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!

Everything Else

As a Cubs fan, you hate the Brewers, and always will. Which means this series sucked, because you singlehandedly gave the Brewers and a stadium filled with tens of thousands of fans a guaranteed playoff spot (likely soon to turn into division title) while your team is destined to be mired in mediocrity for the rest of eternity. Here’s a wrap.

September 17, 2021
Cubs 5, Brewers 8
WP: Ashby (3-0) LP: Wick (0-1)
Box Score

I had déjà vu during the 4th inning of this Cubs game, when the Cubs went up 4-0 and I remembered the absolute shellacking that was handed to them in the previous game in which they blew a 7-0 lead. I knew the Cubs couldn’t hold onto that lead, and the Brewers proved me right in the bottom of that same inning. They scored three runs on no outs thanks to some rough pitching from everyone’s favorite, Zach Davies.

The Cubs would cling onto the one-, sometimes two-run lead until the bottom of the 8th inning when the Brewers took advantage of Rowan Wick, who gave up three singles and two walks in the inning to give the Brewers a 7-5 lead, all on two outs. He was yanked for Dillon Maples, who immediately threw a wild pitch that made it 8-5 Brewers, and then walked two more Brewers before throwing the final out of the inning. The damage had been done, however, as the Cubs couldn’t any runs back in the 9th and ended up losing this game.

September 18, 2021
Cubs 4, Brewers 6
WP: Williams (8-2) LP: F-Ross (2-1)
Box Score

Willson Contreras getting robbed of extra-base hits in the 2nd inning by a highlight-reel catch set the vibe of this entire game for the Cubs. (Patrick Wisdom had a highlight-reel catch of his own later on in the inning, though, that deserves a shoutout). Justin Steele gave up a home run in the bottom of the 2nd to give the Brewers the lead. Though the Cubs came back with a run of their own in the 3rd after three singles, the Brewers hit another dinger in what started out as a surprisingly exciting back-and-forth game.

Though the Cubs were able to score two runs in the top of the 5th off Corbin Burnes thanks to an Ian Happ home run, the Brewers are a playoff team for a reason and wouldn’t give up easily. Additionally, Adbert Alzolay gave up many a hit in his outing today — four in three innings, including one that tied the game in the 5th and a solo dinger to give the Brewers the lead back. It was Contreras, however, who tied the game singlehandedly with a solo homer of his own that deserves a mention here.

The lead didn’t last even half an inning in what was a pretty awful outing by Scott F-Ross. He allowed Manny Pina’s second home run of the night to put the Brewers up late on a tough pitch. Though F-Ross’s pitches can be nasty on occasion, just a slight misplacement of the ball can be trouble for the Cubs.

Two more hits off of F-Ross after that and the game turned to a whole new level of sickening. Contreras was struck out with a legal strike and had a meltdown to the umpire, getting himself ejected from the game — not that that even mattered, as the Brewers just pulled out Josh Hader for the save who had two strikeouts to win the game, and playoff spot, for the Brewers. Just kill me now.

September 19, 2021
Cubs 6, Brewers 2
WP: Morgan (1-0) LP: Boxberger (5-4)
Box Score

Not that anybody cares, but we somehow ended up in the final meeting of the season against these chumps, where nearly half of the baseball game was played with no score for other team. It was Trayce Thompson, today’s right fielder for the Cubs, who started off the scoring with a solo dinger in the 5th against Eric Lauer. However, the Brewers tied it up, once again only a half-inning later, with a walk and a couple of hits off of starter Adrian Sampson, one of which was just a few feet short of being a homer.

Strikeout Wonder Patrick Wisdom, who had four strikeouts in the previous game, struck out four times today and had nine strikeouts in the series, is obscene to me. (Previous Strikeout Wonder Javy Baez struck out only four times in his team’s weekend series against the Mets, for perspective.) However, Wisdom hit a three-run homer in the 8th inning that came after two walks and two hits for the Cubs to make a W seem possible. Suddenly, we were up 6-2 with only an inning and a half to go, and Wisdom was standing alone with the Cubs’ rookie home run record. Congrats to him, despite this win being a part of a much larger farce.

