Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 56-49   Cardinals 56-49

GAMETIMES: Tuesday and Wednesday 7:15, Thursday 6:15

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday

BARF: Viva El Birdos

PITHCING MATCHUPS

Yu Darvish vs. Adam Wainwright

Kyle Hendricks vs. Miles Mikolas

Jon Lester vs. Jack Flaherty

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Robel Garcia – 2B

Ian Happ – CF

PROBABLE CARDINALS LINEUP

Tommy Edman – 3B

Dexter Fowler – CF

Jose Martinez – RF

Paul Goldschmidt – 1B

Paul DeJong – SS

Tyler O’Neill – LF

Kolten Wong – 2B

Matt Wieters  – C

 

So I would love to tell you that this is where the Cubs can make things right. Even just a series win would leave them with a 4-5 road trip, which isn’t exactly acceptable but could be explained away by the anal horseshoe the Giants are toting around. It wouldn’t be total disaster, let’s say. If we want to get ambitious, a sweep would leave the Cubs with 5-4, and even with all the problems and concerns and ulcers provided over the weekend, in the end you’d have to be satisfied with that. As long as you continue to clean up at home, that is. You’d put three games between you and the Red Menace, with an August schedule that isn’t that demanding.

But if you were betting people, and drawing on the life lessons you’ve learned, would you lean toward the Cardinals making things all right or pouring more salt in the wound? I thought so.

What’s insulting is the Cubs shouldn’t be anywhere near this team. Its offense is not good. Its rotation is not good. Only its pen has been able to keep them from sinking into the locker, and the Cubs have hung and hung just long enough for one hot-streak to put St. Louis right in the middle of this. For shame.

While Godlschmidt’s binge the past month has propelled them, over the year as a whole only Ozuna has been a plus-hitter for them, and he’s on the shelf. DeJong continues to deflate from April, Fowler has been hot of late but overall barely average. And worse yet, this team is beat up. Carpenter and Ozuna are either unlikely to feature this series (Carpenter) or out (Ozuna). Molina is still out, though whisper this around that part of the country but Wieters has been better offensively than Yadier would have managed because if they hear you they’ll definitely whip their arm fat at you. But of course, they lose their “soul” without Yadi, or some such horseshit.

The rotation has been the very definition of “meh.” Not one carries an ERA below 3.80 nor above 4.20, which can’t be called anything other than fine. Jack Flaherty has been really good the past month, but Waino, Ponce de Leon (get a new name, jackass), and Hudson have been straight gasoline. Mikolas has evened out a bit with three quality starts in a row and four out of his last five, and of course is just the special kind of fuckwit who will allow the Cubs two hits over seven while striking out like, one guy. Can’t wait.

It’s the pen where lies the Cards’ strength. They strike out the second-most hitters in the NL, have the second-best ERA and FIP. Over the past month they’ve been the best in the league in pretty much every category. Giovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, Andrew Miller have all been lights-out. And now converted starters Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are coming out of there, with the latter acting as a de facto closer at times. Though you still wouldn’t trust him to not go to the zoo for an inning, he’s just less likely to do that when he’s only pitching for one inning. It would be a good idea to not enter the back half of games trailing. Not that it really matters with the Cubs’ pen, because they’ll soon be trailing anyway. The dark arts would swallow the Cubs in the late innings when they had a good pen in that haven of asshoolery, so why would now be any different?

For the Cubs, one of the bigger stories will be off the field in the next two days, as in what they do before the One Deadline To Rule Them All, assuming the Ricketts Family keeps the billions somehow concealed from view to the point where even they can’t see it. Truly a wondrous trick. The Cubs need at least one more arm in the pen, and probably another bat, but probably can’t get both. Hail Marys on Zobrist and Happ will probably the orders of the day.

I would say the Cubs need dominant outings from their starters, but they got that in the first two in Milwaukee and lost both. What they need is the offense to actually assert itself for three games, which it hasn’t done on the road in who the fuck knows. Score a goddamn touchdown every day and worry about the rest later.

This is now the business end of the season. Keep in mind that starting 8/27, the Cubs will have two days off the rest of the season. They don’t want to hit that stretch looking up at anyone, which means they need head-from-rectum removal right fucking now. But it feels like we keep saying that.

Baseball

If you want to be truly embarrassed by the spot the Cubs find themselves in the standings, tied with the Cardinals for first, consider that in terms of fWAR, Paul DeJong is the best player on the Cardinals. By some distance actually, as he’s accrued nearly twice the WAR of Marcell Ozuna in second. And that’s with DeJong unable to hit a bull in the ass with a snow-shovel since April. Some of that is Paul Goldschmdit’s struggles and playing first base (thus getting little to no defensive credit), and Matt Carpenter being ouchy, old, and grizzled (the official motto of St. Louis). But yeah, the Cubs are tied with a team whose best player got there almost entirely through defense.

If you feel like the Cardinals have been advertising DeJong as a future star for half of eternity at this point, and being influenced on another level by some big homers against the Cubs, you’ll probably be shocked to learn he’s still only 25. But their version of Javy Baez he has not become, nor anywhere close, and let’s all revel in the fact that Cards fans so desperately want their own version of Javy who also happens to be white.

For a minute there, DeJong looked like he might just be that in April. That month saw a .342/.403/.607 slash-line, good for a 163 wRC+. To go along with his spectacular defense, and it looked like you had a real player here, and us lamenting the Cardinals finally being right about a product of their system.

DeJong has been living in an abandoned boxcar since with one can of baked beans, at least offensively (by defensive runs he’s been the best SS in the NL). He hit .200 in May, .218 in June, and .225 in July. His wRC+ have been 95, 66, and 100, as he walked a ton in May (17%), and slugged just enough lately to barely claim average.

It’s not hard to find the discrepancy in DeJong’s start and the rest of the season. DeJong’s BABIP in April was .389. It hasn’t been above .236 since. And yet DeJong, for the most part, has hit the ball extremely hard. Only in June did DeJong not have a hard-contact rate above 45%. Since May 1st, DeJong has the worst BABIP in the National League.

It’s weird. DeJong doesn’t hit an abnormal amount of flies, which tends to lower one’s BABIP because they don’t just fall in when they don’t go out of the park all that much. He doesn’t hit a ton of line-drives, which would help, but that rate isn’t so low as to explain three months of taking it in the moon fortune-wise.

It doesn’t really work to say the past three months have just been market correction on DeJong’s April, because that would entail a higher force equaling out DeJong’s numbers simply to balance the universe. And as we all know because we’ve been told all our lives, if there’s a higher power it definitely works for the Cardinals. Still, DeJong’s numbers are right where they should be according to Statcast, as his batting average and weighted on-base are right in line with his expected-batting average and expected-weighted on-base.

And yet that low of a number over three months seems a tad harsh. DeJong doesn’t have an abnormal amount of flies not leaving the park, as his HR/FB rate is about league average at 12%. As we said, he doesn’t hit an abnormal amount of fly balls. It’s just weird.

Still, with all of that DeJong is a couple of weeks away from his best season in the majors, which was 3.3 fWAR. And if he finds any luck at all in the next two months, he might give Baez a run for title of best shortstop in the National League (0.5 fWAR behind right now). It’s been an odd year for him, and you wonder what the Cardinals might conclude about him if it doesn’t change. They’ve given up on better players, y’know.