That'll do, Nico. That'll do.--Cubs 10 Padres 2

Before tonight’s game, the Cubs got the fanbase all aflutter with the news that they were calling up Nico Hoerner. Because after Addison Russell entered the concussion protocol, their sole remaining option at the shortstop position was activating Mark Loretta.

With all of 89 professional games under his belt, no one could predict what to expect of the 2018 first round pick. All we knew was that if the Cubs were going to play the last three games like it was still 2014, the least they could do was call up a number one prospect.

Well, after tonight’s game, it’s fair to conclude: the Nico Hoerner era is a resounding success. Or at the very least, a joy to watch.

Even before he came to bat for the first time, Hoerner turned in his first impressive play in the field. On the second batter Kyle Hendricks faced on the evening, Nick Martini blistered a hard hit ball toward shortstop. Hoerner announced his presence with a nifty backhanded stab and threw Martini out.

It was the first of several times the spotlight found Hoerner, a feel-good story who was apparently called up to the major leagues despite suffering from a debilitating case of permanent Blue Steel. Nico celebrated his first nifty defensive play the very next inning by blooping an 0-2 pitch to right field for his first major league hit. It would not be the last.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Although Hoerner was the main story on the night, several Cubs turned in an impressive evening. Nicholas Castellanos got the scoring started with his now-mandatory first inning home run, unloading on a 1-0 fastball from Cal Quantrill to deep left field for a two run bomb that looked like it had a chance to hit an ad for a local college located above the Cubs bullpen. Did that ball just choose a safety school? Because Castellanos sent it to National University.

In the bottom of the second, Hoerner kept up the pattern of making one dazzling highlight for every inning of his big league career. This time, Wil Myers grounded a Hendricks offering up the middle. Nico ranged to his left and made a nice stab, spun a 360 and threw to first. Anthony Rizzo had to make a nice stretch to record the out, as if to remind us that this is an era where Cub prospects actually pan out. Sometimes.

Hoerner was still just getting started. In the top of the fourth, Victor Caratini lined a single to left field. Nico then bounced one back to Quantrill, who got the force at second. But Hoerner beat the relay throw to first, flashing a bit of speed. Jason Heyward then slipped a ground ball past Eric Hosmer, who looked like he was trying to field it while stuck on pause, and the Cubs had runners on first and third.

David Bote was up next and he worked the count to 3-2. Ball four was in the dirt and shot away about 15-20 feet from Padres catcher Austin Hedges. Hoerner didn’t hesitate and as soon as it got away, he busted it toward the plate, scoring the Cubs’ third run of the game without a throw. It was like Nico knew that if he were stepping in for Javy Báez, he’d have to bring an 80-grade fun tool.

The Padres tried to stop the party by cutting the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Martini and Manny Machado led off with consecutive singles. Hendricks then induced Hosmer to ground right to Ben Zobrist at second for what appeared to be a surefire twin killing. But Zobrist knew that even in the best of times, he’s a bit slow to get the ball out of his glove and in his haste to get in throwing position, he threw it into left field. One run scored and San Diego had second and third with no one out. A Wil Myers sac fly later made it a one run game.

That was as tense as it would get. Immediately answering back in the fifth, Kyle Schwarber lined a 2-2 high fastball to straightaway left field. Eschewing the customary bat flip, Schwarber celebrated his homer with a double take at home plate, as if he were trying to create the baseball version of a Jon Stewart “WHAAAAA?” gif. By the time he began his trot, the Cubs’ lead was 4-2.

Castellanos and Caratini followed with singles, bringing Hoerner to the plate with one out. And before you had time to say “Time for his first RBI,” Nico decided that one wasn’t enough, hitting a sharp grounder down the third base line into the left field corner that scored both runners. As Hoerner slid into third for his first career triple, the Cub fans at Petco Park had already started a “NICO NICO NICO” chant. And because this was San Diego, it was a bit of an upset that half the men in the ballpark didn’t immediately turn around and answer “Yes?”

Jason Heyward followed by blooping an RBI single to right field because karma is real. A Bote single and Hendricks safety squeeze made the game 8-2 and, for all intents and purposes, over.

