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

BOX SCORES:

Game 1: White Sox 9 – Marlins 1

Game 2: White Sox 1 – Marlins 5

Game 3: White Sox 0 – Marlins 2

 

This series loss, possibly more than any other series loss this entire season really fucking grinds my gears.  It’s a prime example why this front office, and to a lesser extent Rick Renteria, are taking what could be a very fun Sox team and grinding it into the dust.  On top of that, you’ve got Steve Stone on Twitter telling us we should all just be happy and enjoy the fact that semi-professional baseball is being played on the South Side.  We should just be happy that instead of bringing up prospects that could potentially benefit from major league experience we get castoffs like AJ Reed.  Instead of signing players in the offseason that could potentially make this product emminently more watchable, we should be happy we get to watch Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso.  I understand that Eloy and Tim are hurt, but REAL MLB teams are able to replace guys like that with players that can at least keep the team afloat.  Instead we get more of the Reed/Engel/Castillo Triangle Of Death.  To quote Lou Brown from Major League, “I’m sick of this nickel and dime shit!”

 

FUCKING BULLETS

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

-On the plus side, both Ivan Nova and Reynaldo Lopez continue their quest to redefine their seasons.  Lopez in particular has gone from “Nickleback Greatest Hits Album” down to about “Mumford And Sons Unreleased Tracks” in terms of quality (Hey, it’s MY sliding scale).  Granted, their 2 performances were against one of the more pathetic starting lineups in the league, but that’s what big league pitching is supposed to do.  Lopez didn’t benefit as much as Zac Gallen did from HP Umpire Ryan Additon’s expanded strike zone, and did most of his work up in the zone where his fastball can do the most damage.  Nova mildly impressed me in going the distance Monday night, but still only threw about 63% of his 112 pitches for strikes.

-Dylan Covey is not a starting pitcher, and trying a fucking 6 man rotation to keep hammering this square-assed peg into the round hole is only going to make his ERA worse.  He very clearly could be the beneficiary of an opener, but Renteria and Hahn are being insanely stubborn about this, and I just don’t fucking get it.

-Jose Abreu looks like he’s pressing right now, and if I were him and saw the collection of stiffs my coach packed around me in the lineup I’d be pressing too.  Every time I see AJ Reed step in the batters box I just think he’s one bad haircut away from becoming Guy Fieri Redux.  Except the real Fieri would have a better chance of taking a slider to Flavortown, if you know what I mean.

-Renteria’s lineup construction is approaching 4D chess levels of confusion.  Tuesday night the Marlins started Caleb Smith, who is far and away their best starter and also left handed.  I know that McCann needs a break now and again, but instead of giving it to him tonight, against Gallen the righty, he did it against Smith.  Who did he start instead of McCann at DH?  Guy Fieri Jr, who’s a fucking lefty.  Who’s splits against lefties are trash.  Who he himself is pretty much trash, since that’s where the Astros put him.

-Yoan Moncada is still batting .300 with an .882 OPS at the end of July.  Hell Yeah.  (He still shouldn’t be batting cleanup, but whatever)

-I’m not totally sold on Ryan Goins right now, but I’d rather watch him than Jose Rondon.  He’s not gonna make me forget that Tim Anderson left on his rehab stint today and should be back in a week.  Yay!

-That’s about all I wanna say about this shitty series.  It’s 2:30 in the morning and I still wanna punch my computer screen.  The Twins are next, and if the lineup looks anything like it did Tuesday and Wednesday, get ready for a long fucking weekend.

 

Baseball

              VS

RECORDS: Marlins 36-61   White Sox 44-52

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday at 7:10

TV: NBCSN Monday and Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

Booger Sugar: Fish Stripes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: Chevy Nova vs Trevor Richards

Game 2: Dylan Covey vs Caleb Smith

Game 3: Reynaldo Lopez vs TBD

 

 

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – RF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Jon Jay – LF

Wellington Castillo – DH

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Adam Engel– CF

Jose Rondon – SS

 

PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – LF

Martin Prado – 3B

Brian Anderson – RF

Garrett Cooper – 1B

Starlin Castro – 2B

Jorge Alfaro – C

Miguel Rojas – SS

Cesar Puello – CF

Yadiel Rivera – DH

 

Well that was odd.  The White Sox certainly weren’t supposed to show up in Tampa Bay and take the series from the wild card sniffing Rays but that’s exactly what happened. The series featured a return to form for Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, who both looked extremely comfortable on the mound, leaving Ray-shaped piles of ash in the opposing batters boxes. The Marlins, meanwhile, did exactly what everyone expected of them by losing the series to the Unholy Terror that is the Dodgers.  Both teams have had stupid travel schedules the past few weeks, having been on both coasts (Oakland and Tampa for the Sox and NY and LA for the Fish) only to meet in the middle here on the Southside.

