Baseball

It probably helped that Fernando Tatis Jr. went 1-for-12 at the plate for the span of this series, but the Cubs were able end this first of two west coast road trips on a higher note than how they started. After getting the doors blown off of them in the first game thanks to not being able to outhit their pitching woes, the Cubs were able to beat on the Padres this week, holding them to only one run in the final two games of the series.

More importantly and amazingly, they were doing this without some of their best players—most notably absent this series was Javier Baez, who was on a roll offensively in the last Padres series. Jason Heyward has had no hits since returning, and the Cubs are still without Nico Hoerner, as well as David Bote, if that still matters to any of you. And the injuries keep on coming, as it was announced Adbert Alzolay would be added to the 10-day IL after an ugly start to this series.

Despite these obstacles, the Cubs came through offensively and were able to hold it together defensively to get the job done, even getting the win over Yu Darvish, who for all intents and purposes should still be pitching on this team. As we like to say here, the indignities never cease. Let’s break these games down.

June 7, 2021
Cubs 4, Padres 9
WP: Weathers (3-2) LP: Alzolay (4-5)
Box Score

Considering the Giants series we just came from, who could’ve guessed the Cubs’ starting pitcher would collapse in a game again? Alzolay allowed the Padres to get up early in this one, allowing two Padres runs in the first two innings of the game and having to throw over 50 pitches to get to the 3rd. By the 3rd inning, he had struck out Fernando Tatis Jr. for the second time of the night, along with Eric Hosmer, but a walk and a home run right afterward put the Cubs in a pretty dicey 4-0 hole.

After only two singles in the first three innings, the Cubs’ bats woke up just in time for a rally to make the game a one-run contest. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled, and Patrick Wisdom walked to load the bases. Jake Marisnick, back in the lineup playing his first game in almost a month, hit a single that scored Bryant and Rizzo to make it 4-2. Ian Happ decided to come up and bunt for some reason, getting out at first but advancing the runners. Sergio Alcantara, the knockoff Baez replacement whenever he is needed, was able to RBI Wisdom on a sac fly, and then it was 4-3 Cubs.

Alzolay then proceeded to put up a four-pitch walk to start the 4th inning and Rossy yanked him. Alzolay was not happy with his performance, throwing his glove in the dugout and looking pretty pissed. Soon after the game it was announced he’d be put on the 10-day IL for a blistered finger. It was a tough outing for the young pitcher who is currently the only bright spot in the Cubs’ rotation that exists at all, but he’s gotta be better than tonight if the Cubs have a chance at the division or the playoffs.

The Dodgers scored two runs in the 6th and piled on three more in the 8th inning, allowing them to run away with the game. Rex Brothers, in to relieve for Alzolay, allowed no hits in his inning out, but Keegan Thompson allowed a hit that scored the runs in the 6th inning and Cory Abbott’s 1.1 innings at the end of the game allowed four hits and three runs, only one of them earned. The Cubs scored a measly run in the 7th inning thanks to a solo homer by Ian Happ, but other than that the Padres were able to successfully come out on top this game.

June 8, 2021
Cubs 7, Padres 1
WP: Davies (3-3) LP: Lamet (1-1)
Box Score

For once during his tenure with the Cubs, Zach Davies didn’t look half bad on the mound as he faced his team of yore. Despite this, the Padres’ starter in Dinelson Lamet was pitching well also, and we went the first three innings with no score. However, Lamet collapsed to start the 6th inning, giving up two singles and a double to score Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant, added onto the solo homer he gave up to Willson Contreras in the 4th. His reliever could only get the first out of the inning before allowing Patrick Wisdom’s 8TH DINGER IN 15 GAMES to blow the game wide open, 5-0 Cubs.

Certainly Zach Davies is no Yu Darvish, and I don’t think anyone else complains about that more than I do. However, Davies pitched a full 6 innings, allowed only one hit, walked only two batters and had 4 strikeouts. It was the lowest number of hits he’s allowed in a game all season, and by many numbers it was the best game he’s played generally since his season debut on April 4. Credit where credit’s due here.

The Cubs were able to score two more runs in the 7th inning to make the game really over, and thanks to our trusty bullpen the Padres never really got back in the game offensively. Andrew Chafin, Tommy Nance, and Alec Mills all pitched one inning each. Chafin had a strikeout and only allowed one hit, while Nance had two strikeouts and no hits at all. Alec Mills, making his first appearance on the mound for the Cubs in nearly a month, allowed the only Padres run of the game after walking two batters and letting Ha-Seong Kim hit a double. However, two strikeouts later he was able to end the game for the Cubs.

