Keep Winning, Morel’s Rookie Work, Higgins Hitting, Effross Bounce Back, and Other Cubs Bullets

Three game winning streak, baby! Can’t be stopped! You know, if the Cubs can just win the next four games against the Cardinals … and then four more games after that, boom, over .500! (Oh, Brett … )

•   In just 16 games, Christopher Morel is at 0.5 WAR, just behind Seiya Suzuki (0.6) for second in the NL among position player rookies. Not that we should necessarily start penciling Morel into the Rookie of the Year race – it remains very likely that an adjustment challenge period will come, and possible that he goes to Triple-A Iowa at some point – but if keeps performing at a clip anywhere close to this, he’s gonna wind up a surprise in that conversation.

•   Fun fact? Morel trails one other rookie on the Cubs in WAR … Scott Effross, who is at 0.6. Effross, who was great for two innings last night, is shaking off a bit of a rough stretch. In his previous five outings, he’d given up six earned runs on seven hits and three walks. His season numbers, of course, still remain stellar. His FIP is 1.96. That cracks me up.

•   Nick Madrigal hit a hard, line-drive single to right field last night in the 8th inning. Yes, we’ve reached the point where that merits a specific mention, because that’s how bad things have been. It was the kind of thing we were expecting from him from the jump, but have seen virtually none of. I guess I just try to remind myself that it’s not even 100 PAs yet, but it’s really hard not to keep thinking about the possibility that he needs time at Triple-A at some point.

•   It’s only 29 plate appearances, so a similar caveat applies in the other direction, but P.J. Higgins is RAKING so far: .280/.357/.600/163 wRC+, 20.7% K rate, 6.9% BB rate, .320 ISO, .294 BABIP. This is what he needed to do in order to justify the Cubs keeping him on the 40-man roster all offseason as a possible 2nd/3rd catcher for 2023, so I hope we see more of it while Yan Gomes is out.

•   Ian Happ’s backwards 2022 continues – he’s up to .366/.435/.585/184 wRC+ as a righty, and just .215/.340/.380/103 wRC+ as a lefty. So weird!

•   Albert Pujols did not kill the Cubs in a game at Wrigley Field, which is really weird. It’s been a decade, but the guy still haunts my memories when I see him come to the plate in a Cardinals uniform, set against the bricks.

•   Joy in the dugout:


•   On the importance of getting swinging strikes in the zone (and the evaluation of pitchers therefrom):

•   This Athletic article is about the adjustments Bryce Harper has had to make as a full-time DH (while his elbow recovers from a partially-torn UCL), which I thought would be completely uninteresting. One of the best hitters in baseball has to learn to, you know, just hit. Big whoop. What’s the story? Well, it actually wound up being kind of interesting, and this part in particular stood out to me – it was something Jimmy Rollins told Harper:

“It’s OK to make outs.”

Sounds simple, right? Every player knows the adage, predating the reduced emphasis on batting average, that even good hitters fail seven out of 10 times. Harper, though, found making outs as a DH to be particularly frustrating. It bothered him that he could not contribute defensively, help his team in that aspect of the game.

“I took that kind of hard,” Harper said. “But JRoll told me you make outs on both sides of the ball, that when you’re still playing right field you’re still going to get out as a hitter, too. I kind of took that thought and was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, I can’t take it that hard.’”

Rollins’ exact words were: “It’s not like because you’re DHing, you’re automatically going to bat 1.000. That just doesn’t happen.”

As Rollins recalled, Harper sort of chuckled at his explanation.

“I never thought of it that way,” Harper said.

•   I never thought of it that way, either. When a guy who is used to being an everyday player is suddenly “just” a DH, it’s probably really hard NOT to think about the fact that all you can do is hit. So if you make an out, you can’t do anything else to help your team out in the field. You’ve failed at the only thing you’re there to do. That probably is a bit of a difficult mental adjustment!

•   Teeth stuff, bag stuff, and vacuum stuff are among your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Mike Trout, acknowledging that he might be booed as commissioner, wouldn’t go any deeper on the fantasy football slap heard ’round the world:

•   Or was it raccoon:

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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