Got sidetracked in the BN text thread about Quentin Tarantino movies, learning that Michael and I are about the only people in the world who were disappointed by ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’ I dug the idea of telling an adjacent story, I liked the setting, I appreciate all the actors … but it was just meh. Are we actually alone in that opinion?
• Ian Happ is starting to get people chatting about an MVP candidacy, and while he has a whole lot of “name recognition” to overcome in the national circles, he keeps doing things to put his name in the conversation. It’s not just the huge overall results, but look at the “MVP type” game he had last night: three hits, leadoff homer, game-winning hit, and a run-saving diving catch.
• Bonus random factoid? Happ’s homer to lead off the game made him the most powerful switch-hitter in Cubs history, which is crazy for an ancient franchise. He passed Augie Galan, who hit 59 homers for the Cubs, mostly in the 1930s. I wasn’t familiar with him, but he exploded with the Dodgers late in his career in the mid-1940s after recovering from typhoid fever, putting up borderline Hall of Very Good numbers. Just went down a rabbit hole reading about Galan at the SABR Bio Project.
• Happ finished the game at .304/.420/.643 with stellar peripherals all around and a 178 wRC+. His 1.9 WAR has him behind only Fernando Tatis, Jr. (2.6), Mike Yastrzemsky (2.1), and Mookie Betts (2.0) in all of baseball.
• Speaking of WAR, the Cubs’ second place positional guy is Jason Heyward (1.2), who has already been worth more in 30 games than he was in either of his first two full seasons with the Cubs.
• And speaking of Cubs hitters, Kris Bryant looked great last night. Only a couple balls found grass, but his at bats looked really good and confident, his quality of contact was great. For one game back, he looked like Bryant. Great sign going forward.
• Jeremey Jeffress is indeed just so steely cold:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 2, 2020
• That guy has STILL not allowed a true inherited runner to score (I don’t count the one extra-innings runner he allowed a few weeks back). And if you’re wondering how a batter just stares at a strike three fastball like that at the bottom of the zone, it’s because Jeffress has a really good splitter working right now, and on 2-2, if you think that’s the pitch you’re getting, you spit on the low ones, because they drop below the zone. But if you’re wrong, welp, strike three, game over. There’s gonna be some regression for Jeffress if he can’t improve his walk and strikeout rates (12.3% and 17.5%, both quite bad), but when it comes to having the stones to come into big spots and not wither, he’s shown that. And so far this year, the contact off of him has been pure crap.
• Long, long day for the Cubs, by the way. Usually, you’ve flown in for a series like that the night before. But in COVID-times, the Cubs actually didn’t travel until yesterday morning. So they were in transit, working out, and playing the game from about 7am until midnight. If they’re dragging a bit tonight, you know why.
• Cookware, air purifiers, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad
• This is useful context for whatever happens with A.J. Ramos and the Cubs:
Most interesting aspect of deadline: Dodgers are the best team ever to sell. Apparently they just have too many good players. Not only did they trade solid SP Ross Stripling but they shopped at least 3 MLB relievers (they ended up holding them). Indians a 2nd contender to sell
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 2, 2020
• Even if Ramos was ready to go with the Dodgers, there just wasn’t going to be a spot for him. Doesn’t mean Cubs might not find him useful. If he’s gonna join the bullpen, I’d expect it would be sooner rather than later.
• Speaking of the bullpen, when the Cubs DFA’d Casey Sadler yesterday, they could have instead chosen to do the same with Duane Underwood, Jr. (same situation – out of options). But they chose to keep Underwood, whose upside is higher, and whose trends were looking much better than Sadler’s:
Positive trend in this chart, as Underwood has now struck out 13 of the last 23 batters he’s faced. Ended the game with Reds yesterday with whiffs on five of his last 7 pitches: 2 curves, 2 fastballs (96 mph), one change. If he can only solve the longball problem… pic.twitter.com/o0n3pGYu3K
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) August 31, 2020
• A heads up to the bettors among you, because unless you think the Chiefs are going to lose by 102 points in the NFL opener, this is free money: