The Cubs now ride high on a six-game winning streak as we enter hugwatch season with the trade deadline just six days away.
And given that six-game streak, there were quite a few “up” performances to choose from for this article. As I said last time:
Fix the pitching, sign or trade for a couple of hitters and the 2023 Cubs could be much better.
That statement still appears to be true.
Nico Hoerner is making his case for team leadership
Since the last update in this series, Nico is hitting .310/.370/.476 (13-for-42) with four doubles, a home run and only three strikeouts. Finally healthy and getting consistent playing time, Hoerner is not only playing solid defense, but he is getting key hits like the game-winner he hit Tuesday night.
This is a touchy-feely sort of thing, but it also seems as if he is becoming the team leader. This group could use someone like that, and he seems to be stepping up. As evidence for my claim, I present this:
Cubs manager David Ross spoke very highly of Nico Hoerner and how he performs in big moments after another great game and go-ahead hit: pic.twitter.com/AgUPajckf5— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 26, 2022
Scott Effross: Next Cubs closer?
Effross posted his first career save Monday evening, and since the last “Three up, three down” article, he has six appearances covering 5⅓ innings, allowing no runs, three hits and no walks (0.563 WHIP, 1.62 FIP, 0.00 ERA) with four strikeouts. His sidearm/submarine motion is a look most hitters don’t see often.
In his two years in the big leagues, he has now faced 230 batters and walked 10, an excellent ratio.
If/when David Robertson is traded, I’d like to see Effross installed as closer for the rest of the year to see how things go.
Christopher Morel just keeps on going
Every now and then Morel has a stinker of a game (like Tuesday, when he went 0-for-3), but even with that, he’s batting .344/.447/.500 (11-for-32) since the last update here, with three doubles, a triple and five walks.
He appears more confident in the field every day, no matter what position he’s playing. It remains to be seen whether he’ll settle at one position or become a Ben Zobrist-type play-everywhere guy. I believe he could handle either situation.
Patrick Wisdom is in a slump
Wisdom since the last update here: .162/.296/.270 (6-for-37), 13 strikeouts, no home runs. In fact, his last home run was July 3 against the Red Sox, so he’s now gone 74 plate appearances without one.
He’s always been a streaky hitter and who knows, maybe he’ll go one one of those homer streaks again starting this weekend. He’s currently carrying an OPS of .755, and given all the strikeouts and low BA, that’s not good enough. He’s got to push that over .800 to continue to be a useful MLB player.
Rafael Ortega, ditto
Over his last 10 games: .097/.171/.194 (3-for-31). He did hit a key home run Monday, but that was his first in a month. He still seems a bit awkward in center field. I mean... a MLB center fielder should catch this ball [VIDEO].
I would guess that if the Cubs intend to contend in 2023, Ortega won’t be on the team.
Frank Schwindel, ditto again
Schwindel, since returning from the injured list July 16: .200/.259/.240 (5-for-25), one extra-base hit (a double). Whatever pixie dust he had from last year’s fine performance seems to have vanished. He turned 30 last month and is a defensive liability. If Willson Contreras is traded, Schwindel likely spends some time at DH the rest of the year, but as with Ortega, I suspect he won’t be part of the 2023 Chicago Cubs.
Give the Cubs a grade for the 2022 season to date.
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