June 9, 2021
Cubs 3, Padres 1
WP: Brothers (2-0) LP: Darvish (6-2)
Box Score

The Cubs are finally looking back to their winning form, able to win the series against the Padres despite having to face old demons and current elite pitching by Yu Darvish. It was Jake Arrieta who was up to the task of battling against him, and this game was a pitcher’s duel all the way until essentially the 7th inning, where the Cubs took the lead on an RBI double play by Rizzo. The other two runs were scored by solo homers for the Cubs, with Joc Pederson doing it in the 4th inning and Sergio Alcantara doing it in the 8th inning.

Like I said, it was a pitcher’s duel, and though Yu Darvish played the longer game, he was the one with the loss. Veteran Jake Arrieta only pitched five innings compared to Darvish’s seven, but he allowed only one run to Darvish’s two runs despite Arrieta allowing one more hit. The Cubs bullpen, and I know I sound like a broken record, got it done. Rex Brothers got the win with two strikeouts in his inning in the 6th. Tepera and Kimbrel also allowed no hits, despite Kimbrel having 0 strikeouts to close the game — very uncharacteristic of him.

The Cubs were intentionally sitting some important players this game in order to give them two days off before a big series this weekend against the Cardinals. In doing so, some younger players in the pipeline were able to show their skills, and Alcantara was certainly one of them again today with his important run and keeping things together at shortstop as Javier Baez took this series off. Additionally, we saw PJ Higgins catching for Willson Contreras and Rafael Ortega in for a stint. Props to these guys for sliding in and not being horrific — hell, even contributing at times.

Like I said, the Cubs have a day off tomorrow and then they come back to Wrigley where they will face off against the Cardinals for the first series at 100% fan capacity. The Cardinals have dropped a bit in the standings since we last played them, being 3.5 wins back of the Cubs and first place. Don’t look now, but the Cubs and the Brewers are neck and neck at the top of the Central Division, so any wins we can get against the Cardinals will be important, especially since the Brewers get the much easier matchup this weekend against the Pirates. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

Hi everyone! My name is Summer and I am now a Hawks and Cubs writer for this fair website. Today I will be breaking down the almost-entirely-disgraceful offseason plays made so far by the billionaire ownership of a certain north side baseball team. Feel bad for the billionaire ownership, okay? They are hurting in the pandemic too! Billionaires can no longer afford to pay any of your favorite players, and when they can you should be glad they looked in their couch cushions and scrounged up the pocket change!

The Cubs will be a different team this year and it’s probably going to suck. Let’s go on a quick rundown of some key signings and departures so far this offseason.

Goodbyes

Yu Darvish featuring Victor Caratini

This is probably the most horrendous trade I’ve ever seen in my life. (I’m still young and relatively new to Cubs baseball, so if there’s been a worse trade than this one in recent Cubs memory don’t get your pants all knotted up.) Yu Darvish was a Cy Young finalist and the only glimmer of hope in the entire pitching roster. The only one who was consistently fun to watch. And the Cubs traded him away for the inferior Zach Davies and a bunch of question mark prospects. What could be more Cubs than that?

Catch me cheering on Darvish and his personal catcher Victor Caratini to beat the Dodgers and hopefully head to the World Series this season because we sure aren’t.

Jon Lester

Yes, we will miss him. Yes, he threw alright for us last season, but he is probably getting too old. His velocity will probably continue to decline, and things could get ugly real fast from there. But then you remember that he was willing to return to the Cubs and sign the cheapest possible contract, and ownership said no. Amazing.

Kyle Schwarber

Another World Series piece going the way of the wind, but nobody cares anymore because he was bad in the outfield and couldn’t hit at all last season. (But then again, could anyone hit outside of Ian Happ?)

Other Releases/Free Agents of Lesser Import: Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, Jeremy Jeffress, Mark Zagunis, Jason Kipnis, Daniel Descalso, Pedro Strop, Albert Almora

Hellos

Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant

Boy howdy am I glad these guys are back again. Baez is my favorite player, but he was awful last season and couldn’t hit a beach ball. We should’ve traded Kris Bryant last offseason when he would get even sort of a return, but of course we didn’t, and now we’re trying to shop him when his value is at zero. At least Rizzo will probably retire here, beloved by every Cubs fan.

Willson Contreras

Whew! That was a funny one there, Rickettses, right after you enraged your entire fanbase by trading Darvish away (along with his incredibly competent catcher in Caratini) and then suddenly rumors were swirling about you guys trading Contreras. He is one of the best catchers in the league, and also one of the few players on this God-forsaken team that was doing any measure of hitting last season. Our catching rotation would be going down the tubes with our pitching rotation if this guy had left, but luckily, they signed him. Right?

Austin Romine

Please welcome our new backup catcher, I guess? Starting catcher if the Cubs decide to trade Contreras anyway? Romine is the definition of mediocre, and his .238 batting average tells you he’s not known for his hitting. Which is good because why would the Cubs want to be looking for hitters anyway after they hit so well last season?

