If humidity were a baseball team, it just went from getting shutout for 20 straight innings to putting up a 15 spot in the first inning.
• All right. So, it was fine for last night to take the fun that we were given in the form of Anthony Rizzo pitching and striking out Freddie Freeman, but when you reset things for the team as a whole – especially after another laugher of a blowout loss – it’s got a rough feeling about it. The Cubs are up to 20 straight scoreless innings, there isn’t a great reason to believe the boom-or-bust (at best) offense is going to change, two of the should-be reliable starters in the rotation are falling apart, and the bullpen is going through that “sorting” process where you’re seeing some ugly performances. There’s still so much individual talent on the roster that a great run remains possible, but this is the kind of bad stretch that – depending on what comes next – tells you a lot about the plans ahead. As we’ve discussed, without the look of a REALLY competitive team come June, I think the selloff plans will be made.
• I’ve seen the “we stinks” references out there, evoking Carlos Zambrano’s famously accurate rant from the 2011 season, marking the moment we all knew the run that began in 2007 was definitely over, and some serious page-turning was necessary. Here’s what I wrote that day:
This is Zambrano calling a spade a spade. The 2011 Chicago Cubs are not good at baseball, which is, unfortunately, the sport they’re charged with playing.
Injuries haven’t helped, but – with the 20/20 goggles on – this was a flawed team from the outset. A pitching staff full of threes, a middle reliever crew of rookies and has-beens, a closer who’s good at everything but converting saves, a lineup of aging and declining bats, and a coaching staff of rookies.
If you were looking for the moment that the 2011 Cubs jumped the shark, this is it. There’s no doubting that they’ll be sellers at this point.
• It hasn’t quite been a decade yet, as Zambrano’s comments came on June 5 of that year, but that’s still pretty early in a season to know, for sure, that it was over. At the time, the Cubs had fallen 11 games under .500 and 11 games back in the NL Central, and they looked terrible in the process. The Ricketts Family had taken control a year and a half earlier, GM Jim Hendry was fired shortly thereafter, and the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer era began that fall. Big page-turning stuff. Although I don’t know that we’re in for THAT level of transition this year for the Cubs, I don’t think anyone should be surprised that there are parallels with that 2010-11 decline. Without a rapid and massive turnaround in results – and lots of eye-testing to match – we might know, once again by June 5, that a season is already over.
• Speaking of famous rants, today is also Lee Elia Day! (Do *not* listen to this without headphones if you’re at work or are close to kiddos or whatever, unless you want them repeating some all-time manager language):
• Sent this tweet as a joke when Kyle Hendricks was getting bombed out last night, but it actually is true for me! The cosmic perspective really helps me, personally, set things in order and chill out:
In times of great trial, I find tremendous comfort looking up at the stars, marveling at their volume and persistence, secured in the knowledge that most have died out long before their light reaches me, and someday I will be dead, too.
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 29, 2021
• David Ross is hoping that Ian Happ can be the leadoff hitter again at some point this year, but it’s clear that the shuffling this week hasn’t been one-off stuff. Happ lost the job (Cubs.com): “Yeah, [Happ leading off again is] the hope. That is,” Ross said. “I think in my vision, Happer leads off for us and gets on base and sets the tone. I think he just hasn’t been that version of himself quite yet. He’s still trying to get going on this season. When he does, he’s a real threat at the top and gets on base a lot for those guys behind him. And he’s got some slug up there that, when he’s right, I really like him at the top.” Happ’s walks are still saving a part of his slash line a bit (.135/.297/.176), but the 51 wRC+ is the third lowest in the NL right now, ahead of only Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman (31) and Reds “shortstop” Eugenio Suarez (41).
• A guy we haven’t discussed much but will soon? The 10th worst offensive performance so far in the NL belongs to Jason Heyward, with a .189/.250/.338 line and a 63 wRC+. He’s striking out more than ever, he’s not walking, he’s not hitting for power, he’s not hitting line drives, he’s making so much soft contact, and on and on. Like Happ, none of this is to say it can’t turn around, because it’s a tiny sample. But it is to say that, like Happ now, the results are matching the performance.
• Those last two bullets are to say: The Cubs’ two best bats last year, by far, are their two worst bats so far this year.
• All right there, Giants. I see you:
ERAs for the @SFGiants' top starters:
1.50 – DeSclafani
1.50 – Wood
1.80 – Cueto
2.14 – Gausman
2.22 – Sanchez
They would join the 1978 A's as the only teams to have 5 starters with a sub-2.50 ERA in the month of April (min. 3 starts) since ERA became an official stat in 1913.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) April 29, 2021
• Probably gonna see some records like that from a lot of pitching staffs this year, because:
There have been five seasons in which baseball teams averaged fewer than eight hits per game. Three came at the peak of the deadball era—1907, 1908 and 1909. One came with the “Year of the Pitcher”—1968. And the one with the fewest hits of all—2021. https://t.co/RMOdS3pyOr
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) April 28, 2021
• No joke – two days ago The Little Boy was asking if we could make french fries at home, and I said we need to get an air fryer; yesterday, The Wife asked about looking at stick vacuums. Today, two of the Deals of the Day at Amazon are air fryers and stick vacuums. Clearly we did that. #ad
• There have been Byron Buxton highlights like this all week – groundballs that just aren’t even remotely close plays:
Byron Buxton is fast. pic.twitter.com/yMuwndsfg6
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 28, 2021
• Buxton, who is also hitting for a ton of power, is up to a .438/.471/.938 slash line this year. A 295(!) wRC+. He’s been worth 2.3(!) WAR in under a month. And somehow the Twins are 8-15.
• If you are jonesing for bets, there’s a good way to get in on the Kentucky Derby here (including in Illinois, where it’s getting an exception to the rule that turned off online registration).
• Good lord this is bad, but very on brand for the Wilpon Era Mets:
Mike Puma’s book “If These Walls Could Talk: New York Mets” is out today. I got an advance copy (great read!) and thought this passage was pretty ridiculous.
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) April 27, 2021