David Ross decided to gift Rowan Wick with a 9th-inning closer opportunity despite the fact that he was dogshit in the first game of this series. And surprise, surprise, Wick’s 9th inning today went about as predictably as you’d expect, putting the Cubs in genuine danger of throwing a four-run lead away late after he walked three and allowed two singles, loading the bases for the Brewers. Michael Rucker was tasked with getting one (1) out, and he got it thanks to a pop fly to center field that won us the game, thank God.

By the way, Nico Hoerner finally returned from his injury today, but if you didn’t notice him I wouldn’t find you at fault, since he went 0 for 4 tonight offensively and was the only non-pitcher for the Cubs today who didn’t even make it on base. So uh, figure that out, I guess.

Everyone gets an off-day tomorrow, and then the Cubs play the final series of the year against the Minnesota Twins, which is about as awful a series as I can think of. Just a few more weeks of this dreck, and hockey is just around the corner. We’ll muddle through together. 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

         VS

Records: White Sox 5-4 / Brewers 3-3

Start Times: All Games @ 7:10

TV: NBCSH

Bud Selig’s Ghost: Brew Crew Ball

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Game 1: Carlos Rodon (0-1, 12.27 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 2: Lucas Giolito (1-1, 6.52 ERA) vs Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.59 ERA)

Game 3: Adrian Houser (0-0, 1.80 ERA) vs Dallas Keuchel (2-0, 3.38 ERA)

Game 4: TBD vs. Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 7.36 ERA)

 

After this very successful weekend for the Pale Hose, our attention turns to the next series against the Brewers. Having had their weekend tilt against the Cardinals postponed due to some apparently casino-related Rona action, the Brewers not only sat around and didn’t do much, but they lost Lorenzo Cain as he decided the risk wasn’t worth it and opted out for the rest of the season. While he hadn’t been what he was during his heyday in KC, Cain was still a solid contributor who posted at least an .800 or greater OPS in 3 of the last 5 seasons. He was also a plus defender on the other side of the ball, having won a gold glove last year.

Replacing him in the OF will most likely be Ben Gamel, who is the definition of “a guy,” and he’ll be joined Old Friend Avisail Garcia and all-universe Miami cast off Christian Yelich. The Brewers infield has improved simply from bringing their #1 overall prospect Keston Hiura up late last season. Hiura managed an impressive .303/.368/.938 slash line last year with 19 home runs in only what amounts to half a season. The kid has pop in his bat for days and the patience to match, making him and Yelich a deadly combo at the top third of their lineup.

As far as their rotation goes there really aren’t many big names here, but they somehow always manage to be at least league average. Brandon Woodruff is the de facto ace of the group, who relies on his mid 90s fastball and a plus changeup that he uses for his punchout pitch. He came tearing out of the gate last year, going 11-3 and earning his first ever all star game nod before he hit the IL with an oblique issue in July that kept him on the shelf until just before the playoffs.

After Woodruff, the rest is just sort of there. Craig Counsell is the type of coach that’s not afraid to go to his bullpen and when it’s as good as the one he has you can’t really blame him. With the back end of Brent Suter, Corey Knebel and Josh Hader shutting down pretty much everything from the 7th inning on, teams have to make hay against the starters in the early innings while they can. If the Sox bats can get ahead of Woodruff and company, they stand a decent shot of being able to make Counsell go to his pen early and often hopefully wearing them down.

The Brewers with Cain were a pretty solid offensive team in 2019, ranking 10th overall in the league so the starters should probably have their A game especially with Hiura and Yelich at the front. Keeping the walks to a minimum is a must, as the Brewers like to swipe bags when they can (ranking 3rd overall in the NL last season). Grandal and McCann are going to have their hands full, so keeping as many Brewers off the basepaths will be appreciated.

As for the Sox, they announced the arrival of Nomar Mazara today off the RONA-IL, which hopefully should signal the end of the Nicky Delmonico Experiment for the time being. With Leury Garcia most likely out for at least game 1 of the series while he tends to a death in his family, Danny Mendick and his creepy mustache will most likely get another start at SS. Luis Robert has probably cemented his spot atop the lineup for the foreseeable future with his performance in KC over the weekend. His easy power is a sight to behold, as I’ve never seen someone seemingly put less effort into ponging baseballs off the outfield fence.

