What Was and Wasn't Bad About That Sweep, and What the Cubs Need to Be Doing

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What Was and Wasn’t Bad About That Sweep, and What the Cubs Need to Be Doing

Chicago Cubs

That weekend series sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins was terrible. The feeling was terrible. The results were terrible. Having to watch the Marlins – 10-0 in one-run games – be fitted for a posterior horseshoe and call it skill was terrible.

With a night to sleep and a little distance, though, I wanted to talk about the ways it was terrible that actually matter going forward.

For example, one of the main ways it was terrible was actually kind of limited and correctly simplistic: losing games is bad.

In other words, sometimes you see the Cubs get swept and you realize there are all kinds of issues you hadn’t considered before. Issues that could sink the team in new and awful ways going forward. In this instance, “getting swept by the Marlins” did not really show me anything that changed my perspective on this Cubs team.

If you simulated that set of games a hundred times, with the same underlying performance by each team, I’m thinking the Marlins sweep the Cubs in only a handful of those simulations. That imagined world does not help in the standings, but I think of it as comforting context for what we saw, and what might be yet to come. That was a bad luck outcome. The losses don’t create new fears about what the Cubs team is or isn’t – and nobody got hurt – so the “bad” of the series is solely the three banked losses.

Of course, part and parcel of that bad is that the Cubs cannot afford to lose many marginal games this year if they want to compete. Because we expect their true talent win level to be somewhere in the, say, 82-83 win range, the Cubs probably need to be really fortunate in coinflip games. So these three losses suck double for a team like the 2023 Cubs.

And that’s where I do start to get a little hot, and that word “terrible” comes back to me.

BECAUSE these Cubs need to be fortunate to compete, they are going to have to play their internal cards almost perfectly. If they have bullets or runs available to them at Triple-A or Double-A, they need to pull those levers sooner rather than later, especially where it’s almost impossible to argue player development is still a superseding concern.

That is to say, unless Christopher Morel and Matt Mervis need specific (realistic) development boxes checked that I can’t see, then they need to be up with the big league team. Is coordinating all the starts going to be easy? Nope. But should guys like Edwin Rios and Eric Hosmer be getting regular starts over Christopher Morel and Matt Mervis? Also nope.

Think of it this way: even if player development *WERE* your primary consideration, wouldn’t you want to know – sooner rather than later – how Morel (now having altered his stance and swing path) and Mervis (having clearly conquered Triple-A) will fare against big league pitching? Wouldn’t you want to know if you’ve got impact bats there, or if they’ll need additional work on Issues X, Y, and Z? Wouldn’t you want to know for 2024 planning purposes?

Listen. I get that none of this means these two guys have to be called up *TODAY.* I also get that there are relationship issues at play with how an organization treats its veterans, which can impact clubhouse dynamics and also future attempted signings. I think there are ways to proceed that are sensitive to both of those things, and also to get Morel and Mervis on the big league roster soon.

The Cubs are not currently going with their best 26, and so long as they do that, the coinflip losses like the last three are going to sting all the more acutely. Had the roster been different, maybe one or two of those games wouldn’t have been a coinflip at all.

On a related note: By both the pythagorean standings and BaseRuns, the Cubs (-4 wins) have been the unluckiest team in baseball over the first month of the season. They are 14-13, but their underlying performance indicates they “should” be 18-9.

You could be annoyed by that (I am), and you could also be encouraged by that (I am). Happy Monday?

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.