Williams and the Rotation Question, Thompson's Whiffs, Duffy's Big Day, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Williams and the Rotation Question, Thompson’s Whiffs, Duffy’s Big Day, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Mom is coming today for a birthday visit (hers), so that’ll make for a nice Sunday afternoon.

•   Through his first five starts, Trevor Williams was only averaging about five innings per outing, but they were decent innings – he had a 4.44 ERA, and a 3.45 FIP. Basically, it was four solid starts and the one clunker in Pittsburgh. Not a bad start for a reclamation guy who was flashing a greatly improved slider, a rising strikeout rate, and much more success than he’d had the last two years with the Pirates.

•   Williams’ last three starts, however, have been pretty unusable. Including yesterday’s brief appearance, Williams has thrown just 8.2 innings total in the three starts, allowing 11(!) earned runs on 15(!) hits and 8(!) walks. The command just hasn’t been there, and he’s been beat up on by the Tigers, Pirates, and Reds. Although Williams was surprised by the early pull yesterday, here’s what David Ross said after the game (Cubs.com): “He just didn’t look real sharp. He was having to work really hard. Even when he was getting ahead, not being able to put guys away. Falling behind to some guys. Just the at-bats from the other team, there weren’t too many of those guys that seemed fooled by much.”

•   For all the same reasons the Cubs signed him in the first place (he’s 29 with past big league success and some really nice individual pitches), you could see them wanting to give Williams a much longer leash before they’d pull the plug. But the flip side is that you can’t have a starter in there who gives you only three non-competitive innings per start, so we’ll see just how long that leash is. You’ve also got Alec Mills and Keegan Thompson pitching out of the bullpen right now, each of whom could slide into the rotation if necessary. You’ve got Shelby Miller starting at Iowa on a rehab assignment, and although his big league appearances were frighteningly wild, it’s possible the Cubs will want to give him another big league look – maybe even in the rotation – before jettisoning him. Cory Abbott is there waiting at Iowa and is already on the 40-man roster. Ditto Kohl Stewart. Oh, and Joe Biagini is looking totally reformed in the Iowa rotation, too. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Cubs have a rotation crunch or anything like that, but I would point out that the Cubs do have a LOT of other options at least as interesting as Williams if they want to see how they look in a big league start.

•   Speaking of Thompson, who looked freaking electric yesterday, I knew he had that nasty curveball, but he just hadn’t been able to bust it out for whiffs yet – and doing so not only got him those whiffs, it also got him whiffs on the nasty cutter. He was so good that his previously microscopic strikeout and swinging strike rates – basically bottom of the league, despite his success on contact – are still both low (16.7% and 7.1%), but kinda unremarkable. He’s ahead of tons of guys now. And, hey, his 0.00 ERA leads the league among pitchers with at least 10.0 innings pitched. *wink*

•   Thompson pitched two scoreless innings yesterday with five strikeouts, four of which were swinging:

•   Matt Duffy, who blew up yesterday (raised his quietly flagging wRC+ from 90 to 110 in a single game), has the right attitude about the homer he hit (Cubs.com): “We were talking about it in the dugout. There’s two ways to react after you hit a homer. You can either act cool like, ‘I’ve been there,’ or you can just say, ‘Screw it,’ and just be ecstatic. It’s like, ‘I don’t do that very often, so I’m just going to smile and enjoy it. I don’t care what anyone says.'” You watch Duffy hit, and it doesn’t look physically possible for him to hit a homer, so, yeah, enjoy it, dude. He also gave the Cubs the lead three separate times yesterday.

•   I don’t want to get too optimistic on a timeline for a return from a legit hamstring strain, but this does seem like a good sign:

•   The best part here is trying to figure out what Beaty said that immediately got him tossed:

•   I could convince myself he’s saying anything from “that was away,” or “there’s no way,” or “are you blind?,” or “you’re bad.” It’s like a Rorschach Test for lip-reading and baseball umpiring.

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.