The Rundown: Trends Emerging for Counsell’s Cubs, Cuas Optioned, Metrics Say Morel’s Hot Start Sustainable, Orioles and Royals Surging

“The stars came out and warned me so. As I walked on down the road, fifty bucks and a suitcase steered me clear.” – Drivin’ and Cryin’, Straight to Hell

The Cubs had a much-needed day off yesterday after two tough losses in three games against the Padres. I’m sure the team immediately shook off Wednesday’s crap factory, and it needs to; Chicago plays 11 straight before their next break. They head to Seattle with a 7-5 record for a three-game set against the Mariners before traveling to Arizona to end their West Coast swing with a three-spot against the NL champion Diamondbacks.

Some trends are beginning to emerge through the early part of the season. The obvious one is that manager Craig Counsell is giving his starters a little more length than David Ross did. Eight of Chicago’s starting pitchers faced opposing batters for a third time through the lineup so far this season. The only games where that hasn’t happened were when Justin Steele was injured, the long rain delay against the Dodgers that shortened an outing by Shōta Imanaga, and the two games in which Ben Brown worked as a starter or piggyback reliever. It’s worked well, except when Kyle Hendricks is pitching. Expect Hendricks to get a shorter leash while he works through his mechanical issues.

Counsell probably has to lean a little more heavily on his starters because he may not trust his bullpen. Mark Leiter Jr. has been reliable, as was Julian Merryweather before he got hurt, but Chicago’s other high-leverage relievers have struggled. Still, expect Counsell to find his circle of trust before the end of the month. That may be tough considering the team used a piecemeal plan to build its bullpen, but the Cubs manager has excelled historically at bullpen management. The relief corps will get younger as the season progresses, something the veteran skipper probably prefers.

Counsell has been pretty consistent with his lineup, too. That’s paid off, as the Cubs are averaging over six runs per game. He tends not to make reactionary moves and he hasn’t felt the need to rest his regulars just for the sake of doing it. Ross was blasted for his unorthodox Sunday lineups, often giving games away by letting reserves get weekly starts no matter the pitching matchups. The Cubs are 2-0 in Sunday games this year after going 10-17 last year. Don’t forget, Chicago missed the playoffs by one game in 2023.

The team isn’t running as much as last year, but stolen bases are way down league-wide. Regardless of trends, Counsell does not seem comfortable running into outs: The Cubs are last in the league in both attempted and successful steals so far. The Brewers were usually middle of the pack in both categories in Counsell’s nine years there, so he may run a little more as the weather warms. Then again, Chicago has more firepower and strikes out much less than any of those Milwaukee teams, so things may not change.

The Cubs were 7-5 after 12 games last year, and though the personnel is generally the same, this team feels much different. They’re 1.5 games behind the Brewers, bullpen issues notwithstanding. They’re also down two starters in Steele and Jameson Taillon, while Hendricks has been a complete mess. This team is capable of beating anybody, and I expect the Cubs to play at a 90-win pace once the pitching staff is healthy and settled. I also expect Chicago to finish the current road trip 6-3 despite dropping two of three to the Padres. Here’s hoping they get untracked in Seattle this weekend.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Things that make you go hmmm…

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Summer nights and street cars…take me back to the world gone away.” – Chicago, Old Days

The Cubs are 4-3 after a win this year but 3-1 after a loss. That bodes well for tonight’s game. Jordan Wicks gets the start and he’ll face Bryce Miller. The Cubs were 2-1 against the Mariners last season.

Morel, Suzuki, Happ, and Cody Bellinger are all on a 100-RBI pace through 12 games, and Michael Busch and Dansby Swanson are right behind.

The Cubs are on a pace to score 985 runs, which would be second all-time in team history. Chicago scored 998 runs in 1930 and 982 runs in 1929. They lost the ’29 World Series to Connie Mack and the A’s and finished second in 1930. Joe McCarthy and Rogers Hornsby managed the ’30 Cubs, in case you were wondering. The 1999 Cleveland squad (1,009)  was the last team to score 985 runs or more, and you have to go back to the 1950 Red Sox for the time before that.

