Kimbrel's Wildness, Almora's Futility, Mills' Missed Spots, Alzolay's Usage, and Other Cubs Bits

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Kimbrel’s Wildness, Almora’s Futility, Mills’ Missed Spots, Alzolay’s Usage, and Other Cubs Bits

Chicago Cubs

I am hot-dogging and rumor-writing for Make-A-Wish today and tomorrow, and hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve decreed, for myself, that although the only thing I’m allowed to eat for the next two days are hot dogs, I am allowed to drink no-calorie beverages, since that is not food. Please check out the fundraiser if you haven’t. You’ve got me up to eight dogs, we’re close to nine, and the sky/gut is the limit from there.

•   We’ll get into the other drama from Game Two in a moment, but it really, really sucks that Craig Kimbrel couldn’t close last night’s game. It sucks for all the obvious reasons – turned a win against a divisional opponent into a loss being the biggest – but it also sucked because it once again blankets everything Kimbrel with a layer of doubt and uncertainty. With Jeremy Jeffress getting the clear, everyone-is-rested, legit save opportunity in Game One, it would’ve been very nice to have some confirmation in Game Two that, when Jeffress is down – and when guys like Rowan Wick and Ryan Tepera have already appeared – you can trust that Kimbrel can come out and be Kimbrel. Now? Can you know that he’ll even throw strikes in that situation?

•   I don’t know the answer. On the one hand, Kimbrel had good velo and nasty stuff last night. On the other hand, he couldn’t throw either pitch for a strike at will. So if you’re not getting bailed out by aggressive hitters, you’re gonna walk yourself into trouble, as he did. Then it takes only one bloops single and you’ve blown the save, as he did. From there the wild pitch did him in, though I’ll point out that when you throw a pitch nasty enough to induce a swing and miss, it’s hard for me to be too mad at the pitcher in that situation:

•   Yes, Willson Contreras was clearly expecting that one in the strike zone as an 0-0 curveball to start off the at bat. But I mean, you know it’s gonna be nasty, and you know the winning run is there on third. You cannot let that ball get between your legs. The wild pitch goes to Kimbrel, but that one’s on Willy. The rest of the inning? Well, come on now. That’s where you can beef with Kimbrel’s wildness.

•   Let’s also beef about Albert Almora’s completely unproductive, pivotal at bats. We know that he isn’t going to produce offensively at this point, and he’s on the roster for his still-quite-great glove. But the other thing he’s *supposed* to be able to offer is contact. Not great contact, but contact. So when he strikes out in consecutive brutal at bats where mere contact is needed? You pretty much have to decide he cannot take any more at bats unless it’s an emergency.

•   Oh also, Alec Mills earned some beef. That’s the second time in his last three starts that he really didn’t give the Cubs a useful outing, this time because of three homers in three innings, all three of which were terribly located. Bad misses on his two-seamer. The three homers came on a 91mph pitch to Joey Votto that was supposed to be down and away (but was middle-middle), a 90mph pitch to Jesse Winker that was supposed to be high and tight (but was middle in), and a 90mph pitch to Curt Casali that was down and a way (but was middle-middle). Mills changes his speeds well and has better “stuff” than he gets credit for, but he’s not a guy who can afford to make many mistakes with the fastball and get away with them. You could say “he pitched pretty well except for those three pitches!” but that’s cold comfort when his mistakes are likely to be much more risky than the mistakes of a guy like Yu Darvish.

•   Oh also, it seems pretty clear based on the early pull and move to Adbert Alzolay that the intention in having Alzolay up was to get him some game action, very likely right after Mills. I get that the Cubs had just made it a one-run game, and I get that Andy Green/the coaching staff filling in for the ejected David Ross probably envisioned things setting up for Ryan Tepera, Rowan Wick, and Craig Kimbrel over the final three innings, but I don’t know about pulling Alzolay after just the one inning. Yes, he gave up a single and a walk to open things up, but then he finished the frame with two strikeouts. In hindsight, it would’ve been good to let him give you another inning or two so that Tepera/Wick could have the final frame or so.

•   As the 29th man, Alzolay has already been optioned back to South Bend. At some point, though, you’re going to have to make a tough decision on how he best serves the big league club, because there’s just gotta be a role for him in September.



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.