The Rundown: Cubs Continue West Coast Roll, Stroman Heads ‘Very Nasty’ Rotation, MLB Experimenting with More Rule Changes
“If you believe in magic, come along with me, we’ll dance until morning ’til there’s just you and me.” – The Lovin’ Spoonful, Do You Believe in Magic?
The Cubs are now 4-1 on their mini-West Coast swing after defeating the Athletics 4-0 Tuesday night. Chicago clinched its fourth straight series win thanks to strong pitching performances by Marcus Stroman and Mark Leiter Jr.
By the way, that’s not a throwaway Lovin’ Spoonful jam. The chord changes on that classic are a little bit ahead of their time. In fact, 1965 may have been the most revolutionary year in the history of music.
Cubs News & Notes
- Few are ready to admit it, but the Cubs are actually pretty good.
- Baseball Insider John Heyman says the Cubs should be thinking playoffs.
- Stroman is leading Chicago’s “very, very nasty rotation” by example.
- Leiter Jr. discussed the origin of his splitter and how he’s become a bullpen weapon.
- All the outs Leiter Jr. recorded in two appearances previous to yesterday were strikeouts, all against lefties, and all on splitters. He also punched out two Oakland batters in an inning of work last night.
- Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic has a nice analysis of Monday’s performance ($) by Hayden Wesneski, including his early season struggles with his slider and what Wesneski did to correct his flaws.
- Ian Happ told Jason Kipnis that the Yankees, Braves, Blue Jays, and Padres were potential 2022 trade destinations while mentioning San Diego’sacquisition of Juan Soto as evidence of their presence in the outfield trade market.
- Kyle Hendricks threw 36 pitches over two innings in a simulated game on April 17 in Arizona and felt “great” afterward, per the club. Manager David Ross said the righty will need to build up to at least three innings before making a rehab start.
- Joe Maddon said the 2016 Cubs “should have stayed together longer.” Why, again?
- Kindly cue “Carless Whisper” by George Michael.
Odds & Sods
Jason Heyward with the non-Web Gem. Oof.
Despite this from Jason Heyward to begin the night, Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter remains on the table. #Dodgers
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) April 19, 2023
- St. Louis: It’s kind of cute that Cardinals fans think they are only one acquisition away from winning the World Series, and that their target is Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres. St. Louis lost last night to fall to 7-11 on the season.
- Milwaukee: The Brewers quintupled their lobbying spending in the past decade, according to filings with the state. Why? The organization wants hundreds of millions in tax-funded stadium improvements and has quietly threatened to relocate if they are denied.
- Cincinnati: The Reds announced 7,375 fans attended the club’s series opener Monday against the Rays. It was the smallest crowd in the 20-year history of Great American Ball Park, including all the games that were capped at 30% capacity at the beginning of the 2021 season due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
- Pittsburgh: PNC Park employees have agreed to a settlement with the Pirates, thus avoiding a strike ahead of Thursday’s home game against the Reds.
Can I just ask why are the Cubs not dominating this division year after year?
Climbing the Ladder
“Turn up the radio, and blast your stereo right now. This joint is fizzlin’, and it’s sizzlin'” – Black Eyed Peas, Pump It
After last night’s performance by Stroman, Cubs starters now lead the National League with a 2.74 ERA. They’re also tops in hits and earned runs allowed. On the offensive side, Chicago leads the senior circuit with 22 stolen bases and is second in batting average and OBP. It’s not like they’ve played strictly patsies like the A’s, either.
Patience at the plate seems to be the key. The Cubs looked at a whopping 195 pitches last night and another 189 in Monday’s 10-1 win. By the way, the home run streak by Patrick Wisdom ended at four games yesterday evening.
- Games Played: 16
- Record: 10-6 (.625)
- Total Plate Appearances: 625
- Total Strikeouts: 134
- Strikeout Rate: 21.44%
- Team Batting Average: .285
- Runs Scored: 87
- Runs Allowed: 58
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 55.1%
How About That!
Baserunners are swiping about 40% more bases compared to the full-year totals of the last nine seasons, according to data from Baseball-Reference.
More rule changes could be coming to a ballpark near you soon. The league announced a series of experimental rules Tuesday that will be used in the Atlantic League this season, including a designated pinch runner, a “double-hook” designated hitter rule, and further limitations on a pitcher’s ability to make pickoff moves.
Rob Manfred also indicated that owners want to set limits on the length of contracts, something the MLBPA won’t approve. There’s nothing like policing yourself after you’ve left your fingerprints all over the crime scene.
The original Yankee Stadium turned 100 years old yesterday, so Shohei Ohtani decided to hit a home run as an anniversary present and a reminder that he’s the greatest two-way player since Babe Ruth.
Spencer Strider has at least nine strikeouts in eight consecutive starts, tying a team record held by John Smoltz.
Once-heralded prospects Jarred Kelenic, MacKenzie Gore, and Geraldo Perdomo have gone from busts to busting out.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Taylor Walls – The Rays second baseman was a double shy of hitting for the cycle on a 4-for-5 night. He also had two home runs and four RBI.
- Clayton Kershaw – Are we calling his outstanding performances “vintage” yet? Kershaw blanked the Mets on three hits over seven innings Tuesday night. He also had nine strikeouts, passing Mickey Lolich for 22nd place on the career list with 2,833 strikeouts. The three-time Cy Young Award winner now has 200 career wins.
- Eduardo Rodríguez – The Tigers southpaw struck out 10 Guardians batters across eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory. Somebody page Jed Hoyer, please, and thank you.
Bellinger over Heyward? Yeah, that’s a nice swap of outfielders so far.
🗣️Belli's a runner he's a track star! pic.twitter.com/oDrqJiWNAR
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 19, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears probably won’t select a wide receiver at the top of next Thursday’s draft after acquiring D.J. Moore from the Panthers, but a deep class could provide some competition for the team’s five incumbents.
- Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who collapsed during a game after cardiac arrest in January, has been cleared to resume playing football.
- This haunting, real-time animation takes you through the entire final three hours of the RMS Titanic.
- For those who can’t stomach a shot of Jeppsen’s Malört, the bitter wormwood cordial has been incorporated into negronis, boozy slushies, and Old-Fashioneds, and you’ll find it plays well with a wider range of base spirits than you’d expect.
- Southwest Airlines temporarily grounded all its flights across the US yesterday after it suffered “intermittent technology issues.”
- The list you don’t need: All 346 Bon Jovi songs ranked worst to best. In case you’re wondering, the Beatles published 188 original pieces and 25 covers.
They Said It
- “I was kinda just like, ‘Wow, this is great. People swing and miss at this.” – Leiter, Jr.
- “Didn’t have the feel. So if you don’t have the feel, you’re not going to use it because it’s just a waste. I probably didn’t throw one slider for a strike in the last two outings. That’s my pitch. I need to have that. It sets everything else up. Yes, I threw it more today because I actually had feel for it today. I know it’s my best pitch. To get ahead, to put away, it doesn’t matter, I need to be able to set all my other pitches up with that one.” – Wesneski
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Don’t ask. I woke up with this song on my mind for some reason. It must be because MC Hammer used to be a bat boy for the A’s.