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Happ’s Heroics, Wisdom’s Sustainability, Thompson’s Grind, Prospect Dingers, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I won’t bore you with too much of my fantasy draft stuff from last night except to say that Bryan is a jerk for taking Justin Fields way too early. *I WANTED* to be the fool who took Justin Fields way too early! Stick to Cubs prospects!

•   I didn’t know it while I was watching, but that was Ian Happ’s first ever walk-off  … moment? Batted ball? We can’t call it a hit or even an RBI, since it was an error. But it was his first, you know, thingy. And definitely his first LIKE THAT:

•   Happ, who also gave the Cubs the lead in the 7th with a dinger, is hitting extremely well over his last 15 games: .358/.393/.792, 210 wRC+, 6 HR, 5 2B, 14 RBI. I know that even mentioning Happ success really pisses some people off, but this is all going to factor into the decision about his tender in December, his arbitration rate next year, and the role the Cubs expect for him next year. So I’ve gotta discuss it. I don’t really plan to EVALUATE it until we get the rest of the season’s data so we can see if there were clear trends in HOW he turned his game around, because ultimately that’s going to be what decides what we really think he could reasonably be expected to be in 2022. I just don’t want to completely close the door on a guy who just turned 27 and has had stretches of as much big league success as he’s had. But neither do I want a hot stretch at the end of the season to lead the Cubs to proceed this offseason as though Happ providing starter-level production in 2022 is a guarantee.

•   Going back to July 26, he’s hitting .258/.326/.542 (130), as the power has returned in spades. Since then, though, the strikeout rate is 37.1%. I wonder if there’s a relationship there to the power and hard contact returning; before July 26, when Happ’s production was atrocious, he was striking out only 28.4% of the time. He wouldn’t be the first guy who just has to live with a high strikeout rate in order to maximize the rest of his game at the plate.

•   Speaking of guys whose huge power seems to be tied, inextricably, to the swing-and-miss in their game, a great write-up at FanGraphs on the sustainability of Patrick Wisdom’s production. You should read it for the full context, but the gist is more support for what we’ve discussed before with him: yes, he *can* be successful despite a strikeout rate in the upper-30s, but he’ll have to keep hitting the ball obscenely well to make it work (assuming the walk rate doesn’t come up substantially*). The good news? Wisdom not only hits the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, but his typical launch angle, when he does hit the ball hard, is ideal. So basically, when Wisdom hits the ball well, he hits it perfectly (no one is even close to him in terms of the quality of his barrels). And apparently that is a very predictive/sustainable skill, so that’s a very good sign that he could – for a few more years at least, depending on the aging curve – continue to be this weirdly successful enormous strikeout guy.

•   *(Normally, when a guy is doing what Wisdom is doing, you would expect the walk rate to come up substantially as pitchers start getting more and more wary about challenging him in the zone, and he does have a good sense of the strike zone. But I’m sticking with my “bait” theory: because Wisdom’s hole in the upper third of the zone is SO STRIKING, pitchers are going to keep trying to get whiffs right there. Throw a half-decent fastball in the upper third of the strike zone, and way more than half the time Wisdom WILL swing and WILL whiff. But sometimes they’ll miss by a bit, and he’ll crush it. I’m just not sure they’re going to start treating him like a guy to whom you can’t throw strikes when he has the worst in-zone contact rate in all of baseball.)

•   Keegan Thompson is really grinding in those first innings, and last night was another 30+ pitch, multi-run inning. “I was trying anything I could think of. I just couldn’t find anything,” said Thompson about trying to make in-game adjustments, per Cubs.com. “It was one of those days where it’s just, I’m in a rough patch right now. Just go back and work on my mechanics and get back in sync and go from there.” As much as we want Thompson to succeed as a starter right now to set up next year, and for as much as he did have success in the big league bullpen and starting at Triple-A, we have to acknowledge that (1) this is an extremely long season for him compared to the last few years of pandemic and injuries, and (2) the stuff might just simply play up considerably in relief (or against Triple-A batters). I think he should keep getting starts from here so long as he’s healthy and doesn’t need to be shut down, but a multi-inning reliever floor ain’t a bad thing. I’m just saying.

•   Speaking of multi-inning relievers, Scott Effross sure looked good in his two perfect innings last night. He got FOUR swinging strikeouts (two lefties), and looked completely in control. Hopefully that White Sox appearance was just some first-big-league-shot jitters that subside, because you’d love to have a funky guy with a funky arm angle around in your bullpen if he can stick. It might take him looking like that pretty much the rest of the way to lock up that 40-man spot for the crowded offseason.

•   Kitchen needs, trunk organizers, laptops, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   The Mets, in their never-ending quest to change the news cycle from the last lulz thing to the next, have put their interim GM on leave pending the drunk driving charge, and now it’s the boss’s son who will help step in:

•   Intriguing Cubs prospects went on a homer binge last night:



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.