That. Was. Awesome.
No, not the past week of Cubs baseball. I refer, of course, to the Season Six finale of ‘Game of Thrones’ last night. I’ll say nothing specific, since I know some folks haven’t been able to watch yet (get on it!), but I will say that, while I was lukewarm on the season as a whole, that finale was one of the best episodes of the entire series. Really, really fantastic in every respect.
And now nine+ months of waiting …
- Ah, but yes, about the Cubs’ week. The Cubs lost again yesterday, capping off a nightmarish 1-6 week of bad results, bad luck, and honest-to-goodness bad performance. The Cubs are banged up, which isn’t helping, but they’re also scuffling at the plate, have made horribly-timed mistakes on the bases and in the field, and haven’t got much of anything from their bullpen this week. It’s all quite a nasty combination, and, while it’s perfectly reasonable to be at ease about the Cubs’ talent (they have loads of it) and division lead (it’s still a lofty 9.0 games), it’s also perfectly reasonable to be concerned about specific issues.
- To that end, Joe Maddon said after the game that the Cubs do need to “firm things up,” and cut out the mistakes on defense and in the bullpen (ESPN). To the latter point, I suspect that could be part of the reason Gerardo Concepcion has apparently been sent back to Iowa. As for the defensive and baserunning miscues, I tend to think they’re just the kind of mistakes that happen from time to time … they’ve just happened when it mattered most this week. Sure, that could be partially due to succumbing to the “bigness” of a moment, but it could also just be a sequencing fluke. When it comes to “true talent”, I think this is a fantastic defensive team and a fantastic baserunning team. I also think the offense will come around, as most of the struggles lately seem to be with runners in scoring position, and we’ve seen it again and again and again – that’s simply something that comes and goes with the tides. It’ll come again. Maybe as soon as this week against the Reds.
- As for the bullpen, however, the concerns are real. It’s unfortunate, given how strong it looked on paper coming into the season – and how good the depth looked behind the main core, too! – but this should surprise no one. Bullpens flake. They just do. So the Cubs will have to figure out how they want to address that issue over the next six weeks, because right now, there’s not a lot of confidence.
- Clayton Richard (blister/fingernail issue) and Tommy La Stella (hamstring) will begin a rehab stint at AAA Iowa today (ESPN). Blister issues can seriously impact pitcher performance, so it’s no inconceivable that Richard’s previous effectiveness could return after some time to heal and then sort things out at Iowa. We’ll see, I suppose. As for La Stella, he might not need that long to get back to game-ready action, at which time the Cubs will have a roster decision – go back to 12 pitchers, or stay at 13 and send someone like Albert Almora or Willson Contreras back to Iowa … or option La Stella, himself, to Iowa. It’s tricky because I don’t see the Cubs sending Contreras out at this point, and Almora is awfully valuable in his own way. I also am not sure the Cubs will want to go with just 12 pitchers during this long stretch with no off-days. (Also, Dexter Fowler is due back in a week, and Jorge Soler could be back soon after that. Things will get complicated.)
- The Pirates pulled off the impossible last night, notching nine hits and two(!) walks off of Clayton Kershaw last night. They scored four runs and beat him. Incredible how incredible that is. Also, it bummed Kershaw’s ERA up to 1.79, which is 0.05 runs higher than Jake Arrieta.
- Speaking of Arrieta, he lost a bet to Tommy La Stella this weekend, which means the Cubs’ ace is gonna have to get some new ink on his body.
- I enjoyed this Five Thirty Eight read on the Cubs’ pitchers, but kept waiting for a great starting pitching stretch to come so that I could share it in context. Since it’s actually been the first long down stretch for Cubs starters all season, that perfect time never really came. So, well, there’s the article.
- This is dumb, baseball’s dumb, you’re dumb, everything’s dumb:
For the 1st time since May 1, the Cubs don’t lead @MLB in wins.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) June 26, 2016
- This is great, baseball’s great, you’re great, everything’s great:
You win, dude. You win. https://t.co/ntupSDwB5D
— Baseball Is Fun (@flippingbats) June 27, 2016
- If you missed anything this weekend, catch yourself up here. Also, Luke had a particularly great quiz in this morning’s Minor League Daily, which absolutely stumped me without question.