Baseball

The Cubs’ fall from grace was fast and frankly, expected—they haven’t won a series yet this year outside of their first against the Brewers, catching them when Milwaukee’s pitching seemed to think the season started a week later than it really did. The Brewers are back to the top of the NL Central standings and their pitchers are back to shutting the Cubs out, outscoring them this past weekend 20-4. The defending World Series champion Braves also mostly dominated the Cubs, winning two out of three games. There’s not a lot you can do against a team with multiple Gold Glove winners—the Cubs aren’t that team anymore.

Slightly more concerning is the fact that the Cubs pitching continues to be a rollercoaster ride I’d prefer to get off of. The starters largely haven’t been able to hold things together, meaning the bullpen is eating innings like nobody’s business. And we saw exactly what happened when this same scenario went down for the Cubs last year, and that was a significantly better team than what we’re trotting out this year. We are still without staples like Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Wade Miley, but so far the starters who were supposed to be holding it down largely aren’t doing that right now.

  • Mark Leiter Jr. finally got optioned, as the Cubs tried to cram him in as a starter despite him not having played in the MLB since 2018. It went about as well as you’d think, as he took the mound against the Braves on Wednesday trying to improve upon his ERA of 11.05. He stayed in for the first 2 innings, which took him 45 pitches to get through, and only four of them were called strikes. He then came in as a bullpen guy on Friday after Hendricks had already given up 7 runs. Leiter Jr. pitched one inning in which he had three strikeouts and only one hit. He seems to be better and more comfortable there, and if he does get called up again that is a better place for him to stay than as a starter.
  • Marcus Stroman has been an experience for the Cubs, being objectively bad all the way up until Sunday’s game when he finally got his first win of the season. Stroman can at least throw strikeouts, but the hits he gives up can get dicey, especially if Michael Hermosillo is playing at center and has to field just about every ball in just about every at-bat. It got almost comical on Tuesday. I’m just praying Stroman can build on Sunday’s win, where he pitched 7 innings and only allowed two hits. That’s the kind of performance he needs to be consistently putting up if this team is going to not be shit for the next 5 months.
  • Even Seiya Suzuki cooled down a bit this past week, with eight strikeouts in his past six games and a three-game hitless streak Saturday-Monday. He’s also only had one walk since April 21, showing that pitchers around the league have started to figure him out a little bit. This is what I was expecting to start out the season, as players are streaky throughout the year. But the Cubs are better when Seiya is hitting, and he is still 16th in the league in OPS, so hopefully he’s able to get hot again soon.
  • Comparing Anthony Rizzo’s offensive numbers so far this year against Frank Schwindel’s brings me great sadness.

The Cubs play the White Sox (9-13) and the Dodgers (14-7) this week. It will probably go as bad as you can imagine against Los Angeles, but if the Cubs can get quality starts they might have a chance against the Sox. But quality starts are really a necessity at this point. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

Well, the good news is that things are off to a better start than last season.

The Cubs reaped the benefits of the Brewers fumbling their Opening Weekend series, as their starters kind of threw three dud games in a row despite the lofty expectations from their fans and around the league. In addition, the surprising offensive performances by the Cubs were beyond any expectations I had, especially for this series against probable contenders.

What did not surprise me, however, was the tomfoolery that ensued in Saturday’s game with four players total getting hit by pitches and the benches-clearing “brawl” that commenced. The Brewers just love to hit the Cubs, especially Willson Contreras, and just about everyone has had enough of it, especially Willson Contreras. But the Cubs came up on top in the win column, which is truly all that matters. Fuck the Brewers, and to the bullets!

  • I wasn’t expecting much from Ian “Kirby” Happ to start the season, and made my feelings known in the preview. The Fels Motherfuck continues to haunt this website, however, as Happ made me look like a fool. He currently leads the team with five hits and has the best slash line on the team: .714/.778/1.778. He also has 4 RBIs, good for second on the team, and is the only player yet to strike out this season. Luckily for us the Brewers fucking drilled him in the knee with a pitch on Saturday and Rossy pulled him from the game as a precaution. He also didn’t play on Sunday, and though they were playing the B Team that day anyways, it’s obviously a bit of a concern. Hopefully Happer can continue to be a surprise offensive force, because we will need all the help we can get in that department to continue winning games.
  • Seiya Suzuki—what a guy. What plate discipline! He’s played in all three games so far this season in right field and has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I genuinely thought he’d look a bit worse to start the season off as he adjusted to MLB baseball, but he looks very comfortable here so far. His three-run bomb on Sunday was just about the only good thing I saw in the 5-4 loss, and he also leads the team with 6 RBIs. More, more, more please.
  • Our bullpen couldn’t suck more if it tried, God save us. With Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck and Adbert Alzolay on the 60-day IL, the only good/memorable pitching I’ve seen out of the pen has been from 37-year-old closer David Robertson, who collected his first save of the season on Thursday, and Keegan Thompson, who just got suspended three games for throwing at Andrew McCutchen (don’t talk to me about it, I’m still pissed). Jesse Chavez particularly was a tire fire on the mound on Sunday and couldn’t throw a strike to save his life, and when he did it was right down the middle and rocked for a home run. He gave up 3 runs in 0.2 innings pitched, good for a sparkling 40.50 ERA right now. Figure it out, people.
  • Marcus Stroman didn’t have a bad Cubs debut, and I loved that he caught a line drive on Sunday instead of ducking to avoid it like MLB pitchers are so very wont to do. He was able to execute a double play because of it, and I was pleased to see it.
  • The Cubs B Team Lineup (B for Bad, I guess) got rocked pretty hard on Sunday, especially on the offensive front. Alfonso Rivas, Suzuki, Yan Gomes, and Nico Hoerner had the only Cubs hits for the day. Suzuki was wholly responsible for 3 of the 4 Cubs runs, and the 4th and final Cubs run was scored by pinch hitter Patrick Wisdom after getting walked as the Brewers showed us they have the parts to make up a shitty bullpen as well (besides Josh Hader, who I will forever see in my nightmares). I will reserve my judgment for some of these Cubs for later on down the line, but it’s not looking great so far.

