieta had a hit, surprisingly.

Arrieta’s pitching…well, it was not up to snuff when you take a glance over at the opposing dugout. He allowed seven hits and only struck out two runners. In fact, Tommy Nance again, the first reliever for Arrieta in the 6th, was able to strike out one more runner, and allowed no hits for another pretty impressive outing. More please.

May 20, 2021
Cubs 5, Nationals 2
WP: Steele (2-0) LP: Ross (2-4)
Box Score

Despite the wind blowing quite strongly out of Wrigley Field, the Cubs were able to keep the Nationals to only two home run hits, by Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber…again. Sigh. However, Ian Happ was the star of the show today with two homers, solely responsible for three of the five Cubs runs.

Joc Pederson had another good day, also, with two hits total and an RBI. Anthony Rizzo also had two hits, coming back after sitting out the previous game due to the aforementioned back injury. Luckily for the Cubs, he seemed to get better just in time for Jason Heyward to be put on the 10-day IL today. Covering for him today and through the future is Nick Martini, who debuted quite marvelously with a sac fly RBI to score David Bote and put the Cubs on the board in the 2nd inning, along with scoring on a Joc Pederson single in the 4th to put the Cubs up 4-2.

Trevor Williams allowed the two Nationals’ runs, while also striking out five batters and allowing only two walks. However, he did not survive until the 5th inning, being replaced by Justin Steele. Steele was doing great, allowing no hits, three strikeouts, and only one walk through 1.1 innings until he exited the game due to an injury. Ryan Tepera replaced him, striking out three. Andrew Chafin was able to get out of his inning with no runs thanks in part to yet another amazing Nico Hoerner diving play to save a hit, and Craig Kimbrel got yet another save today with three straight strikeouts in the 9th inning.

After this three-win series, the Cubs have now secured themselves quite precariously in 2nd place in the Central Division, three games back of the 1st-place Cardinals, who the Cubs ironically face this weekend.

The Cardinals are much better than the rest of their division so far, being quite a few games over .500, unlike every other team in the division until the Cubs’ win today that put them over .500 again. The Cards most recently completed a two-game sweep of the Pirates (not hard at all to do) and got trounced by the Padres, getting spectacularly swept themselves last weekend.

On a personal note, I am going camping tomorrow in an area with no TV or internet, so I’m sorry to say I will be unable to cover this weekend’s excitement, despite this being the first series of any actual meaning we’ve had all season. Luckily for all of us, I’ll be back next week to cover the next three game series of the Pirates/Cubs series, because God knows we’d all like to watch more of that.

See you then, and go Cubs go!

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

This was an incredibly frustrating series as a Cubs fan, as it seemed like this weekend nothing went right. Davies and Williams threw clunkers, the Cubs can’t hit, the umpires gave us no help, Ross doesn’t know when to pull his starters, the defense gave up 13 runs to a team projected to be one of the worst in the league, and the Cubs now sit with a 4-5 record for 4th place in the Central. At least our bullpen was pretty solid?

In case you (correctly) traded in Cubs games this weekend to watch the Masters, here’s what went down:

April 8, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 2
WP: Arrieta (2-0) LP: Anderson (0-2)
Box Score

The Cubs went into this series with the lowest batting average in the league, and the lowest batting average for a team by far in recent memory. Despite this, the Cubs had an astounding 11 hits, a season-high for this team by four. It may be a season-high, sure, but for the league we are still sitting in the basement when it comes to hits and offense, so I’m still not impressed or satisfied with this number.

They got on the board early thanks to a Kris Bryant solo shot homer in the 1st inning, as he continues to make his trade value go up and up. Bryant had two hits, an RBI, and a .982 OPS for this game, one of his better outings so far this season.

The score stayed put until the fourth, where a couple of big hits off Arrieta helped the Pirates score 2. By the 6th, Anthony Rizzo hit a homer that allowed a Javier Baez run to put the Cubs ahead 3-2. Baez also had a hit in the 1st, two RBIs, and a walk — the walk being the most exciting news because he had seriously gone 100something at-bats without drawing one.

Arrieta was able to pitch through 6 innings thanks to a solid defense behind him cleaning up after any Pirates contact. By the 8th inning, Rizzo hit a solo homer to end the game 4-2, but whatever you do, don’t re-sign him. Totally not necessary.

Craig Kimbrel is back to his ways of old, and it seems as though the disaster that was his 2020 season was far behind him. He came out with the save for the night, getting a huge final two outs of a huge bases-loaded situation he inherited in the 8th and putting down three batters in the 9th with a little help from the outfield.

April 10, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 8
WP: Keller (1-1) LP: Davies (1-1)
Box Score

This game has got to be the biggest disappointment of the entire year by far, maybe in the past two years. Certainly in my recent memory.

I am finding it difficult to express how ridiculous this game was. It all happened in one half-inning, where Zach Davies and the Cubs’ defense completely collapsed to the worst team in the league. I tried to give Davies his day on the mound — it’s not his fault he got traded for Yu Darvish, who had been the best pitcher in the NL, after all — but the 2nd inning was completely inexcusable and a total nightmare.

In the 2nd inning, Davies gave up 5 hits and 3 walks before he got pulled after his 10th batter of the inning for Alec Mills. Davies only had 1 strikeout. In addition to being unable to throw strikes and reduce the contact rate, all of the hits went right past everyone on defense.

