In a fictional world where I’m hired to teach sports journalism at the local college, I can tell you what the first assignment is. The team you covered just lost 11-1 and 16-3, give me 1,000 words. Seriously, what does anyone do with this? For the longest time when the old comments system when you could have a set footer, I had “sometime you just have to tip your cap and move along.” This was that kind of weekend.
Of course, this is a million times worse because the Twins offense had been struggling. If these were the Rays who have been blowing everybody out, you wouldn’t blink. But the Twins haven’t been doing that. Don’t get me wrong, they are 23-18, and look like a team that might win 90 games. So losing two out of three in Minnesota isn’t embarrassing. But also, they just scored about 14 percent of their runs this season in two games. Not good.
One angle that could be taken is to be angry about it. I could figuratively jump up and down and scream about how terrible this team is right now and call for changes. For the most part, I’m not going to do that. I’ll put this here for the vast majority of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (@colbylives) and see it in a reply Tweet: I do think the Cubs should send Hayden Wesneski back to Iowa and activate Kyle Hendricks to take his next turn through the rotation.
Kyle had a second pretty solid start in a row at Iowa and fairly well lines up with Wesneski’s spot. I don’t think Hayden has pitched badly, but I also don’t think at any point this year he has looked as dominant as he did last September for the Cubs. I don’t know how good of a major league pitcher he’ll eventually be, I don’t think we really have enough data to draw conclusions. I definitely think he’ll be back and I definitely think if this team finds a groove and ends up in contention that he’ll be a key piece. I also think you have to find out what you have in Kyle Hendricks.
This is a different kind of thing, right? You’ve had some good results with relief pitchers, young and old, power and finesse, prospecty and fringy. How about an old-ish starting pitcher, with fringy major league stuff, but a history of excellent major league command? I know they think they found another tick or two on his fastball. Top speed was never Kyle’s things, but even he will tell you that he needs enough variance between his fastball and change to make his pitches deceptive. Can he still succeed at the Major League level? I think there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical, but I do not think you close the door. Not yet.
So back to this weekend. I’m not going to get angry or rant and rave. I’m going to take the high road and tip my cap to the Twins. They got us good. I don’t even know what to do with crushing the starter that had been doing the best and getting dominated by the other two. Weird stuff.
Last year I talked over and over again about the long stretch of games at and then over .500 to end the season. So I don’t think I’m a broken record to keep looking at the sustained poor performance this year. After starting the season 11-6, this team has won only eight of its last 23 games. Thank God for those first 17 games, because if this team were bobbing along basically losing two out of every three games, we’d already be talking about which players might be traded in July. As it stands, you have to put that conversation off for now.
I do have to warn you that the Heroes and Goats numbers today are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a Superhero at .003. We were certainly close to all negative scores. All nine hitters did have negative WPA numbers. The mostly forgotten rule that’s still a precedent that we disregard hitters pitching and pitchers hitting rules out the .000 of Miles Mastrobuoni the pitcher. So we end up with a negative score in the sidekick spot. This one was as thorough as it gets. And let me tell you, I feel pretty confident that this is the all time worst Sidekick in the history of this series.
A rule is a rule. I’ve gotta give you three positives. Keegan Thompson faced six batters and retired them all. That’s clearly your top positive of the day. A performance that would be a positive in virtually any game.
But what do we do for two more? Brandon Hughes retired the only batter he faced. But nope, not doing that. Feels like a cheat. Matt Mervis had his first big league two-hit game. It’s been rough for him so far. So I’ll tip the hat here. I know he’s going to settle in and then we’ll get a better idea of how good he can be.
Christopher Morel gets the other spot. He’s now been here for five games. He has homers in three of them. A hit in all of them. A run in all of them. An RBI in four of them. So far, he’s picked up right where he left off for Iowa. He’s been out of this world. That bat needs to be in the lineup every day until major league pitchers catch up to him.
Game 40, May 14: Twins 16, Cubs 3 (19-21)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Keegan Thompson (.003). 2IP, 6 batters, 2K
- Hero: Brandon Hughes (.002). ⅓ IP, 1 batter
- Sidekick: Michael Fulmer (-.001). ⅔ IP, 5 batters, 3H, 3R, WP
- Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.285). 2⅔ IP, 17 batters, 7H, 2BB, 6R, 3K (L 2-4)
- Goat: Michael Rucker (-.045). 1⅓ IP, 7 batters, 2H, BB, 2R, K
- Kid: Yan Gomes (-.032). 0-3, K
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and runners on second and third in the third inning, it was still a one run game. That is until Trevor Larnach launched a three-run homer. (.208)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, the Cubs were already down one when Marcus Stroman got Kyle Farmer to fly out to end the inning. (.060)
If you had to name a Player of the Game for the Cubs, it would be...
This poll is closed
Matt Mervis (2-4)
Christopher Morel (1-4, HR, RBI, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Yesterday’s Winner: Tucker Barnhart (Superhero is 27-12)
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.
- Justin Steele +13
- Ian Happ +11
- Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
- Marcus Stroman +8
- Keegan Thompson +7
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Michael Rucker/Jameson Taillon -5
- Nico Hoerner -6.5
- Trey Mancini -8
Up Next: On the heels of a rough weekend, nothing like seeing the defending World Series winner on your schedule. But that’s where the Cubs find themselves Monday night. The Astros are another team not clicking yet at 21-19. A team that expects much more of itself to be sure.
Jameson Taillon (0-2, 6.48, 19⅔ IP) is still looking for his first real good start of the year. He’s thrown just 5⅔ innings over two starts since returning from a groin injury. In that limited time, he’s been tagged for seven runs. With Stroman failing to get out of the third inning, the Cubs have to be hoping Taillon can at least work into the fifth inning. Javier Assad has been working long duty behind Taillon and has done a pretty solid job in that role. Taillon was hit pretty hard by the Astros last year as a member of the Yankees.
Lefty Framber Valdez (3-4, 2.38, 53 IP) has pitched pretty well for the Astros but doesn’t have much to show for it. The 29-year-old out of the Dominican Republic will be making his 85th career start. Last time out he was terrific in a start in Los Angeles against the Angels. He allowed three hits and one run over eight innings in a win. He struck out 12 and didn’t walk anyone. He’s a tough opponent. The Cubs have been pretty good against lefties so far this year though. This will be the first time he’s ever faced the Cubs.