The Rundown: Smyly Stops Losing Streak, Mervis & Morel Promotions Discussed Daily, Pitch Clock Here to Stay
“Sometimes I think it’s a shame when I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” – Gordon Lightfoot, Sundown
I mentioned last week that the Marlins are a royal pain in the ass, but didn’t think they would sweep the Cubs. Chicago found its elixir with a series-opening 5-1 win over the Nationals. Drew Smyly gets the streak-stopper championship belt for his seven-inning effort Monday night.
Sorry, I missed yesterday but I needed a break after four days of hectic draft coverage over at Bears Insider. Our click rate was 55 times higher this weekend, and yes, I do mean to brag.
Cubs News & Notes
- The sweep at the hands of the Marlins exposed some weaknesses, namely the Cubs’ pitching depth.
- Yan Gomes was hurt and had to leave yesterday’s game, so the Cubs flew catching prospect Miguel Amaya to D.C.
- Gomes was hit in the head by a bat while catching and will be re-evaluated today.
- Luis Torrens was DFA’d by the organization over the weekend.
- The Cubs parted ways with Torrens instead of demoting Nelson Velázquez simply because the red-hot outfielder forced their hands.
- Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel could be close to forcing Chicago’s hands as well, but Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are just trying to find somebody to take the mound on Thursday afternoon.
- In an interview with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Hawkins said he is aware fans want to see the promotions of Mervis and Morel, and the GM promises that the two are discussed daily ($) by members of the front office.
- Cody Bellinger has been Chicago’s best offensive producer and he finished the month of April on a high note.
- Cubs brass has been very impressed with the development of starter Ben Brown. It sure would be nice if he, Jordan Wicks, and Cade Horton were ready for the bigs. Patience, grasshopper.
- Kyle Hendricks is close to returning, and Hayden Wesneski is going to have to step up his game if he wants to remain in the rotation. The rookie hurler takes the bump tonight in D.C. He’ll face old friend Trevor Williams.
- Michael Fulmer is beginning to show flashes of returning to form.
Odds & Sods
I’d say the pitch clock is here to stay, and now I doubt MLB will bother to tweak it. I continue to believe, however, that the league will leverage the shortened games to add at least one more 15 or 30-second commercial between half-innings.
About 8 in 9 baseball fans on Twitter either love @MLB’s pitch clock or like it more since the season started. pic.twitter.com/YQN93ll5DR
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) May 2, 2023
- St. Louis: Longtime Cardinals broadcaster and World Series champ Mike Shannon passed away over the weekend at the age of 83.
- Milwaukee: A series of bad calls by the umpire Adam Beck led to the ejections of Willy Adames and Craig Counsell in the Brewers’ 7-5 win over the Angels on Saturday night.
- Cincinnati: Nick Senzel is the reigning NL Player of the Week, and the Reds outfielder hopes that 2023 will be his breakout season.
- Pittsburgh: The Pirates are very similar to the Cubs, and lead the National League with a 20-9 (.690) record. But is it sustainable? You can make a compelling argument that it is.
Climbing the Ladder
“The morning after blues from my head down to my shoes.” – Lightfoot, Carefree Highway
Despite the weekend skid in South Florida, the Cubs maintained the National League’s second-best run differential and best batting average. Starting pitching has been the culprit lately, but hopefully, Smyly gets the staff untracked. That Miami series certainly turned up the volume on the Mervis and Morel promotions. That said, Caleb Kilian continues to look very pedestrian as a Major Leaguer.
The Cubs have four players with a .900 or better OPS: Bellinger (.962), Patrick Wisdom (.942), Ian Happ (.905), and Velázquez (1.282) who has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball in his 25 PAs. Five of his seven hits have gone for extra bases. By the way, Bellinger is on a pace to hit 41 homers with 29 stolen bases. He’s the comeback player of the year so far, and in NFL parlance, Belli is a bell-cow outfielder.
