Offense Shuts Down, Roberts Learns Lessons, Reynolds School Cubs, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Offense Shuts Down, Roberts Learns Lessons, Reynolds School Cubs, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Today is Earth Day, complete with special activities in Chicago for those of you in the area.

•   Ah, yes, the old familiar feeling of waking up to grind the morning after the Cubs lost an early-season game they absolutely should not be losing. It was a very 2021 kind of loss, too, with the Cubs getting out to an early lead – gifted to them, more than anything – and then the offense completely shut down. The Cubs are now under .500 for the first time this season.

•   Among the offense-shutting-down bits, clearly the worst night we’ve seen from Seiya Suzuki at the plate. Not only did he have three strikeouts in the game, but we saw some whiffs on hittable pitches in the zone, and we saw some reaching outside the zone (even his RBI groundout was a 1-1 pitcher’s pitch way down and out of the zone). You don’t belabor this because it generates newfound concern, but only to underscore that (1) he’s human, (2) maybe the adjustment period is coming as the scouting reports get revised, and (3) he can’t carry the offense on his own.

•   Elsewhere in the lineup, there wasn’t much to cheer. Bryse Wilson tried to give the Cubs the game early on, but the bats couldn’t strike the big blow. From there, the strikeouts were plentiful, and the scoring opportunities were more or less non-existent.

•   As for the other side of the ball, Mark Leiter Jr. did his now 2 for 2 blowup thing in the third inning as the lineup turned over, but the damage was only a two-run Dan Vogelbach homer. He managed to pitch a clean fourth for an overall outing that wasn’t all that shabby. That could be his last one, with Alec Mills possibly returning next time through, but Leiter may have earned himself a shot at staying on the 40-man at least (i.e., optioned to Iowa, rather than DFA’d), with the opportunity to come back up later in the year. Honestly, he’s looked so good now in each start the first time through the order, that I wouldn’t hate if you just made him a two-inning opener …

•   The rest of the damage came off of Ethan Roberts, whose outing was mixed in a lot of ways. He was showing his nasty stuff and struck out two, but he also got wild at times. Too wild to be at his most effective. He also didn’t get help from the umpire, who missed two crystal clear strikes in PAs that later saw batters reach, and there was also a passed ball. But the pivotal at bat featured a mistake in approach – no matter how good the pitch is individually, this is a recipe for disaster:

•   All six pitches with the same movement profile, at the same velocity, in roughly the same spot. Obviously it was an extremely cutter-heavy outing for Roberts overall (it’s his base fastball), and maybe Willson Contreras knew that Roberts was wanting to press the cutter heavily. Then again, in the preceding plate appearance – the walk to Ke’Bryan Hayes – Roberts had juuuust barely missed with a couple sliders. My guess is the report on Tsutsugo very heavily favored the cutter up and away and very heavily disfavored the slider. For his part, Roberts said he shook off a couple curveball calls from Contreras because he was convinced the cutter up and away was the right pitch. Maybe so, but at some point you have to change the look. Otherwise, well, that happens. Learning experience for Roberts.

•   I’m thinking Roberts is probably going to be among the players headed to Iowa when the roster crunch comes at the end of the month, not only because he has options remaining, but also because he’s gotten several of these bridge opportunities now, and hasn’t quite looked ready. I’m confident he’s a big league reliever in the long run – a good one, most likely – but development isn’t linear, it’s a learning process, and all that. Sometimes that first taste of the big leagues is what you need to take with you back to the upper minors for more development.

•   Chris Martin wants to make sure he isn’t squeezed out after some rough outings to start his Cubs career. Last night, after a leadoff single by Ben Gamel in his inning (which barely counts, since Gamel is Mike Trout against the Cubs), Martin struck out three straight swinging on a total of just 12 pitches.

•   If you weren’t watching the game and tried to catch up in the play-by-play, you might wonder how on earth this description is possible: “Bryan Reynolds triples (1) on a soft ground ball to third baseman Patrick Wisdom.” How could you possibly triple on a soft ground ball to the third baseman without any kind of error? Well, it takes a lot of flukiness, some extremely heads up baserunning, and a lack of readiness by the defense:

•   I feel like we should be seeing a lot more Clint Frazier and Michael Hermosillo. I get why we aren’t – the Cubs clearly had very specific platoon deployments in mind – but I’d much rather find out what the Cubs have in those two than see incremental optimizations afforded other players.

•   No fighting in the bleachers – you probably made the Cubs lose:

•   Great read (and podcast!) on how the Cubs have helped Keegan Thompson continue to improve – how he looks so different from last year – and how important it is to engage your glutes:

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.