  • Games Played: 12
  • Record: 7-5 (.583), 3rd place in NL Central
  • Total Plate Appearances: 467
  • Total Strikeouts: 96
  • Strikeout Rate: 20.55%
  • Team Batting Average: .252
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 26-for-95 (.274)
  • Runs Scored: 73
  • Runs Allowed: 62
  • Pythagorean Record: 7-5
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 73.4%, 3.3% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

MLB blackouts are bad for the sport and prevent far too many fans from witnessing history in real-time.

Now that Jackson Holliday has made his debut, the Orioles have four top prospects on standby, including three of the league’s top 30. Look for the debuts of Connor Norby, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, and Kyle Stowers at some point this season. I know I’m looking forward to the 2027 Cubs-Orioles World Series. Are you?

Baltimore has six comeback wins already, which is almost unbelievable.

The pitch clock debate isn’t going away any time soon, and of course, both sides tend to exaggerate just a bit.

Tim Britton of The Athletic wrote a marvelous piece ($) about Doc Gooden. He interviewed several batters who faced Gooden, including Keith Moreland and Andre Dawson. The Mets are retiring Gooden’s No. 16 jersey this weekend.

Could baseball’s best Triple-A teams beat the worst MLB teams? Probably not, but it’s a thought exercise worth investigating.

Keith Hernandez is very unhappy with baseball’s balanced schedule.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Bobby Witt Jr. – The Royals have won seven straight, they just swept the Astros, and Witt Jr. is a big reason why. The shortstop was 4-for-5 last night with two home runs and five RBI. He also stole a base. Keep the change, you filthy animals.
  2. Colton Cowser – Man the Orioles are baseball’s fun bunch, aren’t they? Cowser, a 24-year-old rookie outfielder, belted two taters and plated four runners as Baltimore downed the Red Sox 9-4. The Orioles will play the Brewers at home this weekend, so I’ll probably watch the series here in Milwaukee despite my distaste for the Brew Crew announcers. Brandon Hyde though, am I right?
  3. JP Sears – One of baseball’s more underrated pitchers, Sears one-hit the Rangers over 6.1 innings and notched the win as the A’s beat Texas 1-0.

Extra Innings

I’m rooting for David Peralta to make the team, though I don’t know who he’d replace on Chicago’s roster.

Friday Morning Six-Pack

  1. It’s almost a guarantee that the Bears will select Caleb Williams at 1.01 in this month’s NFL Draft, but GM Ryan Poles has several options at No. 9, Chicago’s second selection of the first round. Thanks to the acquisition of Keenan Allen and a quarterback-heavy draft, he could trade up, trade down, or stay put.
  2. O.J. Simpson died yesterday, and bad dad jokes were the order of the day.
  3. Simpson, who was 76, died of prostate cancer Thursday. He was ultimately his own worst enemy and passed away owing $100 million to the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown as part of a civil judgment that deemed the former NFL running back liable for their deaths.
  4. Experts say Simpson’s trial changed America’s culture while marking the start of the 24-hour news cycle, with Court TV and CNN covering every development and viewers eating it all up. When the jury controversially acquitted Simpson, an estimated 150 million people were watching. I half-expect the entire trial to be rebroadcast any day now.
  5. Here’s this in case you’ve yet to have your morning juice. Det. Frank Drebin and Capt. Ed Hocken would be proud of David Schwimmer.
  6. In further proof that sports nerds have America’s deepest pockets, merchandise giant Fanatics will put on a three-day Comic-Con-like event in NYC in August. The conference, dubbed Fanatics Fest, will include games, merch, trading card areas, talks, and appearances by Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Eli and Peyton Manning, and Kevin Durant, among other industry icons. There is no word yet if a panel of executives and experts will discuss MLB’s uniform issues. Imagine if F. Scott Fitzgerald was alive today and writing about baseball. “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys (who cannot afford fan fests).”

They Said It

  • “The opportunity means a lot. I try not to take it for granted. You can get caught up in the season sometimes but you still get to put a Major League Baseball uniform on every day. And it’s an honor that I don’t take very lightly. I try to show up and play hard every day, which is something I’ll do for the rest of my career.” – Busch
  • “This is just a makeup thing of who [Busch] is. And it’s swing characteristics. He’s just got a solid foundation and that is what let him produce at such a high level and do all those things well at the highest level of the minor leagues. It’s a very solid foundation to be a hitter and that should even out the natural ups and downs a bit.” – Counsell

Friday Walk-Up Song

I got ear-wormed last night, woke up with the same song still playing in my mind, and, well, you know the drill.

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