Hold the Line, Davies More Good Than Bad Lately, Willy’s Hot, Outfield Production, and Other Cubs Bullets
I appreciate Michael covering last night’s late game too much to be TOO jealous that he got to take in the no-no. He’s now up to 10-1 this year on game coverage, including that one. He’s gonna forget what it’s like to cover a typical team! People aren’t always super happy and super nice and super positive about all things Cubs!
But we can be for today, right?
• The win, paired with the Brewers’ off-day, put the two teams right back into their tied spot atop the NL Central standings. That might not last the weekend, and you should brace yourself for it. While the Cubs continue to play out in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, the Brewers will be hosting the Rockies, who are currently 6-28 on the road. That is not a typo. That is a real set of numbers. After these weekend sets, the Cubs and Brewers finally reunite for three in Milwaukee starting on Monday. We are finally approaching the close of the brutal Cubs stretch, taking place concurrently with the Brewers’ joke of a stretch (while the Cubs are really injured-up, too). Just hold the line a little longer, and things may turn in July.
• Speaking of which: Since that sweep of the Padres at Wrigley Field – as in, not counting that sweep – and the Cubs started that first West Coast road trip, the Cubs have gone 10-10. That’s truly good work overall. Holding the line. Holding the line.
• It’s unfortunate that Zach Davies got so thoroughly blown up by the Marlins his last time out, because otherwise he’d be on a nice streak. Heck, even including that disaster of a game (8 ER over 6.0 innings), Davies has still posted a 2.69 ERA since the start of May. He’s just been such an odd dude throughout his career, especially if you ignore the partial 2020 season. He clearly manages contact very well and always has, but the EXTREME low level of strikeouts (without a corresponding EXTREME low level of walks (just a solidly low level of walks)) means he’s going to have games where he gets knocked around. That’s just the fact and reality when you allow so many balls in play. Yet he’s always been good at suppressing homers, he doesn’t get an over-the-top level of groundballs, he does give up a lot of line drives, but he doesn’t allow a ton of hard contact. It’s just such a difficult mix to understand and put into context (it’s been our struggle all year with him). Somehow, you take it all together, and you get a guy who is pretty consistently about 5 to 10% better than league average by ERA.
• All that said, some things we do kinda know about him at this point, which informs expectations going forward: if he’s missing his spots at all, he’s at risk for an uptick in that hard contact, which can yield blow-up outings because he ain’t gonna get a lot of strikeouts. Even when he’s right, you still want to limit his exposure the third time through the order (he’s not an extreme guy in that regard, but he definitely goes from slightly better than average the first two times through to slightly worse than average the third time through). What’s tough to discern, though, is that he’ll have outings like last night, where he’s a little off on the location early, and then he settles into a groove. So you don’t want to pull the plug TOO soon, but if you’re wrong and it’s an off night, he can give up crooked numbers quickly.
• Not to miss the point, though: great outing last night for Davies, who has been trending very, very well since May 1. In eight of his eleven outings since then, he’s allowed just one or zero runs. He’s even gone at least six innings five times!
• A three-game explosion from Willson Contreras has him up to an odd-but-productive .226/.284/.516 (116 wRC+) line in June. I suspect he’s just gotten really unlucky this month, because he’s absolutely smoking the ball (and not on the ground, either), but has a mere .225 BABIP for the month.
• Fun way to look at things:
Cubs wins through 75 games
— RushingBaseball (@RushingBaseball) June 25, 2021
• If you want to enjoy the full game highlights from last night’s win, which was awesome for lots of reasons:
• The Dodgers honored Joc Pederson with his 2020 World Series ring last night for his return to Dodger Stadium:
Joc gets his jewelry. pic.twitter.com/bS1reoXIVs
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 25, 2021
• And really awesome right here:
The Dodgers gave Joc Pederson’s older brother Champ a World Series ring pic.twitter.com/4IcVFXdq3J
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) June 25, 2021
• A great read right here on the issues plaguing Jason Heyward and Ian Happ:
Yes, the Cubs threw a combined no-no, but our readers have been demanding more Jason Heyward and Ian Happ content! "What about J-Hey and Happer?" they ask, always respectfully and kindly. Well, here you go… A look at two struggling outfielders: https://t.co/sEC5Nqs3q2
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 25, 2021
• It’s always more complex than one clear thing, and that’s true for both Heyward and Happ. But you can distill from Sharma’s great piece that, at a minimum, you want to see Heyward’s timing improve (your signal will be that you see more line drives to the middle of the field), and you want to see Happ taking fewer strikes (your signal will be some shorter at bats with aggressive swings early in the count (and hopefully hard contact therefrom).
• Of course, as Sharma points out, if and when guys like Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy are ready to return, the outfield starts are going to get squeezed a bit, because then you’ll basically always have Kris Bryant out there in one spot (regardless of whether Patrick Wisdom is sticking in the lineup). And that’s to say nothing of a desire to get Jake Marisnick more starts. So, well, Heyward and Happ might want to start producing again quickly …