This season, the Chicago Cubs have had 17 of their 48 games decided by just one run. They’ve lost 13 of those contests. So naturally, their Pythag record — based on runs scored/allowed — has them at a league “leading” four extra losses than expected in a normal distribution. And their BaseRuns record — based on the underlying performance of the team — has them at three extra losses (t-5th most).
Now, 48 games is still a pretty small sample in the grand scheme of the season. But at least now, the outlying blowout-win over the Pirates (21-0) was somewhat neutralized by the outlying blowout-loss to the Reds (5-20). So maybe the Cubs (currently 19-29) could be spotted a couple more wins? Not that we should feel any differently about a team that “should be” 21-27. That’s still bad.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is falling into one of two buckets.
The Yankees, Astros, Mets, Brewers, Dodgers and Padres are all on pace to win 100 games.
The Royals, Tigers, Nationals and Reds are on pace to lose 100 games.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 31, 2022
Yes. There are teams much worse than the Cubs.
Elsewhere around baseball …
Jacob deGrom Opt-Out Calculus
The top of the upcoming free agent class is going to be largely defined by the players that opt-out of their deals. Clubs might have the ability to sign Carlos Correa (two-years, $70.2M remaining), Xander Bogaerts (three-years, $60M), Carlos Rodon (one-year, $22.5M), Justin Verlander (one-year, $25M), and/or Anthony Rizzo (one-year, $16M) … or they might not! But arguably the highest profile (and still uncertain) opt-out is Jacob deGrom, who has a one-year, $30.5M option on the table for 2023.
In all likelihood, deGrom, 33 (and 11 months), will opt-out of his deal, but it’s at least worth discussing considering that he still hasn’t pitched yet this season due to another arm injury. That pushes him up close to a full calendar year without pitching thanks to multiple different arm issues.
Note that deGrom has already promised to opt-out after the season no matter what (though that was before he current issue), and that seems to be the prevailing wisdom. In fact, Jon Heyman surveyed 12 agents (not including deGrom’s), and the belief is that he just needs to make a handful of starts before the year is up to make an opt-out worth the risk. A couple agents don’t even think he needs to appear at all!
Signing deGrom to a Max Scherzer-esq deal ($40M+ AAV for a few years) is going to come with its risks, but the upside is you get the single best pitcher in MLB. Someone’s going to roll the dice. I don’t think it’ll be the Cubs, but it would be fun and they will likely have the need! (Brett: It’s gonna be the Cubs. I am WILLING IT into existence.)
A Juan Soto Trade Analysis
One of the most exciting trade deadline stories to arise this season is the potential for a Juan Soto trade. Soto, 23, is one of the most talented players in MLB and comes with two more years of team control, but the Nats are going nowhere, have been unsuccessful in extension talks, and could look to max out on a deal as soon as this deadline. (I still doubt an in-season trade for a megastar like Soto could happen, but it’s out there, so we discuss.)
At ESPN, Brad Doolittle did a little analysis to determine which teams might be ESPECIALLY incentivized to get a deal done before this pennant race by approximating who might see the largest in-season gain to their playoff and World Series odds. By that measure, the Braves (+3.8 wins, +16% playoff odds) and White Sox (+2.9 wins, +12% playoff odds) would benefit the most in terms of reaching the playoffs while the Blue Jays (+3.3 wins, +6.9% WS odd) and Dodgers (+2.7 wins, +6.3% WS odds) would get the biggest bump towards another ring.
The Cubs fall into the third most likely category, with a potential gain of 3.1 wins and 4% playoff odds boost, but if they were to add Soto it would be ENTIRELY about the remaining two years of control and ability to re-sign him before he hits the market.
I don’t think the Nats are going to trade Soto and I don’t think the Cubs would be the most likely buyers if they do make him available, BUT if it comes to it, I do think they need to do literally whatever it takes to get him. He’s so young, and he’s already a superstar. He’s exactly the sort of guy for whom you empty the cupboard. And we’ve seen what can happen when you sit back and hope a generational talent makes it to free agency (Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, etc.).
How’s Kimbrel Doing?
With Codi Heuer out for the season and Nick Madrigal injured/underperforming, it’s easy to be underwhelmed with the return for Craig Kimbrel in the present (I still think those are two guys that could play a big role on the Cubs the next time they’re good). But Kimbrel went on to post a 5.09 ERA for the Sox last season and is struggling with the Dodgers again this year, where he was traded by the Sox for A.J. Pollock.
Despite 10 saves so far this season (t-9th most in MLB) and a 30.9% strikeout rate, Kimbrel has a 4.80 ERA and just blew a save against the Pirates.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Craig Kimbrel, and Monday night he finally checked "blew a save" off the list https://t.co/Cy2tDTIzX3
— True Blue LA (@truebluela) May 31, 2022
Kimbrel’s groundball rate is excellent (which is weird for him), and he hasn’t allowed a ton of hard contact, but he’s allowed runs in each of his last three outings and just doesn’t look like the guy he was with the Cubs for most of 2020 and the first half of 2021.
After an offseason spending spree that pushed payroll up to a club-record $228.7M, the Philadelphia Phillies (21-28) have just a 2.8% change of winning their division and a 22.2% chance of reaching the playoffs at all, according to the FanGraphs odds. And when something like that happens to a team that has pushed its chips in, calls to replace the manager are going to come.
But Ken Rosenthal doesn’t think replacing Joe Girardi is going to solve any of the Phillies problems. Without an obvious replacement or an ability to improve the team’s defense or relief pitching, there’s just not much to be gained: “Sometimes teams believe change is necessary for change’s sake. The Phillies, seven games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season, might be reaching that point. The largest deficit a Phillies team has overcome to win a division was 8 1/2 games in 2007. The current group, the product of a club-record $228.7 million payroll, is 11 1/2 games back.”
More to the point, Dave Dombrowski does not need to fire Girardi to keep his own job, because as Rosenthal points out, Dombrowski is signed through 2024 and has the full sport of owner John Middleton. You can read much more on the dilemma in Philly right here.
Odds and Ends
• It’s truly becoming unbelievable – Nick Castellanos always finds a way to homer during some serious moment on the broadcast:
CASTELLANOS HOMERS AGAIN pic.twitter.com/uhEkUc6dBX
— Mr Matthew CFB 🇺🇦 (@MrMatthewCFB) May 30, 2022
• How many cheesesteaks could you house in one sitting?
'It wasn't even a dare. I was just hungry.'
Dmitri Young once ate 11 cheesesteaks during a series at Citizens Bank Park and unknowingly started a 2-decades-long, cheesesteak-eating contest in the @Phillies visitor clubhouse. Here's the full, fun story: https://t.co/NKnVjif9az
— Matt Monagan (@MattMonagan) May 27, 2022
The stories from each guy were fun (and, at times, disgusting). Lots of laughs. And the art from Twitterless, masterful Tom Forget. Just incredible. Look at cheesy Da Meat Hook! pic.twitter.com/YqrY95N7kV
— Matt Monagan (@MattMonagan) May 27, 2022
• Now THAT’S a catch.
Barehanded snag while holding two beers. What a fucking pro pic.twitter.com/6oLZZ6yfCf
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) May 29, 2022