By the time Davies was pulled in the 2nd, it was time to throw all of our bullpen pitchers into the fire. Mills and the defense kept things under control until the 5th, where Dillon Maples gave up a mighty unfortunate home run to dig our grave deeper to 8-1, and by this time all Chicago sports fans had turned to watch the Blackhawks beat Columbus.

In case you wanted to know how the rest of the game turned out, it was pretty terrible. The Cubs had 3 hits for the rest of the game. Jason Adam was able to get a lot of Pirates swinging at a lot of crappy pitches but was able to end an inning with three strikeouts. The Cubs in the 8th got rocked by a pitcher who throws a fastball 63% of the time, because it’s no secret our Cubs can’t hit a fastball if their lives depended on it. The only Cub that hit off him was Joc Pederson, who knocked in the Cubs’ second and final run. At least he can hit fastballs.

April 11, 2021
Cubs 1, Pirates 7
WP: Brubaker (1-0) LP: Williams (1-1)
Box Score

Although Trevor Williams had a good 1st inning, things started going haywire quickly in the 2nd. An overturned out call at 2nd base put the Cubs in a tie game situation with the dreaded runners in scoring position on second and third base, even after Javier Baez hit a home run the half inning before to put the Cubs up in the game. Williams was completely unable to throw strikes, and when he did throw strikes they were getting rocked to the outfield. He allowed 5 hits on the half inning, none of them home runs. He did try to end the inning on a more positive note with a pretty nice strikeout, but things wouldn’t get better from there.

The Cubs were able to make some magic happen in the 3rd after an Ian Happ single, Willson Contreras sacrificing himself to a hit by pitch walk for the 64th time this season, but none of it mattered because Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. Originally, Happ had scored on this play to make it 3-2 with Rizzo out at 1st, but the Pirates challenged their second call of the day for slide interference. He was kind of sliding into Kevin Newman when trying to get to 2nd and Newman had to jump over him to make a throw to first, which went right past Colin Moran. Who knew the rules of baseball?

Williams didn’t make things any easier on the Cubs in the 3rd inning, either, as he had only one strikeout and gave up a hit, an RBI, and two walks. More umpball confusion continued into the 4th as the umpire ejected…someone. We eventually learned it was catching coach Mike Borzello, but because umpires for some reason do not have microphones and are for some reason not forced to answer or explain any of their rulings or calls to anyone watching, this ejection was not immediately clear.

For the second Trevor Williams start in a row, Ross kept him in an inning too long. By the 5th inning, the Pirates had completely taken control of the game, getting three straight hits against him before he finally got pulled for Brothers. Brothers immediately got the two strikeouts Williams couldn’t get and ended the inning. Ross needs to get a lot better at managing his starting pitchers, because “squeezing all you can” out of Williams when he’s thrown three bad innings in a row is certainly not the answer. Know when to pull ‘em, Rossy.

The bullpen did well to stop the scoring until Ryan Tepera gave up a 2-run homer in the 7th, but by that time the game was over anyway.

The Cubs turn around and play three more games against the Brewers starting up tonight. The Brewers have won two of their last three games against the Cardinals since we saw them last week, and are sitting in 2nd place in the division. What could possibly go wrong?

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!

Baseball

The Rickettses finally allowed Jed Hoyer to make some sort of “splash” this offseason by signing World Series champion Joc Pederson to a one-year, $7 million deal. And then, a few hours later, their splash was overshadowed by a blockbuster Nolan Arenado trade to our division rival. Cubs fans can never have nice things for long.

Pederson is here to essentially replace Kyle Schwarber, and besides them both being lefties, his numbers indicate him being pretty Schwarber-esque on the field. Schwarber’s batting numbers from last season are all a little bit better than Pederson’s, but Pederson also played 16 less games than the former Cubs outfielder. Pederson’s strike out percentage of 24.6% is slightly better than Schwarber’s 29.5%. His batting average is also better, comparing .190 to .188.

What might be slightly better news for Cubs fans to hear is that Pederson also went through a bit of a slump in 2020, like Schwarber. If you look at his stats from 2015-2019, the years he played over 100 games, he averaged 24.6 home runs and 57.4 RBIs. Additionally, Pederson also crushed it in the 2020 offseason with the Dodgers, with nearly all of his batting metrics getting better. His batting average went to .382, his strikeout percentage went down to 16.2%, and he had 2 homers and 8 RBIs for the Dodgers. I would assume his 2020 regular season numbers are just a temporary slump and he will continue to improve over a longer, slightly more normal 2021 regular season.

The Cubs were sorely lacking an outfielder before this signing, and it looks like your staple guys in the outfield for 2021 will now be Pederson, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward, respectively. Doesn’t seem like an awful combo, if I say so myself.

While we’re here, let’s also touch on the Cubs’ new starting pitcher signing that happened this weekend. Welcome to the Cubs, Trevor Williams! This offseason has been a nightmare for us but at least you aren’t wasting away on the Pirates roster anymore, am I right?

Williams has inked a 1-year, $2.5 million dollar deal, according to SOURCES. Williams’ best ERA was coming up on three seasons ago, in 2018, where he was sporting a 3.11. Last season, his ERA was 6.18.

How much of this can you blame on the fact that he was on the most God-awful team in the league? Let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt. His velocity numbers certainly haven’t decreased, and because we are owned by the Rickettses we didn’t pay out the nose for him. There aren’t really any more Yu Darvishes available in this league, and even if there were we’d trade them away for no return. Try to find the positives in this baseball offseason, I guess.