Max Schrock

Speaking of acquisitions who can’t hit…

Zach Davies

Everyone is still—and probably always will be—angry about the Yu Darvish trade. Davies is the one player we got back in that trade who is useful now. Last year, he sported a 2.73 ERA and an over .600 winning percentage! When you look at his average ERA over his past six seasons in the MLB, it’s actually 3.79, but that is still good enough to put him as one of the better starting pitchers in this Cubs lineup. Hopefully he doesn’t blow it.

Robert Stock

ZOOM! This dude throws fast but apparently doesn’t have the whole “control” part of his pitching down yet, and that’s why the Cubs were able to pick him up for free off the waiver wire. What a group of guys our rotation/bullpen is shaping up to be.

Kohl Stewart

Fresh off the presses: Cubs “take a chance” on a failed 4th-overall 2013 draft pick with an average 4.79 ERA in the big leagues!

Other Cubs offseason “splashes”: Jonathan Holder, Dan Winkler, Phillip Ervin

Final Thought to End This Circus

Just sign Ian Happ, you chumps. Does this need to be said? Ian Happ is the only future piece you have for this team, the only one giving you offense, the only one doing fun stuff for the media, and is also running the most interesting podcast regularly featuring Cubs players.

Now you’re making him go into arbitration where you’re going to explain to an arbiter exactly why you think he doesn’t deserve the extra $900k? What does that do to morale? What is wrong with these people? Why is arbitration even allowed? I am appalled at this but will be excited to watch Happ play this season anyways.

Looks like I’ll be here regularly to break down what happens this upcoming season for Cubs baseball, so check back soon if you’re interested. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

BOX SCORES

White Sox 4 – Indians 7

White Sox 3 – Indians 5

White Sox 2 – Indians 3

White Sox 4 – Indians 5

 

That…was not good. In a series that bare minimum needed to result in a split for the Sox to maintain their hold on top of the AL Central standings, instead saw Cleveland return the favor from the end of the season last year when the Sox swept them and crushed the Tribe’s playoff hopes. The Sox could very easily have won every game this series, and yet somehow managed to find ways to lose each one in increasingly frustrating ways. All of this culminating in Rick Renteria’s mystifying decision to throw Carlos Rodon to the wolves in the bottom of the 7th last night. Let’s put a bow on this box full of shit before we move on to the last series of the regular season, shall we?

 

To the bullets:

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

-Let’s get this out of the way to start: Renteria fucked up something pretty huge last night. Taking a returning Carlos Rodon (who hadn’t faced live hitting against legit major leaguers in over 2 months) and having him come it to try and get one out with the bases loaded in a game the Sox absolutely needed to have when he had Marshall, Bummer, Heuer and Foster available to him is inexcusable. The results were completely predictable, and I’m sincerely hoping this hasn’t broken Rodon’s brain. Ricky Renteria takes way too much shit normally from this fanbase and I think he actually does a pretty good job all things considered, but this dump truck full of criticism completely deserves to run him over. Even Frank Thomas in the post-game show was flabbergasted, and was more than happy to let his feelings be known. Not something you see every day.

-On the plus side, Rodon’s velocity was back, hitting the upper 90s with his fastball. Granted he was clearly overthrowing it, and 97 without movement isn’t gonna help anyone but the guy in the batter’s box but it’s the one small positive out of last night’s mess.

-Eloy came up lame after his double in the 7th, which was later revealed to be “foot soreness” (whatever that is). Fingers crossed it’s nothing that keeps him out too long as the Sox are about out of time.

-The Sox offense actually showed signs of life the last two games, which is a welcome sight after the previous 5. A lineup like this that doesn’t take or see many pitches is always going to be prone to slumps, so hopefully this is them coming out the other side of it.

-Luis Robert finally got a day off yesterday, and with 2 starts against left handed pitchers on tap this weekend I fully expect him to shake off his slump. Or not.

-Watching Yoan Moncada breathing heavily on the Sox bench for 10 minutes after his triple and needed to be fanned by Ricky Renteria is terrifying to see. COVID continues to be not something to fuck around with 8 months later and yet people are still fucking stupid about it.

-The Sox are now a game behind the Twins for the lead in the AL Central. 3 for us against the Cubs and 3 for them against the Reds. It’s not over yet, which brings us to:

 

Series Preview: Cubs at White Sox – Yes, It Actually Matters

VS

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Game 1: Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.22 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-3, 3.52 ERA)

Game 2: Jon Lester (3-2, 4.40 ERA) vs. Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.19 ERA)

Game 3: TBD vs. Reynaldo Lopez (1-2, 4.68 ERA)

Q&A With The Legendary Sam Fels

 

I really, really, REALLY was hoping this series wasn’t going to matter for either team and they could just play out the series with an eye on resting their players for the post season. The Baseball Gods have had other plans, however, so here we are. A series that actually matters for BOTH teams, despite them having clinched a postseason birth.

