All bad things come to end, right? I mean I’ve never heard it said that way, but that old phrase that all good things come to an end works both ways, right? Either way, this road trip has come to an end. A 2-7 end, that is. The one before it was 1-6, so that is 3-13 over the Cubs’ last 16 road games. Again, as this team was rising from the ashes in the second half, I kept looking back at how long they’d been competitive. So I think it is fair that I point out how long they have been uncompetitive. April 20 to May 21, this team is 9-20. That’s a .310 winning percentage. That equates to a 50-win season. That’s a stunning turnaround.
Can a team suffer regression across a seasonal break? I feel comfortable in believing that the roster is better today than it was in August and September of last year. Yet that team closed extremely well. The biggest difference? That team seemed to win all of the close games. At the time it was happening, it felt like everything that could go right was. It feels just the opposite this year.
I was pretty negative yesterday. I appreciate all of you who commented on that. I both appreciate the comment that I’m over reacting to a tough stretch and those who felt like it was a fair assessment of where things are. I’m usually one to preach not to get too high or too low, so I definitely get the first comment. I started “three positives” in this space last year specifically so I didn’t get too negative while things were going bad. At the same time, I’m not a trained writer. I’m a Cubs fan with a blog. So while I try to take an awful lot of high roads, there are times where I just boil over.
I can’t explain how and when I get there either. I feel like I should be more frustrated at wasting the efforts turned in by Drew Smyly and Justin Steele in their last starts of the trip. But I got frustrated enough with the Saturday debacle that I’d have been pretty comfortable betting a large sum of money on a Cubs loss. That one was just so predictable. I definitely believe that Jameson Taillon is a talented pitcher and that he’ll turn things around. But there just hasn’t really been any evidence that a breakthrough is coming. And there was no reason for Aaron Nola not to be good.
I do want to ask those of you who feel comfortable weighing in on the topic, to talk me through David Ross. If you are someone who is arguing for him to remain manager of this team, is that just because it feels like rearranging the seats on the Titanic? Or is there something I’m missing. Let’s assume that he’s a great off the field manager. He’s getting everything he can out of these guys because he’s such a player’s manager. So you don’t fire him because the team is bad and it’s not his fault? I just want to make sure I understand this right. Hopefully then you aren’t one of the people who also keeps saying that this is a good team playing bad. Because that is also out there and the two things just don’t mesh with one another.
I want to leave with two questions about Ross. What material thing do you see that suggests Ross is really good at his job? Are there players complimenting/defending him and suggesting how much he has helped them? I’ve never seen one of those comments. But that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t out there. Ross didn’t do a lot to get this job and so I wonder when it will be time. That second question is for all of the people who suggest he shouldn’t be fired because the roster is flawed. I don’t watch the other teams except when they play the Cubs. Do all of the teams with records better than 9-20 over the last 31 days (that is every team except the A’s) have better rosters than the Cubs? Or is it possible to sometimes win with less than a stacked roster.
It feels like with Steele, Stroman, Smyly, Swanson, Hoerner, Bellinger, Happ and now Morel that the cupboard isn’t exactly empty. There are plenty of teams who don’t have star power (that have all produced when healthy this year) like this. The bullpen has been a hot mess. But does none of that fall on the staff of this team?
It’s that time again. Before we move on to three positives from another disappointing game, let’s take the temperature. Is your glass half full? Or half empty? I’m never going to completely define this for you. You can look at it from 30,000 feet and including the minor league system or you can look at it from field level in the wake of a 2-1 loss.
Is your glass half empty or half full?
This poll is closed
Half empty :(
So looking specifically at Sunday’s game, let’s look for three positives.
- Justin Steele had a great bounce back start on Sunday. A Phillies lineup that dropped 12 runs on the Cubs Saturday afternoon came back Sunday and managed four hits, a walk and a hit batter. That was over six innings of work, featuring six strikeouts. I feel pretty confident that Justin is heading to Seattle in July for the All-Star game. How many Cubs will be there with him?
- Christopher Morel is the greatest broken record I’ve ever gotten to write about. I will happily keep writing about things like eight homers in 11 games and 11 straight games with both a hit and a run. One more of those will tie a Cubs modern record. I know I saw that people looked up the 10-game stretch he had and tried to find any comparable run in any Cubs season. The names that came back were guys like Sosa, Sandberg and Banks. Hack Wilson back in the day. Some of the best names in Cubs history. I’m sure he’d like to be winning, but he’s etching his name into Cubs record books in a way that will remember him long after he is gone.
- Without a ton of positives (three hits, six walks, one run, limited bullpen work), I’ll note Mike Tauchman in his first start as a Cub. Two walks and a stolen base. Also, I didn’t see any negative reaction to his play in center. We’ll take it.
Game 46, May 21: Phillies 2, Cubs 1 (20-26)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Justin Steele (.357). 6IP, 23 batters, 4H, BB, 6K, HBP
- Hero: Mike Tauchman (.022). 0-2, 2BB, SB, K
- Sidekick: Dansby Swanson (.012). 1-2, BB, HBP
- Billy Goat: Adbert Alzolay (-.276). IP, 6 batters, 3H, 2R, K (L 1-3)
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.138). 0-4, K
- Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.112). 1-4, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: The game was scoreless in the eighth inning when Bryson Stott pinch hit against Adbert Alzolay with one out and a runner on second. A homer provided all of the Phillies runs. (.254)
*Cubs Play of the Game: There were no outs in the sixth inning when Bryce Harper batted with a runner on second. He flied out to right and Nick Castellanos made the aggressive move to get to third. But he was out trying on the throw from Seiya Suzuki. (.151)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Christopher Morel (1-4, HR, RBI, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Christopher Morel (Superhero is 30-15)
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
- Marcus Stroman +10
- Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
- Ian Happ +8
- Drew Smyly +6
- Michael Fulmer -7
- Patrick Wisdom -7.5
- Trey Mancini -8
- Nico Hoerner -8.5
- Jameson Taillon -10
Up Next: The Cubs are returning home after a 10-day, three-city trip. They’ll have their second off day in a five-day span Monday. They’ll then play nine games at home in nine days. The first opponents are the Mets (25-23 after a doubleheader sweep Sunday) and winners of five straight. They’ve caught the second place Marlins and are now five games out of first place in the N.L. East.
Drew Smyly draws the first start on the homestand for the Cubs. Drew is 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA over nine starts and 50⅓ innings. In his last start, he held the defending World Series champion Astros to one run on four hits and no walks over six innings. He struck out eight in that one. Over his last seven starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA over 40⅔ innings. Smyly is quietly having a fantastic year.
The Mets will have 30-year-old right hander Kodai Senga on the mound. Senga is 4-2 with a 3.77 in eight starts and 43 innings of work. Last time out, he held the Rays to just three hits, three walks and one run over six innings. He struck out 12. Senga is an MLB rookie after a successful career in Japan. He’s got a little bit of a walk issue (26 in those 43 innings), but has been fantastic at striking out hitters (55). The Cubs will have to be patient, but understand there will probably be a ton of strikeouts.