cubs win standings flags scoreboardBusy, busy day on tap, and a busy, busy week. Candidly, I just hope the Cubs win a couple games early this week to help folks have a little better attitude (including my own). It’s easier to get excited about long days of rumor-mongering and transaction-following when the Cubs are playing well. Or even just not playing abysmal.

Hopefully they can take some from the Rockies, starting today.

  • Speaking of the abysmal. Here’s the thing about that Phillies series: I could totally sit here and explain to you all of the reasons that we shouldn’t take too much away from it. The Cubs nearly won on Friday, and it took two bullpen blips to lose. The Cubs lost on Saturday because one of the best pitchers in baseball no-hit them. What are you gonna do? And then yesterday, the Cubs actually scored some runs, but the pitching and defense weren’t there. That happens. See? I can explain it away as just one of those things that happens in the course of a very long season.
  • However, I wouldn’t be doing you a full and complete service if I didn’t discuss the flip-side: sure, it’s a thing that can happen, but it was a really, really bad thing to happen. Losing three in a row when you’re in the heat of a playoff race is bad enough, but when you lose those three to an extremely beatable opponent at home? When we talk about playoff odds and projections, those are the kinds of games that go into those projections as wins (or at least 66.67% wins). So losing them hurts. A lot. Consider that the Cubs entered into the weekend series with a 65% shot at the the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. That was already down from 75% in early July (the Cubs’ high for the year), as the Cubs were lumbering through a rough patch headingĀ into the Phillies series. Now? Having lost those three games? The Cubs’ playoff odds at FanGraphs are down to 42.7%. At BP, they’re down to 43.1%. That series against the Phillies, when put into context, was even more awful than you may have thought. The series provided more information – bad information – and took projected wins and converted them to actual losses.
  • (It didn’t help that the Giants took care of business, sweeping away the A’s.)
  • None of this is designed to embolden the irrationally negative among you. The Cubs do still have a solid chance at the playoffs (by the projections or just by your own dispassionate analysis of the teams). But no one – including the front office as it considers the week ahead – should sleep on just how seriously damaging that series was. Sorry, my friends. It was really, really bad.
  • Of his ugly start yesterday – which he called “garbage” – Jason Hammel said that he didn’t stick to the game plan and left too many balls up in the zone (CSN). The latter was visible to the observer, and frankly, you hope it was just a random garbage performance where the location was off. The alternative explanation – that Hammel is still feeling the effects of his hamstring injury and it’s making him a dramatically worse pitcher – is terrifying. His velocity, for what it’s worth, has been slightly down these last two starts.
  • Joe Maddon knows how much people want to see Kyle Schwarber in there more regularly (he did get an inning in left field yesterday in the blowout), but he reminds folks to consider the possibility that Schwarber is playing so well in part because of how he’s being utilized (CSN). Today lines up as a “Schwarber day” with Kyle Hendricks on the mound, though the Cubs are facing a lefty in Jorge De La Rosa. I actually wouldn’t hate seeing David Ross out there to start today. I know, I know. I’m awful.
  • Ross talks about the pick-me-up he provided the team in the 9th inning yesterday.
  • The Cubs have a TBA in their rotation tomorrow, but it looks like it will probably be Dallas Beeler filling in again, hopefully more successfully than last week in Cincinnati. And, I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’: