The Rundown: Cubs Need Bullpen Help After Alzolay Meltdown, Horton Moving Up, Trout Hurt Again

“Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze.” – Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Adbert Alzolay has given up five home runs in 13 appearances, which matches his total from last season in 58 outings. The Cubs lost 4-2 last night because Alzolay couldn’t keep DJ Stewart, a guy who averages about six taters per year, in the park. Yes, Dansby Swanson deserves some blame for his throwing error, but good pitchers overcome poor defense. With a 7.91 FIP and 3.6 HR/9, it’s safe to say Alzolay is struggling. He’s not someone to be trusted in high-leverage situations, at least not now.

Chicago’s bullpen is a problem, but it’s easily fixable. Most managers have a circle of trust by this point of the season and Craig Counsell has some dependable relievers. Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson have pitched exceptionally well, and Hayden Wesneski has been a godsend. I wouldn’t mind seeing Daniel Palencia a little more, but he and Hector Neris need to stop issuing so many walks. Some fans want to see Javier Assad in the bullpen, though it’s tough to justify removing him from the rotation.

Brad Wieck is pitching very well for Triple-A Iowa and is someone to keep an eye on. He’s got 15 strikeouts and just one walk in 11.2 innings. Opponents are batting a paltry .209 against him, plus he’s had experience at the big level. He’s got 89 career strikeouts in 59.2 MLB innings with a 1.106 WHIP. He’s overcome several hardships that would have ended most careers. That’s the kind of spit and vinegar I’d want in my bullpen. Jed Hoyer calls the Cubs resilient, but nobody defines that word better than Wieck.

The other option is a trade. Chicago’s farm system is deep and several relievers are reportedly available if Hoyer is willing to move prospects. Tanner Scott and Kenley Jansen should be at the top of the executive’s window shopping list. Dylan Floro, Scott Barlow, Michael Kopech, David Bednar, and Aroldis Chapman should also be available. The Rangers have a couple of closer prospects that are close to major league-ready. Lucas Erceg is pitching well for the A’s and he’d be a surprise addition considering he was drafted by the Brewers as a third baseman.

Forget about Emmanuel Clase because the Guardians have the best record in baseball right now.

Chicago’s bullpen doesn’t deserve all the blame but it is a team weak spot. The Cubs need to play better defense and are missing Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki a great deal. Still, Alzolay leads the majors with four blown saves and he hasn’t pitched well in non-save situations either. He’s had just four clean innings this season, three of which have oddly come while pitching with zero days of rest. Maybe he needs more work, but how do you trust him? Let’s break it down:

  • Zero Days Rest: 3.0 IP, one hit, zero home runs, zero runs, four strikeouts, and no walks.
  • One Day of Rest: 2.0 IP, three hits, one home run, one run, no strikeouts, and two walks.
  • Two Days of Rest: 3.1 IP, two hits, one home run, one run, five strikeouts, and no walks
  • More than Two Days of Rest: 4.1 IP, six hits, three home runs, six runs, one strikeout, and two walks.

Those stats tell me that Alzolay needs regular work. In case you’re wondering, he hadn’t pitched for five days until last night’s appearance.

If Counsell doesn’t trust Alzolay, and he probably doesn’t, the Cubs should send the reliever to Iowa with specific instructions to pitch in two of every three or four games. Alzolay needs a routine, though I understand that’s not always possible. That said, Chicago’s relievers are on a usage pace that matches last season when a taxed bullpen led to a September nosedive.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Things got a little testy in Milwaukee yesterday evening. I believe the Brewers have now been involved in three benches-clearing altercations this season.

Central Intelligence

Sacrifice Bunt

The Mets sold 44,269 frankfurters on Seymour Weiner $1 Hot Dog Night. The announced attendance was 22,880. Yes, the 97-year-old Mets fan has heard all the jokes. If you’re still feeling a bit juvenile, José Buttó will take the mound tonight facing Imanaga. By the way, it’s probably a good time to revisit this video.

