The Wife is extremely dedicated to getting our “W” flag out as soon as the Cubs game ends. Last night, at a time when she’d usually already be in bed (she’s an early-riser, and we’re Eastern Time), she was dutifully waiting for the conclusion of the laugher so she could go right outside and get the flag up. Well done, dear.
- Last night’s win was plenty of fun for the Cubs, who banged out 17 hits and scored 14 runs, bumping Pirates starter Chad Kuhl’s ERA from 2.60 to 6.63 in the process (un-Kuhl, guys). Those 14 runs put the Cubs up to 103 on the season, suddenly the second highest total in baseball, behind only the Diamondbacks (112, but in two more games played). The Cubs’ .768 OPS is 4th in baseball, and their .348 OBP is right up on top. Huge games can skew the numbers quite a bit here in the early going, but really it was an offensive breakout the entire last week that’s doing it.
- About the only Cub who didn’t break out at the dish last night was Anthony Rizzo (0-4), who’d otherwise been among the hottest hitters in baseball. That snapped a 12-game hitting streak for Rizzo, which was the longest active streak in the game.
- Joe Maddon addressed why he didn’t put Kyle Schwarber in right field at PNC last night (which he’d done in the Wild Card Game in 2015, and also specifically mentioned prepping for that this spring), and it sounds like it was a combination of factors, including the tendencies of Pirates batters in the lineup. For whatever it’s worth, the Pirates put five balls out to right field last night, and just one to left field. So, assuming Maddon favors Zobrist defensively, score one for the Cubs’ scouting and planning.
- Speaking of balls to the outfield, there sure weren’t many of them. Although last night’s starter Brett Anderson had a whole lot of trouble keeping the ball in the strike zone (six walks in six innings in a blowout is fairly galling), he did do an excellent job of keeping the ball down overall, yielding a whopping 11 ground outs to just one fly out in the game. And odd game overall, but ultimately a good one, on the balance.
- As we’ve said for a while now, Anderson’s bread will be buttered if he can keep the ball on the ground – he’ll give up hits, sure, because he’s not going to strike a lot of guys out, but this Cubs infield will convert grounders into outs at a higher rate than most other infields in baseball. And singles that sneak through won’t hurt you nearly as much as extra base hits skied into the outfield. The other other caveat to success, however, has been that he also has to make sure he’s not walking anyone. You can get away being a high-contact, low-strikeout guy, but only if you’re keeping it on the ground and not giving up free baserunners. In that respect, last night’s Anderson start was a mixed bag.
- Anderson did make a nice play on a barehanded snag, though:
- If you noticed that it was bullpen coach Lester Strode handling pitching coach duties last night, that’s because Chris Bosio is away for this and the next series to handle a personal matter (Cubs.com). Hopefully everything will turn out all right, whatever is going on. Henry Blanco will serve as the bullpen coach while Strode does the pitching coach thing. Bosio had been catching some unfair heat in the media recently for comments he made about breakout Brewers slugger Eric Thames, so, if nothing else, time away will get him out of that spotlight.
- Speaking of Thames, he homered twice more yesterday. He’s hitting .373/.481/.910 with a 255 wRC+. My word. That’s tops in baseball, just ahead of the familiar names: Harper, Freeman, Trout … Zimmerman (Ryan), Cozart (Zack), Haniger (Mitch), Suarez (Eugenio)? Ok, so maybe there are still some unexpected names up top at this point in the season. Zimmerman up there would perhaps be the most interesting one, though, given his previous excellent offensive performance, and then his deep decline over the past few years, culminating in a 67 wRC+ last season (yes, lower than Jason Heyward).
- After doubling late in the game last night, Albert Almora gave us a significant GIF gift:
Such a nice young man. pic.twitter.com/hZIMoLjfD7
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 25, 2017
- If you missed it earlier this morning, Luke looked at the (good) struggles of pitching prospects, and David Ross danced in a new boy band.
- Over at Baseball is Fun, Yasiel Puig’s arm is ridiculous and he showed it off again.
- Meanwhile, at our Bears site, you can peruse some final draft rankings that could implicate later-round Bears picks, and also mull rumors that the 49ers are actually considering picking a quarterback at number two, one spot ahead of the Bears (I wrote that one!).
- Hey, if you’re a Dockers person, the Amazon Deal of the Day has you covered, with up to 50% off a bunch of clothes.