What Now with Fulmer, Estrada's Fastball, Burdi's Chance, Bellinger's Knee, and Other Cubs Bullets

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What Now with Fulmer, Estrada’s Fastball, Burdi’s Chance, Bellinger’s Knee, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Thank you again for indulging yesterday’s post about the challenges of being a fan, publicly, as part of the job. And I do say “indulging” because I know those posts are literally self-indulgent, but they do help me a lot. They also sometimes bring out some of the kindest words I’ll hear from folks, so I very much appreciate that, too. Ultimately, we all (well, 99.9% of us) the same thing: the Cubs to do well, and to bring a little extra fun to our lives.

  • Which they did not do last night! Well, I guess part of that game was fun – the brief comeback – but it was a winnable game that the Cubs did not win. There are a number of components to the loss, from Jameson Taillon still not quite being right with his command, to the improvident decision to have Christopher Morel play left field in a funky ballpark, to Morel not being able to make a very catchable catch that preceded four runs, to the bats going silent after knocking Framber Valdez out of the game, to some hard luck on rockets. A lot you could point to that could’ve turned that game in the other direction.
  • One piece that contributed to the loss that doesn’t bug me as much as you might think is the Michael Fulmer piece. Don’t get me wrong, it DOES bug me that he gave up a two-run homer that ultimately lost the game (albeit to Alex Bregman, and sometimes very good players are going to get you). But it doesn’t really bug me that he was in that spot, asked to get through the bottom of the Astros’ lineup as it flipped to the top. He is in a bullpen that was stretched thin this weekend, and if a guy is there, he’s gotta be able to pitch. Until the hits he gave up in Minnesota, Fulmer had finally seemed to set his season right, and looked like the guy we’d all expected. So, you give him a chance to continue along that course, allowing for the possibility that the three-run outing against the Twins was a blip. Oh, also? The Bregman homer was a relatively softly hit (94.9 mph) fly ball that had a .180 expected batting average.
  • ALL THAT SAID, now I think you have to go back to low-leverage for Fulmer. How can you not? I understand that you can hide only so many guys in that area while they work on things, but if you’re not ready to dump Fulmer entirely (and I wouldn’t be), then you’ve just got to keep trying to get him right in a way that won’t totally burn you. With Brad Boxberger on the IL, you now have one fewer guy that you’re trying to “hide,” and you’ll just have to start trusting someone like Jeremiah Estrada more.
  • Speaking of Estrada, his outing was kind of more of a mixed bag than the line shows. He went 1.1 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out three. All great. But the hit was an absolute bullet, and then you had the near homer on which Cody Bellinger made the circus catch. Estrada’s fastball has so much life that you’ll want him to be working up in the zone with it, but it will leave him susceptible to hard contact if he doesn’t quite get it up enough, and/or throws one without enough zip or spin. But when it works, man, it’s so sexy. He got six whiffs on the fastball out of the 20 times he threw it (also two called strikes, for a nice 40% CSW on the fastball – that’ll plaaaaaaaay). And when he starts consistently commanding the slider, too? That’s closer stuff. He’s gotta get there, but that’s the potential.
  • I also hope we see Nick Burdi in a few games before the Cubs have to move someone out. He’s had big league success before and was dominating at Triple-A Iowa, but you want to know if this story is real. The guy hadn’t pitched competitively in two years before the Cubs plucked him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, so it would be QUITE a feat for him to emerge as a legit relief contributor. Over his career, Burdi, now 30, has undergone Tommy John surgery twice and also thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. But he’s back to throwing triple digits with nasty sliders, and earned himself this spot on the 40 and 26-man rosters. Let’s get him some game action.
  • Oh, and longer-term, as a guy who is otherwise arbitration-eligible after the season, you would also want to know by November whether Burdi is a guy to whom you want to tender a contract.
  • As for Boxberger, the Cubs are terming his IL stint precautionary, which sounds about right for a guy who just didn’t look like himself.
  • If you missed the post-game Bellinger update, it’s that it didn’t seem like there was anything major in play, but the Cubs will see how he feels today:
  • Bellinger, himself, said that the knee felt a little sore, but that, after fearing a worst case scenario in the immediate aftermath of the play, he was apparently no longer worried about that. So, all signs point to hopefulness that maybe he’ll miss a day or two to rest and will ultimately be OK.
  • It really sucks that the Cubs gave Valdez his shortest outing in over a year in a game that they didn’t even win. He is just so nasty out there, and they had him.
  • Jameson Taillon’s night was also very short, even though he’d righted the ship after the first inning. He was pulled at just 68 pitches, his third straight very short outing after coming off the IL (groin) without a rehab start. It’s not quite clear to me what the plan is here, because he’s not really stretching out. The Cubs can’t keep having an artificially-limited starter in the rotation.
  • That limitation meant that Brandon Hughes was used for just one batter, and then the Cubs were going to have to cover four innings with the bullpen thereafter. I don’t love it.
  • Yesterday was an infamous anniversary, which felt appropriate:
  • Northwestern-Notre Day is today at Wrigley Field:
  • Christopher Morel is going to do this sometime this season:
  • For the golfers among you, go win yourself a sweet putter for free:

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.