The BN Blogathon for Make-A-Wish – AND for getting you crazy coverage at this year’s Trade Deadline – is going strong, and I hope you think about chipping in whatever you can. It will put a smile on your face to know that you’ve done some good today.
- As I mentioned yesterday, the loss to the Reds – a blown lead, yielding a series loss to a bad team after a long stretch of ugly baseball – got me down a fair bit. And, as is often the case when I wake up the next day, I feel better. Thanks to another Cardinals loss*, the Cubs’ buffer in the NL Central is still a significant 8.5 games. There is no argument that the Cubs are playing well right now. They’re not. Some of that is the product of issues that should course correct (missing bodies, expected starter regression, lack of situational hitting), but much of it is the product of issues that should rightly make you nervous going forward, the biggest of which is the bullpen. I am comforted by the fact that the front office will not let July come and go without doing everything they can, within reason, to solidify the bullpen. That’s going to mean trying out the internal options they’ve accumulated (Joe Nathan, Brian Matusz, Jack Leathersich, Aaron Crow (though the second two might not be ready until August)), but it will also mean scouring the waiver wire for additional options, and, of course, soliciting trade partners. When it comes to trade leverage, there’s no hiding the ball on this one, unfortunately: the Cubs are a great team, in a position to win, and they’ve got a really dicey bullpen situation that they are not going to permit to derail the entire season. If the Cubs make a deal for a big-time arm in the pen, it’s going to sting.
- Joe Maddon even admitted after the loss that the “bullpen isn’t 100 percent,” and said the Cubs are “experimenting with different things.” (CSN) It’s not good to lose these games right now, but it’s not as if the Cubs are not going to work to address the bullpen issues on the basis of the very things they’re observing during this stretch. So it’s not all for nothing.
- *(Of course, that loss came against the streaking Pirates, who’ve won seven in a row, and are now the team that is immediately behind the Cubs in the NL Central. With their young stud pitchers finally coming up, and with continued health and production from their offensive core, they could easily break out in a big way with a continued hot streak that lasts well into the second half of the season. The Cubs’ lead is significant, but the weekend series in Pittsburgh to close out the first half already feels like it’s going to take on even more importance than it already would have had if the teams hadn’t seemed to be going in opposite directions.)
- About the back of the Cubs’ rotation, I was definitely heartened to see Adam Warren looking like a guy who could, at a minimum, be the team’s 6th starter, and slide into the rotation if there was an injury or prolonged ineffectiveness that necessitates it. You should never take away too much from one outing, but Warren looked a whole lot better yesterday than he did in the ugly two weeks before he was sent to AAA Iowa to stretch out. Warren used five pitches yesterday – four-seamer, sinker, slider, curveball, and changeup – and got 18(!) whiffs in a short outing. That’s crazy good. There’s no other way to describe it.
- It’s possible, by the way, that Warren remains the 6th starter – not just in the depth sense, but in the actually-using-six-starters sense – coming out of the All-Star break. I like the idea of getting pitchers extra rest, though these guys are all creatures of habit, and I honestly don’t know what the impact would be of having them sit five+ days between every start for a long stretch. Maybe the rest would make them even more effective. Maybe it would throw them off. I honestly don’t know. (And maybe it would help the bullpen, too, by keeping them even more well-rested and allowing Joe Maddon to pick his spots better.)
- Among today’s many big deals at Amazon, the entire ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, the extended edition, for just 27 bucks.