With the Sox now sitting in 2nd place division-wise this week should provide a good test for the young team. Carlos (Hard Karl) Rodon gets a shot at redemption, and I fully expect him to have the same result that Dylan Cease did yesterday. If he’s able to turn it around, suddenly the only question in the pitching rotation is Gio Gonzalez (who looked pretty pedestrian in his 3.2 innings on Saturday). If he’s unable to start giving the Sox at least 4-5 innings per start I could see Rick Hahn eyballing Dane Dunning for some starts.

This should be a fun series between two very solid teams. Bare minimun here for the Sox should be a 2-2 split, which the way the rotation lines up should be pretty achievable. 5 is better than 4, keep the party going. Let’s Go Sox.

 

White Sox "Elite" Image By @SavesTuesday

 

Baseball

Now we come to (at least statistically speaking) the #3 spot in the Sox rotation and the 4th most exciting off-season signing: Gio Gonzalez. Part of me wonders whether he will ever actually take the mound for the Sox, considering this is technically his 3rd go around with the team and he’s yet to throw a single pitch for them.

The Sox drafted Gonzalez 38th overall in the 2004 draft with a supplemental pick from the Yankees. He lasted in the system a whole year before the Sox sent him to the Phillies for Jim Thome, then got him back from the Phillies with Gavin Floyd in 2006 when they sent the corpse of Freddy Garcia out East. He made it to the AAA level before Kenny Williams in his infinite wisdom sent Gonzalez out to Oakland for the human knock knock joke known as Nick Swisher (vomit emoji). Once he finally made the bigs he carved out a nice career for himself as the 3rd starter for both Oakland and the Nats, averaging around 165 innings a year and about 180ish strikeouts. He ended up with the Brewers in 2018 and spent the better part of 2 seasons there as their 4th-ish starter.

Gonzalez has always been a very solid strike thrower in his career, but recently he’s had some trouble staying on the mound. Last season Craig Counsell and the Brew Crew were able to manage his innings pretty well (mostly because their bullpen was fucking nails), but will the Sox have the same luck? Let’s dive in.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 17

Record: 3-2

3.50 ERA 1.29 WHIP

78 K  37 BB  9 HR

8.04 K/9  4.04 FIP

 

Last Week On Nitro: The first thing that jumps out at you looking at Gonzalez’ stat line from last season is…there’s not much of it. 17 starts? 3 Wins? Only 78 Ks? What did the Sox pay for? Well (at least this time) the stats don’t tell the whole story. Gio didn’t start a game for the Brewers until the last week of April (which if that happened this year it would be a blessing, but I digress), and then missed pretty much all of June and July with a dead arm. He came back off the DL on the 20th of July, and surprisingly rounded back into formpretty

When he was on the mound last year he very rarely pitched more than 5 innings, with his longest outing coming on July 26th against the Cubs (a whopping 6.1 innings). Most of this is due to what was mentioned above, namely the fact that he wasn’t needed after the 5th inning thanks to the Brewers bullpen being such an unholy terror. Combine that with Craig Counsell’s (correct) thinking that the best way to get the most out of Gonzalez was to manage his innings, especially coming off something called “dead arm” and you can see why his numbers are so far off his career averages.

When he was on the mound, Gio was pretty effective. His 4 seamer could still occasionally touch 92, combined with the movement on his 2 seam fastball and curveball still got the swinging strikes. Oh, and his changeup against righties wasn’t too shabby either.

I don’t care what anyone says, those Brewers unis are hot fire.

The knock on Gonzalez has always been his occasional bouts of wildness, which last year’s 3.81 BB/9 stat showed pretty clearly. He also saw a jump in his HR/9 which was the 2nd highest in his career in 2019. All told, however, he was a pretty valuable piece to the puzzle for the Brewers last year and by then end of the 2020 season he should hopefully be slotted where he belongs in the Sox rotation at #5.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case for Gio Gonzalez in a Sox uniform is he dials the clock back a few years to when he was averaging around 170 strikouts per year with an ERA in the mid 3’s and a FIP to match. If this version of Gonzalez shows up, the $5 million the Sox committed to him this year will look like a steal. Doubly so if Michael Kopech comes back hurling holy fire upon his enemies and Rick Renteria can manage his (Gio’s) innings appropriately.

