The Cubs began the week by taking two of three from a pretty good Padres ballclub at Wrigley Field.
Then they ended it by being swept in a three-game set, all by one run, by a Marlins team that... well, are they that good? We’ll find out, perhaps, this upcoming weekend when Miami visits Wrigley Field.
In the meantime, here are this week’s choices for three good performances, and three that hopefully will get better.
Mark Leiter Jr. continues to dominate lefthanded batters
I was critical of Leiter early for a shaky performance with a couple of walks, but he’s generally been nails since then. This week he had three scoreless outings and has allowed runs in just one of his 12 appearances this year. He continues to baffle lefthanded hitters, who have a .639 OPS against him, and in fact, David Ross has used Leiter as a sort-of lefty, as he has more than twice as many PA vs. LHB (33) than RHB (14).
Just look at this nasty splitter he threw on Friday:
Mark Leiter Jr., Filthy 84mph Splitter. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/0QdnTyTg1n— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 29, 2023
Justin Steele had himself a great April
Steele finishes the month with a 1.49 ERA, which leads the National League even after he allowed two runs in six innings to the Marlins on Sunday. He’s also leading the league in ERA+, at a ridiculous 295. He has struck out 32 and walked just 11 in 36⅓ innings. He’s got a chance to be named National League Pitcher of the Month.
Cody Bellinger continues his solid performance
Bellinger missed the Padres series on the paternity list (Congratulations!) and returned to have a good series in Miami: 3-for-11 (.273) with a triple and two home runs. Through the end of April (yesterday) he’s batting .297/.371/.604 (27-for-91) with five doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 22 runs scored. That’s pretty close to All-Star level, I’d say.
David Ross, what are you thinking?
The Cubs manager did not have a good week. Beyond some questionable pitching and pinch-hitting selections in Miami, his refusal to put Nelson Velázquez in the lineup is mystifying, particularly on Sunday. Seiya Suzuki (see below) has been slumping, it would have been the perfect time to give him a day off and put Velázquez in the lineup.
Ross seems too wedded to a set lineup. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he seems unwilling to give guys days off when they need them. And then when someone DOES get a day off, as Ian Happ did last Sunday against the Dodgers, Ross didn’t use him in an obvious pinch-hitting situation with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Instead, Nick Madrigal was sent up and hit into a game-ending double play.
I like Ross, but at times his in-game management is baffling. I’ll give him credit for this, though: His players seem to respect him and play hard for him every single day. That’s an important quality for a manager to have.
Seiya Suzuki needs a day off
Suzuki is 4-for-25 (.160) over the last week with five strikeouts and he’s also grounded into three double plays. He looks lost at the plate. Sunday would have been a perfect time to give Suzuki the day off, but there he was in the starting lineup again.
Even with a lefthander going in the first game of the Nationals series tonight, it might be a good time to give Seiya the night off. If not then, certainly on Tuesday.
Patrick Wisdom might be slipping back into bad habits
Wisdom’s homer on Saturday was fun and helped the Cubs get back into the game, but for the week he was just 3-for-14 (.214) with six strikeouts. Hopefully that was just a glitch and he’ll start hitting again in D.C. His defense is still outstanding, as shown by this play Friday in Miami [VIDEO].
Give the Cubs a grade for April 2023...
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