Good Cubs Pitches, Suzuki and Bellinger X-Factors, Taillon the Teammate, and Other Cubs Bullets
Been having a lot of chia seeds lately. They’re kind of a pain in the butt to consume at a volume large enough to make any kind of health difference, but dang if they aren’t about the most densely loaded food item I can find (in terms of fiber, protein, nutrients, etc., on a per-gram basis). So I’m working at it. I’ll keep you posted.
- If I asked you to name the single nastiest pitch on the Chicago Cubs roster, what would you choose? I suppose it depends on who makes “the roster” at any given time, but Hayden Wesneski’s slider would be up there. Jeremiah Estrada’s fastball. Drew Smyly’s curveball is so pretty and productive. Adbert Alzolay’s slider is a beast. And of course, Justin Steele’s four-seamer. Overall, the Cubs don’t have a staff known for “nasty” pitches right now – they are much more about contact management and defense – but there are certainly some good ones.
- For MLB.com’s David Adler, it was indeed a Steele pitch, but not the fastball. It is Steele’s excellent slider, which does have excellent pitch characteristics and a good whiff rate. It’s funny, when you look at the pitch characteristics of the four-seamer at Statcast, you might think it rates horribly (dark blue!!!) because it drops so much and because it doesn’t move much laterally. It’s a weird four-seamer by the metrics … but that’s part of what makes it so magical. It’s somehow a cutting four-seamer that drops.
- Thomas Harrigan’s “x-factor” for the Cubs this year, if they are going to surprise and make the playoffs, is Seiya Suzuki:
Chicago may be dramatically improved on the defensive end and could have a solid rotation, but to make the postseason, the club will likely need at least one of its regulars to emerge as an elite bat. Bellinger has been there before, winning the NL MVP Award in 2019, but he has a long way to go to regain that stature. Suzuki seems like a better bet to do it after recording 14 homers and a 116 wRC+ over 111 games as a rookie in 2022. The 28-year-old was a five-time All-Star in Japan, and he showed flashes of excellence while battling injuries for the Cubs a year ago.
- I think Suzuki is a fine selection, given the difference between what he was last year (very good, solid, fine) and what he COULD be if everything clicked (140 or better wRC+, above-average defender, 5+ WAR player). I probably would go with Bellinger, myself, not in terms of who is more likely to be a great player in 2023 – that’s Suzuki – but in terms of whose variance in possible outcomes is so wide. In other words, a monster season for Bellinger probably does more to help the Cubs compete in 2023 than a monster season for Suzuki. It’s just that the former seems a lot less likely than the latter.
- The WBC rosters were officially announced last night, and eyeballing the organization-by-organization list, it looks like the Cubs collection is one of the largest. It’s fun to have a little extra rooting interest for the tournament, especially when you’ve got young Cubs players and prospects on teams that would be a cinderella story. It’s also nice to see some Cubs prospects on loaded rosters, because you never know what positive developmental experience they might get out of it.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman on Jameson Taillon, who left the Yankees in free agency to sign with the Cubs: “He’s a gamer,” Cashman said on 670 The Score. “He gives you innings. He’s a tremendous teammate. I think he’s going to be a really valuable, solid piece for the Cubs as they move forward. He’s going to be someone we miss. He’s a winner, too. So at the end of the day, the Cubs got a good one there.” Not sure what else he could/would say, but kind words are always nice to hear.
- I do keep hearing what a great teammate Taillon is, though, and I always wonder about the impact that can have. I bet he’ll be very helpful to have around the up-and-coming pitchers over the next several years.
- Greg, waking up this morning: “How can I perturb Cubs fans as they sip their coffee … “:
- I kid. I love Greg. The Cubs probably made at least two of the “wrong” decisions in the outfield from 2021 into 2022, choosing to let Thompson and Harold Ramirez go (to say nothing of giving all those CF starts to Jason Heyward … ). Not sure how much either player would’ve mattered for 2022’s ultimate outcome or for this past offseason, but both guys were obvious tender decisions for the Dodgers and Rays, so they clearly have value. Having more flexibility, options, and assets: always a good thing.
- Always fun to watch:
- This will land for some of you: