Even in a season like this one, where the Cubs are effectively laying waste to the opposition, it takes only a couple close, frustrating losses to the Cardinals to get folks riled up again. I actually don’t hate it. Sure, I could do without people saying dopey, hyperbolic things, but it’s nice to see – and feel! – some passion, even negative passion. No one wants the winning to become completely boring and stale.
- A periodic reminder about good teams: they lose a lot of one run games. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive – it’s certainly contrary to the popular wisdom – but the reality is that good teams (as in “true talent” good teams, not just teams with good records*) are good enough to stay close in games in which they aren’t playing their best or aren’t getting the breaks. When you stay close, and when you still lose 60+ games (as virtually all teams in history do), a lot of those losses will be by one run. Heck, a full half of the Cubs’ 22 losses this year have been by a single run. That’s because they’re good, not because they can’t win close games. It doesn’t make it feel any better when two of those losses happen back-to-back against the Cardinals, but there it is.** Don’t immediately buy into the “good teams win close games” trope. They do win a lot of close games, they also lose a lot of close games. They also win a lot of blowouts. They also lose very few blowouts.
- *(And don’t let that part trip you up: “good team” is not synonymous with “team with a good record.” Usually it is, but often teams with a good record have a whole lot of good fortune – and one of the primary fortunate ball-bounces in a sport like baseball shows up in a team’s record in one-run games. “Good team” here means “actually good based on underlying talent and performance.”)
- **(For a one note anecdote, consider that the 100-win Cardinals last year lost more one-run games than seven(!) other teams in the National League. To be sure, they also won a lot of one-run games, which is how they got to 100 wins. At the end of this season, I’ll hazard a guess that the Cubs’ one-run game record will be fine, but that they’ll win fewer than a lot of teams because most of their wins will be by a lot more than one run. It’s not like winning a game by one run is somehow better than winning a game by five runs.)
- As for last night’s loss, there’s a lot you could hang it on, but the lack of a timely hit sure stood out (plus the three double plays). That was actually an issue in the first game, too – the Cubs have out-hit the Cardinals in the series 16-14, but the Cubs are just 1-14 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals are 2-8. The other big difference? The Cardinals have four homers in the series, the Cubs have none.
- Joe Maddon with much more on Willson Contreras, and about the Cubs’ desire not to expose him too much as he’s developing and learning. If you missed the longer take on Contreras’s defense and planned use, check it out here.
- The Dexter Fowler hamstring injury really must be extremely minor, as doctors determined he’d miss only one week (Cubs.com). That’s basically nothing at all for a hamstring injury, so that’s great news. Fowler still ended up going on the DL, because playing short for a week is tough. Hopefully he comes back refreshed, rested, and ready to resume raking.
- Chris Coghlan has been the part-time leadoff hitter in Fowler’s stead, and all he’s done in his return to the Cubs is hit .294/.455/.412 over his first 22 plate appearances. Given how flukey his terrible start in Oakland seemed to be, tied to the late-Spring trade, family circumstances, and things that aren’t a concern now that he’s back with the Cubs, I’d say he’s a much better bet to look like the guy he was in 2014 and 2015 with the Cubs (serviceable in left, can play elsewhere, hits very well against righties) than he did this year with the A’s. And if that’s the case, although he was picked up because the Cubs needed outfield depth in a hurry, I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere when Jorge Soler, Tommy La Stella, and Fowler come back.
- Theo Epstein once hung a full Tom Brady uniform in Kevin Millar’s locker and made him wear it to batting practice (Tribune).
- At least last night featured some fun after the game:
*beep* *boop* The Plan *boop* Sustained Success *beep* Let's Go pic.twitter.com/ZOUnIPbCCL
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) June 22, 2016
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 22, 2016