We all know the situation the Sox find themselves in, but the Cubs have somehow not managed to secure the NL Central title with the Cardinals 2.5 games behind them. The North Siders come into the series in similar straits as the Sox, losers of their last 3 and unable to find their offense without the aid of a GPS, having only scored 13 runs in their last 7 games.

The hottest hitter the Cubs have right now (and I say this with no measure of irony) is Jason Heyward, he of the .283 average and 6 home runs. The offense really just hasn’t gotten going on the North Side, and they currently rank 13th out of 15 teams in the NL for standard batting stats ahead of only the Reds and Pirates (who just took 3 of 4 from them).

On the pitching side, the Sox will face the rejuvenated Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish on Friday night. Darvish, despite having a few less than stellar (merely pretty good) outings in his last 3 still has to at least be in the conversation for the award that we all know is going to Trevor Bauer. The last time the Sox faced Darvish he held them in check, only allowing one dinger to Jose Abreu (he does that to people) and striking out 10.

Saturday is a different story, with Jon Lester making what is most likely to be his final regular season start in a Cubs uniform. Last time out the Sox torched him for 8 runs, 4 of which came from the long ball. More of this would be welcome this weekend.

The Cubs don’t have a starter listed for the finale this weekend, but if they lose the first two to the Sox and the Cards win both of theirs I would expect to see Kyle Hendricks on short rest. If that’s not the case I would think it would be Adbert Alzolay and Jose Quintana eating innings for game 3.

We know what this means for the Sox. A good weekend could be the difference between facing the Yankees in the first round and the Indians. Despite the fact that the Tribe just managed to steal 4 games in a row against them, I know I’d rather see them than Garrett Cole and that Death Star of an offense the Yankees field every game. Just get it done.

 

Let’s Go Sox

 

Baseball

Funny that this one comes a day after Steven Souza Jr. As at this time last year, Yu Darvish was viewed kind of in the same light, except with a much heavier contract and much more pressure. He was injured, and we didn’t know if he would even be upright much less effective. First he was upright. Then he was very effective. And now it’s a given he will be again. Do we know that? We don’t know anything. We’ve spent twelve years proving that.

Yu Darvish 2019

31 starts, 178.2 innings

3.98 ERA   1.10 WHIP    4.18 FIP  

11.5 K/9    2.82 BB/9

45.5 GB%   22.6 HR/FB%

91 ERA-    2.6 fWAR

Overall, the numbers don’t actually look that great for Darvish for 2019. They’re certainly good, but what has everyone excited and confident is the second half, where Darvish ran a 17-to-1 K/BB ratio, held hitters to a .254 wOBA, and ran an ERA and FIP under 3.00. Now, the 17-to-1 ratio is a completely bonkers number that would be asinine to think he could approach again. But he doesn’t have to be really good. The home run ball was still a problem for Darvish even in the second half, but that seems to be a weird spike more than anything else and should come down just because.

YES! YES! YES!: Trying to track what Darvish needs to do this year by looking at what changed for him halfway through last year can be a hilarious experience, because the dude throws like eight pitches. Which seemed to get him in trouble in the first half of last year, when he would Javy Vasquez his way through ABs and innings by having to show his entire arsenal within them. Even if he couldn’t control half or more of it.

Darvish leaned on his cutter and sinker more than his fastball when things took off, though this spring he has been going back to his four-seam which has touched 98. That seems unsustainable as Yu has never averaged more than 95 on it, but he is always tinkering to get more spin or movement and we all know the magical powers of PITCH LAB 2021 so maybe he’s found something. On any given day Darvish could have a different three pitches working than the last one, so it’s probably not even worth worrying about.

The only thing Darvish really needs to be the Cubs best pitcher is control. His first year here saw him walk nearly five hitters per nine. His first half last year was more of the same. When he stopped doing that, he was dominant. Some of that with Yu is confidence, as you can tell when he’s afraid to come into the zone or induce contact. And he still would rather strike everyone out than get grounders, so he might need to accentuate that a little more this year. But still, overall his K numbers and walk numbers were in line with what he did in his career, so it’s probably ok to expect what the Cubs got as the whole of 2019 than the last couple months of the season.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Well, the inverse of above, where Darvish can’t find the plate consistently with the fastball, or cutter, or sinker, or whatever else he might offer in the fastball category. Then he gets timid, and starts nibbling with sliders/cutters/splitters/whateverthefuckers, and the walks go up. And then a tendency to go up in the zone continues his home run problems of last year. And that’s been a trend that has risen every year for the last four, so that might just be part of the package now. But if those homers come after one or two walks, that’s an issue. If it’s the occasional solo shot, you can get around that pretty easily. Perhaps the additional smoke (WE WANT DA SMOKE) on his four-seam will allow him to pitch high in the zone with less battered baseballs heading up and over everyone’s head, but if that velocity doesn’t stick around we could be in for another homer-fest.

Additionally, health is always a concern. Yu still missed three quarters of a season recently, and missed a couple starts last year, and has only topped 200 innings twice in seven years. Starters going 200 IP is becoming less and less of a thing, and perhaps with Mills and one or two others lying around the Cubs are more buttressed for not having any starters who are going to go that far. But you also wouldn’t want to be tossing Alec Mills or James Norwood or some other jamoke for starts more than you absolutely had to.

Dragon Or Fickle?: Darvish is something of the de facto ace on this team, though really it has two high-end #2s in Yu and Hendricks and then two low-end #4s in Lester and Quintana (though Q has the potential to be more). Again, the unholy strikeout monster of last year’s second half is not what you’re going to get. But Darvish did have something click where the walks went away, and that feels like it’s more permanent. If he gets a little contact-luck he could flirt with an All-Star appearance, and “solid” feels like the absolute floor of what the Cubs will get this summer. If everything goes right, down-ballot Cy consideration is within range. The guess here is he’s just short of that, but everyone will be more than happy with what they get.

Baseball

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.

Actually, it was the reverse for Yu this season. He was fighting it for most of the first half of the season. Then he was able to locate his fastball, started throwing a knuckle curve simply because he thought it would be fun, and put up some of the more ridiculous numbers you’ll see. Unless you think a 17-to-1 K/BB ratio in the second half isn’t ridiculous. There is some noise in there, and it’s hard to know what exactly the Cubs will get moving forward here. But let’s try and pick out what we can.

2019

31 starts   178.2 innings

3.98 ERA  4.18 FIP

11.5 K/9   2.82 BB/9   1.10 WHIP

45.5 GB%  31% Hard-Contact Rate  22.8% HR/FB Rate

91 ERA-  2.6 WAR

Tell Me A Story: So yeah, the big thing with Yu was the split between his first half and his second half. He had an ERA over five in the first, and 2.76 in the second. We could keep going with these stats, but you already know the deal here. Yu stopped walking anyone in July, started striking out everyone, barely gave up a hit as he had a WHIP of 0.81 in the second half. So yeah, that WHIP, that ERA in the second half, that K/BB rate over a full season puts you in Cy Young discussion. The question is whether Yu can do it over a full season. Maybe it’s best to try and find what changed to figure it out.

It’s a little hard to do that with Yu, because this crazy motherfucker throws like seven pitches. So he might go to one or two of them more often in one month simply because he’s bored or because it looks like one of his other pitches that he’s just changing the speed on. So his slider and cutter can get confused for each other, so can his curve and slider. Then a split and change and we could just go on here but before too long the room will be spinning.

In July, when things turned around, Yu started using his cutter about three times as much as he had before. It was his go-to pitch when he needed a strike. But in August he went away from it and not much changed. And then he went back to it in September. Yu definitely started throwing his curve in July and stuck with it for the rest of the season. And you can probably see why:

Which probably was due to this:

Clearly, picking up Craig Kimbrel‘s knuckle curve, mostly because he thought it was interesting, gave his curve more bite and something of a wipeout pitch. Or another wipeout pitch, as he’s got a couple.

Yu was very slider heavy throughout the season, although sometimes that can be his cutter too, and he threw it at Corbin-levels of 40% throughout the season. But it maintained a whiff-per-swing rate over 30% for the season, so I’m not going to complain too much.

Yu’s biggest problem was the home-run ball, as it was pretty much everyone’s this year. Yu had a HR/FB rate of 22%, which was miles beyond his career-high. Even in the 2nd half it was 19.7%, which is still very high. But as we said as it was happening, this is mostly luck. Yu’s hard contact-rate against was fifth best in all of baseball, so it’s not like he was continually getting crushed. He just watched fly balls, and some that weren’t even hit all that hard, continually float out of the park. This could simply correct because baseball is gonna baseball on you. He did give up a higher hard-contact rate on fly balls this year than ever before, but then so did pretty much every other pitcher on the planet.

If there’s one thing we can point to, it’s that Yu was concentrating his fastball and cutter a little higher in the zone a little more of the time this season. Which leads to more fly balls obviously…except that Yu had the highest ground-ball rate and lowest fly ball rate of his career this past season. Again, I have to chalk this up to weirdness.

And homer issues have plagued Yu before. He gave up 26 in 2013. He gave up 27 in 2017. He was giving up a homer per start with the Cubs in ’18 before getting hurt. It might just be his thing. If he runs an ERA around 3.00 while giving up a fair amount of solo homers, no one’s going to care all that much.

The usual luck alarm-bells only half-ring for Yu and his split season. His BABIP was actually higher in the second half, though .276 is lower than his career average and probably will come back a little. Except for the caveat of just how little hard contact Yu was giving up. Though that’s balanced a bit by the greater amount of grounders. Yu also had an 85.2% left-on-base percentage in the 2nd half, which is a tad high. He got some good sequencing there, and that could correct some next year.

Contract: Signed for four more years for $81M. Opt-out this winter.

