The Rundown: Summing Up Season-Opening Series, Swanson’s Swell Start, Steele Strong Saturday
“Regrets collect like old friends here to relive your darkest moments. I can see no way, I can see no way, and all of the ghouls come out to play.” – Florence & The Machine, Shake it Out
I can sum up the season-opening series against the Brewers in a few bullet points if you don’t mind. The caveat, of course, is that sample sizes are small.
- I’d rather not see Javier Assad working in relief. The box score looks a lot worse than his Saturday performance, but Assad should start. Let Drew Smyly work as a swingman.
- It seems the Cubs have better major league-ready players at Iowa than Chicago, namely Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel. The Cubs went with Luis Torrens at DH on Sunday with Trey Mancini filling in at first base. Eric Hosmer took a seat on the bench and then David Ross pinch-hit Miles Mastrobuoni for Torrens late in the game. If that’s going to be Rossy’s Sunday lineup, the Cubs are going to lose every Sunday.
- I can’t wait for Seiya Suzuki to be healthy. Patrick Wisdom is Chicago’s only source of power.
- You’ve got to be impressed that Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele outpitched Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Milwaukee sportswriters blamed the cold conditions, but come on, both teams arrived in Chicago from Arizona, so that’s some weak sauce. Burnes is a better pitcher, but he sucked on Thursday.
- Julian Merryweather had one of the worst Cub debuts I’ve ever seen. The bullpen had an embarrassing weekend all around and Chicago could have won at least two of the three games had their relievers pitched better.
- The Cubs need to find a left-handed reliever. I think Ross is frustrated by the limited bullpen options he has at present.
- That said, Adbert Alzolay was electric for two innings yesterday. Let’s hope he can stay healthy. He threw 15 of 22 pitches for strikes and punched out three Brewers in two innings of work.
- Dansby Swanson is the real deal, offensively and defensively.
- I don’t like Chicago’s roster construction right now. It seems like it’s going to be difficult for the team to mesh, and the best of the depth pieces are in the minors. I fully understand the value of getting regular at-bats, but if that’s the case, start Mervis and put Hosmer on the bench. Morel should be in the big leagues as a rotational player and if that means trading Ian Happ, then just do it now. It seems obvious that the switch-hitting left fielder is not getting a contract extension.
If I’m a cup-half-full guy, the opening series wasn’t as bad as it looked. On the flip side, the Cubs aren’t rostering the best club they can. It’s maddening because the front office should be fielding the team that gives Chicago its best opportunity to win ball games. Perhaps things will look better after the upcoming series with the Reds. Still, I’ve seen enough of Matsrobuoni and Merryweather. The Cubs have three minesweepers at catcher in Torrens, Yan Gomes, and Tucker Barnhart, and battleships in Mervis and Morel at Iowa.
Cubs News & Notes
- Suzuki should start taking game at-bats on a rehab assignment sometime this week. Brandon Hughes is expected to throw live batting practice, and Kyle Hendricks should also start facing hitters in the near future.
- Chicago’s bats have been ice cold to start the season, other than Swanson and Wisdom, of course.
- Wisdom has feasted on Milwaukee pitching throughout his career.
- Swanson had six hits in his first two games with his new team, the most by a newcomer shortstop in his first two games with a new club since 1920, according to Marquee’s broadcast.
- Chicago’s rotation flexed its depth in the Milwaukee series, though the entire staff struggled with free passes.
- The Cubs still see Morel as part of their long-term plans.
- Smyly will start tonight’s game against the Reds. Hayden Wesneski will pitch on Tuesday and Stroman will toe the slab in Wednesday’s finale. Cincinnati started its season by taking two of three from the Pirates.
- Steele picked up right where he left off last season. He was dominant across six innings.
- Jameson Taillon wasn’t quite as successful and struggled against the Brewers on Sunday, however.
- Jordan Miller has finished his in-depth look at Chicago’s farm system and posted his top 20 prospects for this year.
- Arizona Phil said Jackson Ferris has unbelievable stuff and was nearly unhittable in a recent BP session.
Odds & Sods
Perhaps it’s sacrilege to say, but I think I prefer Swanson to Javier Báez.
El Mago oh my pic.twitter.com/sqmlc6Tqzo
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 2, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“A chill and a fever, so I’ve been told makes your head spin around and your feet run cold. I got a fever, yeah.” – Jack White, I’m Shakin’
Swanson is 7-for-12 to start the season and has played outstanding defense. He had a tough spring but played much better toward the end of the Cactus League season. The shortstop is notoriously streaky and should have another good series in Cincinnati.
I’m a little surprised that the Cubs had just two stolen base attempts in the Milwaukee series, however. Without Suzuki, and with Mervis in the minors, the Cubs need to manufacture runs. There aren’t many threats on the team outside of Nico Hoerner. Swanson stole 18 bags in 2022, but that was nearly double his previous high.
- Games Played: 3
- Total Plate Appearances: 105
- Total Strikeouts: 23
- Strikeout Rate: 21.9%
- Team Batting Average: .213
- Runs Scored: 10
- Runs Allowed: 12
- St. Louis: The Cardinals are already looking at ways of improving their rotation and could target Lance Lynn of the White Sox.
- Milwaukee: Joey Wiemer made his major league debut over the weekend. He is the Brewers’ No. 3 prospect behind Jackson Chourio and Sal Frelick.
- Cincinnati: Trading Barnhart to the Tigers last year was the first of several cost-cutting measures by the Reds, though the catcher holds no ill will toward the organization.
- Pittsburgh: Extension talks between the Pirates and outfielder Bryan Reynolds have stalled because Reynolds reportedly wants an opt-out clause.
How About That!
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are closing in on 3,000 strikeouts. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are the only active pitchers on that list.
Tim Herrin of the Guardians became the first pitcher since 1893 to face at least four hitters and strike them all out in his Major League debut.
Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani hit back-to-back home runs on Sunday.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Jeffrey Springs – The Tampa Bay lefty was pulled after six innings yesterday despite pitching a perfect game. He had 12 strikeouts in six innings as the Rays beat the Tigers 5-1.
- Joey Gallo – One way to beat the “Gallo Shift” is to put the baseball in the stands. The slugging first baseman led the Twins to a 7-4 win over the Royals with two taters on a 3-for-4 afternoon.
- Kodai Senga – The Mets starter struck out eight Marlins batters in his major league debut, wearing a “ghost glove” while doing so.
Nice 2-inning outing from Adbert Alzolay. Touched 97 mph. Ended the 9th with this strikeout of Christian Yelich. pic.twitter.com/G5fPwZB5xC
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 2, 2023
They Said It
- “Of course, there’s a level of frustration that you think about when I look back on the deals we didn’t get done. You look back on — not so much how much money we offered — because that part I feel really good about. But you think about: When did we start the negotiations? How did we conduct it? You try to be as introspective as possible. All that said, I don’t think you can overreact and push something that you don’t believe in, or you don’t think is the right thing for the club. I was glad we got to a good place with Nico. We weren’t [able to] with Ian, but that doesn’t preclude us in the future from doing that.” – Jed Hoyer
- “Our bench is as deep as it’s been here for me. I think we’ve got real players that we can plug and play in different scenarios that are really gonna help us out this year. I feel like it’s a deeper team as far as some of the guys that are gonna be coming off the bench at times or getting starts here and there.” – Ross
Monday Walk-Up Song
The more I listen to the Beach Boys, the more I understand the genius of Brian Wilson. He wrote this song, based on a traditional folk song, in 24 hours.