The Fish have been taking the path the White Sox have as far as lineup construction this season, they just haven’t had the big name prospects producing the way Moncada and Giolito have.  They also haven’t hit on any lottery tickets like the Sox did with James McCann. They’re dead last in the NL in offensive categories, and fourth from the bottom in pitching stats. The only bright spots for the Marlins this year come from Brian Anderson and Caleb Smith. Anderson provides consistent pop from the 3B spot and currently leads the team in WAR 1.7 (Simpsons collar tug.gif). He was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2014, and while he didn’t tear up the lower levels, his production has steadily increased over the past seasons and may end up being a nice surprise for Miami in the long run.

Caleb Smith came over to Miami in a trade from the Yankees, who drafted him in the 14th round (!) back in 2013. His first full year in 2018 he posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP and lead Miami’s rotation in strikeouts. His fastball isn’t anything to write home about speed-wise, only averaging about 92.5 in speed. It’s the spin rate of the pitch that makes it so effective, as it’s in the top 15% across the league. He’s had some injury issues this season, and missed a decent chunk of time with hip problems. He’s under team control for five more years, but the Super Brain Geniuses in Fish Central Control have said that they’re willing to listen to offers for him.

As far as our Southside Stalwarts go, not much has changed lineup-wise as Eloy and Timmy are still on the shelf with their respective elbow and ankle issues. Rick Hahn was quoted as saying that we should know more about Timmy’s rehab status later today after his medical evaluation.  Luis Robert continues to murder balls down at AAA, causing Hahn to temper everyone’s hopes earlier than expected. Ricky Renteria got some interesting news from his Pitching Rotation Ouija Board so it looks like Dylan Covey is going to get a start Tuesday night instead of the Better Dylan for reasons that only beings from The Beyond can answer. Wellington Castillo is still here, so it looks like the WAR from the DH position is still going to be in the negative for the foreseeable future.

The Sox built some momentum this past series against a much better team than them, lets see if they can continue it against one of the few teams with a legitimately worse rotation than them.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Starlin Castro has some pretty nice career stats.  4 All Star selections, 120 HR and almost 600 RBIs in 1400 career games with a .279 average is nothing to sneeze at.  He currently holds the record for most RBIs ever by a rookie in his first game with six.  A pretty excellent MLB career by any standards, but why then does it feel like Castro has been a bust?  I’m pretty sure that any GM would take a 2B with that kind of production any day of the week, and yet Castro is stuck plying his trade in the dead zone of Miami.  With the trade deadline approaching and Derek Jeter likely to trade anything that isn’t nailed down, you’d think that Castro would be the first to go.  With him getting hot down the stretch before the trade deadline (he’s hit .429 in July, with 3 bombs), there shouldn’t be any end to the suitors that would want his services, especially with only a team option left for next season.

Yet it seems the hot stove doesn’t include a ton of phone calls for the 29 year old second baseman.  A closer look at his stats this year shows that his power has completely evaporated, his usually solid batting average has plunged, as even after his hot July he’s still only hitting .250 and his BABIP has never been lower at .262 (yikes).  Defensively he’s always been at the bottom of the league, as his career UZR is a whopping -10.  With the league looking more and more at advanced stats these days, suddenly the reason for the lack of interest in Castro becomes more apparent.  Even if the Fish were able to move him to a contender, the return would probably be pretty negligible as he would most likely be used for a utility position.

The biggest benefit to the Marlins would be freeing up a spot for their #6 prospect and the 3rd player in the Christian Yelich trade, Isan Diaz.  Diaz is currently tearing up AAA for the New Orleans Babycakes (who’s mascot is the stuff nightmares are made of), and will be the one called up if the Fish are able to get anything at all for Castro.  Even if they aren’t, odds are they DFA him to try and save a little salary rather than hold Diaz down until September.  Once the offseason arrives and Castro is inevitably bought out for 1 million (instead of the 11 million option), he will hit the free agent market at the worst possible time.  He will be entering his age 30 season with some of his worst peripheral stats at a time when every team will be looking at them.  He will most likely be the poster child for the type of player that would’ve gotten a 4 year deal worth 30 million 5 years ago, but will now at best be offered a minor league tryout.    All told despite the solid career numbers, Castro will probably be nothing more than the guy who the Dumbest Owner in Baseball traded Giancarlo Stanton for.  That’s quite the career path for someone who was once expected to be the second coming of Ryne Sandberg by most folks in baseball, and should be a cautionary tale going forward.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Marlins 9-24   Cubs 19-12

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday at 7:05

TV: NBCSN Monday and Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

VICE CITY: Fish Stripes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Sandy AlcantaraCole Hamels

Caleb Smith vs. Jon Lester

Jose Urena vs. Kyle Hendricks

PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – LF

Martin Prado – 3B

Brian Anderson – RF

Neil Walker – 1B

Starlin Castro – 2B

Jorge Alfaro – C

Miguel Rojas – SS

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora – CF

 

Now that the Cubs have ascended through the Central Division to the top like Beatrix Kiddo swimming through the dirt to emerge from the grave, they seek to keep the ball rolling. And there’s no better way to do that than having a series with the Miami Marlins, pretty much everything that’s wrong with sports today.