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Well that’s up to him. Yu could chase more money this winter with his opt-out. But considering what the free agent market has been the past two winters, and he turns 34 next August, it’s hard to see how he’ll do better than the average for $20.25M he’s got now. And he hasn’t expressed any interest in doing so, though we know how these things could change when teams start whispering into his agent’s ear. Still, unlikely.

So the question for the Cubs is what can they bank on from Yu at 33. Can he be that second-half guy for a full season? You’d be asking for some career-best numbers in his 30s, which generally doesn’t happen. He’s probably not going to strike out over 13 hitters per nine innings again. But he’s consistently been over 11 for his career, which is what you’d expect. The thing is, his low-walk ways are the norm, not the wayward inflatable clown he looked like at times in the first half. He ended the season at 2.82 BB/9, which is basically where he was ’15-’17. He found a rhythm in the second half that he’ll have to keep.

The question for Yu is if he can quiet down the home runs. If he has the near 6-to-1 K/BB rate that his 2019 season totaled, but can bring the homers in under 25 or even 20, his ERA naturally is going to sink to between 3.00-3.50.

It’s ambitious or more to expect Yu to be the #1 Power Cosmic he was from July on last year, because it’s not really what he’s ever been. But solid #2 or plus-#2 starter production is certainly in the wheelhouse. It’s not Yu’s fault the Cubs don’t have a genuine #1. If they get more than that, all the better.

Baseball

It’s strange, because there’s not much more that’s new to say. I’ve written series recaps before that pointed out how that given series was a perfect demonstration of the systematic failure at every level of the Cubs this year. Ownership, front office, managing, training staff, players. Every single thing has simply not been up to par this season, and in some ways the Cubs are getting exactly what they deserve in the most humiliating fashion. And yet, I bet you and I are a lot more upset about it than the Ricketts family right now.

The thing I kept coming back to is arrogance. Arrogance of the whole organization that things would simply work out because it was the Cubs doing it. The arrogance of Theo Epstein that he would be able to buy his way out of all the mistakes he’s made, and then having no plan when he couldn’t. The arrogance that any player coming through the system would come good, simply because it was the Cubs system. The arrogance that not producing one pitcher until Rowan Wick would be fine. The arrogance of the manager who simply refused to learn how to adapt to a game that has rapidly changed on his watch. The arrogance of players who have burned through three hitting coaches now because they refused to change anything they did in the biggest situations. The arrogance of a medical staff that waited a week to get Javier Baez an MRI, or had Cole Hamels clearly pitching hurt for a month, which had its knock-on effects, or Kris Bryant on one leg for longer than that, or the more I can keep mentioning.

And that has led to a season of Hail Marys to try and save it. Calling up Ian Happ before he had really dominated at Iowa was a Hail Mary. Robel Garcia was a Hail Mary. Ben Zobrist after four months out was a Hail Mary. Craig Kimbrel with no spring training was a Hail Mary. Anthony Rizzo on one leg was a Hail Mary, though one that ended up pretty much working. The Cubs didn’t have a foundation, so they just had to throw everything they could at the wall.

And it’s come to a head over the last six games. And funny enough, it starts with the starting rotation, which was supposed to be the one thing they could count on. For weeks, Jon Lester has been a fifth starter, and given his age and odometer, that’s not really surprising. Jose Quintana decided that looked like fun and didn’t want to stick around for more than three innings. Hamels as previously mentioned.

Which meant that even a September bullpen was charred, to the point where the Cubs had no choice but to let Yu Darvish try and finish this one out today. There was no one else. It led to rushing Kimbrel back when he clearly was not ready on Thursday or yesterday. It led to Joe Maddon having to make a lot of in-game decisions, which isn’t what you want. Which is why you have a Make-A-Wish like Danny Hultzen trying to pull Q’s ass out of a jam yesterday to give up a lead.

Yesterday’s game is a stinger in another way, as when the Cards did take that 5-3 lead they did it by simply lining a single up the middle or the opposite way with men on base. If the Cubs had taken that approach more often this season and only trying for the world-ending bomb when it was on offer, where might they be? Nah, we’ll just whiff on another high fastball. It’s going great for us.

But hey, the offense put up eight runs yesterday. They just can’t string any innings from the pen together. Here’s a question, how does Tyler Chatwood throw a third of an inning this series? Is he hurt too? The Cubs had a chance to have a multi-inning piece all season with him in the pen, to shield all the things they didn’t have. Maddon refused because he doesn’t see the game that way. Let’s try James Norwood some more.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how upset at the offense I can get when Baez is out, Bryant is clearly hurt and not on cortisone shots anymore, and Rizzo is also on one leg. Might have helped if Willson Contreras took a pitch this week, which he didn’t. But it’s the rotation, rotation, rotation. It left Yu without a net. Final nail.

