Well, that was a frustrating night. My bowling team got its brains bashed in. Then I caught more of the debacle last night than was good for what had been a long day. These West Coast games are even more killer now that I’m on the east coast and the elongated games have taken their toll on me. I’m just worn out.
Which is fair, because somehow it is how the Cubs look too. This was a differently “shaped” game than we’ve been seeing. The script had been pretty much lopsided one way or lopsided the other. So when the Cubs went up 4-0, I was lulled into thinking this would be a 5-1 or 7-2 type of game.
Nope. They dug out a 7-4 loss. Seven unanswered runs on the way to a defeat. There was bad pitching. Tentative pitching. Bad defense. A disappearing offense. This was truly a team effort. For sure, there were some encouraging performances. But mostly there was a lot of frustration as this team again sunk to its low point of the season at eight games under .500.
I’m reminded of something I’ve said to people in the past. It doesn’t particularly matter how far under .500 or how many games back you are. I mean, obviously, that’s not true. But, if you had reason to believe your team is very good. The type that can win 15, 16, 17 out of 20. Then you can leapfrog five or six teams as you move up the standings. Just the same way, sitting way up at the top doesn’t matter if you are the type that can lose 15, 16, 17 out of 20.
What really matters: Are you a good team underperforming or a bad team? This team is amusing though. If they had their top five starters healthy, they could have that type of run. I don’t think this is a very good team. I never saw anything that convinced me that they would be. But, these starting pitchers, when locked in, could go on a tear. All they would need is solid defense and an offense that could consistently score three or four runs. Particularly if they scored them early and gave the starters a margin of error.
Sadly, the solid defense comes and goes. That should never have happened. This team was built on starting pitching and defense. The defense has two or three plays, seemingly every day, that it should have made but didn’t. Last night, Yan Gomes had an adventure and Matt Mervis had one. Those were just the ones I saw. There might have been more.
The offense came out of the gate flying high. But it has no consistency. Some nights it looks like a split squad spring training game. At least those nights I get that the problem is that they gave a bunch of people the day off. I’m frustrated only when I see the lineup, because I am pretty sure what is coming. The really frustrating ones is when you are pretty sure they played their best nine only to look clueless, like they did Monday night.
The sad thing about this game is that the Cubs managed eight hits. They even drew five walks. They turned that into four runs. After I had watched the Rays be ruthlessly efficient in turning seven hits into seven runs in a 7-0 win, it felt like eight hits should amount to more than four runs. But it isn’t bad. So why is it sad? Because the Angels managed seven runs on five hits. Of course, there were the defensive issues and the six walks.
All in all a largely disappointing performance. With five games left on the west coast swing, the question is how low will they go before they get back home? Then we’ll be starting to turn our attention to which pieces will be traded away at the deadline. I’m not looking forward to the backlash if/when Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger are traded. They are without question the two biggest pieces the Cubs have to trade. The Cubs fandom, rightfully, would like to see both extended and kept here. For Stroman, that’s probably even possible. I never ever believe a Scott Boras client will take an extension until I see it.
Depressing. Let’s look at the three positive performances from this frustrating game.
- Julian Merryweather looked like maybe the guy who should have been first out of the pen. He faced four batters, retired them all and struck out three. Julian has had a classic reliever under the radar season. He had a brutal first outing and it’s masked the casual fan from realizing just how good he has been. Ignoring just that one outing, he’s faced 102 batters, allowed 21 hits, eight walks, six runs and struck out 34. Good for a 2.19 ERA that looks sustainable with a 2.55 FIP. His strikeouts, walks, homers all in good places. He’s been terrific. If the Cubs don’t want to write him into their future plans, there are surely a bunch of other teams that would happily take him off their hands.
- Michael Fulmer has been an enigma. He alternates from looking pretty good to looking downright awful. Tuesday night, he looked pretty good. He had one of those lines you don’t see very often. He faced five batters in two scoreless innings. He inherited a bases loaded, no out situation and got a strikeout and a double play ball. He then threw a scoreless inning of his own, recording two more strikeouts. Michael is probably the guy Cubs fans will be happiest to see dealt at the deadline. Hopefully, he can get locked in enough to get more than a very low “flyer” type prospect.
- I’m not totally sure why the Cubs aren’t willing to at least try this version of Ian Happ at leadoff. I mean they’ve been happy to try weak hitters like Nick Madrigal and Miles Mastrobuoni up there. Meanwhile, Ian had another single and two more walks. The Ian Happ we’ve seen so far is a statistical oddity. You don’t often see a slugging percentage .007 ahead of an on base percentage. For his career, that difference has been .110 and it has reached as high as a .231 gap in 2019. Happ has turned into a bit of a walk machine. But he’s taking so many walks, he’s not really driving the ball at all. I’m not complaining. He has been very productive, but his production just isn’t middle of the lineup production so far. He has his lowest slugging percentage since the 2018 season that got him returned to the minors.
Game 60, June 6: Angels 7, Cubs 4 (26-34)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.078). 1-4, BB, R, 2K
- Hero: Ian Happ (.076). 1-3, 2BB, K
- Sidekick: Matt Mervis (.070). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Brandon Hughes (-.515). 4 batters, 2H, 2BB, 2R
*Hughes joins Fulmer with two entries on the worst WPA games of the season. This one checks in at fifth worst of the season to date.
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.145). 1-4, R
- Kid: Jeremiah Estrada (-.087). 4 batters, H, 3BB, R
*It goes without saying probably but when you have two different relievers face four batters without recording an out, you are in a world of trouble.
WPA Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and two outs, Mike Trout stepped in against Brandon Hughes with the Angels trailing by two. He singled to center, two runs scored and the game was tied. (.244)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Matt Mervis batted with runners on first and second and one out in the second. The Cubs were already up two. He doubled into the right field corner, scoring two runs. (.126)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Julian Merryweather (4 batters, 3K, 4 outs)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Ian Happ (Superhero is 42-17)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings:
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 +19
- Dansby Swanson +11.5
- Justin Steele/Ian Happ +10
- Adbert Alzolay +9
- Nico Hoerner -7.5
- Michael Fulmer -8
- Jameson Taillon -10
- Patrick Wisdom -11
- Trey Mancini -15
Up Next: The Cubs will look to avoid a third straight loss and falling nine below .500 for the first time this season. Jameson Taillon (1-3, 7.05, 37 IP) is still trying to shake off a nightmarish start to his time as a Cub. He looked very good in throwing 5⅔ innings with one run on three hits and no walks earlier on this trip.
The Angels start 26-year-old, righty Jaime Barria (2-2, 1.59, 34 IP). This will be just the third start of his season. The last one was on May 31 in Chicago against the White Sox. He threw five innings, allowed four hits, three walks and one run. He’s allowed 23 hits and 11 walks while striking out 34. In short, he’s been excellent regardless of how the Angels have used him this year.