Tired Cubs, Reasonable Hopes for Butler, Jimenez Back, and Other Bullets

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Tired Cubs, Reasonable Hopes for Butler, Jimenez Back, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

What another long, miserable wait for the Cubs to get back to baseball. And, worse, we’re waiting for a weekend series with the Cubs facing the first place Cardinals in St. Louis. After the rough two weeks the Cubs have had, today is an added form of torture.

  • If it looks like the Cubs have been sleepwalking through things lately, Joe Maddon suggests it could be actual sleep deprivation (Cubs.com): “I sense sleep deprivation more than anything. Right from the beginning of the year, our schedule has been kind of awkward, and no one had a chance to settle in.” I know that everyone is reluctant to give credence to things like that, but it is true that the Cubs have dealt with some peculiar scheduling quirks, from frequent Sunday night games that precede travel, to the 18-inning marathon (which came in the same week as a 13-inning one), to a double-header, etc. If you were feeling generous this morning, you might point to that as having made things a little more difficult to the Cubs. If you are not feeling generous, on the other hand, you can re-read what I wrote about banked losses and the problem that they pose the Cubs regardless of any excuses (good or bad). But hey, the Cubs got another rest day yesterday, and don’t play until the evening, so they should be fairly fresh for this weekend’s series, right?
  • Maddon added that, despite the two deep playoff runs, this is still a young and inexperienced team, learning on the fly about how to deal with failure, and then building back up (CSN). That’s absolutely true with respect to a number of the Cubs’ young hitters, though it doesn’t go terribly far in explaining why the starting pitching and defense have been such glaring issues this year after being the stars of 2016.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer talks up tonight’s fill-in starter Eddie Butler (ESPN), and although I’ll tell you openly that a best case scenario for the near and long-term is that Butler grabs that rotation spot and never lets go, Hoyer would go only as far as to say that he hopes Butler has a good start tonight. Even as there are reasons to be hopeful on Butler – resuming his heavy-sinking two-seamer, change of scenery generally, pedigree and experience, etc. – I do want to make sure we’re crystal clear on the results side of things so far this year at AAA. Yes, he’s got a 1.17 ERA through 30.2 innings, and yes SOME of that is probably due his ability to generate groundball contact. But he also has a ridiculously low .268 BABIP, a very high 88.9% LOB rate, hasn’t yet seen a fly ball leave the ballpark (eventually they do), an unnervingly low 13.7% K rate, and a not-quite-low-enough-to-get-away-with-all-of-that 6.5% BB rate. For a guy like Butler (who doesn’t strike anyone out) to succeed at the big league level, he’s going to need to get an *elite* number of groundballs, will have to give up a super low level of homers, and will have to walk basically nobody. There are pitchers who’ve made that combination work at the big league level (notably the guy he’s replacing in the rotation, Brett Anderson), but it’s rare. Hope, in this case, is reasonable. But you also have to be realistic about the upside for Butler, and the very real chance of it just not working out.
  • Addison Russell is questionable for today/this weekend against the Cardinals, and Dexter Fowler might be the same on the other side. He hasn’t made a start in nearly a week, though he did pinch hit on Wednesday.
  • After a second long absence as he recovers from his Spring Training shoulder injury (bone bruise), top Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez is back and playing in games in Mesa at extended Spring Training, per Arizona Phil. Developmentally, I’m not sure that Jimenez has really lost too much time, as it’s not like he was expected to push for the big league roster this year in any case, and is just 20 years old. If he’s able to get to Myrtle Beach before the end of the month, and then plays out his season like usual, I expect that will be just fine, especially given that he can get some extra at bats in an offseason league if necessary. From that perspective, all that will have been lost is a couple months of opportunities to fawn over his electric bat.
  • There’s a bit of a flap right now about Ronnie Woo Woo and about how he was asked to leave a recent game at Wrigley. I think these two tweets pretty much sum up the arc of the story (or non-story):

  • It just keeps getting worse for the Mets, who’ve seen their pitching staff decimated by injuries (again), their positional group decimated by injuries, and their locker room blown up by Matt Harvey shenanigans. Next up: their closer, Jeurys Familia, who already missed 15 games due to a domestic violence suspension, has a blood clot in his shoulder, which may require surgery. I don’t wish anyone or any team (necessarily) ill will, but I do pay close attention to these things when it comes to possible Wild Card contenders, especially given the Cubs’ slow start and the possibility that they may just need to get into the playoffs however possible.
  • Speaking of all of that, the Mets probably aren’t going to – and shouldn’t, argues Travis Sawchik – dump Harvey any time soon, though if they become sellers, you might see it. Of course, after his thoracic outlet syndrome issue and surgery, Harvey has been a shell of the guy you might remember dominating the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS: the now 28-year-old righty has abysmal numbers on every level this year, posting a 5.14 ERA to go with a 13.5% K rate and an 8.8% BB rate.
  • Over at Baseball is Fun, Michael found a clip of a high school base runner sneakily and intentionally coming nowhere close to third base while running home, and getting away with it.
  • Michael is getting downright dangerous with his photoshopping skills:

Author: Brett Taylor

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