If the season doesn’t start until mid June (which right now is looking hopeful at best), Gonzalez can come out firing his best bullets since his workload will have been managed indirectly by the Pandemic. A 3.50 ERA and 99 Ks in half a season from the Sox 5.5th starter will be nothing short of a win for Rick Hahn and have the Sox in the position they need to be rotation-wise to contend for the AL Central.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worst case scenario here is one of two things: Gonzalez can’t stay healthy, forcing the Sox back into a “5th starter by committee” role resulting in a loss every 5th day, or his tendency for wildness and change in parks does him in with the long ball.

Playing in Miller Park isn’t exactly like Pac Bell (or whatever the hell it’s called now) in San Fran, but as far as suppressing home runs it’s a darn sight better than The Down Arrow can be on a hot, windy summer day. If Gonzalez can’t find the strike zone and becomes predictable (and the ball is still made with a yellow cake uranium core) you better hold tight to your helmet nachos on the Fan Deck.

In this scenario you’re looking at a 5+ ERA, and most likely getting waived by the short season equivalent of the all star break. Or even worse, the Sox just say fuck it and roll with that sadness in the rotation, figuring Outbreak 2020 isn’t their year.

Bah Gawd That’s Gio’s Music!: What do I think will really happen with his stats this year? I think his FIP for last season (4.04) is a nice clue. Gio pitching with the Brew Crew’s defense behind him and backed up by that bullpen helped him suppress some of his worse tendencies. The Sox D isn’t going to be so kind, and the Sox bullpen probably won’t be that level of awesome (though I am excited to see what they can do, as I’m calling a big bounce back year for Kelvin Herrera).

I think a 4.15 ERA with 97 strikeouts, 33 walks and a 8-8 record would be completely acceptable for the White Sox, and would be right in line with what they’re looking for out of the 5th starter’s role. If they can get 5 innings out of him each start like the Brewers were able to, I think Rick Renteria and Don Cooper will be pretty satisfied.

All’s I know is I won’t believe he’s actually on the team until I see him throw out that first pitch, otherwise I’ll just be waiting for the notification on my phone that they traded him to Philly again.

 

 

 

Baseball

We kick off our 2020 White Sox world takeover season preview series with the most exciting and probably the most impactful free agent signing by the White Sox in any of our lifetimes, Yasmani Grandal. As the first major domino of this past offsesaon to fall by signing bright and early – before Thanksgiving, even – for a club record $73-million over 4 years, Grandal was the first of many signs this winter that the White Sox are serious about winning (or at least serious about looking like they’re serious about winning) in 2020 and also are being taken seriously by big name free agents. Let’s dig into what we can expect from him this year:

2019 Stats (w/ Brewers)

.246/.380/.468, 28 HR, 77 RBI

5.2 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR, 6.1 WARP

17.2 BB%, 22.0 K%

.361 wOBA, 121 wRC+ .848 OPS

1 DRS, 20.1 FRAA, 79th-percentile framing

Last Week on Nitro: Grandal fell prey to baseball’s greedy ass ownership slow offseason problem prior to 2019, with the primary issue being the qualifying offer that the Dodgers extended to him meaning any team that signed him would have to sacrifice a draft pick for his services. That is still one of the stupidest rules in sports, but it exists and is daunting enough to some teams that it truly does scare some suitors off. Despite reports of a multi-year offer coming from the Mets, Grandal viewed that offer as below his market value (and may not want have wanted to play for the Mets, which is wholly understandable) and decided to bet on himself with a 1-year deal worth $18.25-million in Milwaukee.

