After last night’s fun win, I was in the mood to treat myself to some more viewing, so I decided to re-watch the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, which I’d tried to watch on Sunday at the same time I was watching the Cubs/Giants game. Upon re-watching, it was quite clear that my focus on Sunday was with the Cubs (and that frustrating loss), because I totally undersold the execution of the climactic scenes in the episode. I remember thinking it was really clumsily done, but it totally wasn’t.
And I should have known better anyway, because the episode was directed by Jack Bender, who is well known for being one of the most prolific directors on ‘LOST.’
- Jorge Soler walked twice last night, singled, and homered. A tough play in left that he couldn’t make is what too many people will focus on, but the guy is in the middle of a sizzling stretch (which, incidentally, has also included some nice plays in left field): he has appeared in each of the Cubs’ last seven games, starting the last six, and has hit .333/.462/.714 in the process (213 wRC+). It’s been enough to lift his season line from the frightening lows it had reached, all the way up to .206/.304/.355 (80 wRC+). Still not where you want the overall production to be from a guy who’ll have to be a bat-first left fielder, but trending very well.
- Also, consider this: Soler’s walk rate is way up this year (7.9% last year to 11.2% this year). Soler’s strikeout rate is way down (30.0% to 24.0%). Soler’s ISO is up (.137 to .150). The only thing that’s dragging down his production this year is a .240 BABIP, which I suspect is a good 80+ points below where his true talent level should be (a guy who hits it as hard as he does is going to be a .320+ true talent BABIP guy – that doesn’t mean he’ll always be there, I just suspect that’s about his mean). He has had legitimate struggles this year, and I don’t want to entirely sweep that under the rug. His pitch recognition still needs work. HOWEVER, there’s a ton to like about what he’s done this year, and a whole lot of the down results are probably flukey. Stick with him!
- Jason Heyward didn’t get in on the offensive fun last night, but it was still good to see him back in the lineup. As long as the wrist issue is not hampering his ability to swing the bat right now, he will get on track offensively. Eventually. And, as for where he slotted into the lineup, it sounds like Joe Maddon really likes having Ben Zobrist hitting behind Anthony Rizzo in the 5-hole, so having Heyward back, in Maddon’s mind, allows that to happen (Cubs.com). Heyward, by the way, did say he felt a little sore after the game, but that’s to be expected for now (Tribune).
- Hey: good on Joe Maddon for challenging a “meaningless” Addison Russell groundout in the 9th inning of what was then an 8-1 game. The call was overturned, and Russell was credited with a hustle infield single (well, I mean, that’s not the official statistical designation – but that’s what it was). The Cubs went on to score four runs after that, and, if they hadn’t, that bottom of the 9th – when the Cardinals scored two and then loaded the bases – would have looked a lot thornier, and probably would have required the Cubs to get their late-inning relievers up and into the game. But, not only that, it was a moment for Maddon to get his guy a hit – a guy who has been struggling, and who busted his butt down the line in an 8-1 game.
- Credit where it’s due: that Aledmys Diaz catch on Anthony Rizzo’s blooper was really ridiculous (clearly, from that write-up, Michael is still a little salty – MOAR RUNS, I guess). So much ground to cover at full speed, and then a nearly blind swipe to get the ball.
- Fans think very highly of the Chicago Cubs’ TV broadcasting crew, Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. They ranked 4th in baseball in fan polling at FanGraphs, scoring well in both charisma and analysis. I’ve said it before, and it should be no surprise around here, but Cubs fans are very lucky to have a pair of broadcasters who are both as interested in understanding and explaining the game from a variety of angles – including, to the extent reasonably practicable in a broadcast for a wide audience, advanced analytics.
- You must read Ken Rosenthal’s profile on Cubs minor league consultant Mike Roberts, who lost his wife earlier this year, and about how the Cubs’ organization became his family. Incredible read. Tough to get through without several pauses to steady yourself, but worth it.
- A fun interview with Kris Bryant about off-the-field stuff, including his dream of watching a game at Wrigley Field from the bleachers – obviously that can’t happen any time soon, but when it does, I’ll save him a seat.
- A couple great Deal-of-the-Day situations at Amazon today, with a big sale on a bunch of luggage, and also 33% off of the Dremel rotary tool.
- Things are getting really ugly in New York for Matt Harvey, whose latest start against the Nationals (after much discussion about whether he’d even make it) was a disaster. He didn’t talk to the media after, and there is a bit of a feeding frenzy in New York about that. No one knows what’s wrong with Harvey, since there is insistence from all corners that he’s physically fine – but every number you can find on him, including his velocity, especially later in games, is far worse than last year, his first back after Tommy John surgery. In last night’s start, he got four swinging strikes. That’s it. And just one of those four came on his 59 fastballs. For a guy with a huge fastball and nasty breaking stuff (at least he had it), that’s mind-bogglingly low. As a baseball fan, I remember how incredible it was to watch Harvey pre-TJS, and then late last year. Seeing how flat-out bad and hittable he has been this year is really strange and kinda disappointing.
- Brace yourself for cuteness impact:
248 dogs at Dog Days. Willson Contreras greets dogs in pre-game parade, homers in game. Next Dog Days: August 9 pic.twitter.com/Kk23gpE7Hw
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) May 25, 2016
- That’s cool:
— Amanda Kaschube (@amandakaschube) May 25, 2016
- If you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out Jed Hoyer’s comments on a range of topics, as well as our discussion of the Cubs’ potential future pitching needs and the possibility of trading for some.
- Earlier today: the farm system blew up, and Justin Grimm made a beauty of a snag.
- A reminder for the socially-inclined among you – I am on Snapchat (bnbrett), which you may enjoy: add me.