The Cubs season continues tomorrow with a back-to-back against the Pirates (1-2) and then they travel to Colorado for a weekend series against the Rockies (3-1) and Kris Bryant, who we will miss forever. After this performance against the Brewers I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs dropped a stinker or two this week, but I’m hoping they can build on this newfound offense and hopefully find a bullpen pitcher who can actually throw the ball. God willing.

Go Cubs go!

Baseball

We thought it may never come, but baseball season is once again upon us. And with the Cubs’ World Series core all signed to other teams and the Red Hot Chili Peppers just releasing a new album with John Frusciante on guitar, it really feels like we’re back in 2006. (Linked is Frusciante shredding up Give It Away like it’s nothing on Howard Stern. I didn’t get to see this band live with him in the lineup, so I am absurdly excited for the tour. Take my money.)

The Cubs have yet to officially announce their Opening Day roster, but it’s certainly starting to take shape, and things look a bit rocky with a myriad of starting and bullpen pitchers beginning the season on the injured list, because of course they are. Kyle Hendricks is deservedly slated to be the Opening Day starter, with Rossy confirming that Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman are starting on Friday and Saturday respectively. Drew Smyly, a pickup from the Braves this offseason, could be an option for Sunday’s start as well.

Stroman, the offseason pitching signing the Cubs inked just before the lockout, is yet another pitcher who loves inducing ground balls, and throws a 92 mph fastball—and though that may not seem very fast to you, it’s fast compared to the rest of the Cubs pitchers, since fastballs are not this team’s specialty. Meanwhile, veteran starter Wade Miley, who the Cubs easily plucked from the swarmey, grimey hands of Bob Castellini, has been on a slower ramp-up schedule over Spring Training and is expected to start the season on the injured list. Miley had a bounceback season with the Reds last year with a 3.37 ERA and a no-hitter to his name.

The bullpen is just a teeny tiny bit of a tire fire at the moment, with three of the strongest pitchers, Adbert Alzolay, Brad Wieck and Codi Heuer, starting the season on the 60-day IL. (White Sox fans are laughing maniacally at this news, I’m sure.) With the slower start to begin the season with the off-day on Monday, I bet we see Alec Mills or Keegan Thompson on relief duty to patch some of those bullpen holes. Other than those guys, we have a myriad of Joe Schmoes who will have a chance out of the bullpen. Michael Rucker is an interesting name to keep an eye on—he pitched 28.1 innings last season and had a ballooning 6.99 ERA, but didn’t look terrible in Arizona with a 2.25 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 8 innings. Some other names we will likely see early: Jesse Chavez, Scott Effross, Daniel Norris, Mychal Givens, David Robertson, and Rowan Wick. With no true closer figured out yet, expect the latter three to be rotating in and out of the 9th innings until Rossy sees someone that can maybe sorta kinda replace Craig Kimbrel. (Nobody can.)

As for the fielders, let’s start out with the obligatory fuck you to Ricketts and Co. for the handling of Willson Contreras’s contract extension this offseason. We’ve seen this long national nightmare before and we all know where it’s going—if Contreras is still a Cub after this year’s deadline I will be genuinely shocked. In the meantime, Rossy is relieved to have the DH in the NL now so he doesn’t have to ride Contreras into the fucking ground during the first half of the season. Hopefully he has a bounceback offensive season this year with some days off in the DH role as new signee Yan Gomes takes some starts. That way Contreras can get paid the big bucks he deserves in free agency when he signs to some team that isn’t the Cubs. Prepare yourselves.

