Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

american flagA year ago I wrote a Memorial Day introduction for the Daily. I wrote on the importance of baseball as a symbol that persists through American history, both the good and the bad. I wrote on the episodes in which baseball defined our culture and gently led us through the dark days and out the other side. I wrote about the deep connection between baseball and Memorial Day and all that is represented by this proudest of holidays. It was one of my first long editorials in my new capacity as the Minor League Editor for the best Cubs’ blog on the Internet. One year later, I am not sure I can top it.

So I’m not going to try. I’ll simply link back to the full piece and leave you with a quote from the midst of it.

When America plunged into the Great Depression, Lou Gehrig taught the nation about endurance. In the face of Nazism and rampant Antisemitism, baseball offered Hank Greenberg. When the time came for America to join World War Two, many of the game’s best stars joined the ranks and served on nearly every front. As the rest of the nation rallied to support those soldiers with the means of war, some of the game’s unlikeliest heroes embodied the spirit of everyone forced by the march of destiny into filling their changing roles as best they could. At the dawn of the civil rights movement, baseball’s own Jackie Robinson led the way. When many feared that war, corruption, and protests had placed the nation on the brink of anarchy, Rick Monday saved the flag. And in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, baseball once again provided the nation with a symbol, a release.

James Earl Jones said it best in his finest monologue. “This field, this game … It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.”

And it still does. Baseball will always be there to hold up a mirror and show this nation a picture of itself.

Be sure to hug a veteran today.

And now the baseball.

Scores From The Weekend

Friday – Iowa got the weekend off to a good start with a 5-4 win.
Saturday – On Saturday they won again, this time by the final of 7-3.
Sunday – Sunday brought a doubleheader, and the Cubs swept it. Game One ended with a 2-1 Iowa win, and Game Two found the Cubs the 4-3 victors.

Friday – Tennessee played the cleaner game on Friday, but they still lost 6-2.
Saturday – Saturday was little different as the Smokies lost 7-2.
Sunday – They broke through on Sunday, though, with a solid 5-2 win.

Friday – One big inning sunk the Cubs in this 7-3 loss.
Saturday – They bounced back on Saturday with a big inning of their own in this 5-4 win.
Sunday – And then went down again on Sunday in a 5-3 loss.

Kane County
Friday – The Cougars salvaged one game from their series in Peoria with this 8-1 win.
Saturday – And then they kicked off a home series with a doubleheader sweep. The final in Game One was 4-3, and in Game Two they won 7-4.
Sunday – The short winning streak game to an end with this 6-5 loss.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] There was no one hero for Iowa this weekend. The entire offense looks like it is starting to heat up at the same time as the bullpen is turning out a steady steam of consistently good innings.
  • [Iowa] Josh Vitters led the hitting Friday with a solo home run and two walks. Unfortunately he missed the rest of the weekend with soreness in his right side.
  • [Iowa] Although his overall production remains depressed, Logan Watkins enjoyed some bright moments this weekend. A home run and three walks can put a smile on anyone’s weekend.

  • [Iowa] Brian Bogusevic is continuing to hit everything that moves. He posted six more hits this weekend, all singles, and watched his OPS rise to 1.032. He is actually coming back to earth this month, though. His May OPS (.995) is a fair bit lower than his April figure (1.068).
  • [Iowa] The bullpen has been good lately. Casey Coleman tossed 2.2 innings of hitless relief on Saturday for his first save. Blake Parker pitched the seventh (allowing nothing) in Game One on Sunday for his his seventh save. Game Two’s win was credited to reliever Marcus Hatley with Zach Putnam notching his fourth save.
  • [Tennessee] When the Smokies need a win, Eric Jokisch went out and found one. It wasn’t his prettiest performance (5.2 IP, 2R, 7H, 6K) but it got the job done.
  • [Tennessee] Thanks in large part to some great work by the bullpen. Trey McNutt struck out three in an inning of work, Zach Rosscup pitched like… well, like Zach Rosscup, and Frank Batista nailed it down for his sixth save.
  • [Tennessee] Arismendy Alcantara doubled and homered (his seventh) over the weekend while splitting his time between short and second.
  • [Daytona] With three hits (including a double) and two steals, John Andreoli had a huge game on Friday.
  • [Daytona] Jorge Soler hammered another one on Sunday and is up to 7 home runs on the season. He has hit safely in 9 of his last 10 games and has an OPS of .896 over that stretch.
  • [Daytona] Javier Baez has also hit safely in 9 of his last 10 games and has an OPS of .934 over that period. He also has three walks to go with just five strikeouts. His High-A K% is down to a tolerable 25% and falling rapidly.
  • [Daytona] Kyler Burke pitched five scoreless innings on Saturday. He allowed just a single hit to go with two walks and two strikeouts.
  • [Kane County] The highlight of the weekend was Pierce Johnson. The young right hander struck out 8 over 6.2 innings while allowing a single run on 6 hits and 2 walks.
  • [Kane County] And then we have Albert Almora. He only had two extra base hits on the weekend (two doubles, both on Saturday), but that’s all the criticism I can muster. His line through 6 games is a ridiculous .538/.586/.731 with two walks and two strikeouts.
  • [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya hit his first home run of the season on Sunday. After a getting off to a slow start, this guy has really started to hit well lately. His May OPS is up to .798; that is a .230 raise over his April figure. Not bad.

Other News

  • If you are not convinced yet of the importance of the OBP and SLG emphasis of the Cubs front office, look no further than Logan Watkins. While mired in the midst of a slump that has plunged his batting average down to .229, Watkins has kept his OPS a respectable .785. Over his last ten games he is hitting just .206 while compiling an OPS of .800. Imagine when the entire system is full players who have the skill set and mentality that result in this kind of productivity even while slumping. Watkins projects best as a utility player on the biggest stage, but he is also a harbinger of things to come.
  • How good has Alcantara been this year? Prior to this season his career total in HR was 12. He already has 7, equaling his career high from last summer. And it is only May. Last year he stole 25 bases. This year he already has 14. He’s on pace to eclipse his career high by the All-Star break.
  • Ready for another example of the small sample size effect? Albert Almora has a BABIP of .632, a wOBA of .642, and a wRC+ of 299. For real. His SLG of .810 alone makes for a good OPS. These numbers will come back to earth as he gets more games under his belt, but I have to admit that it is fun to look up a prospect and see video game numbers.

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