Morel’s Moments, Imanaga’s Start, Wisdom Bananas, Defense, and Other Cubs Bullets

The next-day-step-spring is still there for me after an exciting Cubs win. I didn’t think it was gone or anything, it’s just that we have had precious few opportunities lately to remember.

Also, it was especially fun for the game last night to remind me of this moment from last year:

  • With his big night last night, Christopher Morel is back to being above-average overall at the plate (.201/.310/.388/101 wRC+), but you have to remember that this is a guy with a 12.1% BB rate, a 21.8% K rate, a 45.9% hard contact rate, an 11.9% barrel rate, and a .378 xwOBA (17th highest in baseball!). He has been, statistically, the unluckiest hitter in baseball. So to now be “above average” in results has to feel good for a guy who NEEDS TO KNOW he’s been doing everything (that he can control) right at the plate.
  • (I mean, no one else in the TOP 26 of xwOBA has a wRC+ even below 121! Dude is getting SCREWED by the luck gods! I know some people like to believe that players have magical powers and randomness is not real, but those people are wrong, and Morel’s season so far is a 100-foot neon sign in their face.)
  • Ah, yes, but the error. Boy that was bad. A guaranteed easy out at third base, and/or a RELATIVELY easy shot at touching third and throwing to first for the double-play. It was one of those errors that, yes, you could imagine other guys making as they got ahead of themselves, but (1) they are awfully rare, and (2) Morel’s mistakes have mounted to such a degree that you can’t really brush off any individual one of them.
  • Errors are not the only measure of a defender, but they are one of those things where, once you get past a certain threshold, it doesn’t matter how good your range or your arm or whatever might be, it is simply too many errors to be playable. Morel’s .925 fielding percentage is by far the lowest in baseball at any position (minimum 300 innings in the field, which is kinda the bare minimum part-time starter level at a certain spot). It would be the 8th worst in the last five years. Not so fun fact: number three on that list is David Bote in 2019 in his time at third base, and number twelve is Patrick Wisdom last year at third base.
  • You can see the error at the top of this clip, which also shows quite well how that terrible 4th inning was a mix of issues for Shōta Imanaga, some deserved and some not (also, for the record, ump missed a strike call on Andrew Vaughn to open the inning, and he later singled):
  • All that is to say I don’t want to completely dismiss the 4th inning as all about the error and Imanaga was totally fine – he definitely started to find the thigh/belt level way too much, and it got worse as he labored deeper into the inning – but I also don’t want anyone thinking this was a repeat of the Brewers start. It didn’t really look like that at all. Heck, for those first three innings, Imanaga looked as good as he has looked all year (I know, I know, White Sox). My worry level about Imanaga did not change last night, and remained where it was following the Brewers start: he was never going to sustain the same level of early dominance (nobody could), and some of the regression was going to look like it did on that night (missing some spots, hitters not missing on that particular night, and multi-run homers piling up).
  • Patrick Wisdom was the perfect pinch-hit choice in that moment, eh:
  • Lotta love between home-run-hitting teammates:
  • Wisdom is now hitting .230/.304/.475/120 wRC+ on the year, with his spots being carefully managed by Craig Counsell. He is a perfectly good bench player to have available, and has been for years now. It’s all about how you use him.
  • The wild win in graphical form:
  • Craig Counsell on the game overall, including the timely hits, the late win, and Imanaga’s outing:
  • Jordan Wicks was spotted in the Cubs’ dugout last night, which doesn’t NECESSARILY mean he’s returning from the IL the next time through the rotation, as sometimes guys come to Chicago to get checked out, throw for the staff, etc., before the next steps are charted. But we know Wicks has been stretched out to close to 70 pitches over multiple rehab outings, and the return is coming (and, even as the rotation has done well in his absence, you still definitely want him back).
  • PERFECT example of why people say that (1) advanced defensive metrics are wonky in a small sample, and (2) a “small sample” for advanced defensive metrics is often anything less than a full season:
  • This just cracked me up last night:
  • Where they are now doesn’t matter, because it’s June 5. But the point is, despite how BAD things have felt for a LONG time, the Cubs are a “playoff” team at the moment. It’s just funny. Meaningless. Funny.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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