Sometimes meat loaf tastes like hamburger helper with some form of red sauce on it so it doesn’t dry out. But sometimes you get a really high quality of ground beef and you blend spices and work to elevate the dish. Some number of weeks ago, I rolled out this exact topic and a few of you chimed in with what makes your meat loaf special and not just a thrown together dish. But the comparison is still sometimes the right one.
Obviously, with how well the Cubs had been playing, a sweep this weekend would have been pretty frustrating, particularly coming off the heels of a disappointing series in New York. I don’t get any sense that this team is fragile mentally and psychologically, but you like to keep the good vibes rolling.
Accordingly, one win felt like a reasonable goal on the road against a very good team. But a 3-3 road trip feels like you shot par. Without a doubt, with how good your short game has been, you thought you might get up and down for birdie this weekend and come away with four wins. But, you hit your drive into the rough stuff and had to settle for just getting it to the green in two and two putting for par. Pick up your ball, head to the tee. There’s a short par three coming up and let’s see if we can get one to the center of the green and spin it back towards the hole for a birdie.
Is there an analogy/metaphor per paragraph limit? I don’t quite know when I got here, but some time ago, my adult children listened to me do work calls and apparently I rarely go more than five minutes on the phone without using one or the other. So no chance I’m sparing any of you.
Before we circle back around on the Sunday game, let me do a flyby on the conversation starters after Saturday’s game. First, I obviously believe that Ronald Acuña Jr. should win the MVP and probably will. I’m just acknowledging that historically, there is a percentage of fans and voters take valuable to the guy that basically a team would be screwed without. That’s probably Cody Bellinger and not any of the many Braves and Dodgers having monster seasons for offensive juggernauts on the two top teams in the league.
As to the comparison of the 2023 Cubs to the 2015 team, I was definitely referring more to the vibe than the roster makeup. I do agree that this team is more in flux than that one was. That team was largely built and was just trying to make a few more upgrades to what was already a very good team. This team certainly could have some significant players leave. With all due respect to Willson Contreras, I’m not sure he ever reached the level that I suspect Pete Crow-Armstrong can if he sticks the landing at the major league level. And regarding the depth of prospects, I think 2023 runs circles around 2015. So personnel wise, the two teams are actually quite different. But my comparison focuses more on the idea of two teams that were emerging from their cocoons and ready to take flight.
Sunday afternoon’s Cubs game was a train wreck that just kept on going. The Cubs struck quickly with two, but just cratered after that. The Blue Jays sent 10 men to the plate in the second, and scored five runs. It was a good inning for guys with a dad who played major league ball.
Let’s spin back around for one more analogy. In the second inning, Jameson Taillon got knocked down, but he got back up again and continued fighting. But when he went back out for the fourth round, the Jays delivered a knockout blow. Down 8-2, the Cubs did try to get back into the fight, plating two in the seventh before a plucky Blue Jays team added on three more runs in the eighth.
Speaking briefly about that eighth inning, man, I feel bad for Caleb Kilian. Two hit batters, a wild pitch, two singles and a double, all part of a three run eighth. He’s now faced 33 batters in 2023 and 10 of them have scored. Diving into small sample size numbers, even if he’s pitching poorly, a .588 BABIP almost certainly can’t sustain. A 50 percent strand rate is unlikely to stay, but I’ll note that it is actually better than the number he recorded last year in 11 plus innings of work. It’s hard to judge a guy on 16⅔ innings of work. But it’s also hard to get a lot of work for a guy who has struggling so badly at the big league level. It feels like there is some bad luck in there and surely some amount of things snowballing on him, but also as a counterpoint, he’s yet to allow a major league homer. Obviously that wouldn’t continue. For what it’s worth, FIP has him at 4.76. That’s better than the 16.88 he’s actually recorded.
On a different note, after eight earned runs and only nine outs on Sunday, Jameson Taillon’s ERA balloons to 5.71, his FIP to 4.68, his BABIP of .313 isn’t wildly out of line (.296 career), though his strand rate of 62.3 percent is down pretty decently off of a much more normal career 73.3 percent strand rate. His HR/9 of 12.3 percent this season isn’t wildly far off from a 12.1 percent career number. I’ll say again, I don’t think this team finishes its run to the playoffs without three starters making pretty serious contributions.
