I talked the other day about how tricky it is writing about a lopsided blow out against your team. Ditto that for writing about your team in a losing streak. Four straight losses and now just 8-17 over their last 25. This has all been enough for me to ask the question on Cubs twitter if it is true that the Cubs are under performing compared to their stats. Or is the more likely explanation that this team over performed its talent level in the first few weeks of the season?
No one wants to read this from me every day and I don’t want to write it. But we are where we are. Injuries are real and it was a concern of mine before the season. Had the Cubs done anything to improve their depth? The hallmark of the good teams is that the next man steps up and you can hardly notice the difference. The hallmark of bad teams is that the Cubs started a lineup today that I would have voiced disappointment about if it were a spring training game.
I try to avoid being negative. If you were sitting Patrick Wisdom against a tough righthanded pitcher, then Nick Madrigal almost had to play. Madrigal is the modern equivalent of Neifi Perez. While the indicators are flashing that he should only start when you have to, the team is still leading him off. Statistically the most at bats will go to a player with an OPS under .600. Only Tucker Barnhart has a lower wRC+ than Madrigal. Of course Barnhart was also in the lineup and so that means they were 9 and 1 in the lineup. So every third inning, the opposing pitcher could basically coast.
The next worst hitter on the roster? Eric Hosmer, He was in front of Barnhart. Miles Mastrobouni with an OPS under .400 in limited time was in front of that. Matt Mervis with an OPS just over .500 in similarly limited time was in front of that. The best thing about this lineup was the prospecty-ness of it all with Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel in the lineup.
A serious lineup to try to matchup with the defending world champion Astros? Not really. Even if Justin Steele had pitched his absolute best in this one, he was fighting with one arm tied behind his back with that lineup behind him. But hey, the lineup only posted 10 more strikeouts in this one.
Let’s try to find three positives in this mess.
- Matt Mervis gets the top spot. With two hits for the second time in the last few games, his bat appears to be settling in a bit. Getting that first homer on the board tonight had to be a bit of a pressure release too.
- Seiya Suzuki matched the line of Mervis with a single and a homer. His came in the ninth inning with a man on base. Unfortunately, the game was well out of hand before that occurred.
- Christopher Morel sneaks into the third spot with a ninth inning double after having struck out three times. That’s seven straight games with a hit and a run scored. He has more strikeouts than hits and his average is boosted by a BABIP of .462. That number was .320 for the Cubs last year. So we can expect some regression. If the regression doesn’t see his 43.3 percent strikeout rate, it’s going to get pretty ugly.
Game 42, May 16: Astros 7, Cubs 3 (19-23)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Matt Mervis (.079). 2-4, HR, RBI, R, K
- Hero: Tucker Barnhart (.054). 0-1, 2BB, K
- Sidekick: Julian Merryweather (.000). IP, 5 batters, 2H, K
- Billy Goat: Justin Steele (-.284). 6IP, 25 batters, 5H, BB, 5R, 8K, HBP, WP (L 6-1)
- Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.080). 0-4
- Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.061). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: The game was actually tied 1-1 in the fourth inning when Yordan Alvarez stepped in against Justin Steele with a runner on first with no outs. Alvarez doubled and the run scored. The Astros never looked back. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Matt Mervis homered with two outs in the second to tie the game at one. (.110)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Seiya Suzuki (2-4, HR, 2RBI, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Player of the Game: Christopher Morel (Superhero is 28-13)
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.
- Ian Happ +11
- Justin Steele +10
- Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
- Marcus Stroman +8
- Keegan Thompson +7
- Michael Rucker/Nick Madrigal -5
- Nico Hoerner -6.5
- Michael Fulmer/Jameson Taillon -7
- Trey Mancini -8
Up Next: The Cubs will try to avoid being swept on the road in a three game set for the second this year. Drew Smyly (4-1, 3.05, 44⅓ IP) has been a revelation for the Cubs so far in 2023. He won his last start, allowing two runs in six innings. He only allowed four hits and a walk. He’ll try to shut down an Astros lineup that has put 13 runs on the board over the first two games.
The Astros hand the ball to J.P. France (1-0, 0.77, 11⅔ IP). The right-handed rookie is making his third-ever MLB start. The first two? 11⅔ innings pitched and only one run allowed. He’s allowed six hits and two walks across two starts. Last time out he was the winning pitcher despite allowing a run. France was a 14th round pick of the Astros in 2018.