I’m reading Wright Thompson’s book, ‘Pappyland,’ which is mostly about Kentucky bourbon, a subject I basically didn’t care about at all. So why am I reading it? Well, Thompson did an ESPN podcast called ‘Bloodlines,’ which was about thoroughbred racing, another subject about which I didn’t care at all. But it was so good! The history, the intricacies about an industry that seemed so bizarre and opaque to me, the way other people care so deeply about it, etc. So, anyway, when I heard he was doing a book on bourbon, I was like, OK, I’ll give this a shot, too. And it’s GOOD!
• We’re a month out from the All-Star break (oh, hey, and now the Draft, too), and it’s really time for the Cubs to start making some serious calls about picking up another starting pitcher. It’s easy enough to say “just swap out Keegan Thompson with Jake Arrieta” or whatever, but the Cubs are already down two starting pitchers at the moment. So even as he struggled badly last night with his control, the Cubs kinda still need to try to get innings out of Arrieta for a while longer. And when you move Thompson into the rotation, you’re going to expose him a bit more, and we don’t yet know for sure that he’s ready to compete in the big leagues in that way for more than three inning bursts at a time. Love the poise we’ve seen and the individual pitches, but this is still a young guy who is developing on the fly – it’s no guarantee that he’d be a better starting option over the rest of the season (to say nothing of removing him from the bullpen).
• Basically, the Cubs need to add a steady starting pitcher and, like I said this weekend, they need to do it much earlier than the Trade Deadline, both for the performance boost in the interim, and to have a better sense of what they really are come July 29-30 (i.e., whether adding another starting pitcher – a truly impactful (pricey) type – is justifiable).
• Small sample hot and cold streaks are such a funny thing. We all do it because we’re trying to find some context amid the performances we have to work with, but the nature of baseball is such that one singular game can totally throw that stuff off. Case in point, we mentioned yesterday how Patrick Wisdom had been going through his first little rough patch – about a week – where the numbers were all rather bad and you wondered if there was a little natural regression happening. Well, just one game later, now that entire weeklong “bad” stretch is transformed into a .200/.304/.500 slash line with a 120 wRC+. In other words, because of his homer-walk performance last night, suddenly you can’t find a “bad” stretch to play around with anymore. I guess we can now say that his WAR pace has slipped below 10 (it’s now a mere 9.6 pace over a full season). Of course, he’s now tied with Javy Báez and Willson Contreras at 1.2 WAR on the year, second only to Kris Bryant on the Cubs, so yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous.
• Home run leader:
Patrick Wisdom, rookie home run leader. pic.twitter.com/rQoZhzPbhs
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) June 15, 2021
• Anthony Rizzo’s homer last night briefly tied him with Wisdom on the Cubs list, but then Wisdom had to go and immediately go back on top. I bet Rizzo was kicking some rocks.
• The roster situation is such that there is still a spot on the 26-man for Eric Sogard, and the injury to Javy Báez made it such that Sogard had to slide in for some starts at second base. For the most part, I get how things have played out the last couple weeks+. But we’ve certainly reached the point where he’s had a decent period of time to demonstrate that the abysmal seasons in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2020 were not the real Sogard, and that the really solid years in 2017 and 2019 were the real Sogard (at age 35). Right now, he’s hitting .242/.284/.315 with a 65 wRC+. Just 14 hitters with at least 130 PAs have had a worse wRC+ this year, and whatever contact skill he brings is not offsetting the loss of production. He does still play solid defense, so at least there’s that. But, not to pick on one play, but … getting picked off second base is just not something that can happen when you finally do get on base:
• I tend to think that, whenever one of Nico Hoerner or David Bote are ready to return, that’s probably going to be that for Sogard. Surely the Cubs aren’t going to bounce a guy like Patrick Wisdom or Sergio Alcantara first at this point, right? That said, Hoerner and Bote are each still a ways off.
• Speaking of which, both Hoerner and Bote and taking swings and doing some fielding work, so that’s positive. Matt Duffy is pretty clearly going to be the first one back, though, as he’s close to a rehab assignment. He hasn’t played second base in six years, so I’m not sure he would impact the Sogard/Alcantara consideration, and is more likely to take a roster spot like Rafael Ortega’s in the near-term.
• One more injury note there from Marquee: Trevor Williams is throwing every day, but he has to see his doctor later this week to determine what his ramp-back-up can look like after the appendectomy surgery.
• Finally, team-level details for the complex leagues (i.e., rookie ball in Arizona, which starts later this month, and Dominican Summer League, which starts next month) – the Cubs will drop down to just one rookie ball team this year, but will stick with two DSL teams. The Cubs aren’t an anomaly, as I count just five organizations (Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Brewers, Giants) that will be fielding two rookie ball clubs, but I was kinda hoping they would do two again this year so that their huge crop of that-age-ish prospects could play stateside at the end of this month. Among those prospects, Cristian Hernandez, I’m now thinking he’s probably going to kick off his Cubs career in the DSL (not that there was ever anything wrong with that, given that he’s just 17).
• The latest pod with me and Patrick Mooney, pre-Mets game, but post-a bunch of other stuff of note:
🧹 Cubs sweep the Cardinals
🏟️ Wrigley rocking at full capacity
🩹 Vaccination comments from Rizzo, Heyward
🍯 MLB cracking down on sticky substances?
— The Athletic Chicago (@TheAthleticCHI) June 14, 2021
• I share this not for lulz, but just as a data point on large group attendance coming out of the pandemic – this is a very small number for the Cardinals in almost any circumstance, though there were a lot of factors:
#Cardinals announce an attendance of 24,281 for the first time they can play to a full house since October 2019.
Largest capacity of the season does not yield the largest crowd of the season: Monday. #Marlins. Losing streak. Country coming out of a pandemic. All contribute.
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) June 15, 2021
• Eloy Jimenez (ruptured pec tendon) is resuming baseball activities, though he’s still upwards of a month or more away from a rehab assignment and then a return to the White Sox. Still, I say good for him, because there were fears that his season was over. I’m never not gonna root for that guy.