In a season Jed Hoyer described as a “period of transition,” the 2021 Cubs are doing everything they can to make the decision to transition painful.
Despite a mountain of injuries, these Cubs just keep stepping up. From Tommy Nance to Rafael Ortega to Patrick Wisdom, guys who weren’t on anyone’s radar three weeks ago keep playing hero and the Cubs continue their winning ways.
Who stood out over the last week? Let’s dig in.
Ryan Tepera‘s chances of getting an intentional MVP vote: In last week’s edition of Tuesday Trends, the entire bullpen was recognized for their impressive scoreless streak. While the group’s scoreless streak has been broken, veteran reliever Tepera’s has not. He hasn’t given up a run in his last 10 appearances, over which time he’s only given upon a single hit.
His successful tightrope stroll against St. Louis from last week stands out, but Tepera has been outstanding all season. He is striking out 10.58 per nine innings while walking only 1.82, which has played no small part in his 2.55 ERA and 2.67 FIP for the season. Craig Kimbrel has been undeniably elite, but Tepera very well might have a hold on the title of the ‘pen’s second most effective reliever.
Javy Báez‘s Contract Value: Don’t look now, but El Mago is on a tear. After capping off last week with a game-winning home run in St. Louis, he hit a pair of home runs against the visiting San Diego Padres on Monday, including this absolute blast that gave the Cubs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Over his last 15 games, Javy is slashing .271/.295/.542. You’d certainly like that OBP to be higher, but with that kind of power and elite defense at a premium position, you can live with it.
Kris Bryant‘s Quiet Excellence: It is remarkable how unremarkable Bryant can seem while being exceptional. Some players’ excellence is flashy and it stands out. For all his success, the best version of KB can sometimes fade into the background and become, dare I say, boring.
Boring or not, Bryant continues to be the Cubs best player and one of the very best players in baseball. He is slashing .324/.406/.611 with a 176 wRC+ and if he keeps up this pace (and stays healthy) it would be the best year of his career by a fairly wide margin.
Feels like a player you should lock up long term.
Eric Sogard‘s effectiveness despite increased playing time: Sogard was brought into the fold because he has an easily observable and definable skill that the Cubs’ lacked: making contact. He’s largely done that, but it hasn’t yielded positive results.
Due to the team’s plethora of injuries of late, Sogard’s playing time has increased significantly and it hasn’t gone well. The veteran was slashing .211/.286/.263 over the last seven games leading into Monday’s Memorial Day contest against San Diego and, due to all of those injuries, he’s likely to keep getting starts anyway.
The Cubs don’t exactly have any other options, but that bat is really not going to cut it.
The Cubs’ Roster Flexibility: The injuries continue to pile up and with them, the Cubs’ ability to be flexible with their roster is taking a dive. There is some thought that Anthony Rizzo would have been placed on the IL if not for the fact that an adjustment would have needed to be made to the 40-man roster to bring up anyone in his place.
The Cubs were forced to do just that when David Bote went down with a dislocated shoulder. Because Bote unambiguously needed to be IL’d, pitcher Tyson Miller became a collateral casualty and was designated for assignment.
That the Cubs continue to win despite their injury woes is a positive reflection on the group and on manager David Ross. Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Jake Marisnick, and Matt Duffy all could return in the relatively near future and, if the Cubs hope to continue their winning ways, they can’t come back soon enough.