Let’s see if we can identify three standout performances.
- Dansby Swanson had the only two-hit game, one of those a double. He drove in two of the runs and scored another, being involved with three of the team’s four runs. He also walked once.
- On a day where there wasn’t a lot of positive, Patrick Wisdom merits the second spot for a two-run homer. Alas, even he struck out three times.
- Nico Hoerner had a hit and a walk and scored one run, though he was also caught stealing.
Game 118, August 13: Blue Jays 11, Cubs 4 (61-57)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
Superhero: Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Dansby Swanson (.162). 2-3, 2B, BB, 2 RBI, R
- Hero: Ian Happ (.021). 0-4, R
- Sidekick: Daniel Palencia (.006). IP, 4 batters, H, K
- Billy Goat: Jameson Taillon (-.475). 3 IP, 21 batters, 8 H, 2 BB, 8 R, 2 K, HBP (W 7-7)
*This is the seventh worst WPA scored by a Cub this season.
- Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.059). 1-4, K
- Kid: Christopher Morel (-.057). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: Daulton Varsho batted with runners on first and second and no outs in the third inning, the Blue Jays up two. He homered, expanding that lead to five. (.223)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Dansby Swanson batted with runners on first and second and two outs in the first inning. The run expectancy after that situation is .43, but Swanson doubled and two runs scored, giving the Cubs the early lead. (.188)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: In the closest-ever vote, Cody Bellinger beat Christopher Morel 60-59. (Superhero is 78-39)
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.
- Cody Bellinger +37
- Ian Happ +14.5
- Adbert Alzolay +14
- Marcus Stroman/Mike Tauchman +12
- Dansby Swanson/Julian Merryweather -8.5
- Patrick Wisdom/Drew Smyly/Jameson Taillon -15
- Trey Mancini -20.5
Scoreboard Watching: As play starts on August 14, the Cubs are 3½ games out in the NL Central, tied with the Cincinnati (though technically a small percentage ahead). The Cubs are half a game behind the Marlins who hold the third playoff spot, 1½ behind the second and three behind the first. It is realistic that The Cubs and five other teams could finish anywhere between the first wild card and the sixth. That math ignores the Central title, but if one of the Cubs or Reds go on to win the Central, the Brewers would have that same ability to finish anywhere between first and sixth. So if you like, it’s seven teams for four spots. There will be a lot of scoreboard watching down the stretch. This first half the week, there are no series between any of these seven teams.
Up Next: The Cubs have Monday off before hosting the White Sox in a two-game series. So the first half of this week is more about getting rested and as healthy as possible as the number of games dwindle. However, the White Sox don’t appear to have gone into roll over and play dead. Frustratingly over the weekend, they hung around in all three games but didn’t win any from the Brewers. So it’s possible these two games are not money in the bank and at this point, the Cubs have to play every game with some urgency. With seven teams separated top to bottom by six games, it’s going to be very tight for some of the teams. One game could affect positioning and/or who gets into the playoffs.
Kyle Hendricks gets the ball in the Tuesday game. Kyle started against the Sox back on July 25th and was the winning pitcher, allowing three runs over 6⅓ innings, allowing four hits and a walk. He’s 4-6 with a 3.96 ERA on the season (86⅓ IP). Over the last seven, his results have trailed off. he is 1-3 with a 5.59 ERA (38⅔ IP). The Cubs need better pitching. Hendricks wasn’t bad in his start in New York last week, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.
The Sox start 27-year-old righty Touki Toussaint. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Diamondbacks in 2014. Touki has pitched in 11 games (10 for the Sox, one for the Guardians) and started seven games. He is 1-5 with a 4.27 ERA (46⅓ IP). His last three appearances have all been starts (one on just one day of rest), and he is 1-2, losing the last two. He’s allowed eight runs in 15⅓ innings of work over those three games. He’s walked nine batters over the last two starts, and he only walked one in the other start. On the year, he’s allowed 32 walks. So keeping it in the strike zone appears to be his bugaboo. It has been a problem most of his career, aside from the 2021 season when he won a ring with the Braves (though he did not appear in the postseason).