Shadow Offense, Quintana Third Time Through, Shut Up, and Other Bullets

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Shadow Offense, Quintana Third Time Through, Shut Up, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

The Sun: GOOD MORNING! IT’S A BRIGHT, BEAUTIFUL, NEW DAY FULL OF ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES! RISE! RISE! MEET THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT AWAIT YOU!!!

Me:

That GIF about sums up my feelings on the idea of getting positive this morning after two crummy Cubs losses, heading into two weekend games with totally uncertain pitching situations.

(If you’re wondering about the context: that was last night, after Wilson made a diving catch on an attempted bunt with a couple runners on base, and Joe Maddon and the trainer came out to check on him. My best guess is that Rizzo was joking around, and, in that tense moment, Wilson was not in the mood. I don’t think there’s actually any kind of issue there – it’s just a funny moment for observers.)

  • As for the loss, Joe Maddon lumped it together with the one the night before, which makes sense because they were so similar (Cubs.com): “We’ve played two of our least impressive games in about a month. It’s just not been us playing our typical game. We grab a lot of energy off our defense; we needed to grab some off our offense. If we start hitting, we’ll start doing what we’re supposed to do.” The Cubs still feel like they’re in that offensive funk, and although I know there are some collective stats that indicate they’ve had a lot of success at the plate, the lack of power and production with runners on base remains a serious problem. This month, the runs have been hard to come by.
  • Kris Bryant’s slump – and, to a lesser extent, Willson Contreras’s – gets most of the attention, but another big problem for the offense is that Anthony Rizzo has retreated after a blistering May and early June. Since June 8, Rizzo is hitting just .188/.293/.271 (54 wRC+) with just one homer and one double. If Bryzzo ain’t goin’, this offense ain’t goin’.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
  • Luke Farrell will get the start today, as expected, and the hope will be that he can give the Cubs three or maybe four solid innings. The other hope is that the Cubs’ bats will explode.
  • Jose Quintana had another very 2018 Jose Quintana-like start: decent effectiveness the first two times through the order despite a serious struggle putting batters away after two strikes, and then falling apart the third time through.
  • Shield your eyes from these 2018 Jose Quintana stats:
    • First time through the order: .221/.286/.328
    • Second time through the order: .176/.269/.361
    • Third time through the order: .391/.480/.672
  • Holy. Crap. Your only silver lining there is that he’s seen only 75 plate appearances the third time through the order, so the sample size is tiny and a few big hits can move the line tremendously. The retort to that, of course, is that he hasn’t seen the third time through many times because he’s been lit up when he gets there, and Joe Maddon has been forced to be proactive. So that’s not really a silver lining at all.
  • Eventually, we’ll see Dillon Maples with the big league team again this year:

  • The issue for Maples, as you already well know, is that his extremes are so extreme. As his current manager summed it up there: “When he throws strikes, he can get any hitter out, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. His stuff is that good. He has lights out, nasty, filthy, unbelievable stuff. He is just freaking ridiculously nasty when he’s in the strikeouts. But when he’s not, he’s not usable.” The big league Cubs can’t and won’t bring him back up until they feel confident that he can maintain that consistency, and undoubtedly that’s what he’s been working on at AAA this year. It’s been a good last few weeks for him, and with the Cubs soon to be in need of fresh arms, it’s possible his chance comes soon.
  • It remains fun to see this popping up as people notice it, and, while it is still not accurate to say that Kyle Schwarber is the best defender in baseball, the stats are capturing *some* evidence that he is (1) dramatically improved, and (2) probably above average overall:

  • 16 years ago today:

  • Arizona Phil offers more details on the league’s changing approach to how teams can sign players out of Mexico (discussed here yesterday). Phil – who is basically never wrong about this stuff – indicates that the Cubs released one of their big-time signings out of Mexico just before MLB sent its letter about barring these signings for now. Several other Cubs prospects signed out of Mexico were, according to Phil, on the restricted list until this week. It’s not hard to connect those dots – if the information is accurate, it suggests there was an investigation ongoing with respect to those players, and MLB concluded it this week, with one prospect’s deal voided, and the others permitted. Given the Cubs’ extreme work in Mexico the last two years (hey, they were taking advantage of the rules that were in place!), it’s also not hard to connect the dots that maybe other MLB teams were not happy about the Cubs still landing big prospects despite being in the IFA penalty box. Read Phil’s take for his theorizing, and I’ll leave it there for now until/unless we get more updates on the situation. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the Cubs are right there in the forefront on this issue, but I certainly wouldn’t yet go as far as to suggest they’re going to be in any kind of trouble (other than the trouble associated with having invested in Mexican operations only to have MLB change the rules).
  • This turned out to be a much more under-slot signing than I’d expected:

  • The Cubs now have upwards of $1 million extra to work with when you factor in the 5% they can go over their bonus pool without losing a pick. Before you get too excited about the possibility that they could go after one of the highly-ranked high schoolers that they (like every team) grabbed at the end of the draft just in case, keep in mind that 2C pick Cole Roederer will likely require over slot, 6th round high school righty Kohl Franklin might require over slot, and 11th round righty Riley Thompson might require more than the $125,000 non-bonus-pool limit, given his unique trajectory and ability to return to Louisville for another year. Still, there’s a lot of flexibility left for the Cubs with about two weeks to go before the July 6 signing deadline.
  • You should like Schwarbaez, and also our Instagram:

Schwarbaez. #Cubs

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.