The Rundown: Assad Impresses, September Baseball Has March Feel, Hoerner Day-to-Day, Trout Mashing
“I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep. I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep. Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life, I love you, all is groovy.” – Simon & Garfunkel, The 59th Street Bridge Song
Getting a good look at fringe players means September games look a lot more like those ones played in early March. You know, the ones in Arizona. For the second straight game, Zach McKinstry and Rafael Ortega were hit machines as the replacement Cubs manhandled the Mets in Gotham. McKinstry and Ortega are probably fighting for spots on next season’s 40-man, and each is playing as if he knows it.
Of the returns the Cubs got at this trade deadline, Zach McKinstry might be one of the more intriguing.
He had a slow start after the trade, but McKinstry has a .926 OPS over the last two weeks, including 4 hits Sunday night and 2 hits with a home run yesterday.
— Jared Wyllys (@jwyllys) September 13, 2022
I know David Ross wants to win as many games as possible, but the Cubs don’t seem that interested in playing the spoiler. Yes, they beat the Mets 5-2 last night. But, September has become sort of a pregame for Spring Training the last two seasons. Maybe Tom Ricketts should have the groundskeepers put berms in the bleachers. At least it would give us something to write about.
One guy who is not playing for a roster spot is Seiya Suzuki. He had two more hits last night, and it’s imperative that Ross gives the rookie outfielder as many at-bats as possible. Suzuki was a bit of a late bloomer this season, but he’s hit three home runs in the last seven games. His OBP and SLG are creeping toward expected levels, but the best thing about his performance last night was that he didn’t strike out.
One guy who may need a breather is Christopher Morel. He was 0-for-3 with three punchouts but it looks as if his bat speed has slowed just a bit. He’s had 447 at-bats between Tennessee and Chicago, easily a career-high. Ross already knows Morel’s capabilities, and there shouldn’t be anything specific for him to work on.
I don’t want to jump into the next section without mentioning pitchers Javier Assad and Brendan Hughes. Both performed well last night and I think Assad could be a replacement for Alec Mills next season. Rotation spots will be scarce, but, keeping him stretched out will allow him to slide in and out of the rotation when needed. Hughes has five saves but doesn’t have that swagger I want to see from a closer. I want a guy who knows he’s going to lock it down as soon he strolls out of the bullpen. I know results matter, but attitude and confidence are equally important.
Cubs News & Notes
- Speaking of Mills, whatever happened to that guy? He’s been out for a long, long time considering he was diagnosed with a lower back strain.
- Assad’s win last night was the first of his big league career.
- Ross loves Nico Hoerner at shortstop, but he made a compelling case for the Cubs to possibly add one of Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner, or Carlos Correa this winter. I always get Nomar Garciaparra-slash-Addison Russell-type anxiety when thinking of marquee shortstops. PTSD is real, man.
- The front office is playing it safe with Hoerner’s injury and they’re taking a cautious approach with Willson Contreras, too. Call me crazy, but I believe Contreras will be playing for the Cubs in 2023.
- Hoerner is considered day-to-day with the tricep injury.
- The successes of Assad and Hayden Wesneski are an indicator of the organization’s pitching development progress ($) according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
- I’ve gotta give Evan Altman credit where credit is due: Sweet Swingin’ Seiya Suzuki? I love it.
- Add McKinstry to the list of veterans (Wade Miley, Drew Smyly) who want to remain with the Cubs after this season.
- It’s amazing that Ricketts feels like this is a successful season just two years after his “biblical losses” remark, especially since Wrigley Field attendance continues to lag.
Odds & Sods
Imagine if Stan Musial had played for the Cubs instead of the Cardinals.
Stan Musial sitting on the edge of the visitor dugout at Wrigley Field pic.twitter.com/lJZnOXdj6C
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) September 8, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m like evil, I get under your skin just like a bomb that’s ready to blow.” – AC/DC, Shoot to Thrill
The Cubs struck out 12 times yesterday evening, but as mentioned, Suzuki didn’t own any of them. McKinstry and Ortega will never be confused for the Bash Brothers, but each went yard against Mets starter Chris Bassitt. He didn’t pitch well last night, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Bassitt playing for the Cubs next year. He and the Mets have a $19 million mutual option for 2023. It might be a tough call for either side.
