Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 76-66   Padres 66-76

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 9:10, Thursday 2:40

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday/Thursday, ABC 7 Wednesday

LOOKING FOR THE SUIT STORE: Gaslamp Ball

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Padres Spotlight: Manny Machado

I may have waved the white flag at this team, or something a lot more impolite, but there are those out there that haven’t. And maybe the players haven’t either. They can’t say they have. We’ll find out real soon. If they do plan on making a fist of this season, and not just waiting around for the Diamondbacks or Brewers or Phillies to come and slip the quiet knife between the ribs, it should probably start….cue Denis Lemieux…RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

The Cubs head out to the West Coast for the fourth time this season (because that makes sense) for four games with the Padres before returning home for a 10-game homestand that definitely has the feel of 2004 where everything will go wrong. But before we get there, it’s this series against the Padres, one of the NL’s most exciting teams…next year.

The Fathers sit 10 games under, and suffered through a brutal July where they went 8-16. They recovered for a 13-15 August, and just won a series off the moribund Rockies (whom the Cardinals get to play soon. Oh joy!). They also took three of four off the Giants to end August, though getting swept by the D-Backs is also in there.

One reason for the ho-hum record is that this isn’t a very good offense. Producing a good one in that park will be the challenge for GM AJ Preller going forward, as Petco seems to gobble up offense even in the face of demonic baseballs. Of late, only new kid Josh Naylor is hitting, taking Hunter Renfroe‘s job in right field. Naylor is playing to lock down a spot next year, which is a common theme amongst this team at the moment.

They weren’t helped by Fernando Tatis Jr. going on the shelf for the season either. Wil Myers has been the only other regular to hit the past month, but he doesn’t always get playing time either in left, center, or first, though you might see him at the latter as Eric Hosmer has been emitting a weird smell all season. Recent promotion Nick Martini, and all the Groucho Marx jokes that come with him, has hit since arriving as well and gets most of the time in left.

The Cubs missed Chris Paddack when the Padres invaded Wrigley right after the break, but they won’t do so this time. However, the second half has been much rougher on the rookie, with an ERA a rest stop or two away from 5.00. He’s still carrying near a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio, but the Fiendish BABIP Kung Fu Treachery has gotten him in the second half, and he’s giving up more fly balls. These days, that’s not going to work out well. They’ll miss Joey Lucchesi, who has been great over the past month, and they will see Cal Quantrill who is carrying an ERA over 9.00 in that span. Ronald Bolanos will only be making his second start in the majors, so look for him to throw six shutout innings in true Cubs tradition.

The Cubs would be well advised to get to the starters, because you don’t want to have to stare down Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen late in the game, or a few others. The Padres always seem to fashion a plus-pen out of whatever’s lying around in true MacGeyver fashion, and this year is no different. Luis Perdomo has returned from injury this year into the pen and has been lights-out of late. This is just not the unit you want to try and come back against, not that this Cubs outfit as currently molded has much interest in doing that against anyone these days.

The Padres are not a doormat, but they’re not offensively charged and their starters can be had. Then again, that description could be thrown at the Cubs, and they don’t have the bullpen the Padres do. At some point, if only out of embarrassment, you’d think the Cubs would turn the levels up just a tad, and it would have to start here. But hey, if they fuck this up, with the Cardinals getting the funeral dirge that is the Rockies for three games, then at least you know the division will be over.

If you need a reason to watch and hurt yourself some more, Nico Hoerner will be up to take over at short with Baez and Russell out. Isn’t this fun?

Clean it up, assholes.

Baseball

There was no avoiding the winter debate over Manny Machado devolving into the much of the stupid and deranged. Machado has had just enough incidents on the field, and comes from somewhere other than these shores, that the justification for freezing him out until spring training was always going to include something beyond collusion. Which we know is all it was. So “attitude problem,” “lazy,” “doesn’t hustle,” and various other dog-whistles were brought to the fore for teams that didn’t sign him. Even the Padres took their sweet time, though got their man at a price to anchor a team on the rise.

Sure, Machado brought a fraction of this on himself with some petulant displays here and there, none of which have anything to do with how hard he runs to first. But you always knew it would get overblown. Whatever, he’s getting $30M a year now, so do you think he cares?

The Padres might, because what they’ve gotten in their first of a 10-year investment is a lot of the confusing player the Orioles saw in 2017.

Machado has seen a 37-point drop in his average, 43-point drop in his OBP, and a 68-point drop in his slugging, to go along with the highest strikeout-rate of his career. He has put in some sterling defense at third, which helped keep him a three-WAR player this season. But you don’t pay $30M for a three-WAR player. You pay for the six-to-seven one Manny was last year, and in ’15 and ’16. So where did that guy go?

In ’17, when Manny had his first “down” year at the plate, it was mostly blamed on luck. And that wasn’t untrue, as he suffered through a .265 BABIP, some 35 points of his career norm and league average. Still, that year his line-drive rate tanked, which didn’t help his batted-balls find the Valhalla of open spaces much. Machado’s line-drive rate has only risen a tick above that in the proceeding two years, and is at 17.1% this year.

It would be easy to believe that the deeper dimensions of Petco Park and the marine layer have hurt Manny’s power, but he’s actually got the highest home run/fly ball ratio of his career. So that’s not it. His hard-contact has gone up along with everyone else’s, enjoying the use of the juiced ball, so it’s not there. Manny is making more soft-contact though, and that might be where the trouble spots are.

Manny is making less contact than he ever has, which means he has the highest swinging-strike percentage of his career. All offspeed and breaking pitches have seen an uptick in whiffs, though not violently so. Manny’s work with fastballs has remained steady and damaging, but everything else is a gooey mess.

Change-ups: .154 average

Sliders: .217

Curve: .195

And again, all have seen an uptick in whiffs/swing, which generally is a signal for someone cheating on the fastballs, fearful they can’t catch up anymore with normal timing. But that’s not what should be happening to a player at 27. That’s for players that are 32 and above.

Another warning sign is that Manny’s slugging in the upper part of the zone has taken a hit, especially on fastballs:

And all his whiff rates at the top third of the zone have increased, including nearly doubling on the inside-high section. But again, Manny is just 27, so this can’t be the start of a decline. On the other side though, Bryce Harper–his free agency contemporary-also seemed to develop a hole high and in this year on fastballs. Except when facing Derek Holland, of course.

More likely this is a one-year glitch. Something in his swing or approach. Pitchers aren’t attacking him with anything terribly different this time around, he’s just not getting there. Perhaps he’s carrying something. The Padres had better hope so, otherwise this is going to be a long ride for everyone.