The bet paid off in spades, as Grandal proved to be one of the most valuable players in baseball according to any WAR metric worth a shit – clearly what I mean is that you should just outright ignore that bWAR number above, as baseball reference has a major problem with valuing defense in their WAR, especially for catchers. He isn’t the world’s best hitter, but he is easily one of the most disciplined in the game, and the walk rate and OBP scream out as evidence. Both were among career highs for him, but you can still expect them to be incredible, but we will more to that in a moment. Overall, Grandal’s 2019 season was another strong one with numbers that were largely consistent with his overall career, and that level of consistency is what should really have you excited.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): The issue with dreaming on Grandal’s offense is that he’s been so damn good and so damn consistent in his career, and is 31 years old, so it’s hard to imagine it getting much better at this point. The main weakness in Grandal’s numbers throughout his career has been his unimpressive batting average, which really only the giargidiniera-soaked masses will bitch about, but in an ideal world you’d see him raise that up from a .246 last year and .241 career to something a bit closer to .260 in 2020. A good place to start would be to work that K-rate down a bit, as even in today’s game and even with his walk numbers, a 22% there is something you’d like to see drop a bit. If he can bring the strikeouts down and the batting average up, that OBP could flirt with damn near .400, and that would be downright erotic.

The real area where Grandal will be a huge upgrade for the Sox, though, is behind the dish. As I detailed in my fully-tumescent write up after the signing, while James McCann had a fine season last year, he was the worst overall framer in the AL season, while Grandal was the best in the Majors according to some publications. So overnight, the Sox go from the worst zone manager in AL to the best. On top of that, he is a well documented elite game planner and has been around some of the best pitchers in the game. Where this is going to prove invaluable is with the likes of Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease, who have some well documented control issues. Helping them improve their approach, delivery, and then stealing strikes behind the dish should serve as a huge boon, and in a best case scenario takes Cease from a struggling rookie last year to approaching his ceiling very quickly.

On top of that, Lucas Giolito is looking to take another step forward and build off a dominant 2019, and Reynaldo Lopez needs to have a bounce back year like Giolito just had. And to add one more log to the fire, looking back at Dallas Keuchel‘s career working with good and bad framers, he is far and away better with good ones (big surprise there). With combination of high-ceiling guys and reliable rotation arms. Grandal receiving all of these guys and helping the Sox rotation improve could allow them to be one of the best in baseball, and that would result in a whole lot of wins.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: The worst case scenario for Grandal this year is that he goes the way of the Nick Swishers and Adam Dunns of the world, falling off a cliff completely after joining the White Sox. His walk rate falls below 10%, his strikeouts go way the hell up, and all of a sudden the guy can’t tell the strike zone from the seating section formerly known as the Chris Sale K-Zone. Meantime, his framing falls apart and as such the pitching staff sucks ass.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Again, he’s been so consistent in his career it’s a bit difficult to go too far down the idea of either extreme happening, though it’s certainly possible. But given his career numbers, I think the biggest concern when it comes to 2020 being a potential disappointment from Grandal is injuries derailing him. *knocks on wood*

BAH GAWD THAT’S GRANDAL’S MUSIC: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Grandal’s consistency throughout his career has been so damn reliable that it’s hard to imagine this season being anything other than extremely similar to last year. I would expect a regression in the walk-rate and, as a result, the OBP, but his career tells both should stay around or above 13.5% and .350 respectively. Along with that he’s gonna hit more than 20 but less than 30 homers and a similar number of doubles. He’s even tossed in two triples in each of the last two years, though don’t bet your house on that.

Where I really want to focus my prediction is on the impact he will have with the pitchers. While I don’t necessarily think he will make the hugely sudden difference for Cease and Kopech to go from promising-but-inconsistent to downright dominant right away, I think we are gonna see big improvement from them, though Cease’s may be more recognizable given that he’s gonna be with the big club all year and Kopech won’t. Overall I think Grandal is going to help this rotation be one of the better units in the American League and maybe even the best in the Central. With his bat and defense, you can reasonably expect another season of Grandal being worth more than 4.5 fWAR, and I will happily take that.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 10, Brewers 5

Game 2 Box Score: Brewers 7, Cubs 1

Game 3 Box Score: Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Game 4 Box Score: Brewers 8, Cubs 5

To review: the past two weekends, the Cubs had the chance to end the Brewers season, separate themselves in the wildcard race (which should only be viewed as the faintest of consolation prizes) while maintaining a gap on the Cardinals that would be easily manageable in the seven games that are left with them. And to remind you, this is a Brewers team aching to be given a lethal injection, as they’ve been nothing but .500 for 60 games now.