Nico, however, was not. In the top of the sixth, Schwarber and Castellanos led off with singles. After a Rizzo strikeout and Caratini bouncer, Hoerner came to the plate with runners on second and third and two away. Despite falling behind in the count 1-2, Nico bounced the next pitch up the middle for yet another hit and two more RBIs to make it 10-2. The Cubs actually have a player who can make solid contact with two strikes.

Now would be a good time to insert the Kyle Schwarber “WHAAAAA?” gif.

At that point, the fans began another “NICO” chant. Which was a bit of an error as they should have been chanting “MVP.”

It was the most dramatic Cubs debut since Báez’s 2014 game winning home run in Colorado. And the best overall first big league game performance since Starlin Castro’s six RBIs in 2010. Before the night began, Petco Park’s lights blinked on and off repeatedly and Len Kasper insisted it was part of a pregame hype show. In retrospect, it turns out the Padres knew in advance that it was a good idea to hook up the ballpark to the energy that Nico Hoerner was bringing all night.

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  • fb_avatar

    Well, this one was easy.
    Nico Hoerner, your table is ready!! Enjoy your first day in the majors with a good meal.

  • Hoerner provides three things now and the future. He brings energy, (like Castellanos has) and putting the bat on the and putting it in play to all three fields but then an added bonus, on-base speed. I can see the future where he is at the top of the lineup and being a disruptor and ignitor.

    Where he ends up (2B or CF) will work out after this offseason where I see some 25 player moves.

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    I sure hope for that scenario. Not trying to be a debby downer, but remember Starlin Castro's 1st game.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I also remember his multiple ASG appearances.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    and a route to 3000 hit club if he keeps it up.

  • Looks like Jed has found next year's second baseman. Leadoff too? For now Cubs, let's hit the ground running on this post season. It's a sprint at this point.

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    Having not played above AA...are we sure he can adjust to the league's adjustments to him as he continues to play here?!

  • In reply to Scott Tomkiewicz:

    Yes. It may not be immediate, and he shouldn't be counted on to be a main part of the offense at this point, but he is ready to give quality MLB ABs.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I love that he did well, but he’s a complete unknown and there’s no real scouting data on him. It’s not often that guys just hit MLB and stay with 375 PA in the minors. You don’t think he’ll go back down to AAA to start next year?

  • In reply to TC154:

    Obviously time will tell. But his ability to make contact is the difference. Even with 2 strikes. There will be hills and valleys as always.

    That said I saw the same kind of AB's last night I saw him have in ST. Liked it then and I like it now. To use his words "Let's do this".

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I have the same concerns as TC - I want Nico to shine, but I don't want to be complaining in a year (or even two) that he was rushed to the MLB team and his development harmed. How does this play out? The Cubs sign Zo to 2020 and he, Happ and Bote cover 2B while Nico stays at AAA for half a season?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I don't see him starting for the Cubs next year. Do you?

    I see this as Cubs need someone for the next 3 weeks. So the kid will get a taste of the majors.

  • In reply to HJW49:

    I actually think the plan prior to his injury in the minors this year was for him to have this full year going through the different levels, then starting next year at second base. He is the one player that has the type of bat tool that Theo has liked from day one. I think Bote will be the new Zobrist. I don't think Zo or Russell will be back. Caratini will be the best trade chip and I can see them signing Lucroy to back up for one year till the young catchers come up.

  • In reply to HJW49:

    No, I see him at AAA, but this FO has been accused before of rushing prospects due to need - only to deal with the issues caused later. I hope they don't experience that with Hoerner.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    And they also have been accused before of holding prospects back for service time advantage, only to not deal with the issues caused later. : )