- Games Played: 141
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,300
- Total Strikeouts: 1,241
- Strikeout Rate: 23.42%
- Team Batting Average: .241
- Runs Scored: 573
- Runs Allowed: 675
How About That!
The White Sox have been down but they’re not out. However, with three weeks left in the season, the road to the playoffs isn’t going to be easy.
Interim manager Miguel Cairo has been a genuine success while Tony La Russa has been sidelined. That bodes well for Cairo’s future as a manager, with the South Siders or somewhere else.
Mike Trout has hit home runs in seven consecutive games. The MLB record is eight. Who’s watching tonight?
Albert Pujols is a good dude. I hope he gets No. 700 this season.
Mark McGwire believes Pujols will reach that historic milestone. He also believes Aaron Judge (213) will eventually pass Barry Bonds (762) on the all-time home run list.
Pujols has been on a historic run for about five weeks.
After years of work and study, Judge is a hitting master coming into his own at the right time.
MLB jumped the gun a bit when they announced the Dodgers had clinched a playoff spot on Sunday. No worries, they won last night, and they’re in – as if any doubt existed.
Here is your magic number tracker as of yesterday’s games.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Ortega | McKinstry – Over the last two games the duo is 10-for-15 with two jacks, five ribeyes, four runs scored, and a stolen base. That’s good.
- Framber Valdez – The Astros starter threw a complete game shutout at the Tigers with eight strikeouts.
- Tyler Anderson – The journeyman starter is now 15-5 for the Dodgers after tossing seven shutout innings at the Diamondbacks Monday evening.
You have to love the guys who want to earn a spot on next year’s squad, and then go out and prove they belong.
Javier Assad earns his first career win! 👏 pic.twitter.com/u1LTzc4mnl
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 13, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Justin Fields gave game balls to Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and GM Ryan Poles after Sunday’s win. There is no doubt the young quarterback is Chicago’s leader on and off the field. In fact, that 30-foot slide after the win proved his teammates will follow him anywhere.
- Cody Whitehair had a lousy game but he’s a solid veteran and is likely to turn things around next week at Green Bay.
- Apple’s iOS 16 dropped for iPhone users yesterday, and once you download the software update you’ll be able to edit an iMessage within 15 minutes of sending it or delete [unsend] one within two minutes. This is a gift from God for people who suck at relationships…like me.
- Joe Biden went deep into the well with his “eradicate cancer” speech, comparing his efforts to the plans of JFK to get astronauts to the moon. He even called it a “cancer moonshot.”
- Streaming services had a good night at the Emmys, with HBO Max’s Succession winning best drama and The White Lotus nabbing the statue for Best Limited Series. The Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso took the top prize for a comedy series. HBO was the night’s biggest winner with 12 total awards.
- If you’re looking for a great documentary, you can’t go wrong with Nancy Buirski’s Desperate Souls, Dark City, And The Legend Of Midnight Cowboy. That is if you can find a place to stream it. I watched an industry copy last night and it’s fantastic. Keep an eye out for distribution once the indie film festival season ends. It’s not a documentary about the making of the classic film Midnight Cowboy. Rather, it’s about cultural ferment and social change in early 1970s New York City.
They Said It
- “The key has been confidence. Just being on the mound, trusting what I have, I’ve developed that confidence, I feel comfortable on the mound and I know I can execute my pitches and get the plays. Thanks to God, the confidence I have on the mound is something that’s translated from the minor-league level to here in the major leagues.” – Assad
- “[Assad] has been really impressive. This is a hostile environment here in New York and they have a really good team. He had some innings that things could have sped up on him, but he continued to make his pitches. He’s been doing that since he’s been here. Feels like he’s under control and in control almost every start he’s had. I can’t think of one where it doesn’t feel like he knows exactly what he wants to do.” – Ross
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
This season moved at a much quicker pace than I expected. I need to get to Wrigley Field one more time.