The Second Place Chicago Cubs, Schwarber's Struggles, Ryan's Mixed Bag, and Other Bullets

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The Second Place Chicago Cubs, Schwarber’s Struggles, Ryan’s Mixed Bag, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Wife is off for a trip the next few days, and I hope she has a great time. ENGAGE MAXIMUM DAD MODE.

  • It’s all in service of another climb to the top of the standings, right? After a crazy stretch of winning, the Cubs have now dropped three series in a row, and have lost seven of their last nine games. With last night’s loss and the Brewers’ extra-innings win in Pittsburgh, the Cubs fell out of first place in the extremely-crowded NL Central for the first time in nearly a month.

  • Those Reds, by the way? They’re in last place, but they have a hugely positive run differential, and, at 5.5 games out, are by FAR the most competitive last place team in baseball. The other division laggards are between 20.5 and 12.0 games out already. I don’t think the Cubs can afford to fall too far back this year, because it just seems like any of the other four teams is talented enough to put together a run. And if two of them do it, and you’re, say, 6.0 games back of two teams by mid-July? You have to have uncomfortable internal conversations. Don’t get to that point, please.
  • Speaking of which, the Cubs are reportedly interested in Craig Kimbrel, who is unattached from draft pick compensation starting at 12:01 am as the clock flips tonight.
  • Speaking speaking of which, Kyle Ryan let last night’s game get out of hand in the 8th, and as much as I like the way he looks out there – as much as I can see the stuff, dig the strikeouts and groundballs, etc. – there does come a point where you have to note that the results are too frequently not there for those kinds of high-leverage spots. Through 25 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 5.03 ERA (16% worse than league average), largely because he’s giving up too many homers (1.37 per 9), too many balls in play are going for hits (.333 BABIP), and he isn’t stranding anyone (67.2% LOB). Maybe you look at that and say it’s just bad luck in a small sample – after all, he’s got a good strikeout rate (25.6%), a good walk rate (8.1%), and a good groundball rate (45.6%). He’s checking some boxes! … but he’s also giving up a whopping 45.6% hard contact rate and netting a mere 15.8% soft contact rate. That’s gonna yield lots of hits, and lots of damage.
  • Your silver lining is that Ryan’s expected wOBA at Statcast isn’t *THAT* much worse than his actual (excellent) wOBA against, which suggests a lot of that hard contact is probably on the ground, and there might still be a productive pitcher in there over a much larger sample. With minor league options left, though, Ryan might be among the first guys to be squeezed out as the Cubs make moves.
  • Normally I wouldn’t think too much of 38 at bats – and maybe I’m wrong to now – but when you’re talking about a guy who was *historically* bad in those situations last year, you start to wonder if there’s more signal there than we want to admit:

  • On the year, Schwarber is hitting .205/.311/.419 (93 wRC+) with the bases empty, but a dreadful .105/.255/.184 (-1) with runners in scoring position. He is also at .261/.340/.466 in low-leverage spots (111 wRC+) and just .143/.294/.357 (42) in high-leverage spots, with a strikeout rate approaching 50%. I have a hard time believing that the guy who did what he did in the World-dang-Series suddenly has a mental block in big spots, but between last year and this year, the extreme disparity is getting hard to ignore or explain away as a fluke. Oh, and crap … I just checked 2017, and it existed then, too (109 wRC+ with bases empty, 46 with runners in scoring position).
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
  • For the first time in five days, the Cubs got a hit with a runner in scoring position last night. Just one. And of course it was a bunt that did not score a run. And it was a bad bunt at that:

  • On a lighter note, Cubs outfield prospect Brennen Davis continues to tear up the Midwest League in his full-season debut, now notching his first homer:

  • The 19-year-old second rounder was a physically-gifted two-sport athlete whom the Cubs signed away from a college commitment, knowing that there would be a significant development process physically and with his swing. Based on what I saw from him last year, I’m shocked – in the best way – that he’s already succeeding in full-season ball. The swing looks so different from where it was at draft time last year, and the sky is the limit.
  • Good Deals of the Day at Amazon today, in my opinion, from wallets to bluetooth speakers to books to patio furniture.

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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.