Happy Marcus Stroman Day! Hopefully Stroman is just his usual self – he need not be anything more than that – and the Cubs will have a chance to pull off this sweep to open the season.
As for yesterday’s win, and other things …
• Justin Steele got just five whiffs out of his 77 pitches yesterday but get this incredible bit: every single one of those whiffs was the putaway pitch on a strikeout. Going for some early contact and/or called strikes and save the best stuff for two-strike situations? That’s a real thing, by the way: some pitchers are simply best at reserving their out pitches for strike three, so they might not have a great swinging strike rate overall, but actually wind up having a really good strikeout rate. Small sample, obviously, but so far in his big league career, Steele has been one of those guys: his swinging strike rate is slightly below league average, but his strikeout rate is above league average.
• Also something we’ve seen before from Steele when he’s at his best? Nearly 60% of his balls in play yesterday were on the ground. That’s stellar.
• As for Keegan Thompson, that right there was exactly the version we were seeing of Thompson last year when he was in a multi-inning relief role. Out of 42 pitches, he got six whiffs and eight called strikes (a 33% called strike plus whiffs rate (CSW) is very good). If it weren’t for the HBP shenanigans, he was set to go three scoreless innings on just 45-ish pitches. That is just so good and valuable.
• You can’t count on perfection every time he’s out there in that role – and you don’t want to categorically rule out starting in the future – but Thompson’s just been so good at it so far in his career. Some guys are just at their best when they know they’re going only 40-ish pitches, one time through the order, and can let it all hang out. (Again, that’s a compliment: a lot of guys who have to move into relief can get their max stuff really for only one inning or about 20 pitches.)
• Scott Effross cleaned up that 8th inning (after the HBP) with a strikeout, and then Ethan Roberts made his big league debut in the 9th. So the Cubs threw a four-pitcher shutout, and all four pitchers were entirely homegrown. That’s incredible, and certainly feels like one of those, “Oh, I think things might be a little different in the future?” situations. Not quite a flip of the switch, mind you, but this is a tease on what’s coming – and it’s something that we saw almost none of over the past decade.
• On Roberts, by the way, you could tell his command wasn’t at its best (understandable, given the moment – good spot to get the debut out of the way). But the movement on his 94 mph cutting fastball is silly. And his sweeping slider might’ve moved 25 inches. It’s eye-popping stuff.
The stars aligned for this moment✨ Thank you fans for making my debut unimaginable ❤️ pic.twitter.com/74cZsJK2Is
— Ethan Roberts (@EthanXXVI) April 10, 2022
• This is just so impressive for the Cubs, including only FOUR whiffs on pitches wholly out of the strike zone:
First image shows balls vs. Cubs offense today. Second shows the Cubs' swings and misses.
Ross: "Some really good pitchers we've faced to start off and guys are staying to their approach and their zone. I think good things happen because of that." pic.twitter.com/gs7jMKGB7Z
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 10, 2022
• Seiya Suzuki was just feeling a kind and generous spirit yesterday. Not only did he give the Cubs three runs with his first three big league RBI, but he also cleaned up and brought treats:
Seiya Suzuki drives in his first run as a Cub! pic.twitter.com/3RO9OBC9K7
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 9, 2022
Is it common for a guy coming up with the bases loaded to also do some upkeep on the on deck circle?
— Robbie C (@Robbierobc10) April 9, 2022
• By the way, that sac fly was a Barrel that on a windless day would’ve gone a lot further. Probably not out of the park, but maybe it’s to the wall and winds up extra bases. Pretty great contact for a two-strike situation where you’re trying to put the ball in play.
• The Cubs actually had the only three Barrels in the game (that one, plus Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom), and all went for fly outs on a cold and windy April day at Wrigley Field. Many other days, the Wisdom fly out is a grand slam. Such is the nature of our beloved.
• Through two games, Jason Heyward is certainly getting results. How much that matters remains to be seen, and I’m certainly not changing my position yet that he should not be primarily starting right now (and he shouldn’t squeeze anyone else off the roster). I’d be thrilled to be wrong.
• This … should not be possible:
what did i just see
101 MPH top of the zone 🔥
Byron Buxton hits it 436 feet! 💣 pic.twitter.com/hqEQ9se6GI
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) April 9, 2022
• It was a VERY impressive day down on the farm yesterday for the Cubs, so make sure to check out Bryan’s write-up.
• So close:
Almost clinched. pic.twitter.com/XCIrwhClh8
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 10, 2022