As bad as the Cubs have been – they have the worst run differential in baseball right now at -23 – they still have a better record than three other teams. If you’re pinning your hopes on the Cubs “tanking” this year, I gotta warn you: there are a lot of hilariously awful teams in MLB right now. Even with a sell-off at midseason, it’s going to be very difficult for the Cubs to finish with like a bottom three record. I’m just saying, manage your expectations (in reverse!) accordingly.
• It is just *chef kiss* perfect for our psyches that, on the same day Joc Pederson struck out so very ugly to end the Cubs game when – for example – a home run would’ve won it, Kyle Schwarber hit a walk-off home run to win it for the Nationals:
• First and foremost, good for Schwarber. Get yours, man. Second and secondmost, no individual game or even two weeks’ worth of games completely determine how a move or set of moves will play out. But third and thirdmost, it’s just a fact that the Cubs elected not to retain Kyle Schwarber at a certain price tag, and instead preferred Joc Pederson at what wound up being a fairly similar price tag. For evaluative purposes, it was basically a trade. And, yes, it’s going to be completely fair to judge the front office on the outcome.
• To that end, so far, it’s just been a complete and total yikes on Pederson. Like I said in the EBS, I really don’t know what’s going on, but he looks wholly lost at the plate, slow and unathletic in the field, and none of it is normal for him. People will point to his mediocre numbers in the regular season last year – and, hey, maybe there were warning signs there! – but he was, what, one of the two best hitters in the postseason (combine his regular season and playoff numbers and he was just fine overall last year in the shortened season). And he had such a long track record of success, at least against righties. But at the moment, the guy is hitting .119/.208/.190, and the eye test (and very early Statcast metrics) say he’s been almost as bad in the field. He did make a nice diving catch in the 8th after earlier struggles in the game, so, I don’t know, maybe that helps kick start something? Truly, I’m befuddled by how he’s looked, and I’m just HOPING it’s a combination of his timing being off, his spring being so strong that he didn’t get to work on any adjustments in fake games, so the adjustments are coming at the plate, and then he’ll feel better overall. I’m stretching and I know I’m stretching. But I got nothing else.
• Speaking of being without much to say, this is truly exasperating to watch, and it is the fundamental problem with the Cubs right now, if you had to pick one thing:
Cubs top 3 hitters got on base 9 times today and they still couldn't generate any consistent offense. They're mostly swinging at solid pitches, but doing no damage. This was every FB they swung at today. Only two went for hits. Lots of fouling off or swinging through their pitch pic.twitter.com/RDNTcs7LMl
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) April 16, 2021
• Those are *just* fastballs, and *just* the ones they swung at. And they did NOTHING with them. If you have a lineup that can be beat by 94 mph fastballs in the zone, you are going to have a historically bad offense.
• It’s super early, obviously, but the Cubs are the worst team in baseball on a per-pitch basis against fastballs. And let me take it a step further, because it’s been a clear and exponential decline since 2016:
I had no idea this would track so perfectly with our anecdotal experience watching the team, but it's just spot on. So simple. So obvious, so tied to the countervailing trend of rapidly increasing velocity in the game.
The Cubs got worse and worse at simply hitting fastballs.
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 17, 2021
• I don’t know about you, but I need a palate cleanser:
Willians Astudillo, 72mph Fastball and 46mph Slowball, Overlay. 🐢 pic.twitter.com/xE9LxNbRqF
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 17, 2021
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• You gotta be kidding me with this:
Craig Counsell not overly impressed with the suspensions handed down to the Cubs:
"Nothing has changed in their (the league) policy. I don't think what they're doing is any deterrent at all."
Would not go on…told reporters to 'figure out' what would be a deterrent.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) April 16, 2021
• Meanwhile, David Ross was ticked about the suspensions his team faced (ESPN): “It’s a little confusing, to me, from my seat. I have a hard time understanding it …. This is a ball that got pulled down around a guy’s [Woodruff’s] calf. We’re talking about a middle-of-the-order bat, for us, that got hit in the head, hit in the hand and up around his face. Since I’ve been here we lead the league in getting hit, and it’s not even close, and we’ve never intentionally retaliated …. We got warnings in Pittsburgh. We got warnings after we got hit, and our catcher was fined a really big amount of money for being upset for getting hit in the head and hit in the shoulder, and then he got hit in the hand the other day and our pitcher got thrown up and in, and we threw one behind a guy’s calf and we got suspensions and fines everywhere.” It is, indeed, ridiculous. The entire way this has played out.
• OK, one more palate cleanser – the Braves are calling up Sean Kazmar today, and here’s why that’s awesome:
For the last 12 years, Sean Kazmar has played AAA baseball. He has done this because he loves the game and because he wants his kids to see him play in the big leagues and because he still believed a day like today, when he’s going to wear a major league uniform, would happen.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 17, 2021
Now, this is baseball, so it could be short-lived. Ozzie Albies is a bit sore. He could be back soon. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker is himself someone who spent far too long in the minor leagues, and he will be very motivated to get Kazmar into the game today against the Cubs.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 17, 2021