Happ Still Hitting, Steele Good and Bad, Wick and Heuer, Davis Experience, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Happ Still Hitting, Steele Good and Bad, Wick and Heuer, Davis Experience, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I told myself again and again and again before last night’s game that the Bears were highly likely to lose – probably badly – and I still found myself frustrated throughout. Maybe the Rams are just stellar. Truly could be the case, and when you have only one game’s worth of data points, it can really look skewed. But it was all just so uninspiring on both sides of the ball, and after four years of Matt Nagy working to implement his system – and multiple DC changes – it’s just galling for them to come out and look so boringly similar to what we’ve seen for years now.

•   Whatever you think of Ian Happ’s late-season surge – and it’s import or lack thereof – he certainly isn’t slowing down. After his latest game and latest dinger, he finished a full day at an even 100 wRC+ for the first time since the first week of the season.

•   We’re now up to a full month where Happ has been hitting an obscene .366/.396/.782 (209), and while the BABIP (.433) and ISO (.416) are unsustainably inflated, it’s incontrovertible that he’s absolutely crushing the ball WHILE being way more aggressive at the plate. That’s the kind of thing I wanted to see before even starting to get hopeful about Happ again – in any role – for 2022. I needed to see a real, tangible CHANGE to his game paired with the results. His barrel rate during this stretch is a hilarious 18.3%. League average is 7.8%, and just two hitters are exceeding 18.3% this season (Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr.). Again, not saying Happ can keep *THIS* up, but just saying that’s how absurd he’s been during this past month.

•   This is a good insight from Justin Steele, particularly on a day where he was giving up so many hits in hitters’ counts:

•   The issue was the early fastball command, which not only got him into some hitters’ counts, but also prevented him from getting many of those early, weak-contact outs. There were nine balls in play against him over 98 mph, and only three of those were on the ground.

•   That was certainly Steele’s worst start by the results, though I nevertheless found it encouraging: He was able to use all of his pitches, he still got lots of whiffs, and he was getting the experience without getting destroyed or losing composure. Don’t miss me: he will need better results to stick in the rotation. But for where things are RIGHT NOW, that start was a good use of his time, so to speak.

•   Rowan Wick continued his post-ramp-up dominating run with two perfect innings yesterday, including four strikeouts. He might wind up getting in upwards of 20 innings this year, which isn’t a ton, but given how delayed he was, I’ll absolutely take it. And, as I’ve said, if he keeps looking like he has been looking, I’m completely fine with the Cubs heading into next year with Wick as the presumptive closer. It’s just not an area where the 2022 Cubs should be spending a lot of money to bring in someone from the outside. Focus on the rotation, shortstop, and the outfield.

•   Speaking of the bullpen, these tweets came out very close in time to one another:

•   Great overnight news on Brennen Davis, eh? The Cubs’ top prospect is headed to Triple-A Iowa to finish out the year. It isn’t a *SHOCKING* promotion given his performance, but it’s all the less shocking because the Triple-A season goes quite a bit longer than the Double-A season this year. So if you want to get Davis about two extra weeks of experience, this is the way to do it. The strikeout rate is obviously where you’d like to see improvement (30.8% at Double-A portends serious potential challenges at Triple-A on that front), but you have to keep in mind that he’s just about the youngest player in that league, had so little pro experience coming into this year, and does hit the crap out of the ball and takes his walks. Big-time slump the last three weeks – .157/.232/.275, 43 wRC+, 41.1% K rate – so the Cubs must otherwise like what they’ve been seeing to believe he’s ready for another huge challenge.

•   As for the future, no, this promotion does not mean you can absolutely count on Davis being the Cubs’ starting center fielder next year, even for half the season. Could it happen? Absolutely. It’s totally on the radar. But it’s just as plausible that he needs plenty of time at Triple-A, given his youth and relative lack of experience, or that he does a little up-down next year to get exposure to big league pitching and then make adjustments at Triple-A.

•   David Ross, back with the Cubs:

•   Great to see him hit another one after a decent-sized slump:

•   Incredible, Cubs-adjacent history:

•   You’re reading that correctly. Padres reliever Austin Adams hit three batters yesterday to fly past the season record for HBPs, which had been held by STARTING PITCHER Kerry Wood. Adams has been hitting a batter every other inning. You’re probably wondering how a guy like that still has a job – I was, anyway – and it’s because he cannot be hit. He walks a ton of guys and he does the HBPs, but look at his freaking slash line against: .150/.362/.206. That is bonkers.

•   The chatter about the Celtics going after Zach LaVine is already starting.

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.