Chopping Up the Cubs First Half and Other Bullets
Typically in spots like this, people say things like “mercifully, the first half comes to a close today,” but I am not sure how merciful it will be. The Cubs certainly need a break, but I say that more on the basis of them having played 24 straight games rather than them having lost 9 of 10 (and 15 of 20). Of course, one might very well have something to do with the other, but, as I wrote yesterday, I don’t want people thinking that the break, itself, will magically cure all that ails the Cubs. The wins will come, if they do, by virtue of improved performance. And that will have to come from much more than a few days off.
- Jon Lester said he was “terrible” last night, but that there is no physical issue – just a slump (CSN). It’s tough with pitchers, because they’ll throw just twice in a 10-day span, so the length of their slump can seem sooooo long before they even get a chance to show it’s over. Since it’s just two starts for Lester – albeit two really, really, really, really bad starts – I’m able to throw it away, and say that he’ll probably be fine and still be Jon Lester after the break. Of course, we’re already trying to convince ourselves of the same thing about Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, so … I guess just please hurry back to awesomeness, dudes.
- Anthony Rizzo came within a few feet of a cycle last night, which would have been cool (the Cubs haven’t had one since Mark Grace in 1993). Already having notched the single, double, and triple, Rizzo hit one off the wall in left in his final at bat.
- Dexter Fowler won’t play in the All-Star Game, and did not play for South Bend last night as originally planned. He’s instead headed to San Diego to participate in the All-Star Game activities before continuing his rehab assignment. Cubs affiliates do play Wednesday and Thursday, so it’s not like he would have to wait until Friday, when the big league team resumes action, to start the rehab assignment again; but then, players use the break to rest for a reason, so maybe he needs that rest, too. It’s not like rehabbing an injury is not hard work. If Fowler winds up joining AAA Iowa, it’s worth noting that they start a series in Las Vegas on Thursday. Las Vegas, I believe, is where Fowler lives in the offseason.
- Either way, Joe Maddon says it looks like Fowler will not be ready to rejoin the big league team on Friday, when the second half resumes (Tribune). You are reminded: no matter how minor someone says a hamstring injury is, just assume the player is out for at least a month. (You are also reminded: there is still no update on Jorge Soler’s status. Joe Maddon told Cubs.com only that “I’d like to believe we’re close to a rehab assignment also, but I don’t know that.” So maybe he’s close to a rehab assignment. Or maybe not. In other words: no real update.)
- You’ll see this kind of thing quite a bit in the coming days (not just from Passan – lots and lots of folks are tweeting this at me), regardless of whether the Cubs win or lose today. And I’ll advise you now, it looks a lot more compelling than it actually is:
If you want to go back even further, the Cubs have actually been a sub-.500 team for almost two months. Since starting 27-8, they're 25-27.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 10, 2016
- So if you chop off the excellent start, but not the terrible games lately, the Cubs are slightly below .500. OK. Let me try my own version to see if it demonstrates how un-useful that point is: if you take away the Cubs’ 51-26 start, they’re just 1-9 this year! That’s a .100 winning percentage, which is very bad!
- If you need it more explicit, the point is this: almost the entirety of any “the Cubs have actually been bad for a very long time” stretch you can find is based on the losing of the last few weeks. That ugly 25-27 stretch to which Passan points is 24-18 without the 1-9 stretch. That’s a .571 win percentage. It’s a 93-win pace. Until the Cubs went 1-9, their bad stretch of baseball was a 93-win pace.
- This is why you can’t chop out bits and pieces like this. It leads to absurd conclusions. All of the games count – including, of course, the 1-9 stretch. Instead, what you can do is point out the very real problems that have lead to the bad stretch of play, and wonder about what things will course-correct statistically, what things will course-correct in player performance, and what things will require changes.
- Jeimer Candelario was not sent back to AAA yesterday so that he could participate in the Futures Game, as he’s already been replaced on the roster (CSN). So, then, the timing of swapping him for Munenori Kawasaki, apparently, was simply about changing personnel. The call for Candelario last weekend was definitely earlier than most were expecting – he’s played very little at AAA yet – so it’s looking like the Cubs simply saw an opportunity to get him a taste of what it’s like in the big leagues, perhaps give him some things to work on, and then get him back to AAA where he can continue his development. Sometimes, even a brief stop in the big leagues can be a big developmental moment for a young player. Then, when it’s time to come up for good, there’s a lot less to adjust to, especially off the field.
- Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel stuff is on a big one-day sale at Amazon for Prime members.