The Cubs infield consists of a halfhearted shrug from me. Andrelton Simmons, who the front office hailed as the singular solution to the team’s defensive issues we saw in the back half of last season, looks bound for the injured list with shoulder problems. This means we will see Nico Hoerner at shortstop, who is surprisingly not injured to start the season (please God, do not Motherfuck me on this.) Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel will make their triumphant returns and we’ll see if last season wasn’t just an epic, humungous fluke. Finally, Nick Madrigal is expected to hopefully not get hurt this season and build upon his offensive numbers—he had a .305/.249/.425 slash line with the Sox before tearing his hamstring in June to end his 2021 season.

Last but not least, the Cubs outfield got bolstered substantially with the signing of Seiya Suzuki from Japan, who nudges Jason Heyward, God save us all, over to center. There’s understandably been a lot of hype around Seiya, but I’m trying to temper my expectations as he will probably need some time to adjust to the MLB. He hit two home run bombs in Spring Training but also had 7 strikeouts in 17 plate appearances, good for a .235/.350/.588 slash line. So again, time to adjust is needed. Meanwhile, Ian Happ, known oh-so-affectionately around here as the Kirby Dach of the Chicago Cubs, had surgery over the offseason and will probably see a lighter workload to start things off. Heyward continues to be a Locker Room Guy and not much else—just two more seasons on that contract to go. Other than that, we’ll probably see old familiars like Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo filling in any outfield holes.

It was really looking like the Cubs were heading into full-blown rebuild mode going into this offseason, but the tides have turned slightly with some significant pitching signings and the acquisition of Seiya Suzuki this winter. Now the Cubs’ ship seems to be turning in circles, stuck between rebuild and contention, the place that MLB owners love so much to be. This team certainly won’t be good, but considering the expanded 12-team playoff system that came out of the lockout and the irreverent tanking of the Reds and Pirates this year, a playoff spot may not be as out of reach as you think…if everything goes exactly according to plan, of course. But I think a season not unlike the one in 2006 is in our midst.

Despite it all…go Cubs go!

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 16-20   Blue Jays 15-22

GAMETIMES: Friday 6:07, Saturday 2:07, Sunday 12:07

TV: WGN Friday and Sundy, NBCSN Saturday

GET A T.O. BABY: Just follow Zubes on Twitter

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Dylan Covey vs. Daniel Hudson

Ivan Nova vs. Marcus Stroman

Lucas Giolito vs. Aaron Sanchez

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – 2B

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – DH

Yonder Alonso – 1B

Welington Castillo – C

Nicky Delmonico – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Charlie Tilson – CF

Ryan Cordell – RF

PROBABLY JAYS LINEUP

Eric Sogard – 2B

Freddy Galvis – SS

Randal Grichuk – CF

Justin Smoak – 1B

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 3B

Rowdy Tellez – DH

Billy McKinney – RF

Teoscar Hernandez – LF

Danny Jansen – C

 

After getting four games against a Cleveland lineup that couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a banjo, the Sox will spend the weekend seeing another banj0-less offense in the Toronto Blue Jays. Hard to believe it was only three seasons ago that the Jays were piling up back-to-back ALCS appearances, as it feels like a million. But that’s the way it goes when you’re in a division with superpowers, so the Jays have chucked all that and are waiting on the next batch of children to rise and take them back where they were.

One is already here, you may have heard about it. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was called up a couple weeks ago, but has yet to fire. He’s walking enough, but striking out over a quarter of the time, and just can’t seem to get anything going. He’s not making any loud contact at all yet, but it’s only a matter of time. It’s not his fault the Jays need him to be what was promised to score, because the rest of this lineup is a wasteland. They’re second to last in run, and last in on-base percentage and weighted on-base percentage. The only hitter in the lineup having an above-average season is Justin Smoak.

Any Cubs fan remembers that Randal Grichuk always looks like he’s being attacked by bees, whether in the field or at the plate. The rest of these jokers are merely place-holders until the likes of Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are ready. Boy, the Jays sure do believe in legacy, huh?

The rotation isn’t much better. Marcus Stroman has returned to being plus, perhaps in fear of angering his beefcake dad. Matt Shoemaker was off to a decent enough start but then his knee went kablooey and he’s done for the year. Aaron Sanchez was a down-ballot Cy Young contender three years ago, but a combo of injuries and an inability to know where the baseball is going has neutered him. When you’re throwing Clay Buchholz and Daniel Hudson out there, you know there are issues. But again, these are placeholders. Most of the Jays top prospects are arms, with Sean Reid-Foley already making an appearance and a couple others on the cusp for either later in the year or next. This is a team meant to be replaced.

The pen has been decent enough, with not a lot to work with. Ken Giles has been a good in the closer’s role. Sam Gaviglio, whatever that is, has been close to dominant by walking no one. But again, this isn’t a pen meant to win a lot of games, just meant to take the innings because someone has to.

For the Sox, Dylan Covey/Arrieta will make his second start, and Giolito should tear through this Cottonelle lineup. But a lot of things “should” happen.