- Games Played: 28
- Record: 15-13 (.583)
- Total Plate Appearances: 1088
- Total Strikeouts: 232
- Strikeout Rate: 21.32%
- Team Batting Average: .276
- Runs Scored: 152
- Runs Allowed: 104
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 61.0%, 2.3% to win the World Series
How About That!
Bryce Harper is returning tonight after missing just 160 days due to Tommy John surgery.
Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo had his third walk-off hit of the season on Monday and earned a new nickname to boot.
Drew Maggi, the 33-year-old rookie outfielder for the Pirates, got his first major league hit and then was promptly reassigned to the minors.
Baseball’s next unionization efforts could come from the league’s 30 front offices. “We’re not protected at all.”
Early data shows that attendance has increased due to the shortened game times, but surprisingly, food and beverage sales have increased, too.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Sean Murphy – I wish the Cubs had signed him, but Braves fans are probably pretty happy this morning. Murphy hit two three-run homers yesterday. giving him eight taters and 22 ribeyes on the season.
- Jason Heyward – The ex-Cub was 2-for-4 for the Dodgers last night and hit his fourth home run of the season. I’ll still take Bellinger, who has doubled J-Hey’s production.
- Emmanuel Clase – The Guardians closer earned his 10th save of the season in a 3-2 win over the Yankees. I keep saying it, but the Cubs are one legitimate closer away from running away with the NL Central, provided Mervis and Morel are promoted. Bo Bichette went 5-for-5 with a home run and deserved this spot, but closers rarely make the cut, and Clase is equally deserving.
Dansby Swanson is starting to heat up again, and it almost seems like the Cubs win in bunches when he’s hot.
D.C. stands for Dansby Crushes.@LieutenantDans7 pic.twitter.com/0SYuREwrMz
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 2, 2023
Apropos of Nothing
I decided on a new name for my second column, and I had a severe case of writer’s block over the weekend due to this conundrum. The best option I could come up with was “Quick Pitch” because it’s really three truncated storylines. That also jibes with the new pitch clock. I’ll post one late this afternoon, and I’ll go back and update the previous posts.
Also, I may miss some time coming up. I am traveling to Houston in two weeks, and yesterday I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a complication caused by an immune deficiency due to my unhealthy liver. My bone density is rapidly diminishing, and I am starting to lose teeth because of it. What a nightmare.
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Ryan Poles has completely gutted the Bears roster since taking over 15 months ago. Only 13 players remain from the roster he inherited, and at least four of those could be on the bubble this year.
- Chicago signed an interesting developmental quarterback in undrafted free agency. Tyson Bagent holds the NCAA record for career touchdown passes with 159 while playing for Shepherd.
- After failing to reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the Writers Guild of America went on strike at midnight. If that means even more reality TV I’m going back to Little Orphan Annie reruns on my radio. I am actually a member of the WGA and forgot about it. I wrote a pilot for a series called “Magic Bus” that nobody picked up. So, in essence, my work here while my brothers strike makes me a scab.
- The life-changing moment for AI is the “Pope in a Puffer” photo that went viral a month ago. We are going to reach a point where we won’t know “if it’s live or if it’s Memorex.”
- It’s Volcano Awareness Month, and as always, call J.U.L.I.E. before you dig. Also, and as always, celebrate accordingly.
- If the person who invented walkie-talkies also invented forks, would he have called them “stabby-grabbies?” Maybe he also invented tight whities underwear.
They Said It
- “The guys that are up here have been playing well. They’re winning baseball games. They’re in a good place. Does that mean we’re not constantly looking to improve? Of course, we are. [Mervis and Morel] are showing that they should help, so it’s just trying to figure out what’s the right time to make those moves if we make those moves. It’s kind of a daily process just to think through where we are. Some of these things are real easy. Somebody pulls a hamstring, and the next thing you know, a guy pops up. But once you make that decision to take a guy off the team, that’s irreversible.” – Hawkins
- “What’s going on, on Twitter, obviously doesn’t [affect me] because I don’t have it, so I don’t read it.” – Hawkins
Tuesday Morning Walk-Up Song
Haunting each time I hear it.