The Rundown: Cubs Lay Early Easter Egg in Pittsburgh, Hendricks Struggles, Wisdom Slumping Badly, Kershaw Exits Perfect Game
“When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead, and the White Knight is talking backward and the Red Queen’s ‘Off with her head!'” – Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit
There’s no need to adjust your television sets, yesterday’s 6-2 loss to the Pirates may just have given you a hallucinogenic flashback to 2020 and ’21. The Cubs lost all sense of timely hitting and Kyle Hendricks had one of those pedestrian outings that let thoughts creep into your subconscious that maybe his best years are behind him. The one positive this morning is that our boys in blue have a shot to get their licks in against the Rockies tonight in Colorado. Expect a lot of social media chatter about Kris Bryant, naturally, but I’d rather see Patrick Wisdom break out of his season-opening slump.
David Ross has been tinkering with his lineup a bit, mostly at the No. 2 slot, but I need to say this if no one else will: Rafael Ortega is no leadoff man. Put Nick Madrigal or Nico Hoerner at the top of the order and let Willson Contreras bat second, then follow those two with Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ. Frank Schwindel would make a fine No. 5 hitter, but things get a little iffy after that. The main culprit is Wisdom, who could be trying so hard not to strike out that it’s sapping his power and bat speed.
I don’t have a problem with the third baseman striking out 40% of the time if he’s going to hit 40 home runs. The lone legitimate power threat in Chicago’s lineup looks all sixes and nines through five games. I don’t know if Jonathan Villar is a threat to start taking PT away from P-Wizzy, but it’s certainly worth considering, especially since Villar is a switch-hitter. The bottom of the order could be Clint Frazier, whoever is platooning between Ortega and Jason Heyward, and the odd man out between Hoerner and Madrigal.
Yes, it’s still too early to look for offensive solutions to what could be nothing more than an anomaly because a lot of guys are still adjusting after a short Cactus League schedule. I subscribe to the theory of giving a guy 100 at-bats to get a good idea of his role going forward, but when you lose to the worst Pirates team in decades, it’s hard not to press the panic button. The six hits the Cubs were able to muster against Pittsburgh aren’t making it any easier to pause, breathe deeply, and let things play out.
As far as Hendricks, outings like yesterday’s are a legitimate cause for concern. When he can’t locate his pitches, he takes a beating. That’s understandable given his lack of velocity, but it wasn’t the case earlier in his career when a mistake or two led to a weak worm-burner or Texas Leaguer. When the Professor misses these days, baseballs leave the stadium.
I’m sure Hendricks will watch the tape, make an adjustment here or there, and then be back to his old self. Giving up four walks is not something we see very often when he takes the mound. Walking the light-hitting Yoshi Tsutsugo before giving up a three-run bomb to Ben Gamel is about as off-putting as it gets when Hendricks is pitching, so let’s hope he turns it around when he faces the Rays on Monday night.
Cubs News & Notes
- Contreras said he is expecting no surprises when he faces the Cubs in his arbitration hearing on June 9.
- The catcher hit a mammoth 453-foot home run in yesterday’s loss.
- Contreras had a little bit of fun when he picked Daniel Vogelbach off of second base Wednesday.
- Vogelbach may be surprisingly photogenic, but don’t expect GQ or Esquire to come calling anytime soon. Maybe Landscaper’s Digest.
- Even though Hendricks couldn’t get through the 4th inning in yesterday’s loss, the Cubs bullpen remains well-rested.
- These seven under-the-radar veterans could play a big part in the success or failure of this year’s team.
- Despite a stunning series victory over the Brewers to start the season, the Cubs sit at No. 20 in ESPN’s first power rankings of the regular season.
- The Cubs signed three more international free agents yesterday.
Odds & Sods
For those who have been to a game where the Phillies are playing, this is expected fan behavior and a little funny, actually. We’ve all wished we had the stones to do something similar at least once. Back in 2008, a Phillies fan threw a mustard-loaded hot dog at me, at Wrigley Field no less, just because he didn’t like my Ryne Sandberg jersey.
Phillies fan LAUNCHES Mets fan’s phone (via @philly_captain) pic.twitter.com/JO57ePNmbL
— Crossing Broad (@CrossingBroad) April 14, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“You say you’re looking for someone who’ll pick you up each time you fall.” – Bob Dylan, It Ain’t Me Babe
The Cubs avoided double-digit strikeouts again, and though that’s a nice change from last season, they still need to bring that rate down just a little bit. Six of those punchouts came with runners on base, however. The bottom line of yesterday’s loss is that no Cub seemed willing to pick up a fallen teammate, a big change from the previous four games.
Happ didn’t have a hit yesterday, but he did walk, extending his streak of getting on base to 32 games.
- Games Played: 5
- Total Plate Appearances: 184
- Total Strikeouts: 46
- Strikeout Rate: 25%
- Team Batting Average: .231
MLB News & Notes
Giants manager Gabe Kapler is the hero we need in the fight against baseball’s silly unwritten rules.
Brewers ace Corbin Burnes bought drinks for everybody at Leff’s Lucky Town, one of my favorite Wauwatosa watering holes, to celebrate the home opener against the Cardinals and to thank the fans who supported him during last year’s Cy Young campaign.
A’s fans are loving relief pitcher Domingo Acevedo, the ex-Yankees prospect who signed a minor league contract with Oakland before last season.
Reigning AL and NL MVPs Shohei Ohtani and Bryce Harper did not play postseason baseball in 2021, but their chances look a little more optimistic this year.
The Yankees lead all MLB valuations at $7 billion, tops across all American major sports leagues.
Guardians phenom Steven Kwan swung at a pitch and missed yesterday, the first time that has happened this season.
In case you missed it the modernization of baseball is underway, with more radical changes still to come.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Clayton Kershaw – The Dodgers ace was pulled from yesterday’s tilt against the Twins after 80 pitches with a perfect game still intact. Kershaw had 13 strikeouts to boot. I don’t know who was available in the bullpen, but one would think manager Dave Roberts had better options than Alex Vesia and Justin Bruihl to close out that perfecto.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – The young Blue Jays star is a Triple Crown candidate and had a 4-for-4 day with three home runs and four RBI. That’s earning your paycheck.
- Pete Alonso – The man-child first baseman led the Mets to a 9-6 win over the Phillies with five RBI on 3-for-5 night.
The first Jackie Robinson NFT collection, commemorating his 75th anniversary of breaking baseball’s color barrier, goes on sale today with Candy Digital announcing that 100% of net proceeds will benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship program.
100 limited edition @CandyDigital Jackie Robinson silver busts ($250/ea) just sold out in a matter of seconds ⏱️
Congrats to all who grabbed one!#mlb #nft #baseball pic.twitter.com/YYRfsIYmQa
— Talkin’ Candy (@talkincandynft) April 14, 2022
They Said It
- “It’s just trying to find that timing. Nothing’s looking the same, everything’s looking different coming out of your hand. It’s not tracking, it’s not on the right lines. So you’re trying to find it — find your timing, focus on the glove, get the ball down, that kind of thing. But everything was up. Nothing was playing off of each other.” – Hendricks
- “There’s nothing [in arbitration] that’s going to surprise me, believe me. I’ve been going through a lot of [criticism] since I was in the minor leagues and everything they have to say I’ve already heard it. It doesn’t bother me.” – Contreras
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Don’t Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Best to just toss Wednesday’s game in the dung pile and move on.