The Rundown: Cubs Pound 16 Hits in Win, Wesneski Expects Greatness, MLB Salaries Up 11% Since Last Year
Good morning and happy Passover to all those celebrating tonight.
The Cubs are celebrating the return of their offense and have now scored 18 runs in two games. Warmer weather means hotter sticks, and the temperatures in Cincinnati have been downright balmy compared to Wrigley Field over the weekend. Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, and Ian Happ have been holy terrors at the top of the lineup. The trio is 24-for-57 (.421) to start the season and each player is locked in right now.
The Cubs are now batting .273 as a team and are averaging 5.6 runs per game after pasting the Reds 12-5 last night. Those numbers are unsustainable, but they are a welcome sight considering how Chicago’s starters struggled on Sunday and Monday. Drew Smyly looked awful the other night and a taxed bullpen was unable to assist. Jameson Taillon had a mediocre outing in the series finale against the Brewers.
The bats are alive, however, and Chicago is plating runs without relying on the longball. The Cubs had 16 hits last night but only five — all doubles — went for extra bases. Patrick Wisdom leads the club with two homers while Happ and Cody Bellinger have one apiece. Trey Mancini leads the team with five RBI despite batting just .211, and all of his hits have been singles.
More importantly, the Cubs are walking more and striking out less. Chicago’s strikeout rate is down nearly 5% from last season, a trend that is likely to continue. By my count, they’ve also grounded into just three double plays so far this year. That pace would have led the majors last season. The pitching is going to get better, but the Cubs are going to need to hit to win games. Even though you can’t predict a whole lot just one week into the season, the progress is palpable.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hayden Wesneski said his quest for greatness will fuel his 2023 season.
- The Cubs acquired the starter from the Yankees for Scott Effross at last year’s trade deadline and Wesneski has proved since then he belongs in the rotation.
- The rookie hurler’s ceiling is much higher than that of a normal fifth starter, which bodes well for Chicago’s rotation.
- David Ross made some questionable decisions in Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Reds.
- Ross said he understands outside scrutiny is part of the job even if he disagrees.
- The skipper tried to explain his thought process after the loss, which only served to make matters worse.
- Marcus Stroman takes the bump in Cincinnati today hoping to build on the success of his Opening Day start against the Brewers.
- Pitching prospect Ben Leeper got some disheartening injury news but he has a very positive outlook.
- Swanson is off to a historic start as a Cub despite going hitless yesterday.
- Tucker Barnhart is well regarded in Cincinnati and his former Reds teammates described what the Cubs can expect from the catcher.
- The front office has finalized the rosters at each of the team’s minor league affiliates.
- Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel are off to hot starts at Iowa.
Odds & Sods
This is what happens when games exceed 2 hours and 30 minutes these days.
Umpire Rob Drake rang up Trey Mancini on a pitch that missed so badly the pitcher and catcher didn't even try to sell it.#Cubs #Reds @TreyMancini pic.twitter.com/A8GNWX3kvo
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) April 5, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“You don’t waste no time at all. Don’t hear the bell but you answer the call. It comes to you as to us all. We’re just waiting for the hammer to fall.” – Queen, Hammer to Fall
Eric Hosmer was 2-for-5 with two RBI in last night’s win. He’s now batting .294 with four RBI on the season, which should be infuriating to the Hosmer Hate Club. I’ve never understood why any Cubs fans root for a hometown player to fail. I do understand that everybody wants to see Matt Mervis, but he’ll get his chance soon enough. Let me provide another friendly reminder that the Cubs are only paying Hosmer the league minimum salary. He doesn’t even have to be average to earn that paycheck.
- Games Played: 5
- Total Plate Appearances: 198
- Total Strikeouts: 38
- Strikeout Rate: 19.19%
- Team Batting Average: .273
- Runs Scored: 28
- Runs Allowed: 24
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 11.3%
- St. Louis: Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol ripped into Tyler O’Neill for the outfielder’s lack of hustle.
- Milwaukee: The Brewers beat the crap out of Max Scherzer, and Rowdy Tellez was so excited he congratulated Wade Miley on his 100-year anniversary as a big leaguer.
- Pittsburgh: The Pirates haven’t had this much fun in Boston since the first three games of the 1903 World Series.
- Cincinnati: Joey Votto shockingly admitted that he’s not tried Cincinnati chili despite playing for the Reds for 17 seasons. There is no way it’s as spicy as the Cubs’ bats were last night.
How About That!
MLB salaries are up 11% year-over-year and now the major league average is $4.9 million per season.
There is a definite but somewhat noisy relationship between hot/cold starts and how teams finish the season.
Bat boys have been read the riot act by the league. Workers who interfere with the pitch clock could be fired for the offense. I guess that makes Rob Manfred the non-fiction version of Lou from Caddyshack.
MLB also announced it will test another pre-tacked ball in Southern League games.
According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Theo Epstein is happy with the rule changes and their results ($) so far, but the former Cub executive knows there is still work to be done.
Kyle Schwarber hit his 200th career home run in Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees.
Scherzer is the proud owner of a 6.35 ERA through two starts.
The Orioles announced they are calling up top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez.
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the first use of a designated hitter in an AL regular season game. That batter was Ron Blomberg, and the time has certainly flown by.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Wisdom – Three knocks, two doubles, three ribeyes, and he’s hitting .375 on the year. Not to mention three strikeouts in 16 plate appearances (18.75%) make P-Wizzy look like a contact hitter.
- Happ – Happer was 3-for-4 and has a .609 OBP through five games. All that’s missing is a contract extension.
- Mancini – The right fielder also had three hits and three RBI last night.
The top of Chicago’s order is a force to be reckoned with through five games.
Say it with us…
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 5, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- Bears GM Ryan Poles could be holding a lottery ticket in this month’s draft if QB Will Levis and DL3T Jalen Carter are both available when Chicago is on the clock.
- The charges against Donald Trump are no longer sealed. Trump is accused of falsely labeling business records in order to get around campaign finance laws, which could rise from misdemeanor to felony if prosecutors can show that the defendant falsified business records with the intent of committing or concealing a separate crime. The former president pleaded not guilty to 34 total felony counts.
- Legal experts say Trump’s odds of serving jail time are slim-to-none. The odds that it will cost unnecessary tax dollars are therefore a certainty. I wish I could be around in 100 years to see how authors retroactively portray this time in American history as compared with what’s yet to come.
- Chicago has a new mayor and it is progressive candidate Brandon Johnson. He has a tough road ahead. Chicago is dealing with its worst crime rate in history and corporations are leaving the city en masse because of extensive taxes. Johnson initially campaigned on defunding the police but has since walked that back a bit.
- Queen announced their 2023 tour dates with Adam Lambert, said they’re nowhere near a farewell tour, and are discussing a sequel to the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.
- Air, the docudrama by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon about Nike’s pursuit of Michael Jordan in 1984, received less than stellar reviews.
They Said It
- “The calmness with how Dansby goes about playing is so relaxing to me. I don’t have to hold my breath when the throw goes off or if he’s rushing. The ball in the hole — or just the routine play that looks like it’s about to take a funny hop — I’m like, ‘All right, you’re out.’ It feels that way. The shocking moment will be when he makes a mistake.” – Ross
- “I’m not happy with it [my outing]. But I’m not upset with what happened. I threw a bunch of strikes. I gave our team a chance. It didn’t go as planned, but I mean they’re swinging it well. I’m glad I threw a bunch of strikes and I’m glad we got the win.” – Wesneski
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
One of Queen’s more underrated songs.