When you lose four one-run games, and as many as the Cubs have this year, it’s easy to point to luck, and that’s part of it. The bigger part for this team is the pen and they simply don’t make all the plays like they used to. They find a way to give up another run, or keep an inning going, or walk a guy to keep turning the lineup over. They haven’t been as locked in this year as they have been, and they’re now a middling defensive team. This is a big deal. It’s mostly the outfield, as the infield still ranks among the top in groundball efficiency. You’ve got to make the plays. The Cubs didn’t today, they haven’t a lot, and they lose.

They’re going to win less than 85 games, likely. That should never, ever happen with this roster.

Heads will roll now, unlike the only-promised bloodletting of last offseason. Maddon’s toast, to be replaced by whatever automaton that will run the team exactly how Theo sees it. I guess that’s fine, though I wonder how Theo sees the game now. It’s felt like he’s been caught and passed by other front offices, and without an unending checkbook, he can’t find a way back. We’ll see. For the first time here the daggers will be out this winter and a heavy focus on what they do.

There will be talk of trading a major piece. I don’t see how you get equal value for any of them and not create a hole in your lineup you can’t fill properly. If I had to wager, Contreras’s name will be the one you hear most, and I guess if you get a genuine centerfielder out of it, and maybe a pitcher, you’d have to listen. I don’t know that Victor Caratini wouldn’t be exposed with a full slate of ABs, and just how many .900+ OPS catchers do you think there are out there?

Still, these questions would have easier answers if the Cubs had produced anything out of their own system the past few seasons. The Dodgers can’t fit all of them in. Neither can the Astros. The Yankees had a whole team injured and might end up with the best record in the game. You have to keep reloading. The Cubs gave you Robel Garcia.

And I don’t know the future is any brighter in that sense. It would be the same mistake the Cubs made on Almora, on Happ, even on Russell back in 2015, to just hand the 2nd base job to Nico Hoerner in Mesa. He has too little experience. But the Cubs might have to given financial restraints. Which are in place because they’ve blown so many big contracts.

There’s a way out of this. But it’s an awfully dark tunnel to get there, with a lot of pits and wrong turns that have to be avoided. I can’t tell you I’m 100% confident the Cubs can negotiate it, given what we’ve seen over the last eight months.

But as always…

Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cardinals 85-67   Cubs 82-70

GAMETIMES: Thursday 6:15, Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: Fox Thursday, ABC 7 Friday, WGN Saturday, NBCSN Sunday

I DON’T LIKE YOU EITHER: Viva El Birdos

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Cardinals Spotlight: Doing What They Wouldn’t

And so it’s come to this. After a four-year stretch where it generally felt like the Cubs had switched the dynamic on THE AULD RIVAL FROM THE SOUTH, everyone in blue is prepping for the most gruesome of deaths. Maybe it comes this weekend. Maybe the more cruel twist comes on the final weekend of the season. Either way, a feeling you thought you might have left behind has come roaring back. It’s almost comforting in a way, because we’ve lived with it for so long.

Oh, but there’s hope too. A hope that this infuriating, unsatisfying, unenjoyable season could find salvation. Perhaps the previous five and a half months wouldn’t sting as badly if it ends by sticking it to the Cardinals over seven games in 11 days. Perhaps the stale and foul taste of this season can be washed away. It’s possible, it’s just that it’s not something we’re accustomed to.

In all likelihood, the Cubs have to take at least five of the seven games on offer from The Red Menace. And even that could only likely ensure a tie, as in the interim the Cubs have the Pirates while the Cardinals have three games that looked like they might be treacherous a couple weeks ago against the Diamondbacks, but assuredly aren’t now. Anything less than a sweep of the Pirates could doom the Cubs. But we’ll get there.

A split here and it’s over. Three games down with six to go means even a 6-0 finish isn’t going to be enough. And of course there’s the small matter of the Brewers lurking as well, and they finish with one against San Diego today, and then Pirates, Reds, Rockies. It could open up for them if the Cubs and Cardinals hold each other in place.

And the real fear is that the Cardinals can expose two of the bigger problems the Cubs have through their rotation. One is that the absence of Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez is just too much to carry. The second is that the inconsistency within the Cubs rotation is another they can’t overcome thanks to the solidity of the Cardinals’ staff. The second one is debatable, as the matchups have come out ok. Both will throw top of the rotation guys in Kyle Hendricks and Jack Flaherty tonight. Both will throw question marks in Jose Quintana and Michael Wacha tomorrow, though you’d trust Q slightly more than Wacha. The weekend finishes with what look like advantages for one team (Saturday for the Cards with Hudson, Sunday for the Cubs with Darvish). But baseball doesn’t work that way.

