Wesneski’s Bad Day, Boxberger and the Bullpen, Ross Ejected, Suzuki, Bellinger, and Other Cubs Bullets
A very Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmas out there, and anyone else who is celebrating today with loved ones. Love you, Mom!
- So, Hayden Wesneski had a really bad start. No shying away from that one, and the problem manifested in the way you would’ve guessed if you heard he had a bad start: wild pitches out of the zone creating easier at bats, lack of command in the zone (especially with the fastball) creating opportunities for batters to sit on certain pitches and take aggressive hacks. Wesneski’s bad days right now are about loud contact.
- Sometimes, Wesneski has had days like that and escaped serious damage, but this time, the hard contact was flying out of the ballpark. When he missed his spot, he got SMACKED. The Joey Gallo one being the most prominent example, and Wesneski showed it:
- Wesneski’s catcher, Tucker Barnhart, described the day this way (Cubs.com): “I think, overall, our execution was a little suspect relative to what it has been. Just one of those days. He made some good pitches. But a lot of times, attacking lineups is execution over stuff and it felt today that we just didn’t have our best execution …. Against a lineup like that who, when you miss spots or they paint you into a bad count, it’s not necessarily just singles. It’s loud, loud contact and makes it difficult. But it’s just a blip and Hayden will be better next time out, I’m sure.”
- All that said, even when you make mistakes and get barreled four times in a game, it won’t always be the case that all four barrels leave the ballpark as they did yesterday. So, a mix of poor execution, some learning, and some baseball-happens.
- Meanwhile, something to keep an eye on will be the splits going forward. We already knew that Wesneski’s repertoire was going to be susceptible to him getting beat by lefties, especially when he doesn’t have the cutter working. Lefties are now up to a whopping .325/.366/.662/.433 wOBA against him, with a 7.71 FIP, and a 44.8% hard contact rate (and just a 4.5%(!!!!!) soft contact rate). I would say we already know the biggest things Wesneski has to work on, besides the general “improve command” dictate: he needs to get a consistent cutter and/or changeup to help against lefties, or he needs his four-seamer to improve its shape so that it plays better against lefties.
- An early call from Greg after Brad Boxberger’s ugly game yesterday, though he does tee up an appropriate question:
- I doubt the Cubs are ready yet to fully pull the plug on Brad Boxberger – i.e., dump him – but I’m sure they have serious concerns at this point about whether he’s going to bounce back. We know the results are quite bad, and as Greg pointed out, there are next level concerns, too. At 34, his velocity is down about a MPH from last year, which was down a half-click from the year before. It could be that he’s simply aging past the point where he can be effective.
- That said, this is a guy who has thrown 70+ quality innings the last two years, and is at just 14.2 innings so far this year. The Cubs probably want to give him more of chance than that. How do you do it, if there isn’t an “injury” to give him a break (which would probably be ideal, because then someone like Jeremiah Estrada could get more big league run)? Well, it could be that Boxberger becomes the next low-leverage, try-to-hide-him, work-hard-in-side-sessions guy. It seems to have worked for Michael Fulmer, and Julian Merryweather.
- Speaking of Merryweather, don’t look now, but over his last nine outings: 1.08 ERA, 35.5% K rate, 6.5% BB. It’s a brief window of time, and almost entirely low-leverage, but he’s earning a look in tougher spots. Heck, you can actually go all the way back to his first outing of the year (the disaster against the Brewers), and he’s been a sub-3 ERA guy since that first outing, with very good peripherals. He might be good, folks.
- And speaking of relievers, with Riley Thompson getting the full-time conversion to relief at Iowa, even though he wasn’t exactly scuffling badly in the rotation, I think it’s clear the Cubs are eyeing him for a call-up at some point this year. Thompson, 26, has big league stuff and is Rule 5 eligible after the season. If he can settled into a relief role with confidence and success, my guess is we see him sometime in the second half.
- I’m sure there was some cumulative frustration that led to Eric Hosmer beefing on this strike three call (K zone had it clipping the top of the zone, but it did come in looking pretty high):
- I do like seeing David Ross come out and stick up for his players like that. Maybe one of those terrible strike zones for Seiya Suzuki can be the next one? I swear, his zone is just atrocious again this year. He gets screwed on a call at least once a game.
- Speaking of Suzuki, we’re seeing some real improvement in the quality of plate appearances and the contact. His wRC+ is up to 105, which is not where the Cubs need him, but it shows the results are steadily arriving. I think we’re going to see an explosion soon.
- Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger is kinda heading in the other direction at the moment. After a scorching start, Bellinger has hit just .190/.239/.262/29 wRC+ over his last 10. Small sample, but a noticeable slump all the same. Strikeouts are up, quality contact is down, etc. Bad stretch. Hopefully that’s all it is.
- Happy Mother’s Day:
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