Climbing the Ladder

“Now I’ve got that feeling once again. I can’t explain you would not understand, this is not how I am.” – Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb

The Cubs are slumping badly, and have hit just .153 in their last four games. There isn’t much else to say.

  • Games Played: 30
  • Record: 18-12 (.600), 1st place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 4-5 (.444)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 1,130
  • Total Strikeouts: 259
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.92%
  • Team Batting Average: .238
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 64-for-235 (.272)
  • Runs Scored: 149
  • Runs Allowed: 135
  • Pythagorean Record: 16-14
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 88.8%, 6.24 chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Mike Trout is heading to the injured list once again. He has a torn meniscus in his left knee and will likely miss at least three months.

The Angels immediately signed outfielder Kevin Pillar as Trout’s replacement.

Tigers RHP Jack Flaherty struck out the first seven Cardinals batters he faced Tuesday, tying an American League record. Flaherty finished the game with 14 strikeouts.

The Astros sent first baseman José Abreu to the minors to work on his hitting struggles.

Last night’s Diamondbacks-Dodgers game was delayed for two hours due to a swarm of bees near home plate.

Beekeeper Matt Hilton was the hero of the day and was rewarded with the ceremonial first pitch once the game started.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Wenceel Pérez – My man is back after torching the Cardinals for two homers and three RBI in the Tigers’ 11-6 nightcap win.
  2. JJ Bleday – The surprising A’s are closing in on a .500 record and Bleday deserves some of the credit. The Oakland center fielder also had a pair of dingers in a 5-2 win over the Pirates.
  3. Victor Caratini – Chicago’s former backup backstop walked it off with a two-run pinch-hit home run, lifting the Astros to a 10-9 win over the Guardians.

Extra Innings

Ernie Banks never complained about his team’s bad luck or bad talent, never stopped playing the game for joy, never stopped giving his all, never lost his proud demeanor, never acted like anything but a winner. He was a symbol of the Cubs’ fans’ diminishing resilience. If he could be happy to come to the park each afternoon, then so could we.” – Joe Mantegna

Wednesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The Bears opened the 2024 draft by selecting Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, grading higher than any of their NFC North opponents.
  2. Gambling is everywhere these days. Now, Dave & Buster’s plans to let adults wager five bucks on some of its iconic games. If you bet on Donkey Kong, always bet on me, but just walk away if you see me anywhere near a Frogger machine.
  3. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is not the invincible juggernaut he once was, thanks in part to accusations of chronic tardiness, excessive budget overages, and, um, pissing in water bottles, among other things.
  4. It’s the same old song and dance when it comes to election years. Democrats fear fascism, Republicans decry a lack of values, everybody points fingers and calls names, and the bigger issues are ignored.
  5. And then, there’s The Onion’s take on politics.
  6. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd plans to resume touring after an eight-year break.

They Said It

  • “You’re always kind of paying attention just because you want good players in the minor leagues. You want guys doing well and kind of force the next decision for the team. I look at it as this is just another possibility. No more, just another possible solution or a choice that we have when unforeseen things happen. That’s really as much as anything how I look at it. Hopefully, we’re close to developing another good option for us.” – Counsell
  • “Something [Counsell] said in the offseason that I thought made a lot of sense was that the health of the organization is in a strong place. That is truly tested when a lot of things go wrong as far as injuries or challenging parts of the year. It speaks to our depth. It speaks to the quality of what we’re doing at the higher levels in the minor leagues to have contributions right away from guys like [Wesneski], Thompson, and Ben Brown. Those guys have impacted us in a huge way. In spring training, we project out these optimal lineups and perfect ways of doing everything. It’s just unfortunately not how our sport works out. It’s been really cool to see everyone respond.” – Nico Hoerner

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Nothing tops this baby when it comes to anti-political music.

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