All the Cubs managed to do was make themselves the team that needs to be put out of its misery, keep everyone involved, and maybe make the Cardinals, the definition of a mediocre outfit, out of reach. They did so a shining example of how every level of this team has failed from the end of last season (importantly, not during it). The ownership that wouldn’t spend, the front office that needed to be bailed out by cash because of all its mistakes, the manager who doesn’t see the game or his team for what it is, and players who have refused to grow, or change, or adjust, and are simply not good enough.

I would love to tell you the Cubs are finished and you can go about your lives. My hunch is that they’ll death spasm for a week to make the last week or two matter or something, and all that will be is a chance for all of these systematic failures to rear their ugly head again.

Let’s review it all. They win the first game, because the offense isn’t quite bad enough to go quiet for four games. But then Cole Hamels, who clearly was rushed back from an injury that he had struggled to come back from before, had to hump it up to even crack 90 MPH and was labeled. Ok, that happens. It happens too much to this team but it happens.

Saturday night is everything. It was their third look in just over a month at Gio Gonzalez. Their manager, who clearly electrocuted himself in his office before the game in some bizarre experiment, starts Albert Almora at leadoff, even though he might as well go up there with a fish. Almora along with everyone else still hasn’t figured out that Gio is not going to come inside, or to the middle of the plate, or even to the outside corner, unless you make him. But there’s everyone trying to yank the baseball out to Minocqua and rolling out to third or short, including Almora in a huge spot after the Cubs got two on with no out. Inning over.

This is after you’ve learned Javy Baez is probably done for the year, and while breaking a thumb is no one’s fault, he was breaking down long before that because the front office provided no depth to get him a day off other than Addison Russell occasionally, who is too stupid to go up there with a fish (or the manager’s utter terror to even try Bote at short for a game or two). So your offense is limited, and gets shut down by Gonzalez once again. Your manager, while attempting to turn discarded sunflower seeds into wine, says that his team struggles against Gio because they keep expanding their zone. Did he bother to tell his players this? Did they not listen if he did? Either way, this seems like a flashing light about why the door is going to hit Joe on the ass on September 30th.

Still, thanks to Yu Darvish, you’re in it, and generate a rally against Josh Hader. You take the lead, but Kris Bryant can’t extend it because he’s on one leg and has been for a month at least, again because the depth provided hasn’t allowed him to get the additional week or two off he clearly, desperately needs. He hasn’t hit a fastball above his mid-thing hard for weeks. And he can’t. Somehow, Ian Happ is good enough to pinch-hit against Hader but not good enough to start against Gonzalez ahead of Almora, despite having one of the best handles on the zone on the team.

Then Joe Maddon goes to work. Brilliant, glorious, galaxy-brained work. You’re up one in the 8th of a game you really need. It’s 2-3-4. This is not a time to match up. This is not a time to get cute. You send your best guy out there, and figure out how to get the thoroughly unimpressive bottom of the Brewers order in the 9th later. You do not send out David Phelps, something you found in the Toronto storage room. You do not send out Derek Holland, who has earned nothing while being here, much less the right to face the reigning MVP in the 8th inning of a tie game. You send out Wick. You send out Kinztler, that’s all you have. And because of the mishegas in the 8th, you only assure yourself of having to face Yelich again in the 9th.

Your “backup” shortstop, the one with cold oatmeal for brains, makes an error to let a runner on. You get through Grandal by some miracle, and then you walk Yelich. He’s all that’s left. He’s basically all they have. The manager himself said he’s like Bonds now, except he didn’t treat him like Bonds. You don’t walk him, baseball thinking be damned. And when you don’t do that, you allow Yelich to do stuff like this:

That’s a good pitch. Maybe it’s a little high, but it’s barely ticking the zone. But Yelich doesn’t miss right now. He hasn’t missed in two years. There isn’t away around him. Fairly sure there’s a way around Eric Thames. Just a hunch.