The Cubs will send Lester and Hendricks out to build on their dominant outings last out, while Cole Hamels will attempt to clean up a little after his slight wobble against the Mariners that saw him not survive the sixth, though he didn’t get much help from his defense that night. Luckily for all these guys, they’ll be facing a lineup that’s essentially that cartoon holding an umbrella while the anvil descends.

I don’t know why anyone thought Derek Jeter and the money he didn’t have were going to save the Marlins. Maybe it’s because he simply wasn’t Jeffrey Loria, who would have been kicked out/barred from any sport with an actual commissioner armed a passing interest in protecting anything resembling integrity. Jeter learned his cues from Michael Jordan, who continually has proven the only interest he has in owning a team is having access to an owner’s suite where he can smoke cigars. That’s pretty much Jeter. Jeter has only ever been interested in himself, and this should have been abundantly clear when he wouldn’t move off of short for Alex Rodriguez, a categorically better player than he was in every way.

The Marlins are at least four-and-a-half games behind anyone else in the NL, having won only nine games when everyone else has at least won 14. They have yet to score 100 runs, are second-to-last in OBP as a team (ahead of only the Giants, which, woof) and are 35 points behind the next closest team in wOBA. If you wanted to demonstrate how you tank an offense, this would be it. There isn’t a hitter worth mentioning here, aside from maybe Neil Walker and only because there was a time when he was a real thorn in the ass of the Cubs. He’s also one of two regulars in the lineup who are having anything resembling an average season in terms of wRC+, with the other being Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro is the only player in the lineup who might matter one day down the road when the Fish aren’t an embarrassment, but he’s 25 already so even that’s a touch of a stretch. The only help in the system that might arrive in the next year is Monte Harrison, but everything else is years away.

Somehow, the rotation hasn’t been that bad, ranking in the middle of most categories in the NL. It’s been remarkably healthy, which helps. The Marlins have been able to run out the same five guys through April. Pablo Lopez and Caleb Smith have been highly effective, and the Cubs will miss Lopez. Jose Urena has the stuff to be a top-half rotation starter, but just can’t seem to put it together. And he’s 27, so it could just be this is what he is.

Of course, that doesn’t matter much when your rotation is trying to hold up one or two runs from your offense, if that many, and your bullpen comes out armed with a variety of blow torches and Molotov cocktails. There’s nothing the starters can do that the offense and pen can’t ruin.

Remember, this is how the Marlins wanted it, despite their protestations this isn’t what they expected. They simple exist to siphon off tax dollars from Miami for their stadium no one wanted and everyone got (stuck with the bill). They are now Jeter’s plaything, are years from being memorable, and before then they’ll probably blow it up anyway because no one wants anything to do with them and MLB makes it exceedingly easy and rewarding to not try. But hey, that owner’s suite for Jeter…

Everything Else

Game 1 Boxscore: Cubs 7 – Marlins 2 

Game 2 Boxscore: Cubs 4 – Marlins 0

Game 3 Boxscore: Cubs 6 – Marlins 0

I suppose, if I were just taking the Cubs words at face value, the last game of this series would be the kind of one they referenced at the end of last year or in spring training this year as the ones that got away from them last season. Where they lost focus or didn’t quite close out the past couple seasons like they did in 2016. They’ve said it, but I’m not sure how much I buy it when you put together 95 wins with a banged-up roster. But whatever, if they say it they probably believe it to an extent. So the Cubs didn’t let up, didn’t check out against a team full of future gym teachers and possibly current squeegee-men. Cole Hamels certainly wasn’t in any giving mood, and the Cubs have their first series sweep of the year and are looking at being .500 with a series win against Arizona.

Let’s clean it up.

The Two Obs

-These are the kinds of trips through the rotation that the Cubs envisioned when this all started. Darvish still couldn’t quite there, as it should not take 96 pitches to get 17 outs against whatever is masquerading around as Marlins these days. But hey, it was only two runs. I don’t think I’m a big fan of him talking about maxing his velocity when he’s coming off an arm injury and what makes him special is the diversity of his pitches, but at this point I think we’re all just going to take the ride with him and be done with it.