    I am guessing here, but I think the FO knows the service time issue will be changed and they feel Nico's time in college has him more ready for the call up just like KB was ready earlier but they didn't want to start his time clock due to the different rules.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Could be, but they really didn't have any other choice. If they get to opening day 2020 and don't have another choice, they did a lousy job over the winter...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Can’t we enjoy him in the moment??? Who cares about next year? We still have great chance this year.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    What, exactly, is the point you're trying to make? OF COURSE we should "enjoy him in the moment." Those fans who care about the club (you know, "the ones who care about next year" and beyond) would like to enjoy him for considerably MORE than "the moment," which is why it's important not to rush him to the MLB club permanently. Are you trying to argue that point?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I am not arguing. But I think it is completely stupid to talk about this. It has nothing to do with being a “fan” for next year. Doesn’t make you a better fan. So many of you have given up on this year. So many of your type of cub fan need to enjoy this year and let offseason and the true professionals figure out what’s best for him!!!!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    You're not arguing, yet here you are with your contrary BS. You don't get to decide what comments or topics are "completely stupid." If you don't like a comment, respond with something intelligent or be a grown up and scroll on. You don't get to decide what "type" of Cubs fan anyone else is. You really don't have to pee in the punch bowl just to get attention.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    If u make a ignorant statement for me to see. I can make a ignorant statement in return. You didn’t like my positivity in the last post. Then maybe you should take your pee into another punch bowl. By saying what am I drinking you are question if I am a druggy or alcoholic. When do you get to decide that? Take your negativity and go.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    When they put you in charge of the forum, I'll go - and willingly. Until then, change the first two letters in the term "Pick-off" and you have my answer.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Cliff it sounds like you are angry and have always been. That is a great answer. I feel bad we root for the same team since you are a clown. If u don’t want a response then don’t come at me. If you do. Then let’s do this.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm not angry at all - I won't let morons have that much control. I just have little patience with people who ignore the forum rules and call other posters names just to troll them, as you so frequently do. You rarely contribute anything and I should have known better to even bother responding to your nonsense.
    BTW, I didn't "come at you," you chose to jump in on a discussion between myself and a couple of other members. As usual, it went downhill from there. Now, I know you can't stand it when another poster has the last word, so you go right ahead and harumph all you want and I'll move on to tonight's forum, where I'll do my best to ignore trolls like you.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I believe you trolled me. When I was being positive and voicing my opinion you accused me of being high or drinking the good stuff. As usual you are the stay off my lawn guy. Site would be better if negative comments from you would stop. Before you call anyone a troll. You need to look in mirror and see how lowly you are.

  • In reply to Scott Tomkiewicz:

    By the time the league begans to adjust to Nico, the season will be over. The team needs to grab on to Nico and Nick' s energy and go for it. It's now or not this year. Let's get the core healthy off their complacent buts to have some fun.

  • Nice game by Nico! Welcome to the big leagues.

    Now, let's get on a roll and start winning 5 of 6 8 of 10. that is basically our only hope right now.

  • Just when I thought Addison Russell's trade value could not possibley be any lower, along comes Nico.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Whatever trade value Russell may or may not have, it it totally unaffected by Hoerner at this point.

  • The Cubs needed Nico long before he recovered from his injuries. We did Javier Baez no favors by not having a backup shortstop for so much of the year. Javy played banged up and mentally exhausted with no rest days at a demanding position. All the mixing and matching but no rest days for him until he was injured. Baez has been running on fumes for awhile. He is tough, but human.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I'm looking forward to seeing more players like Hoerner and the White Sox Madrigal back in the game. As far as I'm concerned the sooner W, K, HR runs it's course the better.

    A team stat sheet that features a bunch of guys with 20+ HR's looks impressive. But in practical application it's not good baseball. The best teams can manufacture a run or two when needed.

    The Cubs could another Nico to really balance the lineup.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I agree, when one looks the batting averages of many of those types, it's easy to see why the team has those dry scoring spells. It's simply th a law of averages kicking in.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The home run is only part of the package of a complete ball player but unfortunately it seems like everything to many fans and the media. No wonder that the players coming up from the minors think only about the power game because all they seem to hear is how they can only make the big bucks if they produce the long ball. Strikeouts are only collateral damage and the homer returns the smile to everybody's face. I believe very few players care much about how their team is faring but care very much about their stats which far more impacts the course of their careers.

  • What a debut for Nico! It was fun to watch him. What's weird, however, is watching him made me appreciate Baez even more, mainly the arm strength and power. Nico kinda reminded me of Ryan Theriot. Is that too harsh?

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    He had a nice career. .281 BA .341 OBP with an 11% K rate. Wouldn't that be nice in the 1 hole these days?

    That said I think he'll be at least a 2.0 version when it's said and done. Nico is sporting an 8% K rate with his BB and K's almost equal. The Cubs lineup would be well served with a couple guys like that.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Theriot was a career 86 wRC+, reached 87 twice and 99 once. So he never was an average MLB hitter. I would sure hope Hoerner is better than that, and I think he is

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think he could be dj lemahieu.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Theriot had a nice career and unless he sold them 2 WS rings as cherries on the top. So it would appear a couple of good teams thought he was at least average.

