Certainly after what I think was my most exuberant recap of the year, I’d have loved a little more carryover. With Marcus Stroman on the hill, I had hope. But, he had some early control issues and a few shift busters later, the Cubs were looking up at a 3-0 lead against a team that doesn’t surrender a lot of runs of any sort, and certainly not when they have control of a game.
I’ve been impressed by the run the Brewers have had in recent years. While they irritate me, they always seem to get so much out of so little. They never seem to follow anyone’s script but they just keep playing competitive baseball. Certainly, the Marlins largely handing them a superstar in his prime didn’t hurt, but they’ve done a lot well.
That said, the Cardinals have been the class of the NL Central seemingly the entire time the division has existed. Obviously, the Cubs have the most recent World Series title for a NL Central team. The Cubs and Brewers have picked up a few division titles each with the Brewers the reigning division champs. But seemingly every single year, the Cardinals are in contention. And that’s not your imagination, their 11 NL Central titles is five clear of the Cubs in second. (Sadly, the Astros are third with four.)
That’s the barometer. With the sweep in St. Louis early this month and this series win, the Cardinals will win the season series. Whatever, this year is lost from a competitive standpoint and has long been turned over to development. There has been a lot of it, but this series was another reminder that there is plenty of work to be done. And yet, the Cubs did win two games and lost another by a single run.
All is not lost. This team still has to work on playing as consistently fundamentally well as the Cardinals do. I talked about it earlier this week. The Cardinals have been excellent because in general, they scout well, draft well, develop well, coach well, and execute well. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce right for them and sometimes they run into a better team. But for years now, the Cardinals are rarely out of it game to game or season to season. That’s the goal.
And I’ll say again some of the things I said previously. Assuming all of us saying this are right, this Cubs team appears to be trending upwards. If that is true, then this team has turned it around in only a little over a calendar year. To be fair, you could argue the rebuild started before 2021 when Yu Darvish was traded. But, the Cubs contended into early June 2021. The bus wrecked horribly, but by August of this year, the arrow appeared to be on the way up. Here’s to hoping this isn’t fool’s good and the upward trend continues in 2023.
You can’t call a recession until some of the dust settles. The same goes for a recovery. Hopefully, we are witnessing a baseball recovery. Of course, the road to the top is rarely a straight line. Maybe next year is a 75- or 80-win season. I’m less worried about the progress than the process. I want both, of course. But I’d much prefer that corners not be cut and that the team be developed. Let the waves come when they are ready. The last time around we didn’t quite get to waves and waves. Maybe this time can be different? We can dream on it.
Let’s find some positives in the wreckage of this loss.
- Ian Happ had a three-hit game. It’s going to take some extraordinary occurrence for me not to call out a three-hit game. Ian added two more doubles, two more runs batted in and a run scored. As Al noted in his recap, Ian now has 33 doubles and a legit shot at a 40-double season. This year sure makes last year look like the outlier. In four seasons in which he got 400 plus plate appearances, three times he had a BABIP over .310. The other was last year when he saw his actual BA dip to .226. Ian has a strong combination of speed and power and makes a lot of solid contact. Over time that BABIP will drift down as all of that dwindles, but his talent level is going to produce an above average number.
- Seiya Suzuki had a pair of hits. Dating to August 5, Seiya has three multi-hit games and has hit safely in seven of his nine starts in that time.
- Nico Hoerner had a hit, a walk and a run scored.
Now we look at the Heroes and Goats from this loss.
Game 125, August 25: Cardinals 8 at Cubs 3 (54-71)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.153). 3-4, 2-2B, 2RBI, R
- Hero: Seiya Suzuki (.032). 2-4
- Sidekick: Michael Rucker (.011). IP (4 batters), H, K
- Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.313). 5IP (27 batters), 11H, 2BB, 5R, K (L 3-6)
- Goat: Christopher Morel (-.096). 0-4
- Kid: P.J. Higgins (-.093). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: In the fourth inning with the Cardinals leading 3-2, Paul Goldschmidt batted with the bases loaded and one out. He singled and two runs scored. (.136)
*Cubs play of the Game: With a runner on second with no outs in the second, the Cubs trailed 3-0 when Franmil Reyes singled and Ian Happ scored on an error. (.097)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Somebody else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Nico Hoerner +19.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +16
- Patrick Wisdom +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Yan Gomes -13
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Rafael Ortega -16.5
Up Next: The final series of the year against the Brewers, this one in Milwaukee. The Brewers come in at 65-58, but have lost six of 10 and three straight. They are six games back in the NL Central and 1½ games out of wildcard position. This series is of near critical importance for the Brewers.
Justin Steele (4-7, 3.25) starts the opener. Justin’s development has continued throughout the season. He’ll face Freddy Peralta (4-3, 4.08). Fredddy is 1-1 with a 3.38 in four starts in August after missing all of June and July.