MLBits: What Now, Cubs? Yankees Struggling But Not Selling, Schwarber’s Surge, Impact of Enforcement, More

I was with Brett – I really was – when he initially said that the month of June and, specifically, that final three-game set against the Brewers probably shouldn’t change our minds about the immediate future of the franchise. But as he’s softened on that stance (What Being Down 6.0 Games on July 1 Means for the Cubs) I’m pretty firmly a step further down the road.

Losing to that team in that way means almost as much to me as being 6.0 games out at the half-way point.

What Now, Cubs?

Do I think the Cubs *could* win this division? Sure. The schedule is about to get much easier and the Cubs won’t always play without Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Nico Hoerner (among many, many others). But it just feels over. That series was so crippling, so deflating. I don’t know. Maybe I’m letting my heart steer more than my head, but I’m getting back to my early offseason vibes of letting go and moving on.

And, no, it didn’t have to be this way. Some different, more creative maneuvering over the winter could’ve pushed this off (though that would’ve taken some SERIOUS confidence in the vaccine rollout, which I don’t think anybody had at the time). But here? Today? The Cubs are 3-9 against the Brewers, their second-best reliever, Ryan Tepera, is injured, one of their top relievers, Tommy Nance, is almost certainly being impacted by the new era of sticky stuff enforcement, the rotation may actually be at a lower point than it was earlier in the season, and the injuries just keep piling up (Jose Lobaton, Patrick Wisdom, Rizzo’s back, Bryant, etc.).

Pick someone (or two) you think you can/should extend, trade what you can, and look to make a quick turn around in 2022-2023. It’s not impossible, especially if you believe in Nico Hoerner, Willson Contreras, whomever you extend, Kyle Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay, and the Cubs new pitching infrastructure (all of which I do believe in!). There are some solid prospects on the way, the upcoming free agent class is fairly loaded and the Cubs have hardly any money on the books. Just give us something new next year. Something different. I’m sick of the staleness of this team.

What Now, Cubs?

The Twins just designated Matt Shoemaker for assignment, who was the only starting pitcher with a worse fWAR (-0.7) than Jake Arrieta (-0.5). So, well, that’s where I land on The Jake Arrieta Question. If you were wondering.

NYY Are Feeling Down (And We Can Help!)

You know the era is different when this doesn’t immediately provide some schadenfreude. If it were the Dodgers, I’d be in stitches, but this is kinda … ouch.

Oh, I guess I should introduce it first. Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner opens a statement on his team’s underperformance by taking responsibility and sharing it with his baseball ops leadership, managers, and coaches … and then basically says, just kidding it’s the players’ fault. Really wild ride, this one.

For what it’s worth, Hal Steinbrenner is not looking for the Yankees to become sellers at the trade deadline. In fact, it’s quite the opposite:

I don’t love how the Steinbrenner is treating the luxury tax threshold with such reverence (man, the owners really won that fight, eh?), but I am impressed with the overall message. Good for him. Now send us all of your best young players for our old vets. It’ll be worth it!

The Impact of Enforcing the Rules

At ESPN, Buster Olney has a really good story on how front offices are responding to the enforcement of sticky stuff rules, from the draft, to internal valuations, to the trade deadline. Obviously, it’s going to change a lot. And not just for pitchers. Certain hitters that struggle with certain types of pitchers/pitches, could be in store for big breakouts.

Hitters: A general manager talked last week about one of the veterans on his team whose batting average has been hovering around .200. “We think he’s going to break out,” the GM said, “because his biggest problems have been against really good breaking balls.”

And guess what? The volume of really good breaking balls might be in decline over the next 3½ months. So that slugger who has been swinging-and-missing at a high rate might suddenly face more benign breaking balls and do some damage.

I mean, come on … this isn’t just the weather heating up:AS

Brett makes his specific point in the Tweet below, but this really makes you consider whether we underestimated how well some guys could use sunscreen+rosin (if he’s telling the truth!)

Kyle Schwarber:

I don’t know if Kyle Schwarber, specifically, is one of the guys who’s offense is improving *solely* because of the new enforcement, but it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me given the timing. But also … we know how talented he is. Hell, we’ve seen him have absurdly hot stretches before (certainly not to this extent, but it *has* been very good before). Like, a 190 wRC+ in June is great, but it’s not insane. And even if you want to start at the beginning of the homer binge (which cuts out his ice cold start to the month: .148/.273/.148; 29 wRC+) he’s got just a a 254 wRC+. Crazy high, no doubt, but unheard of for 83 plate appearances? Nah. Not at all, really. Patrick Wisdom had a 244 wRC+ from May 27-June 14th.

This isn’t meant to be a dig at Schwarber, it’s supposed to illustrate my belief that he probably always had this in him, regardless of sticky stuff enforcement.

And to that end, our friend, Sara Sanchez (now writing for FanGraphs!), discussed Schwarber leveling up his power earlier today. And, unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than sticky stuff. He deserves credit, too.

Odds and Ends:

•   FanGraphs asks: What’s up with Nolan Arenado’s Defense?

•   Nothing like making history, am I right?

•   Congrats.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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