Although the Cubs have had their fair share of struggles this season, this team feels wholly different from the 2017 version already, right? Consider that after their five-game skid (which was really just one part of a much longer offensive slump), they bounced back to win another five and now stand at a perfectly respectable 21-16.
By comparison, the 2017 Cubs weren’t five games over .500 until they were 51-46 on July 23! This year’s team has also dealt with a relatively large number of significant injury-issues (Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Jason Heyward have all gone down), so I think it’s pretty easy to feel better than we did last season – even if the Cubs are “in fourth place.”
- One team that might not be feeling as good right now is the Los Angels Dodgers – a.k.a. the National League’s overwhelming preseason favorites. After starting the year out at 16-20, the Dodgers were probably dying to get to their four-game home series against the NL-worst Cincinnati Reds … but it didn’t go as planned. The Reds swept the Dodgers over four games, outscoring them 20-9, and pushing the Dodgers’ record to 16-24. Yikes.
- To be fair, the Dodgers have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries this season (Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu), but on the other hand, banked loses are banked loses and there’s no guarantee it’s gonna let it up. In fact, it could still get worse:
Roberts said Hill was removed with a blister. “It’s something we’re going to monitor.” Didn’t rule him out of a Saturday start next week.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) May 13, 2018
- Given their start, all the injuries, and the potential loss of Rich Hill (he’s dealt with blister issues in the past and they did not resolve themselves quickly). You have to wonder if they’ll be able to get back into this thing. According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers’ odds of winning their division now sit at just 33.4% (below the Diamondbacks (40.2%)), and their chances of making the playoffs are less than 50/50. Make no mistake, this start has officially hurt.
- I’m not sure how much longer the Cardinals are going to pretend that Adam Wainwright is still a good/healthy/usable starting pitcher, but so far, they haven’t given up. In his second return from the disabled list already this season, Wainwright lasted just 2.1 IP, all0wing six walks, three hits, and two runs in the process. After being removed, Wainwright explained that he wasn’t feeling 100% on the mound, so he’ll now be reevaluated in St. Louis and is expected to miss his next start. Given how many quality young starting pitchers they have in that organization, I’m surprised they keep rolling with Wainwright. Well, not so much surprised as thrilled. With Jack Flaherty coming along and Alex Reyes soon to return from Tommy John rehab, though, the Cardinals might finally change things up for good.
- Josh Harrison, who broke his left hand on a hit by pitch almost exactly a month ago, is beginning his Minor League rehab assignment. It’s not clear how long he’ll need – it really just depends on the hitter – but you can probably expect him back within the next two weeks – which could be just in time for the Cubs/Pirates seres at the end of the month.
- Brewers rookie Freddy Peralta – filling in the rotation – debuted against the Rockies yesterday, striking out 13 batters and walking just 2 over 5.2 IP:
Welcome to the Crew, Freddy Peralta. pic.twitter.com/QDMWvlkUbD
— MLB (@MLB) May 13, 2018
- According to MLB.com, he became the first pitcher to log double-digit strikeouts in his first Major League start since Matt Harvey (2012) and struck out more batter than anyone since Stephen Strasburg (14 in his 2010 debut). The Brewers have also sustained a ton of injuries this season, but they have dealt with it better than most.
Freddy Peralta is the fifth pitcher since 1908 to strike out 13+ in his Major League debut.
Freddy Peralta 13, 2018
Stephen Strasburg 14, 2010
J.R. Richard 15, 1971
Karl Spooner 15, 1954
Cliff Melton 13, 1937
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) May 13, 2018
- Big surprise: baseball’s modest pace-of-play initiatives this season (most notably, mound visit limitations) have not had much of an effect. Travis Sawchik dives deeper at FanGraphs and gives his opinion on pace.
- If you’re going to read just one of these external links today, make it Jeff Passan’s discussion of Mike Trout versus Mookie Betts. Both guys are having absolutely ridiculous starts to the 2018 season, so picking which one has been better is a nuanced, fun debate (and I think Passan does a very good job differentiating the difference between the best player and the player playing the best).
- The San Diego Padres have designated Chase Headley for assignment, which means the have seven days to trade, waive, or release him. And given that the 34-year-old Headley has hit .115/.233/.135 over 60 plate appearances this year and the fact that former Cub prospect Christian Villanueva has burst onto the scene at third, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him released at the end of all of this, and then picked up by a team looking for a veteran presence on the cheap.
- HOWEVA, it is worth pointing out that after a MONSTER start to the season, one that had Cubs fans sweating over another lost prospect killing it elsewhere, Villanueva has gone hitless in his last 33 at-bats, with just 2 walks and 13 strikeouts included. His defense will always be good and he’s shown that he *can* hit at the big league level, but it appears he is mortal and will need to develop further after all. Who knew.
- Get ready for some big-time changes to the U.S. sports landscape, and we’ll have more when it becomes clear how this is going to impact baseball:
BREAKING: Supreme Court strikes down federal anti sports gambling law, gives states go-ahead to allow betting on sports.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 14, 2018
- This is crazy:
It's May 12 and Paul Goldschmidt doesn't have a home HR yet. How is that possible?
(It also says something about him that his atrocious season is still a 105 wRC+. But still.)
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) May 12, 2018
- Paul Goldschmidt has not yet hit a homer at home and is slashing just .210/.339/.378 (99 wRC+) this season, which is obviously much lower than his career 143 wRC+ rate. Something’s up, but I bet he still figures it out (he is walking at a 15.2% clip). And I don’t think I’m the only one who believes he’ll turn it around. I tried to trade Matt Carpenter and Jeimer Candelario for Goldschmidt in my Fantasy Baseball League and the trade was vetoed. This trick, I could not pull off.
- But THANK GOD it got vetoed. The main reason I was angling to make that trade is because Adrian Beltre, my starting third baseman, returned from the disabled list, and I was planning on riding him at the position the rest of the year. But now, it looks like he’s headed back to the disabled list after re-aggravating his left hamstring muscle during yesterday’s game. Rough.
- In other superstar injury news, Robinson Cano fractured the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand when he was hit by a fastball yesterday. “I knew right away,” said Cano. “It’s kind of the same feeling when I broke my pinkie toe in Japan [during an offseason tour in 2015]. I knew right away.” Cano has been a particularly compelling player to follow in recent years, because he’s been one of the few “monster-contract” guys from a few years back to actually deliver well and without incident/injury. Even this season, he was slashing .287/.385/.441 with a 12.4% walk rate and a 13.6% strikeout rate. His 1.4 WAR is tied for 25th best in baseball (same as Nolan Arenado). Cano is due $120 million over the next five years (starting in 2019).
- In June 2002, the Rays drafted a left-hander, Brandon Mann, out of high school with their 27th round pick. On Sunday, Mann finally debuted in the big leagues – as a 34-year-old and after 17 professional seasons (including time in Japan). Good for him.
- Somewhat similarly, Jonny Venters – the 33-year-old pitcher who’s had 3.5 Tommy John surgeries in his career and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2012 – is back up in Major League Baseball and it’s been a wild, emotional ride.
- I hope Pat Venditte – the switch pitcher – gets to face a Cubs lineup of Victor Caratini, Ben Zobrist, and Ian Happ all in it, in order:
Switch-pitcher alert! Pat Venditte is back in the big leagues! pic.twitter.com/YfeguAZLJo
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 14, 2018
- [Brett: since you’re wondering, when a switch-pitcher faces a switch-hitter, the switch-pitcher has to declare first which hand he’s going to use.]