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- Javy Baez stole the show in yesterday’s win, as he so often days, hitting the three-run homer that turned the game around, and then making an incredible no-look tag to take the tying run off the bases in the 9th. Baez may go through slumps like anyone does, but that switch can flip at any time.
At the same time, Joe Maddon was gushing over Javier Báez and the no-look tag: “He’s a baseball player and you saw a lot of plays today that weren’t baseball plays. The game is clamoring for baseball players that know how to play this game. And he is one.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) July 20, 2019
- Willson Contreras took BP yesterday, and also caught Cole Hamels’ bullpen session in full catcher gear and all that jazz (Cubs.com). The Cubs’ starting catcher is eligible to come off the Injured List in just a few days, precisely the day of Jon Lester’s next start. If Contreras is truly ready to go, I’d expect him to be activated for that start, in particular (it’s the final game in San Francisco). If he needs another day, then the Cubs may as well give it to him, because there’s an off-day right after that, so he’d necessarily get two more days. Of course, the flip-side to that is that if he returns for the Lester start, he’s guaranteed to get an off-day right after.
- Joe Maddon’s explanation for the lack of Kyle Schwarber lately is solely about match-ups and about trying to get other guys going:
Another lefty on mound means another day with Schwarber starting off on the bench. Maddon reiterated this morning that the Cubs need to get the likes of Almora, Bote and Russell back on track vs. LHP.
Wrote on that Friday: https://t.co/q9WiMwZCsJ
Here’s Joe’s comments today… pic.twitter.com/M0l3YhHZBT
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 20, 2019
- Speaking of which, it was nice at least to see a good game from David Bote, whose season line doesn’t look so bad (.254/.341/.428, 99 wRC+), but who is hitting just .222/.316/.364 since June 1, with a strikeout rate approaching 30%.
- Russell we spoke about earlier, and then there’s Almora, who is having a disastrous year at the plate, primarily because he is making some of the worst contact in all of baseball – his 30.3% hard contact rate is 12th worst in baseball, and his 25.1% soft contact rate is second worst, better only than Billy Hamilton. Right now, Albert Almora is Billy Hamilton without the speed. That’s a really jarring reality:
Lowest wRC+ over the past calendar year, minimum 400 PAs:
1. Billy Hamilton (57)
2. Chris Davis (58)
3. Albert Almora (62)
4. Kyle Seager (67)
5. Joe Panik (68)
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 20, 2019
- This was always the risk with a guy like Almora at the plate – he has a naturally superior ability to make contact with just about anything, and in his younger days, that was enough to be very productive. But in the big leagues (heck, in the upper levels of the minors), the pitchers are just too good not to use that ability against you, getting you to put their not-quite-barrel-able pitches weakly into play. It’s the old familiar Starlin Castro problem, and while this front office and it’s coaching/development tree has done a tremendous job developing other types of hitters, this is a particular type I’m not sure we’ve seen them have great success with.
- I don’t want to see Almora dumped, because sometimes guys with incredible tools do finally put it together as they hit 26/27/28, but right now, he’s really hurting the big league Cubs, and he’s doing it while playing in a spot that could otherwise be filled by Ian Happ, who is breaking out at Iowa, and who has had plenty of big league success previously (oh, and happens to be the type of hitter the Cubs *have* had a great deal of success stabilizing and helping succeed). I’m sure the nearing of the Trade Deadline is factoring into why the Cubs aren’t quick to make a promotion/demotion move, but it’s growing really, really difficult to see how they could possibly justify treating Almora as more than a late-inning defensive replacement right now.
- Meanwhile, Robel Garcia continues to succeed in spite of all evidence that he should not be succeeding. I love it. I also love the demonstration from the Cubs that they believe he could continue to be a useful player all year – by starting him in left field, it’s clear they are really thinking about how to keep him contributing the rest of the way (Cubs.com): “I think it’s interesting to find out if he can do this,” Joe Maddon said. “It could really be beneficial for us and for him, so we’re going to take a look at it today. He’s been working with [first-base and outfield coach Will Venable] the last several days.”
- Ahhhhhh, the breeze is the real MVP:
For the first time all day, a breeze came through a steamy Wrigley Field.
So the Friendly Confines gave Mother Nature a standing ovation. 😂 pic.twitter.com/R0M7yL48GL
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 20, 2019
- What on earth did I just watch:
I just … I have never seen a pitch like this. I don't know what to say.
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) July 21, 2019