Is this one my fault? I set my bar for satisfied on this Wednesday at no major injury to Dansby Swanson. He sure is making sure I have a suitably large man-crush on him. Dehydrated after losing sleep being there for his wife. And yet, a big game on Sunday after she was injured and then four more hits the night she had the successful surgery. That man has a third degree black belt in compartmentalization. To simultaneously be distraught for your wife and to then get in the right head space to be one of the very best baseball players in the world. I feel so inferior.
As to the Cubs without Dansby on Wednesday, the news was less good. They couldn’t quite get the offense rolling in this one. His bat was surely missed, but they also felt more than one bat short. Sometime this weekend, Seiya Suzuki will be added to the mix. When Brandon Hughes follows him off of the injured list, the Cubs will then have all of their key pieces for the first time this year. Well, unless the ghost of Kyle Hendricks can dial history back a few years. We’ve seen guys like Adam Wainwright do it for years. But we’ll dream on that one after he starts throwing off of a mound and gets into a game or two somewhere.
I’m still dueling between being an optimist and being skeptical that the equation they’ve put together can be enough. This team doesn’t have enough power to slug people to death. A healthy Suzuki certainly helps that equation. But, this team is still hoping to beat teams with a barrage of singles and a random extra base here and there. I’m already surprised it has worked as often as it has. Will teams be able to adjust to the Cubs’ aggressiveness on the bases? They really never did last year. By all accounts the new rules have made it easier to steal. And indeed, the Cubs were quite good at it last year.
The pitching hasn’t been as dominant as it was down the stretch last year when this team was surprising almost everyone. Wednesday’s starter has been everything one could hope. I read that Marcus Stroman told David Ross last year that he wanted to be the rock of this team. The kind of pitcher that saves his bullpen and alters the way the pen can be used the day prior and the day after he pitches. He finished 2022 strong and he’s started 2023 with three starts of six innings each and two total runs allowed. He’s definitely filling that role.
Starters don’t routinely go seven or more anymore. People of a certain age have watched nine-inning starts become eight, eight become seven and seven become six. Now six is starting to be five. And sometimes we even see a mad scientist like Craig Counsell content to have his starter go four and then turn it to the pen.
Under this lens, Marcus Stroman is emerging as the type of star the Cubs were hoping for when they signed him, the kind of star that flashed previously in Toronto and New York. Sequencing can be deceptive. But in theory, if the bullpen shuts it down Wednesday, the Cubs don’t lose this one. We’ll never know. We just know that Stroman has given his team ample opportunity to win each of his first three starts.
Let’s look at three positive performances in the loss.
- I sincerely don’t just blindly follow what WPA spits out, but I’m right with them on this one. Cody Bellinger had two of the five hits by the Cubs, one a homer. He drove in both runs. He was good on a day when the offense wasn’t.
- Marcus Stroman gets the second spot. Six innings, five hits, two walks, two runs, six strikeouts. Yes please. I’ll take it every time. Not bad for his worst start of the year to date.
- Michael Fulmer got some work in after a few days off. He faced the top of the order and only needed three batters to get through an inning. A hat tip to Tucker Barnhart for that.
And now we turn to the Heroes and Goats.
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Cody Bellinger (.070). 2-3, HR, SF, 2RBI, R, K
- Hero: Marcus Stroman (.067). 6IP (25 batters), 5H, 2BB, 2R, 6K
- Sidekick: Nick Madrigal (.010). 1-4
- Billy Goat: Eric Hosmer (-.107). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Trey Mancini (-.106). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Brad Boxberger (-.091). IP, (6 batters), 2H, BB, R, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: It was only 2-1 in the seventh inning when Ty France batted with runners on first and second and one out against Boxberger. France singled and a run scored. (.132)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Cody Bellinger led off the seventh with a single in a 3-1 game. (.067)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave a suggestion in the comments)
Game 10 Winner: Nelson Velazquez (Superhero is 8-2)
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.
- Marcus Stroman +8
- Justin Steele/Dansby Swanson +6
- Keegan Thompson +5
- Ian Happ +4
- 3 tied at -3
- Cody Bellinger -4
- Hayden Wesneski/Jameson Taillon -5
- Yan Gomes -9
With Brad Boxberger landing on the goat side Wednesday, 26 of 27 players used to date have appeared. Luis Torrens is the only player not to appear so far.
Up Next: The Cubs are in Los Angeles Friday night. The Dodgers moved to 7-6 with a win over the Giants Wednesday night. Like the Cubs, they are off Thursday. Friday night, Justin Steele (1-0, 0.75) will look to join Marcus Stroman in the two-win club. The opposing pitcher will be Noah Syndergaard (0-1, 6.30).