-No such problems with Quintana and Hamels, who are as dialed in as it gets. Q spotted that change-up he’s been saying he wants to use more, though not as much as he probably will in the future. Hamels, being the savvy vet that he is, knew he could just pour everything into the strike zone and are this collection of extras to do their worst. Winner winner chicken dinner.

-The Cubs still haven’t gotten anything out of Bryant and Rizzo and are second in the NL in runs. Tell me why you’re paranoid again?

-While his signing was derided simply because it was the only one the Cubs made for the lineup this winter, Daniel Descalso is hell of an upgrade on Tommy La Stella so far. In fact, even if Ian Happ were to get hot I can’t quite figure out where he’d go right now anyway. And no, I don’t want to see him in center or right. Which means, as we thought all along, it might come down to a debate between him and Schwarber in left. But that’s not a problem for now.

-Contreras only had one hit today. What a bum.

-Please don’t make me start believing in David Bote. I’ve been here too many times.

Onwards…

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 5-9   Marlins 4-12

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 6:10

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday

WELCOME TO MIAMI: Fish Stripes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Yu Darvish vs. Trevor Richards

Jose Quintan vs. Pablo Lopez

Cole Hamels vs. Sandy Alcantara

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Ben Zobrist – RF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – CF

Willson Contreras – C

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Daniel Descalso – 2B

 

PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – LF

Brian Anderson – 3B

Neil Walker – 1B

Starlin Castro – 2B

Jorge Alfaro – C

Miguel Rojas – SS

Lewis Brinson – CF

Austin Dean – RF

 

Nothing like a sojourn down to the former Orange Bowl for a team to get healthy. Or to escape the snow. Or both, and hopefully it’s both for the Cubs.

They’ve caught a break in that even the gods didn’t want to see a Tyler Chatwood so badly they provided Chicago with a blizzard in the middle of April, which is a choice. Seems a touch exuberant on their part, but you understand the emotion. Because of that, the Cubs can stick with a four-man rotation thanks to off-days for the next two weeks, not bringing Jon Lester back until the 27th or so if they so choose. Which would give him nearly a full two weeks of recovery. Although they have two off-days on either side of a trip to Seattle, so they could hold their nose, close their eyes, and plunge into a singular Chatwood start and give Lester yet another week. Questions for down the road.

The only other questions are just lineup rotation. Will Albert Almora Jr. get to show off his hitting-grounders skills in his hometown? Or is the shifting of Heyward into center just something we’re going to have to get used to? Is Kyle Schwarber’s recent slump just a bad week or his inability to recognize breaking pitches going to raise Almora back into the lineup, with Zobrist shifting over to left? Didn’t Kris Bryant used to play outfield? Why is that a thing that doesn’t happen anymore to give Bote more looks? Does Bote need more looks? I don’t even know anymore.

The other boon of playing the Marlins is that you can declare the bullpen officially a Hazmat site if they can’t get the Marlins out. There’s no one here, so if they still refuse to puncture the strike zone, you can leave the lot of them down there and return to Chicago with a fresh batch. Darvish, Quintana, and Hamels will all seek to build on good starts (to varying degrees) against a lineup that were all paid $20 on the corner to come pose as MLB players for a few days while Derek Jeter steals more stadium cash.

And that’s really the story with the Marlins, a chance for Derek Jeter to do Yankees cosplay where it’s warmer and no one cares. They’re supposedly in a rebuild, which they’ve been in for at least 15 years and started when they had the best young outfield in the game (Ozuna, Yelich, Stanton) and traded it because…they felt like it? It was never quite clear. Of those trades, only Lewis Brinson is in the every day lineup and he’s striking out a third of the time and when he’s not doing that the contact he makes is more of a timid question. The only player hitting anything you would want to hide behind several curtains is Jorge Alfaro, who was once traded for Cole Hamels and more recently was part of the J.T. Realmuto deal. Miguel Rojas is literally the only other regular hitting over .230. If Darvish gets nibbly with this lot…

The rotation shows a little more promise. Pablo Lopez has nearly a 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Sandy Alcantara’s high groundball ways are paying off. Both have been let down by the Marlins tendency to play defense like it was jai alai (local joke!). Trevor Richards has a plus-change-up but that’s about it, and is currently riding an incredible save of luck by seeing a .209 BABIP against while stranding nearly 90% of the runners he lets on. The crash is going to be hard on this one. The pen has been extremely walk-heavy, and basically if Sergio Romo and his walker are in your bullpen, you know you suck. But hey, he’ll come in and frisbee up some sliders for you. You wouldn’t know these guys if they came into your house and shit on your floor, which isn’t a bad representation of what they’ll be doing out of the pen soon enough.

It’s baseball, so you can never say the Cubs should win all three games. But the Cubs should win all three games, and then get just as healthy agains the strip-mined Diamondbacks and Bob Brenly and his less and less veiled racism show up for the weekend.