Steele Streaking, Bullpen Bounce Back, Ortega's Value, Shogo No Go, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Steele Streaking, Bullpen Bounce Back, Ortega’s Value, Shogo No Go, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Hey, Dads. Thanks for what you do for your families and your friends. I lost my dad when I was still a kid, and, while I’ve been very fortunate to have some surrogates come into my life and fill some of that role, it definitely left me with a tremendous appreciation for all that a father can be. I try to live that now with my own kids, and I thank all of you out there who are doing the same for yours.

  • Like I mentioned in the EBS, what I liked most about Justin Steele’s start yesterday was that he got into his worst trouble in what would clearly evolve into his final inning, and he managed it well enough to get through the inning without an implosion. That’s hard to do when you’re wearing down and batters have seen you multiple times.
  • Every start counts, so you don’t throw any out, but it’s worth noting – especially about a developing pitcher – that outside of the disaster start in Cincinnati, Steele hasn’t just been good this year, he’s been excellent (3.32 ERA, FIP to match). Are we finally seeing the Cubs get better at continuing the development of players after they reach the big leagues?
  • God help me, but it took only back-to-back good starts from Steele and Keegan Thompson to get me thinking again about how things CAN go right for the Cubs heading into 2023. HOWEVER, even in a world where those two clearly rock solid members of the rotation, how many more quality starters would the Cubs need to be competitive in 2023? Two? Three? Start counting names and doing the (realistic) math, and it’s clear that even if Thompson and Steele solidify themselves by November, the Cubs are still going to really, really, really need to explore the high end of the starting pitching market.
  • These last two games have featured huge bounces back from the Cubs’ bullpen, which is obviously a significant contributing factor in the Cubs actually being able to win a couple games. Before Friday, the Cubs’ bullpen had been the statistical worst in baseball going back nearly a month.
  • … ok, so they’re actually still the statistical worst going back a month (6.78 ERA over the past month), but at least they’ve been good the last two games!
  • Scott Effross remains a stud.
  • Rafael Ortega went deep yesterday, his third homer of the year:
  • Ortega, 31, is hitting .257/.347/.368/104 wRC+ on the year, even after the slow start. The guy can just hit righties, period. He makes just above the minimum, he can play every outfield position, and he could wind up a nice trade chip for the Cubs next month. Ortega is not the kind of guy who brings a huge return, but the combination of value and skills should make him attractive to a wide range of teams.
  • Shogo Akiyama couldn’t find an acceptable deal with an MLB team after opting out of his minor league deal with the Padres, so he’s reportedly heading back to Japan. That transition to MLB just did not remotely work out at all. Sure, there was a pandemic messing things up, and some injury issues, but still, it was one of the least successful (relative to the hype and the cost of the signing) transitions in recent years. Hand up, there was a whole lot I liked about Akiyama that I thought would translate to at least an average player, with outfield versatility, in the big leagues. I guess I just didn’t appreciate enough that Akiyama was a big risk to not make enough hard contact against big league pitching for the rest of his skills to play. There’s a baseline there you have to be above, otherwise the rest of what you can do doesn’t really matter.
  • Throw it baaaaack (also jokes):

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.