Cubs Far From Cardinals? Nico, Nelson, Manny, Brandon, Retirement Tours, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Cubs Far From Cardinals? Nico, Nelson, Manny, Brandon, Retirement Tours, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Got a rough headache this morning that is making it hard to come up with something zippy to discuss here up top, so instead I typed this sentence.

  • Boy, some folks sure got sassy about something I thought at the time was a pretty defensible throwaway line in the EBS last night: “But the [Cubs and Cardinals] as presently constructed? They’re not that far apart.” I think a number of factors led to folks thinking I was nuts with that one: (1) “not that far apart” apparently means different things to different people, and to me it describes a situation where one is clearly better than the other, but not by some egregious amount; (2) I think the Cardinals have two superstars, but also a number of question marks “as presently constructed,” and I also think the Chicago Cubs are just about a .500 team “as presently constructed.” I meant it as of August 24, not some season-long comment – I thought that was obvious, but I also didn’t really give the line all that much thought in the first place. That part is my bad, but even in the cold light of morning, I stand by it. I just don’t think it’s that bold or controversial, but maybe that’s mostly a semantic thing.
  • Let me put it another way to try to explain my headspace. I think these Cubs – this group, this roster – could win 45 times against these Cardinals over the course of 100 games played against each other. If it’s a 55/45 split, how far apart are the teams really? I actually think reasonable minds could differ on how “far apart” a 55/45 split is in baseball, so maybe that’s actually at the core of the sassiness.
  • Also, just saying: since the All-Star break, the Cardinals have the best offense in baseball, and a middle-of-the-pack pitching staff. The Cubs have the third best pitching staff in baseball, and a middle-of-the-pack offense. Something something “presently constructed” something something.
  • Nico Hoerner, who is as important to the Cubs’ second half success as anyone, notched three hits last night, bumping his season line back up to .291/.338/.408/109 wRC+.
  • “I love playing for the Cubs,” Hoerner told NBC as part of a conversation about the future and extensions and what-have-you. “I think that being here, being part of the next great team here would be one of the coolest things you could do as an athlete. Being there from the quote-unquote rebuild, or whatever you want to call it, to the next championship would be an incredible thing to do.” Agreed. Extend him.
  • It’s not quite an O’Neil Cruz shot, but this was a ROCKET from Nelson Velazquez – I love the ones where the outfielder has a bead on it, but still can’t make a play because it is still cooking by the time it gets to him:
  • That hit broke a five-game hitless streak for Velazquez, whose season is going to be regarded as a success almost no matter how it goes from here. You had hoped he would emerge as a part-time big league outfielder by 2023, and he’s done it already in 2022. I’m not sure there’s a starter there for 2023 and beyond, but a very good 4th outfielder? I can absolutely see it.
  • Jokes, but also kinda true:
  • Speaking of Cubs pitchers popping up, I wonder if Manny Rodriguez is FINALLY close to a big league return. The hard-throwing righty reliever, who has been rehabbing an elbow injury most of the year, is up to five appearances at Iowa now and striking out everyone in sight. Last night he was scoreless in the 9th with two strikeouts. Since he’s 26 and already on the 40-man roster, I would think the Cubs want to see him in the bigs again before the season is up so that they can anticipate his role in 2023 (he’s got options remaining).
  • One of the pitchers last night that MUST have annoyed the Cardinals:
  • Brandon Hughes has a 1.88 ERA since the start of July, with a 33.0% strikeout rate against a tiny 5.3% walk rate. The one wart has been the 1.50 HR/9 over that period of time, but that can certainly get skewed in a small sample – it’s just four homers, and Hughes has been one of the unluckiest homer relievers in baseball this year. Per Statcast, although he’s allowed 7 homers, he “should have” allowed just 5.3 based on those fly balls (different ballparks and weather conditions can lead to flukes in either direction). So, anyway, that is all to say, Hughes has been awesome this year, and particularly so since July 1.
  • One more: Mark Leiter Jr.’s ERA as a reliever this year is down to 2.97, with a 30.1% K rate and 7.1% BB rate. Dude has just flat out been a really good reliever this season, without qualification.
  • The Cubs Hall of Fame Class of 2022:
  • Pat Hughes talks about finding out he was going to be inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame:
  • Pat Hughes got a wonderful moment on the broadcast last night, and José Cardenal got his on a call with Eddie Vedder:
  • Cardenal played for six seasons with the Cubs in the 1970s, and they were six of his best seasons, hitting .296/.363/.424/115 wRC+.
  • Yeah, I laughed a lot at this:
  • Who among us:
  • Hmm …

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.