    I give sabermetrics some weight but IMHO they're not get all be all.

    And yes I've been a big Nico fan since the day he was drafted and have high hopes he'll be fixture in the lineup for years to come. That said the first coach that starts beating launch angle and ball speed into his head should be fired on the spot.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Pretty sure that they still would have have won both WS with out Theriot on the team.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    wRC+ is basically park adjusted OPS. Theriot’s straight OPS was a lifetime .691. I’m not saying he was a bad player, just not a very good one. For comparison Addison Russell has a higher lifetime OPS at .703 with an 87 wRC+

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I couldn't have said it any better. I agree 100% and eventually so will most everyone else.

    For example, why are walks given the same importance as singles in the OPS formula? Obviously, singles are much better than walks.

    How many people actually know what "Launch Angle" actually refers to? It refers to the angle of the ball coming off the bat, NOT and uppercut swing. The ideal launch angle is 25 to 30 degrees, not the steep angle KB and some other Cubs are doing. If anyone doesn't believe me, look it up and see for youselves.

  • In reply to TC154:

    He better be or that was a terrible draft pick. I certainly feel he will be.

  • Bote has really bounced back the last two months, slashing 265 / 364 / 442 / 1.8 WAR for the season now.

    Deft extension by Theo, he'll be making all of 960K next season.

  • The Countdown, better late than never (?)

    ARZ lost to NYM. MIL beat MIA. PHI lost to ATL. MIL is now the sole closest purser in the WC. The Magic Numbers:

    Division: 24
    Playoffs (WC): 18

    And the not-so-magic Number:

    Elimination Number (division) remains at 16.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Thanks, Norway. I think including both numbers is appropriate for the stage we're at.

  • fb_avatar

    At the start of the year Fangraphs said the Cubs would win 82 (?) games. I think that's correct. Right now we have 77 wins with 19 games to go. I believe most of us thought that was very low although it will probably be in the neighborhood. Could we win 90? We probably have to in order to get into the playoffs.
    We have Nico and he could be an influence going forward as a playmaker.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Despite the somewhat disappointing season, these last 3 weeks will be the most exciting weeks of the season. Check out Milwaukee's schedule. That is about as cushy as it gets for a team. The Brewers have a very real chance of snagging the 2nd wild card. We are in a real playoff chase. The games have real meaning. Let's see how the Cubs respond. They have played in a lot of big games over the years, but this end could be a real doozy.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Brewers do have a good schedule outside the 3 with the birds. However, I am not conceding the division yet either. Cards have these three with Rockies. They have 3 with Brewers, 3 with Nats, 3 at Arizona then four with us.

    And don't think the Nat's are a given either. Their schedule is hard. 3 at Minnesota starting tonight, then home for 3 with Atlanta, then off to the Lou for 3. 3 with Miami then 5 game series with Philly and three with Cleveland. We can catch them.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I agree with your post, and am not conceding the NL Central to the Dirty Birds either. The division could go down to the wire, as could either WC slot. This is that part of the season, however it is played out, could be remembered for many years (good or bad). In short, this is what baseball is all about.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HefCA:

    You're right. These last 19 games are like playoff games. Our bullpen pitchers had better be ready to pitch almost every game.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    We have enough of them now. Who would have thought that our playoff lives are being decided by Wieck, Wick, and Ryan. Sounds more like a law firm instead of a bullpen.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    That is a law firm, isn't it.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yes, it is true. But it is also true that the real push to the playoffs began with the series in Milwaukee. Those games had real meaning with a chance to put them out of the race, and we rolled over. This will go down to the last three games vs. the Cardinals. I agree it will be a doozy. And I still fear an exit like last year.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Right, have to include that series in the "final laps" of the season. Methinks there will be one team who gets in by kicking the door in at the end. Should be some good baseball to watch.

  • Can't ask for a better debut from Nico last night. It's only one game, but maybe he can be a real energy boost for the "better-than-average-but-kinda-mediocre" Cubs team this year. Along with Castellanos, we could have a couple nice stories for this year.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Nicky 2bags and Nico Suave. Good grief, what have we gotten ourselves into?

    As long as they win games...

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