After that…well who cares? Jon Lester is your fifth starter and you get whatever you can, which sometimes isn’t much. And it’s truly symbolic that in the 5th, when everything went off, was a result of the Brewers doing exactly what the Cubs refused, or can’t, or both to Gonzalez, and that is just taking those pitches on the outside to right field over and over. Eventually you’ll get the mistake you want when the pitcher is wary of that. Goodnight.

I’m genuinely angry I have to keep watching this team. They’re not enjoying it, we’re not enjoying it, and everyone wants to just go home and be done with it. Do I think an utter collapse would cause changes? Not the ones you want. The Ricketts Family told you when it became public how Tom sold the purchase to Daddy. They’ll sell out Wrigley no matter what. That’s why they bought the team. They have all the buildings now. There was an urgency once, otherwise you wouldn’t hire the best available front office mind in Theo Epstein to overhaul your whole operation. But there isn’t now. They’ve got the property, they’ve got their channel, and they’ve got their one bauble to point to to justify it all. Whatever comes this winter is more likely to resemble deck chairs, or a move backwards.

Oh sure, Maddon will go. Maybe that’s enough, but I don’t know what a new manager does with the players from the system who have proven inflexible and not up to the standard of the Dodgers or Braves, or now not even the Cardinals. Those players were threatened withe expulsion last winter, but they’re all still here. There are no young pitchers coming to save the day. Alzolay will basically have to be a mutli-inning bullpen weapon due to his lack of innings. That’s it. That’s all there is. And Gerrit Cole or an opting-out Strasburg aren’t coming through the door either.

Just shoot it, this season. End the misery.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 75-63   Brewers 71-67

GAMETIMES: Thursday/Saturday 6:10, Friday 7:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSN Thursday/Friday/Sunday, WGN Saturday

KHALIL IS COMING FOR THEM TOO: Brew Crew Ball

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Try it again, assholes.

The Cubs had a chance to end this stupid Brewers season and annoyance last weekend, and after looking like they might actually do the things they said they were going to in the offseason–y’know, the stuff about being ruthless and getting that extra win instead of being checked out and putting teams away and really the things actual really good teams do–in the first game they promptly went to sleep like an old family dog for the next two. They didn’t score a run, they didn’t look like they wanted to score a run, they didn’t look like they knew how even if they wanted to, and this Brewers thing is still hanging by a thread.

So now the Cubs will have to do it in what has been something of a house of horrors this season. The campaign’s first weekend saw the Cubs get mutilated up there, and then the next trip saw them have two of their dumber losses of the season in the late innings. This is the time for that happy horeshit anymore.

And the Brewers need at least three of these, possibly all four, though a split probably keeps the last rites away for a few more days. They’re four games behind the Cubs for the second wildcard spot, which makes the division lead pretty much unattainable for them. They also have to leap the Phillies and Diamondbacks to even get at the Cubs. so this is desperate shit. Which means three Cubs wins ends the Brewers season, which would be at least something to feel good about at the moment.

Since you last saw this outfit, they split two games with the Astros at home. Jordan Lyles somehow danced around and through the Astros lineup made of monsters and mutants for their win, while their Labor Day loss came in extras after Christian Yelich once again pulled their ass out of a sling in the bottom of the 9th. However you slice it, this is pretty much the Brewers’ last stand. Then again, it should have been last weekend, and yet here we are. They’ll probably think if they can really take hold of this series, their schedule is pretty light afterwards and the possibility of a ridiculous closing kick like last year is still there.

They get the Marlins for four after this before a stop in St. Louis. After that it’s Padres, Pirates, Reds, and Rockies for them, which yeah, is something a team that had to could tear through if so inclined. Whether this Brewers bunch with its two starters and a bullpen made up of 1st round Punchout characters can is another debate.

For the Cubs, they’ll show up pretty wounded, but having to gut it out. There’s no telling if Javy Baez and Kris Bryant are actually healthy, but they’ve each gotten two days off now and the hope is that’s enough. There isn’t another off-day for two and a half weeks, so the words “suck it up” are going to reverberate around. Yu Darvish is apparently good to go for Saturday as well.

