Williams Showing Serious Stuff, Bats Slipping Again, Praise for Hoerner, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Williams Showing Serious Stuff, Bats Slipping Again, Praise for Hoerner, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Wife’s schedule today is such that she has offered to pick up lunch from wherever, and now I’m paralyzed by too many options that I want. I have some time to sort out this very important issue.

•   Although he once again kinda stalled out the third time through the order (historically not an issue for him, but maybe he’s pushing harder in the early going this year? At Cubs urging? Using more of his arsenal early on?), Trevor Williams was extremely nasty last night:

•   You don’t necessarily think of him as a “nasty” guy, but that slider – the one he revised with the Cubs – was getting some uuuuugly swings. You certainly want to see more depth in his outings, but, outside of the clunker in Pittsburgh, he’s looked like a stud for the first four or five innings each time out. The Cubs can control Williams via arbitration through next year if they want, so I remain particularly interested in seeing what kind of pitcher he becomes with the Cubs over the course of this year.

•   The Cubs offense is slipping again in the league-wide stats. Batting average (.206) is back to worst in baseball (while not the most important one, it’s the most noticeable thing), and wRC+ (91) is tied for 8th worst. At 28.2%, Cubs also have the 4th worst strikeout rate in MLB. Just an absurdly high number. Their contact rate (72.5%) is also atrocious and also 4th worst.

•   And the shutouts are already piling up:

•   Four shutouts in under a month is frightening, but not altogether surprising given the continued contact issues for the team. This isn’t a group that’ll string together a lot of hits, so if they’re facing a big-time strikeout staff, and if no dingers come, then a shutout is highly plausible on any given day.

•   A random plaudit to that end – I enjoyed watching Nico Hoerner do this in the 9th inning:

•   Hoerner was grinding, grinding, grinding, and then the pitcher gave in with a fastball in the middle of the zone, and Hoerner sent a bullet back up the middle. Fun fact: his 0.3 WAR through six games is the same as he totaled all of last year.

•   And while we’re talking offense and using pitch graphics, let me just say, these two pitches started way out of the zone and stayed way out of the zone. I have no idea how you miss these calls:

•   I hate when that happens to any batter, but like I said in the tweet, you just really don’t want to see it for Happ right now. He’s already scuffling enough, and I wonder if he’s in his head so much that it’d be harder to let bad calls go. (And no, before you say it: the batter’s job is not to swing at CLEAR balls. Start trying to get cute like that and you make things much worse. Hitting is hard enough when you just focus on the strike zone – that’s why there IS a strike zone in the first place.) (Also, no, this isn’t about Happ’s overall performance, which remains very concerning, and continued to look really rough last night.)

•   Oh, but back to Nico for a moment – when Willson Contreras is praising you as high-energy, you definitely must be doing something right:

 

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•   It is incredible to me that this era of baseball features all of Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Vlad Guerrero Jr. at the same time. That’s four early-20s bats with generational potential, all breaking in and out at roughly the same time. It’s crazy, and I’m prepared to say I’ve not seen a quartet like this – all clustered around the same extremely young age with the same extremely absurd upside – in my lifetime. Vladito had his big moment last night, homering three times – including two off of Max Scherzer – which is something his Hall of Fame pop never did:

•   Today in “hitting is impossible”:



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.