That Terrible Strike Zone, Happ’s Lack of Strikeouts, Roberts Nasty, Hermosillo, and Other Cubs Bullets

It’s just the cruelest tease when you get back-to-back days 80 and sunny, only to be followed by a week of 40s and 50s. I know that’s such a cliche weather gripe, but man, it’s the worst version of it.

•   It’s early, but it bears keeping an eye on, especially after the longggg homer last night: Ian Happ continues to rake against lefties. I think the Cubs, at this point, have to keep giving him those starts, not only to assist with any development he’s working on there, but also because he might be one of the team’s best bats against lefties! You’d like to know, especially as Happ approaches his final year of team control in 2023.

•   Overall, Happ’s early numbers look fantastic across the board. Even setting aside the top-level numbers (.333/.433/.510, 173 wRC+), his expected metrics nearly match the results, and his K/BB rates are eye-popping for him: 18.3% K rate, 13.3% BB rate. I can barely believe it as I’m typing it. Still, you have to do your obligatory warnings: it’s just 60 PAs, so not even enough to START thinking about K/BB stabilizing, and the groundball rate is a jarring 60.0%. Basically, a ton of Happ’s grounders have found the outfield, and when he hasn’t hit it on the ground, it’s been really well struck. That balance can’t quite last, so there will have to be a touch more elevation. Then again, if there’s something in his approach that is generating more grounders (bad!) but DRAMATICALLY reducing his strikeouts (good!), there might be a delicate balance at play that you don’t want to mess with too much.

•   Upon data review, it was as bad as it seemed in the moment last night:

•   There seems to be one missing from that Statcast data, too, because I don’t see the high and inside call against Nick Madrigal (may have clipped the upper right corner, may not have – but there’s no called strike shown in that area at all, so it must be missing).

•   Was the strike zone the difference in the game? Probably not. But there were multiple Cubs at bats – with runners on base – that were fundamentally changed because they went to 1-2 instead of 2-1, or 1-1 instead of 2-0, etc., plus that strikeout of Seiya Suzuki. That stuff adds up. The auditor system pegged it at a bit more than a run for the Braves, who won the game by two:

•   Clearly, Ethan Roberts heard all of the chatter about the roster shrinking next week and the young guys with options being the ones sent down:

https://twitter.com/CubsZone/status/1519129041592274946

•   I kid about the reason, of course. But that was just dominant stuff from Roberts last night, the first time we’ve seen him look like that for a full inning (his last six outs have been recorded by strikeout, by the way). There won’t be an overreaction in any direction to one outing (good or bad), but it was nice to see a live reminder of the upside we know he’s got. I still believe Roberts will be an impact relief contributor for many years for the Cubs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be development along the way (that might include a trip or two to Iowa at various points). The goal is to help him become the best, most consistent version of himself – however, whenever that can happen. Last night was really nice to see.

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•   Michael Hermosillo had the wild catch of the night, but Seiya Suzuki followed with a really great grab of his own:

•   That duo also combined for the biggest bummer of a double-play:

•   That’s a 370-foot barrel for Suzuki, and off the bat, it sure looked like it was headed for the gap. Adam Duvall did an excellent job tracking it perfectly, and Michael Hermosillo got too aggressive trying to read it as getting down. He clearly wanted to score from first, which I think it’s the right mindset in that situation, but I guess you have to be more sure in your execution. It’s not like Duvall had to dive to catch it or anything, and if you play it safe, worst case is you wind up second and third with one out. I don’t think it was as bad of a baserunning play as some have said (certainly not as bad as his error in center field on the Ozzie Albies single), but I also can’t quite say it was just bad luck or whatever.

•   Speaking of all of that, the timing is not good for Hermosillo to be in these kinds of conversations. As we’ve discussed, the roster is going to shrink next week, and there will also eventually be returning players who will squeeze the roster further. While a decision on whether to DFA a guy should never be made on the basis of just a few games, the Cubs aren’t going to have a whole lot more to go on by the time a decision must be made. And if they aren’t ready to move on from Jason Heyward, it is conceivable that Hermosillo could eventually be the guy squeezed out. I want him to get a real shot to stick, and mistakes like his two last night won’t help.

•   Semantics:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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