With the Cards losing last night, the lead is still claw-back-able. But they get to play the Pirates on the weekend, so the Cubs can’t really afford any slips here. And let’s but to the truth, it’s enough of the horseshit. Either you are you keep saying you should be, or you are what you’ve showed us for five fucking months. This Brewers team is aching to be put out of its misery, and it’s time the Cubs finally dong-whipped this team around for a few. Now that they’ve won two road series in a row, they don’t have to answer those questions. There are eight games here agains beatable teams. So beat them and shut up.

TIME TO MAKE THE CHIMI-FUCKING-CHANGAS.

 

Baseball

We know in one sport that the state of Wisconsin likes to hold itself up as a beacon of “the right way” and “what football should be.” It’s nauseating as fuck and hardly true, as the career of the greatest QB of all-time goes pretty much to waste. And really, their baseball team should be more of an example to others than that. At least in one sense.

Most teams, or owners to be precise, think the way to the mountain top is to dive for the valley first. Sell off anything that’s not nailed down, acquire prospects and pool money, get high picks in the draft, take three-four years, and presto. You’re the Astros or Cubs. It worked a couple times, so many assume this is the only way. Of course, owners like this plan because they can promise fans they know what they’re doing and the reward is coming while also getting to spend nothing for a few season and soak in the profits.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the Brewers have proved it. You can become a contender, such as the Brewers are, by just being shrewd and making your move at the right time. You don’t need a slew of top-three picks to reconstruct a system.

The Brewers have never really bottomed out this decade. Since winning the Central in 2011, they only had one truly bad campaign, which was in 2015 where they only managed 68 wins. Which is the season that got David Stearns the GM job and kicked Doug Melvin upstairs.

But Stearns was able to profit off the work Melvin had done before, as soon the system was producing Kyle Davies, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Domingo Santana (before he returned to the Earth’s core, apparently), Josh Hader (the latter two in a trade with the Astros). Most of these players would form the backbone of the recent Brewers teams that have been so annoying.

And it was Melvin’s picks in the past that made up the haul for Christian Yelich from the Marlins, which of course is the biggest move of all. Stearns sensed there was something there for the Brewers have an 86-win campaign in 2017, and struck. He also signed Lorenzo Cain, who was a down-ballot MVP candidate last season. At no point did the Brewers have to spend three or four seasons making up the numbers, making players up, and making everyone in Milwaukee go do something else.

More teams should probably do this, because it’s less torturous. The problem is, the boom window might not last as long, and that’s what the Brewers could be finding out.

They have little option going forward but to keep going for it, as Yelich only has three years left on his contract (two years plus a team option that is most certainly going to be exercised). As we said with the Packers, you don’t waste a perennial MVPs prime. But Cain is aging quickly, the pitching staff is in shambles, and as they’re finding out this year, a team built on a bullpen has the rockiest of foundations.

They’re also not terribly young in the field. Keston Hiura and Yelich are the only regulars who matter that are under 30. and Grandal has a mutual option in the winter so he’s no guarantee to come back (though given how free agency went for him and many others last time, he may just take the security of a paycheck). So to suggest anyone other than Hiura or Yelich is going to be as good next year is the hilt of cock-eyed.

The rotation is probably priority one, as they can no longer know what Jimmy Nelson will be and Brandon Woodruff appears to be constructed entirely of matchsticks. This team could use Gerrit Cole more than just about anyone, but he’s headed straight to Anaheim when free agency opens. Anthony Rendon would be an upgrade on the corners, though that would involve moving Moustakas to either second or first full-time. And the former isn’t really an option thanks to Hiura.

It’s also a question of how high the Brewers can go. They draw well when they’re good, and they’ve been good the past three years. But they’re already on the hook for in the neighborhood of $160M next year, and it’s hard to see them going too much higher and anywhere near $200M next season or anytime soon.

You can rebuild by patchwork and creativity. But you don’t end up with quite the base. What the Brewers do going into next season will show just how sustainable, and attractive, their option for building a team is for others.