While the Cardinals offense over the whole of the season hasn’t been impressive, it’s been more than enough of late to go by the Cubs as they sat around poking a carcass with a stick. Perhaps it was their own. Tommy Edman, the kind of young go-getter the Cardinals always produce that pop for a few weeks and make you want to reach through the screen and either throttle him or just yourself before they sink back into anonymity, has been their hottest hitter. Right behind him is the Shit Demon behind the plate, and you’re already picturing some piece of garbage off his fists landing softly enough over Zobrist’s head to not actually make a sound to drive in two in the 7th of one of these. You’ve seen it too many times. Kolten Wong and Paul Goldschmidt are both on one as well, so the challenge is set.

And you don’t want to be trailing this team late, because they’ve fashioned quite the shutdown pen of late. I wouldn’t trust Carlos Martinez with anything valuable, too many memories of him going to the zoo at the slightest hint of trouble, but he also hasn’t given up an earned run in a month. Ryan Helsly, Giovanny Gallegos, and Dominic Leone have all been great the past month. The Cardinals know exactly how they’re getting to the last out. The Cubs have to guess every night.

It doesn’t shape up well. But it doesn’t have to. A Bryant or Schwarber binge. Quintana rediscovering what worked in August to join what Hendricks and Darvish have continually been doing. A meltdown from any Cardinal reliever, and it could all swing back.

The Cubs have a lot to overcome without even considering the opponent, like injuries and general malaise. We’ll find out if they can ever truly lock it in as they claimed they would all season, or if they’ve always wanted it to just be over like most of us have.

Pessimism is for assholes. C’mon Cubs, give us a reason to keep hoping for at least another week. We’ve got nothing else to do anyway.

Baseball Everything Else

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 10 Dads 2

Game 2 Box Score: Dads 9 Cubs 8 (10 innings)

Game 3 Box Score: Dads 4 Cubs 0

Game 4 Box Score: Cubs 4 Dads 1

Not the hero we need, the hero we deserve.

Not the hero we need, the hero we deserve.

 

For guys of a certain age (old), the thought of the Cubs going to San Diego in a must-win situation can still conjure up visions of 1984, with Steve Garvey walking the Cubs off in a game that looked as good as won, Jim Frey leaving Rick Sutcliffe in during Game 5 while he had Steve Trout rested and ready to go, then the ball getting past Leon Durham/s Gatorade-soaked mitt. So, good times.

Let’s…

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

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Brewers Spotlight

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

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 5, Mets 2

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 10, Mets 7

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 4, Mets 1

While the Cubs may be the only team, or fanbase, that still gets shivers when thinking about the Mets, it’s also important to remember they’re still the Mets. Which means they can METS at anytime, and it just might be for your benefit if you time it right. There was no better cure for the Cubs than the Mets on a downswing, And once again, this team looks on the upswing, and we’re just going to have to get used to the ride if you haven’t already.

Let’s..

-I wish Yu Darvish‘s overall numbers reflected how good he’s been lately. This fucking baseball, amirite? It’s something when walking one dude is newsworthy, but the Mets weren’t anywhere close to him. Then again, no one has been lately except for that weirdness with the Giants. He apparently struck out Jeff McNeil with a knuckle-curve he just decided a week ago to fuck with. That’s the good stuff, baby. It’s gone to where you’re actively looking forward to his start Sunday.

-Of course Kyle Hendricks would fail to get through five with a nine-run lead on the same day I went at it with Joe Sheehan about calling him a #3 starter. Timing, Cerebral Assassin!

-It can be a little upsetting when Baez busts out by going the other way and up the middle, because he should never get away from it. But as long as he gets back there, because the Cubs will need him.

-Ok, that’s enough of Jason Heyward in the leadoff spot. Yes, he doesn’t want to be moved around, but he lost the right to complain by not being able to hit a bull in the ass with a banjo since he moved there. Back to Schwarbs, now.

-The first inning off Thor might have been the most enjoyable inning of the whole season. Not only did the Cubs tee off on a premier starter we had turned into Darth Vader in our heads, but it contained some true Mets-iness with Rosario’s error that started it all. Without that, they might not even get one.

-Remember when everyone was shitting themselves that the Cubs didn’t have a backup catcher? That Willson would die of exhaustion because of it? Good stuff there.

-It felt like it was going to be one of THOSE Lester starts. Itchy, sweaty, twitchy, yell-y, bad. When he gets through five or six innings well, it still doesn’t feel like it. You kind of wonder how he did it. But if we call him the 5th starter, that’s what 5th starters do. It’s never really comfortable unless you’re blessed.

-This pen can make last night’s game interesting, and then smother for nine outs tonight, because they hate us. I kind of wanted to see if Chatwood could take it to the house, but with Kintzler not having thrown on Wednesday it’s fine. I’m not going to lose a kidney over it.

-I was going to shit a chicken over removing Schwarber and Happ for Lucroy and Kemp against deGrom, as it felt like Maddon felt that two of three was enough and tonight was a bonus. The Cubs have lost that right. But hey, whatever works. Though I don’t need to see Kemp start again, I really don’t.

Can end the Brewers season over the next week. Onwards…