Thank the NL Central, Baserunning Blips, KB’s Catch, Yu History, Buxton Hurt Again, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Wife took the big kiddos to the zoo this morning, and she just sent me picture of them … in animal face paint. I don’t often get overwhelmed by cuteness, but there’s something about animal face paint at the zoo that strikes me as just so sweet and carefree. Very happy that they are getting to do that today.

•   With the NL Central in a collective slump this month (with only the Cubs playing a tough schedule, I’ll note!), the Cubs have been fortunate to hang onto a tie for first place (Brewers), and remain multiple games ahead of the Cardinals and Reds. This won’t keep up forever – at a minimum, eventually they’ll all have to start playing each other again! – but the banked losses for MIL/STL/CIN are going to help the Cubs’ positioning as we head into July, when the schedule becomes much more favorable. In other words, it sort of doesn’t matter that the Cubs are “tied for first place” at the moment, because there are still so many more games to be played. But the losing for those other teams right now? That definitely matters. In an ideal world, the Cubs are multiple games up in the division by July 20 or so, which would allow them to much more confidently target a significant starting pitcher in trade.

•   Gordon Wittenmyer does a nice job of summing things up after another ugly loss:

•   Clearly the takeaway is that the Cubs just need to pitch more shutouts. There. Solved the problem.

•   The Brewers have also won just two of their last eight, the Reds have lost five in a row, and the Cardinals have won just six of their last 20(!).

•   In his write-up about the Javy Báez benching incident, Patrick Mooney’s narrative flow included a paragraph that totally made me chuckle regardless of context: “One Cubs official remembered being confused when he initially got a scouting report on the hotshot prospect in the minors: The best tagger? Like he hits a lot of home runs? Another Cubs staffer felt silly even mentioning it to curious major-league coaches because tagging was never a thing they talked about before Báez.” Javy is singular. Never forget that.

•   Apropos of Báez’s baserunning goof, though, Jesse Rogers tweets that the Cubs lead the league in outs on the bases (not including pick-offs or caught stealing, so we’re talking about the true TOOTBLAN’iest of TOOTBLANs). The Cubs rate out as a well-below-average baserunning team by BsR at FanGraphs, for what that’s worth, but not down among the absolute dregs, which is surprising given Rogers’ stat and the Cubs’ 18 caught stealing, which is second most in baseball (against just 36 successful steals, only 9th most). Perhaps they’ve been picked off a crapload, too? I can immediately think of multiple inexcusable pick-offs, including Anthony Rizzo with a couple this past weekend, David Bote with one at second, Eric Sogard with another … wait, I just checked as I was typing, and no, only 6 pick-offs this year, which is bad, but not near the top of the league. I guess we’ll just say the Cubs have been quite bad on the bases, somewhere between the bottom quartile and the very bottom.

•   Don’t forget that today is the finale of Prime Day at Amazon. So if you’re looking for their biggest collection of deals before Black Friday, make sure to check it out. When you shop via our links, it supports BN in the process, so thanks for letting me pop these things into the Bullets. Hopefully it sometimes helps you find something good. #ad

•   Kris Bryant made a helluva good catch in center last night:

•   Happy for Yu, melancholy for us:

•   Byron Buxton is truly the unluckiest player I can remember:

•   The guy finally comes back from his latest injury – an injury that followed the start of a MONSTER breakout (finally!) – only to get hit by a pitch and break his hand three days later. Buxton has played in parts of seven big league seasons, but has managed just 459 games (140 was his high in 2017, and 92 was his next most … yowsa). He’s a free agent after next year. I have no idea what the next season and a half will look like, and therefore what his free agent case will look like. Incredible talent. He had been playing at a 16+ WAR pace this year. I’m just speechless at this guy’s story.

•   Another way to think about how incredible Jacob deGrom’s season has been so far:

•   This suggests that the City Connect look will stay in the rotation for several more appearances this year (it made a second appearance this past weekend), which I’m good with. They have really grown on me:

•   One fun thing from last night:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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