The Rundown: Improving Offense Can’t Prevent Loss to Rays, Suzuki Streak Ends, Wisdom Stays Hot, MLB Has Interest Problem

“Rest your head, you worry too much. Everything is going to be alright.” – Peter Gabriel with Kate Bush, Don’t Give Up

The Cubs were a matter of inches from earning a second straight win last night against the Rays. Ian Happ just missed making a spectacular catch that would have thwarted a Tampa rally, and a little later hit a blistering shot right into a defensive shift. Justin Steele cruised through the 1st inning, but a 3rd inning challenge may have messed with his command and he wrapped up an early night after giving up four runs in 2.2 innings.

Steele is going to experience growing pains and it’s a little unfair that he garnered some wrath on social media. It seems some Cubs fans are content to be miserable, so the poor outing by the second-year pitcher put a high percentage of that legion in their happy place. Likewise, Chris Martin allowed two runs in an inning of work, and the bullpen, which had gone 10 consecutive innings without allowing a run, was rendered hopeless for the rest of the season.

Expecting to lose is a phenomenon that intrigues me in all the worst ways. As soon as the Cubs fall behind in any game, the give-up parade gathers. The Cubs showed no quit last night and were so close to turning the tide in the 6-5 loss, but a lot of fans were probably chest-deep into Cheers reruns as soon as Tampa jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning. I know we live in a demanding society where attention spans are ever decreasing, but it’s almost as if Cubs fans are averse to the idea of a rally.

If there is a takeaway from last night’s game it should not be that the Cubs lost or that Steele struggled, but that the team never gave up. Jed Hoyer built a roster that tends to put more men on base than any Cubs team we’ve watched since 2016. As long as Chicago’s hitters remain patient and control their at-bats by laying off pitches outside the zone, this team is capable of stringing together walks, hits, and runs at any time. They proved that with rallies in the 4th and 7th innings yesterday.

Hoyer summed things up perfectly ($) in an interview with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, though he added that it makes no sense to get overly excited about the team’s early success, either.

“If we were struggling, you wouldn’t want to overfocus on the results,” the president of baseball operations said before Tuesday’soss. “It’s the same thing if you’re doing well.”

The only thing I didn’t love about last night’s game was the Bermuda Triangle defense deployed by David Ross. Putting Patrick Wisdom in center field with Happ in left and Jonathan Villar at shortstop seemed shortsighted when the stronger defensive alignment might have been Wisdom at third, Villar at short, and Nico Hoerner in the outfield, but perhaps I’m being a little too nitpicky.

The Cubs have yet to lose a series this year, so they’ll count on Marcus Stroman to be the stopper. He’ll take the bump in tonight’s tilt before the Cubs welcome Pittsburgh to Wrigley for a long weekend.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Oakland played in front of the smallest crowd at the Coliseum in 42 years. Free the A’s please, and thank you.

Climbing the Ladder

“Believe that life can change, that you’re not stuck in vain. We’re not the same, we’re different.” – Smashing Pumpkins, Tonight, Tonight

Despite last night’s loss, Cubs hitters struck out just six times as they continue to drop that K-rate. Wisdom is on fire right now and hit a two-run blast while pinch-hitting for Jason Heyward. Suzuki walked three times and it looks like teams will be content to pitch around the rookie sensation until Ross finds somebody to protect him in the lineup. I like Nick Madrigal at leadoff, and though Villar got that assignment last night, perhaps Suzuki might be a better option.

  • Games Played: 11
  • Total Plate Appearances: 416
  • Total Strikeouts: 86
  • Strikeout Rate: 20.7%
  • Team Batting Average: .266
  • Believe it or Not: Entering last night’s game the Cubs led the league in OPS and were tied for the league lead in doubles.

MLB News & Notes

Weather is certainly a factor so far this spring, but less than 10,000 fans attended last night’s game between the Nationals and Diamondbacks in Washington D.C. The league needs to genuinely apologize to its fans and incentivize them to attend games after the mid-winter lockout and a postponed first week of the season. Your move, Rob Manfred.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the leaguewide slugging percentage is down from .392 each of the past two years to .380 this season. Accordingly, runs per game have dipped from 4.44 last season to 4.22 this year ($), a nearly 5% decrease.

Gerrit Cole had the shortest outing of his career yesterday, lasting just 1.2 innings in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Tigers. Cole threw 46 pitches to get two outs in the 2nd inning before he was yanked by manager Aaron Boone.

Boone believes Cole is “poised for a big year” despite an uncharacteristically slow start.

Tommy Pham and his Reds teammates are more than a little upset about a dirty collision at home plate between Padres runner Luke Voit, who was trying to score from first in a double, and Cincinnati catcher Tyler Stephenson.

The sweeper, a variation of a slider distinguished by horizontal movement, is MLB’s latest pitching weapon. Prevalent in the NPB, Yu Darvish is one of the most prominent pitchers who has regularly deployed the pitch.

Corey Kluber throws the pitch with a 22-inch horizontal break.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Max Scherzer – The Washington ace notched 10 strikeouts in seven innings of one-hit ball against the Giants, and is off to a 3-0 start for the Mets.
  2. Corbin Burnes – The hard-throwing righthander also punched out 10 batters, and did so without issuing a walk. The Brewers upended the Pirates 5-2, giving Bunes his first win of the season.
  3. Salvador Perez – The Royals catcher enjoyed a 2-for-3 night with two solo home runs as Kansas City dropped the underachieving Twins 4-3.

Extra Innings

Wisdom is out to prove all doubters wrong, but I’m happier to see the drop in strikeouts. Good things come from putting wood on the ball.

They Said It

  • “We’re definitely way less explosive than we were. I also feel like we faced some pretty good pitchers so far and we’ve been able to limit the strikeout numbers for the most part and put the ball in play. We’ve got to get the ball in the air more. That’s obvious. The double-play numbers have to normalize at some point a little bit. They’re exceptionally high (15) right now. On the positive side, there’s the contact. On the negative side, the ball’s on the ground too much. That’s what we have to address.” – Hoyer
  • “That can scare some teams out of the zone [when] we can string together a bunch of hits in a row. We’re never out of a ballgame, so I love the fact that we fought here being down that many and the guys continue to have good at-bats and give ourselves a chance to win all the way up to the last out.” – Ross
  • “It’s a good reminder to know what I’m capable of and not lose sight of that because sometimes when it’s going bad I feel like I can’t hit at all. But once I get rid of that thought, then what I did last year is a good reminder. It’s reassuring [that I] can do this [and] can do damage.” – Wisdom

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Let it Go by James Bay – In addition to a slow start at the gate for regular-season games, spring training attendance was down too. It doesn’t appear that Manfred is doing anything to extend an olive branch to paying customers, and if anything will be his downfall as commissioner, it will be the very concerning dips in attendance and viewership.

Back to top button