The Mars rover Perseverance launched a helicopter today, and it looks like all went well. So we should soon get video from the helicopter flying over Mars’ surface. Space, man. I just love it.
• The loss last night dropped the Cubs to 6-9 on the year, which wouldn’t bother me in isolation, given the early date. Three games below .500 can become three games above .500 in a week. Instead, what bugs me a little bit more is that the loss las night locked in the Cubs’ fourth straight series loss since the opening set with the Pirates. The Cubs lost all four of those series on the final day, and all but one were completely non-competitive, which in turn sure made the series feel very non-competitive. Would you say the Cubs have looked like “the better team” in any series this year after that first weekend? You would not. That’s concerning, even this soon. I mean, you were already concerned, and a win last night probably wouldn’t have changed that. But nevertheless, it was a bad one.
• Speaking of which, Kyle Hendricks gave up four homers in the first inning after never giving up four homers in a game before. “It could be rust,” David Ross said, per Cubs.com, as Hendricks had his last start skipped due to illness. “It looked like he just wasn’t executing. The ball looked up. His misses were more beltline than normal. It looked like a couple balls were running back to the middle, kind of flat. Not the bite that I think we’re used to.” Behind in the count and flat stuff = everything gets hammered:
That did not start well for a contact-manager. pic.twitter.com/vdYATmlPXu
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 18, 2021
• Credit to Hendricks for giving the Cubs three clean innings thereafter. That also took his start from “worst ever” territory to “worst since” territory. By Game Score, it was his worst start since the August 2019 outing where he got immediately bombed out by the Reds in Cincinnati, where he always seems to have a tougher time. Incidentally, if he stays on schedule, he’ll just miss the Cubs’ series in Cincinnati in a couple weeks.
• We’ll see how/if Hendricks bounces back the next time out. We’ve seen lows from him before, particularly (1) early in games, and (2) early in the season. His consistent success over the course of a full season buys all the patience he needs from me. Which is to say, there’s plenty to worry about on this Cubs team, but Hendricks isn’t on my top 20 list.
• Something to keep an eye on that I noticed last night, and I’ve been noticing all year: Willson Contreras’s pitch-framing doesn’t look quite as sharp this year as last year. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of strikes lost by poor receptions. Because of the volume of pitches, framing data stabilizes fairly quickly, and Contreras’s framing runs at FanGraphs flipped to slightly negative after last night. The bat is always going to be great for a catcher, but so long as there are humans calling balls and strikes, it was Contreras’s huge step forward as a framer last year that took his value to another level. Hopefully Cubs can help him course-correct quickly.
• Joc Pederson had his best game of the year with the Cubs so far, ripping a solid single and a triple to the wall, and also taking a walk. He’s still got a brutal slash line – .149/.281/.255 (57 wRC+) – but you have to start the climb somewhere, and if it helps him to hit a couple really hard ones, then good.
• One fun thing from the game:
— MLB (@MLB) April 19, 2021
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 19, 2021
• On last night’s score matching the game before:
And a note on that 13-4 oddity from the Cubs… pic.twitter.com/IF0HcggYND
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 19, 2021
• Meanwhile, the Cubs get to hang onto some catching depth for now:
From the Cubs: C Tony Wolters has cleared waivers and has been sent outright to the South Bend alternate training site.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 18, 2021
• The Cubs now have Wolters, Miguel Amaya, P.J. Higgins, Jose Lobaton, and Taylor Gushue all at the alternate site as catchers. And, although you arguably need some extras there for the nature of the space (lots of bullpens, lots of intrasquad games), that won’t be the case when it’s actually time to put together the Triple-A roster. Amaya will likely head to Double-A Tennessee, but the others are pretty clearly “Triple-A-level” catchers as big league depth. I’m not sure how that’ll all shake out, but it’s possible Wolters, for one example, has an opt-out coming.